austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

And we will do it again

So when my Hearts of Iron game started its 1947, the world was at peace: the Allies had stormed through Germany and Italy in a conflict taking nearly twenty minutes of 1943. In a much harder conflict the Allies liberated all of China and Korea from Japan in the war running from November 1944 through November 1946, with game-event mechanics rather implausibly carving out a tiny North Korea and giving Manchuria over to the Soviet Union, which was barely even in the war with Japan. As the United States readjusted to peace its production of ``Supplies'' --- everything needed for everything --- was at a halt.

The supply catastrophe might be taken as authentically representing the chaos of reconversion from military to civilian production, although I think the problem was a game glitch. An important yet incomprehensible part of the game is supply convoys, which bring the several natural resources to your mainland and bring military supplies (modelled as ``supplies'', and as ``oil'') back. Different territories offer different resources, of course, and if you don't have enough of them in a theater of operations, your troops will be at lower or at no effectiveness.

The routes of what's to go where, by sea transport, can be handled manually, but nobody including the game programmers has ever had the slightest idea how the convoy interface works, or what it's supposed to do, so they just leave it on automatic and mostly they don't have to worry about it. I think what happened is I hit some freak combination of events, possibly connected with the game's assigning of Manchuria to the Soviet Union even though it was clearly United States-occupied territory, making the convoys which had been supplying the Allied forces there go crazy trying to figure what they were trying to do. So resources were just getting completely lost, and commanding the full use of my entire merchant marine to lose them.

While I did some expanding of the merchant marine fleet --- neglected in the pressing need for regular marines --- I also realized somewhere along the lines the game was trying to fill a MAX_INT void. So I leapt out of a major mental blockade and took over manual control of the convoys, and cancelled every single convoy running to and from the United States. Then I turned it back on and trusted the automation to figure out what was really needed, and, it did. Within a few weeks the nation was back to normal peacetime production.

With peace, now, I could size things up for the only foreseeable but not inevitable war: the Allies versus the Comintern (here, the Soviet Union, Rumania, Hungary, Mongolia, and North Korea). Actually, all the times I've played this, I haven't had this particular war, but they were the only real major power remaining in the game. If my intelligence estimates could be relied on, I didn't need to worry about the Soviet Navy, a handful of small vessels pretty much nowhere. Of course, the geography means that the Allied overwhelming advantage in navies --- between the United States and United Kingdom over a hundred major ships --- Nor the air force, about 20 divisions of fighters and no strategic or tactical bombers. But they also had somewhere around 400 divisions of infantry and 50 armored divisions, which the Allies ... don't.

Well, I arranged troops around the North Korea enclave, along with airplanes and an aircraft carrier fleet, which would serve as a warning that If War Comes, then in the first week North Korea ceases to exist as an independent nation. The artificial intelligence isn't so smart as to read signals like that, but I felt it authentic to gameplay. I also scattered troops along the Manchurian and Mongolian borders and ... looked at what it would take to face the Soviets in the western Chinese desert and decided I can't really defend that.

This isn't to say I was ignoring the possible need to invade the Soviet Union in Europe; it's just, I can't figure a way to do it. As the Soviet Union hasn't absorbed --- into its territories, or made allies of --- the Baltic States or Poland, the only Soviet territories which would support an invasion are those around Koningsberg, and those around Leningrad. Koningsberg is the end of a long salient leading to the industrial heartland of the Soviet Union, pretty much hundreds of miles of choke points reaching to their tank factories. Whereas in the Axis-Comintern war (1939-43), I saw Germany trying to invade around Leningrad, and getting pushed back every time, again and again. Maybe with infinite armies and a willingness to accept endless casualties on my part I could invade that way, but I don't like working that way. (It also feels inauthentic to actual United States attitudes, even after the two-year slog of the Pacific War.)

So I settled in to some further troop buildup, more upgrades of existing Army and Army Air Force units --- a lot of upgrades, actually, as they'd been let to drift for too long ---, and putting them as far forward to the far-Siberian/Mongolian front line as I can, and hope that it'll be a nice long peace letting me get my mountain and arctic forces up to snuff.

And then on the 2nd of September, 1947, the dingbat running things in North Korea decides to attack South Korea, apparently not noticing that South Korea surrounds the North on all sides except the ocean, and the United States has about twenty divisions backing this up. By the 4th of September, North Korea has been annexed (and the game inexplicably assigned the territory to Japan, rather than the United States which actually landed troops in the territory, or South Korea which deserves it). This would seem to put Kim Il Sung in the running for this timeline's ``Greatest Strategic Genius Punchline Of The 20th Century''. Sue for peace now that the Korean War Event has gone off with frankly hilarious success? No, on to liberate Manchuria!

And so the next two months would see combat pushing north from Nationalist China and Korea into Manchuria, and out prodding against Mongolia, and retreating bravely yet slowly from the far west of China in what might be plagiarism of Victory Through Air Power: in the eastern side there are abundant air bases. I can cover my forces with fighters (keeping the feeble Soviet air force under control) and strategic and tactical bombing, and my forces cut through even much larger Soviet forces with ease, the hardest part being the long slogs through non-existent roads. Out west where there aren't the air bases, the Allies are falling back until they get under air cover.

Meanwhile the various Chinese governments and Japan began assigning expeditionary forces to me. This gives me control of those units, not an unalloyed blessing --- it makes me responsible for supplying them, draining resources which might go to building my own new units, as well as upgrading them to modern United States Army spec, a further drain --- but they are present, and just about at the theater of operations, and available in large quantity. They're not yet a major force in the push north through Manchuria, but they're going to take Mongolia with the United States supplying mostly leadership and air cover.

I have in production Air Bases which, when completed, can be deployed anywhere under United States control, thank to the game logic. So as I invade Soviet territory I should be able to keep a string of air bases and, assuming the Comintern doesn't master tactical bombing anytime soon, will give me the chance to march from Vladivostok --- taken in late November, after Japanese landings to its east convinced me to hurry up that assault --- all the way to the Baltic Coast.

Except ... it would be awfully nice to be able to march on Moscow through an invasion of European Russia. And I have an idea about how I might manage it. It's such a crazy idea ... I almost think it might work. It's just not as safe or non-lunatic as invading Moscow from the Pacific Ocean. Mostly. But if European Russia has got this soft belly after all ...

Trivia: Kim Il Sung was born in the village of Na-ri on 15 April 1912 as Kim Song Ju. His rivals asserted he took his nom de guerre from another Korean patriot already famous as a guerilla fighting the Imperial Japanese occupation. Source: The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War, David Halberstam.

Currently Reading: Car Wars, Robert Sobel.

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