austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

When the lights go on again all over the world

More on my Hearts Of Iron II game, playing the United States, with a subtly different Second World War (as previously introduced ... ):

As 1937 developed the Republicans had beaten the Fascists for control of Spain. I settle in to building up my espionage units in likely trouble spots, such as Germany, the Soviet Union, Japan, Italy, Communist China, Romania, Bulgaria, and Siam, a process that's slow but also modestly pricey and prone to offending nations that notice spies being put in them. Come late 1937 Japan stages the Marco Polo Bridge incident on schedule (many events are set to happen as long as some critical precursor is not avoided), and the war there settles into the Japanese occupying the coast, the Chinese the interior, and my attempts to sabotage Japan from afar not accomplishing anything appreciable. Still, I keep building the espionage services, and start building the aircraft carriers (including the Enterprise) and battleships with two-year lead times. And pushing my fellow Americans towards an interventionist view. This is helped by American outrage over the Rape of Nanking, or as the game log a little awkwardly puts it, because ``The Nanjing Massacre happened to us''. What that means is the event known as The Nanjing Massacre had effects on the United States, in this case making the public less isolationist. It also ``happened'' to Nationalist China and Japan, of course.

1938 looks to be an unremarkable year of armament-building all around, except for the actual war in Asia, where Japan keeps working around the coastline and Nationalist China keeps to the interior. Until ... 30 September, when Germany demands the Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia. Czechoslovakia diplomatically tells Germany to try and take it, and Germany declares war. The United Kingdom, France, and Soviet Union gear up for war, but although the first two have guaranteed Czechoslovakia's independence, and Germany is swiftly chomping through the Sudetenland and heading east, they don't set an ultimatum for Germany to back down; nor do they declare war. (The game mechanics are such that a guarantee of independence grants a casus belli, but does not obligate the guaranteeing nation; it does make it easier for peaceable countries like democracies to get a foot in a war.) I start selling war materials there, taking pressure off Czechoslovak industry, although not selling too cheaply considering.

Poland does. As far as I can tell they had made no promises to Czechoslovakia and no alliances (defensive or otherwise), but on the 12th of October Poland joins the Czechs, by then squeezed into Slovakian territory, in the East European War. Germany, surprised, is kicked out of the territories around Stettin and Küstrin (the game represents territory by irregularly-shaped ``provinces'' named for an important city within; for example, Michigan is represented as the provinces' of Detroit, Great [sic] Rapids, Flint, and Marquette) and Polish forces are in the suburbs of Berlin within a week. They're forced back, though, and Czechoslovakia is annexed the 25th of October, while Poland seizes East Prussia and settles to a defensive line running roughly from Danzig to the south-east, giving up territory but not so swiftly as you might expect. Again I swing into dumping strategic materials in exchange for the oil which Poland has inexplicably stockpiled; the United States is never short on oil, but it makes the deal look more historically plausible. They hold out through November and into December, losing territory as far east as Brest-Litovsk (although losing and retaking Lomza, outside Warsaw, and holding East Prussia). And then ...

14 December 1938: the Soviet Union, similarly acting as its own agent, declares war on Germany. It brings the might of the Comintern with it, although at this time the Comintern consisted of the Soviet Union, Mongolia, and Tannu Tuva, which you dimly remember if you have read every word Richard Feynman's name was ever attached to, and barely then. (It was a tiny Siberian/Chinese border state independent briefly when the Soviets forgot it existed, renowned for weird postage stamps and throat singing.) This would present Germany an interesting problem, thanks to the game mechanics, which will not let a nation ignore the rights-of-passage through a country: as long as a rump Poland stands between German- and Soviet-occupied territory, the Soviets have no land route to attack Germany, unless Poland grants military access, which seems improbable, or unless the Soviets declare war on Poland, which is possible. They're actually better off leaving a Polish crust between them and the Soviets.

Until the 18th of December, when Rumania becomes the second power in the Axis, and so goes to war with Poland and, separately, the Soviets-Mongolians-and-Tuvans. There is a land border between the Soviets and Rumania and whenever Stalin recovers from his purges enough he can invade through Rumania's Beltsy. Or the Rumanians might take Polish Stanislawow, which would give the Soviets the path to attack Germany by land. I start watching Stanislawow closely, sure that something exciting will happen around there if anywhere.

On 22 December 1938, Bulgaria declares war on Tannu Tuva for some reason. This brought it into conflict with the whole Comintern, so we'll finally see that Bulgarian-Mongolian battle we've been waiting for. Also once the Soviets chew through Rumania they can get to Bulgaria, I assume. They hadn't joined the Axis; they're just taking on the Soviet Union on spec, I suppose, or they really had to teach the Tannu Tuvans a lesson.

1938 comes to an end without this East European War drawing the Allies into it. And while the United States is nudged a little more interventionist, it's still not yet enough to allow it to join (or form) alliances. Apparently, what with the bombing of Guernica and the worst horrors of the Spanish Civil War averted, the atrocities in the Far East and the developing situation in Poland haven't been left Americans outraged enough to consider direct involvement overseas. I'm very curious what 1939 will bring.

Trivia: Around 1900 North and South Dakota supported around 25 daily and 315 weekly newspapers. Source: Victorian America: Transformations in Everyday Life, 1876 - 1915, Thomas J Schlereth.

Currently Reading: Lest Darkness Fall, L Sprague de Camp. So how come a Connecticut Yankee pastiche done in the finest Astounding One Smart Man Is Worth A Million Of You Proles style featuring a protagonist that goes all Marrissa Picard on edge-of-the-Dark-Ages Italy so bad even Belisarius falls for him, and written by an author I always kind of see as just barely restraining himself from noting he's smarter enough than you to make your head explode, is so enjoyably readable? And I don't think it's just the really choice Oppression scene.

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