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There is a theory among some historians of the Second World War that, if only the Allies had declared war on Germany to defend Czechoslovakia in 1938, Nazism could have been defeated in a short European war. Germany’s successful blitzkrieg operation before Dunkirk as the result of French blunders and defiant anarchistic gestures by German tank commanders, not genius. 1936 to the outbreak of the Cold War, modelling not just fighting, not just production and research, but also diplomacy, intelligence and internal politics. I elected to play as France and my strategy was to re-arm as quickly as possible, intervene on the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War, sign a defence pact not just with Poland but also the Czechs – and attack Germany through the Netherlands at the slightest provocation, probably sometime around 1938. My population’s “neutrality” was too high and the popularity of my ruling party, the Radicals, too low.
Germany re-occupied the Rhineland, then sit through the Anschluss, Munich and the annexation of the whole of Czechoslovakia, suffering a further indignity on the outbreak of hostilities in early 1939 because the Belgians refused my request for transit rights. At first I thought this was a pretty unforgiveable glitch. But digging into the rules, hacks and kluges of HoI3, and real life history, the game is frighteningly accurate. Firing up the “Politics” interface I was at first amused to find my president, Albert Lebrun, classified as “barking buffoon”, prime minister Albert Sarraut as a “happy amateur” and my intel boss as a “dismal enigma” – but not amused to find that I could not change any of this before the scheduled election in 1940. My finger itched over the military coup button, and I immediately resorted to installing a far-right French police chief to quell dissent and abolish strikes.