In Arsenal of Democracy (CORE mod), after a 3-4 year campaign playing as Japan where I learned the ropes and eventually got bogged down in a slogging match in China (as historically happened to be fair), I started a new game - this time as Italy
I've sunk a good 30-40 hours into my Italian game. It's now the fall of 1941.
I managed to raise Italy's peacetime industrial capacity to over 150-160% of what it was in the beginning through a mixture of investment into IC in provinces, ministers and policy sliders.
I realised that I would never be able to guarantee the security of my convoys and sealanes against British and American naval power; therefore I decided against any trade with the Americas or Asia whatsoever and neglected diplomacy there. Instead I have been focussing all my resource-aquisition efforts at Europe; Germany and Central Europe, Balkans, Iberian Peninsula, Scandinavia - they have thus far kept me adequately supplied with the resources I needed to feed my expanded industrial economy, and not to mention oil for navy and air force.
Supplies are a constant problem because its what I've used to trade in return for resources. And my military gulps down supplies by the bucket load, especially when I order my corps to prepare for an offensive. So I've been forced to dedicate a substantial chunk of my IC into producing supplies.
I already had several ships under production when I started the game. Several events gave me a few more, chiefly capital ships such as Battleships or Battlecruisers. I didn't focus as much on naval production as I did on the air force; but nontheless I decided to modernise a few of my destroyers I had underway into a newer long-range model, and the same with some of the submarines.
- I embarked on a couple serial runs of transport ship production - the plan was that I would have about 3-4 flottilas of 3 transports each - and these would be vital for transporting Italy-based corps into Tripoli and for amphibious attacks on Egypt, French North Africa, Lebanon, Syria, Cyprus, Malta and so on. I managed to produce all these ships in time and organised them as I wanted; basing them in Italy and North Africa.
- To support my transport ships I started production of 3 light carriers. The plan was that each of these carriers would form a small surface action group together with 4-5 destroyers. These groups would be very versatile and high-speed, I would be able to use them for ASW, convoy-raiding, reinforcement of the main fleets in crucial battles, as well as grouping with the transport ship flottilas when needed, and supporting amphibious operations (which the light carriers are adept at doing). I did indeed managed to fulfil my targets and create 3 such groups by the time I entered the war. I based them in bases in South Italy, Tunisia and also one in Ethiopia, not far from the transport flotillas.
- Otherwise - I focused on 2 fleets. Foremost - The Grand Fleet; which I planned to bring up to a strength of 24 ships; 12 capital ships (BBs/BCs/CAs) and 12 screening units (CLs, DDs) as standard. I gave it all my obsolete capital ships and older, short range destroyers and light cruisers. The events that gave me more capital ships helped a lot in this regard as I didn't have any in production for this fleet. I based this fleet in Venezia, and bar a capital ship or 2 I had it ready by the time the war broke out.
- My longer-range destroyers and light cruisers, as well as a couple of my modern Battlecruisers with long range I decided to form the 2nd, auxillary fleet with. The plan for it was to be 12 ships strong; again with the standard 50/50 ratio of capital ships/screens. I had no problem with gathering enough screening units, but only managed to assign 1-2 capital ships to it by the time the war broke out; leaving it too heavily underpowered to be of much use. I have it based in the Adriatic; the plan was to use this long-range, high-speed fleet to harass British naval flotillas in the Red Sea, Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean, perhaps even augmenting the Japanese fleet in the region. But alas it continues to sit in port - I don't have the resources to finish it for the forseeable future.
- I have even more light cruisers and destroyers, but I organised them all into a couple of reserves that are sitting in Italian ports, waiting to replace those lost in active service.
- Finally - I had my submarine forces. I organised them all by range into 4-5 wolfpacks; ranging from a wolf-pack consisting of my most obsolete, 1000km range subs, to one that's based on modern long-range subs with a range of 4500km. I deployed them to North Africa, Ethiopia, Italy and Rhodes to give them as much feeding water as possible
Any given naval force moves at the speed of its slowest ship, and its range is the maximum range of its shortest range ship. So these are the considerations I had in mind when I organised my naval force.
My Air Force is the branch I concentrated the most on in terms of production; it was the branch I had the least amount of what I needed when I started the game, although it was still respectable in size even in the beginning. I neglected R&D and production of any form of strategic bomber, transport, light or heavy fighter. Instead I piled all my research and production into CAS, tactical bombers (useful not only on land but as naval bombers with the appropriate attachments), naval patrol bombers and interceptors.
I didn't need strategic bombers; I had nothing in range really to hit; the Middle East and Africa had barely any infrastructure or industry and they'd be my primary concern. I'd let Germany worry about Britain and Russia. I didn't need transports because I was focusing on marines in lieu of paratroopers. I didn't need light fighters because I wasn't worried about establishing air superiority over foreign airspaces and I didn't need dedicated escort fighters because I had no strategic bombers to escort.
What I planned to build:
- 2 Naval bomber squadrons of 4 squadrons each, as well as another larger one of 6 squadrons. They consist of mostly naval patrol bombers but also with one squadron each tactical bombers with naval bombing equipment; which are worse at finding targets but better at the actual naval bombing. Putting them together in air corps with naval patrol bombers creates formidable forces. At least that was the plan; I've built them up mostly but I don't have the spare capacity for building the tactical bombers to go with them as of now. They're deployed to Southern Italy, Sardinia and Rhodes; covering all 3 sections of the Mediterranean; Centre, West and East.
- A couple CAS corps of 3 CAS squadrons plus an interceptor squadron with a ground attack attachment. Managed to get them all pumped out. Got them deployed over North Africa. Great for hacking at the strength of disorganised and retreating enemy forces.
- Several Tactical Bomber corps of 4 Tactical bomber squadrons each; 2 of them with Escort Fighter attachements. Got them all produced. Deployed to North Africa/South Italy and one in Ethiopia. Useful for destroying infastructure, airbases, port strikes and their primary tactical bombing role which severely hits at the organisation of enemy ground units.
- Nearly a dozen interceptor ADs; each consisting of 2 inteceptor squadrons. I doted them around my empire; chielfy in Italy because that's where I expected enemy strategic bombers to target (and I was right). I produced about 70-80% of what I intended
In terms of ground forces I already had most of what I needed. The main thing was organising and deploying them appropriately, building some bridages and HQ units, some additional mountain divisions, as well as a dedicated marine and light tank force. For the longer-term perspective I had my eye on dedicated motorised infantry & medium armour corps.
Sadly even the most modest of those plans never came to be before I joined the war in 1941.
I conducted the research for the marine and light tank forces; and then put them on my production queue but they're pretty far down on my list of priorities right now; I can't spare the IC.
The motorised infantry/armour forces remain a distant dream; I haven't even got all the research down for them, and the war already waging on the deserts of North Africa will be decided long before I have any thought of producing and deploying them.
Even the HQ units that I planned to build; and which I do need quite badly - I simply can't spare anything for right now.
The brigades are chugging along, slowly being built although I still have a way to go in fulfilling my targets.
The couple of mountain divisions I needed I finished thankfully.
Basically I organised what forces I do have roughly as follows:
- 2 mixed infantry-cavalry corps; each consisting of 1 cavalry division and 2 reserve divisions, with a mix of infantry/light tank/towed artillery/combat engineer brigades. They pack a punch, but cavalry are useless in the desert, so I've posted them to North Italy, in case I have problems with the Yugoslavs or some sort of amphibious invasion
- 4 infantry corps, each formed of 1 infantry division and 2 reserve divisions. A mix of brigades are attached, cavalry, artillery, anti-air, anti-tank, armoured cars and combat engineers. 3 of them are fighting in Egypt right now; another I keep in reserve in Italy in case I need it; which in fact I just did when I employed it to take back Sardinia after it was captured by the British in an amphibious invasion.
- 3 alpine corps, each containing two mountain divisions; one with an infantry regiment (extra defense and attack) and another with combat engineers (greatly helps crossing rivers, assault fortifications). I have one based in the Alps, one in the mountains of Albania in case the Yugos attack, and yet another fighting advancing from Ethiopia against nearby British provinces and bases in the many foothills there.
- Several colonial corps based in Africa; mostly in Ethiopia armed with whatever spare brigades I have, but also two of them in Libya armed with 1 anti-tank brigade each. Each of them consist of 2 reserve divisions.
- A regular infantry division in central Ethiopia led by a fine commander which I use for plugging holes in my defense.
- Many garrisons/security with attached police brigades; helping pacify Ethiopia, and with a reserve of 4 more in Rome waiting to be deployed to pacify occupied territory that I will conquer more of I hope. 2 such divisions are deployed to Rhodes and Sardinia (important air and naval bases on both) with attached infantry regiments to boost their defensive strength. I've also been planning to build up the coastal fortifications on these provinces but alas haven't managed to do so before the war broke out.
One other thing - the vast majority of all my forces are obsolete, especially the ones I started with. I researched the technology, I was planning to upgrade them - but I had other priorities. And now that the war has broken out - I can't spare the IC on such things.
My game went pretty much as standard; I rapidly annexed Ethiopia, giving the most promising commanders command of my forces there so that they could get some experience under their belt. An event gave me the option of diverting resources to setting up a huge amount of supplies and depots in Ethiopia. I accepted the most expensive option, and a year or so later I was rewarded with a huge amount of supplies there and some garrison forces, basically I had enough there for my troops (+ air squadrons and naval flotilla I had there) to fight for half a year without resupply. This would prove vital.
Spain erupted into a civil war as per historical event. I elected to provide assistance to Franco and his Nationalist forces. However I've been disappointed - after a year or 2 of dynamic fighting they both ended up in a stalemate; with the Republican forces holding less territory and with a lot less industry yet still holding on. It's been that way right up to the present hour.
Elsewhere in Europe things pretty much happened as they did historically. Germany annexed Austria, taking the Czech part of Czechoslovakia while puppeting the Slovaks, and then crushed Poland, got declared war on by Britain and France; crushed France, Denmark Norway, the low countries, and is now fighting a constant air battle over Britain and Germany. Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria also followed suit and joined the Axis alliance. So did Vichy France, which now controls almost all of France's former territory and saves me the worry about having to confront French forces in North Africa and the Middle East.
The USSR annexed the Baltics, Eastern Poland, fought the Winter war with Finland to a stalemate and took the border territory that it did historically.
The main inconsistencies in Europe in comparison to actual history - was that firstly - Yugoslavia and Greece were never invaded. In fact Yugoslavia was even part of the Axis alliance for a while before leaving. Secoundly and most importantly - a war between the USSR and Germany has yet to take place; June 22nd 1941 came and went.
In '38 or '39 as per a historical event; I ended up in a war with Albania. I took over its territory but I never formally annexed it and declared peace. The reason being is that while at war my economy is mobilised and produces a lot more IC and manpower. I took advantage of this fact.
In the Far East - things were pretty historical too - Japan started invading China, controlling most of the coast by now but still fighting inland. Japan ended up in a war with America and through a sequence of mostly historical events I don't recall exactly - ended up in a war with America, Britain and the other allies, while America, its own small allies and Nationalist China ended up in a war with Germany and the other Axis members.
I didn't enter the Axis alliance too soon, I bid my time in order to further build up my forces. When I decided enough was enough; sometime in the Spring of 1941; I put all my IC into reinforcing my heavily under-strength and depleted military. Within a couple of months I had everything re-enforced. I subsequently joined the Axis alliance in the early summer. I instantly had several events that brought me up to full mobilisation, increasing my IC and manpower yet further; and then Germany and other Axis powers gave me plenty of free blueprints for my research.
I automatically ended up in a war with all of their enemies, and began my thrust into Egypt; controlled by the British. I made rapid progress and got as far as El-Alamein before I was defeated and even thrown back in an adjacent province. The infrastructure is very poor there and my corps take very long to regain their organisation. However, now I feel that, supported by tactical bomber and CAS air corps nearby - I could try for El-Alamein again, and cut-off another 3 British divisions from supply in an adjacent province if I succeed.
My main hope was to seize the Suez in an amphibious operation. This in fact what I tried for when I entered the war; one of the first things. I moved my Grand Fleet into the adjacent sea zone to protect the transports; only to have it engaged by the Brits over a series of naval battles. We both lost a lot of ships, I lost over half my capital ships and several destroyers and light cruisers. The Brits probably came of a little worse, but it was fairly equal. The screens I can replace with my reserves; but the capital ship losses I could barely afford. With my navy badly bruised and not wanting to wait for a fresh British or American fleet to come by, I had to call off the amphibious operation - there wasn't enough time to complete it and I tried for it twice only to have my navy engaged there multiple times.
Now my navy sits in port and repairs on the ships proceed very slowly. The British and Americans control the seas with their smaller fleets and conduct port strikes, amphibious operations, ASW and convoy raiding at will. My main hope is to repair my fleet, pair it with the auxillary half-finished fleet in port at the moment (which I've already employed to augment my fleet before as well), as well as with a couple of my carrier surface action groups (only 1 of them has a carrier left anymore though, the others had theirs sunk), and try again. I'll have one more shot I reckon.
Either by way of my army attacking from the West towards El-Alamein, or my amphibious operation plans - I must
seize the Suez. It would cut the British off from their empire to the East but most importantly - it would allow me to resupply my large forces in Ethiopia (thinking back on it, keeping so many men there was a mistake). They have at most 2 months worth of supplies left; and no oil already which makes the air and naval forces stationed there useless.
My forces in Ethiopia made huge gains initially, striking out North, South and West; but as in North Africa, the British rapidly re-enforced with more divisions, and now my corps have advanced too far and are not flexible enough to deal with the fresh, well-organised British forces attacking from the flanks and threatening encirclement in some cases. Advancement is too slow and British resistence as late too stubborn for there to be a chance of reaching the Suez from the south before supplies run out, as I had hoped.
Convoy-raiding has taken a slow, even toll on each side. What I strike with my sub wolf-packs and naval aviation they match with their own subs and their destroyer and carrier flottilas which roam freely along the Mediterranean. But of course I will run out of convoys long before the Brits do. Not too much of a worry though; I still have hundreds more for the moment, I couldn't have lost more than 5% of my convoy strength thus far.
My air defense interceptors are doing an adequate job protecting Italy. My airspace is constantly invaded by American, British, even Nationalist Chinese strategic bombers together with their escort fighters. I'm finding that individual AD corps find it hard to come off the victor when fighting individually against such groups - but when they band up they disorganise the enemy and put them out of action for a while. For the most part I'm keeping them out, although I still get bombed from time to time - but it's pretty minor.
It's shaping up to be a grueling war of attrition between Italy and the British Empire; and such a war I cannot hope to win. Despite my allies I feel like I'm alone in this conflict - all the ships in the Mediterranean sea and divisions on the ground in Africa are solely my own. Over my own airspace too - it's mostly just my guys - Germany only intercepts what's on its own airspace for the most part.
I have no Industrial Capacity to spare for the production of new units or the upgrade of existing ones. Almost all of it goes towards re-enforcement of my forces, with the rest going towards producing supplies, and some towards consumer goods to make sure that my dissent doesn't shoot up.
My hope is that Japan will grind down Nationalist China and focus more on the British, forcing them to split their resources and divisions; between North Africa and the Far East.
My troops in Ethiopia are rapidly running out of supplies and they will surely be destroyed if I let these supplies run out. My only hope is to either punch through El-Alamein with my infantry corps, or gather what I have of my navy in time and capture the Suez with a major amphibious offensive. Both approaches are difficult and uncertain.
Initial gains aside, it increasingly seems like the British are slowly turning the tables back on me. Italian servicemen, from the outskirts of El-Alamein to the hills of British Sudan, from the oil deprived sub pen in coastal Ethiopia to the naval aviators hunting convoys from their airbase in Sardinia are grimly looking towards the approaching storm clouds from the Western horizon, all standing and waiting in silence - for their Darkest Hour
(oh wait that's the other game)