With the World War II anniversaries and my abundant free time I thought I should start a fresh game of Hearts Of Iron II, the grand strategy game devoted to that war. (And while we're at it, why aren't there any World War I simulations? Granted, the first war hasn't got the towering mass of film footage and endless hype behind it, but once you've got the game maps and the combat engines for the Second World War established you could spin off a First World War just by lowering the combat ranges and reducing the technology tree. Victoria, which does grand strategy from 1836 to 1936, allows the playing of World War I as a scenario, but not with the tight focus that Hearts Of Iron puts on the Second World War.) Anyway, I started up as the United States again, and freely embracing my hindsight bias set out to see how weird I could get the world while being as interventionist as the national culture (modelled by various slowly changeable options) allowed.
The game starts the 1st of January 1936, and I realized I had forgotten how low the production capacity is at that point. It turns out in peacetime consumers want more civilian production than they'll accept in wartime; who knew? Also I was shocked by how many foreign spies were suspected of being in the country --- ten at the time. I understand Germany and the Soviets having spies, but Canada? C'mon, let's break this up, guys. And could we please get anybody spying on Japan? The half-dozen Chinese factions? Bulgaria? Anyone? It's hard getting a competent spy ring started.
Internationally, the only real action in 1936 is Italy's campaign in Ethiopia, and the Spanish Civil War. The first I didn't have any real chance to respond to, but the second ... well, intervention was unthinkable given the isolationist sentiment. But in the initial fighting the Republicans had a bit of an edge on the Fascists, and I wondered: if I did get enough spies in, and set them to sabotage efforts within the toleration of the country, could it do something useful? Getting spies in place was tough, though not as tough as China; but while they were able to sabotage some production I'm not sure they did anything really useful. The big payoff --- setting off rebellion in key provinces --- was beyond my means.
And yet, come early 1937, the Republicans were able to chase the Fascists into the northwestern corner of the peninsula (and minor islands). And by April they'd managed it entirely: complete victory for the Republicans. I don't know that a couple of successful and many failed sabotage attempts made a difference, but it does promise interesting butterfly effects. Either way I'm definitely stepping up espionage projects on the assumption Japan will invade China sometime in 1937. (The game has many pre-set events, but most, I believe, are set to triggers and so can be subverted --- for example, Japan will attack the United States, United Kingdom, and United Provinces after late 1941 if it's been embargoed, but if you choose to sell out China and not embargo them, they're likely to call that side of the war off.)
Trivia: On the initial landing at Messina on 3 September 1943, to no resistance --- not even barbed wire or mines on the beaches --- a Canadian note quipped ``the stiffest resistance of the day came from a puma which had escapefrom the Zoological Gardens in Reggio, and was seemingly taking a fancy to the Brigade Commander''. Source: History of the Second World War, B H Liddell Hart.
Currently Reading: Taking Flight: Inventing The Aerial Age From Antiquity Through The First World War, Richard P Hallion.