William and Mary
or: The Flemish Sealion

Maarten Oosten

[This article was prompted bySimon Szykman's request, in the Spring 1997 Movement issue of the Zine, f or people to submit ideas for "double-barrelled shotgun openings"in which two powers harmonise their openings in order to cripple or even eliminate a third power at an early stage. I corresponded with Edi Birsan about this idea for an opening. Some of his comments are included in the discussion below.]

Name Dropping....

An opening consists of a tactical concept embedded in a diplomatic framework. In general, an opening should not backfire. It is not pleasant if after a spectacular jump-start, everybody agrees you are both "good" and "dangerous." Similarly, it is not desirable to show off the efficiency and effectiveness of your alliance. Not only would this cause oooh's and aaah's, but you and your ally will likely become the couple to beat. So, besides avoiding an outright enemy in 1901, I suggest to hide intentional alliance and avoid intricate international supports as long as possible, but definitely in 1901.

Edi Birsan is known, among other things, for a famous opening that falls under the description of a double-barrelled shotgun opening: the Lepanto. In the Spring 1997 Movement issue of the Zine, he offered an analysis of the "Sealion". This combined opening boils down to the following: Given a neutral Russia and a friendly Italy, France and Germany join forces to acquire the English Channel and the North Sea. Once F/G rule these waves, they have their way with England.

I thought the article was very interesting. It seems to be a sibling of the Lepanto. As with the Lepanto opening, it deals with taking out one of the witches at an early stage of its development. Like Lepanto, the opening consists of two phases: acquiring the appropriate sea provinces, followed by the actual invasion of enemy territory.

In this article, I suggest an alternative for the Sealion, in case the diplomatic scenario is different. The opening boils down to the following:

Given a friendly Russia and a hostile Italy, Germany opens seemingly anti-French, while France rushes south. By 1902, France and Germany join their navies to acquire the English Channel and the North Sea. Once F/G rule the waves, they have their way with England.

Although, like the Sealion, it is also based on a FG->E scenario, it is not just a variation on Edi Birsan's opening; it is an altogether different opening. A different diplomatic framework requires the tactical concept to be adjusted. At least, that is my claim.

England France Germany
S01 F Lon - Ech F Bre - Ech F Kie - Hol
F Edi - NTS A Par - Gas A Mun - Ruh
A Lvp - Yor A Mar - Spa A Ber - Kie
F01 F Lon - Ech F Bre - Mao F Hol - Bel
F NTS C Yor - Nor A Gas - Mar A Ruh - Hol
A Yor - Nor A Spa - Por A Kie - Den
W01 Build F Lon Build F Bre Build F Kie
Build A/F Ber
Build A Mun

So after one year, England rules the waves, and might not even be aware of an anti-English opening. In Spring 1902, France takes Spain, and has a decent defense in Iberia. In Fall 1902, England is going to face four enemy fleets, and that is too much. F/G first takes Ech and then NTS. Acquiring NTS, England might recapture Ech, but then the fleets retreats to Wal/Iri. In 1903, the English line of defense is cracked. In 1905, England should be down and out.

The pivotal unit here is the first German fleet. Instead of annoying Russia by sending it to Denmark, we send it via Holland to Belgium. That has several advantages:

  1. In Belgium, the fleet has leverage on both target sea provinces.
  2. The fleet blocks a hypothetical German invasion into France; it has no leverage on Burgundy, or Paris (if moved to Picardy). France will feel comfortable.
  3. Some players think F Kie-Hol (and especially Hol-Bel) is anti-French. If that thought sinks in around the board, fine!
  4. Germany need not use his third build (perhaps he may not even take Holland); he can offer to waive his Munich build for the alliance (or to use the army south to aid against the Italian).

Note that after crippling England, Germany cannot build fleets without losing French trust. Therefore, Germany might want to build two fleets in W1901A.

Name Calling....

Edi Birsan decided to call his suggested opening the Sealion, after a German plan to invade England in World War II. So the opening I suggest could be called the Flemish Sealion. Flemish, because the fleet in Belgium plays a pivotal role. Also, the Flemish Lion is a well known heraldic symbol. Since I claim the opening is not a variant, but an opening in itself, maybe the name should not refer to the Sealion. (Besides, I don't like the name Sealion too much.) Unlike Lepanto, the name does not refer to an alliance, and it was not historically successful either. Call me superstitious, but I think that is a bad omen.

What about: "William and Mary"? They started in Holland, embarked their army in Flanders, and invaded England, pursuing King Charles II deep into Ireland. So they did not only plan to invade England, they also might be considered to have succeeded; and they were a couple....

Edi Birsan had some useful comments that shed some light on the specifics of the opening.

"A fundamental problem of the opening is that it requires that France accepts the concept that the German will be building three and the French only one. This in itself demonstrates a diplomatic dominance of the French player by the German player that will send shock waves around the board. I doubt that the results of the Fall moves would not bring in Russia or some other eastern power to help offset the German advantage. Further, the alliance provides the French player with nothing of substantial material gains. You have to discuss the division of spoils and when you do this, you get a situation where it becomes less of a German advantage to complete the conquest of the English since he would have to give the majority of the spoils to the French unless the French player is for some reason unconcerned with his own supply center count. The advantage of the Sealion approach is that the French and the German both build two in the first year; they also both get two centers out of the English and as such, as a combined force, are balanced and can provide a counterpoint to each other in their diplomacy with the other players. The Flemish Lion opening would make Germany the big guy on the block and keep him firmly in the spotlight."

My comments:

  1. In a healthy F/G alliance, Germany should be (a little) stronger, because it is the more vulnerable of the couple. True, it is hard to convince France of this, because a lot of people do agree that the vulnerability gap exists, but do not agree not with the principle of compensating for it. However, with a hostile Italy and a German fleet in Belgium obstructing a supported attack out of Germany into Burgundy, France might be convinced and see the light.
  2. If the rapid growth of Germany provokes a hostile Russia, then that should be fine with France, and rather something for Germany to worry about.

I feel that the William and Mary opening is a legitimate alternative to the Sealion. Perhaps, using this opening, France need not necessarily abandon a wish to open against the island nation just because the Italian is poised to move west.

Maarten Oosten
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