Strategies for Colonial Diplomacy

Greg Dingle


I decided to write this article because I've played quite a few Colonial games now, face to face and e-mail, and I've only seen one article dealing with strategy for Colonial, so I feel confident enough to give my own opinion. I've played every power at least once, and I've won with Britain, Japan and Holland.

Generally, any Diplomacy player can easily adapt to Colonial -- all the same rules apply. In addition, the judge does not currently support any of the optional rules included in the boxed game. However, Colonial does tend to slightly favor a more aggressive, tactical style of play because of the low ratio of centers to open spaces, and the greater separation between powers.

Ranking of the Powers

Unlike original Diplomacy, the starting positions of the different powers are not balanced, or even close. Nevertheless, it is still possible to win as each power, and it still takes superior strategy to do so.

The table below is a rough ranking of the powers by growth and security and overall. Growth is the ability to increase the number of units. Security is the likelihood you will survive to the end of the game. In the overall category, solo victories are valued most, with consideration for draws. I have not drawn upon statistics to support this guide -- it is purely opinion of the author. It assumes a white/partial press game and an absence of the TSR and the other optional rules. In a nopress game, security would be more highly valued.

Growth Security Overall
Britain 10 Japan 10 Japan 10
Japan 8 Holland 7 Holland 8
Holland 7 France 5 Britain 7
China 5 Russia 5 Russia 4
Russia 5 Britain 4 France 4
France 4 China 2 China 3
Turkey 2 Turkey 1 Turkey 1


Britain starts the game with the most units and the greatest potential for growth. In fact, Britain usually gets four builds in the first year. But don't assume that Britain is leading the game, even if it has a large superiority in units. Britain usually has a tough time in the mid-game, and I even consider it one of the more vulnerable powers. But if it does make it through the mid-game with its superiority of units intact, it has an excellent chance at a solo victory. Pay special attention to Holland - it is usually the power that delivers the critical blow to Britain. One more note: don't build in Singapore or Hong Kong unless strongly allied with France.
Basic Opening Moves
F Ade-RedS
F Bom-AraS
A Del-Pun
A Mad-Hyd
F Sig-JavS

Opening Diplomacy
  • Ally with Russia against Turkey. [CRUCIAL]
  • Non-aggression pact with Holland. [CRUCIAL]
  • Get Turkey to keep his fleet in the Black Sea area and move his army to Tabriz, allowing you to take Egypt.
  • Get China to let you into Kashmir or Bengal.
  • Get France to help F Sig, possibly in exchange for support into Canton.
  • China

    China may seem like a powerful country because of its five starting units and a wealth of nearby centers. But do not be deceived. China suffers because of its central location and because it's the usual target of Japan, an enemy it cannot defeat, only divert. China has an upward battle the whole game.
    Basic Opening Moves
    A Sik-Kag
    A Pek-Mon
    A Mac H
    A Sha-Nan
    A Can-Yun

    Opening Diplomacy
  • Peace with France [CRUCIAL]
  • Failing peace with France, give Canton to F HK, asking Britain to build in HK and/or give you Kashmir.
  • Ally with Russia against Japan, with the option to attack Britain later.
  • Encourage Britain to go west.
  • Encourage Japan to go south.
  • France

    You may look in dismay at your three starting units, but don't despair. France can usually get two builds in the first year, and with a little luck can get two more the next year. After that, gains are much more difficult. But France is a survivor and can get a break. Diplomacy is by far its most effective tool.
    Basic Opening Moves
    A Ton-May
    F Ann-SCS / F Ann-GoS
    A Coc-Cam

    Opening Diplomacy
  • Ally with Holland. [CRUCIAL]
  • Ally with China against Britain. [CRUCIAL]
  • If the alliance with China doesn't work, ally with Britain against China.
  • Get Holland to give you Malaya.
  • Get Britain to leave Hong Kong via Formosa.
  • Holland

    When played properly Holland can almost always do well because both of it's immediate neighbors, Britain and France, should want peace. Holland can then walk into four open centers (Sarawak, New Guinea, Davao and Cebu) without opposition. However, it is important that Singapore is dealt with early, because it is a constant source of aggravation. Keep in mind that a conflict with Britain is almost inevitable, even if an early peace is advantageous for both powers.
    Basic Opening Moves
    F Sum-AndS
    F Jav-JavS
    A Bor-Sar

    Opening Diplomacy
  • Get Britain to leave Singapore, possibly in exchange for peace.
  • Ally with France.
  • Japan

    There is no excuse for doing poorly as Japan. Japan is in a corner position almost impenetrable to outsiders, and it has excellent potential for growth. Japan can usually take three centers unopposed -- Sakhalin, Formosa, and Fusan. When playing Japan, aggression is rewarded. While Japan is a naval power, it is important to build armies and have a substantial presence on the mainland, because if Holland and France form a solid block, as they should, Japan will not be able to make much progress in the South.
    Basic Opening Moves
    F Ota-SoJ
    F Tok-OS / F Tok-UP
    F Kyu-YelS
    A Kyo H

    Opening Diplomacy
  • Discourage Russia from moving F Part to YelS. [CRUCIAL]
  • Discourage any alliance between China and Russia.
  • Encourage China and France to fight.
  • Russia

    Unfortunately, Russia is irreparably divided by the absence of the Trans Siberian Railway. In the East, the situation is barely salvageable. Under rare circumstances, an alliance with Japan may work, at the expense of China. But I would give China Vlad and Pt. Arthur for Mongolia. If China declines, support him just to slow down Japan. It is in the West that Russia makes its gains. A profitable campaign against Turkey is very feasible. Followed by a timely stab of Britain, Russia will be in an excellent position for the rest of the game. But it is a feat easier said than done.
    Basic Opening Moves
    F Ode-Rum / F Ode-Bla
    A Mos-Bak
    A Oms-Akm
    A Vla-Irk / A Vla-Seo
    F Part-YelS

    Opening Diplomacy
  • Ally with Britain against Turkey. [CRUCIAL]
  • Win Turkey's trust, and get him to go south. [CRUCIAL]
  • Ally with China against Japan.
  • Give China Vlad and Pt. Arthur for Mongolia.
  • Turkey

    If you have read everything up to this point, you probably know my opinion about Turkey. The only way Turkey can conceivably do well is if it allies with Russia. Unfortunately, Britain is a much better ally for Russia. However, there is a small flicker of light at the end of the tunnel -- Turkey can be quite difficult to kill once it gets six or more units. That's assuming you can convince Britain and Russia to keep their distance for the first few turns. Good luck.
    Basic Opening Moves
    F Con-Med
    A Ang-Arm
    F Bag-Shi

    Opening Diplomacy
  • Ally with Russia. [CRUCIAL]
  • Convince Britain to stay away. [CRUCIAL]
  • Get Russia to not move A Mos-Bak. [CRUCIAL]
  • Conclusion

    You may think that this article is a bit narrow-minded in its advice. I agree. I wrote this article to be a general guide; to tell you what to look for when playing one of the powers in Colonial Diplomacy. Of course there will be circumstances that raise argument against some the advice given, but I believe that it will do more help than harm, even if it only encourages people to study the board. I would be happy to write more in-depth articles if there are players that are interested.

    Greg Dingle
    ([email protected])

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