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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Rensslaer

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I am Siam. For now.

With luck, I’ll still be Siam in a few years. Maybe I’ll be dead. Dunno.

Now, I’ll tell you up front, I haven’t played Siam before – in ANY game – and I really have no idea if I’m going to get smashed by Burma, or the UK, or CHINA!!! This may be a really bad idea, but at least you’ll have fun watching me get my head cracked in. But maybe it won’t happen! Maybe I’ll be okay.

However, this isn’t my first try at getting through the first few months as Siam. This is about try number 6. Took me a while to adjust to being not just an Unciv, but to being a minor Unciv. Special problems, etc. I crashed the economy the first few tries. And, yes, I wrote the Strategy Guide. :D So if you crash the economy on your first couple games as a newbie, you’re in good company.

How’s Siam look? Pretty good, all in all. It has an economy and some reasonably valuable goods. It’s got a good army. Large enough, in fact, that I’m beyond my Supply Limit and taking Attrition, just from sitting there! One of my first moves is to send an army off into the bushes so they use another province’s Supply Limit.

Huge China to the north, separated from me by idiotic little Luang Prabang. Burma to the west – a deceptively peaceful looking sleeping giant. The UK. Don’t get me started about the UK. China’s the Boa Constrictor. UK is the pit viper. They can crush me in a Bangkok minute if I don’t either distract them or ally with them or something. Thankfully, they have about five dozen potential enemies and/or distractions, so I’m hoping I’m going to have a little time to come to accord with them.



Dai Nam is a reasonably strong power to the east which I’ll have to keep an eye on, and they hold Cambodia as a puppet (which I would otherwise try to snap up as a morsel). Down south, you’ll see I have even more borders with pockets of UK colonies and Johore, who I’m not sure what to make of yet. Separated from me by a small rivulet called the Singapore Straits is the Netherlands East Indies. They’re a potential threat to me, but hopefully they’ve got enough to keep them occupied on Borneo, along with their other small neighbors.

Now… Early game Budgeting.

Initially, I’m going to shock you. Now, that’s not to say I won’t continue to shock you. In fact, I’ll probably shock you in a variety of ways, on a pretty regular basis. But that’s me. That’s a Rensslaer AAR – get used to it! :D

All that stuff in the Strategy Guide (yes, the one -I- wrote!) about pegging your Education and/or Administration sliders at 100% (and probably military spending too)… Throw it out if you’re playing a minor!

It just won’t work. There’s an initial-game “bubble” which makes it look like everybody’s happy, the budget is “made”, there’s money free to take for all POPs and governments and the free spenders aren’t sure if they’re awake or dreaming…. It’s NOT REAL! After about one month (in the Guide I suggested 2 weeks – nope, it’s more like 1 month in this patch), the World Market will settle down and you’ll have hit an equilibrium where people pretty much know what they’re buying, for how much, and they don’t have to guess any more.

Until that happens, you shouldn’t really have any idea what your eventual budget will look like. Any major power probably won’t have to adjust very much, because they are “big ships” – they can ride out those economic storms with a few slider adjustments. Not so for a minor. If you don’t prepare for it in the very beginning, you’re going to be down from the very beginning, staring possible bankruptcy in the face!

So I’m going to start my Defence Spending at 40%, my Admin and Education will remain at 50% for a while. Tariffs hiked up to 15% right away, and Taxes on the Poor up to 75% at start. Sound harsh? Sorry. We’ll fix it later, once we’re no longer in an emergency.



Now, Siam starts off with around £500 in the Treasury. At £33 a day you’d think that would do quite well (and it will!... for a few days). But I’m preparing for the storm I mentioned earlier (yes, the one I didn’t properly prepare for the first 3-4 times). I tried different settings, and each one eventually either got me into serious financial trouble, or left me with serious financial malaise, which just isn’t what I’m looking for.

But surprisingly, you’ll see this Budget work out for me. Watch. There are three classes of people who are pretty happy right now, and I’m not going to be able to shake them – Bureaucrats, Clergy (Educators), and Soldiers. So long as they’re happy, and receiving their Needs, I don’t really have to increase their budgets. And you’ll notice some other stuff about those sliders as we go on.



Remember in the Strategy Guide where I talked about Uncivs maybe trying Cultural Techs as their first Techs? Where maybe that would get them the Prestige they need to succeed. Forget that. For Siam, at least, and any other minor Unciv. That may work for China. Not for us. I tried it in one of my earlier games, and Siam just doesn’t have the Research Points to accomplish even that one Tech before the 1860s. That’s useless. By then, other countries would have it and it wouldn’t help me.

So I do what everybody else says to do (and I said this too, as a primary recommendation for Uncivs) – Freedom of Trade.



I’m going to avoid attaching myself to any other powers right now, unless I get a really lucrative offer from a big guy (like the UK!). I don’t want to get dragged into any wars, and these folks who are offering – Bali, Brunei, Atjeh, just don’t have the power or ability to help me in any way. I’ll ignore them.

By the end of the second month, I’m still finding it a little difficult to manage the Budget without seeing concerning declines. My initial boost of income (the £33 a day) quickly got cut in half and then disappeared altogether. I did get my Treasury up to around £1000, which I’ve been trying to maintain since then. The Taxes I’m getting from each class are pretty short right now, but they’ve stabilized. That’s not a long-term stability, though, and I’m going to have to make more adjustments.

Lower class taxes up to 80%, and I think I nudged the other classes up slightly. Look at that Middle Class pie chart. Those are “starving Artisans”. That actually doesn’t concern me very much. A lot of my lost income (that “bubble”) was from Artisans realizing they couldn’t make money doing what they were doing, or that they couldn’t afford the Inputs, etc. Now I have a lot of unhappy Artisans who are really poor and Demoting. But there are a few – those happy few – who are building Furniture or Luxury Furniture, and they’re doing quite well. I’m not going to bore you with images of my Population charts. That’s most of what’s apparent from them, except for the fact that many of my POPs are only barely getting by – what do you expect at 80% taxes?!



Later, you’ll see me gradually lower taxes to start allowing them to build my economy. Right now my Budget is driving Taxes, rather than the other way around. This is an initial stage, and I couldn’t run my country like that into the future and still be successful. Just have to get through this first stage without losing my whole Treasury, and then we can start playing with the Budget for real!

Around my region, I find that Atjeh and Johore have allied. Not sure if that will be helpful to either of them. It might help UK more, or the Netherlands, if one or the other of them gets into war with one they’ll get to acquire parts of the other too, if they want. Easy expansion into Unciv lands for a Great Power.



I’m more concerned by that Alliance between Luang Prabang and Burma. I was really wanting to take on Luang Prabang – they’re a weak power which I feel I can abuse at will and aggrandize myself against! However, I’m not ready to take on Burma. They’re too powerful and I most certainly wouldn’t want to face both of those countries at once, if only because Luang Prabang adds a lot more geographical space I’d need to cover (and I’d be tempted to try to knock them out of the war first, because they’re easier to beat). Too complicated. Oh well. Let’s see how things develop.

By May 18, my Budget is more or less under control, but I still need to make more minor adjustments to keep from losing my £1000 Treasury. Lower class taxes still at 80%, Tariffs bumped up to 20%, Defence Spending lowered to 15%. There appears to be no hindrance to my Military for having these numbers so low (I’m sure there’s some Demotion that’s not apparent to me, but nothing that’s crippling my Military so far). Notice my Administrative Efficiency – I’m still at 50% funding, but Efficiency has gone up to 8.9% (from 8.3% at game start). That means that at just 50% funding I’ll eventually gain more in Tax/Tariff income anyway. This is what ultimately tells me this Budget strategy will succeed – I’ll eventually reach a point where I’m better off than I am now, even if I’m only maintaining my Budget settings at equilibrium right now.



Think of it as one of those drama-scenes with the airplane trying to take off from a grass field with trees just ahead of it. You’re not sure if you’re going to make it, and you’re climbing very slowly, but at some point you realize you’re just barely going to clear the trees. Once that’s done, it doesn’t matter how slowly you climb – you at least know you’ve got enough power to keep from crashing! :D

And by July 29, we start to see that happen. There’s been a barely perceptible switch in the level of our daily balance, but as the Budget Graph shows, the key difference is that it’s now in the positive, not the negative.

In fact, it’s such a consistently positive switch – partly due to basic economic conditions, probably (maybe my Artisans finally settled into different Demoted jobs and are finally making a profit as Farmers?), and partly due to my ever-increasing Administrative Efficiency – that I’m going to start making minor changes to “lock in” my economic improvement.



I could, obviously, keep taxes as they are and keep building my budget. But I’m betting on the fact that I’ll do better on the long term (this is a basic economic fact) if I reduce taxes enough that my POPs can start having more of their Needs met and can start making better profits, etc. If they’re less stressed, I’ll get more use out of them – hundreds of thousands of little exponentially increasing bank accounts – than if I leave them as they are. They’ll also gain less Militancy.

And so, after 7 full months of playing as ruler of Siam, I’ve successfully gotten through the initial game economic instability (no fault of the game – just a complex system finally reaching equilibrium) and have my Treasury increasing and my taxes being reduced. My people will become more happy. I can start looking to other things around the world which may be of use to me…

Oh, wow! Look at this! :D



My problems, as noted earlier, have been solved. My worst possible enemy (UK) is suddenly at war with my nearest credible enemy (Burma)! To make things more cheery for me, Luang Prabang has violated their treaty with Burma, breaking their relationship. Dai Nam too. That means I’m offered an opportunity, which I’m not going to pass by.

You’ll notice I let 2 months pass between the beginning of the war and my decision to intervene – that’s because I wanted to get my economy solid for sure before I attempted any adventures.

I begin to move my armies into position to attack Luang Prabang.
 

Garuda

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I'm pleased to see that your managing Siam's economy.

Personally, I think you've got to be either very dedicated or a complete massochist to tackle Siam. :)
 

fj44

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Looking forward to it! :)

I haven't mustered the courage to try an uncivilized nation yet. I have a feeling this AAR will be most educational--especially in terms of what NOT to do. :p

Think about it. Your mistakes will hep ensure Japan's survival! :D
 
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Zaku

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I remember your Hoi3 AAR Imperio Novo, it was really good. I hope this will bring the same quality. Good luck.
 

dinofs

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Interesting. I didn't know a lot of that about the economy, although I did note the economic deflation after the first month or so.

Also, once you're done with this, I would go for Johor. They're very wealthy, especially for an Uncivilized country.
 

cujack

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Very interesting thread. I found a same problem playing Madagascar. The economy went down to the bottom in a few days after the game started. I guess the key was to maintain the budget.
 

Thormodr

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Bravo sir! I'll be following this closely. :)

My first game was as Siam. We seem to have adopted the same approach more or less. Perhaps I just got lucky (considering I didn't know what the heck I was doing) but I managed to keep the economy going until I got Freedom of Trade. I think I civilized in 1870 but I'm sure you'll do it much quicker. ;) I ended the game as a great power in the #8 spot. :D

Siam is quite fun and challenging. Lots of potential for war and diplomacy and territorial expansion.

Anyway, I am sure I'll be royally entertained and learn quite a bit for my second go around with Siam.
 

cujack

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how do you raise a military power and prestiege withoutt running out of money!
 

unmerged(29007)

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Having played half a game as Johore where I was able to get civilized pretty early on I'm surprised by the meticulous fine tuning approach shown in this AAR. Frankly playing pretty much any smaller unciv in SE Asia, the easiest move to get your finances on the black is to conquer Johore (three early "gold" provinces). It would certainly seem a terrible waste to let the western colonial powers get the spoils. Of course the Dutch hold a province of the Singapore region and might get some ideas if one moves for Johore.
 

Athalcor

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oh, a rensslaer AAR! I will be following.
 
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Rensslaer

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I'm pleased to see that your managing Siam's economy.

Personally, I think you've got to be either very dedicated or a complete massochist to tackle Siam. :)
Welcome, Garuda! Thank you for being my first commenter!

I'm looking forward to the challenge. Already yesterday I had my first undesired and unexpected experience. Not everything, alas, is under my control, no matter how well I plan. Should be a fun ride!

Looking forward to it! :)

I haven't mustered the courage to try an uncivilized nation yet. I have a feeling this AAR will be most educational--especially in terms of what NOT to do. :p

Think about it. Your mistakes will hep ensure Japan's survival! :D
Welcome, Stephen! lol Yes, well, I'm sure I'll make mistakes. I'll have to see what mischief Japan will stir up, and how directly it will affect me.

*Subscribed
I remember your Hoi3 AAR Imperio Novo, it was really good. I hope this will bring the same quality. Good luck.
Thank you, Zaku -- Welcome!

Imperio Novo isn't dead -- hoping to get a chance to update again soon. I'm also looking forward to getting a better chance to look at your AAR. Interesting setup for Hungary -- I'll examine more closely soon.

I want to know what happen next!
Welcome, Eldar! I'm hoping to do an update either later today or this evening. Lots going on today.

Interesting. I didn't know a lot of that about the economy, although I did note the economic deflation after the first month or so.

Also, once you're done with this, I would go for Johor. They're very wealthy, especially for an Uncivilized country.
Welcome, Dinofs! One of the purposes of this AAR will be to highlight (and discover) strategies that didn't make it into the Strategy Guide and/or to show those that did in practical application.

Very interesting thread. I found a same problem playing Madagascar. The economy went down to the bottom in a few days after the game started. I guess the key was to maintain the budget.
Wow. Madagascar! I can't even imagine. Though I did try Afghanistan in V1. Welcome, Cujack!

Bravo sir! I'll be following this closely. :)

My first game was as Siam. We seem to have adopted the same approach more or less. Perhaps I just got lucky (considering I didn't know what the heck I was doing) but I managed to keep the economy going until I got Freedom of Trade. I think I civilized in 1870 but I'm sure you'll do it much quicker. ;) I ended the game as a great power in the #8 spot. :D

Siam is quite fun and challenging. Lots of potential for war and diplomacy and territorial expansion.

Anyway, I am sure I'll be royally entertained and learn quite a bit for my second go around with Siam.
Welcome, Thormodr! Sounds like I have alot to look forward to as Siam! I agree -- Siam, like other countries I've played, is uniquely positioned for success, but also faces threats to make the game interesting.

how do you raise a military power and prestiege withoutt running out of money!
I think the answer is: Gradually! :D

Having played half a game as Johore where I was able to get civilized pretty early on I'm surprised by the meticulous fine tuning approach shown in this AAR. Frankly playing pretty much any smaller unciv in SE Asia, the easiest move to get your finances on the black is to conquer Johore (three early "gold" provinces). It would certainly seem a terrible waste to let the western colonial powers get the spoils. Of course the Dutch hold a province of the Singapore region and might get some ideas if one moves for Johore.
Welcome, Isovasara! You're the second poster to mention Johore -- I'll have to deal with it eventually, and you're right I may have to race the great powers for it. I also dislike "easy" answers, though, and so I may avoid doing that until it seems "appropriate" and "realistic" for my situation. I'm just that way. You're also right that I don't want to face the Netherlands too soon.

oh, a rensslaer AAR! I will be following.
Welcome, Athalcor! Great to hear my reputation proceeds me!

Thanks again to everybody who's commented, and those who are reading. Looking forward to more action soon!

Rensslaer
 

Kazmir

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Interesting to see what you will manage to do with this, I'll be following. :)

Freedom of trade is a wonderful tech, I must add! In my current game as Persia I was struggling with similar monetary problems until I finally finished researching that little treasure. Income jumped up by tenfold and it's been steady growth ever since.

Prior to that I was drowned in debt and was going at zero cash zero income for about six months. I wonder what happened there really, no loans were defaulted but I was just sitting atop a large, round zero at the time. Luckily I was only months away from the aforementioned tech.

As the largest power in the neighbourhood I could completely slash my military spending and keep the administration and education sliders at near-100%.

I also found out that using NF to encourage bureaucrats from early on helps a lot.

Sorry for the long post, awaiting to see how your first war goes.
 

Soulitaire

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Ah, wonderful! My favorite type of AAR for those interludes at work.. *cough*. Seriously though, it's like attending an interesting lecture at Vicky University. Thank you!
 

Stuyvesant

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Should be instructive - if I ever sit down and actually play the game, it should come in handy! ;)

Good luck balancing on the knife's edge and I look forward to gradual, 'realistic' growth.
 

Rensslaer

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When last we left our heroes, we had been offered an opportunity because the UK had gone to war with Burma, and Luang Prabang had violated their treaty with Burma, thereby removing the trigger of protection against attack.

And so.... It's time to move.



Their only army is up north -- not very large. But they have two provinces, one in the north (which I don't want just yet, because it borders China), and one in the south, which I will definitely want.

But do I want it now? The Infamy I would pick up from conquest would be greater. The Prestige would also be greater. But do I need all that Prestige right now, and does it balance out against how the Infamy may restrict my options?



I choose instead a more moderate, gradual option. By choosing Cut Down to Size, I'm accepting about half as much Infamy and 10 Prestige, which is useful to me. This also restricts their army (big deal, huh?) and gives me a small indemnity. How small? I didn't know at that point. What can I possibly expect from such a small country?

This was a "point and shoot" war. The fighting was over almost as soon as it started. Neither of us had a leader at this point, and we're both Uncivs, but my numbers were almost 3:1.



He had nowhere to retreat to, so his army was destroyed. Now it's just a matter of acquiring control over the provinces (both) while Attrition eats away at my armies.



Eventually, the war is won and I've got my Prestige, and my Infamy.

While I was busy fighting the war, my economy improved even more. I lowered taxes on the poor to 70% and on the middle class to 55% (because they're having a dog of a time making ends meet). It's not that I don't care about Artisans -- I do, because they can bring in good income -- but I didn't want to encourage Artisans earlier. These guys who are left seem to need help, plus they're growing Militant, so I try to help them a little.



Ultimately, they need to become productive somehow, either by picking the right Goods, or by Demoting, etc.

Burma, of course, hadn't a candle to hold to the might of the UK. But because all Burmese troops started "in theatre" and the British needed to move people around to take action, the Burmese actually did pretty good at first. But the British are moving in against their capital from India, and it's starting not to look good.



Meanwhile, China has also joined the war, and are marching a very large army toward them (or a couple of them).

Very quickly, we find Burma thoroughly overwhelmed in the west and south by British troops who retake the territory they'd invaded. This shift of fortunes forces Burma to the table, and they agree to give up their southernmost state (Rangoon).



In the north, the Chinese are winning easily, as you can see above. The Burmese military is a shadow, now, of its former self, and total collapse is imminent.

They settle for a humiliating territorial loss to China (on the heels of its loss of one state to UK). Now Burma is on the verge of becoming a small banana republic... er, kingdom. Though I don't think bananas grow there.



So from a strategic standpoint, I have another potential opportunity. Dare I move against my formerly most feared regional enemy, and finish her off, despite my still recovering from battle and attrition losses in my previous war?

Please, look at the situation on your maps and tell me if you can guess what I decided. I'm curious what your opinions will be.
 

Thormodr

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I think pounding on a much weakened Burma would serve them right from a historical point of view. A fitting revenge for the humiliating defeat Siam suffered historically 70 odd years previous.

Johore is a little tough at the moment I think but they do get a few gold provinces soon enough so that might be tempting. (That may be meta-gaming though.)

Dai Nam is a good target though their army would probably be too strong. You could beat them up a little though and force them to release Cambodia I guess.

Brunei is a good target but Siam doesn't start with a navy so that's out. :p

Obviously the UK or China are way too strong.

So many intriguing possibilities.

I vote for beating up Burma. Get in there before the UK does. :D
 

Rich028

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I agree if you don't do it soon china or the UK will, and you will lose a source of prestige you may need to westernise.
 

Miscreant

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Great read so far Rennslaer.

As far as the Burma situation, I would be pretty concerned about taking control of territory that both the British and the Chinese want.
I mean, you have these two giant ogres fighting over a, uh... "banana?" - you run in and grab it and are like, OOH LOOK I HAS A BANANA... I just don't think I like where that leads.

If you're dead set on war, what are the Cambodian and Dai Nam diplomatic implications at this point? If you hadn't cut Luang Prabang down to size (were they really THAT uppity?), I'd suggest maybe carving off central and south Dai Nam or conquering Cambodia. Then again, you could also just not go to war :)
 

fj44

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My vote is for war without territorial gain. Gaining those provinces will just result in pain. However, a humiliate (or whatever the equivalent cb is for unciv) cb will get you much needed prestige.

Looks good so far.