England’s Opening Moves: Northern Openings

England can only guarantee one supply centre in 1901 – Norway. To do this, she has to use a Northern opening – and even then there is only one set of orders that guarantees taking Norway.

There are two Northern openings that make any sense for England – the Churchill Opening and the Jorvik Opening.

The Churchill Opening

  • F Edi-NWG
  • F Lon-NTH
  • A Lpl-Edi

This is supposed to be the more flexible of the Northern openings, based on the fact that either fleet can convoy the army in Edinburgh to Norway. This is true. And, frankly, if you’re going to use the Churchill Opening then you are definitely looking to land the army in Norway – there’s really no other reason to do this.

Well, OK, it could be a bluff. Perhaps you’re thinking of convoying through the North Sea to Denmark, Holland or Belgium. That is a possibility. It’s a good way to annoy Russia, though.

As England, you’ve probably negotiated an agreement that Russia won’t order A Mos-Stp. If Russia does this, then England faces being bounced from Norway and must use both fleets to capture the SC. If you’re looking to (effectively) maximise your gains in 1901, then you would rather have the second fleet involved in getting into Belgium (or Holland or Denmark – I’m going to stop listing the alternatives!)

Russia might agree. After all, the only way Russia is getting into Norway is if you and they have agreed to it and you’re trying something different (the Norwegian Gambit). In any other scenario, Russia trying to prevent you from taking Norway is either simply to frustrate you or part of a German Ocean Triple (GOT) alliance with Germany and France (in which case, see ya).

However, Russia isn’t going to simply allow England to move anything into Norway. The worst scenario for Russia is England using a Northern opening (either one) and then, in Fall 1901, seeing England order F NWG-BAR, A Edi-Nwy, F NTH C Edi-Nwy.

So Russia will have said that they don’t want you ordering the army to Norway. It’s all about St Petersburg. If England gets her army into St Petersburg, then that army can influence what happens in Moscow.

And now you use the Churchill Opening. This suggests, very strongly, that you’re aiming to put the army in Norway. It’s going to take some persuading that you’re not and Russia is going to be more than a little anxious about any agreement you and they have moving forward.

The Churchill Opening isn’t a bad opening, though. Perhaps you are aiming to get the army into Norway. Why not?

However, the problem with A Lpl-Edi is that it is useless elsewhere. In combination with a Northern opening, you’re leaving the English Channel open, which will allow France, should they order F Bre-ENG, to take it. And this places a French fleet bordering London. If you’re going to defend London, then, you need to withdraw your North Sea fleet – no other unit can do it. Not a great position to be in.

The Jorvik Opening

  • F Edi-NWG
  • F Lon-NTH
  • A Lpl-Yor

[See England’s Opening Moves: Introduction]

The Jorvik Opening (named after the Viking name for York) is actually the more flexible opening. It’s true that the only way to convoy the army to Norway is to use the North Sea fleet and this means that England has no other option for that fleet. So, yes, from that point of view is it less flexible than the Churchill.

However, it is the usefulness of an army in Yorkshire that is what makes this order the more flexible. As I said above, if you’re using a Northern opening, then you’re leaving the Channel open; if France moves there, you could well need to defend London. With the Jorvik Opening, A Yor-Lon will defend the SC and you don’t run the risk of leaving the North Sea open. If another power gets a fleet into the North Sea – and both France and Germany could do so – then you’re going to struggle. (I’ll discuss the importance of the North Sea when we look at the Splits openings.)

If you’re looking to convoy to Norway, then there’s nothing wrong with the Jorvik Opening, either! It allows you to order F NWG-BAR still, and, if you’re going after St Petersburg, this is probably something you’ll be looking to do anyway.

As far as Russia goes, beyond the fact that you’ve used a Northern opening, which is a red flag anyway, the Jorvik is less obviously threatening than the Churchill. It means that you’re possibly more serious when you tell Russia that you’re absolutely not looking to land an army in Norway. No, Russia won’t be surprised if you do.

Should England always take Norway?

No. There’s nothing set in Diplomacy. However, Norway is the only SC that England can guarantee capturing in 1901. Although she can also take Brest, Belgium, Holland or Denmark, none of these are in any way guaranteed. Of these, Belgium is the most possible – and only if Germany or France agree to it. Both of these powers could quite easily prevent this unless England is working with the other.

England usually takes Norway in 1901, then, because they can. This doesn’t mean they should. It all depends on what you’ve agreed with other players and if you believe they’re being serious.

England does need an SC build in 1901 (as, in fairness, do the other powers). If you think, therefore, that there’s a doubt over any other option, Norway is the banker.

However, England can only guarantee taking Norway with a fleet, and with the North Sea fleet, using:

  • F NTH-Nwy
  • F NWG S NTH-Nwy

Nothing else is guaranteed. Here’s why:

  1. Russia orders A Mos-Stp. This means that England needs to use both fleets to capture Norway. This is because an F01 order of A Stp-Nwy will bounce England attempting to take Norway unsupported.
  2. A Norwegian Sea order can fail. Let’s say you’ve used the Churchill Opening. You now order the fleet in the Norwegian Sea to Norway, or to convoy A Edi-Nwy, and the North Sea fleet is supporting the move. Germany will have a fleet on the North Sea border, either in Holland or Denmark. That fleet could be ordered to the North Sea, and this will cut that support. Similarly, if France occupies the Channel, F ENG-NTH will also cut the support order.
  3. A North Sea convoy can be disrupted. Knowing this, but wanting to get the army into Norway, you use either A Yor-Nwy, F NTH C Yor-Nwy (if you opened to with the Jorvik) or A Edi-Nwy, F NTH C Edi-Nwy (if you used the Churchill). The Norwegian Sea fleet is ordered to support the convoy. If France has occupied the Channel, they and Germany could work together to dislodge the North Sea fleet, with one fleet supporting the other fleet there: either F ENG S Den/Hol-NTH or F Den/Hol S ENG-NTH. This means the convoy fails.

Now, there is an increasing unlikeliness in there scenarios. It’s probably about 50-50 that Russia will open to St Petersburg, based on what actually happens in games rather than the pure maths of what Russia could order that army to do.

If France is in the Channel, and England has used a Northern opening, they could well try for London, so F ENG-NTH is not very likely. However, if France and Russia are allied, and they’re working to stop England making any headway, then this is a possibility. If England has used the Churchill Opening it is much less likely even if they are playing towards this aim: the chances of France ordering F ENG-Lon is even more effective in stimying England’s progress.

Germany is more likely to order her fleet to the North Sea, though. Germany can probably take both Denmark and Holland without using her fleet and – if there’s a chance of getting the fleet into the North Sea – then this is probably a good move, especially if Germany and Russia are allied against England. Still, in honestly, it’s a low risk for England.

Even more unlikely is France and Germany working together, with fleets in the Channel and Denmark/Holland, to dislodge England from the North Sea and occupy the space. If both are looking to be aggressive, though, it’s actually a very good move. Once an enemy fleet is in the North Sea, England is going to struggle badly. I’d say it’s more likely if the above-mentioned GOT alliance is in place as, in this scenario, the effectiveness of preventing England getting Norway and occupying the North Sea, is huge.

Frankly, of the above possibilities, only Russia moving A Mos-Stp is likely. The others are very unlikely: I don’t think I’ve ever seen them. But we’re talking about England guaranteeing Norway, so it would be daft to ignore them.

Should England take St Petersburg and, if so, with what?

St Petersburg is often considered England’s next target if they’ve got into Norway… so we’re moving away from opening moves a little here. Still, it’s early in the game, and St Petersburg is certainly obtainable. However, it is often seen as a mistake.

The problem is that, even if you get into St Petersburg, where do you go from there? Actually, it’s a pretty simple answer: Moscow.

England is likely to need to capture Moscow to reach 18 SCs. This suggests that England needs to get an army into St Petersburg because there’s no other way to take Moscow. That simple.

If, then, England is trying to take St Petersburg, it has to be with an army, doesn’t it?

Well, if this is an option, go for it. Getting the army into St Petersburg early on gets that necessity out of the way. You just need to concentrate on holding the space, now. It’s not uncommon for a single fleet, in the Barents Sea, to be able to defend an English St Petersburg and, if you also have a unit in Norway, you’re safe.Three units to hold two SCs is probably as efficient as it gets.

However, getting a fleet into St Petersburg isn’t a disaster. At this early stage in the game, the chances are that A Stp-Mos isn’t going to happen anyway. It needs support from another power – Germany, Austria-Hungary or Turkey – to succeed. It’s a possibility for the latter two to offer support for this: it could well over-extend England and give either the chance to take Moscow for themselves later on, and it probably kills Russia.

For Germany to support England from St Petersburg to Moscow is silly, frankly. All this does is enable England to get a position to Germany’s west, north and east. It means they’ve replaced two powers who are at war in this area with a single power. Not a bad way to help England turn on Germany later on and be in a position to go on to win the game.

So, if England isn’t likely to be able to move from St Petersburg to Moscow, what difference does having a fleet in St Petersburg make? None. If England is going to be able to win the game, there should be time later to get an army there.

The problem with pushing on to St Petersburg isn’t, then, about how to get an army into the space, but what this means for England elsewhere on the board. It’s probably going to take three units for England to take the space – units in the Barents Sea, Finland and Norway working in conjunction. This means putting an army in Norway, being able to move it to Finland (with German help?), replacing it with a fleet or an army in Norway, and having the fleet in the Barents Sea.

The other problem is Russia getting a build in W01. If England has an army in Norway, Russia is going to go on the defensive if they can. The chances are this will mean a fleet at Stp(nc) or an army. This will slow England’s progress and extend the campaign, even potentially breaking the campaign down into a siege. Suddenly, the tempo is lost.

While England is battering away at St Petersburg, then, what are France and Germany doing? Well, if they can, looking to take advantage. England is going to be stretched and vulnerable in the south. For England to move on St Petersburg, then, France and Germany need to be distracted, ideally by England’s diplomacy leading them into conflict with each other.

If England can get into St Petersburg, she’s established a decent position. However, potentially getting Sweden first is the better way to succeed in the north.

The Swedish option

Sweden is a decent option for England prior to attacking St Petersburg. The problem is, of course, that Sweden is a hotly disputed SC – both Germany and Russia will want to be there if they can. For Germany, there is a chance for taking Sweden in 1901: F Kie-Den, F Den-Swe. For Russia, there is a similar chance: F Stp(sc)- GOB, F GOB-Swe.

England is helped by this situation, however. It isn’t uncommon for Germany to bounce Russia from Sweden in 1901. It prevents Russia from gaining an extra SC in the north and, given that Russia isn’t guaranteed any SC gains in 1901, can be an effective tool in putting Russia into a desperate position.

England can use this situation to work with either Germany or Russia to take Sweden for herself, then. Let’s look at the option of the Anglo-Russian, or Anglonaut, alliance first.

If you learn that Germany is indeed aiming to block Russia from getting Sweden, you persuade Russia to order F GOB-BAL in F01. This means Germany’s order of F Den-Swe succeeds. It may mean that Germany captures Sweden, Denmark and Holland in 1901, though. If this is the case, then a wider anti-German alliance must be in place. However, this shouldn’t be overly difficult: Germany quite easily falls foul of the ‘Early Leader Syndrome’, when a player gets a lot of early success and draws so much attention to themselves that others simply pile on. For instance, France won’t be overly pleased with a six unit Germany in 1902!

What England doesn’t want is a fleet in the Barents Sea in this scenario, however, so you would be better using the Norwegian Sea fleet to convoy an army into Norway in 1901, or even to move directly to Norway. You might try F NTH-Den or F NTH C Yor/Edi-Den and this could work. However, if Germany is going to order F Den-Swe, they’re likely to also order A Kie-Den. More effectively, then, F NTH-SKA provides the same option for attacking Denmark in 1902.

Russia could be persuaded to support Norway to Sweden – it doesn’t matter if the unit is an army or fleet, either is effective. This may mean allowing Russia to build an army in St Petersburg and then ordering A Stp-Nwy. In effect, England swaps Norway for Sweden, and Russia swaps Sweden for Norway. This allows Russia to get a build from Scandinavia. In this case, then, you should be able to require Russian support for your unit into Denmark – you need a build, too, after all. And with your units in North Sea, Skagerrak and Sweden, and a Russian fleet in the Baltic Sea, Denmark will fall.

The only risk in this situation is to St Petersburg: that German fleet that was dislodged from Sweden can retreat to Finland and, from there, move on to St Petersburg. Still, there is that Russian army in Norway that can defend their home SC.

What about the Anglo-German, or Saxon, alliance?

Well, Germany can hold onto Sweden if they want, assuming England doesn’t ally with Russia. But, if England and Germany are to work together, England needs to gain access to St Petersburg. If Germany works with England, they can get into Warsaw as compensation for losing Sweden… and Germany will feel they can take Sweden back later anyway.

In this situation, England is better off with an army in Norway. Germany will move F Swe-GOB, England will move A Nwy-Swe with support from Germany’s army in Denmark. Russia can only prevent this if they order F BAL-GOB and, remember, you’ve persuaded them to move F GOB-BAL in the previous turn so they’ll be expecting to carry the war to Germany, so F BAL-GOB is unlikely. England agrees to DMZ the North Sea (because Germany is making Denmark vulnerable otherwise) and orders F NTH-Nwy.

From this position you can, if you want, immediately order A Swe-Fin with support from Germany’s Gulf of Bothnia fleet. In fact, Germany may require this. Of course, that doesn’t give you Sweden, but all you really want an army in Finland for is to support an attack on St Petersburg with a fleet. You’ll have the option of capturing Sweden later.

What about France?

None of this makes any difference if you believe that England should always make France their first target. I don’t. There’s nothing wrong with this if you’re sure you can pull Germany – and potentially Italy – along for the anti-French campaign but as a maxim it’s weak. France is always going to be a target for England eventually but there’s absolutely no need to attack them first.

This kind of maxim ignores the fact that you’re not playing against the other powers but against the other players. France may actually prove to be your first choice of a target; they may not even be your first choice for an ally but this doesn’t mean you can’t get a working relationship from them.

However, the Northern openings leave the Channel open to French occupation and this is the weakness in both openings. As I’ve stressed above, the Jorvik Opening deals with this quite nicely – get your army into Yorkshire and a French fleet in the Channel isn’t a huge problem. You only really need to worry if France has also got an army bordering the Channel, in which case the army can be convoyed to Wales, which is more problematic! However, if France says they’re going for Belgium, they probably being truthful.

There’s no reason why England can’t neutralise France using Diplomacy alone. If France gets the chance of at least a non-aggression pact (NAP) with England, they should go for it. There’s more to be gained by sending that fleet to Iberia. France can actually afford to delay attacking England.

If you can achieve your goals as England in the north quickly, and you should be aiming for this, then you can afford to delay your attack on France, too. And, if France jumps the gun and moves on you before you move on them, then you should be in a position to hold them off.

Leaving yourself vulnerable to an early French attack is the danger of the Northern openings, though. If you ignore this threat, you’ve nobody else to blame. For this reason, the Jorvik Opening is probably the better of the two Northern openings.


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Published by Mal Arky

I'm a Diplomacy nut... if you haven't guessed. I write about the game Diplomacy, mainly as played online on websites, such as Playdiplomacy, webDiplomacy and Backstabbr. I write books on Diplomacy, too. First one to be published soon!

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