Springtime for Germany (Episodes 10-12)

I am scheduling the Hearts of Iron III videos so that a new one is released each day so I don’t choke anyone’s YouTube or G+ feeds and also don’t have dead days with no videos. Now that we are actually in the war I’m going to slow down the pace of blog posts to provide deeper analysis on each episode. I am currently well ahead of today’s batch of videos and plan to remain so. But I’m also trying to avoid spoilers – there are going to be some twists in this game, and some challenges, especially as the war builds to its full fury in (I anticipate) 1942-43.

This batch of videos includes the breakout and initial prosecution of the war in Europe… although of course unpleasantness in Asia and Africa has been ongoing for some time. The view that the historical war started in September of 1939 with the German invasion of Poland is a Eurocentric one; the Japanese invaded and conquered Manchuria in 1931, attacked China proper in 1937, and the two nations fought continuously until the end of general hostilities in 1945. It was a nasty war, at least as bad as the stuff that happened in Europe and in some ways worse.

Episode 10 runs long at almost 50 minutes; I wanted to complete the conquest of Poland within a single chapter and that’s just how long it took. In-game, however, Poland surrendered on the 12th day of the campaign, about three weeks faster than they did historically.

As a general thing I tend to overcommit to the Polish campaign. Certainly I did so this time around, and you’ll see the ramifications of that in the following episodes. Had I used two fewer Corps in Poland things would have gone more smoothly in the west. Even one would have made a difference.

Note that any additional non-HoI videos (I have a few in the upload pipeline) will be in addition to the current series of playthrough videos. I’m also working on a Churchill instructional video which will take a while to film and meticulously edit. When it’s ready it will just be posted without interrupting the scheduled HoI episodes.

Episode 11 of Hearts of Iron III pitches the game’s the first curveball this time around, albeit a relatively minor one. Instead of waiting passively for a German invasion, the Dutch joined the Allies on the same day that Poland surrendered, effectively putting them into a state of war with Germany. At that point, figuring I’d have a relaxing period of sitzkrieg ahead, I was still in the process of slowly rolling forces west after the fall of Poland to support the thin defensive line against the Low Countries; only the Rhine frontier, opposite France, was even cursorily well-defended from my side. But I left obliged to commit to an offensive with the Dutch in the war.

The campaign proceeded pretty ahistorically even aside from its start date nine or so months early, with some Dutch counterattacks succeeding against the meager German forces present even though I was gaining ground overall. With this in mind I waited to declare war on Belgium until the Dutch were pretty thoroughly rolled up. This game me time for forces to arrive from the east and avoided the unfavorable offensive position the Germans face when invading both Belgium and the Netherlands at the same time.

Usually the Belgians put up a pretty good fight. This time they collapsed rapidly, and by then I was already striking into France, with the forces from the east reinforcing an initially limp offensive.

Learned: Strategic movement costs extra supplies and on arrival the relocated units are on a cooldown, so they can’t attack right away. But it would have been worthwhile to use strategic movement to bring my eastern forces west, since they were needed to support the fighting that was already fighting going on. They would have been in the action much sooner had I done so.

One of the virtues of playing Germany as an HoI newbie is that you have two relatively forgiving campaigns to warm up with before taking on the war’s game’s major challenges, the subdual of the British behind the channel and the overwhelming of the Soviet Union. The trick is that the two require different tools: Britain air and naval and the USSR land power. So often a German player will try to pick one or the other. This time, with multiple games as Germany behind me, I’m going for both, accompanied by the side strategy to keeping the USA out of the war. So while I’m not a noob at Hearts of Iron III, the new strategy is causing the game to display behavior that I have not seen before.

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Hearts of Iron III: The Road to War (Episodes 6-9)

The War Begins (Episodes 6-9)

My current gaming excursion, as previosuly discussed, is into Hearts of Iron III, playing as Germany. The game is coming along nicely, but not without twists and turns and challenges and flaky bits within the game. Which if you’re watching along, you’ll get to see.

This parcel of episodes contains the big watershed moment: the breeakout of World War II in Europe. While one has the option, in Hearts of Iron III, of starting in 1939 or later, I always like to play the buildup years first so I can craft the nation I’m playing according to my strategy.

For this playthrough, I’m building up the Kriegsmarine to challenge the Britsh at sea. No small task, and as the game goes on I’m really feeling the effect especially as leadership is pulled away from the core land techs that I’d pursue in a typical game as Germany. The typical German strategy is to challenge either the UK or the USSR; in the game I’m targeting both.

To invade Britain – which is my eventual intention – you need more than sea power. Germany needs control of the air as well, so I have to continue building up the Luftwaffe as well. But first, winter for Poland and France.

At the very end of episode 9, more than three years of building, development and preparation, Germany demands Danzig and the Polish Corridor from Poland. The Poles take this demand poorly, and war results.

I’m having tons of fun on this playthrough, and I hope folks are enjoying the videos as well. Here, at the very end of episode 9, is where things are going to start being crushed beneath the treads of advancng Panzers. Remember to subscribe if you want to stay up to date with the channel.

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Hearts of Iron III: The Saga Continues (Episodes 2-5)

As you heard yesterday, I am working my way through a game of Hearts of Iron III and posting the results to YouTube. Hopefully folks are enjoying them, and meanwhile I’m embedding new episodes in this post.

I would like to warn the prospective viewer that watching HoI videos can be dull unless you’re in to that kind of thing; it’s a slow-burning game. Playing as Germany, for example, it normally takes me 3-4 hours of play to get to the part of the game (some time in 1939) when the war actually starts. Some nations (e. g. Italy) start at war, while others (e. g. Japan) get to start shooting substantially earlier, but even so, especially early on a HoI Let’s Play is a sedate affair. Even once the war gets rolling (which happens in Episode 10 of my playthrough) each 20-30 minute (ha, ha) episode only covers a couple of in-game weeks at best.

A full game of Hearts of Iron III as one of the major nations, played until war’s end, is likely to run somewhere in neighbourhood of 40-60 hours. From a videography perspective, that’s 120-180 20-minute episodes. That’s a ton of overhead in recording, rendering and uploading.

Now, to be honest, I have a great deal of trouble making episodes that short. Mine probably average 35 minutes and I had a couple go close to an hour. Then again, I dropped the “original” episode 8, which was 54 minutes of me assigning mispronounced German leaders to individual divisions. I talk about that at the beginning of the “official” episode 8.

One solution that presents itself is to produce edited videos instead. This is at odds (I feel) with the whole Let’s Play concept, but it could potentially make sitting through the videos easier. I may try that in a future playthrough, maybe as the USSR, who I plan to play next. But I don’t enjoy video editing, so there’s that to consider as well.

Meanwhile, enjoy the vids, comment and subscribe!

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New Vids, New Playthrough, Same Old Channel

This blog has been fallow for a while, and to be honest I feel really out of the groove of blogging, so I do not promise any surge of activity in the near future. But as it happens I do have some gaming news to report, and I have been moderately active elsewhere, particularly on Google+ and YouTube.

I’ve been posting some content over at the Ardwulf’s lair YouTube Channel. For one thing, I have disabled pre-video ads, because they are annoying and it’s not like they were making me any money.

For another, I have a number of new board/wargame videos up, including an unboxing of Mark Herman’s (relatively) new game Churchill, a power-politics game of the negotiations between the Allies to shape the world after World War II. I got to play it this past weekend (after making the video) and it’s a game that will repay repeated sessions.

I also did a video on Vassal, the engine that lets one play board/wargames on one’s PC, either locally or over the internet. I look forward to getting something rolling using this package.

And finally, I have a new Let’s Play series going, this time of Hearts of Iron III, something I have been wanting to do for ages. I am predictably playing as Germany because frankly I have the most fun playing as Germany. In part that’s because Germany is inherently fun to play in a strategic-level World War II game, but part of it’s just me; I have a little fluency in German so I can give all the units German names, for example, adding an RP element that I don’t have when playing, say the Soviets.

I have new episodes of this series scheduled to arrive every day, so stay tuned and subscribe.

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On Reading

Now that school is over with I am slowly (ever so slowly) starting to have a life again. Part of that untangling is getting back into reading and tabletop gaming. This post is about where I’m at with the former.

I’m trying to explore the modern supernatural genre, surely inspired by my acquisition of the Dresden Files RPG at Origins earlier this month. And I’d already read Storm Front, the first of the Harry Dresden books, a couple of years ago (it’s not like I got no reading done while I was in school). I stalled out on Fool Moon, which is the second volume, but the crowd seems to agree that the series doesn’t even start accelerating up to full speed until book 3. So with the RPG books at hand I muscled my way through book two, and went farther.

I’d agree with the general notion that the Dresden books start really rolling in book three; Fool Moon is chiefly interesting for continuing the novel world-building Butcher began in Storm Front, and it plants seeds that begin to sprout in Grave Peril. By book four, while the narrative is self-contained, a full-blown inter-volume arc is in place, with elements streaming in from the preceding three books.

The Dresden Files books (now numbering sixteen) are grim and moody with a splattering of whimsy and humor. Some might consider them an ideal mix in this regard; they’re dark but not relentlessly so. And they’re light, breezy reads. In that context I can’t help but compare them to J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books. Although I think Rowling is the superior proseweaver and storyteller out of the gate, Butcher does get better with each book at least through the fourth volume, Summer Knight, which contains his best writing to the point I’ve read — even though the convoluted plot makes no goddamn sense at all. The next book in the series, Death Masks, is on deck, but after crushing out three Dresden books in half a week, I’m trying to mark out some additional territory as well.

With that in mind I set upon Stephen King’s On Writing, which has lingered on my to-read list for quite a while. It’s very engaging, less a book about writing than about King as a writer, and his process. This was very illuminating, because I’m not really that big a reader of King’s books, in part because of his choice of subject matter — I’m not really a horror fan. I acknowledge King’s mastery of the craft and did very much enjoy The Stand… but I felt The Gunslinger was an interminable turd and am still staggering clubfooted through The Shining. On Writing showed me why King’s work sometimes seems to me to meander plotless through a featureless landscape, and at other times, when the characters are human and crisply drawn, to be extraordinarily compelling despite that. I therefore took On Writing as incisive criticism of King’s own work, in the best sense of what criticism is supposed to be: not to tell you what to like but to shine a light on some of the machinery and therefore on your own interaction with the work.

Next up, again in an effort to read in a number of different areas, was Leviathan Wakes, the first in a series credited to James S. A. Corey. “Corey” is actually the nom de plume of two writers: well-regarded veteran Daniel Abraham and (at the time of its publication) newcomer Ty Franck. The book is written in alternating chapters with their own viewpoint characters, with Abraham taking one set and Franck the other. I could tell who was writing who even before confirming it; early on the Holden chapters, penned by Franck, are less fluid than the Miller sections authored by Abraham, even though Franck’s part of the story is closer to the central narrative and he gets a number of the choicest scenes for himself. Holden himself is less interesting than the tortured, half-insane Miller, but Franck grows in ability even through the course of the novel and by its end the story seems nearly seamless.

Now I’ve moved on to Charles Hazen’s hoary old The French Revolution and Napoleon. Written during the throes of World War I, it was not the definitive work on the subject even in its day, but it’s a good short treatment of the period written in a dense but unscholarly style. I’m about 15% through it and France has barely received a mention except in relation to Prussia or England; Hazen spends lots of time on Frederich and Peter the Greats. But that’ll change as La Révolution unfolds and Napoléon emerges. I figure that the book will be a nice warm-up to an eventual reading of David Chandler’s massive and definitive The Campaigns of Napoleon.

Next on the nightstand will be, I think, finishing The Shining, followed by Abraham’s The Dragon’s Path, an epic fantasy and also first in a series. I have the next Dresden book, Charlie Stross’ The Atrocity Archives and Benedict Jacka’s Fated on deck as well, but I’m going to try to mix the order up a bit, so I’ll toss the next Expanse novel in along with some other dusty old history book.