Defending England

By Ole Richard Tuft

Defending? Against what, exactly? Well, I believe that the popularization of The Sealion opening (see Birsan/Sealion has had a significant impact on the way France, and to a lesser extent, England, opens the game. If one could compare opening statistics for England and France before and after the Sealion exploded onto the scene, I think one would find that in S1901, French players are ordering their Brest Fleet to the English Channel with far greater regularity than before. Though we can only speculate, in seems probable that English players are responding to this threat by increasing the frequency of their moves to the Channel. If they aren't, they certainly should, as ordering F Lon - Eng is the only way of defending against a possible Sealion attack, isn't it? I would say yes, and no. Until Russia starts sending Army Moscow to St. Petersburg more often, and until the French moves to Channel declines in popularity, I firmly believe that opening to the Channel is the best option for England. Of course, if the English Fleet sails into the Channel unopposed, it is quite likely that the France will become uncooperative, or even hostile, so even if opening to the Channel is the best option tactically, it may have costly diplomatic repercussions. What England may see as defense, France could interpret as attack, and there are many players who, at least initially prefer to honor their DMZ's, and therefore are not happy about opening to the Channel.

With the Sealion in mind, there are currently two distinctly different ways of handling this as England: Either you open to the Channel, to stop France from going there or as an offensive move, or you disregard the possibility of the Sealion completely by not opening to the Channel and taking no other defensive measures. Is there really no middle ground, no set of moves that, while not incorporating F Lon - Eng, still provides some defensive measures against a possible Sealion attack? This is what we will investigate, and we will look at two options, both of which sacrifice flexibility and offensive capability but provide increased defense while not opening to the Channel. I must stress that if you really worry about a coming Sealion, the best defense available is to open to Channel yourself, the options we will look at only makes sense if you are unwilling to do just that. Such unwillingness can be soundly based: England is a corner power, whose potential increases as the game goes on, so trying to avoid early conflict to stay in the game is a very valid approach. But now, lets look at some moves:

The Sealion, S1901 framework:

F Bre - Eng
A Par - Pic
A Mar - Spa

F Kie - Den
A Ber - Kie
A Mun - Ruh

England, Reserve Fleet Opening (S1901)
F Edi - Nth
F Lon Hold
A Lvp - Yor

In the Interactive Library of Diplomacy Openings, this is know as the North Sea Opening: "Richard Sharp's name for the opening in which England orders A Lvp-Yor, sends one Fleet to the North Sea and does something "silly" with the other Fleet (usually F Lon H, which provides the opportunity for a supported attack on the English Channel, at the cost of England's 1901 build). There are two variations: the Clyde (involving Edi-Cly) and the Thames (Lon-Wal)."

I suggest naming this opening the "Reserve Fleet Opening," as England's Reserve Fleet tended to be based in Portsmouth, with the Home Fleet in Scapa Flow. But what is the point? Why do something "silly" like ordering F Lon Hold? If may seem silly, because if France doesn't open to the Channel, and you're intending to get Norway, you've given up any influence in Belgium (or Holland, or Denmark, etc.). And if Russia has opened A Mos - StP, you might not even get Norway, but that's a risk you take when opening to the Channel too. The point is defense, because if Germany and France have the S1901 Sealion framework in place, England can order:

England, F1901
F Nth Convoy A Yor - Nwy
A Yor - Nth - Nwy
F Lon Support F Nth

When faced with the S1901 Sealion framework, this is, to my knowledge, the only opening that will enable England to (whatever Germany and France do during F1901):

Perhaps not so silly after all? Of course, these English F1901 moves do nothing to prevent a French convoy from Picardy to Wales, and a French Army in Wales is a serious bone down the English throat. But France will be limited to one build if he orders the convoy (if Italy has opened to Piedmont, he risks getting no builds), while knowing that he probably won't have any German support for his attack for some time. My guess is that many Frenchmen would choose to forget about their Sealion plans and go after Belgium instead, while Germany might prefer to use F Den to keep Russia out of Sweden. And England does have the possibility of covering Wales instead of supporting his fleet. Now, lets look at another option:

England, Home Guard Opening (S1901)
F Edi - Nwg
F Lon - Nth
A Lvp - Wal

Known as the Wales variation of the Northern Opening, here the Fleets rush out to secure the northern seas, while the Army acts like a home guard, tending to the invasion beaches in the south (hence my suggested name). With the Fleets going north and the Army veering off to the south, these moves seem completely uncoordinated, as if England is giving up all hope of taking Norway or Belgium with an Army. Once again, the point is better defense. With the S1901 Sealion framework in place, England orders:

England, F1901
F Nwg - Nwy
F Nth - Lon
A Wal - Lon

With England arranging a self-bounce in London, France can get nowhere on his own, as both London and Wales are covered. Germany can't sneak into the North Sea without French help. They must proceed in classic Sealion fashion to make progress:

France F1901
A Pic - Bel
F Eng Support German F Den - Nth
A Spa - Por (or Hold)

Germany F1901
F Den - Nth
A Kie - Den
A Ruh - Hol

The English Fleet in the North Sea is dislodged, and retreats to Edinburgh. Assuming that Russia hasn't intervened in the north, England gets Norway and builds F Lon.

Now, let us have a look at what threats England is facing:

With the Army in Wales, England can foil all of these possibilities by ordering:

England, S1902
F Edi Support F Nwy - Nth
F Nwy - Nth
F Lon Support F Nwy - Nth
A Wal Support F Lon

The German Fleet in the North Sea is dislodged, and will probably face destruction if it retreats to Yorkshire. Of course, more German and French Fleets are probably on their way, and Russia might get nasty over Norway, but these are problems one would have to face anyway. The main point is that moving the Army to Wales offers better defense, and if England is to harbor any hope of the G/F alliance falling apart, prolonged survival is crucial.

Ole Richard Tuft

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