Xibei San Ma
- 1 Overview
- 2 Technology
- 3 Diplomacy
- 4 Economy
- 5 Military
- 6 War
- 7 Strategy
Italy has the potential to dominate the Mediterranean theatre, but is hampered by a lack of everything: good tech teams, industry, resources, and skilled military leadership.
It is imperative to make some choices right at the beginning. Do you want to immediately go on a small conquering spree, putting you in an ahistorically strong position (if you do not get DoW'd by the entire Balkans and Turkey, or let alone the major powers)? Will you depend on Germany to give you the support to defend your home while most of your forces are conquering Egypt? Should you defend or abandon Ethiopia?
Italy is one of the most fun countries to play since it has enough handicaps and plenty of potential. It is easy to overextend, and when you do, you are at the mercy of the magical allied magnifying glass. If it focuses on you, rather than the action in France or the Far East, Rome will burn.
Italy begins the game with only four research slots, thus a common first objective is to expand to the fifth research slot, which is possible once base IC is 80. This can most rapidly be achieved through a combination of IC building and an early annexation of Spain. Italy has average technology teams, thus only limited branches of technology can effectively be researched.
For land doctrine, some players choose to completely abandon the "Firepower Focus" land doctrines, widely considered among the weakest doctrine in the game. If you stick to it and go for the Infiltration Assault path in ´42 you get the best infantry available from ´43 on, due to the high night attack bonus you will receive. Until then you will have relatively poor organization and morale. Within the Mobility Focus doctrine, Human Wave is a good choice for Italy, with a level 4 tech team with four specialties in many branches, especially late game. The most common choice, however, is Spearhead Doctrine. With an early alliance with Germany, blueprints for the entire tech tree can be typically acquired long in advance of the historical year, making the research reasonably rapid even with Italy's inferior teams. Italy needs to also focus on Manufacturing, Infantry, with limited Naval and Air. Within Naval, generally Battleships and Destroyers should be the focus, and within Air TAC/NAV is a necessary limitation.
Italy's first possible ally is Ethiopia, in the event Italy sues for peace and forces Ethiopia to become a puppet. Italy's natural ideological ally is Germany, and joining the Axis is possible as early as 1936. This is extremely advantageous for Italy to do, as it grants them many key blueprints and free resources. Once Italy has joined the Axis, all future alliances are contingent on Germany, as leader of the alliance. If you plan to wage some earlier wars be careful not to ruin the important German events, so be at peace from spring ´38 on for Anschluss and the following events. Also be warned that Germany going to war unhistorical early triggers (in Armageddon) one of the US events that removes some of their peacetime IC penalty. If you don´t plan to wage early wars it is better for Axis if you finish Ethiopia before you join.
Italy can also create some early puppets through liberation:
Although Libya and Somalia have no factories with they will automatically have 5 IC (off map) when liberated. On first look, liberation may look good to save TC and provide extra units to hold the beaches. However, the problem is that you could get up to 25% dissent as a result (anger at colonial policy event: DD & ARMA). As a result, liberation of nations is not considered a wise strategy.
Italy begins the game with very poor slider positions: as a general rule, the game favors extreme positions, and Italy begins with many moderate settings. Italy will not receive much slider help either, with only three free Interventionism slider moves (1936 Spanish Civil war, 1937 Anti-Comintern pact, 1939 Albania). The best opening move for Italy is Hawk moves in 1936, 1937, and 1938, which will bring full Hawk. In 1939, an Interventionism move would assure full interventionism by March of that year due to Albania.
Players may instead use 1939 to begin the long march to Central Planning. This requires 6 moves, thus starting in 1939 would finish in January, 1944. Since Germany is frequently influencing Italy, it is possible, but unlikely, for Germany to have a "complete influence" event that assists with this slider. This is generally a better choice than the Standing Army move, since that will require 7 moves, and Italy arguably needs IC more than organisation and experience bonuses.
Italy has excellent starting Ministers.
In 1940, Minister of Security Umberto Albini will become available. For an Italy that holds many foreign territories (France, Spain, Greece, etc), changing to this minister with 15% foreign IC use is very beneficial.
Italy has the weakest economy out of all the major nations (USA, USSR, Germany, Japan, and the UK). This puts Italy at a significant disadvantage over the course of the game, and creates an added challenge for players.
Italy begins the game with supply deficits, and a few existing trade deals. The existing deals help Italy stay barely ahead with Rare materials, while around 30 energy and 10 metal is lost every day. This means that without trade deals, Italy will immediately begin suffering shortages affecting Industry in February, 1936. Italy's best trading partners (in order):
- Soviet Union
Italy will never be an industrial powerhouse, owing to its weak starting position. Italy's first production goal, however, is industrial improvement to attain the fifth technology team slot. This requires a minimum of 80 base IC. Italy is able to begin the game with 7 parallel factories in construction. After the first run is complete, five more factories can be added. How many serial runs factories should be produced depend on a player's Italian strategy.
If Italy will join the Axis in 1936, this means the war will begin August 30, 1939. Italy shares borders with both France and the UK's colonial holdings, thus Italy must be militarily prepared, especially if it wants to excel in warfare. This means a two serial run of a 7 parallel factories (ending in December, 1937) is a good starting point, possibly with a few more factories to get Italy over the 80 IC base threshold. This will provide a 20 month for a strong military build up.
If Italy will not join the Axis until 1941, Italy essentially has two additional years for IC building and manpower growing. This additional IC can bring Italy an extra 20 base IC.
While the mainstay of the Italian army must be infantry and militia, Italy can greatly benefit from specialization. The Balkans and Turkey, for example, are significantly helped with mountaineers. Mountaineers can continue to be used in a war against the Soviet Union, both in the Caucasus region, but also Mountaineers have significant bonuses when fighting in Arctic conditions. Marines are essential for Jungle fighting in the resource rich Central African region, if Italy so chooses. A Paratrooper division can help since Italy starts with a Transport Aircraft, and can have limited use.
Generally, Italy does not have the resources (or more importantly: the TC) for tank building. A few limited Motorized Infantry units with SP-ART, followed by Mechanized units, can be beneficial. Cavalry with AC is also helpful for fast operations, and does not consume as much TC. Cavalry is specifically helpful when attacking Southern USSR, and taking vast tracks of land relatively quickly.
As usual, Italy is the weakest of the major powers in this aspect as well. However, they're more than adequate and used properly will work just fine. Army wise, you got about two dozen leaders that will top out at skill levels of 5 or higher. Between Messe, Zingali and Bitossi you should have your armored needs covered, and you got a handful leaders who share both Winter Specialist and Commando traits and make for excellent mountaineer leaders.
Your starting position is terrible, with just Messe and Balbo over skill level 2. The rest of your commanders will need a lot of practice, or you'll be stuck with yet another disadvantage to the other majors.
In HOI2 DD, the best main battle fleet composition for Italy's limited resources is comprised of CA (Heavy cruisers) with CVL (light carriers) and DD (destroyers). This is an effective combination of good firepower, and a fleet size of 8 CA + 8 DD + 2 CVL can be effective in a fight against the carriers of the Royal Navy. Additionally, this type of fleet moves fast, and is very cheap to build and repair. In HOI2 Armageddon firecontrol brigades for the DD´s are a very nice thing, as you will get very cheap cruizerg fleets, as the FC give 10km additional range when you upgraded them after you researched the Advanced Computing Machine. More about cruizerg fleets can be found here: Surface Action Group. Four firecontrol brigades for the starting BB´s in combination with one of the best leaders you have enables them to destroy many enemy ships very effectively at maximum range, so your own ships don´t take damage. This way, you can also take down the old French and British BB´s.
In addition, Italy will greatly benefit from a wolfpack strategy if it is going to fight any Allied nation (obviously against the USSR this isn't necessary). Build submarines (1938 level) for convoy raiding missions, and you will greatly reduce the fighting ability of Allied troops whereever you engage them. If you choose an African strategy, for example, the British can be fairly easily overrun (it will still take a long time, however) with successful convoy raiding. As South Africa, Free France and Iraq usually deliver supplies to the Brits they may suffer from supply shortage, but in Armageddon it is not really possible to cut the Brits off from supplies totally. With an extensive sub campaign you will be able to sink many, many convoys and that is definitely a nice thing, but you won´t starve the troops in Africa. As Fleet in Being is the worst naval doctrine path for subs be warned that your subs are effective early in the game but will have a very bad time from ´41/´42 on as the Allies will have doctrine advantage and better destroyers by then.
Italy does not have the industrial capacity to produce a large air force. It is possible, however, to produce a limited air force to fulfill particular roles. Tactical bombers (TAC) and Naval bombers are very well suited for Italy's theaters of war, and are highly recommended. Interceptors are not as important, and likely beyond Italy's limited resources.
If you plan to play a longer game interceptors or fighters are a must have for Italy, as the Allies will bomb Europe to death from ´41 on if you are defenceless. Enemy naval bombers in the Med are something you probably do not want to tolerate (at least in Armageddon they can become a pain in the a**), so prepare to do something against them.
Unlike all other major powers who have very clear adversaries that must be challenged, Italy does not have any direct opponents. This allows an Italian player to choose their own path with a great deal of flexibility. The most essential sphere of warfare for Italy is the Mediterranean Sea, best managed through Gibraltar in the West and Suez in the East. Control of the Mediterranean is vital to the defense of Italy's home shores, and enables Italy free movement throughout Northern Africa, Southern Europe, and the Middle East. Historically, Africa was an important theater of war due to Italian holdings in Libya and Ethiopia, yet involvement in Africa is a questionable strategy in-game.
The game begins with Italy at war with Ethiopia. It is quite easy to direct Italian units straight to the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, and win the war. With Italian units in the capital, the player has two choices for resolving the war:
- Annex Ethiopia outright, and gain two IC, and enough resources to support those two IC.
- Sue for peace with Ethiopia, and demand they become a puppet. This avoids dissent caused by annexation and then liberation (DD & ARMA), and it also keeps the Ethiopian army intact. This will allow Ethiopia to have an army of around 15 divisions by the fall of 1939, which can be military controlled by Italy.
If you don't mind the gamey-ness, keeping the war with Ethiopia going for a while has numerous benefits. Militia on militia action is excellent training for your commanders, and consumer goods demand will stay low as long as you're at war. Attack with a few militia divisions, and add more as the fight progresses and your troops start to get beat up. A good battle will last a week. You can use your naval bombers on Interdiction missions to get them valuble experience without doing much damage to the ethiopians. All in all, you can get your army a decent experience boost, half a dozen (the good ones) leaders up to skill level 6-7 and another dozen or two a couple levels higher without commiting more than a few weeks of manpower production - and Italy doesn't have the IC to use all that manpower anyway.
Spanish Civil War
On July 18, 1936, the Spanish Civil War will occur. Playing as an Axis nation means the odds are stacked against the Nationalists, who will likely loose. Italy should always send help, via the in-game event, to Nationalist Spain to avoid 5 dissent and an isolationist move. Beyond that event, Italy has three practical choices:
- Do nothing and let the Nationalists loose.
- Assist the Nationalists in regaining their country by declaring war on Republican Spain at the beginning of the war
- Wait until the Nationalists have been defeated (between 6 - 18 months), and invade Republican Spain in order to annex it. An annexed Spain will provide 8 IC, 39 energy, 18 rares, and 28 metal. This is particularly helpful since Italy is short on all major resources. Note that Spain is key to capturing Gibraltar, which is imperative for achieving strategic control of the Mediterranean Sea. Also note that Spain provides a second front against France when Fall Weiss occurs.
At the end of March, 1939 (following the German invasion of Czechoslovakia) Italy will have the option to give King Zog an ultimatum regarding annexation. While Albania does not offer significant value, it provides Italy a foothold in the Balkans, and a staging point for possible actions in Greece and Yugoslavia. Taking Albania is simple, since it does not produce troops (DD & ARMA).
Early opportunities for war
Italy has several nonaggression pacts with its neighbors, which considerably reduce Italy's opportunity for local war mongering. All these non-aggression pacts, however, will eventually expire:
- January, 1939: Pact with Turkey expires. An Italy with a high belligerence, however, will likely cause a Soviet DOW if Italy decides to attack Turkey.
- March, 1939: Pact with Greece expires. After the annexation of Albania at the end of March, Greece is a fairly easy target. Romania will likely declare war as a result.
- June, 1939: Pact with France expires. Italy may find France challenging if they are not in the Axis. If Italy is in the Axis, and early war with France will spoil the war with Poland.
The German invasion of Poland in August 30, 1939 is an important date for Italy, either as an early warning of the wider war soon to come, or as the beginning of open conflict with the Allies due to an early join with the Axis. Italy has several important military objectives:
- Secure the Mediterranean Sea by taking Gibraltar and Suez.
- Defend Italian borders with France, possibly lead offensive assaults into France.
- Resolve North Africa strategy: abandon Libya and Egypt or engage in a North African campaign
After the invasion of Poland, Europe goes quiet for quite some time. Italy has a few options during this lull, starting with Yugoslavia. Italy has claims on Yugoslavian territories. Since Yugoslavia has several guarantees of independence, an early declaration of war (before 1939) is risky, and could embroil Italy into WWII with the Allies attacking, or could trigger war from Turkey, Greece, or even Germany. Therefore, war with Yugoslavia should only occur after Fall Weiss, and/or after Italy is prepared to go to war with the Allies. Full annexation of Yugoslavia within three weeks is achievable. With 25 total IC, Italy will gain 5 base IC in normal conditions, or 9 base IC in the event that Albini is the Minister of Security.
If Northern Africa has been successfully secured, a campaign against Southern Africa can be fruitful. No Italian controlled port is within 3000 km of South Africa, and taking Italian troops on ground throughout the length of Africa could easily take years. Thus, an alternate (quite challenging) method is to capture the Diego Garcia Island (from Port Massaua). This port island can take transports within range of Durban. While South Africa is not heavily guarded (SA has extremely low manpower), landing will be difficult.
Strategically, Italy has two primary objectives:
- Control the Mediterranean Sea (Gibraltar & Suez).
- Ensure the Soviet Union is defeated.
An Italy that achieves both objectives can play a significant role in ensuring the Axis rules the world. If either objective fails, Italy is almost certainly doomed.
The most important key to a successful Italy is control of the Mediterranean. The most effective way to control the Mediterranean is through the capture of Gibraltar and Suez, preventing any new allied ships from entering the Mediterranean. With that accomplished, the remaining UK fleet will need to be destroyed, since the French fleet will disappear with the fall of France by Germany.
In HOI2, the most effective way to destroy the Royal Navy is through maintaining air superiority over the Mediterranean and making good use of Naval Bombers. By using Naval Bombers you will slowly whittle down the Royal Navy and after a series of heavy Port Strikes on Gibraltar, Malta and the Egyptian coast, the RN may well be grounded and you will be able to roam freely across the Med.
In DD & ARMA, control of the Mediterranean is more challenging. First, a Northern African campaign that removes all ports, including those in the Middle East, will considerably help. Next, waiting for several months as the Royal Navy runs out of supplies and oil helps greatly amplify Italy's tiny Naval force. Then, Naval bombers will help soften up the Royal Naval. Finally, Italy's starting navy can begin to sink the Royal Navy.
On this path, Italy's warfare focuses almost exclusively on the European theater, putting little, if any, resources into Africa. This could mean early war with Spain, Greece, and Yugoslavia. This path also requires Italian involvement in the war against the Soviet Union, to ensure Germany wins. This can be accomplished by joining German forces on their front lines, or by opening up a new front against the Soviet Union. One way to create a new front is to invade and Annex Turkey, which will provide Italy direct access to the Baku, oil rich region, in addition the the Black Sea. This strategy requires emphasis on land and bomber forces, and will entirely neglect the Navy. Italy's most pressing need when fighting the Soviet Union will be manpower, due to the sheer size of the land and number of Soviet divisions. A quick victory is imperative for the Axis. When manpower has been exhausted, focus on IC intensive units such as the air force. After the defeat of the Soviet Union, a Navy should be built.
Most of Africa is an infrastructure nightmare, meaning that troops will be low on combat efficiency (ESE), TC will be considerably stressed, and moving troops will be extremely slow: moving from one province to the next may take months!
Africa has some strategic value:
- Northern Africa has airbases that the Allies can be use to pester your forces.
- Northern Africa also has ports, and while the Royal Navy may be trapped after Italy controls the Mediterranean Sea, they will still be in supply, and able to harass the Italian navy.
- Central and Southern Africa have some good resources, including metals and rares.
An effective Africa strategy can be conducted with the following steps:
- Ensure Ethiopia is a puppet, and take military control of their armies. Use their armies to grab as much land in Africa as possible.
- Limit Italian military involvement.
- Use Infantry and Militia, don´t use MOT, MEC, ARM in the central African jungles and never use CAV in Africa.
- For Central Africa, use Marines if possible; for Southern Africa, use Mountaineers.
In this strategy, Italy essentially ignores the rest of the world, refuses to join the Axis or the Allies, and simply fortifies its home lands. This means abandoning Libya for pragmatic reasons.
Securing Italy's beaches is a relatively easy task, although it will require a fair amount of time and effort. Italy has a large number of beaches, which can be quite strongly secured with a three unit stack of: (a) infantry division plus artillery; (b) militia; (c) militia. Make a note of the "crossroads" provinces, ones that border 3 beach provinces. Perugia and Potenza are best. These are the provinces for Italy to store reaction forces: Armoured, motorized, mechanized, calvary, etc. With their speed, use them to rapidly reinforce beach defenders using the "support defense" mission. A Navy is not important since beaches can be more efficiently defended, and no Italian Navy could match the Royal Navy or the USN.
The most vulnerable location for Italy are its land borders. Eventually, the Soviet Union and the Allies will be on those borders, and they may declare war. Therefore, land forts are a necessity along Italy's Northern borders, combined with a strong emphasis on Interceptors.
Italy the Traitor
Italy can join the Allies! Most players would consider this gamey, just as attacking Germany or the USA in 1936, for example, is gamey. In any event, an Italy that joins the Allies, especially in the fall of 1941 when Germany has all forces on the Eastern front, can score an easy victory for Italy.
It is possible to get a 20th century Roman Empire. No doubt this is very gamey and ahistorical, but given Italy's numerous handicaps it is also quite a feat to accomplish. At the start of the game, make peace with Ethiopia and forget about them and Somalia for the rest of the game. Your troops will be spread thin enough as it is whithout defending their useless deserts. Start building two factories, and allocate the rest of your IC to reinforcements and upgrades while you shuttle your troops back from Ethiopia. You'll want to build around 10 factories as early as possible - that'll give you the 5th research slot when you annex Spain. Don't cancel the light cruiser that starts in your production queue, it is only 16 days from completion. Change your ministers to maximize IC and manpower bonuses. You will not join the Axis, as it would be a disgrace for the noble Romans to seek any sort of agreement with the Germanic barbarians. Merely sharing common enemies with them will be enough.
Ressearch will be focused on industrial techs at first. The cryptography techs are a must, even if they take forever to ressearch thanks to your bad tech teams. You also want the 1936 manpower techs as early as possible. You want to get to the small arms assembly line ASAP, and that means non-stop ressearch in this field. For your military you will need infantry, mountaineers, militia and cavalry. You'll never have enough TC to support large motorized formations so you might as well not try. Artillery will also be useful (and possibly SP-Art for your cav divs) to augment the strength of your relatively small armies.
Once these essential techs are ressearched far enough down the tree you can do Interceptors and Tac bombers, along with some air and naval doctrines. Just keep in mind that no matter how much effort you put into these, you'll always be a step behind your main opponents. Do not abandon your land doctrine. The infiltration assault path is perfectly suited to the forces you are going to field. Anyways you won't ally with Germany so it won't be possible to get all the blueprints for the spearhead doctrine. The diplomacy sliders should be moved to full hawk first, and then begin to move to full standing army. After that it doesn't matter that much since you'll either have won or lost the game. It will pay off to set the sliders to generate extra money and engage heavily in intelligence activities (to steal blueprints).
Your army should be organized into army corps of Mil/Inf/Inf. Militia is key as it bolsters your ranks significantly and you only have so much manpower to spare. Your navy is obsolete but some of it will be useful in shore bombardment duties. Assemble an 18 ship SAG with your 4 BBI's and 5 CAIII's, plus your 9 best screens. Then put some sort of a transport fleet together with the CAII'S and CLII's as protection, and disband anything that's left over. Submarines can be kept as they can be useful as pickets. Keep your starting air force, as it will be a long time before you can spare the IC to build more.
After your troops are reinforced and upgraded to 1936 infantry, you're ready to invade and annex Spain. This will open up a second front against France - which you will need. Once Spain is yours, you must build up your army as much as possible before the outbreak of WWII. Send some spies into France and build at least as many infantry divisions as they will (you can count your militia as an infantry div. for that purpose).
Guarantee the independence of germany so that when France and the UK declare war on them, you can DOW them without suffering dissent. When the war breaks out, you must beat Germany into France and deny them any conquests there. It really is a race against the clock, because you essentially need to wrap up the war before winter or the German blitzkrieg in the spring of 1940 will deny northern France to the greatness of Rome. Conquering France can be difficult, as they are likely to have a doctrine and cryptography lead on you. In fact the war with France is the most likely point where this strategy will break down. To secure victory you will most certainly need to have an excellent grasp of the combat mechanics and use every advantage you can. Since you're not allied with the german barbarians, Vichy France will not trigger and you'll get to keep it all.
One thing to keep in mind is that if you can find the spare cash to influence them you might be able to bribe the Axis minors into allying with you instead of Germany. This will really turn the tide against Hitler and when the time comes you'll be glad to have them with you instead of against you.
Don't forget to leave some troops in Africa to push the brits back to Suez and also a few divs in Spain to quickly seize Gibraltar. A goal of sealing off the Mediterranean before the new year is reasonable. Once France has fallen, redeploy your troops to Venice and launch an offensive into the Balkans. Again you need to do this before the germans have a chance to try so don't wait any longer than you need. You want to annex Yugoslavia and Greece. If you've gotten to this point, all there is left is Turkey and every province bordering the Med will be green. However you should probably wait until Germany is at war with the Soviet Union before declaring war upon the Turks. Since you'll have sky-high beligerence by then, your DOW might trigger them into attacking you. Common sense dictates that a war against both of these behemoths could only end badly for Rome. If they do declare war, at least they'll also be fighting each other so the situation will be a little more manageable.
Now assuming that you avoided war with Germany and the SU, there is one last nut to crack: Londinium. Before you can safely try this you need to modernize your navy and build a sufficiently strong surface fleet to support the landing, which will likely take years. Look up the German strategy page if you need to know more about invading England. So essentially you're left with a lot of time to kill and a huge empire to pacify so you'll likely need to build lots of garrison divs. You may want to try to take France's overseas territories (so you can annex them) and keep your military on guard in Africa and the Middle-East as a British offensive from Iraq is not completely out of the question. In fact taking Iraq would be a good thing to do to occupy your time as your new navy is being built. Speaking of which - a 30 ship SAG of 13 CA'S, 2 CVL's and 15 DD's (all 1941 models) should be up to the task. If you're lucky you'll have captured some transports from the french ports, but most likely you'll need to build some of those as well.
After England has fallen you will have most of the land that was historically comprised in the Roman Empire. At this point, depending on the strategic situation in Europe, you might want to try to take on Germany. If they're losing on the eastern front (which they most likely will, considering you have denied them almost everything else), it might be possible to blitz into their industrial heartland and cripple them significantly before they have a chance to bring reaction forces back from the East.
There is also the possibility that your conquests confuse the German AI enough that it will never attack the soviets. In that case you need to keep in mind that you will face 150+ divs and that the germans will have a huge doctrine advantage on you until you ressearch the 'infiltration in depth' tech. Assuming everything has gone as planned your army is probably around 100 div strong at this point, so a considerable expansion will be required. Another problem arises from the fact that your army is almost entirely soft and that you have nothing to counter the german armor effectively. Building armor is not an option because TC is already way too overloaded, so the best bet is probably to build some of the otherwise useless AT brigades for your infantry. This will give your army some punch against the panzer divs without adding more TC load. Moreover, infantry divs brigaded with AT will retain full benefits from the infiltration doctrine while armor would not.
Alternatively, although this is beyond gamey, you can edit a saved game and add all your new conquests as national territories (simulating a unified Roman Empire). This will bump your IC into the 300's, quell all dissent, and turn your TC back to a 'green' figure (and you probably haven't seen that since 1938). Now you can safely take on Germany and the SU. At the same time.
Addendum : After some testing, the general strategy was shown to work. In the test game the war with France was nearly disastrous but succeeded in the end. Turkey can be attacked/annexed before 1941 and Germany had almost defeated the Soviet Union when I attacked - and successfuly defeated - it.