Powers: England / France
Stage: Early Game (and beyond)
Primary target(s): Germany, Russia
Also known as… The Entente Cordiale; The Western Juggernaut
Associated 3-way alliances: Western Triple; Spaghetti Western; Triple Entente
The E/F alliance is one of the most successful in the game. Given that it is often held to be a mistake, this is surprising.
In his book “The Game of Diplomacy” Richard Sharp says that E/F is an atrocious idea. Why? Because it favours France over England:
France is the only serious threat to England’s domination of the western seas. The fleet in Brest is more menacing to England than all the other hostile units put together. He may move it down to the south coast of Spain in 1901, leaving it unobtrusively pointing due east from the neighbourhood of Barcelona. Do not be deceived. A French attack on England can be mounted with lethal swiftness. Never mind that he has moved the fleet to southern Spain – unless you can see some definite use he can put it to down there, it’s a safe bet that it’ll be back before long. If Italy has his back turned on France, don’t imagine that France will gobble up this easy target: first he must neutralize the major threat, which is you.
For years I could not see any realistic plan for Anglo-French co-operation. Every idea foundered on the simple facts: England must occupy the Mediterranean to win, he must go through the Mid-Atlantic to get there, and none of this is going to amuse France at all.“The Game of Diplomacy.” Sharp, R. Arthur Barker, 25 Jan 1979. Accessed from The Game of Diplomacy, Chapter 4 22 Jan 2023.
He’s speaking here from the perspective of England at the start of the game. From France’s point of view…
England is unequivocally an enemy in the long term. The threat a strong England poses to the French sea areas cannot be ignored. Because of the feeble English habit of becoming unprofitably enmeshed in a Scandinavian war, the eventual conflict is usually resolved quickly and terminally in France’s favour. The only error you need to guard against here is complacency: it is tempting to believe in England’s good intentions as he sails away into the midnight sun. Don’t: he probably won’t get a chance to attack you, but if he does he’ll take it.“The Game of Diplomacy.” Sharp, R. Arthur Barker, 25 Jan 1979. Accessed from The Game of Diplomacy, Chapter 10 22 Jan 2023.
Here is the major issue with the E/F alliance: England and France are natural enemies, in both Diplomacy and history. For England, France is the only power that can easily get behind you; for France, while England may not be Germany, England is in a unique position to drop their units south later in the game, while France is tied down in the south.
However, all of this theory is nothing more than theory; in reality, certainly in modern play, the alliance is known as the Leviathan (or the Western Juggernaut) for a reason.
If you’ve only heard of one alliance in Diplomacy, it’s probably the Juggernaut (yes, that is the correct way to spell it!). The Russo-Turkish alliance is renowned (or infamous, depending on your point of view) for rolling over the board – which explains the name, of course. Unstoppable.
The Leviathan alliance is, perhaps, not quite as potentially undeniable as the Jug but it’s pretty close, it seems. Despite the tension that exists as the game gets older, E/F seems to be successful.
We have to put this in context. The E/F alliance is very strongly represented in FTF and vFTF games. Online, where the players tend to be less experienced, it’s not quite as visibly successful.
The other reason the E/F alliance is so widely used in FTF and vFTF play is that it is a great tournament/league alliance. In these formats, scoring systems usually mean that gaining a decent number of SCs, possibly playing for a board-topping tie between the powers, will usually give a good result from the game. In a standard, one-off game, where players are more likely to be playing for the solo, while the Leviathan is an ideal way to start, it’s a problem later in the game.
The way this alliance can work is for England to concentrate mostly on building fleets while France focuses mostly on armies. France will need some southern fleets so that they can make progress in the Mediterranean and this can also cause some additional tension – England doesn’t like French fleets!
The two cooperate against Germany, certainly in the Early Game. Once Germany is eliminated (or weakened beyond recovery) then France is often left to finish Germany and move through the Med, while England will concentrate on Russia.
Having said that, England will often allow a decent number of units to push into Scandinavia. This is so they can focus on Germany’s northern most SCs – Denmark and Sweden – while also pushing through to St Petersburg. The chances are that England will also want to get an army in Stp.
The Anglo-French alliance may be the real alliance within false 3-way alliances. One such is the Western Triple (E/F/G), where Germany becomes the prey of the Leviathan as soon as they become a barrier to E/F success.
Another associated alliance is the Spaghetti Western (E/F/I). Italy’s involvement means a quicker breakthrough into Munich for someone (France or Italy – from Italy’s point of view it should be Italy!). As soon as possible, France is then often in a position to stab Italy, as the latter’s units are often concentrated in the east.
A stronger 3-way alliance associated with the E/F is the Triple Entente (E/F/R). In this alliance, Russia is separated enough from E/F that they aren’t as easy a target. Still, England is certainly in a position to do so. What tends to be more likely, though, is that the TE breaks down when France and Russia decide to sandwich England. As England, the only real way to protect yourself is to occupy Brest or St Petersburg… or both!
No matter what follows from the Leviathan alliance, it is clearly a successful one. Unlike the Juggernaut, where Italy, Austria, Germany and England all have a clear interest in stopping it, the only powers that are directly threatened by the Leviathan are Germany and Italy (possibly Russia, though it’s comparatively simple for Russia to block England’s progress if they see it coming). This means that Austria-Hungary, Turkey and Russia are often slow to see the Leviathan‘s threat.
In the end, France will need to attack England to win, in most cases; England will almost always need at least two French SCs (as well as Spain and Portugal) to win. The problem is that this alliance is often one that is difficult to break down from within.
Which brings us back to the warnings against it.