North Sea to Picardy

A Rarely Used Tactic

Manus Hand

1. Introduction

Jamie Dreier suggested I pen an article on the relatively infrequently used move "North Sea to Picardy." I felt that this would be an excellent idea, since, for all my years in the hobby, not only have I never seen a decent article on this topic, but -- when I stopped to think about it -- I have never even seen this rare move tried. A proper treatise on the subject, therefore, seems long overdue. And I am certainly the one who should write it. So here goes.

2. The Geographical Situation

As we all know, the North Sea is a very important plot of muck, what with it bordering on both Scandinavia and the east of England. It is important to note, though, that while it does border on the Low Countries, it does not border any German home provinces. This is an important point to which we might return later in our discussion (but I doubt it). For now, make a note of it.

Picardy, meanwhile, is important geographically because of its adjacency to both Brest and Paris, as well as to Belgium. Rarely entered lightly by France (usually only preparatory to an attack on or defense against England or in necessity in the heat of a battle against Germany), it is more often entered by a non-French power intending to invade Brest or Paris. Make another note of this.

Concluding, then, our discussion of the geographical situation, let's review what we have. We see that we have two notes.

3. The Political Situation

To discuss the politics of the situation in which the move North Sea to Picardy could come about, it seems to me that we'll need to make a couple more notes.

Start with this interesting observation. The areas North Sea and Picardy are neither one of them supply centers. This means that occupying either (or both) of these spaces (even if on a Fall turn!) will not increase (or even assist in maintaining) the supply center count of the occupying power. However -- and this is important -- occupation of these areas also does not detract from the supply center count (one measure of political power) of the occupier. Make a note of this. Now crumple that note up. We won't need it.

To further discuss the politics, we must look at the different powers who are likely to occupy the North Sea. Surveying the standard board, we see that the field is limited to only seven such powers, to wit: England, France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Russia, and Turkey. Make a note of this.

Notice, however, that if a power has been eliminated from the game, then this power would not be eligible to occupy the North Sea, and this would tend to disqualify this power from making the "North Sea to Picardy" move with which we are concerned. So all that can be said is that in a standard game, the number of powers eligible to enter the North Sea is a maximum of seven.

Interestingly, the minimum number of powers eligible to do so is only two. The reasoning behind this is left as an exercise for the reader. Make a note of this (the fact that it's left as an exercise, not the fact that the minimum is only two, since this is a total nonsequitur which will not help us at all; I don't even know why I brought it up).

Delving deeper into the discussion of which political power might be in the North Sea, we find a startling fact, and one which has a direct bearing on our further investigation into this issue. We find that at any particular time, one and only one power can be in occupation of the North Sea. It is utterly impossible, under the rules of the game, for two (or more) units to occupy the North Sea simultaneously. Make a note of this. (Whether this is a requirement unique to the North Sea or not is beyond the scope of this article, and determining the validity of any conjecture on this point would surely require a more detailed investigation than we can hope to undertake, at least without introducing a serious diversion from the task at hand. Thankfully, the answer does not affect our current discussion.)

The North Sea could, we also notice, be vacant. Indeed, in the admittedly small sample of games that I studied for this article, the North Sea was invariably vacant before the first move. This serves as empirical proof of my point, that it could, indeed, be empty. As you can see if you print this article on paper, I have provided ample whitespace below, which you can use to make a note of this.

Now that we've discussed which political entities can occupy the North Sea, let's cover the varying political reasons for this occupation. First of all, Diplomacy is a game. This means that every move of a piece, if the game is played correctly, should be made for the purposes of advancing the player toward a satisfactory conclusion to the game. This means that the unit is there either for offensive or defensive reasons. Although this nicely explains why someone would want to occupy the North Sea, it seems like a totally useless piece of information -- pure drivel, as a matter of fact -- so don't bother to make a note of this.

At this point, we note one important thing which will narrow our quest down, and that is that the order "North Sea to Picardy" is indeed to be entered for the unit in the North Sea. So we can feel justified in skipping a few steps and answering our question as follows: the political reason why there is a unit in the North Sea is so that this unit can be issued the order "North Sea to Picardy." Make a note of this.

This concludes our discussion of the different political climates which could bring about the order in question. Looking back at what we have, we see that it comes to a goodly number of notes, none of which will do us any good, so trash them.

4. The Diplomatic Situation

There seem to be three distinct possible diplomatic situations which could surround the North Sea to Picardy order. I will label these, for lack of better names, Situations A, B, and 3.

In Situation A, also called "Situation X" or the "Open (or Closed) Situation," the power with a unit in the North Sea will issue the following piece of diplomatic press:

"I think I will order North Sea to Picardy."
In Situation B, also known as "Situation X (but not the same X as that last one)" or as the "Ancient (or Modern) Situation," a power other than the power who occupies the North Sea issues the following piece of diplomatic press:
"Hey, how about if you order North Sea to Picardy?"
It is possible, though extremely rare, that Situation B can actually cause Situation A. This may be the reason why both of them are also known as "Situation X" (but not the same X). However, since I just made all these situation names up myself only a minute ago, I kind of doubt that it has anything to do with it at all. So never mind.

Situation 3, also known as "Situation J" and also as "Situation j (lower case)," is marked by a lack of diplomacy. In essence, no one knows that the order will be issued except the owner of the unit. This is why the name "Situation J" was chosen. "J" for "secret." Some people might wonder why not "S" for "secret." Because then, that wouldn't be much of a secret, would it? Get a clue.

That's about it on the diplomacy of the situation. There are variations to each situation, like for example, in Situation A, the owner of the unit might broadcast his intentions to enter the move in question (rather than just telling one or two other players). Another variation actually has the owner of the unit announcing the move North Sea to Picardy and then not doing it. Basically, this would mean he was lying. Or, at the very least, sorely mistaken.

To recap, here is a handy diplomatic situation matrix which can be used to chart game situations.

Table 8. Pertinent Diplomatic Situations
Situation NameDescription
3No diplomatic information is available
ANorth Sea occupier admits NTH-Pic is coming (see note)
AncientSee the correct Situation X (be careful here!)
BSome other player suggests NTH-Pic to North Sea occupier
ClosedSee Situation A
JSee Situation j
jSee Situation 3
ModernSee Situation B
OpenSee Situation A
SThere is no such situation
XSee Situation A (or B)
X (a different X)See Situation B (or A)
NOTE: In Situation A, it could be a lie!

So we see that many diplomatic situations could surround the "North Sea to Picardy" move. Recapping what we've learned in this section, we see that we haven't learned a darn thing. One good thing, though, is that at least we didn't make any notes.

5. Move Results

The move North Sea to Picardy, as you can see from the discussion of the geographic importance of both areas, is a move which would quickly transfer pressure from Scandinavia and England to France. We also see from our discussion of the politics, that Germany, while it touches neither the North Sea nor Picardy, is indeed eligible to be in the North Sea (although -- and if you hadn't thrown your notes away, you'd know this -- not at the same time as any other power).

So a hypothetical scenario would seem to be as follows: Germany gets a fleet into the North Sea, posing a threat to England and Scandinavia. At this point, England initiates a "Situation B" diplomatic approach, politely suggesting to Germany the "North Sea to Picardy" move. As noted, it is possible for Germany to then respond to England with a "Situation A" response (though we did remark that he could be lying when he does so).

By far, however, the most common response of Germany in this situation would be to laugh out loud at the "Situation B" message from England. We will now look, in deep detail, at the reason for this.

Let us assume, first, that the move North Sea to Picardy is indeed issued. The result of the move will be that the unit in the North Sea does not move to Picardy, since the North Sea is not adjacent to Picardy. At the same time, any support which might have been given to the order "North Sea to Picardy" is rendered void. Also, all support given to the unit in the North Sea, had it stayed where it was without attempting the folly of moving to faroff Picardy, is deemed void as well. And finally, any foreign unit in Picardy which is in the act of supporting some other order will not have its support cut by the "North Sea to Picardy" move.

These reasons offer compelling evidence that the common reaction -- to laugh at the suggestion of issuing "North Sea to Picardy" -- is only as popular as it is for good reason.

6. Conclusion

So now that we have looked at every aspect of the order -- geographically, politically, diplomatically, and at the possible results of the order -- we see that the order "North Sea to Picardy" is among the worst order choices that any power could make.

What we can do with this information is limited, but it is my theory that this total uselessness is one reason -- and while I am tempted to say that it is the major reason, I am not as confident as I would like to be in the depths to which I investigated -- why "North Sea to Picardy" is so rarely used in modern games.

Make a note of it.

Manus Hand

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