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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Kovax

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There have been several AARs dedicated to China. most of them in the early expansions, using swarms of Militia to exploit China's vast Manpower pool. I decided to take a different approach. The focus of this AAR will be on WHY to do certain things, making it at least somewhat useful for playing other countries as well.

Long-term goal: recover all Chinese core territory from all foreign invaders. This will involve war against Japan and its puppet Manchukuo, against the UK, France, and Portugal to regain those tiny enclaves along the southern coast, and against all of the semi-autonomous Chinese warlords. Initially, I intend to grab what we can from a warlord or two before war against Japan becomes inevitable, then attempt to occupy ALL Japanese and Manchukuo-held Chinese territory before forcing Japan to peace out (they will hopefully accept a "white peace", which will leave China with any of its Japanese cores which it militarily occupies - hopefully ALL of them). Then we will join the Axis and take our cores from the UK and France, and integrate the various remaining warlords by force. Leaving the Japanese home islands and their navy intact will benefit the later struggles against the Allies, and we may even need to bail out one or more of the other Axis powers at some point ( possibly helping GER against the SU or defending Japan from a US invasion).

Jan 1, 1936 - China begins with crippling economic problems, in fact its starting effective IC is insufficient to cover both Consumer Demand and military Supply consumption, much less build new units or upgrade the existing ones. The alternatives are to either reduce Consumer Goods production and suffer ever-increasing Dissent, further reducing its effective IC, or to undersupply the Military. I chose the latter, for obvious reasons. A truly gamey approach would be to set the Supply slider to 0 until war is imminent, then begin repairing the damage done by a year or two of starvation, but I chose not to resort to such a drastic exploit.

To fix the underlying production problem, the first step was to enact the "Prepare for War" decision, which is available as a result of Nationalist China having less than 30 effective IC. That will gradually reduce Neutrality, and thereby reduce Consumer Demand over time. More immediately, China needs to enact more aggressive Production laws, but that requires Neutrality less than 70, plus 40 Money. The first requirement will be solved in a matter of a few days by the "Prepare for War" decision, and the latter will take a few more days until sufficient cash is acquired. To hasten the process, at the cost of further aggravating the supply problem in the short term, China offers to sell 10-20 supplies per day to the USA, and to the Soviets. Both accept, giving China more than 4 money coming in per day.

Meanwhile, Leadership is divided up, with 2 points going to Diplomacy (because we're going to need to trade for raw materials once the industrial base begins to ramp up production), 4+ going to Espionage (to boost internal spies to 10 ASAP and then to install 10 spies in several target countries, as will be detailed later), a mere point going to Officer Training (until we change the conscription law), and the remainder to Research. The initial focuses for Research will be Education, Agriculture, and one of the two Production doctrines, then Infantry Small Arms, Single Engine Aircraft Armament, and the essential Land Doctrines related to Infantry Organization and Morale. Note that Education and the Supply Doctrines increase the land combat Theoretical value needed for many combat doctrines and several techs, so researching that will speed up several other Research projects, besides the obvious benefit of providing a bit more Leadership. That will have to suffice until there are enough spies, and more Leadership can then be shifted from Diplomacy and Espionage to Research. The abysmal Officer Ratio will continue to drop, with only 2 points invested in Officer Training and a lot more brigades being built, but we won't sink any more into it until it's closer to wartime, when we Mobilize our military and bump up the Conscription and Training laws considerably. Then we can invest a LOT more Leadership points at a FAR higher rate of return, a couple of months prior to waging war.

Once there's more than 40 cash in the treasury, we give up on our peace-time economy and the Basic Mobilization law is enacted. This will provide a significant boost in effective IC, solving the economic shortages as well as giving a more modest boost in Resource production, leaving China short just a few units of various raw materials. MOST of the available IC, once Consumer Demand and military Supply have been met, will go toward retiring that large backlog of equipment upgrades as soon as practical, rather than building new units which will eat supplies for the next year or two before they're needed for combat. A couple of new brigades and several upgrades from MIL to INF are put in the production queue to begin warming up Practicals.

We have the money coming in from the Supplies we sold, so it's time to buy Resources. First we buy 1-2 of something from the USA and Soviets, to improve Relations by 15 points, and 1-2 Rare Materials from the UK, since they will need to be our primary source of Rare Materials while at war with Japan, most of the other sources requiring Convoys which WILL get sunk quickly. You can buy a few Energy (coal) from Germany, which will boost Relations with a future ally, assist them with a tiny bit of cash, and increase your drift toward their corner of the diplomatic triangle slightly. After 7-8 days, new diplomats should arrive in each of those countries, and you can buy another 1-3 units of raw materials. Continue this for a few rounds until Relations are in the 100 range, and THEN buy the bulk of what you need at far cheaper prices than would have been the case at low Relations. Try not to exceed 200 Relations, because anything over 200 is discarded. If you need to break those trade deals (due to convoy raiding), you lose 15 points per deal, and you could easily end up with WORSE Relations than before you started making deals, thanks to those discarded points.

By around the end of January, there should be enough spies, over and above the 10 needed for domestic security, to begin operations on foreign soil. Set your placement priority to 2 "pips" for the UK, initially set the mission to Counter-espionage, then add pips for "Raise Threat" after you've gained overwhelming spy superiority. That Threat will be needed to further lower your own Neutrality, since the "Prepare for War" decision will only take it from 70 down to 20, which is insufficient to declare wars. The UK is in a different political group, making its Threat much more effective than from another Authoritarian state (absurdly enough, Japan poses almost zero "Threat" to China, despite war being imminent), they're adjacent (thanks to that tiny Hong Kong enclave), which increases the magnitude of the effect, and they will build a lot of non-Reserve military units (ships and planes), adding even more Threat. Since only the HIGHEST threat to a country is considered, they're by far the best target for raising Threat. As a side effect, the increased Threat of the UK also allows GER and ITA to build more military units, by reducing their Consumer Demand.

Once you have sufficient spies for additional placement, Communist China is the second target. While the UK's Threat will lower your own Neutrality, raising ComChi's Threat will allow you to attack them as soon as their boosted Threat exceeds your reduced Neutrality. They're harder to increase, due to their small military threat, but anything is a plus at this point. With a bit of luck and shifting the emphasis between Counter-Espionage and Raise Threat, the two values of Threat and Neutrality should meet somewhere during 1937.

France and the Soviet Union are optional espionage targets, if you feel confident and lucky; France is a "lottery" for stolen tech, which may yield valuable techs and doctrines over the next couple of years, or be a complete waste of Leadership. In various campaigns playing different countries, I've gotten valuable techs like Motorized, Medium Armor, Destroyer Engines, or Carriers, but in other campaigns ended up with stuff like Fighter Focus (counter-productive, in my opinion) or Cavalry AT weapons (which slow down your cavalry significantly). Your spies can also assist Germany by lowering French National Unity. Attacking the National Unity of the SU with spies makes if far easier for an Axis victory in the East. Initially, I set 3 pips for Counter-Espionage until I've reduced the target's domestic spies to 0-1, then add 2 pips to the primary mission, then reverse that 3 + 2 to 2 + 3 pips once I'm confident enough of maintaining spy dominance. Once you have the domestic spies reduced in all of your targets and a few spare spies as replacements, you can usually drop your Espionage slider down to around a point of Leadership or less for the rest of the game.

I'll address the "why" aspects of Production in a bit of detail in a later post. Basically, you have the Manpower to build more than enough Militia to defeat Japan, but those won't stand up well to the better equipped Soviet or Allied units which you may face later in the campaign. I chose to begin the long process of upgrading Militia to Infantry (plus a couple of divisions of Mountain troops), and increasing the Division sizes from 2 brigades to 3. The tough choice for me was whether to disband the existing Infantry and Militia brigades one by one, and replace them with Reserve units, or to keep them and hope they gain experience quickly enough in combat. The Reserve brigades will gain a LOT of experience when you fill them out to full strength at higher training laws, as you mobilize for war, and will consume less Supply in the mean time while at their low Reserve levels, while the non-Reserve units will retain the low experience levels that they start with, but are already built and ready for action at a moment's notice.

You can further increase your Production law from Basic Mobilization to Full once your Neutrality drops far enough, then to Wartime Mobilization, giving you significantly more effective IC than your base IC figure. With that amount of IC available, I begin building new Infantry and Mountain brigades to bring the divisions up to 3xINF or 3xMTN size, and add an Interceptor to the production queue, a couple of ART brigades, plus another group of Convoys (for those US and German resource runs). Eventually, I want a minimum of 3xINT, preferably two groups, to face Japan. They will PROBABLY not trigger the Marco Polo Bridge event if we can stack enough troops on the border and they don't feel confident enough to attack, so war with Japan may happen in late 1937, or possibly not until well into 1938. That leaves an unknown length window of opportunity to deal with the various warlords, starting with Communist China.
 
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Wraith11B

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Thanks for starting this! I eagerly await your results!
 
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Alex Kernel

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It is really nice to start such a difficult campaign. All the policy details you provided are quite interesting. For a very long time I did (and still do) research the various way policy in HOI3 works and how to optimize it for your nation. A few things came into my mind while reading your rather detailed text.

4+ going to Espionage (to boost internal spies to 10 ASAP and then to install 10 spies in several target countries, as will be detailed later)

Outside Raising Threat in a few very specific situations and lowering National Unity there aren't other espionage options worth investing in. Maybe a country like Nationalist Chinawould be better off using LP for research purposes.

France is a "lottery" for stolen tech

I did try to steal tech in the Italy AAR, and it looked like a complete waste of time and LP. The stolen techs events are rare occurences, and one can get much more technological advancement from researching itself. Also, when you do succeed to steal a tech, that doesn't mean you don't have to research it by yourself. Only the speed is enhanced as a result of the theft.

Fighter Focus (counter-productive, in my opinion)

Why is Fighter Focus counter-productive? If I remember well, a fighter can focus better on targetting other Fighters or Bombers in combat encounters, if you research Fighter Focus.

Your spies can also assist Germany by lowering French National Unity. Attacking the National Unity of the SU with spies makes if far easier for an Axis victory in the East.

Lowering National Unity is such a powerful weapon, especially during lasting wars, that it amounts to an exploitative cheating. I won this way once with Germany (AI) and Romania (Human Player) against the Soviet Union, without the Axis having to take any of the key russian Victory Points: St. Petersburg/Leningrad, Moscow, or Stalingrad. It didn't feel like a victory at all.

The UK is in a different political group, making its Threat much more effective than from another Authoritarian state (absurdly enough, Japan poses almost zero "Threat" to China, despite war being imminent)

A few factors influence Threat. The most important of them is how far on the ideological triangle axis are you from the target country. Being Authoritarian vs. Democratic is an indirect effect of the diplomacy triangle. If you're closer to the Facist faction corner, you're probably not a democracy, and your opposite ideological corner is the Liberal-Democratic one, or the Communist. Communist countries also happen to be dictatorships, but you can as a fascist country increase their Threat as strongly as that of the Liberal camp states.

Another variable is distance to target. The closer to your borders your target is, the greater the Threat effect. However the Threat effect will rise slower if the country is not only far away, but also on another continent (overseas). I can imagine, that Nationalist China could achieve much better Threat increase results by choosing an ideological opposite neighbour (or a state from the same continent) - communist or liberal - from the same continent.

If your intent is to give an early boost to the Axis, than increasing Threat of the faction Leaders - UK or SOV - makes perfect sense. Increasing SOV's Threat could be even more beneficial, because you don't get the overseas penalty by Threat increasing.

Anyway, your Nationalist China attempt is very ambitious. Defeating SOV without resorting to reducing NU via espionage would be truly challenging. I wish you good luck!
 
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Kovax

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There are other things you can do with spies besides raising threat and lowering national unity, at least for specific cases. In this case, I'm using spies to steal tech from France: I already got Level 2 Cruiser Engines (which aren't very useful if you don't build cruisers) and the first level of the first Transportation doctrine (which saved me a research slot, and mostly paid for the Leadership cost of the spies, since France rarely ever discovers any of them). In other campaigns, I've increased party support enough to get the US to vote for an authoritarian president (no, not Trump); they didn't join the Axis, but at least stayed out of the Allies. If you're trying to bomb a country's IC to zero, the Sabotage Production mission will reduce their repair rates (it has no effect on actual Production). There's no way that I'm going to defeat the Soviets by myself, in the likely event that Germany calls me to war down the road, so reducing the Soviet Union's NU is about the only way that I (and the Axis) have got a reasonable chance of winning against the combined Allies and SU.

Fighter Focus means that in any engagement against a mix of Fighters and Bombers, the majority of the attacks will be made against the Fighters. If you research BOTH Fighter Focus and Bomber Focus, they cancel each other. If I'm trying to prevent bombers from leveling my industries or disorganizing my front line troops, attacking their protective fighters isn't the best option.

As for threat, the UK has an enclave in contact with Nationalist China, so it's considered adjacent for Threat purposes. Consider that raising the UK's Threat gave them roughly 15 perceived Threat in Nat. China, but only about 2 points in the various Chinese Warlords' countries. Likewise, any actions taken by China will be considered more threatening to the UK than actions by Japan, due to the neighbor effect.

Anyway, on to the AAR....
 
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Kovax

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The remainder of 1936 was spent converting militia to regular troops and building up the army in the northern half of the country to 3 brigades per division. One INT was completed, and a second put into the queue. Another group of Convoys was built, as a result of overseas trade expanding to stockpile materials for the inevitable Japanese embargo. Late in the year, the leader of Guangdong passed away (by event), and I chose to "Suggest ending the autonomy of Guangdong". Guanxi Clique accepted (90% chance) and relinquished the region, somewhat to my disappointment, because I could have used the war to gain some combat experience for my troops, and take the whole thing, not just the Guangdong portion of it. By year's end, the UK's Threat had increased to nearly 14, and Communist China's Threat had risen to around 3, leaving me about 3-4 points shy of being able to declare war. I added a couple of AA brigades to the production queue, to put in the front line against Japan and hopefully inflict some minor ORG damage to their aircraft that will inevitably bomb my troops.

On April 1, 1937, with the Threat of the Communists just shy of reaching China's Neutrality level, China introduced the 3-year draft, raised training to Specialist, and began military Mobilization. Those Reserve brigades added to each division were gradually brought up to full strength with recruits trained to maximum level, significantly raising the average Experience level of at least those brigades. The non-reserve brigades will just have to learn the hard way. Nearly 3/4 of the available Leadership was poured into Officer Training (well over 50 officers per day), in order to bring the sorry 47% Officer Ratio up to something at least acceptable, and several points of IC were dedicated to mobilization. Belatedly, an airfield was started just south of the Communist Chinese enclave. By the end of April, the men were ready, but the officers were clearly not, with several more months of training needed for a credible army. Meanwhile, Research ground to a crawl, as only 4+ points were left to continue the most critical techs and doctrines. It still beats having to spend the Leadership to train officers at a -50% penalty, rather than with a +25% boost.

On August 1, 1937, the Officer Ratio was a shade over 80%, and Nationalist China declared war on Mao's Communists. The number of Communist militia divisions in their fortified capital had swollen considerably over the last few months, and there were two Mountain divisions and another militia division holding the mountainous province west of their capital, making any attack questionable. A Nationalist HQ unit had been dispatched earlier through Shanxi (after requesting military passage), and reached the Communist border to scout behind the front, a couple of days before the declaration of war, and the Communists reacted to the enemy unit on their border by peeling off a couple of divisions from the capital. A Nationalist attack on the mountainous province west of the capital was begun, with 5 3xINF divisions and a 3xMTN division from the south, while a lone division from just below the Communist capital supported the attack diagonally, increasing the Frontage to allow more Nationalist troops to participate. The initial combat balance was skewed far to the Communists' advantage, and only 19% for the attackers, and the Nationalists took extreme losses, but the greater numbers eventually prevailed, and the 3 Communist divisions were routed, one by one. The Communists sent several divisions of Militia from the capital and a province further north to prevent the seizure of the province, and managed to arrive before the attackers. That, however, worked in favor of the attackers, as the new defenders arrived piecemeal and were badly mauled, and it left the capital with a substantially reduced defense. Several of China's best generals and two "Fortress Busters" led the assault on the capital. This battle was longer, and both sides managed to throw additional units into the battle, which then advanced into the available frontage as units broke and withdrew, but eventually the Communists were routed. A day later, the airfield completed, giving the Nationalists air support, now that the battle was over. A few days later, Nationalist troops occupied the capital, and Communist China's territory was re-integrated into China. I'm pleasantly surprised at how many division commanders went from 0 or 1 skill up to 2 or 3 in so short a time, even though it was absolutely brutal.

Much to my disappointment, the escapade into Communist China did not significantly raise China's Threat with the other warlords (other than Shanxi, which has a Conservative government), since those others were all authoritarian. 0.6 Threat was the most significant change, which was insufficient to bridge the remaining 4-5 point gap between China's Neutrality and the threat offered by those target countries. Shanxi, unfortunately, will be needed as an important part of the war against Japan, for bait to draw in and trap a significant part of the Japanese army. Raising Threat on the UK continues, and probably won't complete until 1938. I'm also hesitant to make any further attacks because my own increased Threat is allowing the UK and France to increase their own troop buildups, and I don't want to enable more aggressive production or recruitment laws on their part.

Production continues on INF brigades to expand the divisions in the coastal and southern regions, in preparation for either an attack on Guanxi Clique or to defend against any possible Japanese landings. I've added a couple more ART brigades to divisions in the north, but have enough 3xINF divisions to push forward without them if supply becomes an issue. Shortly before year's end, Japan's troop strength has increased slightly on the northern border, with one division in every province plus one additional combat division and an HQ. My Officer Ratio is now at 98%, and I've made moderate cutbacks in the Leadership assigned to it (down to 25 officers per day), in order to resume Research at close to previous levels.

The tentative plan at this point, if not attacked, is to continue buildup until spring of 1938 and decent weather, then pull a few divisions back from the Japanese border in order to invite a declaration of war. I can then move those divisions back into place while Japan tears into poor under-defended Shanxi. Once Shanxi surrenders, I intend to cut off supply to that area and strand all of Japan's units in Shanxi, then occupy Shanxi myself. That will be followed by a drive to put Manchukuo out of the war and reintegrate it into China. Ideally, once I occupy all of the Japanese-controlled provinces which are cores of China and drive the Japanese into Korea, I can ask to peace out, since you get to keep any of your core territory that you currently occupy. That will be followed by a request for Axis admission, and Japan becoming an ally, with much of its army and all of it's formidable navy still intact. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em, and even if you CAN and DO beat 'em, joining 'em may still be a better option.
 
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Alex Kernel

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(which saved me a research slot, and mostly paid for the Leadership cost of the spies, since France rarely ever discovers any of them). In other campaigns, I've increased party support enough to get the US to vote for an authoritarian president (no, not Trump); they didn't join the Axis, but at least stayed out of the Allies.

Yeah, I think democracies get espionage penalties, that is why it's relatively easy to steal techs from them. Getting the US to stay away from the Allies is no small feat. That's it, the usefulness of most espionage missions is very situational.

There's no way that I'm going to defeat the Soviets by myself, in the likely event that Germany calls me to war down the road, so reducing the Soviet Union's NU is about the only way that I (and the Axis) have got a reasonable chance of winning against the combined Allies and SU.

I agree to you. Not reducing the NU of the SOV is not viable, when faced with such challenges. That's a fair point.

Fighter Focus means that in any engagement against a mix of Fighters and Bombers, the majority of the attacks will be made against the Fighters. If you research BOTH Fighter Focus and Bomber Focus, they cancel each other. If I'm trying to prevent bombers from leveling my industries or disorganizing my front line troops, attacking their protective fighters isn't the best option.

I didn't know what this focus was all about. Thanks a lot for the info.

As for threat, the UK has an enclave in contact with Nationalist China, so it's considered adjacent for Threat purposes.

I missed that detail.

One more question. How will you ramp up the IC capacity? You mentioned Industrial research and law change. Did you resort to other measures as well? What about building IC? Is it in the cards? Or it's impossible?

I believe your AAR will get great traction as soon as the war becomes globalised. The peace period (which is unusually short for Nationalist China) is often neglected, despite being essential for the latter war period. Good to see the peacetime management receives the deserved attention in this AAR.

PS.: I'm very busy with the French campaign, but I will find time to closely follow your AAR. The AARs are incredibly time intensive, considering that I don't even indulge in the level of story sophistication, players like @Wraith11B , @Bullfilter , @El Pip , or @roverS3 do.
 
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Kovax

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Anyway, back to the front....

By March, Chinese agents had increased the perceived threat of the UK to just shy of 20 points, bringing China's Neutrality down to under half a point. That was sufficient to drop China's Neutrality below Guanxi Clique's 0.6 Threat, and Chinese troops waited patiently for the word to advance. Near the end of the month, Germany annexed Austria, and while the world was focusing its attention on Germany, China declared war on Guanxi. The initial plan was to cut off the western end of the country, isolating its second largest troop concentration for later action. Simultaneously, several divisions were used to drive off or weaken individual Guanxi militia divisions which might otherwise come to the assistance of the already substantial capital garrison. The capital was assaulted from 3 directions, allowing for increased frontage, and inflicting an "outflanked" penalty on the defenders. As with the Communists in Yan'an, the assault initially favored the defender in terms of casualties, but the numerical superiority and higher ORG and Officer Ratio of the attackers eventually tipped the balance. A lone Chinese HQ advanced into enemy territory and occupied one undefended VP location in the north-east of Guanxi while the combat units were busy, and the remaining Guanxi VP location further west was assaulted, with the defenders driven off and demoralized. The capital was successfully occupied by Chinese forces, and Guanxi Clique surrendered hours before Chinese troops entered the final VP location, just short of the end of April.

That brought China's base IC up to 88, and with Industrial Production and Industrial Efficiency researched to the 1936 levels, its effective IC hit 113. It also brought China's Threat to the UK up to slightly more than the UK's elevated threat to China, although Germany's Threat to the UK was about on par, and the UK was still unable to introduce more aggressive production laws. Energy production dropped below daily usage levels, at least until the newly captured Guanxi mines restored operations back to full capacity. Building additional IC would have been counter-productive up to this point, since that IC would not have paid back more than a small fraction of its production costs before the anticipated pivotal war with Japan. Further, there's no point in building more IC if you can't feed it, and the embargo by Japan will be a major concern that I'm not sure I have the resources stockpiled sufficiently to cover at current production levels. Depending on how the first couple of weeks of the war go, I may begin construction on a few more factories. Meanwhile, I'm researching Advanced Construction, to shore up a few weak spots in the Infrastructure where it's needed.

The military units used in the Guanxi operation were moved back to a few of the coastal ports for defensive purposes, and as with the ComChi participants, a few of the most promising commanders were transferred to units on the Japanese border in the north. By mid-April, several units were drawn back from the border with Japan, in hopes of baiting a declaration of war. Days later, as hoped, an incident at the Marco Polo Bridge escalated into open war, and Japan formally declared on both China and Shanxi, drawing in Xibei San Ma and Yunnan in defense of China. A Chinese convoy was immediately attacked and sunk by Japanese ships, and all remaining Chinese merchant vessels were ordered into the nearest friendly or neutral port for the duration of hostilities. The previously withdrawn troops were sent forward again, along with additional divisions, as China prepared itself for the long, bloody struggle to regain all of Manchuria.

I intend to launch a couple of "test" attacks on the border, and drive the Japanese back a province or two to the Manchukuo border, but otherwise wait until they're deep into Shanxi territory before beginning the drive to cut off their advance from behind. That should allow them to conquer Shanxi before their supplies run out, so I can easily "liberate" the territory for China, not for Shanxi. Note that, from what I've seen in similar situations, a province currently occupied by troops of any of its core owners will convert to ownership by that core owner upon its surrender, so if I scatter enough troops in separate provinces all across Shanxi before Japan takes its capital, I get to annex those provinces as cores immediately, rather than having to wait until I can strike a "white peace" deal with Japan.

One small consideration that I hadn't given thought to is Taiwan. I don't have much of a navy to protect an amphibious invasion, and it's a core area of China. This may take a bit of trickery, to lure enough of the IJN out of position while my troops get ashore. Supplying them afterwards will be another problem while Japan is attacking shipping, otherwise Japan can simply take it back.
 
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roverS3

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Thanks @Kovax for bringing us this detailed breakdown of your China game. I think we can all learn something from it. I, for instance didn't realise how much of an impact training laws had on the experience gained by reserve units in the process of mobilisation. I may have somewhat handicapped the Red Army by mobilising at a less than optimal training level. (Basic training, or Advanced training, I'd have to check.)

I'm looking forward to China's domination over the entire Asian mainland...
 
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Kovax

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Promises can be broken, and what appears solid may be revealed to be shifting sand or a sinking swamp. The initial engagement with Japan's border troops went spectacularly well, with Chinese infantry forcing a breakthrough, and cavalry racing through the gap to overrun the fleeing division. That cavalry was followed by more 3xINF divisions and a couple of 3xINF+ART, which drove an additional province deep before fanning out to both left and right. The group heading east managed to cut off two Japanese divisions and several HQs against the coast, and annihilated them. The group heading west closed a pocket against the advancing Shanxi forces, and a couple of those Japanese provinces were taken by each of China and Shanxi, eliminating those two divisions as well. The steadily arriving Japanese reinforcements were easily swept aside at first, but a LOT more kept arriving, and the front soon bogged down. As Japanese troops began to outnumber the Chinese on the new border in Manchukuo territory, and China scrambled to pull additional troops from the distant borders to reinforce, Japan began a landing at Qingdao. The three 2xINF divisions in the small peninsula were faced with one initial elite Japanese 4x division, and hard-pressed to deal with it, but it was followed by at least 6 more divisions, and it became a rout.

China's two wings of 3xINT were sent to intercept against the incessant Japanese bomber attacks, but proved to be no more than an even fight against Japan's 2xTAC. When the first of Japan's 3xINT Zeros arrived, China's air force got badly mauled: seriously outmatched in techs, doctrines, and commander levels. Worse, the only air field I had where my INT could reach the Japanese bombers along the front was well within Japan's radius of INT operations, making it painfully expensive to even take off or land. At that point, I realized that I had invested FAR too much in air, and not enough in ground troops. I had no choice but to either play out the defeat to its bitter end, or back up a few months and fix the mistake.

Reload, from just after the defeat of Guanxi Clique.....

The aircraft already in the production queue were moved to the bottom, and several additional divisions of 3xINF and 3xMTN were added. Several divisions were brought from the annexed Communist China and Guanxi vicinities to just below the border with Japan, and more leaders transferred to the soon-to-be active theater. The divisions in the Qingdao peninsula were brought up to 3xINF, and an additional division added to the larger port itself. I also waited about another month (May 1938) for several important techs and doctrines to complete before baiting Japan. Once again, the bait was almost immediately taken.

As before, the Japanese border forces were quickly eliminated, and a drive to the next river to the north was made in haste, while additional Japanese units filtered in from the east. Simultaneously, Shanxi pushed north as well, reaching their end of the river about the same time as the Chinese troops reached the long straight east-west section. The number of Japanese divisions continued to rise along the north side of the river and their remaining provinces on the south side, and it took several back-and-forth efforts to dislodge the Japanese from the last two provinces on the southern side, eventually reducing the Infrastructure to zero in both. My troops would drive back the Japanese, and before my units could occupy the province, fresh Japanese troops would advance into it, forcing a second fight. By the time my own troops managed to take it, they were too weakened to withstand the counter-attacks, and Japan would take it back until a fresh Chinese group could force them out again. I had a LOT of troops recovering Organization behind the front, parked in mediocre Infrastructure with no better place to go, and Japan undoubtedly was facing the same situation behind its lines. The only good points were that I was eventually holding the provinces, and that the Japanese were taking significantly more casualties in almost every battle. Then again, they've got more IC and Leadership to repair their losses.

I was eventually able to force a crossing just below the river bend in the east, above Mukden, and use that to take Mukden in August with a combined assault from that province and from two provinces across the river (to inflict that -10% outflanked penalty). From there, it was a long series of brutal slug-fests to take province after province, with the indispensable assistance of three 3xMTN divisions, until I cut off the Dalian peninsula, trapping and eliminating 5 more Japanese divisions in December. I've got one more MTN division moving up from the mountainous interior where it served well against Guanxi and was being kept in case of a Japanese landing in the south, and another MTN division in the production queue.

The Infrastructure in northern China and Manchukuo doesn't allow for much more than I'm already fielding, so I've begun boosting that Infrastructure along the "highway" where supplies are already traveling, beginning with a couple of Level 3 bottlenecks, and eventually raising the entire route from Nanjing to Mukden from mostly level 5 up to level 6.

At this point, early in 1939, I'm only moderately outnumbered, my generals and troops have gained enough combat experience to just about match the Japanese, and my essential Infantry techs and doctrines are all either current or being researched and soon to complete. A lot more units are in the production queue, and I'm raising the Infrastructure to allow me to use them where needed most. Harbin, the remaining Manchukuo VP location, is still a long way off, so this war is probably going to drag on for a couple more years, but I'm confident that I can eventually win it on the mainland, and then hope Japan will accept a "White Peace" offer.

I managed to steal Escort Carrier technology from France, so I've diverted one research slot to unlock CAGs in order to eventually build and arm my own prototype CVL. I MIGHT be able to use it (probably a suicide mission) to hold off a Japanese fleet long enough for me to land troops on Taiwan. It's also being built in order to raise Practical and Theoretical values, so I can research and build REAL carriers to deal with the Allies later. At that point, hopefully I'll be assisting Japan against the UK and France, not fighting against them.

Shanxi and Japan have not exchanged a single province since the opening two months of the war, so my strategy of allowing Shanxi to fall and then taking them myself has turned out to be wrong. I'd probably have done better to raise Threat on them instead of ComChi, since Shanxi's Conservative government would provide similar Threat modifiers, and then use their provinces to hit ComChi from multiple directions. The additional IC, resources, and Leadership from Shanxi would probably have more than compensated China for the loss of the pitifully little help they've provided against Japan in this war. On the other hand, they're adjacent to Japan, so any boost in their Threat would mean a bit less Consumer Demand in Japan, and therefore more troops for me to fight.
 
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Kovax

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By May of 1939, China had reached the corner of Japan's border on the Korean peninsula, and pushed into several of the mountainous provinces to the north-west of that river line. While harder to take, those mountain provinces are more defensible in the long run, allowing me to push forward toward Harbin with less units required to hold the flank. So far, practically every province taken over the past 6 months has been an epic battle, with reinforcements being brought in by both sides, spoiler attacks made against adjacent provinces, and counter-attacks as the first units advance into the newly taken province. The Russian Front in my previous campaigns was simple in comparison to this.

A wing of 2xTAC was sent to the newly built airfield in Mukden, but the additional supply drain proved to be more than the supply lines could handle, causing several units along the front to run out of supplies, and the planes were soon withdrawn without ever seeing action. Basically, I can't push ahead without extending my supply lines further and stretching the existing forces even thinner along an ever-widening front, at least until research finishes on another supply doctrine in July or the first few Infrastructure upgrades are completed (also in July) at the most serious supply bottlenecks. Stretching out only helps the Japanese, who still outnumber me to some extent. The half-dozen ART brigades that I have attached to units at the front have been the difference between success and failure in several battles thus far, allowing for more firepower than the frontage would normally allow, and I'm hesitant to withdraw them, but I may have no other choice but to detach them and pull them back to the Chinese interior. I'm building several 3xGAR divisions to hold ports with less drain on supplies, hopefully freeing up the regular combat divisions that are guarding them now. I may try sending a single INT to the Mukden airfield, to make a few weak ground attacks in order to raise air combat experience, which hopefully won't overtax the near-capacity supply system.

Cutting off Japan's supply lines from the Korean Peninsula won't solve anything, because Japan can magically teleport supplies to the capital of its puppet, Manchukuo, and its units will still be supplied via their network. Taking Harbin and annexing all of that Chinese core territory WOULD solve the problem, leaving Japan's troops stuck in isolated pockets, out of supply. Unfortunately, only limited operations can be taken with my existing troops until my supply situation is resolved, and taking the remaining Manchukuo VP location will not be a limited operation by measure.
 
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Very interesting read
 
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Kovax

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A month and a half later, in late June I managed to push forward into two provinces with one Manchukuo province between them, then take the provinces beyond, trapping two Japanese divisions in that province in between. Japan immediately gifted those two divisions as Expeditionary forces to Manchukuo ("They're your problem now, and it's not OUR fault if you lose them"). The Japanese immediately counter-attacked along the entire encircling ring, most of those attacks being made at very poor odds into mountainous terrain, but my divisions, already battered from the drive to close the pocket, were hard-pressed to outlast the attackers. Eventually, several of the attacks were broken off due to excessive casualties or counter-counter-attacks, and a couple of those units in the ring were then able to assist in attacking the attackers to spoil the remaining attacks, and in eliminating the two divisions in the pocket. Forces on both sides of the front were too weakened to make any further moves until they could recover. Two or three fresh divisions on either side of the front could probably collapse the opposing line, but clearly there were none to spare, or they'd already have been used.

That put me 2 provinces closer to my objective: Harbin, now 4 provinces away. It also put me closer to Xinjing, which is the capital of Manchukuo, but not a VP location, with only one province and a river between it and the Nationalist Chinese army. Taking the capital won't end the war, but it would give me a few more resources per day and Japan a few less, and I'd get to raid whatever is in Manchukuo's stockpile that hasn't already been sent to Japan. I've got a tiny surplus of Rare Materials, thanks to significant trade with the tiny UK enclave in the south, and my Energy and Metal shortages are only about -10 or less per day, thanks to a couple of trade deals with Middle Eastern countries and a minister providing a +5% resource bonus. At this rate, I probably won't run out of resources before the game's timeline expires.

A lone 1x Interceptor wing was sent to Mukden in late May, and after fuel began to arrive, it commenced a series of ground attacks against Japanese divisions along the river to the north, out of range of Japan's protective air cover. After only a few days, supplies dropped dangerously low along the front beyond Mukden, with a few units going completely out of supply, and the Interceptors had to be withdrawn. The supply situation is so precarious that a single INT will tip it over the edge. A supply doctrine to reduce the supply cost per province will complete in late July, allowing for a small increase in the sent supplies that actually reach the front. Three provinces will complete improvements to their Infrastructure a few days later, one of them a critical bottleneck, so there is definitely a light at the end of this tunnel. Additional Infrastructure upgrades will complete in late August and September, which should significantly improve the situation. I also replaced two 3xINF divisions along the coast with 3xGAR, and will attempt to use those freed-up 3xINF to relieve a couple of thoroughly battered 3xINF+ART divisions presently on the front, which I can then pull back to reduce supply usage slightly while they recover back in the Chinese interior. Meanwhile, I'm extremely constrained, and any further advances are likely to run me out of supply.

Due to the Thanksgiving Holiday, there may not be any further progress reports until after the weekend. Have a pleasant Thanksgiving, whether you celebrate it or not.
 
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Kovax

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Thanks to a 4 day holiday weekend, I was able to sit down for a marathon session on the one day. Overall, Thanksgiving turned out to be a pleasant day for everyone except the turkey.

The Infrastructure improvements definitely helped, although the wonderful supply AI decided to reroute some of the upper end of the path through a couple of level 3 infrastructure provinces, rather than the level 5s which were being upgraded to level 6. A militia doctrine to reduce HQ supply requirements also finished, and that enabled a bit more supply to reach the combat units. Chinese troops cleared 5 provinces along the river bordering the Korean Peninsula during the months of September and early October, then began working their way north against stiff opposition in the mountainous provinces above, eventually reaching and taking Xinjing. The Chinese Mountain divisions were instrumental in driving back the Japanese troops from those areas, and the occasional ART-equipped divisions allowed me to stack more firepower into the frontage. Xinjing may not be a VP, but it has significant Manpower, Leadership, and Resources, which allowed an extra research slot and almost canceled out the resource shortages (with the aid of large amounts of Rare Materials still being procured from the UK).

At the outbreak of war with Japan, I had immediately requested a production license for 2 of the latest-type Mark IX Submarines from Germany, which was accepted. A couple of days later, Japan joined the Axis, making any further requests impossible ("You just sold them WHAT?????"). Although I could not order the production of CAGs from the aircraft production screen, I was able to build one with the CVL that I started, thanks to the stolen French tech. Those "toys" would come into play later.

On December 7, 1939 (a day that will live in infamy in Japanese history), Chinese troops advanced into Harbin, and Manchukuo surrendered to China. That left Japan in control of only a narrow band of provinces stretching from Korea to the Soviet border where their armies actually stood, with half of that band cut off by Harbin. The ensuing battles to maintain the massive encirclement and to attempt a second cut above the river on the Korean border initially went in opposite ways: the Japanese troops deep in Manchuria along the river and along the Soviet border remained cut off, and operations began to drive them further back and eliminate them. The strip running from Harbin to the Korean border proved far more difficult, as additional Japanese troops crossed the river closer to the Soviet border, and expanded their supply path. Eventually, however, Chinese troops were able to drive most of the Japanese back across the river, with Japan only holding two Chinese core provinces on the Manchurian side.

At that point, I decided that it was time to attempt to regain Taiwan. The first license-built submarine had recently competed, and was "mostly" ready for operations. A second Transport ship had been added to the original starting Transport, but the third would not complete for a couple more months. The stolen French design CVL was also due for completion shortly, and would then need additional time to organize for operations, but the CAG was already complete and had been relocated to a small airfield across from Taiwan. A Corp of troops was ready to embark at Shanghai for the attack. The submarine did a quick scouting run, and determined that Taiwan was very likely being lightly guarded only by a single MOT division; it then moved further north to create a distraction by attacking Japanese convoys. As hoped, Japan began moving ships to patrol the northern waters, while the submarine moved south to take up a surveillance position above Taiwan. The transports were loaded (unfortunately they were only able to fit a total of 2 full divisions), and the loaded Transports and the entire Chinese surface navy moved down the coast to Taiwan. While the Transports began off-loading troops onto the island (one attacking the MOT division in order to pin it in place, while the other headed for the province to the north of the port), the remaining Light Cruisers and Destroyers took up position in the sea zone just north of it, to block any Japanese ships that attempted to interfere.

As expected, the Japanese sent a fleet to stop the invasion, which ran straight into the Chinese navy. A one-sided battle began, thankfully with the support of that lone land-based CAG, to delay the Japanese for as long as possible. A CL and a DD were lost, and the remainder of the Chinese navy broke and made a hasty retreat for the safety of port, but the Japanese ships (including two BBs) had been damaged enough to require repairs, and proceeded to return to their own port. One Chinese division successfully reached land, and began attacking the port garrison from the landward side. A Chinese 2xTAC (which had earlier failed to function in the north due to inadequate supplies) contributed in the attack on the Japanese MOT division. A second Japanese fleet was spotted by the Chinese sub north of Taiwan, and the Transports broke off the attack, making it to a small port only a couple of hours before the arrival of the Japanese ships. The lone successfully landed Chinese division was able to drive off the already weakened port garrison unit, and the port was soon in Chinese hands. Once the submarine spotter determined that the second Japanese fleet had wandered off to the south in search of Chinese ships to attack, the Transports slipped back to Shanghai, offloaded the combat division still on board (with a couple more days of attack delay remaining), and loaded up fresh divisions. This time, there was no problem sailing straight into the occupied harbor and unloading the troops. In roughly another month, Taiwan was completely in Chinese hands.

Cleanup in Manchuria took a bit longer than expected, mainly due to the mountainous provinces and inclement weather, but by the end of March 1940, all of the defending out-of-supply units had been destroyed, and it was only a matter of time to move into and occupy the last few empty Japanese-controlled mountainous provinces on the Soviet and Mongolian borders. The final two provinces along the river border with Korea were assaulted at poor odds, and additional units poured in until the Japanese units retreated. By the end of that month, China's forces in Manchuria were just about exhausted, but the core provinces were in Chinese hands.

On April 4, 1940, China requested a truce with Japan, and the war was ended with the currently held borders being maintained. Manchuria and Taiwan were back in Chinese hands, except for those couple of provinces taken by Shanxi, which was still at war with Japan. My concern is that declaring war on Shanxi may put me into the Axis automatically as co-belligerents against a common enemy, in which case I might be liberating Japanese territory, rather than taking it for myself. Joining the Axis before taking Yunnan and Xibei San Ma would drive them into the Allies when I declare war on them, and potentially turn them into Governments in Exile upon defeat, rather than China annexing them. That means, I need to take both before taking Shanxi, and probably Portugal as well. As I mentioned earlier, NOT taking Shanxi first was probably a mistake, but this is a learning experience.

Note that Diplomatic drift has been substantially AWAY from the Axis corner ever since Japan joined them, due to an Axis power (Japan) holding our cores. The UK has made occasional efforts to draw us toward their corner, and our supply deals with the SU have created some lateral shifting as well. By the end of the war against Japan, China is fairly close to the center of the diplomatic triangle, and it will take a while to move close enough to any faction. Declaring war on a faction member should put us into whichever faction they're already at war with, however.

As an alternate plan, NOT joining any faction might also work: I could declare a war to take the French and UK enclaves AFTER Germany is defeated, then possibly ask for a white peace with the UK. Not sure if that will work, but it's a potential backup plan in case Germany gets crushed quickly.
 
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Kovax

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The month of May, 1940 was spent moving troops to the borders of Yunnan, a process which had already been started several weeks before the truce with Japan. At the end of the month, most of the divisions were already in place, and the remainder would not arrive for another month or longer. Since Kunming, the capital of Yunnan, was valued at 3 Victory Points, and Dali, its other VP location, at only 1 point, it would not be necessary take Dali in order to force a surrender with Yunnan's National Unity at only around 72. War was declared, and Chinese troops began their attack on several of Yunnan's eastern and north-eastern border provinces leading toward the capital. The Yunnan army was no match for China's better equipped and far better led troops and officers, and Chinese aircraft hammered the Yunnan defenders without any effective counter, but the mountainous terrain dragged out each advance of a single province to nearly a month in duration. At the end of July, the capital was under attack, and the defending troops were forced to retreat during the first week of August. It took until close to the end of the month, however, for Chinese troops to occupy the city. Yunnan was formally annexed back into China before the end of August, 1840. The victorious troops then began the long march north to the Xibei San Ma border, while additional troops from further east moved to support them.

Xibei San Ma will be the next target, and troops are also being moved toward Macao, a single province of Chinese territory being held by Portugal. Portugal is not in a faction, so it should be possible to occupy the province and then offer a white peace. If not, Portugal wouldn't the toughest nut to crack. That will leave the French and UK enclaves, and Shanxi, to deal with. As said previously, I believe that declaring war on Shanxi while they're already at war against Japan would automatically put me in the Axis, and I'm not convinced at this point that it's a good idea.

Germany rolled through the low countries with ease, and France was surprisingly taken out of the war before the end of 1939, but with Japan not actively in the war against the Allies to draw off a few Allied fleets and divisions, Italy has apparently been fighting a losing battle to hold back the UK in North Africa, and several of its ill-fated series of flagship battleships have been sunk so far. I will have to wait a bit longer to see whether joining the Axis and supporting an Axis victory is feasible, or whether I should wait until Germany surrenders before starting a war with the Allies for the two single-province enclaves held by the UK and France, and then peacing out, rather than being trapped in a losing faction and forced to fight to the total defeat of one faction or the other. Meanwhile, I've got Xibei San Ma and Portugal to deal with.
 
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Question - How well would this work if a Player was in charge of Japan? Any suggestions on how to play differently as China? Just wondering...
 

roverS3

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Shanxi has become quite the dilemma. Maybe a solution would be to tag to Shanxi to have them white peace Japan, and then you can simply take them out ono your own terms? Of course, that might be considered cheating, but it also makes little sense for Shanxi to remain at war with Japan now, nor does it make any sense that if Nationalist China takes out Shanxi, Japan somehow would get some of that territory, regardless of whether or not Nat China is in the Axis. As ever the question is whether to play the game as designed, or to bend the game slightly to iron over it's more annoying flaws.

In any case, I'm curious to see how you resolve it.
 
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Kovax

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The movement of troops to the Xibei San Ma border took considerably longer than expected, as the weather was uncooperative, and the mountainous terrain, made more treacherous by mud, slowed movement to a crawl. By the beginning of November, most of the divisions were in place on the eastern end of the target country, but the divisions sent to take the VP location on the western end were not expected to arrive until the full onset of winter. With 3 1-point VP locations and National Unity over 70, all three would need to be taken to force a surrender, with the location far to the west requiring the longest trek over the worst terrain. The anticipated launch date for the operation was pushed back until spring. China began eyeing that Portuguese enclave.....

Question - How well would this work if a Player was in charge of Japan? Any suggestions on how to play differently as China? Just wondering...
With a human playing Japan, the entire approach would need to change. The primary reasons for the Chinese success so far have been a delay of the start of the war until a couple of semi-autonomous warlords were absorbed and more units were built with the additional IC, and the fact that China has Mountain divisions to use in the rugged interior, and Japan doesn't. With a human player, Japan would probably have launched the war at the first opportunity, have built a few MTN divisions of their own, and taken the simple step of piling up a sizable force on the border BEFORE triggering the decision for war. A human player would also have used Japan's dominance on the ocean to launch attacks on and around several ports to the south, forcing the Chinese to redeploy troops through the horrendous infrastructure.

China's only saving advantages in that case are its ability to spam huge numbers of weak MIL and GAR divisions, which would allow it to absorb tremendous casualties on the defense, but would be significantly weaker on offense, and Japan's difficulties in driving deep into the interior despite bad infrastructure, compounded by revolt risk. A series of initial drawn-out battles on a narrow frontage would give the Chinese some combat experience and better commander skills over time, while making Japan fight for every inch of ground. Ultimately however, without Allied assistance of some sort, China would in all likelihood be eventually outfought, outmaneuvered, and out-produced by Japan's stronger individual divisions, far greater maneuverability via Transports, and more modern industrial base.

I do not intend to tag-switch to solve the problem with Shanxi, although it might leave me with a handful of Japanese provinces in Manchuria on the Mongolian border which are Japan's cores as well as China's. The rest should be annexed by China when Shanxi surrenders, as long as China is the occupying country. That clearly does require occupying ALL of the Shanxi provinces (including the two Manchukuo provinces currently held by Shanxi) EXCEPT the capital, and then taking the capital, otherwise Japan will get any provinces which China did not occupy.

The bigger problem is deciding which of the factions to side with, when the time comes. Attacking the UK and France for their enclaves in southern China would be a death sentence if the Axis loses, but waiting until it's obvious that Germany is going to either win or lose gives less time to help sway the outcome before the end of the scenario. Germany's dilemma is that Japan has not joined the war, even though it's an Axis member, so Italy's navy is getting shredded by the concentrated Allied fleets, making its position in North Africa increasingly untenable, although Germany did exceptionally well in France. Depending on how Germany handles Norway (either taking it with ease, or piling on 100+ brigades of armor and motorized infantry to starve in the Norwegian mountains), the war could still go either way. China needs Germany to either win, or else lose quickly.
 
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Kovax

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The next move in China's long struggle to integrate all of its cores was the epic conflict to take back the tiny Portuguese enclave of Zhanjiang. On the morning of December 2, 1940, war was declared, and two Chinese divisions advanced into the port city. With no defending units and decent infrastructure, the move was made in less than 2 days. Late in the evening of December 3, the Chinese ambassador requested an end to hostilities, and Portugal quickly agreed to turn over administration of the province to China, in exchange for the usual guarantees of fair treatment of its citizens. The province has no industry, no resources, no Leadership, and no Manpower, but it is a VP location and a functional port, with a Chinese core, the last of those qualities making it a mandatory acquisition for China.

A freshly built division was deployed to the Xibei San Ma border, since the two divisions heading toward the western end of the country were STILL in transit in early January, 1941. In all likelihood, that fresh unit will be fully organized well before the arrival of the repeatedly delayed veteran units from the south.

The situation between the Allies and Axis is still extremely questionable. Germany is doing impressively well so far in this campaign, having taken out France well ahead of the historical timeline, racing through Denmark and Norway without getting itself bogged down for months (or years in the case of Norway, as I've seen happen too many times), and is now redeploying divisions to the east. Italy, on the other hand, has under-performed pathetically, even in comparison to its lack-luster historical showing. At one point, France had advanced into Italy far enough to take Milan, before the German forces surrounding Paris forced the French units in Italy to withdraw to try to save their capital. The situation in North Africa went from minor progress to losing Tobruk, and the ill-considered declaration of war against Greece resulted in Greek and Yugoslavian forces occupying all of Italy's conquered territory in Albania before a surprisingly effective Bulgaria restored it to Italian control and began taking large swaths of Greek territory for itself. Japan is still at war against Shanxi, and has not joined Germany's struggle against the Allies, meaning that the UK is free to concentrate nearly its full military weight against Italy.

Basically, aside from annexing Xibei San Ma, I'm going to have to wait to see how Germany fares in the Soviet Union to decide where to go from here. Both the UK and Germany have frequently spent Leadership points to try to drag China closer to their own corner, leaving China just a hair to the Axis side of mid-way between the two. To paraphrase Billy S., that old poet and boat-anchor to the English language, "Axis or Allies, that is the question".
 
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Kovax

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After additional delays and setbacks due to rain, on February 11, 1941, one of the divisions finally reached its destination on the Xibei San Ma border. Despite the lingering cold rain, it was decided to delay no longer, and war was declared. The weak binary divisions on the border proved to be no match for the veteran Chinese divisions which outmatched them in numbers, techs, leadership, and mobilization. Chinese tactical bombers supported the attacks, and the defenders were driven back in a matter of a couple of days. Then came the hard part.

The mountainous interior of China, with mostly level 3 Infrastructure, was smooth going compared to the provinces where the army was struggling to advance through, most of it at Level2 of what can only charitably called "infrastructure", if undeveloped goat-paths can be called "roads". By the tail end of March, the two VP provinces in the eastern end had fallen to the Chinese, but Chinese troops had yet to reach the first of the border provinces in the west. Road construction was initiated in a few of the captured provinces in the east, but that would in all likelihood play no part in the conquest.

I'm beginning to suspect that I did this whole thing backwards. Raising Threat on the UK was the right start, but I should have taken out Shanxi first, then the UK and French provinces, before getting involved against Japan. My own increased Threat at that point would likely have been sufficient to declare on Communist China at any point, and my decreased Neutrality after that should have allowed me to take out Portugal's enclave and the remaining warlords at my leisure. Now, any attack on an Allied power will automatically put me in the Axis, so I'm stuck until either the UK or Germany defeats the other (or Germany is pretty well set on the road to victory), and one faction is effectively out of the picture.
 
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