We Have Paid in Full: Apportion the Shame

Now we can only wait till the day, wait and apportion our shame.
These are the dykes our fathers left, but we would not look to the same.
Time and again were we warned of the dykes, time and again we delayed.
Now, it may fall, we have slain our sons, as our fathers we have betrayed.

The final session of Hearts of Iron began with my troops standing between the lakes in Finland, planning to hold off the Leonese tanks with rifles, warm bodies, and the fabled Yngling mind-control rays. Due to the various shenanigans of the prior session, several people had declared that the game was no longer amusing, and there wasn’t any diplomacy to be done any more, meaning that the Pact of Hercules was in effect the winner. Consequently my goal was no longer victory, but merely to maintain the Yngling Republic as a sovereign state still keeping the field, for the four hours of the final session. As the session began in August, I would have the formidable assistance of winter in Finland in doing so; further, although AI, Khazaria still kept a large number of divisions in the east which would tie up a considerable fraction of the Herculean forces, and Japan remained an ally who could in principle send troops to my aid.

Yngling artillerymen trying to fight off Leonese tanks who have broken through their protecting infantry.

Unfortunately, the impenetrable Leonese tanks cared for none of these things; they rolled right through the Finnish forests as though my infantry weren’t there, which might have been better strategy. My thought, therefore, was that formidable as the tanks were, still they could not be absolutely everywhere, and that if they could be sucked deep into Finland it might be possible to sneak around their rear and cut them off from supply. My first attempt at doing so was on the Ladoga-Onega line, where I held the fortifications in the north, but Leon had taken the southern ones from Khazaria, making a natural bastion:

Counterattack direction Ladoga.

Alas, my connecting troops were not fortified, and Sauron was able to cut off my bastion instead of them cutting him off:

End of the Ladoga-Onega line.

Realising that I just didn’t have the mass of maneuver, in the face of tanks I couldn’t touch, to do encirclements on a small scale, I instead bethought myself of a desperate expedient, but on a grand scale: An Arkhangelsk Landing to get my one remaining reserve army unopposed into Russia through the Arctic Sea, which I still controlled, and sweep to the Baltic to create a giant Finnish Pocket.

The Arkhangelsk Landing.

A thin blue line, tipped with heavy tanks.

For a short while this project did not look utterly impossible; I got a good amount of troops ashore into “Japanese Europe” (a leftover from Victoria) and faced only a thin screen of vassals and a few Atlassians. But the muddy distances of Russia defeated me; I could not move fast enough, and the “thin screen” thickened until I could no longer push it, then started pushing right back. Alas, this time I had no convenient war crime in my pocket to give my enemies pause and force negotiations.

“That’s it then; the Arkhangelsk Landing is washed up.”

In the end I decided to evacuate, and was able to extract the army mostly intact. This was just as well, for meanwhile Sauron had been crashing through the Finnish forest, shouting his new battle cry, “Encirclements will continue until morale improves!” Alas, fighting in Finnish winter is no joke for either side; in the snow and bad terrain, my troops were not able to maneuver fast enough to maintain a continuous line in front of the tanks, and a large number were pushed towards the coast and encircled:

The Kola Pocket.

And yes, at this point, Viipuri had indeed fallen to the tanks. Slik forg√•r verdens herlighet. ūüė¶

Leonese tanks and infantry advancing cautiously through the shattered streets of Viipuri. The picture is taken some months after the other events described here, hence the green leaves on the trees, but a hard core of stay-behinds and die-hards still maintain a guerrilla resistance using the many caches of weapons and explosives hidden all around Viipuri for just such an event.

I managed, nevertheless, to keep a fighting retreat through the terrible terrain of northern Finland, Sweden, and Norway; for a while I held Grense-Jakobselv, the OTL border between Norway and Russia, and by the time I was forced off even this line I had built some fortresses across the Scandinavian peninsula, at about the latitude of Narvik; moreover, true winter had descended on the North, and every advance was deathly slow.

Eurasia, December 1940.

By this time I had managed to get anti-tank guns, heavy tank destroyers, and new Mj√łlnir-pattern tanks (also known as Medium II) into my few remaining formations; supplying your army gets that much easier when it shrinks by about 80% in six months, and for all its strategic value Finland didn’t contain much industry. Consequently my formations could now actually face a Leonese armoured division in something other than the fetal position:

Fighting on somewhat more even terms, but too late.

Further, the supply lines through Finland were obviously terrible, and a large proportion of Leonese troops had been withdrawn to force the Urals. Thus in February I had something like an actual stable front running through northern Norway and Sweden, protecting my industrial core:

The Umeå Line Рif this had fallen, there would be only three or four more river-in-mountain lines that could plausibly be fortified before the Leonese were in artillery range of the factories supplying the resistance.

From here I could, conceivably, have gotten back into the fight, given a diplomatic revolution fueled by my mind-control rays plus vast injections of Japanese auxiliary troops. Unfortunately, I had meanwhile lost Jutland again, this time to an AI mishap; I had ordered an attack out of Kiel on the off chance that it would go through and allow me to run wild through Germany, and the stupid, stupid AI creature interpreted this as an order to move all seventeen divisions holding Dannevirke into one province. Thus the Kiel canal lay open to my enemies; and by dint of vast patience, they were able to move an invasion through the Baltic, repeatedly encountering and retreating from my battleships, but never sinking! (Really now. This should have been a slaughter. But in all fairness, they should also have moved their own battleships into the Baltic, so it evens out.) At last they got ashore in Stockholm; I had stripped all my coastal defenses to feed the lines in Finland and Denmark, and there was nothing to oppose them. In this manner, by a sneaky stab in the back rather than straight-up combat, Leon finally got me over the capitulation threshold, with about 15 minutes to spare in the session.

Eurasia, February 1941.

Americas, February 1941; note the renewed British invasion of Vinland – to everyone’s surprise Golle managed to get back into the fight at the very end, a development which I have completely ignored because it was a bit of a side show relative to my desperate struggle to keep a formed army and a fighting line in Finland.

For Stellaris, Leon gets the Sol start, and everyone else is dispersed out into the galaxy. I created this faction to reflect the history of the Ynglings in this timeline:

and have had fair success with them so far. However, I won’t write an AAR for Stellaris; I’m too new at the game to make it interesting, and to be honest I am somewhat burned out on AARs, which I have been writing weekly for longer than most people reading this have been playing Paradox games. The Great Game, I’ll note, was played in 2005. We will return to Crusader Kings in a few weeks (recruiting thread) but I think it is unlikely that I will write an AAR for that; enough is enough.

Ends here the saga of the Ynglinga Republikk.

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We Have Paid in Full: Baying Along the Wall

Far off, the full tide clambers and slips, mouthing and resting all,
Nipping the flanks of the water-gates, baying along the wall;
Turning the shingle, returning the shingle, changing the set of the sand…
We are too far from the beach, men say, to know how the outwarks stand.

Last week I left the Legion of Doom locked in deadly conflict with the Pact of Hercules over the fate of the American continent, and the Ynglings in retreat to their fortress of ice in Scandinavia, muttering about winter in Finland. As often happens in a megacampaign, the diplomacy that took place over the week proved more important than the battlefield; by the time we returned to our command bunkers, the Pact of Hercules had triaged America, had gotten safe passage across the Atlantic for their armies in return, and were allied with the Legion and with the Latin Empire against Khazaria. Mark drove a hard bargain on my behalf, and I recovered the Jutland peninsula without a shot fired, as well as an epic rescue mission across several hundred miles of Occupied Germany to retrieve my army exiled in the Latin Empire – by now at half their paper strength due to Italian wine and women, but still a welcome accretion of combat power after the disastrous losses of the Elbe Campaign.

With the liquidation of the American front, and downprioritisation of the Danish one, I was able to consider how to counterattack in Finland; meanwhile Clonefusion had decided that fighting in Finland in winter is no joke, and that he preferred to send his tanks to Siberia to invade Japanese Korea and to counter the Chinese attack out of Tibet. Consequently, while the Herculean armies were evacuating America and being shipped across the Atlantic, and while screams for help rose from EastAsia, I amused myself by attacking the Onega Fortified Region with my own tanks:

Alas, amusing myself is all I was doing, as Clone had built my level-3 forts, meant to delay an invasion long enough for reinforcements to arrive, into level-7s, intended to enable the defending troops to maintain their resistance after an exchange of tactical nuclear weapons. Since I did not in fact have any nuclear weapons, four months of heavy winter fighting, in some of the worst terrain in the world, failed to make any dent in the line. However, Clone had unaccountably failed to fortify the line where his advance had stopped between Onega and Ladoga; thus, foiled in my attempt at breaking through in the north, I instead turned to the area between the lakes. Even in the absence of fortifications, Clone did have enough infantry to keep divisions cycling into this rather narrow front, maintaining a small amount of organisation in the fighting line to keep my tanks at bay. Nevertheless, his infantry (like the Yngling, Atlassian, Leonese, Japanese, and Chinese infantry) had no antitank weaponry:

Consequently, I was eventually able to grind my way through the red snow and break into the Onega-Ladoga region, finally restoring something like mobile warfare after four months of attrition. Meanwhile, the Herculeans and the Latin Empire had unleashed their attack, and for the third time in two years the armies advanced across poor Poland, although this time at least without much resistance:

Clone had (depending on how you read his mind) either not expected the Herculean DOW, or had deliberately triaged Poland in order to fight further east, and the Leonese tanks advanced very rapidly through the North European plain. By the time I fought myself through some of the worst terrain in the world merely to reclaim a few hundred miles of useless Finnish forest:

it was, in effect, too late. The Leonese tanks, almost entirely unopposed, had reached Leningrad – in this history, Odingrad, a minor outpost of the great Viipuri Fortified Region – and were able to encircle all three of the lines of resistance that Clone was still maintaining against me:

(Notice the Ladoga-Onega Line north of the river). This tactic occasioned rather a lot of controversy; the accusation was raised that Clone had deliberately allowed his Finnish troops to be encircled and destroyed, in order to give his fortress lines to the Herculeans, so as to improve their situation relative to mine – and this, after not raising any particularly noticeable resistance to their invasion of Poland, while Dragoon’s similar attack into the Ukraine had been more or less stopped. I must say I wasn’t particularly happy.

Other events of note in the session included a Medinan naval invasion of Chinese-held Thailand, which was eventually stopped and rolled back after the Japanese navy interdicted their supply line across the Bay of Bengal; and English anger at the perceived betrayal of Japan “temporarily occupying” their remaining Asian colonies, in order to better fight the Medinans, which in turn led to the British invasion of South America. Further, the Legion of Doom attacked Mexico, which with the quit of its off-again, on-again player Zirotron was again a Latin colony, leading to much hard jungle fighting, since Dragoon did not choose to abandon his colony as the Herculeans had done. Thus we have the following wars:

  • Khazaria against Legion of Doom, Pact of Hercules, Latin Empire, and China.
  • Medina against China and Latin Empire.
  • Legion of Doom against Latin Empire and Pact of Hercules.

However, due to general salt over the various betrayals, general exhaustion with the scenario, and possibly a feeling that the war is more or less settled in favour of the Legion of Doom, who boast that they will shortly take Finland and be masters of all Europe, tomorrow’s will be our last Hearts of Iron session. We have decided to continue the conflict into Stellaris, each player presumably sending out one colony ship to recreate their culture before the final victory of $VICTOR, much as Iceland was settled by petty-kings who didn’t want to be minor nobles in a unified Norwegian kingdom. It remains to be seen whether Finland actually falls to the admittedly impressive Latin tanks. But if, by mischance or miracle, Viipuri should fall at last, I will get my vengeance IN SPACE.

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We Have Paid In Full: The Gale and the Tide Behind

O’er the marsh where the homesteads cower apart the harried sunlight flies,
Shifts and considers, wanes and recovers, scatters and sickens and dies ‚Äď
An evil ember bedded in ash ‚Äď a spark blown west by wind…
We are surrendered to night and the sea ‚Äď the gale and the tide behind!

I did not write an AAR last session for two reasons: I wasn’t feeling well, and the session only covered eight months (October 1938 to Jun 1939) of mostly peacetime. This session, however, all hell broke loose.

Europe Ablaze

After the Triple Fall of Bohemia, Korea, and Occitania in the summer of 1938, it became clear that the Legion of Doom was going to clash with the Pact of Hercules over the Americas. Not intending to sit about and be attacked, the Pact began fabricating on the Ynglinga Republikk in January of 1939. I had prepared for this; as we shall see, my preparations were insufficient, but at any rate the war was not unexpected, and I had a largish army sitting on the short German border. With fortifications on the Weser and the Elbe, also fortified, to retreat to, I was planning to fight a slow attritional war while my allies blitzed the Americas, then bring their army across to either punch through Germany, or invade Africa.

Prewar lines in Germany; note the planned tank attack.

In March, Khazaria started fabricating on me. For that war I was not prepared. I had my Finske Leidangsarme sitting on the fortified Karelia Line, but as a dyke for holding back the tide of All The Russias they seemed, honestly, a little inadequate. And in newly-conquered Poland there was sweet and nothing. The session ended on June 14th; Clone’s war preparations would be complete on June 27th; in the intervening week of real time, my allies looked at my army and uniformly screamed in horror. I had, roughly speaking, 120k rifles in storage (and 8000 artillery); I had about 1 million men unmobilised; it was strongly suggested that these resources should have been put together starting in January and the resulting hundred divisions should be defending the Vistula.


Prewar position in Finland and Poland.

Emergency Mobilisation

When the game began again, therefore, I took Emergency Wartime Measures. I defined a new “Landvern” division, with no artillery, and a slightly better equipped “Landstorm”:


It is no Ynglinga Hird, the Landvern militia; not even the second-timeline version of that proud and deadly organisation. In truth the original timeline would be quite unlikely to recognise them as fellow Ynglings, the men of that surname who form the elite of the Scandinavian republic in this year 1939. But, if they are not warrior-mystics who rule a continent by willpower and endless training, still they are of the blood of Frey; and even now they hold to the old religion, and every nine years horse, hound, and intern are hung for Odin at Uppsala. They are no Ynglinga Hird… but when the call came, and the beacons blazed all along the craggy coast of Norway, they answered. They came by the hundreds of thousands, picking up rifles, shrugging into grey winter uniforms, feeling their ancestors whisper coldly at their backs, Viipuri kest√§√§.

Their respective unit insignia represent their weaponry, ie basically bare hands and Yngling spirit, but they had the great advantage that I could immediately create 100 of them with full equipment and train them to 20% in a matter of weeks. In particular, the Landvern militia, started on June 14th, were ready to fight – that is to say, they could be deployed – on July 3rd, only a week after Clone’s DOW. The Landstorm were ready on July 9th. I also built the emergency Vistula Line, 16 level-1 fortresses; between the river line, the fortifications, and the help of the Forty Samurai that Mark had very kindly sent me, we thought it might be possible to hold the Vistula and the Elbe, and thus maintain contact with the Latin Empire and a presence on the mainland. Eventually, the Latin Empire would declare war on Clone, its tanks would rush up behind the Khazarian army to reach my marines coming across the Baltic, and then it would be a simple matter to destroy the Khazarians and march to Moscow.

Blitzkrieg

As it turned out, these preparations against Khazaria were quite irrelevant, except for keeping my morale up by giving me some micromanagement to do during the two weeks before the declaration of war.

I last played Hearts of Iron before Waking the Tiger, and I did not realise quite how necessary it now is to give infantry antitank capability; so I didn’t. Consequently, when the war came, Leon’s eight armoured divisions drove right through the Weser Line as though they hadn’t quite noticed it was there. My own armoured counterpunch – I had decided, prewar, that I would try one good attack, and if that didn’t work I’d stand on the defensive – was fatally weakened by my pulling out several armoured divisions to contain any breakthroughs on the Vistula. I have, alas, no screenshots of this somewhat hectic period; even on speed one I felt a bit as Gamelin and Weygand must have done, trying to contain Guderian’s rush for the coast. Not only were my anti-tank-less infantry helpless as sheep in the face of the Leonese mediums – never mind the Atlassian heavies; they were too slow to get into range! – I couldn’t even disengage them, because Khan (subbing Sauron) very intelligently kept a constant barrage of infantry attack on my line wherever the tanks weren’t rampaging. Nevertheless I with great coolness and skill and absolutely no panic whatsoever did in fact manage to reach the Elbe without losing more than a dozen divisions or so; and there the retreat stopped for a while as the Leonese tanks recovered their org and the Atlassian heavies caught up.

Initial fighting on the Weser – my only screenshot of the scrambling retreat to the Elbe.

Pause on the Elbe.

Elbe breakthrough! At this point I’ve given up on holding Germany and am scrambling to retreat to Danzig, or Denmark, or anywhere that doesn’t have Leonese tanks.

Then they attacked the Elbe, and I was again scrambling to retreat; at this point it was clear that I wasn’t going to hold any Germany, and the question was how many divisions I could evacuate to Sweden and Denmark. There is a rather serious belt of fortifications at what in OTL is the Danish/German border, along the ancient Dannevirke; my right flank, resting on the North Sea coast, managed to hold – the tanks were further east – while my left scrambled to get north to the Baltic shore. About thirty divisions, the southernmost ones, entered the Latin Empire and were interned; in hindsight this was a mistake, since they’re now out of supply and slowly attriting away, and I can’t get them back through the Gibraltar straits. It would have been better to march for Danzig and escape, even though some would have been caught. However, most of my troops did in fact manage to disengage and reach the coast; I rolled up the Vistula Line – which hadn’t been engaged, since Clone was still cautiously advancing through Poland! – and evacuated perhaps fifty divisions through Danzig.

It was at this point that the true disasters began to occur. My line along the Elbe formed a salient poking into Leonese-held Germany:

Reconstructed position before the attack on Dannevirke.

Breakthrough into Dannevirke itself – the two coastal, flanking provinces have level-5 forts, but the center only has a level 2.

Khan naturally attacked its base, cutting off the tip and destroying a dozen good divisions. Then he motored up the center of Dannevirke, where through lack of attention I had managed to have a weak spot in my fortifications, and cut my Danish defenders in two, three dozen divisions in Hamburg and another dozen in Kiel, with perhaps ten divisions actually in front of the offensive. Shortly thereafter there was a Kiel Pocket, a Hamburg Pocket, and some scattered remnants of broken regiments (including the Last Samurai, the only one of the Forty to survive the campaign) retreating to Fyn, which in effect is defended by my battleships in Lillebælt. The Hamburg Pocket, including twenty-three of the Forty Samurai, then fought an epic last stand in the Siege of Hamburg, of which I would totally write a separate narrative AAR if I had time.

Hamburg and Kiel pockets. Note the attempted breakout from Hamburg – at one point I was very close to getting out to the west, actually advancing into an empty province which would have linked up with Kiel and cut off the Leonese spearheads from supply. Unfortunately they got some motorised divisions into the gap in time.

Fall of Hamburg.

Winter War

Attack on Finland; the Fortified Onega Region has fallen and Clone is pushing for the Kola peninsula.

Meanwhile, in Finland, Clone had pushed slightly into the Viipuri Fortified Region, he had pushed back the Ladoga-Onega Line, and he had actually broken through the two successive lines of forts of the Onega Fortified Region and gotten troops as far north as Kandalaksha. However, it is no joke to fight in Finland in winter, and he had great difficulty keeping the breakthrough supplied. As my southern front was now in effect a naval one, I was able to send my few remaining tanks to Finland, where they were immensely effective at containing the Khazarian infantry – which also didn’t have antitank weapons, apparently. (It is worth noting that while all this tank shock was going on in Europe, Japan’s tanks were likewise breaking one defensive line after another in the Midwest; the Herculeans, for all their success in armoured warfare, hadn’t given their infantry antitank weapons either. The mistake appears widespread among our players.) I was able to form a line to contain the breakthrough, then even counterattack, and cut off the northmost divisions at Kandalaksha; this apparently convinced Clone that the salient was untenable, and he abandoned it, pulling back to my fortresses in the Onega Fortified Region, where he currently sits.

Finnish breakthrough close to its height; my counterattack has just succeeded in creating a pocket, and the badly-supplied Khazarian troops are about to pull back into my fortified lines.

As it is December and there are 2400 enemy aircraft in the Northern Front airzone (as against my 1000), I am perhaps unlikely to be able to counterattack in Finland for some time; as for Denmark, it seems the tanks have gone to rescue the Herculene vassals in the Americas – the Japanese tanks have reached the Atlantic, and New England is on the verge of surrender – but their infantry is as good as mine and now more numerous, so I am not likely to be able to retake that, either. In effect I am contained, reduced to Ice Fortress Scandinavia where I await my allies’ rescue expedition.

Restored Finnish situation.

Viipuri kestää!

Banzai!

I was not able to give much attention to the fighting in the Americas; as noted, Mark’s tanks broke through multiple defensive lines in the Midwest, creating and destroying large pockets as they went. My Herculean opponents describe that campaign as being much like the one in Germany, except that they were on the receiving end: A constant scramble to disengage so as not to be pocketed, occasional failures, and much panic. There were several naval clashes, in which the Ynglinga Leidangsfl√•te participated with its traditional success; I have screenshots of two sunk Leonese battleships, and there may well be more. However, the control of the Atlantic remains very much disputed, with both sides still struggling to get convoys across. I am pleased to see something like an actual naval campaign here, with neither side being overwhelmingly powerful, and both navies remaining credible threats even after several sorties and engagements – it seems not to be the case that the largest doomstack wins the first battle and then cannot be opposed.

Stages of the Battle of Newfoundland; some representative ships of the Leidangsfl√•te after the fighting. It seems possible that Jodokus, repeating his role of “Doomed to death by Japanese tanks” in New England, had some time on his hands before the war started.

Leonese battleship ‘Valencia’, seen through a grey North-Atlantic haze, heavily down by the bow and sinking fast.

The World at War

Medina has attacked China, extending the fighting from the old Khazaria/Korea border (now Japanese) and down all the way to the Bay of Bengal; it does not seem to be going well for China, who – to nobody’s surprise – hasn’t given their infantry antitank guns. However, as I well know, it’s no joke to fight in Tibet, winter or summer; and so large a nation as China is not overcome in a single campaign, or even a year.

Every Great Power is now engaged: The Legion of Doom is at war with the Herculean Pact and with Khazaria; China is at war with Khazaria and Medina; and Medina is at war with the Latin Empire, although the fighting in Anatolia remains desultory. All hangs in the balance, and the end is not yet.

Eurasia, December 1939.

Americas, December 1939. Note the Japanese breakthrough to the Atlantic.

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We Have Paid in Full: The Time of Our Peace Is Past

Only one thing remains uncertain: Who will ultimately pull the first trigger?

Pff. Uncertain, indeed. Obviously it was the Ynglings. How could it be otherwise?

Accounts Receivable

My first geopolitical aim in HoI4 was to settle my grudge with Bohemia, including the Second Bohemian War, Fourth Bohemian War, and the ongoing (as of 1936, that is) Occupation of Pommern that followed the First Baltic War. (The First Bohemian War was a victory, and there was no Third Bohemian War). Since I had cores on Pommern, I could justify rapidly, and declare the first war of the game on May 5th, 1937. Before doing so I had ensured that the war would be one versus one, by signing a NAP with Occitania (who suggested it, for reasons I still do not know; Mike, the Occitanian player, has well earned his sobriquet of the Silent Knight), by promising the Latin Empire a share of the spoils, and by signing a NAP with Khazaria in exchange for a Latin NAP with Bohemia, thus reassuring Clonefusion that both the neighbouring Great Powers would stay out. The details of the war itself are below.

Mergers and Acquisitions

Apart from the relatively small-scale maneuvers around the Baltic Sea, there were also major diplomatic events: The factions have been formally created as treaty organisations, and the small fry who didn’t find a Great-Power protector in time have been crushed, with a few exceptions. In particular:

  • Khazaria (Clonefusion) heads the faction All the Russias.
  • Medina (Tazzzo) leads the House of War.
  • The Latin Empire (Dragoon) rejoices in the faction name The Latinate Dominance.
  • Atlassia (ranger), Leon (Sauron), Great Britain (Gollevainen), and Nova Roma (Zirotron) have formed the Pact of Hercules.
  • And finally, Japan (Mark), Elysium (James), and the Ynglingske Republikk (King of Men) comprise the Legion of Doom, and plan to split the world into American, European, and Asian hegemonies and then rule peacefully together.

Of the remaining played countries, only China (Blayne) survives as an independent power; while not formally a member of the Legion of Doom, he agreed to cooperate with us in the partition of Korea (Jodokus), and thus gained China’s historical borders (for a particular view of ‘history’ and ‘borders’) by the annexation of Manchuria. The rest of Korea (which stretches far into Siberia) went to Japan, who also landed in North America to support Elysian operations against Korea’s vassal Kimifornia (unfortunately unplayed, not that it was likely to matter). Kimifornia, attacked by all its neighbors including Herculean vassals Rharia (Brickfrog) and New England, was rapidly overrun, in spite of the loss of fifty Elysian divisions to a single immensely lucky sub, and thus America is split between the Legion and the Pact according to the Treaty of Tenochtitlan:

Occitania (Mike) was likewise attacked by the Pact of Hercules – possibly accounting for his willingness to NAP me – but got away lightly, with only two or three states annexed, the loss of his entire army, the installation of a puppet government, and “associate membership” in the Pact of Hercules. As a result, my German border, running a little west of the Ems (or is that the Weser? The HoI4 map seems to be missing a river) is now the most heavily militarised area in the world, with a hundred divisions on each side exchanging glares and the occasional potshot. That leaves Bohemia, whose demise I consider in some detail next. There is also unplayed Australia, not by any means a major power, but more defensible than Nova Roma and probably playable if you don’t insist on fighting Great Powers on massive attritional fronts.

Hostile Takeover

In a war with Bohemia, there might be fighting all through Poland and up to Novgorod, but it was clear that the decisive front would be in Germany, its industrial core; and Yami made his prewar dispositions accordingly, putting almost his entire army – a dozen cavalry divisions around Novgorod being the only exception – on his two German fronts, one facing Yngling Germany, the other ready to attack Prussia. By dint of this massive concentration, he was able to outnumber both Tyske Arme, defending Yngling Germany, and Polske Arme, lined up just west of the Vistula and ready to retreat behind it – note the beginnings of a line of fortifications east of the river. While I cannot read his mind, I infer that his plan was to quickly push me back along the coast, cutting my Panserarme off from supply and thus preventing the slashing attack into the otherwise-undefended Polish plain that it is preparing in the screenshot; in the west, I think he may have hoped to break through, again, along the coast and north of the Oder, to get the tanks into Denmark and encircle my German army. This is not orthodox HoI tactics, but being so badly outnumbered, it was not obviously silly for Yami to go for the high-risk, high-reward gamble; although he had just enough troops to defend his entire border if he formed a continuous line, it would be thin enough that my tanks could punch through at their leisure, and while that might force me to fight a war of attrition there could be only one outcome. However, this did leave him without any defense against that armoured blitz towards the Carpathians, and it does not seem to have occurred to him that I might invade Pommern across the Baltic, as shown in the screenshot.

I declared war, as noted, on the 5th of May, and by the 15th Jyske Arme had landed in Pommern and Panserarmes blitz was well underway; I was even able to push slightly against the southern flank of Yami’s German front, hoping to have the three armies meet north of the mountains and encircle both of Yami’s two. Meanwhile Polske Arme was being driven back towards the Vistula and indeed across it; the fall of Danzig was almost the only Bohemian victory of the war, but as if to make up for that, they kept the city until the final capitulation, for all my attempts to retake it.

By the 26th I had reached the mountains, but had also run into some trouble with my encirclement, in that a sharp Bohemian counterattack had created a counter-encirclement containing rather a lot of my tanks. (This being 1937, light tanks only, and no convenient Polish cavalry for them to ply their machine-guns on.) However, just like my own armoured troops, Yami’s were operating on a shoestring with tanks made largely of plywood; once my infantry came up I was able to break through and rescue my tanks.

By June, therefore, I was fairly master of the situation. My tanks were out of their pocket, and I had trapped five Bohemian divisions in Berlin; my German army was advancing and stretching out south, where Yami’s left had been dislocated from the Occitanian border and was more or less hanging in air, as well as pushing at the base of the salient that had been Yami’s defensive line south of Berlin. Meanwhile, four armoured divisions were pushing almost unopposed towards the gap in the mountains that the Elbe creates. The only problem was the Vistula Corridor, where the Imperial Guard – none of your Vassal Swarm for this important front – stubbornly refused to allow me to cut Danzig off from the rest of Bohemia; in fact this corridor was to persist for the entire war, in spite of my repeated heavy attacks from both sides. However, in a sense this didn’t really matter; Imperial Guardsmen defending the Vistula Corridor were not available for the presumably more important defense of Prague, and perhaps Yami should have pulled back the entire Danzig Front in order to create a defense of the Carpathians and the Sudetes.

I am not certain whether Yami recognised the need to keep a continuous front and not allow my army to encircle his – at this point, any prewar plans to march along my coast and cut off my supply for the interior were clearly in tatters, and all that was left was to fight bloody attritional warfare in the mountains and hope for help from Occitania or the Pact of Hercules. He told me later that this was his first multiplayer HoI war, so perhaps he did not realise the importance, or perhaps his troops just couldn’t move fast enough; in any case I was able to get Jyske Arme, that had landed in Pommern, down behind his German line, and punch through with Tyske Arme from the west, so as to create some nice pockets around Berlin.

I went that one better, when my tanks reached Prague and met my infantry coming in from Germany, loosely pocketing a large proportion of Yami’s army in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains, the westmost part of the mountain arc that surrounds Czechoslovakia. However, these two months into the war, I was somewhat startled to see Medinan troops suddenly appearing on my eastern flank, where I had in effect nothing, having spread myself very thin while racing to encircle Skanse Elbe. The foreign aid that was the only thing that could save Yami had appeared at last; was it in time?

A week later it certainly looked as though it had been; my beautiful encirclement was gone, two corridors punched through to resupply Skanse Elbe, and a new corridor had opened up between my German and Prussian fronts, trapping another division – in fact, this unfortunate infantry division was the only one I lost to encirclement in the entire war.

There followed a somewhat hectic period, in which I did not stop to take screenshots, and thus my next view of the situation is from three weeks later, in July; but by then it has cleared up wonderfully. If I was spread thin, so was Yami; and while Tazzzo’s dozen mobile divisions could punch through my thin encirclements, they could not hold the line when I brought up my infantry from the liquidation of the Berlin Pockets. Thus I managed to restore the encirclement of Skanse Elbe, trapping a good two dozen divisions, perhaps a third of Yami’s army.

Such a force, defending a mountain redoubt, took a while to reduce, but I held off all attempts to relieve them and was eventually able to finish off the pocket, in effect ending the war.

In hindsight the remaining operations are mop-up, although they did not appear so to me at the time; my focus shifted to the Danzig front, where Yami was somehow able to put together an armoured counterattack that punched deep into my lines for a while, and where the Imperial Guard still stubbornly held the Vistula Corridor open, leaving Danzig as Bohemia’s window on the world – or at least on the Baltic, allowing them to see the dozen battleships of my main fleet upholding the blockade. It’s not clear to me that Danzig was particularly valuable to either side at this point, but it is clear that I could not retake it, in spite of the apparently favourable battles in the screenshot.

The armoured counterattack, on the other hand, I was able to deal with; there wasn’t enough Bohemian infantry to guard the bases of the salient they created, and pretty shortly there was a third Berlin Pocket. Note the Latin volunteers fighting the Medinans. That said, Dragoon’s statement about “aiding the capture of Danzig” is plain nonsense; Danzig was still holding out in October when the the capitulation came.

Shortly after this, Medina declared war on the Latin Empire, and all the volunteers went home; with that, Yami no longer had a southern front, and I could simply send my panzers motoring unopposed through the countryside to take the remaining victory points needed for capitulation. The surrender came on October 5th, pleasingly five months to the day after the declaration; I annexed Bohemia entirely, ending nine hundred years of rivalry over the Baltic coast, Germany, and the Polish plain.

Postwar borders, with the cession of a tier of southern Bohemian states to the Latin Empire.

Risk Statement

Medina has declared war on the Latin Empire; apart from the inevitable fall of Latin India, this war seems to have entered a quiet phase, with the two sides exchanging shots a few dozen miles east (that is, in Medinan territory) of their prewar Anatolian border where the initial Latin offensive stopped, but neither able to advance further in that difficult and now fortified country. Dragoon has proclaimed his satisfaction with this state of affairs, as his offensive was intended – he says – to bring him only a more favourable defensive position on that front; his plan for an actual victory remains unclear. Tazzzo has not said anything about the war.

It appears that the Legion of Doom will clash with the Pact of Hercules; at any rate their border with me is full of tanks and guns, and very unfriendly they look, too. I am modernising the forts at Viipuri in anticipation of Leon reprising its campaign of 1766, and preparing the Leidangsflåte (currently the third navy in the world, with 17 modern battleships) to control the North Sea. Such a war would leave Khazaria as the last uncommitted Great Power, able to strike at me, at Dragoon, at Tazzzo, or at China with complete strategic freedom. I thus face the risk of a two-front war, well beyond my power; in such an event my plan is to retreat to Scandinavia and hold until my allies can rescue me by operations elsewhere. It is still no joke to fight in Norway in winter.

Eurasia, October 1938. Several minor countries have disappeared; two of the Great Powers are at war.

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If Blood be the Price of Admiralty: Beyond All Count or Care

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:

Eurasia.

South America.

North America.

Africa.

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If Blood Be the Price of Admiralty: Who Shall Next to Sleep?

  • The Long Nineteenth Century: There seems to be a consensus that we will not have a Great War in Victoria; the armies are just too large, the combat model too attritious, the networking code too janky. So we will have, in effect, a hundred-year truce, from 1836 to 1936; and then in 1940 the nukes will fly. We are considering means of making Victoria a little more warlike next time; but then, perhaps next year in Vicky 3? We want to believe!
  • End of Science: There are no more discoveries to be made; science, from now on, will only be a process of filling in ever more decimal places in our measurements of the various physical constants. Technology, likewise, will simply consist of advancing ever more closely to the theoretical maximum efficiencies of engines. There will be no more game-changing breakthroughs, or even major incremental advances that give that crucial five-percent edge in combat; a glorious chapter of exploration in human history is closed, and we can look forward to a long twilight of exploiting what we have learned.
  • At Sixes and Sevens: Atlassia and the Ynglinga Rike are very close in score; so close, in fact, that every time I completed a Dreadnought, I’d flip to sixth-place Great Power, and then back to seventh when Atlassia finished his. (Alternate titles: Naval Arms Race or Risikoteori.) Oddly enough, the origin of the phrase “at sixes and sevens” (for Americans, it means “in confusion or chaos”) was a dispute over the order of precedence between two London merchant guilds. It was resolved by putting them each at six-and-a-half, that is, they took turns being the sixth.
  • Distributed Caching: Mostly for something to do, I conquered Kachin from what’s left of Mahalavos. It does have rubber. The AI defended its tiny core quite ably, forcing me to bring tanks all around Africa; however, when it acquired military access through Russia it decided to counterattack Finland. Sadly, I did not get an opportunity for an extended siege of Viborg and accompanying shouts of “Viipuri kest√§√§”; I marched two stacks through Russia myself, and quite by accident met the Indians slightly north of the Caspian. Since they weren’t defending entrenchments in hills, I smashed them utterly.
  • Revolting Russians: This time it seems to be Russia that has the constant revolt spiral, in spite of the rebel nerf in the mod. Not that it bothers the country with 3000 regiments, he just puts a 30-stack in every province and zaps through the battle popups.
  • Million-man Army: I expanded my industry sufficiently to get the resources to build regiments quickly, without each one standing about for two months for lack of guns; as a result I finally reached 1000 regiments. Putting me tenth among the nations, although fifth overall for military power due to my navy, which is actually the third navy in the world.
  • Efficiency Wages: Yngl, Inc has always hired the best, especially for internships. (For those who didn’t follow us in Crusader Kings, the Ynglings of this timeline haven’t kept slaves since 968, when it was discovered that unpaid interns work twice as hard and don’t spit in your coffee.) In the late nineteenth century, however, we discovered the merits of also firing the worst, thus obtaining a workforce that wasn’t a simple cross-section of the talent pool; the inferior workers emigrated in large numbers to China and Japan, where they got jobs making shoddy rubber toys. The resulting gains in productivity allowed us to increase wages by three percent across the board (except for interns, whose wage we tripled), and thus attract the best workers from all over the world. (Out of character: When I completed the work-hours reforms, my immigration suddenly went through the roof and I started gaining 200k population monthly; Brazil with a similar population gained only 175k, the difference being all immigration.) This result has now been enshrined in Yngling work-theory as the “efficiency wage”, outlining the gains to be had from hiring only those who work twice as hard as average and paying them three percent more than average. Capitalist genius!

Russian communists getting ready to drown the world in red.

Nation ranking, 1928. Note Atlassia breathing down my neck.

Population and other numbers. Note the two populations over a billion.

World map, 1928.

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If Blood Be the Price of Admiralty: What Portent See You There?

  • Fourth Bohemian War: A misclick caused by the immense cultural clash between Yami, a gamer of the newer generation who expects a confirmation popup when he DOWs someone, and the people who were working on Victoria back in 2010, who expected people to use judgement and initiative and not click on buttons just to see what would happen. By the way, for those who joined us in Victoria, the Third Bohemian War is entirely fictional even within the AAR.
  • Order, Progress, Industry: So much industry, order, and progress. I long for a Great War, a twenty-year conflict which will grind nations to dust, shatter empires centuries old, and reduce even the nominal victors to savagery! But, alas, the Great Powers look at their armies of over a thousand regiments, and their ability to mobilise another three or four thousand apiece, and groan at the thought of the micromanagement involved. (In truth, even my own 700 and 1500 give me pause.) Also, the creaky old networking code might not take too kindly to tracking north of ten thousand units.

Great Powers, 1917.

World map, 1917.

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