This was my second game in the full Victoria 2, after a rebel-filled Great Power Japan. The hassle of managing most of the islands in the Pacific made me want to try a land power this time, and the ease of the Meiji Restoration made me want to Westernize a nation that has a harder time of it. I felt that Persia was ripe for landlocked expansion and a rise into the top eight.
One thing I hadn't reckoned on was Persia's fragmented population. By the 19th century, Persian-ness in the former Persian empire belongs to the history books. The scattering of ethnic groups left me contending with low National Focus points, high rebel nationalism (although nationalism is the most manageable of the rebel ideologies, as nationalist rebels are invariably localized), an inability to graduate my colonies, and a limited recruitment pool for Guards (Persian/Baluchi only). I also never cored a single captured territory, making the diplomatic mode as good a guide as any to my land grabs.
Yeah, I was pretty aggressive. As a non-Great Power, I had to eat neighbors and live with riding at the edge of the Infamy limit, because getting Sphere of Influence was not an option and I badly needed goods. Forget goods for manufacturing, I needed basic foodstuffs. I spent a portion of the early game in Russia's Sphere with their market dominance keeping ALL of my people's life needs only partially met. Shortages of grain and acute shortages of cattle were ongoing features of Persian internal commerce, although conquests, rising prestige, and overall growing wealth helped.
I wasn't entirely militarily focused. I wanted to get Persia legitimately industrialized. To that end, I loyally backed the Reactionary party with my Absolute Monarchy powers. The Reactionaries were vital to a functional factory program, since they permitted State Capitalism. My only quibble with State Capitalism's performance was the way it defaulted to subsidizing Capitalist-built factories -- I would rather not waste my treasury on the ineptitude of private industry. Subsidies for my state-run factories, however, were essential in the early days as Craftsmen slowly appeared.
Most of my National Focus work involved promoting occupations. I initially seeded Bureaucrats everywhere, raising tariff effectiveness. High tariffs were an enduring aspect of my economic policy, bolstering the market for goods produced in domestic RGOs and factories (and limiting the drain of essential goods to foreign markets, as I had comfortable surpluses in few goods besides wool). After the Bureaucrats were in place, I promoted Clergymen in high-population areas. Clergymen were important for two reasons: Research Points/Literacy and my long-haul monarchy (which relied on low Consciousness/Militancy among its citizens). Finally I promoted Craftsmen and Clerks, which was my general National Focus policy until the end of the game, with some digressions to colonize in the north once I became a Secondary Power, and also to promote railroads (which were still mostly built by the government).
I was politically very fortunate. I got an event that allowed me to force Average Pensions through the usual Rich Only deadlocked Upper House. I funded these pensions at 100% for most of the latter half of the game, although war expenses eventually forced me to drop them lower and lower, at last to a mere 50% (which made the Communists a thorn in my side on the home front during the Great Russian War). Apart from that, Consciousness and Militancy remained modest thanks to many Clergymen and modest Literacy. One of the worst tensions was Western Influence and assorted Western outposts, and I was very relieved to finally Westernize and bid all that goodbye. One particular district in the west was still full of angry Militancy 10 non-accepted Farmers by the end of the game (although by that time the pops were rather small).
It's worth discussing the wars. My first war was an invasion of Bela -- a small, perhaps overly-cautious experimental war. After that, I struck whatever neighboring Uncivilized Nations seemed weak diplomatically. I took provinces instead of full annexes where it made sense to do so, but I still swallowed several countries whole, most importantly Afghanistan, which became a major center of production and population. Managing the Infamy was difficult and kept me progressing slowly.
Once I had beat up the easy targets and solidified a reasonable Greater Persia, I went looking for bigger wars, or in some cases, they went looking for me. There are x wars that stand out for having worthy opponents:
First and Second Chinese Wars: Chinese incursions into the mountains around Khorug. Repulsed each time by punishing defensive actions. Modest consolidating gains were taken, and the Chinese were obligated to give Tashkent to a minor. Notable for their staggering casualties on the Chinese side, and for the decisive superiority of the modernized Persian army.
The Xianjing War: The Chinese attacked a third time, and I decided I wanted to put a buffer state between us, so I Added Wargoal: Release Xianjing Clique. I did not realize that only a maximum of 25 Warscore could be obtained through battles, and so I was forced to invade Chinese territory despite the inhospitable terrain. Xianjing is all deserts and mountains, and though China was not Civilized, its soldiers were obscenely plentiful. After a long, painful campaign that saw border garrisons pressed into service in the offensive and a lot of rotation of depleted units, Persian armies were able to claim several territories, sealing off Chinese Yasi and putting the general frontline deep in Xianjing. Eventually the Chinese accepted my conditions. At the time, I considered this war to be the Great War of the game, at least as far as Persia and China were concerned. (Germany had formed in Europe, but not all that bloodily.) In retrospect, it was Persia's equivalent -- in terms of military development -- of the Boer War. China inevitably annexed Xianjing again, but by that time I had upgraded my mountain forts and invented bolt-action rifles and machine guns, so China did not trouble me again. Before the Xianjing War, China's military score was over 400, but by the end of the war it had dropped to around 315. China never really recovered.
The Austro-Russian Humiliation: I badly wanted to prove Persia the equal of Great Powers. I had crept up to the ninth rank, with Scandinavia ahead of me in the bottom Great slot. I believed that if I could reach Scandinavia with an invasion army, I could destroy their prospects to remain a Great Power by forcing them to release major constituent states (particularly Sweden). Unfortunately, it was a big "if." I could build a hasty transport navy to get them over there, but I'd be helpless in naval combat, meaning I'd need to land the army in marching distance of Scandinavia before declaring war. The only suitable country, unless I wanted to content myself with Continental Denmark, was Russia. Russia, in the grip of several revolutions, refused me Military Access. Failing that, I could try an overland route -- but it would still need to include Russia. Fed up, I declared a war for Russian Humiliation, with the intent of adding further goals later and possibly even releasing a chain of nations leading to Scandinavia. This was a rather grandiose idea, and when the Russians called in their Austrian allies, the invasion bogged down around Georgia. The decisive battle of the war took place in Poti, where ever-growing armies from Austria and Persia fought to a blood-soaked standstill that proved too costly for everyone involved. The Battle of Poti persuaded the Russo-Austrian alliance to offer me peace for the Humiliation of Russia, and it persuaded me to take it.
The British Peril (never materialized): Knowing that I'd need a major war to help me catch up to Scandinavia in the rankings, and having picked the Ottomans as ripe for plundering once my treaty with them expired, I discovered that the Ottomans were allied with the British, and British India had a border with me north of Punjab. I responded with nervous Increase Relations diplomatic overtures to the British, and extended my Chinese fort line to cover the direct front, which only required building up in a single province. As it turned out, the British never chose to intervene, and if they had, they could probably have gotten access through Punjab and done an end-run around my defensive line, Low Countries-style.
The Russo-Ottoman Disarmament, 1928-1935: In November of 1928, the Persian-Ottoman Truce expired and I attacked. I had fortified the border with Russia -- by this time the Soviet Union -- and I hoped that my capacity for defensive war would keep Britain (ally) and the Soviets (guarantor) out of my war to Humiliate the Ottomans and Cut them Down to Size. Britain stayed out, but the USSR did not, which complicated the war immensely. Forts in Tabriz kept them from a direct strike at my heartland, but I still had to fight them on the fluid eastern front where they could move through Ottoman territory. (They also got military access from Khiva, forcing me to tie up a major unit to broaden my central defensive front.) They didn't have the Austrians to help them this time, though, and I had invented gas warfare. The initial battles between the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea were tough, but by the time I had broken through to Astrakhan and the Crimea, their armies were mostly destroyed. (Occupying what remained of the Ottoman Empire was a formality, although the Anatolian rebellions were frequent and needed the dedicated attention of two army groups.) Warscore was still far short of Humiliate/Cut Down, though, and I could not negotiate a separate peace with the Ottomans. I struck out for St. Petersburg, with my vanguards racing forward and my rear formations churning through rebels on the home front. The Soviets met me with renewed resistance from a rebuilt army, but although they could tie my armies down, they couldn't beat them, nor survive the Persian phosgene. Unfortunately, capturing their capital was not the silver bullet I had hoped for, and I was forced to settle for the Cut Down goal without the Humiliation. I took a +1 Militancy hit for failing a Wargoal, but even so, I was left wondering if it might not have been worth another +1 to Cut Down the Soviets instead. Whatever else, this definitely qualified as a Great War -- and maybe even a proto-WWII, given my use of a gap-exploiting spearhead racing to Paris (or in this case, St. Petersburg).
In the end, I didn't quite make it. I finished the game a scant 32 points behind Scandinavia, despite having momentarily been in 8th place from time to time (although never long enough to ascend). I can speculate on what I could have done better -- earlier focuses on Clergymen to boost that vital early Westernization research, more post-Xianjing wars with China, an earlier shift from beating up Uncivilized Nations to hitting Great Powers (particularly the Ottomans), or perhaps even a strategy that shaded from developing a crack army to optimizing industrial power as the world progressed. Maybe even something as simple as maintaining a more dedicated recon arm instead of compromising with Guards and Dragoons would help. I might revisit Persia in the future and see if I can do better.
For now, though, I think my next game will probably be something with a tiny but highly advanced country. Another possibility is a game where I update immediately following each major revolution, summarizing rebel grievances and the state of the nation as best I can, and readers vote on whether the rebels should be crushed or permitted to assume power.
Sometimes units deserting from armies seem to get stuck in transit, never reaching their next destinations. I am pretty sure some events do not give you a Casus Belli like they are supposed to. I am also inclined to agree with people saying that the economy behaves strangely at times, and there can be no doubt that Capitalists are fools and free enterprise is doomed (particularly if Capitalists are EVER allowed to destroy factories). There may be some truth as well to the charge that Victoria 2 needs difficulty levels and is currently too easy overall, and I definitely saw AI countries in the grip of interminable "all-countryside rebellions," as well as exhausting rebellions of my own that carpeted Persia with annoying rebel tinystacks that melted on contact (they should form up and campaign against your armies!). But all this aside, the game's in very playable condition right now and compares extremely favorably as a launch to HoI3.