Stopping World War Two - Part II
Hearts of Iron III allows players to take on the role of any major (or minor) nation in WW2. I’m trying to stop the war from even becoming global by defeating the Germans before they’ve even started.
The Maginot Line, Strasbourg, France, Sept 1939:
There wasn’t much I could do to save Poland. To be honest there wasn’t much I wanted to do to save Poland. There was simply no way of me getting there in time to stop the German invasion. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself as I watch the ever-growing cloud of dust across the border.
When war begins in Hearts of Iron the gameplay slows. This isn’t a bad thing – you need to be able to make decisions by the in-game hour to ensure victory. As such I’ve been manoeuvring my troops around for two hours in real time and only a few days have passed.
There have been a few attacks. The Germans probed the northern end of the Maginot but were forced to flee before a hail of artillery. It seems all is going well. I’m holding up my end of the bargain on the continent, looking over my proverbial shoulder at London. The British have started slowly (as they did in history). It seems that I am the only one not interested in repeating The Phoney War.
Meanwhile, in the South of France, it seems the Italians are satisfied with sunbathing and kicking their feet. The AI usually only attacks when it thinks it has a chance of victory. I’m happy in the knowledge that the Italians are content to sit out the first year or two.
I’m still rushing to fill my divisions with more officers, with the percentage up to a still-not-good-enough 76%. My diplomatic charm is doing far better, however. Republican Spain, fresh out of a civil war (and having changed history by emerging victorious), has joined the Allies.
Unfortunately and about a year too early historically the war has gone global. Almost as soon as Germany invaded Poland, in fact only a few weeks after the first shots were fired, Japan joined the Axis. They’re not at war with the Allies yet but it basically threatens all my possessions in Asia. My commander in Saigon demands 30 infantry divisions, 4 tank brigades and 10 bomber wings. I send him 5 divisions of militia and some police to calm him down.
The naval war, on the other hand, is going swimmingly. My submarines and fleets have been patrolling the Mediterranean sinking German and Italian ships at will. It’s basically the only side of the war that’s actually moving along.
By November 1939 Poland has nearly had it. Unlike it’s real-life counterpart, the Polish haven’t had to deal with both the Germans and the Russians, and are grimly holding on to a small patch of their country.
Britain then throws an absolutely huge wildcard into the deck. After I’ve attempted some (embarrassingly awful) attacks across the border, the UK launches a full-scale invasion of Germany. In what is undoubtedly code-named “Operation Huge Balls”, a massive Anglo-Spanish army lands on Germany’s north coast, supported by the full might of the Royal Navy. Patriotic tears flowing, I watch as the Brits and Spanish drive a beachhead, all in the depths of winter.
Bismarck, the famous German chancellor, when asked what he would do if the British army invaded Germany, once remarked “I’d have them arrested”. It seems that Hitler is planning more than that though, as he pulls most of his armies from the Polish invasion to tackle the new threat.
It’s decision time for France, the Allies and me. This whole time I planned to defend the Maginot Line, wear out the Germans on the defensive, to then mop up the remains. Now if I don’t help Britain out they could be taken out of the war altogether. Since the war started I had been gathering an armoured corps in the south of the Maginot Line – around 28,000 men and tanks. I intended it to be used to encircle the Germans as they tried to invade, but should I instead be the invader?
Throwing caution, my battle plans and stereotypes about French bravery to the wind I order my tank brigades forward, engines gunning.
They make it about thirty miles.
After smashing through the German infantry in their way my tank brigades ran into the withering power of the Luftwaffe. After three days of bombings I pull my units back, tail between legs. It looks like I won’t be able to help the Brits after all. Slowly their beachhead is surrounded and they’re forced to evacuate.
March 1940 rolls around and I nervously begin checking my defences once again. Although the German invasion of France started in May 1940, Hearts of Iron’s Hitler appears to be on a tight schedule. On March 4th he declares war on Holland and Belgium and begins his invasions. Unlike the historical French I’ve been waiting, and launch a counter-attack almost immediately in order to secure the River Meuse. At last I get to test my armies against the Germans in open battle.
Like Théoden of Rohan stood atop Helm’s Deep I mutter to myself:
“So it begins.”