May 10th, 2007

krazy koati

I'm going, Josephine, in my great big B-19

I haven't had the chance to play Hearts of Iron, a phenomenally complicated grand strategy game simulation of World War II -- starting in 1936, and running to 1948 -- in ages, so I thought it was fair to try again. I wanted to install it on a new hard drive for convenience, which meant getting the patches on the game. That shouldn't be hard; Apple's main web site includes links to various patches of software, and I went to the Hearts of Iron page, clicked on the download icon, and ... nothing.

Over to the web site of the company that actually makes the software: they don't have it listed anymore, as they've gone over to Hearts of Iron II, the vastly more complicated sequel, which I haven't seen in stores yet and so haven't felt confident enough to buy from their downloadable-software sites. But there's still the big archive on their site of support files with the upgrade reported to be in there. And indeed, in there was a file in the support area which professed to be the upgrade, and it downloaded in the blink of an eye. This was because the file turned out to be 236 bytes long, which was something less than the appropriate file size.

Attempting to report the problem lead to a curious problem: they demand (free) registration to send a problem. I'm tired of registering for things online, but I give in on this point, and soon I have my very own Trouble Ticket opened. And the next morning the answer is back to me: I can download the updater patch from their support page. I wonder what it's like to have a specific, precise report of an exactly replicable problem be believed on the first try. I went back and tried again, pointing out how I had gone to the site and had downloaded the linked file, and the file was 236 bytes long, when their own documentation said it should be about nine megabytes long. Another day in and they came back with the admission that there was a problem on their server, and the file should be there now. Glad to have that straightened out.

So in playing finally I went in playing as the United States, which is really the easy mode for World War II if you want a country that's involved at all. (You can pick nearly any country in the world, but, like, try to thrive as Luxembourg or even be noticed as Ecuador.) Canada, South Africa, and New Zealand have a similar advantage where no matter how badly you screw up you're not going to be invaded, but they have to budget. I get clever and figure, since I won't be in the war for the first five years of the game anyway, why not try using my diplomatic influence as far as I can within the political restrictions on my government to keep Italy and Japan from allying with Germany?

Come March 1939, Germany, Italy, and Japan are all nonaligned. Germany demands Czechoslovakia, and the Allies cave, but only the Czech region is annexed by Germany. Slovakia is set up as a puppet state. A mere two weeks later ... Italy invades Albania for some reason. Two weeks later, as Albanian planes bomb Venice, the United Kingdom declares this to be an infringement of its sphere of influence, and goes to war on Albania's behalf. Germany hasn't figured in this yet. It's nice to know in an alternate world, the Second World War got off to a ridiculous start.

Trivia: In May 1940 German used 4,000 of its 4,500 trained parachute troops in the attack on Holland. Source: History of the Second World War, B H Liddell-Hart. (Albania doesn't rank a mention in the actual war except that there was a tiny bit of oil in it and at one point Greek troops were cut off in there.)

Currently Reading: 1066: The Year of the Conquest, David Howarth.