Xibei San Ma
Spain is a fun minor to mess around with, but doesn’t have a whole lot going for it save for its location! This very humble preview is meant to get some semblance of a starter guide going, if for nothing else than to introduce players to a minor nation that can have an impact on the game.
Nationalist Spain has little IC, poor infrastructure, an outdated army and navy and virtually no air force, and has a shortage of resources. Additionally you have to beat the Republicans in the Spanish Civil war (unless you play another scenario). Clearly it's a weak minor to play, but it can be fun, challenging, and boring. This intro isn't meant to provide a WC guide to Spain, I personally picked up Spain after playing a lot of the other major nations, and I eked out another 20 or so quality gaming hours from HOI2 as a result of the endeavor.
If you're bored with the other majors and want to play a different kind of game, one that mainly supports the Axis and the AI then Spain is a good choice. If you want to dominate and demolish, well, Spain isn't really for you.
1936 Scenario Civil War
I played as Luxemburg until the civil war event pops up on July 18, 1936. I have noticed that 75% of the time the province split gives the Nationalists Seville, Madrid, and Barcelona. The other 25% of the time the Republicans get Madrid and a large portion of southern Spain, and you get Seville and its immediate western province. In this latter scenario I found the Republicans to be in a stronger position only because you need to encircle Madrid to cut off supply to the other armies. That entails taking lower infrastructure provinces to which the AI will often automatically deploy. Pick your poison, my goal was to win the Civil War as fast as possible and get the Nationalist government up and running. If you get the harder province split and want to have a go, kudos to you, and more experience for your generals.
So you save and reload as the Nationalists, and you get the Spanish fascism event that gives you some militia and an infantry unit in Seville. Split them up and start moving north to get a land connection to your capital. Remember to set up a supply convoy from La Coruna to Seville in the interim. You will notice your TC is red and you have few units; look at your deployment queue to find more units that become available on July 25. Sometimes these vary, but you will mostly have infantry, militia and maybe a tank division or cavalry. I honestly have never checked the AI files so I don’t know if it’s random, or if it's me.
You now are at the mercy of the AI and this is where we employ a gamey tactic. Sometimes Germany and Italy won't support Franco, and in that case you're pretty much screwed as you need the Condor Legion, its tactical bomber, and the Italians to really tackle the Republicans. Not to mention that sometimes France and England will support the Republicans and often that leads to a harder road. I am pretty sure that if France or England support the Republicans they get infantry. I don't know for sure as in my five tests of the event, France and England supported the Republicans the one time Germany and Italy did not support Franco. Are they linked? I don't know, but save and reload if it happens. Yes it's gamey but the point is to get Nationalist Spain up and running.
Once the events occur you want to go hard and fast at Guadalajara and Murcia which are the primary VP provinces remaining (assuming you got the favorable split and got Madrid, Seville and Barcelona.). I can't remember the other VP province in the south, but for the most part it seems that the AI reinforces Murcia and Guadalajara. Make sure that you allow the Republicans an escape to a non-VP province. Why? When you annex the Republicans you get all their units!
It isn't complicated to pull this off, just make sure you don't destroy the Republican units. They may not seem like much now, but you want those infantry divisions or you will have to build them yourself. At this point you need to assign your leaders to your divisions. You don't have a lot, but the experience gained in the Civil War will allow for some major generals to gain enough experience for promotion. The leaders aren't spectacular, but you have a few with offensive doctrine, one tank buster, and one panzer general. Get them in the fight. The experience you gain here with your leaders will make your small army more efficient later for your larger opponents.
When fighting the Republicans you will loose some of the battles as you are using militia, but in the end you should be able to annex by September 1. Just remember, let them have a non-VP province to retreat to! Now here is an admission: I tweaked the .csv files to give myself a slight bump in IC in a few key provinces so that I would have over 40 IC when I annexed the Republicans. Yes it's a cheat, but it's not like you're playing Germany, right? Do it, get the 3rd research slot.
The Spanish Civil War isn't a complex operation, so if you have played HOI2 before you should be able to handle it efficiently. Just remember to assign your leaders and get them experience. Even replace the German and Italian commanders, particularly with the TAC division. You only get 1 tank buster general with Spain, and if you are a proponent of air support for your offensive military operations (how can you not be with 1.03a?) get this guy experience. It will serve you well when (and if) you support Barbarossa.
Victory and Annexation!
You have won the war, annexed the Republicans and now own all of Spain. Congrats! You’re on your way to being a solid contributor to the fascist world cause. Now another dirty revelation by your author: I cheated again and gave a slight bump in skill level to a few tech teams. This is optional, but my rationale was more for fun game play than world conquest. I didn't go nuts, but I made three of my teams level 6 and one team level 7. Now this makes the research faster and makes you a more viable force later in the game, particularly if you choose the Axis path so you can maximize blueprints that are given to you. I'm not going to tell you whom to bump, because it's dependent on your play style. Look at the teams you have, determine who fits your needs, and give them a push. Yeah it's a cheat, but our purpose here is to be a viable contributor to the Axis, not just play defense the entire game.
Remember to adjust your sliders as well. You should have done that right when you reloaded as the Nationalists. Either way it's not going to occur every January 1 so you have to remember to do it. There are a lot of options for your sliders. I went for Central Planning because of the bump in IC. Go read the wiki page on the slider settings to get an idea of what's achievable with Spain.
I started researching Carriers right away. Spain has crap for techs and you really have to get up to speed to match Italy or the UK, but if you focus on Carriers you will reap benefits by '39 and you should have a formidable fleet that has 6 carriers with your original surface fleet. You can start building level I carriers right away and I recommend this as it takes a year to complete. They aren't quality ships and they won't upgrade, but as they are being built you're researching more carrier techs and with each one a new CAG upgrade. Crucially, CAGs will upgrade, so your level I carriers, by '39, will have level IV CAGs.
Carriers are the powerhouses of the naval theatre and you already have a surface fleet (albeit not a good one), so it's my recommendation that you develop carriers exclusively. You're 3 carrier techs behind in 1936 and it will take you over year to get them all. Once that's done move on to destroyers, the goal being upgraded destroyers that with your level I carriers will give you a nice second fleet and an offensive force. I suggest you read the primer on naval combat. I can't claim to understand it fully, but can confirm that 3:1 or even 2:1 screening for ships does wonders for positioning and combat. A 6 carrier/18 destroyer force can be a real powerhouse, and with Spain you can achieve this goal and provide a much-needed boost to the Axis shortcomings in naval prowess.
Keep one research slot dedicated to industrial technologies, but stay away from the manpower techs (I know your instinct is to get that up and running) because you don't have the IC to support a large force anyway, and you will have about 1000 manpower in 38-39 which should be sufficient for your needs. Stick to IC and research modifiers. You will need to get radar as well at some point if you want interceptor cover. Just plug away here and research techs in their historical years so you minimize your research time. Remember, you aren't Germany. You don't have high quality research teams nor slots to throw away on completing '39 infantry in '37.
The other tech slot should float between doctrines and your desires. The research aspect of the game is really dependent on the player's preference, and because Spain starts with nothing you can determine its path based on your own style. Bear in mind that once you join an alliance you will likely get blueprints given to you. If you plan to join the Allies you might want to research infantry and armor as they will give you plenty of naval techs, and vice versa with the Axis. I used my third tech slot on naval doctrine to support my carrier fleet. Throw in light armor for your small tank army, and advance your air force one tech level before the war.
The State of the Army
By the end of the Civil War you have probably noticed a couple of issues with your army.
First, your army is outdated with lots of militia and 1918 infantry. Disband the militia straight away as they have little or no value in my opinion and eat supplies. You should have plenty of supplies for the moment so dump your IC into upgrades and get those infantry up to '36. You will burn thousands of supplies this way, but your army is in dire need of a boost. At this point your army should consist of roughly 15-18 infantry divisions, 2 tanks divisions, 1 cavalry division, 1 mountain division and 5 or so assorted brigades. You will notice that some of your divisions in your deployment queue from the Civil War can only be deployed in Africa and the islands. Deploy them and ship them home to Spain ASAP as leaving them in the queue kills your TC, and leaving them abroad serves no purpose. I know the starting military situation is not impressive - it's downright ugly - but remember your commanders got a lot of experience in the Civil War which makes them fight better.
Second, you have virtually no air force at all. You might have 1-2 interceptor squadrons (again this seems to be at random from the Civil War event) which are up to date, but that hardly qualifies as a "force". Having been manhandled by Allied air raids many times, I build interceptors to defend my main holdings, and support them with radar stations in La Coruna, Madrid, Seville and Barcelona. I group 2 squadrons in each province and, over time, develop radar that helps the interceptor missions. La Coruna is a favorite entry point for the Allies as it is closest to the UK, so that should be the focus of your air defense.
I also build an offensive air wing comprised of 4 tactical bomber squadrons. Tactical bombers do a little bit of everything and overall are very diverse units. With 1.3a tactical bombers and interdiction missions have really been beefed up, and for a small country like Spain having a force of TACs to support your offensive maneuvers can be the difference between victory or defeat. Tactical bombers are expensive to build, though, and it's going to hurt when you commit to them, but their offensive value has been tweaked up so much that it's hard to ignore them. Coupled with their ability to complete any air mission (except transport), I strongly urge you to build them.
I upgrade my tank armies to 6 total divisions with engineer brigades. Light tanks are fine for early in the game; you aren't launching Barbarossa yourself, so even for all you Panzer generals 6 divisions is sufficient unless you want to go annexing for oil, which might be a fun alternative game. 3 tank divisions is enough to get by, and should be able to hold their own for the early part of the game - particularly for a quick hit in southern France once you join the Axis.
Whatever you decide to do after the Civil War, you're waiting for upgrades and assessing potential military targets. You're also contemplating how you're going to build an air force and tanks when you only have a year and are already dedicated to carriers and CAGs. This is where the Nationalist Spain game is painful, because you have crap to start with. While there are many strategies in HOI, my purpose for this write-up was to show a supporting role for the Axis powers. Their war starts in '39. Yours starts when you want it to. I am not a proponent of building industries or infrastructure, but I accept the other side of the argument that over time it can pay dividends. You decide for yourself. I tweaked my IC to get me 40, then conquered the rest.
I have played offensively and been defeated, and I have played defensively and been defeated. The only time I had a chance of finishing the game as Spain was when my allies (the Axis) got the bitter peace event. We closed off the Mediterranean and Japan was surviving against the US, while I personally performed Sea Lion and after that the UK started to crumble. I bailed on the game for other issues but unless the US had a magic wand I don't think they could have defeated the Axis. As you're waiting for things to upgrade and techs to be researched, decide what you want to do with Spain. Bear in mind that as Spain you're limited in almost every aspect of the HOI2 game engine.
Axis Support Game
You can build up your force and once Germany declares on Belgium (normally after Poland in the spring of 1940), you join the Axis or declare on France yourself. If you wait this long, Gibraltar will have 1 garrison division in defense. I said before that your location was an asset. Gibraltar is why. Take it immediately while you press into southern France; you can usually grab some provinces before Vichy, but France will put up a fight. Gibraltar is still the bigger fish mainly because I have yet to see the Italian AI perform well against the UK in Africa. Closing Gibraltar helps, not only that but depending on your force structure you might be able to help Italy out and grab some land yourself in North Africa.
Helping Italy out is the main function of the “Axis support game”. Germany should be fine on its own (at least early on, though Barbarossa might be another story). Commit your carriers to the Mediterranean and help Italy throw the Brits out of Africa. This opens up the Middle East to conquest and gives you a southern front on the Balkans and Russia. Italy seems to struggle with Greece as well, and should you have forces in the area you might be able to annex them yourself. Helping Italy helps Germany, but remember not to get preoccupied with your own conquests early in the war. If the Mediterranean is secure, Italy can focus on Greece, and you can focus on the Middle East.
Once the Mediterranean is secure begin fortifying your own coastal defenses. Only once have I seen the AI attempt a landing in Spain early on, and that was after I took Portugal. The US will come in eventually and you should use your 6 armor divisions as support for repelling any invasions up and down your portion of the Atlantic coast (remember you may have a good portion of southern France). Now this can be boring as it might be a year or longer before they come, but rest assured that at some point the Axis will have to look west and when they do your ability to defend the Atlantic wall might be its best chance at survival.
In a best case scenario Germany got the bitter peace and now you can go for Sea Lion or move on to Canada. In the worst case you helped Italy defeat the UK in Africa and gave yourself the option of going into the Middle East or the Balkans. Either way you supported the Axis's Achilles heel, the Italian AI. Obviously every game varies, Italy might be just fine and you might be free to take Britain or Ireland if you choose.
The Spanish Pond Game
Italy is clearly your superior in terms of IC and tech but it lacks the ability to execute its objectives without help. In short, the AI Italy isn't up to the task (alone) of controlling the Mediterranean. A human-controlled Spain can, at a price, but that price is very high dissent and probable early entry into the war. Personally I have found Yugoslavia to be the best overall target for a couple of reasons. First, you can use your superior navy to support your invasion, second, you have experienced leaders from the Civil War, and third (and most important), you can devote your entire military to the operation without fear of a DOW from the Allies or the Axis.
You need to land somewhere first, as beachheads are hard to establish. I take Albania as they have no defense and you get an automatic foothold in the Balkans. Sadly it comes at a 7% dissent hit which is no small amount given your lack of IC. However, logistically, it's a great base of operations. Move your navy and most of your army there and DOW Yugoslavia (at another 7% dissent hit).
Yugoslavia has a lot of people who are friendly or guarantors, and depending on your belligerence they may declare on you. I have never had Italy or Germany declare on me, and I declared in early 37 so I wouldn't worry about that. However Hungary and Romania are both possibilities and Turkey (in my experience) is a certainty. Taking out Yugoslavia should be straightforward: your '36 infantry should be sufficient to handle the Slavs. Like the Civil War, Yugoslavia is not a complex operation.
Turkey will pester you with their fleet (assuming they declare), but this can be stopped with the fleet you start with after the Civil War. Annex Yugoslavia and begin probing the Black Sea for Turkish defenses. Turkey is a problem because you have to land on one of their defended beaches, but you should have 6 transports if you didn’t get them sunk during the Civil War. Load them with 3 armies of 2 divisions each and time your landings 3 hours apart. You ought to be able to get a beachhead and from there your army should win the day.
The problem is Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. If they DOW you might be in some trouble because you're spread thin. Immediately take your Turkish invasion force and land in Romania (even if you haven’t finished in Turkey), if you can get the beachhead you can quickly take two of their VP provinces. I like to puppet Romania because it's got a decent starting army which you can control later during Barbarossa if need be, and which can help deal with your situation in Turkey. Remember the price I talked about? Puppeting, annexing, and general Balkan mischief will cost you in dissent. If you review your ministers, you should find a Prince of Terror who allows you to get more from those foreign territories. You can also edit your dissent down a touch in the save game to provide a way out of the mess as well... you wouldn’t be the first bloke to do so.
If Hungary declares I would consider forcing peace with the acceptall cheat, but give them some territories in Yugoslavia for their trouble. Going to war with Hungary has consequences on the event chain for Germany and might bring them into the war earlier, which in all probability will screw up the long term game for you. If you think you can take them and Romania, be my guest, but that's asking a lot out of Spain. At this point your belligerence is high, but you have a major foothold in the Balkans and are now the dominant force in the Mediterranean Sea. From here I consolidate and maybe appoint a Prince of Terror to get that foreign IC maxed out. Remember conquest is fun, but it also means more land to defend. Once the war starts you have easy access to the Middle East, and to Greece should you choose the Axis.
How are your relations with the USSR? Might make for a good game if you went Comintern considering your now vast Balkan empire. Then again, that's what Republican Spain is for.
How could we have gotten this far and not talked about Portugal? Its attractiveness is reduced by the fact that taking it increases your beach provinces in Iberia by 3, which isn't a sexy option by any means. Remember that your IC and TC are limited, so it's not like you're going to have a 75 division army to defend your vast shores. However taking Portugal has one distinct advantage, and that is that you get bases all over the world. Portugal has holdings in Africa as well as Macao in China and East Timor near Australia.
If you DOW Portugal no one is going to take much notice, but keep an eye on your belligerence and relations just in case. It will take time, but since their army is small you should be able to capture Portuguese holdings easily and annex, or at least force a peace resolution that enables you to get Macao. Remember to rebase fleets and set up convoys, and you can cover the globe.
Once you have Macao and get yourself organized you will note a budding little fascist country nearby called Siam. DOW and annex, but be careful here because you have to perform an amphibious assault which is tricky. Did you build marines? Whether you did or not, just use the staggered attack trick mentioned against Turkey and you should be fine. Annex them as well and you’re sitting on a resource gold mine. Singapore is next door should you go Axis, and so is Indochina if France decides to fight to the death.
You now have an African base, an Asian base, and a European base from which to stage operations. Will you take out the Dutch? The Belgian Congo isn't far either. India? Basically this gives you options, but remember that as Spain there is only so much you can do. Observing the AI and understanding what it's trying to do (is Japan heading toward India? Is Germany bogged down in the Ardennes?) will let you piggyback and help you gain territory from which you can create an empire.
As it happens, Nationalist Spain has a decent variety available. A man of the people, an administrative genius, a prince a terror (if you conquer). Basically pick your poison. My purpose isn't to get into minister traits and advantages, but you do have some options.
Once you have annexed the Republicans you're not in too bad a shape. You do need energy, but Germany will often make a trade of 10 supplies for 100 energy without a problem. Remember that you don't need mammoth surpluses as Spain as you don't and won't have the IC to consume them. Grabbing a little oil isn't a bad idea, and here Venezuela will give you a decent deal.