The campaign ended rather abruptly in an agreement of the Great-Power players that neither side could win, and they’d rather do something else. Which is a pity, quite honestly, because I was having fun with the African campaign. But such is life.
This game began over a year ago, with almost twice the number of player slots it has now; it has a bunch of backstory and long-dead dynasties, and may need some introduction for people who habitually read about games set in recent history. So herewith a look at the world of Recessional in the year 1935, with extensive backstory links.
World situation, January 1935.
Beginning with the near hegemon, England – also known as the Wicked Wardenate of the West; there was once an equally alliterative Evil Empire of the East, but it is now a memory – is no longer quite so dominant in industry and army as it was throughout EU4 and Victoria; this is partly due to the industrial flattening of the converter, and partly to a disastrous rebellion in the final Victoria session. It got to the point where army units were going over to the rebels every few months; to end the pain, the sub (Blayne, currently playing the United Colonies) decided to let the dang liberals take over. The London Spring did end the civil war, but at the price of bringing laissez-faire liberals into power, which resulted in a drastic collapse of the state-controlled industries as they were sold off to the best-connected bidder at pennies on the pound, and then dismantled for quick profit. England is still the foremost industrial nation, but not by as much as was the case even so late as 1930. Its air force (as of the conversion) is only at parity with Venice’s, and its army has fallen behind Germany’s due to the massive purges. Still, it retains powerful strategic advantages: With 10 battleships and 8 battlecruisers, its navy meets the two-power standard. (I discuss naval strength more fully below.) Its historic alliance with the People’s Rebublic of Denmark remains strong. And its many colonies allow it to project power everywhere in the world, and to draw an immense amount of resources and manpower from expendable peoples. England’s history is one of continuous expansion; it single-handedly destroyed the French and Spanish player slots and absorbed most of their lands, and more recently it has occupied Venice’s ancient dominions in Algeria. England is played by baronbowden, also known as Bruce, our GM.
Foremost among the expendable peoples is Denmark, a state whose survival, when far worthier countries like Persia and Byzantium have fallen, demonstrates that there is no justice in the world. Given the rich gift of Scandinavia’s Viking heritage and a highly defensible, sea-girt peninsula as a home base, what have the Danes done with it? Sucked up to England and failed to defend their North American colonies. They don’t even have the courage of their Communist convictions – Denmark’s first diplomatic move in HoI4 was to join the “Commonwealth of Nations”, the faction of bourgeois-democratic England. World revolution, what’s that? In future games I will insist that the Scandinavian player slot must start in Norway; Denmark is just too conducive to hygge, it can’t form a proper warrior nation that will backstab allies and swear vicious vengeance on enemies! Other than the CK consolidation and EU colonies, Denmark’s territory comes mostly from the recent partition of Russia; it used to have a large Canadian dominion, now lost to Fox. Denmark is played by Fivoin. It has a navy, an army, and no personality.
Moving clockwise (and ignoring the scattered light blue that denotes the remnants of recently-partitioned Russia), we come to the big blue blob that is Japan, sometimes called ‘Chzo’; where the converter got “Tosan Empire” is a mystery to me. It is played by Gollevainen, a veteran of multiplayer megacampaigns although not of CK2. Japan has recently absorbed Korea and half of Russia, and is considered fourth among the Great Powers – some distance down from the top three, but defended by isolation and the Pacific. It has, nonetheless, lost some islands recently to English aggression, and will no doubt seek revenge if England should be distracted by European conflicts. Japan has the distinction of having the world’s largest battleship fleet, with no less than 15; however these behemoths are not protected by any escorts – Gollevainen having perhaps reasoned that he can pump out destroyers in the first year (by house rule, our start date is 1935 and there are no player wars until 1936) and have an effective fighting fleet ready. Japan has absorbed most of the former player slot Korea, considerable of Russia, and bits and bobs of Fandango, the Indian state that once extended far into Indochina. Japan is part of a tripartite alliance between the three main fascist powers, the other two being Germany and Venice; for obvious historical reasons this faction is called the Entente.
The “Delhiite Empire” is better known as War, short for Peshawar, from its ancient capital. It is played by Ragatokk; its resemblance, on the map, to a half-formed dinosaur taking a chomp out of Japanese Korea is, no doubt, coincidental. Although fascist, War is unaligned. In EU4 it was a formidable land power, at one point managing to fight England to a standstill; intermittent and indifferent play in Victoria saw it much reduced in power, although still tactically formidable. Nonetheless, in industry and resources it is now probably the least of the powers. War’s strategy in a conflict with any of its neighbours must be defensive – hunker down behind the mountainous borders and appeal to one of the Great Powers to save it, and hope the rescue gets there in time. Still, it does have quite a bit of difficult terrain to trade for time. War has expanded by absorbing most of its one-time ally Fandango and some small parts of Russia; it also got some bits of Korea, and spent much of EU4 struggling to conquer the Persian highland plateau on its western border.
Egypt, the nemesis, the ancient enemy. Don’t listen to Kuipy, its player, the man (if man he be; on the Internet, who can tell if you are a soulless, inhuman entity from the furthest reaches of spacetime?) who of us all is most vulnerable to its influence; his science-fiction backstory is a thin rationalisation around the true horror. Though nominally democratic, it is in reality under the firm control of the Jackal. It is currently unaligned, which reflects the fact that the Jackal is quite incapable of making treaty with “subhumans”; at most it may put marks on paper for temporary tactical advantage. Egypt is famous for its PLOTS SPANNING CENTURIES, which is just as well, since it has to be said that it is not famous for any great victories. Egypt has never absorbed a player nation; it has struggled even to maintain domination of the Nile Delta, which has been variously owned by Byzantium, Venice, and the former Spanish player slot. It has fought epic wars with Venice for control of Africa, and emerged mostly victorious; Venetian Libya is no more, Venetian East Africa is two enclaves on the coast, and even those only recently restored in the Nile Delta War. Still, Egypt retains its immense strategic advantage of being able to cloud men’s minds; when speaking of it, make sure you have cold iron and moly near to hand.
West across the Ocean Sea, we come to the United Colonies, a player slot created early in Victoria from England’s and Fox’s South American colonies as part of those two nations’ short-lived detente. It is played by Blayne, formerly of Byzantium and, when that country collapsed, Korea. As a side note, Blayne, Gollevainen, and myself are all veterans of the very first multiplayer megacampaign, the Great Game. Blayne is the only player other than myself to have played in all of the Great Game, There Will Be War, God Will Know His Own, Children of the Fatherland, and both Recessionals. Being a new nation, the United Colonies have much less backstory than any of the other player slots, though perhaps Blayne will let it borrow Byzantium’s. If so, it’s worth noting that Byzantium was the linchpin of multiple coalition wars in EU4, being (in the main) allied to England against Germany and Venice. It finally collapsed when Bruce refused to support his ally any further, and all its neighbours gleefully tore it apart – this event is the source of about a third of Venezia-oltre-il-Mare, the Venetian empire in the Middle East, which also contains the ex-slots of Syria and Persia, and some provinces that used to be Egyptian. The United Colonies are the junior partner in the American faction.
The senior partner is Fox, the green power dominating all of North America – a recent development; it spent EU colonising what in OTL is the United States and Mexico, then in Vicky kicked Denmark out of Canada in a series of wars. Fox is played by Tazzzo. I am somewhat unhappy with the way the American setup played out in this campaign; in future iterations I might suggest that we not have any human slots in America, to encourage colonial competition. (Although arguably the problem is the way EU4 makes it difficult to get any long-term gain from colonies.) Alternatively I might insist that we have several, to avoid the issue of all of America becoming One Humongous Blob. (The problem with that approach is, you can set up N slots but you can’t guarantee that they’ll all be played through all of EU4, much less well played.) Fox leads its faction, and has the second-largest navy (after England) and the second-largest army (after Germany) upon conversion; it’s quite unclear what it will do with them, however. Nobody knows what the fox says.
The big grey blob in the middle is Germany, England’s main enemy and Venice’s main ally; it has the largest conversion army but very little flavour – the small bits of personality it once possessed were sold off to fund another couple of regiments. Germany is played by JacobGood, and leads the Entente, the fascist alliance. It has absorbed Poland, Hungary, the Balkan third of Byzantium, and most recently, large parts of Russia. It has an Adriatic port in just the right place to separate the Italian mainland from Dalmatia and Venice’s Greek possessions. Its trains run on time.
Finally, Venice! I started the game as its only merchant republic, and retained that form of government until 1893; since then, Venice has experimented with communism, laissez-faire democracy, and now (freely and fairly elected) fascism. In each of these systems of government, nonetheless, the cream has risen to the top and the Aiello (as Eliezer observes in that first link) have, if anything, become even more dominant than they were under the old system of patrician oligarchy, where they had to contend with a Senate containing Contarini and Dandolo members, not to mention the Thousand Committees that the Venetian government has acquired over the centuries. In truth, the Venetians have yet to acquire a government structure they didn’t like. Even the Syndicates of the twenty-year Communist interlude are still around, as is the People’s Senate; they just aren’t formally sovereign any more. Neither is the restored old-style Senate, nor the Zoning Board (if you don’t think the Zoning Board of Venice has held sovereign powers, you haven’t seen a Venetian politician smile as he plans a canal through an opponent’s warehouse), nor the Council of Ten, the Great Council, or the East of Suez Club. Instead, all power is vested in il Doge, Eliezer Aiello – a different Eliezer from the one who led the Communist revolution. (There are several thousand Aiello and only about a dozen names to go around. It’s a problem.) Anyway, that’s what the Emergency Powers Decree says; and maybe Eliezer even believes it.
Venice has held Italy fairly peacefully since the unification (excepting the English enclaves) in the fourteenth century; it has ruled Libya and Algeria on and off, most recently off. In EU4 I acquired a trade-and-islands empire in the Indian Ocean and as far as Australia, most of which is now gone. In compensation, Venezia-oltre-il-Mare – the Middle Eastern dominion – has absorbed all of what used to be Syria, most of Persia, and such bits of Byzantium as didn’t go to Germany or Denmark. I also acquired some parts of Russia in that nation’s spectacular collapse and partition. Venice’s army is small but good; my air force is the same size as England’s at 360 fighting planes (as of conversion). My navy has, unfortunately, not really been the same since the disaster in the Straits of Hormuz. Still, I have a battleship, and that’s the mark of a Great Power; and I believe I can defend the Tyrrhenian Sea. Most of all, Venice is the only Power that is aware of the true evil that moves in Egypt, and has the means – not so much material resources, but a ruling elite that believes, and is willing to look ridiculous in acting on the belief – to oppose it effectively. It wasn’t tanks that won the Nile Delta War, although Venice had them and Egypt didn’t; it was the ability to make the tanks run through sandstorms that affected only one side of the line. Against this, I am caught up in the cold war between England and Germany, and the need to defend my industrial heartland against what is still a very large army dislocates my whole strategic posture; there is little to spare for defending Venezia-oltre-il-Mare, if that war should go hot and India or Egypt should decide to take advantage. And, as we are dealing with PLOTS SPANNING CENTURIES, you may be sure that events will take their most inconvenient possible course.
We converted to January 1935, and imposed a one-year moratorium on player wars, to give people some time to prepare; so there is little gameplay action to report. I completed the Po Line, level-7 forts (the maximum is modded down) in the mountains facing English Savoy, and sent some of my new divisions to man it, freeing up the conversion ones for a striking force whose location is currently classified.
Navies were converted from a combination of Victoria ships and naval bases, which gave us points that we could spend on ships:
England - 468620
Fox - 261980
Chzo - 168919
Denmark - 131404
Germany - 88501
Venice - 70055
Peru - 60106
War - 7047
Egypt - 0
Battleship = 9600
Battle Cruiser = 7500
Heavy Cruiser = 4200
Light Cruiser = 3100
Destroyer = 900
Submarine = 450
Leftover points were converted into convoys at 10 points per convoy (in addition to converter ones). The conversion navies reveal a variety of naval philosophies:
Egypt had no navy at conversion, and India did not post a navy publicly – this may indicate that Ragatokk sent his navy in a PM to Tazzzo, or that he doesn’t have one. It would be small anyway. If you do some math you will notice that several nations have bought metric shit-tons of convoys, in some cases enough to form a bridge of ships across the Atlantic; presumably they are the ones who expect to lose all their naval battles and are still determined to get their supplies through the enemy battleships by dint of We Have Reserves.
Since my previous gameplay overview was September 1943, I can only conclude that I accidentally posted them out of order.
Let us be clear: The surrender of the Army of the Sudan is the greatest military disaster in British history.
To lose a hundred thousand men is bad enough; but in the Great War that was the ordinary experience of every drawn-out battle – and those were men killed and crippled, not forced to surrender for lack of ammunition and marched off to POW camps. Win or lose, the men of the Army of the Sudan will return home, most of them. In military terms the effect is the same; but a hundred thousand men are, in the cold calculus of war, expendable – not a crippling loss. It is worse to lose hundreds of miles of hard-conquered Nile valley and Ethiopian highland; half a year’s bloody campaign, to be fought all over again against an enemy strengthened by reinforcements, experience, and victory. But after all it is only Africa, “miles and miles of bloody colonies”, as they say; and the Sahel had to be conquered twice before the Spanish surrendered, back in the day. No, it is not the loss of land that stings – not while the Suez is still in British hands. But there is a difference between losing a hundred thousand men, and losing an army. To go over the top in the Great War was to guarantee heavy losses; but at the end of the day – and the week, and the month – the fighting line would still be intact, still shelter hundreds of guns, thousands of trucks, tens of thousands of the unarmed labourers that keep the munitions flowing to the sharp end. That was why that war went on for thirteen terrible years. No matter the losses among the riflemen, there would always be replacements; for the army – whichever army it happened to be – would still exist as a fighting organisation, able to defend territory.
In the Sudan it is otherwise. What has been lost is not men, not territory, not even guns and tanks and heavy materiel; it is an entire army, a fighting front. It is not the loss of an area the size of Germany that matters; it is the way it was lost: By landing from the Red Sea, the People’s Army of Malaya was able to surround, and force to surrender, the entire force defending that German-sized area – and then seize the territory without effective opposition. Had the Army of the Sudan been driven back across Ethiopia, losing the same territory but retaining the ability to fight, that would have been a stinging defeat; but wars are not won by stings. They are won by destroying the enemy’s ability to fight. And the Army of the Sudan no longer exists as a fighting organisation.
And yet there is a deal of ruin in a Great Power. The British Empire has lost an army, but it has others; and it retains its Royal Navy. Already the Indian landings, closest to the Suez and the rich cities of the Nile Delta, have been driven back in disarray. A new front has been established, manned by the Norwegian Afrikanske Frigjøringsarme, by troops fresh from the victorious American campaign, by regiments pulled from the stalemated Iranian front. Armoured columns drive down the Red Sea coast, dislocating the Malayan advance – and in the swirling chaos that is Egypt south of the Second Cataract, who is to say that the People’s Army may not find that two can play at the game of encirclements?
In a war the size of the world, even an army – even a continent! – may be lost; and yet the fighting power, and the fighting will, of the Empire will remain unaffected. New regiments can be stamped out of the unconsidered earth; every five minutes a new tank rolls out of the factory gates. What is Africa, to the women who man the munitions factories? Only a faraway land where sons and husbands go to fight. Let Africa be lost; let Malayan ships roam the Mediterranean – and the factories will keep humming, busily churning out the machinery of war. While the Atlantic is open, Britain can fight; if necessary alone, if necessary for years.
We have not yet begun to fight.
I tried to do this in narrative form, but couldn’t figure out where I was going after the preliminary scene-setting; so this is incomplete and won’t be completed. But I hate to waste words, so I’m posting what there is in the hope that someone may find it entertaining.
December 10th, 1942
Cameroon highlands, near the sources of the Benue
The tribesmen watched in sullen silence. Without fuel, the tanks weren’t much good against serious opposition; but their 50-mm guns were quite adequate to overawe people who might be armed with some ancient trade muskets from the days when the Spanish paid them to capture slaves. Or even with reasonably modern bolt-action rifles; the Great War had touched these remote mountains lightly, but in ten years it had swept three times across the Sahel, and the detritus of war was still to be found all over Africa. But there was nothing in that to threaten an armoured regiment, even one sufficiently down on its luck that the tank transports ran on stolen ox-power; let the tribesmen try anything, and their village would be a smoking pile of ashes in minutes. In any case they grew more cheerful when Leif’s soldiers started unhitching the exhausted beasts that had pulled them from their previous stop. These men counted wealth in cattle, and had no doubt expected that the foreign soldiers would take all their loot with them; to get anything back from men fleeing defeat – retreating in good order, Leif reminded himself; they weren’t defeated while the tanks had that last precious five-kilometer reserve – was a surprise, if a welcome one. Even though the next village over would no doubt come looking for their cattle, just as the one beyond that would look for theirs… the repercussions of this retreat might swirl through the highlands for a century; but Leif had a regiment to save, and the next week to look to.
Apart from the oxen, two barrels of kerosene were all that it was worthwhile to requisition. To burn the stuff would take months off the tank engines’ service life; but if it meant an extra kilometer of counterattack or maneuver, that might be the difference between a prison camp and escape – and the service life of tanks captured by the enemy was better shortened. He could worry about replacement engines if he reached the Nile.
World situation, September 1943:
The African fighting has reached a new equilibrium. The Northern Alliance line used to stretch from the Cameroon Highlands to the Horn of Africa, but the encirclement and destruction of the Army of the Sudan has forced us to retreat well north, into Egypt. We still hold the left bank of the Nile as far south as the Third Cataract; but the Asian hordes stand on the right bank as far north as the First, and hold most of the Red Sea ports. However, after a disaster of such a magnitude as the loss of the Sudan, a standstill, even with a great loss of territory, is something of an accomplishment. For a while we were discussing abandoning Africa entirely and pulling back to the Sinai to hold the Suez by one bank. Now, with reinforcements rapidly shipped in through the Med, we have even managed a modest counterattack:
The armoured spearhead of our manly thrust into the soft, yielding EastAsian line is Norwegian, 4de Panser-Divisjon “Gråbein” to be specific; the follow-on elements are Libyske Korps and some Incan infantry under, obviously, Norwegian officers. Unfortunately, the Indians managed to find some reserves that weren’t militia, which they used to counterattack the base of the penetration; at the moment the direction of 4de Panser’s advance is westwards, back across the Nile, not east to the Red Sea as initially planned. But, as they say in Norway, “new tickets, new chances”; this battle is not yet over, and we have only just begun to fight.
In addition to the Indians’ habit of holding important strategic positions with native militias, my advance was helped by EastAsian logistical difficulties; holding the Red Sea ports is all well and good, but getting any convoys through to them is a different question. Between submarines, carrier strikes from the Suez, the occasional battleship sortie, and lots and lots of bombs and rockets, there’s only a thin trickle of shells feeding the Nile Line’s guns – or so my intelligence analysts assure me. It does seem possible that the naval part of this will be more competently handled this week, with vR back in command; but as I learned to my cost in Cameroon, you can only do so much to keep these Third-World ports open in the face of modern air power.
I have not paid close attention to the various Russian fronts, but just glancing at the world map it seems there is little news; except perhaps in Siberia, the line hasn’t moved. I do recall Oddman saying something about a pocket, so for all I know, EastAsia has suffered a defeat on the scale of the loss of the Army of the Sudan, and hundreds of thousands of conscripted peasants are even now being marched to POW camps in the Ukraine. So, in other words, no news from the northern fronts. The stalemate has led the Indians to open the Arabian Front in an attempt at bypassing the Iranian mountain line and reaching the wine-dark water by the desert-nomad route. Initial success was, however, slowed and then held by a patchwork line of Russian, British, and Norwegian troops, and then reversed by an influx of Incan infantry – who like all natives are quite brave in a primitive sort of way, and certainly good enough to fight Indians when led by white officers. I’ll observe in passing that I’ve seen Indian infantry divisions with more piercing firepower than Incan tanks; whatever one may say about their fondness for militia, there’s nothing wrong with the anti-tank guns issued to Indian regulars, when they finally do reach the front.
There are things in the pipeline that may make a big difference; Churchill observed, concerning a war in another history, that “it is always good to have something in hand for the future”. Then again, the enemy, that dirty dog, he has a plan, too. We’ll see whose is better. The front is nowhere close to anyone’s capital; no industrial heartland is threatened. I think there will be hard fighting for several years.
I didn’t play this week and don’t have an AAR, per se; but I can unload some random screenshots of previous weeks, showing the mighty armed forces of the North Sea Empire bravely engaging their foul enemies in far-distant lands. Also seas.
First a quick look at Stuttgart and surroundings, in infrastructure mode. Let nobody say the place wasn’t held to the last gasp.
Then, on to new enemies! Here is the liberation of Cape Verde, long a Norwegian naval base until it was occupied by India while we were busy in Germany. (Presumably. To be honest I can’t tell you exactly when India did occupy it.) At any rate, we return in glory! Observe that the Indian units must be suffering dreadfully from low morale, to inflict no more than even casualties on men handicapped by storming a defended beach; no doubt this is due to their indifferent naming scheme. Really, who expects men to fight for a division with a name like “4th Airborne”?
We also liberated our Kongolese colony, in landings opposed by the pride and glory of the Indian fleet, such as it is: The mighty battlecruiser Yavuz, built in the German shipyards at Königsberg a decade before the Great War. Its ten eleven-inch guns proved, in spite of the undoubted quality of German workmanship when it comes to engines of death, no match for the Nordsjøflåte, far though it was from its eponymous ocean.
The Malayan navy, to be sure, is altogether more Serious Business, although here I seem to have been lucky in encountering only its older units of Great War and earlier vintage. Then again, the Lexington is also an older ship, and was lucky and, if I do say so myself, skillfully handled to escape with nothing worse than three of its four engines knocked out and two-thirds of its pilots dead.
Starting in 1932, and with everyone tired of Vicky’s unending rebel issue and economic weirdness (this last decade it has been the Great Cement Shortage; I built exactly five factories this session and they were all cement ones – the only factory that doesn’t require cement to build!) we had a quiet and short session, reaching 1936 on schedule. We will now take a two-week break to work on the conversion to HoI4, using Idhrendur’s converter but tweaking it a bit – for example, nobody needs to start with 36000 aircraft. (Admittedly we may have gone a bit overboard on the aircraft-stack-of-doom thing.) Thus, no real AAR today, but here are some endgame statistics.
Final rankings. Venice somehow managed to become number one in prestige. My advantage in military score over Denmark, the main thing that pushes me into the fifth rank, is largely due to Dreadnoughts; I have them, he doesn’t, because by 1920 or so I decided to build for conversion instead of Vicky effectiveness. Our armies are not that different.
Statistics. Germany has actually managed to surpass the English army, amazingly enough, probably mostly because of that final anti-Communist rebellion – the so-called London Spring. The world still has one navy and several countries with some ships. There’s a noticeable gap between the Big Three and the rest, even among those the world acknowledges as Great Powers.
World map, 1936. The world is split between nine humongous empires and some minors that have miraculously survived the blobbing process, probably largely because of Victoria’s peace mechanics; they will no doubt be gone by June, 1936. France, for example, is fully occupied by England.