Azure Three Bezants: Hearts of Iron Begins

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 map, 1935

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.

This is the third time in this game that I’ve done a survey of all the powers; the previous ones are here (CK2) and here (EU4).

Azure Three Bezants, superimposed Fasces Sable

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:

ENG FOX JAP DEN GER VEN USC
BB 10 4 15 4 1
BC 8 6 3
HC 5 12 8
LC 32 20 12 6 3
DD 80 60 24 10 30
SS 200 55 66 53 133

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.

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Filed under Azure Three Bezants, One With Nineveh and Tyre, Recessional

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