Gunboat Strategy: England

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President Eden
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Gunboat Strategy: England

#1 Post by President Eden » Thu Jan 25, 2018 6:46 am

I want to talk about gunboat strategy for specific countries. I've been reading swordsman3003's journal (pt 1, 2) and maps (1). They've inspired me to delve deeper into each country, and see if we the community can't create a useful resource/reference for gunboat strategy for each country.

I'll start with England, because it's the first country, and because I've seen a lot of English players struggling lately. This is the key question to me: What do you do about France?

I am coming around to swordsman's claim in his writings that France is hands-down the best country in gunboat and probably in Classic Diplomacy generally. I think France is very favored in a war between these two countries, without any interference from the outside.
I've seen a lot of people open to the Channel, and I generally hate those openings, because you outright leave your fate in Germany's (and to a lesser extent Russia's) hands right from the start.
At the same time, if England waits until France grabs the Iberian centers and builds a fleet in Brest, they are absolutely banking on Germany to pressure Burgundy and to keep France honest with an army build. In a lot of ways, your fate is already in Germany's hands: how much risk are you really taking by acknowledging that from the jump and making the most powerful positional play available in that framework?

Of course, it's possible that you could ally with France. I think France becomes much less of a menace, even if allowed to develop and grow, if England is capable of getting to the midgame with her own power base in Scandinavia and/or coastal Germany. France becomes a juggernaut in games where England's home centers turn blue, since Western powers are structurally advantaged in fights over Scandinavia (swordsman discusses this idea in detail in the maps article, if you'd like a read), but once England routinely has a few fleets on patrol near the homeland, France's window to attack England successfully disappears quickly.
That said, why would France do this? Sometimes it happens, of course, and perhaps a very aggressively anti-French start from Germany or Italy forces France into England's arms, but if France is left to his own devices and allowed to pick a fight, England is such an obvious first target for the exact reasons just stated.


Other thoughts:
- How do you deal with Germany and Russia? I've seen a trend of Germany and Russia allying in the earlygame, out of a mutual fear of England's potential to dominate Scandinavia if they don't work together. How does England go about breaking up this tendency if it shows up in a particular gunboat game?
- How many fleets does a successful England need? A lot of her targets are coastal, but taking Munich needs a dedicated effort to develop an army, which gets to be prohibitively difficult if England churns out too many fleets too early. I imagine you want around three to tackle Scandinavia (after that, your first army is probably more beneficial for support actions in Finland and projecting force into the German or Russian interior, and perhaps your second army too), and probably another three to deal with France and beyond (too many bottlenecks to make good use of many more fleets). You also essentially always need North Sea garrisoned, although that doesn't necessarily demand its own fleet apart from the six listed before.
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Re: Gunboat Strategy: England

#2 Post by taylornottyler » Thu Jan 25, 2018 8:16 am

I would argue that the Scandinavian targets are the ones I would contest after and not first to be successful (using Norway to support Hold Sweden is a way to get Russia off your back for the beginning or to help Germany into Sweden to build the alliance against France). Or rather not the main focus. With France usually spread pretty thinly at the beginning that’s going to be your best chance to move to attack them. Once they start amassing troops and likely attacking Germany you’re at a loss for good attacking options.

If you focus on Scandinavia early then you’re just annoying Russia. Once you have your fleets built and initial armies used for taking out France, it is easy to start shifting towards Germany and up into Scandinavia.

But it’s all a coin flip. Depends on how aggressive the other players are. I’ll usually open and leave myself vulnerable and most people won’t attck the open SC at the beginning on the game (so no opening to the EC) and that usually creates some level of trust in France which makes it relatively easy to spin back around early and set them up for destruction once they attack Germany.

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Re: Gunboat Strategy: England

#3 Post by naked » Thu Jan 25, 2018 1:19 pm

some thoughts on england:

england has in gunboat some serious fundamental problems. first he has no easy way to expand (getting more than 4 countries). second he has two borders (north sea and his back with liverpool) to defend, which is additionally hard because he has to do it mostly with fleets. third and this is on my mind the main problem for england, the border between germany and france is very stable and if both side are playing reasonable there is no breakthrough without lots of help from another party. so if germany and france cant fight each other sucessful, this has has some serious implications for their plans. what can france do after collecting neutrals ? going for italy, a stratecially very unsound decision on my mind, or going for england. what can germany do ? trying to grab the scandinavians (the only territory where england has reasonable chance to expand on his own) and after that expanding right or left, most likely left using a good moment when england is defending versus france.

what are englands options ?
first going north. the scandinavians are the only territory where he has a decent shot for some gains (other than norway). the problem is if germany and russia are decent player there will be no gains other than norway (for example swordmands annotated game). and just to get the shot for it england has to make serious commitments with his troops that can get easily exploited by france. by the way i dont think that in swordmans annotated game germany had a good start. yes, england stoping from getting the scandinavians was a success, but if russia gets it instead this is i a clear loss on my mind.

second going south. now england is making the commitment to fight france and abandon all possible gains in the north (yes, germany will fight russia now in sweden... to get sweden for himself). but france is a hard nut to crack and even germany and england together will have a difficult time to get through. but getting through is not enough for england. england needs the territory gains despiratly and france will always have the option to decide who gets the gains first. also germany has an additional plan for much more easy gains and this is going north. if he gets sweden he has lots of troops, most likely 7 (with belgium), which give him always the option to fight france and have some other plan, like stabing a england which is to busy fighting france and has the problem of defending two borders. now you can think, if this is so good for germany he has to give something to england for it. lets start with belgium. no way i give as germany belgium to england.i can take it too and so it doesnt help in any way to fight france. also if england has an armee in belgium and in the north sea i have to think every turn about getting stabed in holland with england having 6 territories and germany crippled to four, if i dont already got sweden. also in this case, i loose control of the border to france. this is not acceptable. the second gift that germany can give to england is sweden. but this is also problematic. if england has a fleet in north sea and one in sweden there are 3 possible targets for england to stab germany in every turn. germany can only prevent this with parking lots of troops in this area. this is really awful for germany. his only offense is the stable border with france and now he has to hope that his partner doesnt make progress on his own, like getting st. petersburg, which would give him a lot of tropps and a lot of freedom in the north. als the question is what is the punishment for germany taking sweden himself ? england can terminate the war with france and move his troops north. but france will simply also move north, to help england in his defense versus germany, but also to get in a position to sneak into england, while germany could already be strong enough to make progress in the scandinavians and defend his southern border.

the role of russia: russia can change things i have described. overall i think the influence of russia in the north is limited, if he doesnt get sweden in the first year, as the south is much more important to russia and he will simply not have the resources to fight in the north, except for a single fleet.

to sum it up: england has the most responsible position in the west. he decides who gets a very good game: france or germany.

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Re: Gunboat Strategy: England

#4 Post by Claesar » Thu Jan 25, 2018 3:31 pm

I suck with England almost as much as Italy, especially in gunboat, so take my opinion with a spoon of salt.

Fleets are nice for England if you want a draw, but armies are crucial to win. They're also better at homeland security. Therefore I believe it's important to minimise your fleets. Whenever you have a build, ask yourself: Can I replace its functionality with an army? I've been having mote success ever since I maximised my armies.

While Naked is correct that Germany won't like your presence in Belgium nor Sweden, you need sóme builds to solidify your position. Fighting France with 2.5 units versus his 4.5 makes no sense.

As we all know, Belgium is crap. Even if you can take it, G and F will pile up to kick you out. Scandinavia must be your early target, and it's much more defensible. This gives you the necessary builds to break into Mid-Atlantic (while G pins down the French armies) or fight Germany yourself from the north down.

Lastly, you must never leave North Sea. This ties in with building armies and convoying them away.

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Re: Gunboat Strategy: England

#5 Post by swordsman3003 » Thu Jan 25, 2018 3:45 pm

Wow wow wow, I am so pleased that some folks are still reading my journal. Thanks for referencing that President Eden -- and I am a little moved by your implicit compliment that my writings have inspired you to think more deeply about Gunboat strategy. I'm intrigued that you're coming around to my way of thinking.

I've just written a strategic "cheat sheet" for playing England in Gunboat, want to take a look?

https://docs.google.com/document/d/e/2P ... YjYux5/pub

England is not my favorite power, but I do consider myself a very strong English player in Gunboat.
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Re: Gunboat Strategy: England

#6 Post by grumbledook » Thu Jan 25, 2018 4:41 pm

Since we can't +1 anyone, I just want to chip in and say I really like gunboat analysis threads. I think I'm terrible at gunboat and appreciate hearing what more experienced players have to say about it.

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Re: Gunboat Strategy: England

#7 Post by President Eden » Thu Jan 25, 2018 9:12 pm

swordsman3003 wrote:
Thu Jan 25, 2018 3:45 pm
Wow wow wow, I am so pleased that some folks are still reading my journal. Thanks for referencing that President Eden -- and I am a little moved by your implicit compliment that my writings have inspired you to think more deeply about Gunboat strategy. I'm intrigued that you're coming around to my way of thinking.

I've just written a strategic "cheat sheet" for playing England in Gunboat, want to take a look?

https://docs.google.com/document/d/e/2P ... YjYux5/pub

England is not my favorite power, but I do consider myself a very strong English player in Gunboat.
You're so modest. That journal was unquestionably the highest-caliber contribution to gunboat strategy and thinking in site history, and possibly on the entirety of the Internet. It is without equal in anything I've read about the variant.

This cheat sheet is excellent. If you have time and are willing, I would highly encourage you to make more for the other powers. My goal at the end of this series of threads is to make a "gunboat general" thread with these discussions linked. Any contributions like your cheat sheet would make the cut without a second thought.

I see the value of not stating this explicitly in a cheat sheet that tries to be as neutral as possible in examining options, but I'd like to get your thoughts on this: what's your preference between opening to the English Channel vs opening to Norwegian Sea?
I share your preference for Yorkshire/Channel and Edinburgh/Norwegian, but I'm not sure whether I prefer opening to the Channel vs Norwegian. I think Edinburgh/Norwegian is the best opening for keeping you uncommitted and flexible, which is generally a desirable position in gunboat.
Where I'm starting to rethink England is in whether this "generally desirable position" is actually desirable in this case. France is unquestionably a mortal danger unlike any other power on the board, and your success rate jumps astronomically if you can successfully take the English Channel in S1901. If France is to be The Enemy at some point in the game, and if France frequently chooses to make it so in 1902, then you might as well seize the initiative in 1901, I figure. In some respects this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy (maybe France wasn't going to attack you in 1902, were it not for your opening), but I don't know whether that matters if France is destined to fight you eventually.
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Re: Gunboat Strategy: England

#8 Post by swordsman3003 » Thu Jan 25, 2018 10:53 pm

President Eden wrote:
Thu Jan 25, 2018 9:12 pm
That journal was unquestionably the highest-caliber contribution to gunboat strategy and thinking in site history, and possibly on the entirety of the Internet. It is without equal in anything I've read about the variant.
Thank you friend. That's the highest compliment I've gotten on anything I've ever written. That's very encouraging and I hope I will continue to produce more. I should probably move my journal onto my website and off of Google docs so it can be easier to find and access.
President Eden wrote:
Thu Jan 25, 2018 9:12 pm
This cheat sheet is excellent. If you have time and are willing, I would highly encourage you to make more for the other powers.
Thanks again. I think I have one almost finished for Austria. I'm a bit behind on other projects so I'm not sure if I'll timely get out more than these two.
President Eden wrote:
Thu Jan 25, 2018 9:12 pm
what's your preference between opening to the English Channel vs opening to Norwegian Sea?
Hands down: I open to English Channel as England. I am perfectly well-aware that this is the minority opinion as I don't often see this opening from other players.
  • As you said, that war is coming. You should get in a blow while you can. If you get into the channel, you realistically could take Brest or get into MAO in 1901.
  • Harassing France this way also increases the chance that Germany takes Belgium in 1901, which is a plus because it makes it possible for Germany to invade France and gives France a target other than you.
  • Russia is very unlikely to make a northern opening in Gunboat. In fact,
    Russia is unlikely to break out into the north at any point. Let me go further and say that Russia is usually a non-threat and can often be dispensed with in the mid/end game even if Russia reached a high supply-center count. Russia is crap in Gunboat and snuffing out Russia is not a priority for any power, let alone England.
  • Show commitment to allying Germany. Opening to the Channel obviously means you don't want to ally France, which means you DO want to ally Germany. If you go the other way and open to Norwegian Sea, Germany is more likely to let Russia into Sweden, build a second fleet, and/or ally France against you (since Germany cannot POSSIBLY attack France alone).
  • Italy could consider attacking France in 1902 or 1903 if it looks like it might actually work.

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Re: Gunboat Strategy: England

#9 Post by President Eden » Fri Jan 26, 2018 5:42 am

swordsman3003 wrote:
Thu Jan 25, 2018 10:53 pm
President Eden wrote:
Thu Jan 25, 2018 9:12 pm
what's your preference between opening to the English Channel vs opening to Norwegian Sea?
Hands down: I open to English Channel as England. I am perfectly well-aware that this is the minority opinion as I don't often see this opening from other players.
  • As you said, that war is coming. You should get in a blow while you can. If you get into the channel, you realistically could take Brest or get into MAO in 1901.
  • Harassing France this way also increases the chance that Germany takes Belgium in 1901, which is a plus because it makes it possible for Germany to invade France and gives France a target other than you.
  • Russia is very unlikely to make a northern opening in Gunboat. In fact,
    Russia is unlikely to break out into the north at any point. Let me go further and say that Russia is usually a non-threat and can often be dispensed with in the mid/end game even if Russia reached a high supply-center count. Russia is crap in Gunboat and snuffing out Russia is not a priority for any power, let alone England.
  • Show commitment to allying Germany. Opening to the Channel obviously means you don't want to ally France, which means you DO want to ally Germany. If you go the other way and open to Norwegian Sea, Germany is more likely to let Russia into Sweden, build a second fleet, and/or ally France against you (since Germany cannot POSSIBLY attack France alone).
  • Italy could consider attacking France in 1902 or 1903 if it looks like it might actually work.
Interesting. This question has made me reconsider what I always assumed to be universally sound advice -- favor openings which do not commit yourself before the other players and which maximize your flexibility. The principle struck me as so clearly good that I assumed all powers would be able to utilize it effectively, but I'm starting to think that's wrong, and that individual powers have to weigh this desire for flexibility against their strategic constraints and see if it's realistic to play that style of game.
For example, France, which enjoys intrinsic defensive strengths and straightforward offensive expansion paths, probably profits greatly from following this advice. No one really wants to pick a fight with France proactively because France is so hard to beat straight-up, so France's overriding strategic imperative is to avoid getting ganged up on early, and the best way to do this is not to commit to a war with one neighbor before seeing what the other ones decide to do.
England, on the other hand, has to take initiative and create the conditions which might make people want to pick a fight with France, because otherwise France is probably going to clown you.

I notice you advocate for England helping Germany into Belgium in 1901. I think in gunboat there's probably no getting around this, as there's no way for England to negotiate her way into Belgium with Germany's or France's blessing. This makes me think, though, that Sweden should normally be going to England as compensation, to ensure that Germany doesn't just take all of the easy first pickings from cooperation with England and then turn around and attack England.
Normal E/G play patterns seem to involve Germany building a 2nd fleet and taking Sweden in A1902.
What do you do if you're playing with a "normal" German who understandably sees Sweden as theirs?

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Re: Gunboat Strategy: England

#10 Post by ziran » Fri Jan 26, 2018 7:08 am

This may sound crazy, but how viable do you think it would be to open with your channel opening and then (assuming you succeed) support France into Belgium?

Normally in an EF, England is much more vulnerable to a stab than France is. An English fleet in the channel doesn't really put England in position to stab decisively in the same way a France can move MAO to Iri and convoy into Liverpool unopposed. Once that army gets onto the island England is pretty much dead. Whereas an English army in France is annoying but not immediately life threatening.

Also in your cheat sheet you consistently switch Yorkshire and Liverpool, eg open Yorkshire to Liverpool.

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Re: Gunboat Strategy: England

#11 Post by President Eden » Fri Jan 26, 2018 7:47 am

ziran wrote:
Fri Jan 26, 2018 7:08 am
This may sound crazy, but how viable do you think it would be to open with your channel opening and then (assuming you succeed) support France into Belgium?

Normally in an EF, England is much more vulnerable to a stab than France is. An English fleet in the channel doesn't really put England in position to stab decisively in the same way a France can move MAO to Iri and convoy into Liverpool unopposed. Once that army gets onto the island England is pretty much dead. Whereas an English army in France is annoying but not immediately life threatening.

Also in your cheat sheet you consistently switch Yorkshire and Liverpool, eg open Yorkshire to Liverpool.
I would be worried about looking inconsistent to my neighbors with that opening. Being in the English Channel "defensively" (if you will) isn't going to register with many French players, especially if you're helping them take Belgium. You're telling France that 2/3 of the centers bordering the Channel are his, but then lingering in the Channel anyway -- even if you know it's just defensive, they're bound to get suspicious. If you wanted to ally with them, why not just open Edi/NWS, convoy to Norway and use North Sea to do the support?
You're hedging your bets against a French attack while trying to work with France, and in your own thought process, you know it to be no different than a "safety" hedge, like covering a center that a foreign army (which doesn't look hostile) is bordering. But to France it looks like the other kind of hedge -- the "I want to work with you, but I'm leaving myself in position to attack you if the winds turn that way" hedge. My guess is that France will likely reciprocate by thanking you for Belgium and turning the third build into a third fleet.

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Re: Gunboat Strategy: England

#12 Post by Claesar » Fri Jan 26, 2018 7:48 am

ziran wrote:
Fri Jan 26, 2018 7:08 am
This may sound crazy, but how viable do you think it would be to open with your channel opening and then (assuming you succeed) support France into Belgium?
...
I personally do not consider this viable, for two reasons.

1) This is only posible if France has a unit available to go for Belgium that won't cover Brest instead (so Picardy is not a consideration). So let's assume France is in Bur, Mar and MAO (typical gunboat start). How do you know for sure Bur will even go for Belgium? You might be supporting a unit that tries for Munich instead.

2) You're giving France extra builds, which (s)he likely uses to create more fleets. France doesn't need more than 3 armies until much later in the game. Where do does fleets go? In my experience they do not sail towards Italy while you are in the Channel. They also can't fight Germany in any way with those.

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Re: Gunboat Strategy: England

#13 Post by swordsman3003 » Fri Jan 26, 2018 5:48 pm

President Eden wrote:
Fri Jan 26, 2018 5:42 am
I notice you advocate for England helping Germany into Belgium in 1901. I think in gunboat there's probably no getting around this, as there's no way for England to negotiate her way into Belgium with Germany's or France's blessing. This makes me think, though, that Sweden should normally be going to England as compensation, to ensure that Germany doesn't just take all of the easy first pickings from cooperation with England and then turn around and attack England.
Normal E/G play patterns seem to involve Germany building a 2nd fleet and taking Sweden in A1902.
What do you do if you're playing with a "normal" German who understandably sees Sweden as theirs?
In Gunboat, it is highly unrealistic and unnecessary for England to take, let alone keep, Belgium in the early game:

First, as a tactical matter, any unit you get into Belgium in the early game will probably end up just getting blown up as France and Germany cram armies in there to try to take Belgium and/or guard against attacks from you or each other. France and Germany can easily disrupt any support orders you put in from your fleets.

Second, it's a diplomatic disaster for you to get in the way of a war between France and Germany. France and Germany literally cannot fight each other while you are in Belgium, so both powers are likely to fight YOU (England) for control of Belgium and probably attack you with their fleets as well.

Third, the opportunity cost is huge. If you use nearly all your forces to fight for Belgium, you might be getting flanked somewhere or giving up the chance to expand into Scandinavia.

Fourth, France and Germany would only take Belgium with an army, which means you can just ignore it. That army literally can't do anything to harm you as long as no enemy has a fleet in English Channel or North Sea.

So then the question is: who should be in Belgium, France of Germany?

The answer is: Germany. If France reaches 5 supply centers, France will build a second fleet and a third army. But when France reached 6, France will build a third fleet. Most French players will try to build every fleet they can possibly justify building, as the only supply center France needs to reach 18 that is landlocked and not a French home center is Munich, which is right next door anyways (literally all the other centers France needs to capture can be fought over, or MUST be fought over, with fleets).

Although many German players will build a second fleet when they reach 5 supply centers, Germany will rarely, if ever, build a third fleet at 6 supply centers. In fact, the only time I would build a third fleet at 6 SCs as Germany would be if England appeared to be my biggest threat -- a conclusion I would never reach if England helped me into Belgium.

What about Sweden?
Germany may or may not be a generous ally to you. Many German players get greedy and want Belgium AND Sweden. I've played plenty of games where that happens, but even ASSUMING Germany fights you for Sweden, I would still help Germany into Belgium (and exclude France -- remember that I have completely ruled out taking Belgium for yourself) because -- GET THIS -- you'll have an easier time fighting for Sweden if Germany is in Belgium. YOU GOT THAT RIGHT, THAT'S WHAT I SAID: It is easier to take Sweden if Germany has Belgium (and not France).

Why do I say this? Refer back to what I said earlier: France will build another fleet if he has Belgium. If France has 3 fleets, France will likely send ALL THREE of them to attack you. It is extremely easy for France to slip out from MAO to NAO or Irish Sea and then capture Liverpool if you leave it unguarded. That is probably the most likely way, in fact, that you (England) will get eliminated: France backdooring LVP on a turn when you are out of position to guard it in the Autumn. So if France has 3 fleets, how the hell can you possibly justify committing numerous units to go fight for Sweden? You have to keep back 1, maybe 2 fleets to guard your back. You'll never be able to take Sweden by force.

And Germany, deprived of Belgium, will likely consider Sweden his best shot at reaching 6 SCs (since Belgium is damn difficult to wrest back from France once he gets it). Remember, this thought experiment is comparing this German player to a player who would STILL go for Sweden even if he DID have Belgium -- so why would this person let you have Sweden if he DIDN'T have Belgium?

If Germany has Belgium, France only has 2 fleets. France has a reduced ability to haul off and attack you (England) as the first target, and has to seriously consider the threat of invasion by Germany (much, much easier for Germany to do once in control of Belgium), PLUS France has to consider the serious possibility that England and Germany are ALLIED against him, and France may start playing a defensive game (rather than send out fleets to attack Liverpool). France has to be nervous about an Italian dogpile (if Italy did not attack Austria immediately).

Meanwhile, Germany will have the same number of fleets to fight for Sweden (the same number that he would have had if Germany did not have Belgium), which is just 2. Germany's ability to fight for Sweden is not really increased by letting Germany have 6 SCs (it is a little bit, but not much). And because you're more secure from France, you have a better chance of fricking hauling off and just taking Sweden by FORCE if Germany won't let you have it: you can move Norway to Finland, backfill Norway with North Sea, and start making supported attacks on Sweden (Russia will probably panic and retreat his fleet to St. Petersburg). From such a position, you could also give up fighting for Sweden and just take St. Petersburg, or if you really want to press it, you could bring a fleet up into Skagerrak and overpower Germany (maybe France looks non-threatening) (perhaps even leading to E-F alliance, if Italy has attacked France meanwhile).

So my advice is based on that simple calculation: fleets in the north are bad for England. French will build a fleet if he gets Belgium. Germany will not. Therefore, Germany gets Belgium. I think this is enough of a reason to let Germany into Belgium, regardless of the Sweden situation. Even if Germany doesn't reciprocate by letting you have Sweden, even if Germany TEAMS UP with France, it is better for Germany to be in Belgium than France because at least that's probably fewer fleets for you to fight off in the early years.

Even if your intention is, absolutely, to fight for Sweden, your chances of being able to to do and succeeding are at their highest when Germany has taken Belgium.
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Re: Gunboat Strategy: England

#14 Post by Claesar » Wed Feb 28, 2018 8:59 pm

At the time I was busy executing my strategy in two Gunboats with England, so I couldn't elaborate. There was no point in arguing with Swordsman until I had some evidence to support my army theorem. They're finished now, so I can post.

http://webdiplomacy.net/board.php?gameID=214750 is a solo victory I achieved recently, after building an army in London in 1901 as my only build. Disregarding the obvious luck and NMRs, this second army was vital in taking Moscow in 1903 and Warsaw in 1904. I'll admit the double army build in 1903 looks a bit silly because I entered Spring 1904 on my phone after a few beers, hence forgetting to convoy to Brest. That mistake slowed me down a lot.
I did build 3 fleets in 1902, which was actually directly the result of Swordsman's post in this topic. I was about to build an army, when I read his arguments, and that would've been a mistake.
For comedic value, and to emphasise the luck needed to win this game, forward to Spring 1906 for a triple misorder (sober) and Autumn 1907 for desperately trying to give away a locked solo on another misorder.

I didn't say one Gunboat, no! Meanwhile I was also busy with this monstrosity: http://webdiplomacy.net/board.php?gameID=215104. Again, I attempt to show armies are great (join the movement!). I'll admit the second army never did anything relevant that a fleet could not have done, and I did own 6-7 fleets before I built my third army, but the army was pulling weight too. This would've been a nice 3-way draw if Eden and I didn't fail miserably towards the end.

For bonus content, I played a live Gunboat game while these were going on. http://webdiplomacy.net/board.php?gameID=215660. Unable to open up London for a build, I persevered with A Edi! This second army managed to outperform a fleet in Spring 1908, when it supported France into Munich to lock up the stalemate line. Okay, I never truly built a third army even though I had 6 fleets out but I will keep looking for opportunties in the future! Another comfortable 3-way draw.

tl;dr: I built armies as England with some success if you look real deep. Building an army in 1901 might telegraph the move to Finland after this post, but I'll think of something new.

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Re: Gunboat Strategy: England

#15 Post by dipperjay » Tue Mar 06, 2018 5:20 am

What would you do if you can take Belgium unopposed as England and Norway as well?

Situation after Spring 1901 (gunboat):
Ger-Fra bounce in Burgundy
Ger F Den, A Kie, A Mun
Fra F MAO, A Mar, A Par
ita A Pie, A Nap, F Ion
Rus F Swe, A Ukr, A Gal
Eng: F Nth, F Nwg, A Edi

Would you convoy to Bel or Nwy and take the other SC with a fleet? Or would you convoy to either Bel or Nwy and use the second fleet to advance e.g. to Channel, Ska or Bar? Or even bounce Ger in Holland with F Nth and convoy to Nwy?

France may only get one build from Por or Spa, as they may not risk vacating Mar, but still use that build for a fleet.

CSteinhardt
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Re: Gunboat Strategy: England

#16 Post by CSteinhardt » Tue Mar 06, 2018 6:47 pm

I don't really post here frequently, so I'll try to keep this short and summarize, letting others carry the discussion. For what it's worth, I think all of these posts have missed the major challenge with England. The goal of playing Diplomacy is to reach 18 centers. Your job in gunboat is, at all times, to pick the order set that maximizes your chances of doing so. A - Always, B- Be, C - Counting to 18.

The major challenge for England is that when it comes time to reach for 18, you are always trying to project power very far from home against players defending close to home. And in many cases, you're doing so directly against the main SW to NE stalemate line that is easy to find and defend. So from the moment you start, you need to have that in mind. If you want to focus on openings, play Russia where you don't ever have to worry about stalemates.

For example, suppose that by sheer force of brilliant tactics you simply roll over France and Germany both by 1904. What happens next? Well, Italy just shuts you out of the Med, Turkey backs off and allows that to happen, and you end up with a 5-way draw.

OK, so how do you deal with this problem? There are essentially three strategies that could plausibly work:

(1) Somebody miscalculates and fails to hold an easy stalemate line against you when you grow.

This can happen with inexperienced players, but because of your power projection problem, it rarely works with England (and Turkey, which has a similar issue). So we don't want to rely on this. On the other hand, any solo involves a mistake somewhere along the line, so what this means is we need to create the conditions where they can miscalculate.

(2) Cross the stalemate line before you get scary.

You are very unlikely to take Vienna as your 9th center, but there are two other possibilities here.

(a) A northern England can take Moscow or even Mos/War under the right circumstances holding just home centers, Nwy, StP. On a map with sufficiently fractured armies for central power (e.g., large Turkey, large France, dying G/A), this is a viable route to a win, as the natural endgame is an E/T race in which you hold a trump card. However, with a viable central army power, you end up losing this race, and of course if Turkey gets armies quickly enough, there is no way to hold Warsaw until you have taken most of Germany.

(b) The more common combination here is an early demolition of France in which you race for Tunis while Germany also grows, so that Tunis is around your 8th or 9th center. If you can manage to take Tunis, it can be stalemated against fleet powers, so this is a wonderful setup for a solo. After all, although Scandinavian lines exist, they are hard to find and in gunboat, require closer G/R coordination than is likely. As a result, this is probably the most common successful English solo setup, and the key is in the timing. 9 units are not enough to stalemate Tunis and attack Germany successfully, and if you demolish France, Germany will also be big. In my own games, I have ended up solving this problem in a few ways: a well-timed G/R war, pushing to take StP before this starts (so that 6 units becomes enough to fight a German war), or even timing the assault on Tunis well with a stab, understanding that the moment you take Tunis, the push for 18 has actually begin. I should also note that around 1/3 of the time, the end result of this plan is either 16 or 17, because it is possible to hold Ber or Mun against England, not just the main stalemate line.

(3) Let F or G cross the line for you first.

Many of the most successful versions of (2) end up looking like this as well. In effect, get one of F/G to grow large and expand across the line, stab them at the right time, and then have them stuck being indecisive as to whether they should turn and fight you (and get swallowed from both sides, perhaps) or try to carve out something on the other side of the line. In gunboat, it is very hard for them to disengage, as both sides need to do so simultaneously without discussion, as backing out of a war is very difficult to do unilaterally.

With that in mind, who is the best partner? If France, you are counting on taking Tunis while French forces are committed against Turkey, and if Germany, you are generally expecting to snatch Warsaw with armies against some combination of A/R/T trying to both reduce Germany and then defend it.

Again, depending upon the east, in principle either could be viable. But the key idea here is that you are going to win because you take advantage of greed on the part of F/G. Germany cannot count to 18 without a bunch of centers you will need before you start pushing for a finish. However, France can. Thus, usually France is going to be the better "partner" here. This is particularly true in a game with a strong A/T or one in which the R/T rolls over Austria quickly enough that France is drawn into Italy quickly.

Anyway, this is longer than I wanted to write, so I'll leave out a discussion of how this translates to opening considerations. The point is that even as early as F1901, you should have some hints as to what might happen in the East, and that will dictate that one of these plans is most viable. If you truly get no hints, then I suppose you should prefer France, as I strongly suspect England has a higher solo rate from the EF than it does from the EG, mainly because Tunis is both easier to acquire and easier to hold than Warsaw. With that in mind, remember that the solo becomes easier if your early-game partner is growing, as long as that growth is in the right direction (across the line). Your goal in the EF is not to pare back Germany than immediately stab France, but rather to let France grow until the point that stabbing makes the solo maximally achievable. Similarly, your goal in the EG is not to take Brest then safely fight Germany, but rather to take the risk of letting Germany grow and try to direct him into Mos/War while you take Tunis. You can't win without projecting power very far from home, and that almost always means getting one of F or G to do the hard work for you, then cleaning up later.
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eturnage
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Re: Gunboat Strategy: England

#17 Post by eturnage » Tue Mar 06, 2018 8:43 pm

England is difficult to play well because you must convince Germany to join with you against France. The best argument for this is that France is so powerful, it makes sense, with everything else being equal, for Germany and Italy to join in the fun.

However, Italy often wants to head east and not west. Meaning that recruiting Germany may be more difficult. England has to cede Belgium to Germany. Maybe a conflict with France over the center in 1901, tips the scale and Germany jumps into the very difficult task of invading France. What's Germany going to get after Belgium? Paris? There's not much incentive.

Secondly, the German English alliance is very scary for Germany. Once France is dead, Germany can be easily and effectively stabbed. This is especially true if Austria or Turkey emerge in the mid game as threats. Germany is between and it's not good to be a pancake.

Thus, most Germanys are going to tend to ally with France. Meaning England is in big trouble even with a Russian ally helping in the north.

lukeresch
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Re: Gunboat Strategy: England

#18 Post by lukeresch » Tue Mar 27, 2018 4:31 pm

http://webdiplomacy.net/board.php?gameID=217400

In this game, I played England. I followed much of the pointers outlined in this thread and the ones in swordsman's document. It worked delightfully against France, preventing any fleet builds in 1901 and putting him in a difficult position against me in the early game. Granted, I did get lucky with making some of the right plays against France, namely the move to Spain in 1902, preventing another fleet build.

I have some previous points made in this post that I wanted to reiterate, and I think are portrayed in this game.
1) When it comes time to reach for 18, you are always trying to project power very far from home against players defending close to home. And in many cases, you're doing so directly against the main SW to NE stalemate line that is easy to find and defend. So from the moment you start, you need to have that in mind. -CSteinhardt
2) Hands down: I open to English Channel as England. - swordsman3003
3) England has in gunboat some serious fundamental problems. -naked

My thoughts on these reiterated points:
1) I would not have won this game unless Germany did not just give up in the Scandanavian Peninsula near the end of the game. I would not have been able to set up the stalemate quick up in the German homeland to defend against an Austrian invasion.
2) This move paid huge dividends for me in the long run. France could not do much.
3) I think the problems were mitigated in my game because Germany was playing strangely. I was able to hold Norway and Sweden, and take Denmark with only 1 army. The fundamental problems come in to play when England needs to think about defending (or making advancements in) Norway and Sweden, while at the same time attacking France. Where is the line drawn and how can England separate the units to do both of this at the same time? Is this even possible?

Some additional thoughts:
1) I needed to be very aggressive during this game in order to win it. It was going to be a race against Austria at the end. The move to Tyrrhenian Sea won the game for me.
2) In the mid game, I was not concerned about losing Norway/Sweden because I knew I could take it back by the end game. Maybe the value of Norway and Sweden is taken too high by English players?

I believe that if England can have success in the early game against France (with German help) and can survive into the mid game, England can be strong in gunboat.

***Disclaimer*** This is one of my first gunboat games as England and I am a relatively new player, compared to most everyone here. I just wanted to get my thoughts out there and let others follow up on these thoughts. Any comments or additional advice would be much appreciated!! Thanks!
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swordsman3003
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Re: Gunboat Strategy: England

#19 Post by swordsman3003 » Tue Mar 27, 2018 7:05 pm

Glad to be of service.

lukeresch, very clever question here:
In the mid game, I was not concerned about losing Norway/Sweden because I knew I could take it back by the end game. Maybe the value of Norway and Sweden is taken too high by English players?
I answer in the affirmative. I think these are valued much too highly for the reason you said: you can come back for them later. I think this over-valuing of Scandinavia by English gunboat players leads to make the opening I never play (Norwegian Sea and North Sea).

CSteinhardt
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Re: Gunboat Strategy: England

#20 Post by CSteinhardt » Tue Mar 27, 2018 10:06 pm

lukeresch wrote:
Tue Mar 27, 2018 4:31 pm
http://webdiplomacy.net/board.php?gameID=217400

1) I would not have won this game unless Germany did not just give up in the Scandanavian Peninsula near the end of the game. I would not have been able to set up the stalemate quick up in the German homeland to defend against an Austrian invasion.
This isn't really correct, and part of why I emphasized that at all times, you should be counting to 18, and gunboat is in any event a tactical exercise more than anything else. So, let's take a look at the position at the end of 1908. You hold 13 centers. Austria holds a rather menacing 17. Germany holds Norway, Sweden, and Berlin, having disbanded Tyrolia. Italy holds Tunis. Who should win this game? Let's look at each theater in turn.

First off, the north is quite easy. Even with German cooperation, Austria does not get Norway or Sweden. And in fact, you will get all of Scandinavia for yourself quite quickly. NTH - Den, a power 2 attack on Sweden, and BAR - Nwy takes Sweden, forcing a retreat to GoB or Finland. You then support Sweden, while setting up a power 2 attack on Norway and BAR cutting StP, taking Norway (or wait a turn for Germany to disband, doing the same thing with three total units). Finally, from GoB, Fin, Nwy, and BAR, you will take StP even against Austrian supports from Lvn and Mos. So eventually you get Scandinavia regardless, and without commiting a single additional unit (London can go south, not north). In fact, you can do the same calculation and realize that you could have send ENG to MAO at the end of 1908 rather than to NTH, and still accomplished the same task, something you will regret missing a couple of posts down. So Austria never gets anything in the north, and the long-term result is that you gain three and lose one.

How about Germany? You currently can defend Munich and the German in Berlin against an infinite supply of Austrians. You can also take Berlin immediately, but only from Munich, ordering a power 2 move on Munich behind yourself. Even if you tell Austria it is coming, at best he can bounce you out of Munich instead of what he actually ordered, while putting forces in Pru, Sil, Boh, Tyr. Still, that is insufficient. If you then just order BAL S Ber, and a power 3 attack on Mun between Bur, Ruh, Kie, then Austria can keep bouncing you out of Munich, but he can never actually take either Munich or Berlin. So the end result is that you will gain Berlin and Austria gets nothing in return.

Thus the long-term answer is that you will be on 17 and Austria on 16, so that it all comes down to Tunis. If you end up with Tunis long-term, you win. If Austria does, it is a draw, but if Austria takes Tunis quicker than you take StP, Austria wins. So, recognizing the situation, your entire focus at this point in the game should have been on Tunis, not Scandinavia. You can take Tunis immediately, but holding it is a far trickier proposition. Consider Austria allowing you to take Tunis while he repositions, but then throwing all five fleets against you as effectively as possible. For example, something using his armies to support Nap to Rom then Tus, Apu to Nap then Rom, AEG to ION then Nap, plus a fleet in ION and a supporting fleet in the Adriatic. He can accomplish this position in 2-3 turns, whereas your newly built fleet in Lon is four turns away from Tunis. If only you were in the MAO right now instead of the North Sea... :)

But you're not, so what happens next? You need one unit to garrison Marseilles, and if Austria keeps bouncing you out of Munich, Burgundy is unavailable to do so. You can get there in three turns with Holland for sure. Alternatively, if Austria fails to bounce you out of Munich (as actually happened), then you can get there in two turns because Burgundy will be freed up. As for the rest, if Austria puts four fleets on the Tyrrhenian Sea, you will need three supports to keep it. So at a minimum, a fourth fleet in theatre. Except that as we have just seen, you can't really get that fourth fleet there in time. So, can you hold a line without TYS?

Yes, there are a few. You could hold GoL, WES, Tun, and a unit in Piedmont. This means Mar S Pie, Spa S GoL, WES S Tun, or similar -- six units total, including four fleets. But at the moment, getting six units south seems tough -- our optimistic case seems to be freeing up an army and your newly built fleet. Five would have been enough to hold a more aggressive line in some cases, but not this one. So can we retreat further?

Clearly we cannot concede Tun. Conceding WES is equivalent; WES - NAf and a power 2 attack on Tunis. But what about GoL? WES and NAf S Tun, Spa S Mar, and MAO S WES actually works. Of course, this requires six units again. But it is closer to your home centers and so you have more time to get them in place. Further, in this case NAf, Tun, Spa, and Mar can in principle all be armies, giving you more options to get into position (in practice, you will end up holding this probably with four fleets and two armies).

I'll leave the tactical exercise to you, but the point is that if you are clever about exactly when you give ground, you actually can force exactly the position I just described. There are also many traps in this part of the map, where trying to hold a line too far forward actually makes it impossible to successfully retreat, instead resulting in disbands that destroy the position.
Of course, it would have been much less complicated if NTH were in MAO.

Anyway, the point is that, as I said before, you should always be counting to 18, and understanding where the stalemate lines and partial stalemate lines are. In this case, doing so would have led you to draw two key conclusions in F1908:

1) It is you, not Austria, who should win the game. Despite the current center count.

2) Germany must be dealt with properly and immediately or the game is lost, Tunis must be dealt with properly and with a lot of extra forces immediately or the game is lost, but Scandinavia can wait a while.

Note that the second conclusion would be different in some very similar looking positions. For example, if Germany is given a second fleet, he would have offensive capabilities out of Norway that would mean you need to deal with him immediately or lose your solo opportunity. If Austria is slightly further forward so that you actually cannot hold Tunis as part of a stalemate line anymore, then it would be a race between whether you take StP or Austria takes Tun first, and you'd have to allocate resources accordingly. In some of those positions, you might even conclude that you need to let Germany keep Berlin in order to avoid losing, freeing up armies to move south.

But that whole set of calculations is exactly what I mean about how English gameplay is so strongly driven by stalemate lines. If we look at a similar endgame position for, say, Russia, the discussion will be of a completely different flavor.
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