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superjames1992

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Hello and welcome to my Japanese AAR utilizing the Historical Plausibility Project Mod starting in the January 1936 scenario! This is only my second true HPP play-through and my first as Japan, so I expect to learn a thing or two. I also known little to nothing about naval warfare in this game, so I hope to become an "expert" at managing the IJN by the time this AAR is wrapped up.

My ultimate goal is to gain dominance over most (if not all) of Asia. Whether this be by outward control or puppet governments, I hope to extend Japanese control from India to China to Southeast Asia and beyond. Preferably, I'd like to extend Japan's sphere of influence into Oceania, as well, and perhaps even to Australia or New Zealand if I am feeling ambitious. Of course, all of this will start off with a bloody war against the most populous nation on Earth (China).

I hope to have fun with this. I have never really played a full game with Japan before, so this should be interesting. I get some action right off the bat against China and pretty much can pick and choose what conflicts I want to get myself involved in. I can attack the Allies and attempt to seize their colonial possessions. I can escalate the border incidents with the USSR in 1939 and precipitate a full-scale war against the Bear. I can antagonize the USA just as in real life. I can join the Axis Powers. I can join the Allied Powers. Or, if I so choose, I can stay neutral! I can even just sit back and have peace reign in our time and not attack anyone as Japan.

Essentially, I have a lot of options! ;)

I will run this concurrently with my Italian AAR, which is also run using the Historical Plausibility Project. I really am loving this mod as it gives the game a much more sandbox feel, which I like. While I don't want complete wildness to reign supreme, I also prefer that things do not go exactly historically, so I really love this mod as it provides a great balance between historical and sandbox modes of gameplay.

I am starting this game in January 1936 and Japan is currently a neutral nation that leans slightly towards the Axis. I am going to plan on Normal Difficulty and we shall see how it goes. Will the "Rising Sun" from the Oriental East grow into one of the great powers of the Earth or will the Empire crash and burn much like in real life? Tune in (or read on?) to find out!

Thank you for following along and enjoy! :)
 

superjames1992

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Setting the Stage
January - June 1936
Chapter One


The year was 1936. Japan sat at the brink of a new era in her history. A wretched past was behind her and bright days of glorious imperialism lie just beyond her fingertips. Over the last few years, the Empire of Japan had conquered Manchuria and created a puppet government there. In addition, as a result of the First Sino-Japanese War in the 1890s, Japan gained control of the Korean Peninsula.

Japan had a solid foothold on the Asian continent. The next logical step was to expand this foothold and to dominate the largest continent on the face of the Earth. To do so would require a war against two of the most populous nations on the face of the Earth and would require Japan to go to war against the great powers of the West, but it was Japan's destiny. Japan would have to build up a strong Army, Air Force, and Navy. No branch of the armed forces could be neglected if Japan hoped to achieve her aims.

Japan's political situation was rather dicey in 1936. Okada Keisuke was the head of the Japanese government and leader of the Control Clique. The Clique was rather unpopular among the Japanese people, but the people were extremely unlikely to rebel against their Emperor, so the clique remained. Emperor Hirohito, in many ways, had be subjugated to a figurehead as the Clique and the military reigned supreme, but the Japanese people still believed in him and considered to be a higher power than themselves.

Due to the tumultuous political situation in 1936, the Imperial General Staff's first priority was to organize a spy ring to increase the stability of the Clique and increase the peoples' faith in it. It was hoped that this could restore people's confidence in their government and keep any attempted coups from occurring. Also, a spy ring was to be set up in China in order to increase the Republic of China's threat. In order to expand into the Asian heartland, the Chinese would have to be defeated. It was hoped that by increasing their threat, the Imperial General Staff could play any conflict off as China's own doing. Nevertheless, China was the most populous nation on Earth and, despite generally being backwards in regards to technology and doctrines, would be a force to be reckoned with in the jungles, hills, and mountains of China.



A spy ring was also to be set up in the United Kingdom in order to increase their threat. It was hoped that this could justify any later Japanese attempts at declaring war on the British, Dutch, or French in order to gain control of their Pacific and Asian colonies.

On the diplomatic front, it was decided that Japan should continue to make diplomatic inroads into Berlin. Germany, like Japan, had expansionist aims and their goals were not at odds with one another. While the Japanese were not particularly fond of the Germans or vice versa, this was to be more an alliance of convenience than anything else.

On the political front, Okada Keisuke, who was already the head of government, was appointed as Japan's new Foreign Minister on January 1st, 1936. In this position, Keisuke would help to increase the Control Clique's popularity among the Japanese people. Unfortunately, Keisuke's weakness was in regards to keeping Japan's perceived threat down among other nations, but this weakness was not a big deal in the Imperial General Staff's eyes.



On the production lines sat two naval orders which were being prepared for action. The 21st Destroyer Flotilla was closest to completion and was expected to be ready for action by April. The IJN Suzuya, on the other hand, was not expected to be completed until February 1937. In addition to these two orders, four new infantry divisions were ordered to be trained. These new infantry divisions would not be of the typical triangular three-brigade type, but would feature three infantry brigades along with one artillery support brigade. This would increase each Japanese infantry division's available firepower while not requiring much more manpower, which would prove useful in coming wars of conquest.



On the technological front, emphasis was placed on improving Japanese industry and the capability of the IJA's infantry units. In addition, research was also made into the field of aircraft and infantry support tanks. For the most part, naval research was curtailed as Japan's future naval forces were to be composed of mostly aircraft carriers and light cruisers and both of these were already, for the most part, up to date.

The Imperial General Staff also decided to continue utilizing the so-called "Grand Battleplan" Doctrine. This doctrine favored slow, methodical offenses by infantry with heavy artillery backing. The Imperial General Staff also decided to favor a firepower focus. By utilizing a firepower focus, infantry units would receive more heavy weaponry and would overwhelm any opposing units. In regards to armored doctrines, the staff decided to concentrate on infantry support tanks. Mobility would be of little use in much of Asia with its tough, unforgiving terrain. If tanks were to be used at all, they would be used for their firepower rather than for their mobility and they would be used to back up the infantry rather than supplant them.

Several laws were changed on January 2nd. The free press was no longer merely censored, but instead was seized by the government as the Imperial General Staff thought it would be best if the government nationalized the press. A state press would allow the government to manipulate the news to make things appear in the most positive light, causing Japanese citizens to have a more positive outlook on their country and its leadership. Nevertheless, the cynical among the populace would certainly suspect that the news is not always factual in what it reports.

Increased funding was also provided in the field of education. This would cost money, but the money required was more than worth it as an increased investment in education would allow more research to be conducted into industrial and military fields. In addition, more officers could be trained than before.

On January 26th, six new garrison divisions were ordered by the Imperial General Staff to be trained. These new garrison units consisted of three garrison brigades and were intended to be used to protect vital Japanese ports and airfields on Japanese-controlled islands in the Western and Central Pacific.

On February 17th, the general staff was informed that the Second Italo-Abyssnian War was over. This time, unlike the last time these two nations fought in the 1890s, Italy had emerged victorious and their fascist leader Benito Mussolini proudly proclaimed that the nation of Ethiopia would be absorbed into the Kingdom of Italy. The staff thought Mussolini to be a bit of an unstable character, but at the same time they saw him as a man who had similar aims as Japan. Mussolini hoped to expand Italy and rebuild the once-great Roman Empire. However, unlike Japan, his nation sat in the nation of Europe, a continent that, much like prior to the Great War, was a powderkeg ready to explode. That explosion was likely to come from Germany, which also had expansionist gains.

In March at the Second London Naval Disarmament Conference, Japan declined to sign the treaties. Italy also refused. The United Kingdom, France, and the United States all signed the treaties. Italy and Japan's refusal to sign the treaties would serve to decrease their relations with the three great powers of the West and would decrease their own neutrality as it became clear that both nations had expansionist goals and desired a powerful navy to accomplish them.

In May, Japan's scientists and military researchers began to bear fruit in their findings as several new technologies were explored and doctrines were further advanced. Several new technologies and doctrines were developed in regards to infantry, which was expected to be of great help to the Japanese infantryman, providing him with better weapons and equipment. Advances were also made into radio detection equipment, which improved Japan's knowledge of electronic engineering. Advances were also made in supply production as new methods of manufacturing allowed more supplies to be produced at a lesser cost. Advances were also made in industrial production as Japan's factors began to churn out more goods for Japan's people and the military.



In June, the 21st Destroyer Flotilla was ready for action and set sail on her maiden voyage. In addition, the six new garrison divisions were ready for deployment in the Pacific. These six divisions would set sail for the eventual islands of deployment over the coming weeks, but for now they were stationed in Toyko. Four new infantry divisions were also ready to be deployed, but it would be several weeks before they would make it to the front lines as they would first have to be shipped to mainland Asia from the Japanese mainland.

With industrial production now freed up, 20 new standard infantry divisions were ordered to be trained. Five serial orders were made with four divisions being trained at any one time. The last of the 20 infantry divisions were expected to be ready for action in 26 months.

Also, a significant order was placed for artillery support brigades in June. Japan had an extensive amount of triangular infantry divisions without any artillery support brigades attached. As such, 17 new artillery support brigades were ordered to be produced and trained. These support brigades would be attached to existing Japanese triangular infantry divisions in mainland Asia in order to give these units more firepower.
 
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RogueLeprechaun

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Japan always presents an interesting dilemma to play, China is a massive task to subjugate, the US is a powerhouse not to be tangled with lightly and the steppes of Siberia are a BIG area to fight over for little of value. The Dutch East Indies on the other hand, if you can keep the major powers out of a conflict over those valuable territories... :D

Can't wait to see which way you go ;)
 

superjames1992

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Good Luck,cant wait to next update :D
Thank you!

Japan always presents an interesting dilemma to play, China is a massive task to subjugate, the US is a powerhouse not to be tangled with lightly and the steppes of Siberia are a BIG area to fight over for little of value. The Dutch East Indies on the other hand, if you can keep the major powers out of a conflict over those valuable territories... :D

Can't wait to see which way you go ;)
Yep, I can pretty much pick and choose how involved I really want to get in World War II. I can engage full-scale by taking on the Allies or even attacking the USA if they embargo me. I can attack the USSR and try to seize some useless land in the steppes of Siberia. Or I can just choose to do nothing and fight China and some other Asian countries and then settle in for the long hall.

More likely, I will fight the Allies at some point, though, as I plan to stop at nothing short of Japanese domination of the Pacific, which means control of Indochina, Burma, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, the East Indies, Australia, New Zealand, and maybe even the US-controlled islands in the Pacific, such as the Philippines and the Hawaiian Islands. The USSR is also an interesting proposition, but I would have a hard time convincing myself to attack the Bolsheviks considering their vast army and the fact that my armed forces are made for the slow, jungle fighting prevalent in much of Asia and the Pacific. I would have a very hard time making much ground in the steppes of Siberia with my infantry marching by foot.
 

Avindian

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I've somehow never gotten around to playing Japan in HOI 3 :confused: In any case, I like your setup and I'm definitely following!
 

Barvinok

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Another Japan AAR? Hope this one too, is successful. Would be nice to see an occupied USA.
 

Derahan

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You never get tired of Japanese AARs :) BANZAI! :D
 

King50000

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Looks good, Ive never played Japan on HPP either so itll be nice to see what type of decisions it gets.
 

Wraith11B

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I'll keep an eye on this... eventually my Germany AAR will have to come to an end and I'm trying to figure out what nation will be easier to manage... Japan seemed to be one of the options.
 

superjames1992

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Keep Japan's economy stable and you should have a lot of fun. I'll follow along to see how things go. Good luck! China's a nightmare
Thanks!

I've somehow never gotten around to playing Japan in HOI 3 :confused: In any case, I like your setup and I'm definitely following!
This is my first go-around as Japan, as well. China ought to be interesting. I have a feeling that I will deal with supply and infrastructure issues galore once I get into the heartland of China. And it will be tough dealing with all their spam infantry divisions since they have so much manpower. Then again, in real life the Japanese never defeated the Chinese, so it should be a tough war!

Another Japan AAR? Hope this one too, is successful. Would be nice to see an occupied USA.
Thanks! I doubt I have the ability to invade the USA, but you never know, I guess. :D

You never get tired of Japanese AARs :) BANZAI! :D
Thanks for following along!

Looks good, Ive never played Japan on HPP either so itll be nice to see what type of decisions it gets.
Thanks! It shall be interesting. One thing about HPP that is nice is that the USA has such high neutrality that it pretty much will not join World War II unless provoked, so I should be able to keep them out of the war unless I want to pick a fight with them later on.

I'll keep an eye on this... eventually my Germany AAR will have to come to an end and I'm trying to figure out what nation will be easier to manage... Japan seemed to be one of the options.
Thanks! The pre-war buildup with Japan is certainly interesting. It also gives you a good mix of all the branches of the service as you really cannot neglect any one branch. You need the army for the wars in mainland Asia, yet you need your navy so that you can supply these troops and in any potential wars for any Allied-controlled islands. Also, the air force is necessary, especially when and if I get into a war against the Allies.

Update incoming!!!
 

superjames1992

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The Calm Before the Storm
July - December 1936
Chapter Two


On July 28th, 1936, the Iberian Peninsula was lit on fire as Franco and his fascist rebel allies attempted to overthrow the existing government, which was run by many socialists and communists as a result of the recent elections. Though this was on the complete other side of the world from Japan, this event was significant because if Franco's faction won the Spanish Civil War, another fascist nation would exist in western and central Europe in addition to Germany and Italy. The Imperial General Staff decided to remain neutral in the conflict and offer no moral or material support to either side in the conflict.

On the research front, Japanese military scientists made improvements in regards to Japan's artillery support brigades. Improvements were made to Japan's artillery sights and ammunition. In addition, Japanese researchers further improved Japan's artillery training, which would result in better training and better organization for Japanese artillery support brigades.



In September, several new transports and escort ships were ordered. These new ships were to be added to Japan's Merchant Marine, which would be vital in a future war.

October saw Japanese researchers improve their knowledge in the sea lane control doctrine. These new military advances gave Japanese battleships, cruisers, and destroyers better organization so they they could coordinate their attacks more effectively in any sea battles. This also improved Japan's escort efficiency. This new researched doctrine also opened doors into the research into other doctrines, such as the carrier escort role doctrine, which could prove useful in Japan's carrier-centric Navy.

On October 14th, the Imperial General Staff made the decision to sign the Anti-Comintern Pact. This Pact, which was signed along with Germany helped to bring the two nations even closer together. In addition, this sabotaged relations between Japan and the Soviet Union. The general staff had little desire to battle the Soviet Union, but the pact was signed mainly to pacify Adolf Hitler as Japan attempted to grow closer to the Berlin Axis. The staff saw little way the Empire of Japan could win a war against the Soviet Union at this time.

In November, Canada became the first country to offer material assistance in the Spanish Civil War as a full brigade of volunteers arrived from Canada to support the Republican cause in the war.

Japanese naval researchers also made another discovery later that month as they fully explored the doctrine of sealane interdiction. This gave Japanese submarines and destroyers greater ability to inflict damage on opposing convoys. These new technologies could be very helpful in the war against China in order to effectively blockade the Chinese.

Four new divisions of infantry were also ready to be deployed in November, though it wouldn't be until closer to New Year's until they were positioned along the Chinese border in mainland Asia. All 17 artillery support brigades were also ready later that month and were gradually deployed to the Japanese triangular infantry brigades currently stationed in Manchuria over the next few months.



With industrial production freed up, the Imperial General Staff decided to strengthen the Imperial Japanese Air Force with three new orders. Two new squadrons of Kawasaki Ka 87 medium bombers were ordered to be produced. These two squadrons were anticipated to take just over 250 days to produce and it was hoped that these squadrons would make a difference in the upcoming war in China. In addition, one squadron of Kawasaki Ki-10 Perry light fighters were ordered. These biplane fighter aircraft, though somewhat outdated, would likely be sufficient to achieve superiority against the Chinese.



On November 25th, it was declared that the Empire of Japan had been upgraded from a "Regional Power" to a "Major Power," according to the League of Nations. This news was used for propaganda purposes by the state-run Japanese media and resulted in increased manpower reserves and increased leadership. In addition, this news helped to strengthen the organization of Japan's naval forces as Japanese sailors rejoiced in the news. The news was somewhat dulled by the fact that the Republic of China was declared to be a Regional Power on December 2nd, though this was never reported to the Japanese people by the state media.



By Christmas, most of the artillery support brigades which had been completed the previous month were nearing their final destination in southern Manchuria. The rough terrain and severe lack of infrastructure made this a difficult task, but slowly but surely these units made it to the front.

Also, on Christmas Day the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War got a nice present from Belgium, who became the second nation behind Canada to offer troops in the war as a volunteer brigade was sent to aid the Republican cause. By this point, the Republican cause was starting to look hopeless, however, as Franco was making quick work in Spain and it was expected that the fascists would take control by the time spring rolled around in 1937.

 
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King50000

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Those are the two things that always prevents me from completing any Japan games I start, the lack of infanstructure to adequately move your troops, and the fact that every branch of your military has to be up-to-date and given attention.
 

superjames1992

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Those are the two things that always prevents me from completing any Japan games I start, the lack of infanstructure to adequately move your troops, and the fact that every branch of your military has to be up-to-date and given attention.
Yeah, we will see how those things develop as time moves on. It could be problematic, but I reckon that the Japanese had the same problem during their real war with China. After all, they fought for eight years! The Second Sino-Japanese War really is one of the most underrated portions of World War II. The only theater of war which featured more casualties was the German-Soviet conflict, which is similarly underrated as it was probably the most decisive front in World War II. Then again, the victors right the history books, so of course our history books are going to prop up the Allied Pacific and D-Day Campaigns like they single-handily won the war without giving nearly enough credit to the Russians or Chinese.
 

superjames1992

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Prelude to Conflict
January - June 1937
Chapter Three


On January 15th, 1937, Franco's fascist faction came out on top on the Iberian Peninsula as the existing Republican government was defeated. Franco would become Spain's new dictator, as a result, and would likely end up being another ally to the likely Rome-Berlin Axis in Europe. It was not a surprise that Franco's faction won the Spanish Civil War, but the speed in which he consolidated power and built up a powerful military was astounding. His nationalists won the war in only six months and his success will certainly raise tensions in Europe.

In January 1937, Edward VIII abdicated the English throne following his desire to marry American socialite Wallis Simpson, who had divorced her first husband and was seeking a divorce from her second. The prime ministers of the United Kingdom and the Dominions opposed the marriage, arguing that the people would never accept a divorced woman with two living ex-husbands as queen. Also, such a marriage would have conflicted with Edward's status as head of the Church of England, which opposed the remarriage of divorced people if their former spouses were still alive. Edward knew that British Prime Minister Stephen Baldwin would resign if the marriage went ahead, which could have dragged the King into a general election and ruined irreparably his status as a politically neutral constitutional monarch. Rather than give up his desire to marry Mrs. Simpson, Edward abdicated. He was succeeded by his younger brother Albert, who chose the regnal name George VI.

January also saw several advances in the field of aircraft. The training regiments for close air support and fighter aircraft were improved. In addition, their ground crews received more advanced training. New advances were made in the way in which the sailors on Japan's cruisers were trained, as well.



In February, it was reported that Japanese ethnic minorities in the Soviet Union had been mistreated. The Imperial General Staff decided to press the issue and let this news be known to the Japanese population. As a result, tensions tightened and relations between the USSR and Japan were strained. However, with the Great Purge having just passed, the Soviet Union had little desire for war at the moment and the incident passed without any further escalation.

Later in February, improvements were made in naval and aeronautical fields. Japanese military researchers came up with better tactics for attacking ground units during bombing runs. These new tactics could come in great use against the Chinese later on. Improvements were also made in the training and doctrines of Japan's light cruisers and capital ships.



March saw many more scientific advances. Japan's infantry support tank technologies were brought up to date. No infantry support tanks had been constructed as of yet in the Imperial Japanese Army, but these were planned to be built for use against the Allies after the eventual conclusion of the war against the Chinese.

Improvements in industrial efficiency meant that more goods could be made with the same amount of industrial capacity.

March also saw the development of marine infantry units. These units were specially designed to conduct amphibious assaults and could prove very useful in any future island campaigns that Japan may need to conduct. These units could prove useful if Japan needs to stab the Chinese in the back by conducting an amphibious assault behind enemy lines in southern China after invading from the north.

On March 28th, the League of Nations officially declared Italy to be a "Regional Power."



On April 7th, British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin resigned. In his place Anthony Eden was appointed. Eden was a strong opponent of the policy of appeasement which Baldwin had often followed. As a result, this increased the likelihood that a major war in Europe was coming nearer as Germany and Italy continued their expansionist ways.

Later in April, four new infantry divisions were ready for action and were deployed in Tokyo. Over the next month, they would be sent to mainland Japan, where they would be deployed along the Chinese border as a member of the 1st Army. The heavy cruiser IJN Suzuya was also ready for deployment in April and became a member of the IJN's heavy cruiser fleet.

Throughout April and May, Japan had increasingly faced supply shortages despite increased industrial capacity being relegated to supply production. As a result, Machida Chuji was relieved as his duties as Armament Minister. In his place Shoda Kazue was appointed. Kazue was chosen because he claimed to be able to boost Japan's supply production by nearly 20%. With supply shortages threatening the economy, Kazue's appointment was very important and over the coming months, the supply situation would stabilize and the economy of the Empire would continue to prosper.

In May, the Air Force's command structure was also improved greatly. This would increase the organization of any air units performing ground attacks due to greater coordination between the various airplanes performing the attacks.



Later in May, Japanese naval researchers made two new advances. The first advance was made in how naval bases were operated. If naval bases were operated more efficiently, more goods supplies could be shipped in the same amount of time. Researchers determined ways in which to make Japanese naval bases operate more effectively through organization and machinery. Another significant advance was made in the range of most of Japan's ships, although this was somewhat counteracted by slight increases in supply and fuel consumption.



In June, two squadrons of carrier aircraft were ordered. Japan currently had two fleet carriers operating and each only had one squadron operating on it. Each fleet carrier could service two squadrons, so these two new squadrons were ordered in order to fully exploit all the space each carrier had to offer.

The remainder of June saw Japanese research infantry support tanks' role in the Imperial Japanese Army. Further advances were made in timed artillery support and logistical bombing.





Following these advances, the general staff ordered research to be conducted into nuclear physics. Scientists had proclaimed that a powerful weapon could be obtained through the fission of an atom. By harboring the power of the atom, great weapons of war could be developed that could wipe cities off the map. Though advances in this field were still very infantile, the general staff could not ignore the possibilities such weapons of war could provide and immediately prioritized this research.

In June, two main carrier fleets were established. The Imperial General Staff saw the need to properly organize the IJN and this was the start. The first fleet was led by Admiral Kato and the second fleet was led by Admiral Yamamato.



Finally, on June 15th, Emperor Hirohito's birthday came. There was a large festival in Toyko celebrating his birthday. This celebration cost money, but resulted in increased popularity for the Control Clique and resulted in a decrease in dissent.

 
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Derahan

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Will be interesting to see how this plays out :)
 

Cybvep

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Subscribed. I never played Japan in HOI3, because of potential frustrations with the supply system (which is more important than ever in Asia), poor Naval AI, poor balancing of Sino-Japanese War and heavy micromanagement required with the constant division-shuffling between various islands. Still, I think that it's potentially one of the most challenging and satisfying nations to play as and I know that HPP made many improvements in Asia, so good luck!

You are right in saying that the Sino-Japanese War is the most underrated theatre of WWII. The Western attentions have always been on the European theatre and the War in the Pacific, not on China. It's a pity that PI doesn't focus too much on the theatre, either.
 

RogueLeprechaun

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Any thoughts yet on which strategic direction you might eventually take?

Can you possibly avoid conflict with the US whilst attacking the Dutch or British possessions? ;)
 

superjames1992

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Will be interesting to see how this plays out :)
Thanks!

Subscribed. I never played Japan in HOI3, because of potential frustrations with the supply system (which is more important than ever in Asia), poor Naval AI, poor balancing of Sino-Japanese War and heavy micromanagement required with the constant division-shuffling between various islands. Still, I think that it's potentially one of the most challenging and satisfying nations to play as and I know that HPP made many improvements in Asia, so good luck!
Thanks! Japan should be interesting, however it turns out. HPP does help the Asian situation front what I have seen. Also, having Malaya, Indochina, Indonesia, Burma, India, ect. set up as British or French colonies/puppets rather than just being part of Britain/France makes it more fun, IMO.

You are right in saying that the Sino-Japanese War is the most underrated theatre of WWII. The Western attentions have always been on the European theatre and the War in the Pacific, not on China. It's a pity that PI doesn't focus too much on the theatre, either.
Yep. It was also true in WW1 where the eastern front is almost never talked about. People always say that WW1 was all about static, trench warfare and while they may have been partially true on the Western Front, the Eastern, Middle Eastern, African, and Pacific Fronts were not. And if it weren't for the Central Powers having to divert forces to fight on the Eastern and Middle Eastern Fronts, they would have been able to pour more forces into Belgium and France, which may have tipped the balance in their favor.

Any thoughts yet on which strategic direction you might eventually take?

Can you possibly avoid conflict with the US whilst attacking the Dutch or British possessions? ;)
Keeping the US out of the war shouldn't be too difficult in HPP. The US will pretty much stay out of WW2 unless provoked, or may join the Allies towards the end of the war, at best. The US is firmly in the Allied camp, but their neutrality is very high and will take a long while to go down.

I plan on eventually bringing all of Southeast Asia and Oceania under the first of the Empire. I plan on taking China first, then after joining the Axis I plan on declaring war and taking Indochina, Siam (through another DOW), Burma, and India. If that is successful, then I can start an island campaign and work my way down to Australia and New Zealand. If and when that gets accomplished, I will finally declare war on the US (if they are not in the war already) and invade the Philippines, Guam, the Hawaiian Islands, ect. I will not consider myself "victorious" until all the nations of Asia kneel before the Emperor.