Alexandria Rises Again

Egypt in the Modern Variant

Vincent Mous

Brief Introduction

This is the third article in my continuing series about the Modern variant. In the first article, you got an introduction to the Modern variant (played on the modern map, which is available here at the Pouch), as well as some info on how to get started playing it, and in the previous article, I discussed the various opening tactics and strategies for Britain.

Since that issue, the number of active modern games has grown from 15 to 23 (with an extra two waiting for the injured USCA judge to be revived), and the first modern game has ended! Blitzz, an NMR, no-press, 12-hour deadline game, ended with a three-way draw between Britain (Mikko Laitinen), Egypt (Erik Stensland) and Poland (Joseph W. Carl, Jr.) in 2017. There has not been a solo victory yet; do you think you can meet the challenge?

Well, back to the article.... This time we will be looking at Egypt! Toby Tyrell, who gave each power in the Modern variant a mark of from one to ten for potential in a no-press game, listed Egypt third (with a mark of eight) only slightly behind Britain.

This time we have an additional treat in that Rick Desper has provided a full-length treatise giving his thoughts on Egypt!

In this article, as I did for Britain, I provide a list of the different openings used for Egypt in the modern games that have been played until now, as well as a few more that may be of interest. As I am the GM of many modern games, and an observer in many more, I asked players for their opinions on strategies for the various powers in the modern variant, but also to propose some openings and to suggest a name for them -- the winning name and the name of the person suggesting appear along with every opening.

By the way, I am still looking for comments about strategy and opening names for the remaining countries (everything except Britain and Egypt), so feel free to send your thoughts and suggestions to me at [email protected]. The next article will be on France, so I am especially interested in your thoughts on it.

List of Openings for Egypt

Desert Lion
Army Aswan -> Eastern Sahara.
Fleet Cairo SUPPORT Fleet Alexandria -> Eastern Mediterannean.
Fleet Alexandria -> Eastern Mediterannean.
Simon Withers writes: "Forcing East Med increases Egypt's offensive options against Turkey in the Fall. The East Med is attacked by Alexandria leaving Cairo free to take Israel in the fall, while Aswan looks for a build in Libya."

Tunisian Gambit
Army Aswan -> Eastern Sahara.
Fleet Cairo -> Israel.
Fleet Alexandria -> Libyan Sea.

Mediterranean Offensive
Army Aswan -> Eastern Sahara.
Fleet Cairo -> Israel.
Fleet Alexandria -> Eastern Mediterannean.
Says Simon Withers, this opening "gives up on the chance in Saudi for a possibly lesser chance in Libya, but takes Israel and defends the Eastern Med. If the Eastern Med is a bounce, Israel can support the move in the fall."

Craig Thomson believes that this is Egypt's "securest opening. Two builds guaranteed and the ability to backstab Turkey or cut his builds or at least bounce and prevent his ownership of the Eastern Med.... Eastern Med is guaranteed in Fall."

Southern Steamroller (Craig Thomson)
Army Aswan -> Eastern Sahara.
Fleet Cairo -> Red Sea.
Fleet Alexandria -> Cairo.
Craig calls this Egypt's "best opening. Three builds possible but open to a Turkish backstab.... Great with a Turkish alliance."

Stephen Breininger, though, argues as follows: "The problem with trying to pick up three supply centers is that it leaves your forces in the wrong places. An army in Libya; yuck! It would take two years to move it to where it belongs (attacking Turkey). And a fleet in Saudi Arabia; almost as bad. And consider how this play falls apart if Turkey decides to move his fleet into the Eastern Mediterranean Sea."

Rich Desper chimes in, noting that "actually, one nice thing about an army in Libya is that you'll have great counter-attacks even if you should be dislodged. The problem is that you really need three armies in the East."

Middle-East Trident
Army Aswan -> Eastern Sahara.
Fleet Cairo -> Red Sea.
Fleet Alexandria -> Eastern Mediterannean.
Simon Withers notes that this opening is "not so anti-Turkish with the move of only one fleet on the Eastern Med. Could be purely defensive, [but still] a potentially dangerous opening. Only one of Israel and Saudi Arabia is guaranteed, but the chance of a three is there."

Turkish Offensive
Army Aswan -> Cairo.
Fleet Cairo -> Eastern Mediterannean.
Fleet Alexandria SUPPORT Fleet Cairo -> Eastern Mediterannean.
James Gemmill feels that this opening is "to be used only if you know Turkey is hostile, and you feel control of the Eastern Med. is paramount to survival, or at least its vacancy. The army in Cairo can be convoyed if the possibility presents itself, or can move to Israel to gain the build. Very defensive."

Mediterranean Gambit
Army Aswan -> Cairo.
Fleet Cairo -> Eastern Mediterannean.
Fleet Alexandria -> Libyan Sea.

The Sphinx (James Gemmill)
Army Aswan -> Cairo.
Fleet Cairo -> Red Sea.
Fleet Alexandria -> Eastern Sahara. (Desert Variant)
Fleet Alexandria -> Libyan Sea. (Naval Variant)
James Gemmil thinks this "will probably become the most common Egyptian opening, as it allows the greatest amount of SC's to be grabbed the first year. Will placate Turkey and Italy as it can be interpreted in many ways diplomatically. Offers much diplomatic flexibility. Weak if Turkey opens to the Eastern Med., [as this] can cause you to lose 2 builds in a defense of your home SC's."

Middle-East Defense
Army Aswan -> Cairo.
Fleet Cairo -> Red Sea.
Fleet Alexandria -> Eastern Mediterannean.
Simon Withers comments that this "gives up on the chance at Libya to guarantee one in Israel or Saudi, also sends more units at Turkey, which is probably a good thing."

Says Stephen Breininger: "During the Spring, If your fleet bounces with the Turkish fleet in the Eastern Med., you've just saved yourself from a Turkish invasion. Chances are, you'll sail safely into the Eastern Med. From there I'd attack Turkey. If you are lucky, you will slip into either Adana or Izmir. I'd base this decision on the location of the Turkish troops."

The Pyramid (James Gemmill)
Army Aswan -> Cairo.
Fleet Cairo -> Eastern Mediterranean.
Fleet Alexandria -> Eastern Sahara.
James Gemmill remarks that "this opening is weak if Turkey opens to the Eastern Med. as well, but can offer flexibility for the fall if you catch the Turk unaware. Note the possibility of a convoy from Cairo, though this is definitely a risk. You will gain two builds."

Sea Lion
Army Aswan -> Alexandria.
Fleet Cairo SUPPORT Fleet Alexandria -> Eastern Mediterannean.
Fleet Alexandria -> Eastern Mediterannean.
Simon Withers notes that the Sea Lion "gives an identical defensive position [to the Desert Lion], but gives up the chance at Libya for a stronger push into Turkey. Cairo can take Israel, while Alexandria is convoyed across the Mediterranean."

Statistics on the Use of Openings for Egypt

GameOpening UsedYearSC CountStanding
BlitzzThe Sphinx, Naval Variant2017153rd (BEP draw)
NatoMiddle-East Trident199781st (tie)
Euro95Mediterranean Offensive2008172nd
DickensMiddle-East Trident199892nd
IzmirThe Sphinx, Naval Variant1998102nd (tie)
LyonMiddle-East Trident200092nd (tie)
TxjusticMiddle-East Defense199872nd (tie)
DeleriumMediterranean Gambit2000123rd
SevilleMediterranean Gambit2010113rd
OdessaMiddle-East Trident200183rd (tie)
SpartikuTunisian Gambit (Saudi Arabia is still unowned and Egypt is in Rome!) 199773rd (tie)
MilanThe Sphinx, Naval Variant199664th (tie)
RostovDesert Lion199664th (tie)
MinskSouthern Steamroller199865th (tie)
KatrasSouthern Steamroller200046th
ModSquadThe Sphinx, Naval Variant199866th (tie)
BuchananThe Sphinx, Naval Variant199966th (tie)
Day2dayMiddle-East Trident200057th
CairoSouthern Steamroller200128th
GdanskThe Sphinx, Naval Variant1995--
Kgb? (Blind Game)1995??
LiarliarSouthern Steamroller-max. 8 (1997)elim. 2001
Lie2meSouthern Steamroller-max. 6 (1996)elim. 2001

Strategy for Egypt in Modern Games

Egypt's position in Modern is similar to Turkey's position in the standard game. He holds an easily defensible corner of the map, has relatively few neighbors (Turkey and Italy), and does not have to worry about his back. Egypt can pursue the option of starting with a few easy gains which do not make any enemies or friends. His love-hate relationship with Turkey is even similar to the Turkey-Austria relationship in the standard game.

There are some differences however. In Modern, Egypt has more opportunities for growth in the first year, being able to double in size. On the other hand, the large number of centers one needs to take to win in Modern makes a corner position a more serious handicap for growth. Egypt is also quite vulnerable to Turkey in the first year and a surprise Turkish attack, while not immediately fatal, would make Egypt an also-ran in the early years, if not the whole game. If combined with a hostile Italy, a quick exit from the game is a strong possibility. Fortunately, the main difference between Modern and standard is the number of powers, and Egypt can usually count on one of Italy's many neighbors to keep him busy, as well as help from Ukraine or Russia against Turkey.

In the first season as Egypt, you face two important decisions - how to balance security and growth, and how to position yourself for the second and following years. The decision between security and growth is essentially a tradeoff - security or growth. Security primarily means preventing Turkey from entering the Eastern Mediterranean, which borders two of your home centers and Israel. A bounce here is well worth it, but gives you one less possible build - possibly two fewer if Turkey moves his army in Adana to block you from taking Israel or Saudi Arabia in the fall. If you move to the Eastern Med. and Turkey doesn't you can always head on to Israel and still get three builds if you moved Cairo to the Red Sea and Aswan to the Eastern Sahara. This could help patch things up with Turkey, but it may be worth it to try capturing one of his home centers instead - always a risk as a bounce means an angry Turkey and one less build for you.

Of secondary concern to you is your security after the first year. If Turkey is hostile and sends a fleet south, he can still easily get 3 builds with his other units. Meanwhile, you he limits you to two at most. This means you could be facing a seven unit giant to your north while only having 4 or 5 units yourself! A David and Goliath battle! The best defense may then be a good offense in the first year. You can support yourself into the Eastern Med. right off the bat, and launch an attack on southern Turkey with your fleet or even convoy your army there. You could also move to the Eastern Med. and Israel with your fleets, and support yourself into the Eastern Med. in the fall if you didn't make it in the spring. Unfortunately, these involve giving up some growth for better attack potential the second year. But there is also security in numbers, right?

This brings us to positioning for the second year. Egypt is a bit unique in that the centers it gets in the first year are very spread out. Libya is 2 provinces west, while Saudi Arabia is 2 provinces east and only if using a fleet and getting to it via the Red Sea. This means you have to plan carefully how to position your forces in preparation for the 1996, the second year.

A first concern is where to send your lone army. If you send it to the Eastern Sahara and Libya, you then have the advantage of being able to attack Tunisia by moving from Libya to Algeria and moving a new unit into Libya, thus bordering Tunisia with two units from Africa. Combined with a fleet cutting a possible Maltese Sea support and you should be able to take it while Italy is distracted elsewhere. Another advantage is that an army can defend Libya better than a fleet. If you are attacked by Italy in Libya, you can retreat to Algeria and have a chance of retaking Libya. Otherwise, Italy can easily block any attempt you may make to retake Libya by simply supporting Libya from Tunisia.

Tunisia is precious little gain for making a powerful enemy like Italy though, so unless defense is your reason for moving the army to Libya, you should be very sure of your alliance with Turkey or things could turn ugly soon. Another alternative for your army is to move it to Israel, thus taking Libya with a fleet. By moving the army to Israel, you can move on in the Middle-East to Syria and perhaps Iraq, and be able to put pressure on Turkey's eastern front at the same time as you launch an attack from the south. If you are planning to attack Turkey, you almost have to attack by land as well as by sea, since otherwise you are only threatening two of his centers and he will have enough units to keep you at bay.

Another tactic is to move a fleet to the Red Sea in the spring of 1995 and convoy your army to Saudi Arabia. The following year, you can move your fleet to the Arabian Sea as you move to Iraq from Saudi Arabia. This gives you two units bordering Iran in the fall of 1996 and if you are lucky, you will be able to take it from Turkey. This probably involves giving up Libya (though you could wait to take Israel instead), but if you let Italy take Libya, you may gain an ally against Turkey? Or an enemy on your western flank.

Finally, you should also think before sending a fleet to Saudi Arabia in 1995. If you move it there, it will take all of 1996 to get it back to Cairo and for it to be of use in the Mediterranean. It may be better for you to force your way into the Eastern Mediterranean right in the spring of 1995 and launch a preemptive strike on Turkey. Still, if you go for Saudi Arabia in 1995, you get an extra unit to compensate for it and you can use it to pressure Iran, or at least keep Turkey out of Saudi Arabia, so in my opinion, it is usually worth it.

What should you do beyond the first few years? Egypt has the choice between going north and west. There are 33 centers bordering the southern seas, from Gibraltar and Morocco in the west, to Rostov, Georgia and Iran in the east. This is probably what you have to aim for to win the game. It is possible to get centers north of the Black Sea, especially since Egypt has a quick route north through Iran and Kazakkstan, which can often catch a northern power off-guard. Egypt can establish a small early presence there in the guise of helping Russia, Ukraine or Poland against one of the others, and then move in in full force once Turkey is taken care of. Any center you capture there is one less you have to capture in the Western Med.

As for how to move west, that is tough as well. This is where the army in Libya comes in handy, as you can move west and then get that extra support into Tunisia and hopefully break into the seas west of Italy. It is hard to replace a fleet in Libya with an army though once Italy is defending itself against you, because doing this could allow him to capture Libya. It is unfortunate, but your best chance for getting an army into Libya is in the very first year of the game. You can still make it through, especially if the west is not united under one power. You should therefore strive to have Italy and Spain, or some other naval power, remain relatively deadlocked in the west while you take out Turkey. This can be hard to do since Italy is a natural ally against Turkey. For those reasons, the best ally for Egypt, in my opinion, is Ukraine, with Russia as a back-up if Ukraine falls early in the game.

All these strategy suggestions assume that you will attack Turkey first and not Italy. It is possible to pursue an alliance with Turkey though, and this alliance can be really strong. Your strength as a corner power is extended to your ally, Turkey. You can easily make gains against Italy and Turkey can be devastating in the north and in the Balkans. For this reason, I would say that a Turko-Egyptian alliance is potentially the strongest in the game (witness the Lyon game on USEF for the best example). Where the alliance breaks down though is in your vulnerability to each other. This is because the Eastern Mediterranean borders three Egyptian centers (including Israel) and two Turkish ones. For this reasons, it should be an obvious DMZ between you. Furthermore, under no circumstances should you let Turkey build more than the two fleets he needs to occupy the Black Sea. If Turkey is allied with you, he does not need more fleets, as you will be the naval power protecting him from Mediterranean enemies. Have him concentrate on the north, and keep him happy by staying out of the Eastern Med.

Allies for Egypt in Modern

Who should you ally with as Egypt in Modern? As I stated in the strategy section, Ukraine, or possibly a strong southern Russia, are your best choices for an ally in the early game, and even in the mid game (but don't completely rule out Turkey and Italy). This gives you a chance to take out Turkey. You don't want to be at odds against Italy though, since a united Turkish-Italian front means all your neighbors are against you. Being allied with Italy is not so good though, because he will soon get in your way and may decide to take you out. The best option is to keep him involved elsewhere. This makes the dominant force in the Western Med., be it Spain, France or Britain, someone you want to talk to.

Once you grow to a comfortable size, you will have to decide whether you want to win by taking over Ukraine or Russia, or by moving west of Italy. Your allies should then be a logical step forward at that point. If Poland is still around, you could talk him into attacking Ukraine or Russia along with you, similarly, you could talk Britain into attacking Spain or France if they are the strong power in the west. Chances are that Britain will be around at the end if you still are, and even that he may be your main rival, so tread carefully if you don't want someone else to win!

Player Comments on Egyptian Security

Rick Desper feels that "Libya is weak, and probably can be taken by a concerted Italian attack in the second year (but) I would still think the most concerted attack would take at least five years to take out Egypt."

According to Mikko Laitinen, "(Egypt) appears to have a rather weak starting position, but it has a benefit of easily defensible home centers. If he survives the first year fight against Turkey, Italy is next pounding on his door. If he survives that also, it usually means Italy is being killed by someone very powerful and it's a bit late for Egypt to make any run for a solo anymore. But it can be a very interesting position to play anyway."

Player Comments on Egyptian Unit Positioning

Stephen Breininger believes that, "in order to be successful, Egypt has to occupy the Eastern Mediterranean Sea," adding that "if Egypt is only going after 2 supply centers, then he should go after Israel and Saudi Arabia? During the next year I'd move Army Israel to Syria and Fleet Saudi Arabia to Iraq. This would allow you to turn your useless fleet in Saudi Arabia into a useful defensive line by having your army in Syria support your fleet in Iraq. Then with the rest of my forces, I would continue my naval assault on Turkey."

Cautions Simon Withers, "an enemy fleet in the East Med is very, very bad."

Player Comments on Egyptian Strategy

Brian Burkhart is of the opinion that "the Egyptian opening is essentially one dimensional. It allows for the capture of Saudi Arabia and Libya without opposition and either with a compliant Turkey or strong early moves, Israel can be attained as well. After that, the moves progress westward to eventually capture Tunisia when continental pressures forces I to give up support in the south. Early alliances in the north will spell doom for the Egyptian offensive if Italy has faithful allies. An I/T alliance with a helpful Israel is death to Egypt."

Bob Shepard adds that "with Egypt, the first year usually involves gently picking up Libya, Israel, and Saudi Arabia, all without disturbing anyone else, all without having to commit to anything concrete."

Writes Rick Desper, "If Ukraine is gone and Egypt holds Rostov, three forces (Rostov, Caucasus and Iran) will hold the East. Ankara and Izmir support Istanbul, Alexandria supports Eastern Sahara, and two fleets support Fleet Eastern Med. Eleven forces supported by 12 SC's."

James Gemmill feels that "Egypt should seek two partners rather than one, and those partners should be along the southern or eastern side of the board, taking advantage of Egypt's corner position."

"(One) option is to attack Turkey by land," says Stephen Breininger. "But I think this plan has flaws. First it will take a while to move the armies into place. And second, your fleet in Saudi Arabia is out of place. Sure, it can help attack Iran from the Persian Gulf, but then it is even further from where it belongs, which is back in the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea. If you insist, build your armies and see how long your homeland stands up to a naval attack!"

Player Comments on Allies for Egypt


James Gemmill speaks from experience here. "Having played Egypt, it is my feeling that under no circumstances should a long-term alliance with Turkey be pursued. While possible, it offers the most limited range for expansion and the greatest exposure to a stab, as your lines of communication along the African coast will be long."

Brian Burkhart feels that "the E/T alliance in modern is potentially the most lethal. However, I've seen numerous times that as Turkey approaches 10 dots, Egypt is usually smaller, at eight or so. Inexorably, Turkey goes after Egypt and the alliance breaks down. However, if left alone, Egypt can eventually make tremendous progress against Israel and Italy. Eventually, Egypt will make a landing in Italy and drive up the peninsula to hook up with Tuerkey. This final E/T alliance can proceed easily to a two-way, and with reasonable diplomacy one of the two will make the essential stab on the other in late endgame to get the solo."

Simon Withers notes that "Egypt has to go through Turkey if Egypt is to get to any SC's" and Stephen Breininger adds: "you know that Egypt and Turkey will be at war soon enough."


Italy, says James Gemmill, "can make a good ally if Tunisia and Libya can be resolved. It is perhaps best to concede TUN as it is difficult to defend vs. the Italians, and often Italy will concede LIB for the same reason. In an anti Turkish campaign, Italy can make a good, if limited partner, rarely able to provide substantial help, but then rarely able to feast on the Turkish prize. Watch out for his Navy!"

Stephen Breininger says, "the Italian player will probably want Egypt and Turkey to have a long-drawn out battle. A quick and decisive victory by either Egypt or Turkey will mean trouble for Italy! [Egypt] could possibly offer Libya to Italy as a peace offering."


James Gemmill feels that the Ukraine is "definitely a nation whose friendship you wish to (initially) pursue. Can provide a good counterweight against Turkey, and can provide a virtually stab proof alliance if you occupy Istanbul. With Turkey out of the way, you can continue on with Ukraine vs. Italy or you can make contact with Russia and try and force the Black Sea for a conquest of Ukraine."


Russia is "of interest early on only to maintain the security of Ukraine." James Gemmill also adds that Russia "can make a good mid-term ally."

Triple Alliances

James Gemmill writes: "In combination with (Spain and) Italy, you can divide up the map board three ways on a north-south axis into spheres of conquest. This troika I think is Egypt's best strategy, as you can write it into your alliance that if one stabs the other 2 will punish. Thus, Egypt and Spain will gain security vs. Italy, while Italy, admittedly the weakest in this arrangement being in the middle, can gain some security as well. Can be easily hidden via false bounces in the Med., and Egypt may be the slowest to grow, but does provide ample opportunity. The post Turkish conquest period may pose a problem in forcing the Black Sea with a fleet. The other East-West combination - Russia, Ukraine and Egypt - is possible too."

Finally, be sure to check out Rick Desper's full-length treatise on playing Egypt in Modern Diplomacy.

Vincent Mous
([email protected])

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