So at last it came; The War, the much-discussed, long-postponed, no-longer-hoped-for clash of the Great Powers, the vast bloodletting that would upend nations, destroy empires, grind peoples to dust, and settle, at least for a while, just who was top dog of the age of steel and steam. And, of course, it came – as it had to – as a surprise; for years, decades even, the Great Powers had been saying that modern war was just too big, that it would require too much micro-management, that a war of millions was beyond the attention and skill of any government no matter how talented. And so the real conflicts, the lines of true tension between nations, were, for a while, suppressed, laid to rest, ignored. But humans do not work that way, not for decades on end. To arrange humans so that some of them believe they might have a chance at hegemony, and then prevent them from testing the theory in battle, is an exercise in futility. Better to balance pyramids on their tip, or stack near-critical masses of U-238; the loss of life will be less. And the frustration will also be less; for when the collapse, or the explosion, inevitably comes, at least it will not be too late for decision.
Battle of Uglich, in which the Ynglinga Hird showed the Khazarians which end of the rifle the bullet comes out of. However it must be admitted that in spite of immense tactical successes there was no particular strategic result of this campaign.
The War finally erupted in 1931; not over “some damn stupid thing in the Baltic”, as the Ynglings had been half-jokingly expecting since they lost Pommerania in the First Baltic War, but over some damn stupid thing in Indochina. The details of the conflicting claims to some hundred-mile strip of coastline hardly matter now; the result was that every power in the world, with the single exception of Great Britain, lined up on one side or the other and ran their guns until the barrels were red-hot.
The Northern Front, showing the vast gains which would surely have brought Khazaria to its knees in a few years.
Khazaria does not lift, and was instantly outmatched in the battle of Swole.
Cherry blossoms falling in defense of Japanese Europe.
Had the war been fought to a conclusion, it would likely have been called “The Eurasian War”, since the two core powers of the aggressor alliance, Khazaria and Medina, between them rule all but the peninsular fringes of that vast landmass. Since, in fact, the war ended after about a year of futile slaughter, it may instead be called the “Great Prelude” or the “Anti-Climax”. In the end, the prewar pundits were proven correct: Twentieth-century war, fought by million-men armies armed with rifles and machine guns, are beyond the power of any government, not to wage, but to win. The Ukrainian front, where four million men on each side stuck in mud and blood for a year, without any result other than the replacement of each set of eight million conscripts by another, proved that. It was for this reason, for the sheer difficulty of managing the thing so as to come up with a credible plan for victory, that the belligerent governments agreed to hammer out yet one more compromise, and delay the reckoning by a few more years. Not from common humanity, not from any empathy with the suffering conscripts in the trenches, not even from a cautious view to their own well-being if the war should radicalise the mobilised masses – but simply because not even the most deludedly optimistic could believe, after a year of this war, that there was any skill or talent that could lead to victory. It would come down to attrition, exhaustion, and revolution; and even those who professed that their own society was so superior that it would inevitably come out ahead in that coin-toss, did not willingly put their belief to the test.
A Chinese front, somewhere in the middle of Eurasia. The specific provinces hardly matter; it was like this from the Oxus to the Amur.
One more compromise, a few more years; and all who saw the treaty knew perfectly well that it was only a stay of execution, an armistice not for twenty years but for five. But hope springs ever eternal; the statesmen of 1932 hoped, not for actual peace, nor for teaching a horse to sing, but only that a few years more would see the development of methods for compelling one’s enemies to reason on a manageable scale. The airplane, the tank, the ever-more-deadly war gasses; if the explosion could only be put off for a decade, even half a decade, then these might make war once again a matter for skill, for talent, for exercising statesmanship and not butchery. Anything, they said in the chancelleries and councils of Europe, must be better than the sterile slaughters, the unmoving lines of trenches, the war of attrition. Even defeat was better than that; they signed the treaty – the meaningless shuffling-around of a few provinces, a few millions of ducats of “reparations” – knowing that they might be choosing a horrible end. At least they had avoided the endless horror of trench warfare.
The Ukrainian front, March and September 1932. Notice that it does not move, although it does extend further north. Each of those three and four battles of a million men a side has a few thousand casualties a day. Over six months, that works out to more than 1.5 million. For comparison, roughly four million men died on the Western Front of our timeline, over four years.
The Thai peninsula, showing the three provinces that actually changed hands as a result of the war – going from Japan to, ironically, the one uninvolved power, Britain.
We ended Victoria in 1932, by common consent that the then-ongoing war was unwinnable for either side in four game years, in the hope of getting a better combat engine that would allow us to do something other than watch the red casualty figures rise above the same six provinces for four hours. We then spent some time polishing the conversion, and at the same time maneuvering diplomatically to set up the final conflict. Khazaria, Medina, and Japan – three of the four top powers, although Japan is some distance behind the other three – seemed unbreakably allied, and also gathered up Korea. In striving to put together an alliance to resist them and create an enjoyable war for all, Dragoon managed to unite most of Europe with China and Brazil, but got only a grudging consent from Bohemia, and none from Occitania and Britain. This would, we thought, have been just enough to give us a fighting chance; we’d be underdogs, certainly, but it wasn’t impossible, and if we won the victory would be all the more satisfying. Then, at the last minute, Bohemia broke ranks, and we – by “we” in this context I mean everybody in the western alliance except me – decided that it couldn’t be won. We therefore declared (not without some salt) Khazaria and Medina winners of the “Realpolitik”, ie no-alliances-barred player-diplomacy, version of the game, and set about finding a different scenario that would give everyone some satisfying fighting. We ended up with a variant of “Twilight Struggle”, in which the three biggest powers are forbidden from allying with anyone, and the remaining powers are allowed to do their own diplomacy, with the constraint that their alliances may not end up more than 33\% over the biggest single power (Medina) in number of factories. With this we seem to have five major factions, firstly the Big Three which each form a faction of their own, then the Pact of Hercules comprising Leon, Atlassia, and Great Britain (and vassals), and the Legion of Doom, comprising Japan, Elysium, and the Ynglings. China, Korea, Occitania, and Bohemia are wildcards to my knowledge; Kimifornia and Rharia go with their overlords.
Maps after conversion, with some territorial changes: