Resuming the progress of my Hearts of Iron II game, as previously introduced. In background, Republican Spain beat the Fascists; but Japan is invading China with steady if unexceptional success. Czechoslovakia refuses Germany's demands regarding the Sudetenland, prompting Germany to invade; Poland soon goes to war with Germany. In the last quarter of the year, the Soviet Union declares war on Germany, and Rumania joins Germany to form an Axis. Bulgaria goes to war on its own against the Comintern (Soviet Union, Mongolia, and Tannu Tuva); and the Allies are not yet involved. And that's how the world begins 1939.
After annexing Czechoslovakia Germany turns to invading Poland, which falls back to around Lublin and Brest-Litovsk, sometimes gaining ground back from Germany; however, the Germans continue conquering provinces even though they could by using Poland as a barrier state keep the Soviets from being able to invade them except through Rumania. But the game playing probably more realistically invades to the Soviet border, allowing them to invade back and take Tarnopol first; but by mid-February, Germany has isolated Warsaw from the northeastern corner of Poland. Germany annexes Poland the 16th of March, 1939.
Italy joins the German and Rumanian Axis on the 21st of March, although since it hasn't got any way to get troops to the Soviet Union, Mongolia, or Tannu Tuva and they haven't got a way back one might cynically suppose this isn't a really great risk to the Italian Empire. (Well, they can send troops overland through Greater Germany, but that means they can participate in the war to exactly as much as feels good without any risk until the Soviets get a couple hundred miles closer.) That shows what you know, as Yugoslavia joins the war on the 2nd of April, although it's fighting the Comintern on its own, independently of the Axis. And, more, on the 4th of April, Hungary declares war on the Comintern, although again independently of the Axis and of Yugoslavia, so actually this doesn't change anything as neither Hungary nor Yugoslavia has a front with any Communist power.
Still, with this background what logical path is there for the war to take except for the 7th of May announcement that Portugal has joined the Axis for some reason? It has an effect, as Hungary consolidates its position by joining the Axis on the 24th of May.
To this point my nation, the United States, hasn't had much to do, although I've been trying to fund Chinese partisans in the Japanese-occupied territories, and to build up my espionage forces in the Axis and Comintern, and powers I expect to be likely trouble, such as Siam. The 2nd of July, though, gets a ``Gearing Up For War'' event, a somewhat random event which improves the nation's willingness to participate in foreign wars, and increases the industrial might which can be brought to war production. But the increase in the interventionist spirit makes it acceptable to join the Allies, and soon the American Empire --- the United States, Liberia, and Philippines --- are alongside the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Iraq, Nepal, Bhutan, Yemen, and Oman, standing ready against ... nobody in particular just yet. (There's another Gearing Up For War event the 6th of August, as I start positioning navies in Gibraltar, Hong Kong, and Singapore.)
Still, being in the alliance means that we can trade blueprints for new technological developments, cutting in half the time it takes to develop such things as 1939-grade Infantry or Rocket Engines or the Doctrine of Elastic Defense. It's very important to the game's elaborate technology tree even if nobody in the alliance is at war. The United States, of course, always has an advantage in the technology race even though the game mechanics allow at most five technologies to be developed at once, but every bit helps. By luck (and these things do happen by chance) on the 26th of July a technological breakthrough provides the practical turbojet engine for me, although this probably hasn't got anything to do with the alliance. As a show of good faith I send the 2nd USAAF Bombardment Group out to Chaumont, although since France and Germany are at peace it hasn't got much to do.
Meanwhile, remember the war? Axis versus Comintern? Since the absorption of Poland in mid-March the front had barely moved; it was only late July when the first big change came as Rumania occupied Odessa. The Soviets soon re-occupy it, then Rumania again, then the Soviets, and this becomes the fulcrum of a line running basically north-south from Odessa up to about Minsk, a little east of the former Polish border with the Soviets. While Germany or the Soviets can prod past the line, it doesn't last, and they soon return to about near the status quo. I can't see exactly what's happening, due to the ``fog of war'' --- no intelligence from provinces that neither I nor an ally occupy or adjoin --- but it seems like it's proving to be a real slog over the possession of eastern Poland. The Comintern isn't even bothering to occupy Rumania, which seems like it would be a natural and relatively easy conquest.
Still, the odd little side wars do streamline as the year concludes. On the 27th of September, Bulgaria joins the Axis, merging its war against the Comintern into the larger if aimless struggle. And just before the end of the year, the 29th of December, Yugoslavia joins its fate to Germany's. So the Axis, Germany-Rumania-Italy-Portugal-Hungary-B
Meanwhile, remember the other war? China versus Japan? That was carrying on what might be the default strategy for the large, populous, industrially-behind power versus the small, technologically-superior invader: China's army falls back, trading space for time and trusting that it has enough manpower to eventually wear down the Japanese army, particularly when it gets past the coast and has to endure long supply lines across awful roads. One complicating problem is that geographical China is, at this time, a half-dozen factions not always in perfect harmony, which complicates coordinated military actions, and threatens to cut Nationalist China completely off from the sea, still essential for getting supplies from trading partners like the United States.
Unfortunately, the stalling-out and quagmire that the script calls for here --- and this is with my funneling supplies as best I can to China, and funding partisans in occupied territory, albeit not as often as I possibly could (foreign guerilla armies are expensive, even for the United States) --- just wouldn't happen. Nationalist China had to keep leaning on partner factions to be annexed by it, so it could retain coastline and manpower, but the Japanese army kept on coming. The final collapse came on 2 December 1939, with the Japanese annexations of Nationalist China, Yunnan, and Xibei San Ma. The only remaining shards of independent China at the close of 1939 are Sinkiang, in the northwest, which stayed resolutely independent while fighting Japan, and Communist China, neutral throughout. I'm not well-suited or positioned to help either, but if they're the only parties to back, I suppose I must back them.
As it happens I've already played out 1940, as well, which I suspect is going to prove to be an important year for deciding the shape of the war, should it come to the Allies, even though it wasn't chock full of the same sort of intrigue as 1939 or drama of 1938.
Trivia: The final Wall Street ticker tape quotation from ``Black Tuesday'', 29 October 1929, was transmitted at 5:32 pm, just over two and a half hours after the close of trading, iwth the signoff, ``TOTAL SALES TODAY 16,383,700 GOOD NIGHT''. Source: The Day The Bubble Burst: A Social History Of The Wall Street Crash of 1929, Gordon Thomas, Max Morgan-Witts.
Currently Reading: Wizard: The Life And Times Of Nikola Tesla, Marc J Seifer.