Xibei San Ma
If you enjoy playing a reasonably powerful Axis minor nation – or if you prefer a desperate, against-all-odds fight for survival on multiple fronts – then Czechoslovakia is the country for you. What many players don’t realize is that the Treaty of Munich event (1936 and 1938 scenarios) leaves Czechoslovakia in charge of its own destiny. Furthermore, intrepid players could choose to have Czechoslovakia’s armed forces seize the reins of power and remake the map of Central Europe, which could in time lead even to the Czechoslovakian capture of Berlin itself.
Unless noted elsewhere by later contributors, these strategy sections were playtested with the Armageddon v 1.3 Beta (the Jan 15 2009 build, checksum DVJN). These strategies may not be applicable with earlier and later builds of the software.
Standard Strategy Options
When playing Czechoslovakia in the 1936 or 1938 scenarios, Germany will almost always press for the return of the Sudetenland (Czechoslovakia’s western hill provinces). The Treaty of Munich event (September 30, 1938) will allow Czechoslovakia to either surrender them and hope for the best (never a good option), defy Germany (and very likely go to war immediately), or instead ally with Germany outright and become an Axis minor nation (while keeping the Sudetenland). If Austria has been annexed by the Reich then Germany all but surrounds Czechoslovakia. War at this point would be difficult to say the least. But, with help from the allies and an AI-controlled Germany, there is always some measure of hope that Czechoslovakia will prevail. That is, at least until Hungary and Rumania join the Axis. In any case if Czechoslovakia defies Hitler and falls, take comfort in knowing Czechoslovakia was defeated with its honor intact.
Eye of the Storm: A Defiant Czechoslovakian Strategy (1936 Scenario)
If you have no interest in becoming an Axis lapdog, the best way for Czechoslovakia to prevail is to take charge of the political situation in Europe before Germany has a chance to. Hitler will be in no position to assert the Treaty of Munich if Germany is at war (the event simply won’t take place). Since no one else is going to declare war on Germany before September 1938, Czechoslovakia will have to shoulder that burden themselves. As suicidal as that may sound, it gets worse: Hungary and Austria will have to be dealt with as well. (Both of them are likely to ally with Germany when the fighting starts, and fighting around Czechoslovakia's entire periphery will be impossible to sustain. Better to deal with the little powers first and shorten Czechoslovakia's lines before Germany joins the fray.)
This strategy was successfully played in a solo game against AI-controlled nations with the Normal Difficulty and an AI level of Furious (Armageddon v1.3 Beta DVJN). This was not tested in the HSR or any other mods. The playtester normally preferred Hard/Furious, but this scenario was challenging enough on the normal setting. Furthermore, playing with an AI setting other than Furious may not allow some of the retaliatory declarations of war to take place, which could foul this strategy and seal Czechoslovakia’s doom. Note that this strategy has only marginal chance of success against an experienced, human-controlled German player; unless France is played by an equally experienced and aggressive player as well.
Czechoslovakia begins in 1936 with a respectable land army including four armored divisions, but no aircraft. Immediately research Interwar Tactical Bombers and build them (or CAS) as soon as possible (a group of four TAC II with escorts were sufficient in playtesting), and research air doctrines as often as possible. Czechoslovakia is hamstrung by a tiny amount of manpower, so use artillery brigades to maximize unit strength while minimizing manpower drain. Don’t forget to build antiaircraft units to keep the Luftwaffe at bay, and consider building armored units when manpower is scarce and you have IC to burn. Remember also that upgrading units does not consume additional manpower, so if you have spare IC keep your troops up to date with the latest equipment. Mountain units may seem attractive to hold the Sudetenland, but remember they use up more manpower than standard divisions. It may be best to focus on military units rather than factories due to the overwhelming force Czechoslovakia will encounter from the start. (In any case the industrial base that can be captured in Hungary and Eastern Austria are enough to afford Czechoslovakia three research slots.)
As a democracy, Czechoslovakia starts the game unable to declare war on any of her neighbors thanks to her annoyingly peace-loving elected government. Watch for multiple events that allow Czechoslovakia to shift towards political right and authoritarian. Thanks to these events, by the summer of 1936 Czechoslovakia can be in the hands of the Paternal Autocrat Jan Syrovy, and the country can declare war as you see fit, although incurring a significant dissent hit. Czechoslovakia could go to war with Germany directly (and could even make some progress since Germany’s starting army is small), but the prospects for annexing Germany outright without assistance are not good. A better strategy may be a more indirect, Machiavellian approach involving a wider conflict and more combatants that give Czechoslovakia a fighting chance. Reviewing the diplomatic landscape, the only neighbor of Czechoslovakia whose independence is not guaranteed by Germany or one of the Allied nations is Hungary. However, declaring war on Hungary will likely lead to war with Italy and Austria as well. Since Italy is on the other side of the Alps they can be ignored for the time being, making war with Austria and Hungary in 1936 difficult but not impossible. However it won’t be long before Germany offers Austria an alliance, so war with all four powers is likely by the end of the year. Such is war.
Thinking through the political chain reaction that will follow, it is realistic that an Italian declaration of war (DoW) on Czechoslovakia will likely result in German DoW on Italy; which has the dual benefit of potentially distracting Germany from Czechoslovakia and preventing Italy from joining the Axis. This will also likely draw in Poland, setting the stage for Poland and Czechoslovakia to join the Allies – a necessity if Czechoslovakia is to survive the pandemonium. And thus Czechoslovakia strikes the match that sets off the inferno of World War II.
The first task at hand is to knock Hungary out of the conflict and take Vienna before the Germans decide to intervene. This may only be possible by withdrawing all of your troops from the German border to achieve a proper concentration, but this draw-down must be temporary. One suggestion is to blitz your armored divisions through an extended left hook around Budapest, followed closely by infantry into Miskolc and Szeged. Then attack Budapest once it is surrounded on four sides and your armor doesn’t need to perform a river crossing, as shown below.
Once the capitol is secured, finish off the rest of the defenders, annex Hungary and continue directly into Vienna (assuming Austria has declared war), while sending some troops back to the German frontier as quickly as possible. By this point the fireworks should have begun and the Allies are likely at war with Italy. This is an excellent time to join the Alliance. However, if Austria exercises restraint and does not DoW on you, Czechoslovakia is not any better off. The Anchluss or an Austrian alliance with Germany is still possible, which would make an eventual war with Germany very difficult in 1938 and beyond. Czechoslovakia’s only hope is to seize the moment and press on to the provinces around Vienna in order to embed her left flank in the Alps. Thus, Czechoslovakia may have to incur another massive dissent hit by DoW on Austria if Austria doesn’t do it first. If the Allies and Germany were not involved this far, this second DoW is sure to get the wider war started.
And thus an Allied Czechoslovakia finds itself at the center of the storm with a (hopefully) Allied Poland holding her right flank, at war with Germany who is also forced to deal with an advancing Italian onslaught from the south and a French threat to the west. In this desperate hour Czechoslovakia’s mission is clear: it may not be possible to win – but all Czechoslovakia needs to do is not lose.
At this point anything can happen so it is difficult to give specific suggestions. In general plan on using your armored divisions as a central mobile reserve, supported by your tactical bombers to repair holes blown in your front from all directions. If you marshal your troops carefully and defend tenaciously, the AI will seek out the easier adversaries of Poland and Italy as much as possible. Don’t bother to push further into Austria while still at war with Italy, allowing them to fight Germany over western Austria instead. When Poland is near collapse, extend your lines to defend Cracow, allowing it to become their last redoubt capitol city. Even though Poland may be beaten, they could fall back to Cracow with dozens of divisions that will fight on, filling out your right flank to the border of Rumania (and eventually Russia when the U.S.S.R. seizes Stryg). At that point Poland won’t have the industrial base to supply a large army, though, so you may need to donate massive amounts of supplies to keep them in the field. (The playtester did not assume military control of Poland or any other allied nation, but instead donated supplies to Poland until the change in supply value shown in the Diplomacy tab was a positive number). Trade with anyone who will let you during this dark time when Poland and Czechoslovakia are cut off from the other allies, and hope Yugoslavia and Rumania remain neutral!
With all these parties involved in messy, multisided, multi-front wars, it is likely that some of them are going to drop out quickly. If France chooses to invade Italy rather than Germany, Italy will likely cut the Allies a deal and cease hostilities with Allied Czechoslovakia, while fighting on against Germany. When France eventually breaches the Siegfried Line (1940/41 in playtesting) this gives Czechoslovakia the chance to link up with her other allies for the first time. Allied troops are likely to flood into Czechoslovakia, filling out the line and sealing the fate of Hitler’s Germany. Once the floodgates are open it will be hard for an AI-controlled Germany to put the genie back in the bottle. Watch for opportunities to advance while Germany is on the ropes, and with a little luck the Czechoslovakian army could find their way to Berlin (see graphic below).
This is a desperate strategy to be sure, but one that can be extremely satisfying if Czechoslovakia survives the maelstrom. The most gratifying elements of the playtesting was that Poland was given the unique honor of mopping up the last of the German army, and Czechoslovakia was allowed to officially Annex the Third Reich.