Chapter Two: Swampland of Desire
My recent success in annexing Illinois & California came with it's own set of problems. While California allowed me to build my first Uranium mines (the one resource that Michigan is totally lacking in any amount) I now found that my ability to keep up on timber, water and consumer goods was no longer up to par. While I laid blueprints to get those issues fixed, I began to assimilate California properly. I mean that in the Borg sense, too.
First I began to scrap every last one of their military bases (except for their research centers - those I could use) and then rebuild them into a second Castle hex (port type) off the coast of Los Angeles. And I mean that literally, too - I began building a bridge out to an unoccupied island nearby and put the port out there. As a rule I try to keep Castles far from population areas. That way any enemy attacking is going to have to come across lots of wide, open terrain which makes them easy to spot and even easier to engage with rapid-response Challenger tank teams. An average of two per state is well within my budget and, compared to the amount of stuff states normally have in them, once I scrap their native military entirely & replace them with Castles I've simultaneously made my own military presence both small and
By capturing California & avoiding major city battles I managed to acquire most of their navy perfectly intact, including a Nimitz class aircraft carrier and half a dozen Improved Los Angeles submarines. These would come in handy so I kept them. Most of their other stuff I ended up selling off to Mexico (at a huge profit, naturally). Why do I keep feeding Mexico so much? Because my second biggest threat is Texas, which obviously borders Mexico. By selling my stuff to Mexico I can, at the same time, lower my own global cassus belli while still forcing Texas to back off from their threatening posture. Sure, they could declare war any time - and in doing so get a bonus war with Mexico via mutual defense pact. A Mexico that is strangely a lot more heavily armed than they first appeared to be. Ditto for Cuba, though to a far lesser extend. This is a lesson that Florida learned the hard way when they declared war on me.
I managed to pick up a few transport ships along when I inherited California's navy, and this was one of those rare times I would actually have a need for them (read: amphibious assault). Since I shared no borders with Florida I had time on my side, which was good because getting those slugs from LA down through the Panama Canal and back up a port in east Mexico took quite a long time. The rest of my army just drove across Mexico itself to meet them on the other side. My airforce, what little of it there was even after California's donations, flew over to friendly airbases in Cuba. And those half dozen submarines? They led the way, sinking 90% of Florida's navy within a week of arriving at Havana.
With that out of the way I picked up my troops & sailed them right into the Florida Keys. Again I faced a long wait for supply but not as bad as I did in Texas because you can't throw a dead cat in Florida without hitting an airfield, and airfields bring supply in much faster than normal. Defending until I got my latest port-type Castle started was remarkably easy, as I built it pretty much where I landed in the end of the Florida Keys (Island bases appeal to my inner evil genius) and there is only one highway on & off the keys. This meant that every unit they threw my direction was basically coming right down a narrow tunnel where my own tanks were waiting to ambush them. Have you ever noticed that units entrenching in bridge hexes become invisible to the enemy? By the time my barracks was up & my army ready to move out pretty much everything Florida had left that wasn't aircraft or artillery had already been pulverized (either dead or deep in repair). Once again it was time for the SAMs to earn their pay, as Florida has a bajillion airfields for a reason. Plus it was a long way from the keys to their capitol in Tallahassee. Luckily they only had one major military center up in their northeast end. Although it was a royal headache to take (insane amounts of stacked artillery) once it finally did fall then the capitol itself was simple.
A note of AI & artillery: Egads the AI is in love with artillery & AA guns! Get to their capitol and you'll find every hex around it is filled with artillery overflow because it can't any more in the capitol hex itself. When thirty or more of those guns open up on you at once your units will panic & flee so fast that it's embarrassing. There is, however, a way to deal with it. It's probably not the best way, but it works. Simply put, side-swipe them with tanks. Get a good sized stack of tanks, at least four battalions worth, and instead of attacking the city itself have them sweep through a ring two hexes beyond that, close enough to engage the enemy's artillery stacks directly (you'll slaughter them, and tanks have the best resistance to artillery morale breaking) and far enough away that the city hex itself can't hit your tank stack with a Close Quarters attack (which would end badly). Don't stick around! Blow them up and fall back before you run out of fuel & ammo (which happens faster than you'd think). Resupply and repeat until you've weeded out all their floating artillery run-off and your infantry attacking that city at long last will have a much better go of it.
About halfway through this invasion Alabama declared war on me, too, but within hours of Florida surrendering & them quickly realizing that they now shared a border with me and oh crap their army is right there
they quickly offered a peace treaty without a shot being fired. I accepted, because frankly I was tired of the DEFCON drain on my already stressed economy and I needed time to both tear down & rebuild Florida into the model I was accustomed to. One thing I left alone, though: Kennedy Space Center. I know had to ability to launch all those satellites that I had been building up to now, and without having to spend a dime on researching Orbital Launch Pads and all the other associated technologies need to start my own space program from scratch. Thanks, Florida!
Most of the second half of 2022 and the first half of 2023 would be spent just getting everything rebuilt & up to par again. For those wonder what I was researching up to now the answer is mostly transportation. Anything with an infrastructure rating boost was my main focus. Infrastructure boosts increase production values across the board, which is especially important when trying to offset the loyalty penalty for captured areas. Plus in wartime it helps me get more supply delivered to my units faster. Advanced Sterling Engines fell into this area as well, which was the first step to getting Advanced Solar Plants ASAP at tech level 116. Over time I would spread those things everywhere, jamming them into any empty slots left over when building any other type of industrial facility. Got a four slot timber facility? Two ASP centers, then. Four slots of oil production? Two more ASP centers. Four water works? Two more ASPs. Most of them were on pause - I didn't have even a third of industrial capacity I need to do them all at once, but I always laid blueprints as soon as I made my plans and then just left them on pause until the chance to actually build them came up the queue.
Eventually, though, I got everything running well enough to begin planning a new conquest. I checked my cassus belli list to see whom I could declare war on without honking off the UN (whom were only just now starting to forgive my attack on Illinois year earlier). It did not look promising: Northern China, Southern China and Japan were my only options for 100% Cassus Belli. I opted for Southern China. I noticed a large island on it's south end that would prove very useful to me. With the remainder of Florida's navy finally repaired & added to my own I now had seven SSNs and a six stack of destroyers, along with half a dozen small carriers & transports. I drove my army back to The Region Formerly Known as California and loaded them up into ships & planes at the port Castle that I build on that little island out there. Then I sent them all to Japan to chill at their bases until my combat navy was in position.
I waited until they actually arrived before declaring war, of course. I also checked South China's diplomatic standpoint and it did not look good for them: They were already at war with Northern China, Manchuria, Myanmar, Tibet, Inner Mongolia, Vietnam, Taiwan and the Philippines. In other words they were at war with everyone they shared a border with and even a few country's they didn't share a border with as well. Soon there would be one more added to that list. So while invading China may seem to be a stupid idea at first, upon closer inspection I realized that I actually had a lot of help in this and would just be another small player trying to take a chunk out of them before North China finished them off. Or so I thought.
First my submarine fleet swept the waters around the island, which was easy but time consuming. South China had dozens, if not hundreds, of these little useless patrol boats scattered about everywhere. They made good target practice but every time I sunk one I'd spot three more in the next hex over. So it took a while, but eventually I managed to clear them out enough for my surface combatants to arrive. My plan was to use the destroyers to soften up their defenses on the island before my transports arrived. Things did not go according to plan, however, and I soon learned to passionately hate the ubiquitous Chinese rocket trucks that seemed to be everywhere and also seemed to have an effective range of infinity.
My destroyers survived but were sorely out ranged and outgunned by those infernal rocket trucks. This meant doing it the hard way, but lucky for me that giant island had no bridges to the mainland, two ports and zero worthwhile military facilities other than that. Which meant whatever they had to defend with when I arrived was all the were ever going to get. The Challengers made short work of the cheap Chinese tanks and gleefully made scrap out of their rocket trucks rightward. The island thus secured I then began to (you guessed it) build a navy port Castle on it for supply and much needed repairs for my destroyer fleet. It also made a good place to ferry in troops on my carriers (which, not being amphibious assault ships, required ports to do their business). Building the Castle was a long process, as was getting more troops sailed & flown in from North America. Along the way I missed a lone Chinese destroyer that just happened to sail into my path and sunk my Nimitz class carrier with two battalions of infantry on board. This was my biggest & most humiliating losses thus far in any conflict, and while my submarines quickly too revenge on the Chinese ship it wasn't going to bring back my prize nuclear carrier (and the only one that could actually launch the F-14A Tomcats that were the start-up of my own newly budding air force at long last).
After all this was done, however, a couple of months had passed in which I mostly had stayed out of the conflict (except for my submarines, which now made a point of sinking as much of the Chinese navy as possible on general principle). During that time South China has managed to wipe out Inner Mongolia but was, at the same time, starting to lose a lot of steam due to trying to take on everyone
at once. Vietnam in particular, my one-sided ally, started to make a push up from the south just west of my own island position that actually took a bit of bite out the Chinese, much to my surprise. Soon after my own troops landed on the mainland as well. While resistance was still there, as I estimated it was significantly reduced from the military monolith they represented back in 2020. I worked my way both north and east, with my desire being to follow the coast line & seizing all their ports but I also kept diverting to push north whenever Vietnam would launch a new offensive, if only to keep pace with their own northern drive. Ally with them, sure, but trust them? Sorry, but many times I sat & watched Chinese defenders beat back a Vietnamese attack without bothering to help simply because I wanted the town for myself - so I wait until the Vietnamese gave up & then rush in to finish off the already damaged Chinese defenders and take the town for myself. It was a mutually parasitic relationship.
I built another Castle on the mainland not far in, with Land Fabrications since this was the focal point of my presence in Asia and, to be honest, I was already sick of shipping crap all over the world. Build local, right? Another navy Castle ended up just south of the wicked evil pie sliced of doom that formed the area around Shanghai. That whole area was a nightmare. Attack any of the three wedges and artillery on the other side of the river would open up on you. Any wedge you committed to would become an overstretched supply line in no time and I simply didn't have the force size to try to run down all three at once. Plus they stacked more artillery than I would have believed possible, most of it those infernal rocket trucks, and all of it inside the near endless city hexes that made up the area - so there was no easy way to get to them. Every one had garrisons backing it up & taking the hits for them while they kept pounding at my troops. I'd have to send units back in for repairs at less than 20% health remaining over & over again. Of the approximately 150,000 casualties I had taken since starting the game I'd say at least 100,000 of them were all in the Shanghai zone.
But it did fall. And that did me exactly no good because they just moved their capitol rather than surrender. It relocated far west, into their heartland. After much time spend in repairs I came back & took this new capitol. They moved it a third time, now as far west as they could, past the Vietnamese line & right next to their last major military production center.
Aha! Production center. That was the problem, then. That was what I would have to capture if I was to ever truly break them. I ended up crossing all the way through the Vietnamese held area (they had just gone straight north until they reached North China and only then really started to try to expand any), coming out right on top of one of their airfields (which really boosted supply fast) and then I drove for their last remaining fabrication center while the Vietnamese army pounded their third (and hopefully final) capitol. They bought me the distraction I needed, as China had thrown everything they had left into defending the capitol and relatively little to defending the factory itself - which was still a lot, but not too much to overcome. It still wasn't easy, though. Once I got it, though, I didn't even try to repair anything. Scrap orders all around. I didn't want to leave anything for them to come back to should they break out of the capitol, which looked like it may just happen because the Vietnamese were starting to fall back after fierce fighting. Which played right into my hands, naturally. Though temporarily victorious, the South Chinese defenders were also heavily damaged & almost completely out of supply. While I wasn't in peak shape, either, my supply lines were strong. We both traded heavy damage for the first few hours but their quickly burned out what was left of their ammo faster than they could get it back with their measly town supply trickle. I, on the other, had a seven stack of Heavy Cargo Trucks behind my guys and had been spending most of my research on infrastructure perks (my rating was well over 107% already). By the second quarter they were on the ropes and their third and yes, thankfully, final capitol fell once and for all. South China surrendered.
What was left got split mostly between Michigan & Vietnam, leaving a map that looked like this:
Now the bad news: Compared to the problems that came next, taking China looked easy. I now had a population of 668 million people, which made Michigan the 2nd most populus region in the world (behind India). And every one of them wanted cars, TVs and personal computers. What they got was a completely overloaded economy. Everything fell short. I wasn't even making 20% of my quota for food and water. Less than 5% of consumer goods and timber. Less than 50% for oil & electricity. My GDP had dropped from around $36,000 to under $17,000 overnight. Inflation suddenly shot to -47% (in real life that would probably be a good thing, but...) and unemployment shot up to over 80%!
- all within a day of South China surrendering and over six hundred million peasants being added to my roster of Citizens Demanding All Kinds of Stuff.
The only light in this pit of despair was that my tax income also shot up to well over six billion dollars a day net profit, due to sheer numbers if nothing else. It didn't stay profit for long, though, as I ended up spending every penny of that on imports just to keep the emigration from going over the ten million a year mark (seriously, over two million people fled in the first month). This included absurd amounts of imports of industrial materials just to build the new factories to make more
industrial materials so that we could begin
making the facilities to produce all the other stuff we needed. For the next year this was all I did, shifting all research into social programs to reduce costs & waste and increase efficiency (with six captured research centers total I was now spending an absurd amount on research, but I felt it was justified as just shaving 5% off health care, for instance, would amount to saving over $75 million per day
at my new population level.)
So it is now 2024 and I've finally gotten things under control. I only stayed out of bankruptcy do to numerous donations from England, Mexico and yes even Cuba. But in the end I have finally managed, over a year later, to get enough farms to feed everyone (South China is the biggest breadbasket in the world. Seriously, take a look at it's agriculture potential some time). I finally managed to get enough water for everyone shortly after that, along with electricity. By now I had the Advanced Solar Plant technology (finished right before South China surrendered, in fact), which was expensive & slow to build but hey, free energy! This lowered my costs a lot
once they finally started getting finished. Oil also took a long time to get under control, as did electricity - in the end I was forced to raise domestic prices a drastic amount to reduce consumption. While citizens in stand-alone Michigan were paying only a 30% markup on everything but consumer goods (50%), the new norm was 30% markup on food & water, 50% on consumer goods and around 80% on oil & electricity. This hasn't made people happy, or so I thought, but while the GDP has dropped to barely $15,000 per year my Domestic Rating, which has dropped to less than 5% the day after South China fell, is now up into the 30% range again. We're still completely borked on Consumer goods, barely producing 30,000 of the over 180,000 units demanded per day, so there is still heavy reliance on imports there. And while all other social programs are 100% funded, social assistance is still only around 20% funding (Then again, fully funding it would be over eight billion dollars a day just in itself. We just don't have that kind of money, sadly.) Now you can see why I made a point to get Free Trade agreements with the entire world in the first week - so I can do all this stuff without using ministers or having to personally handle every offer than lands on my desk. If it's for sale anywhere
then we can get it. That simple.
Still, it's only been one year, and we're already building the new chain of consumer goods factories now & the power plants to run then. Once those get done and we cut out the middle men in that area we should be able to make enough profit to get our social assistance back in line with the rest at 100% (which should do wonders for the overall GDP). Within another year we should again be completely self reliant and ready to annex on some other unfortunate country into our growing empire.
I'm thinking Japan.