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Some experience playing Italy has shown me that attacking France can be quite difficult. If France has a unit in Marseilles, the only way to break through is to bring a fleet to the Gulf of Lyon, which usually takes over a year (it takes a similar length of time to even get a shot at Spain). Since a unit in Piedmont can do little more than bounce in Marseilles, I generally forgo moving there at all, preferring to focus on my Eastern front as long as I'm not worried about a French Invasion.

Is this usually the best choice? As Italy, when should I attack France?

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3 Answers

Simply, when it is a commitment required of (or an opportunity provided by) your best possible alliance.

Although the tactical situations are not irrelevant in Diplomacy, they should always be regarded as secondary to the choice of allies and alliances. Any country can win, and one should regard the game as more akin to Survivor than to a typical strategy board game.

Assess the credibility, veracity and trustworthiness of the players who are offering you alliances, always bearing in mind that if it sounds too good to be true, it certainly is. Investigate, as best you can, the behaviour of your potential allies in previous games as part of assessing their credibility, veracity and trustworthiness. Remember that the strategic assessment of other players should be performed differently in a one-off game, as compared to a single game played as part of a tournament. In the latter case players know that their behaviour in early games will affect their ability to make alliances in later games; but that tis effect wears off slowly as the series continues.

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Italy attacking France is a tough one. I've seen it done (or done it myself) at two points in the game: the opening year, when there's a chance to either take Marseilles or keep France from taking Spain or Portugal, and later in the game, when Italy teams up with England or Germany (teaming up with both is unlikely).

The first option - attacking right away - is pretty high risk. As Italy, you already have a guaranteed build in Tunis, and if you go after France, you most certainly will appear greedy and warmongering. A pissed-off France is guaranteed no matter the outcome.

Something very neat that can be done, though, is Italy and France entering into an alliance and bouncing each other in Marseilles in the Autumn of 1901 (France: Spain-> Marseilles, Italy: Piedmeont-> Marseilles). That way, they appear to be fighting and each gain the trust of their respective neighbors.

The second option is more of a case-by-case basis - if, as Italy, you can ally with Germany or England and take out France - do it. Just be careful of Austria and Turkey allying against you.

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The most profitable time to attack France is when you have England as an ally. That's because you and England can launch "diagonal" attacks on the Northwest-Southeast access. Germany isn't usually as good an ally, since it's relatively easy for France to build up an east-facing barrier in Marseilles, Burgundy, Picardy.

You do have to worry about France because it can get two supply centers, Spain and Portugal, versus one for you at Tunis, the first year. Fortunately, England, which gets only Norway, has the same fear. If England can't work something out with France (e.g., to concentrate on Germany), you're his natural ally. In this event, England will derail French expansion by e.g.: F Edinburgh to NS, F London to EC, A Liverpool to Wales, and possibly to Brest or Belgium in the fall of 1901.

So watch out for what England is doing, and be ready to respond in kind. It will take a while, but a successful campaign for you would be Portugal Spain and Marseilles, with England getting Brest, Paris, and Belgium.

For alternatives, I would recommend looking up the answers to this question. I would guess that these occur the majority, perhaps two thirds of the time, and the above, one third.

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