First up I have to say, this is a great game! I've owned it for years, along with Vic2 and EU3, but never found the head space to really get into it. I recently read an excellent AAR over at theescapistmagazine.com which ignited the fire I have for hardcore strategy. Of course, I was completely overwhelmed with just how complex this game is compared to Vic2, so I've spent much of my working week slacking about and reading AARs and watching youtube tutorials. I think I'm finally getting somewhere now.
I started a 36 campaign (vanilla hoi3) as Japan following some of the tutorials and guides I've read (and after a disastrous Nat China start), and I'm doing pretty well.
I reorganised my armies better (I think...they seem to be pretty efficient) and sent the bulk to the Shanxi border, bolstered IC production and research, set up a network of spies at home etc. - all as per the tutorial guide.
By the start of 1938, I'd annexed Shanxi, Commy China, National China, the blue dudes south of china and Xian Be (or whatever that horrible mountainous region is called). So not bad at all. I'm now back to peace-time for the moment, and a little stuck as to what to do next.
My current plan is to invade and annex Yunnan and Tibet, as well as invade the Phillipines in order to control that coastline. I have 2 divisions stationed near Hong Kong, just in case of British or Portuguese interference, but I'm likely to use them, or one of them, in the Phillipines campaign.
The issue I'm having though is raising their threat levels. I have a number of spies in each of the above nations with orders to raise threat, but even after a few months all of their threat levels are still zero. I'm not sure where I'm going wrong. It's imperative for my current goals to conquer these nations before WWII breaks out, or at least before the USSR decides to expand their eastern empire as I don't want to be fighting 2 fronts.
I'm also struggling to decide which faction to lean towards. As expected, Japan is already very much fascist - my neutrality isn't quite low enough to join the axis yet though - but I have USSR to the north of me (and a threat of a war which I really don't expect to win) and I have the UK and France west of Yunnan (which makes me wonder whether it's worth invading Yunnan or leaving it as a buffer). So with the right nursing I can have a choice of joining any faction I want (eventually).
Also, USSR will not sign any non-aggression pact with me which makes me fear a future war with them and also makes me wonder if joining their faction is a better option than joining the axis or allies. Currently, I'm friendly with pretty much everyone important, and have some profitable deals with the US and USSR.
What's a good next move then? Should I attempt the invasions I've mentioned above, or seek to invade another country abroad (such as the Portuguese colonies in africa or maybe a south american country)?
I really didn't expect China's nations to fall so quickly, so it's kinda caught me off guard.
Well it seems like you have done pretty well so far. I asume u are playing Just HOI3 and not FTM? If u are playing just HOI3 then u can also use your domestic spies to lower your neutrality which should speed up the proccess of being able to declare war on Yunnan and Tibet if u wish to do so. I doubt the USSR will declare war on u even if u don't have a non-agresion pact with them, they will have there hands full once Germany attacks them (which normaly happends) Once Germany defeats France u should get a decision to bring Indochina on your side, u can then attack thru Burma if u want to. Just remember that if u decide to attack the Phillipines that will put u at war with the USA!
You seem to have it more-or-less figured out, except for the diplomacy.
As mentioned, lowering your own neutrality by using your domestic spies can help, but it's not as quick as raising another country's threat. If you have less than 10 spies in that country, it may take a long time to raise it significantly. With 2-3 spies, you might spend weeks with no visible progress; with 10 it should move a point or so per month, depending on which patches you're using (1.4 is the last patch for the "base" game, which I was still playing up until a week ago). The most accurate indicator is in the diplomatic menu, where if you select the country and hover over the "Declare War" button, it should show you how far you are from being able to do so, and should show not only your own neutrality, but what the other country's "effective" threat on you is, after modifiers for Cores, distance, etc.
Joining the Axis gives an immediate 25 point "bonus" to your ability to declare war, so if you can manage that, there should be no further problem with attacking any of those remaining Chinese countries. Once you manage to declare war on one, your own threat should be high enough to allow virtually anything. Note that your threat as a member of the Axis will quickly drive the US into the Allied camp (they are programmed to be highly sensitive to an Axis Japan), so joining the Axis early is counter-productive in a way. You might consider remaining independent for a while yet, until the events lead the rest of the world to war and your own threat becomes pretty much irrelevant.
Hey, thanks for the replies and the encouragement. Tis good to know I'm doing well, this game is completely baffling to begin with (the tutorial and manual help little too).
Ahh, so the Philippines are off limits then. I really don't want to cause a fight with the US at the moment. Shame. I might have to turn my eyes to Portugal and its colonies then.
With regards to the spying, I think that's the problem - I don't have enough spies running errands in those nations. My home spies are busy lowering neutrality atm, but I dialled down espionage to boost my research. Time to increase my covert ops..