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Belgium. But a different Belgium. Not a Belgium you know.

The difference is simple: four ironclad rules to which I was determined to adhere over the course of the game. I wanted to focus on domestic affairs and really get to understand the nuts and bolts of pops, factories, the domestic economy, etc.

RULE ONE: No colonies.
RULE TWO: No alliances. (Sphere does not count.)
RULE THREE: No declarations of war.
RULE FOUR: No war goals but white peace.

How'd it go? It wasn't ideal. But I never broke the rules!


The problem is obvious, highlighted in red or not: a big fat zero industrial score. Which is zero. Ultimately, the story is the economy and the world market, so let's get the other stuff out of the way first.

I never went to war, and nobody went to war with me. I friendlied up my neighbor powers to 200 and kept them there, but never got into a sphere, something I wanted to do to see if it would change my import/export situation. As a desperation measure in the twentieth century, I used a National Focus to drive pops into the military, hoping to stem the tide of craftsman/laborer unemployment, and subsequently my military score was the centerpiece of an inconclusive attempt to keep my overall ranking high. (I think unrecruited regiments are overweighted in military score calculation.) To keep my military technology focused, I disbanded and ignored the navy, and also artillery units. On the defense, I cautiously concluded that guards would not be worth it. My standard defensive-line army consisted of seven infantry regiments, and my "flagship" army, a cavalry relief force, was mostly Cuirassiers for durability (the idea being that they would pile into every major battle to outnumber and outlast the enemy). By the end of the game, every unit included an aircraft brigade. I carpeted the country with level 1 forts, and built level 2 forts in Spa, Bruges, and Brussels. My rail network was consistently state-of-the-art (although more to support RGOs than for military reasons).


Belgium starts with six factories. Three proved profitable. All were destroyed in the mid-19th century -- Belgium's capitalist-government period, when power was handed off between the Liberal Partij and the Radical (A-C) Partij. The clear leader was a Wallonian steel factory which over the course of its lifetime consistently made profits between 300 and 500 pounds. The steel factory was the last one standing. What killed it? Symbolic Minimum Wage. As soon as this wildly popular reform was implemented, the factory went from a 450-pound surplus to closed to gone. My cutting-edge Industrial technology was a near-total loss, except for the RGO benefits.

What was I doing implementing reforms? Keeping the country together, of course. Unrest was a lot lower than it's been in my other games, and I credit the path of liberal reform. Liberals were a major force in my Upper House from the start, and they permitted me to gradually adopt greater and greater political reforms. Generally, the Reactionaries would oppose a reform, the Liberals would favor it, and the Conservatives would be split depending on average Militancy. Each reform invited further reform, and in the 1880s, after two failed Communist uprisings (my ONLY large-scale revolts! -- even small revolts were rare, with the first not taking place until a single regiment rose in Brussels in December 1863), a Socialist/Communist coalition swept into power and stayed there, with a commanding Socialist presence (60 to 80 percent) in the Upper House permitting any and all remaining reforms as unrest made them necessary.

With my new State Capitalist government, I decided to try reindustrializing. I built a diverse set of level 1 factories to see what was profitable, subsidizing everything initially. I was willing to subsidize certain factories indefinitely as an alternative to paying unemployment benefits to structurally unemployed craftsmen. At first this was wildly successful.


This screenshot is from the high-water mark of the reindustrialization initiative. Even here you can see one issue: fruit unavailability. Without colonies, Sphere, or taking territory, I couldn't get direct access to fruit, and without a higher nation rank, Belgium didn't have the standing to buy fruit before the GPs got it. I also had intermittent shortages of fish, and tea/coffee/tobacco were not always affordable.

But the other problems would come later, and prove crippling. All through the 80s and 90s, Belgian population had held constant or even declined. Key factors in this were colonial emigration (to other countries, since Belgium had no colonies) and two massive crop blights. But by 1900, improved health care (and possibly the end of the big rush overseas) left the population booming, and factory closures left pops out of work, and unemployment programs fed joblessness straight back into the national budget. The problem didn't get acute right away, but it was a snowballing twentieth-century demographic disaster.

Hence the subsidies. But when my daily subsidy investment cracked four figures, I had to take another look at what was going on. I decided to retreat from subsidizing factories with expensive inputs or major overall losses. As an experiment, I briefly desubsidized everything to see how it would run. In theory, seriously unworkable factories would shut down immediately. In practice, every single factory responded to desubsidization by REFUSING TO OPERATE. I think it is possible that there is a bug involved, perhaps one created when subsidized factories do not operate from their own cash reserves, and then have no cash reserves at all when subsidization ceases.

My initial reaction was to channel the unemployed Craftsmen into the army, but I swiftly found myself with more Soldiers than I knew what to do with. Concerned about costs, and the non-productive nature of the Soldier (particularly when obligated to avoid gaining anything from wars!), I switched to promoting Artisans instead. The Artisans, of course, had their usual problems (which is to say that they typically had no income), but they weren't as unemployed or as useless as Craftsmen with no open factories to work in.

Toward the end of the game I experimentally reopened selected factories to see if I could discover a profitable industrial concern, no matter how small. I couldn't. Vexed, I pulled up market information and discovered an ugly situation.


On the one hand, my laborers were getting a pittance for their troubles, with revenues in the 650 daily sulfur RGO of Brussels hovering well under a single pound. On the other, price floors apparently still applied to factories seeking the commodity as an input. Sulfur was too cheap to mine, but fertilizer was too cheap to make, but explosives were too cheap to justify the cost of fertilizer, and artillery too cheap to buy explosives. Incidentally, despite what must have been a general shortage of fruit on the world market (intermittently available at best even when I was at the top of the Secondary Powers), fruit's price remained in the middle of its range and did not fluctuate. And look at all those red numbers. Steamers, machine parts, liquor, small arms, steel -- all in low demand. (Despite luxury clothes being in high demand while their ingredients -- silk and regular clothes -- were in low demand, a test reopening of a luxury clothes factory proved unviable.)

The importance of greatness, and perhaps also Sphere, must be industrially overwhelming. Wallerstein was right. Henceforth, it is my credo that factories are for two kinds of country: Great Powers, and suckers. (It may also be that, in order to be functional, free-market capitalism requires not only hands-off tax policies, government-sponsored research, government development assistance, government programs to promote the growth of the workforce, complete absence of a minimum wage, etc., but also government initiatives in the Arts to keep the country prestigious enough to compete.) In my next game I shall concentrate elsewhere.


Lt. General
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Lost in Time
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Communist Sweden too! :eek: