France/French Third Republic/La Troisième République (French)
Leader at 1901: President of the Council of Ministers Pierre Waldeck-Rousseau
Color: Light Blue
Neighbors: England, Germany, Italy
Home supply centers: Paris, Brest, Marseilles
France is the easiest country to play. While not as defensively sound as England or Turkey, France is able to move troops quickly through Europe without the burden of a long convoy chain required by Turkey or England. France also has better long-term survival prospects than either, since while England and Turkey are often forced into a corner and survive until midgame after a long, hopeless war, if France survives the initial possibility of attack from an England-Germany alliance (or, more rarely, an attack from Italy), they can do very well in the mid- and late-games (France has very high end-survival and draw records, as well as a fair number of wins). Iberia provides two quick and easy builds early, and profitable alliances can be undertaken with either England or Germany, or both. However, England is not suggested, since England has a better chance of stabbing than Germany or Italy does.
18 Center Goal
France has a much greater choice of winning combinations than England. France is also stronger for being able to build fleets on both sides of the MAO bottleneck—although even this is sometimes not enough to break a stalemate in TYS necessary to grab TUN for a victory.
The most common French winning combination is: 3 home centers, Iberia (2), England (3), the Low Countries (2), Germany (3), Scandinavia (3), St. Petersburg, and one of WAR, MOS, and TUN.
However, France also has a good shot at conquering Italy, especially TUN, ROM, NAP, and possibly VEN if he strikes early. This allows France to win without getting STP or SWE, and gives France a good foothold across the major stalemate line.
France has more safe and non-committing openings that can almost guarantee quite a few (usually two, sometimes three) builds during the winter of 1901. France is the only power able to reach the centers in Iberia in 1901, and can choose to take them calmly, or expend less effort capturing Spain and Portugal to attack Germany or England.
France's major choice is whether to try for the Channel. If France manages to occupy the Channel, he can almost guarantee himself BEL by force, as long as he has another unit in PIC or BUR. However, forcing one's way into BEL is against most French theory, which says that France can (and should) play as docilely as possibly during the first year, playing England and Germany off each other, and choosing a side in 1902.
F BRE - ENG, The English Attack
This move is more aggressive than the English move to the Channel in S1901, which, although pointing right into French territory, is usually just for support of F NTH C A YOR - BEL.
If you can guarantee a supportive Germany and a relaxed Russia, this move can kill England, who will suffer terribly if the move to the Channel does not work. A French fleet in the Channel can support or be supported by a German fleet in Denmark into the North Sea, quickly ending England.
A MAR - BUR, A PAR - PIC: The Northern Dash
The most aggressive possible opening for France, it leaves Iberia completely untouched if the move succeeds. Obviously anti-English and possibly anti-German, this opening may leave you with no friends in Western Europe, and a very hungry-looking Italy in the east. It provides the maximum possible force on BEL, as well as the possibility of a convoy to WAL or LON.
A MAR - SPA, A PAR - GAS: The English Defense
The opposite of the Northern Dash, this opening guarantees two builds from Iberia, while allowing Germany to make a quick strike into BUR if he so desires.
F BRE - MAO: The Atlantic Opening
The calmer alternative to the Channel is MAO, which allows France great flexibility in befriending either England or Germany. Although it gives up the Channel to England, many times England will try desperately to woo France during the opening years by opening to NWG and NTH. The Mid-Atlantic fleet also gives France a chance for a quick break into the Med by sailing F MAO to Spain's South Coast, which borders WMS. Adding another fleet with F MAR can mount a powerful early attack on Italy, who usually focuses on the East for the first few years.
A PAR - BUR, A MAR S A PAR - BUR: The Maginot Opening
By far the most common French opening, it allows France a finger in each of his three possible neutrals. It protects against an early German incursion, and the three moves are guaranteed to succeed. This is the most anti-German opening in France's repertoire as it guarantees a threat on MUN in the fall. Germany is usually not an early threat to France, and angering him by forcing yourself into BUR may not be the best policy. If England's friendship can be guaranteed, however, this opening can be extremely powerful by getting close to Germany rapidly.
A PAR - BUR, A MAR - SPA: The Burgundy Variation
Second in popularity only to the Maginot Opening is the Burgundy variation. France claims SPA, and can guarantee himself POR, while still having a stake in the argument over BEL or at least keeping Germany out of BUR. The Burgundy bothers England a little over BEL and Germany a little over the move to BUR, but antagonizes neither too strongly. An extremely strong, theoretical opening.
A PAR - GAS, A MAR - BUR: The Vineyard Variation
An alternative to the Burgundy variation, this move order is arguably tactically stronger since standing off Germany in Burgundy with Marseilles rather than Paris gives greater leverage over Iberia in case of an Italian move to Piedmont in Spring 1901. Moving Paris to Gascony also offers the possibility of convoying Gascony to Portugal in Fall 1901, thus maintaining the fleet in Mid-Atlantic. This helps build trust with Germany and affords a stronger footing for an invasion of England or Italy in 1902.
A MAR - BUR, A PAR - PIC: The Belgian Variation
More aggressive than the Burgundy Variation, this opening guarantees France a shot at BEL in the fall, in addition to picking up an Iberian neutral. Somewhat anti-German, this opening aims to get armies to the German border as rapidly as possible.
F BRE - PIC: The Picardy Opening
Though rarely seen, moving the fleet to Picardy gives France the opportunity to influence the fate of Belgium without antagonizing England with a move to the English Channel. However, this move violates the sound strategic principle that fleets should usually be placed in open water rather than on the coastline in order to maximize tactical options.