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.
Antwerp, Belgium, June 1940:
This could take longer than I thought. Holland capitulated almost as soon as it was invaded yet, with my help, Belgium fights on. Having established a defensive line across the country’s rivers, French and Belgian forces continually repel German attacks. In Bruges a British expeditionary force arrives, but seems content to sit and watch.
Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Greece have now all joined the war, while poor Denmark had its neutrality violated and lies under German rule. The French army in Northern Europe, now numbering 670,000 men, digs in along a continuous line from the English Channel to Switzerland. Attacks from both sides end in stalemate.
Initially French forces broke through along the Belgian border, and for three glorious days there was nothing but open roads between them and Aachen (historically the first German city to fall). Then German reinforcements flooded in and pushed them back. Three French divisions were annihilated in the retreat.
The only war of movement occurs in the sky, where my hopelessly outgunned air force attempts to blunt the Luftwaffe’s bombing raids on my troops at the front lines. The Allies’ control of the seas continues, thankfully, meaning that supplies and munitions are flowing freely between France and the USA.
Poor little Luxembourg has been invaded more in the past six months than in its entire history. The country passes between French and German hands more times than a bottle of hooch during prohibition. Almost as soon as the government-in-exile returns they have to retreat again.
The summer sun seems to keep everyone indoors, yet I’m still losing ground in Belgium. My army is the only one pulling its weight, having to fill in all the gaps in the line.
Tired of the stalemate I decide it’s time for some affirmative action: Italy has been suspiciously quiet – they’ve been struggling to subdue Greece and have left their cities unguarded. In a daring move I decide to land an invasion force directly on Rome. He who dares, right?
Wrong. On approach, three of the transports explode and my men are scattered along the shore. A division forms itself in Anzio, which is awfully prophetic. Any attempts I make to relieve them fail and though my high-quality infantry fend off multiple waves of Italian attacks they eventually succumb. Two more failed landings cost me 7,000 men and nine ships – it looks like we’ll have to attack the old fashioned way.
At the signal they’ve been anticipating for five years my French mountaineers and infantry pour over the Italian border and, after some stiff fighting, make headway. By October we’ve taken Genoa, Turin and are closing on Milan. The Germans are panicking, sending divisions of their own down to shore up their ally’s courage. For once the war has some movement! Challenge 2 (taking Italy out of the war) is a go!
I keep taking glances at the Russian border. Will Hitler make his famous gamble? My intel is sparse and Stalin is being a bit of a dick and refusing all my calls, so I have no idea what’s going on. Having a million Germans move away from our front would be lovely, though.
Meanwhile in Belgium things are grim and bloody. A steady stream of patriotic young Frenchmen keep my armies stocked up in the meatgrinder. Though we beat back attack after attack, the Germans continue throwing themselves at our well dug-in positions. Soon, though, only a thin strip of Belgium is left in Allied control.
In the African theatre things are going better. Having not really bothered to defend their Tunisian borders, Italy’s armies are caught between my AI-controlled general and the British. Within two weeks they’ve lost all but the capital city. It seems that we may have found a way to end this war as the Italians crumble before our quality troops.
Suddenly it’s 1941. We’ve been at war for a year and a half and I’ve not come close to any progress. I set myself a mini target to defeat Italy by the end of the year. Overtures to the Americans are falling on deaf ears - even though they are swimming in crude oil and sat atop mountains of supplies they can't be bothered to trade with me.
Like Hannibal and his elephants I can see Rome in my sights. 1941 will be the year this war turns.