Hearts of Iron IV Japan SP Guide will explain how to take over China with minimal losses in good detail, discussing strategies and mechanics. Spy Agencies will also be included.
By executing this guide, you should be able to secure East Asia, allowing Germany to get a foothold against the Soviets in Europe and ultimately win the war.
Your starting military is mostly sufficient once you fix your templates. Spend your first 50 PP on “Guns for Steel” decision. Before you go to war take the “Test the Soviets” decision and lose the skirmish. This plus the Army Expansion focus will give you enough army XP to fix your templates.
Change the MOT template, not the armor one. Duplicate it first, then change it from 12 MOT brigades to 5 MOT 5 LT, add Engineers Recon and Support Artillery companies. Convert your existing armor divisions to this new template (cheaper in experience to adjust this template instead of the armor one you start with).
Your basic infantry template should be 10 infantry with engineers and support artillery companies (maybe recon, I think it starts with it). Convert a few of your garrison divisions in the home isles to this until you have 24 of these. Station this army on the border with China. If you have extra experience, fix your cavalry template and adjust your motorized template to 10 MOT instead of 12.
Before war with China research the usual industry and electronics techs. Research the upgraded light tanks, as many land doctrines you can, artillery passive bonus, radios, and the 2 passive infantry bonuses. You can defeat them with your starting air force and navy.
I’ve gone mils only and civs only; civs only is harder but sets you up long-term better. By that I mean build civs until 1939, then switch to mils. If you only use your starting mils + what you capture in the war, build mostly light tanks, some motorized, support equipment and infantry equipment. Also some arty. I usually don’t build planes unless I am building more mils instead of civs.
Before war with China you should upgrade the dockyard in Tokyo to lvl 10 and upgrade the dockyard in Dalian to at least 5 or 6. This should solve your supply issues. Also research logistics companies and attach to your tank divisions in 38-39.
Sino War Planning
Your infantry army should be stationed on the border with China by Beijing. Don’t extend it into Mengkukuo territory; manually draw the border over the 3 provinces Japan controls only. Don’t call Meng or Manchukuo to war and China can’t enter their territory. This makes it easier for you to defend early on.
As soon as you declare war (aim for mid-1937), make sure you have at least 25 PP saved. Immediately take the “escalate the war in China” decision and take it every 30 days until the penalty disappears. Don’t engage in any offensive action until the penalty is gone (4 months I think). China will assault your border troops and lose 20x as many soldiers as they kill.
Meanwhile have an amphibious invasion set up in Dalian. Convert some infantry to Marines until you have 3-4 Marines, then pair them with your armor divisions until you have a group of 10 Marine/Tank/INF divisions ready to invade. Pick Qingdao as your target and have the remainder of your forces (cavalry, motorized, whatever infantry is left + puppet troops) waiting behind them. Once the penalty from Marco Polo is gone, launch the invasion. Once it succeeds, fan your mobile troops out and try to take a tile north of the river to the northwest. China will move a ton of troops south to block you, and your 24 divisions by Beijing can then begin moving south. Trap as many divisions as you can between your 2 forces. After they link up, just focus on getting small encirclements with your mobile troops and whittling down their army while the Ichi-Go bonus is active (75 PP I think).
Also it can help to build a spy agency ASAP and use your next 150 PP (after 50 for Guns for Steel and 150 for Silent Workhorse minister) to add the intelligence minister giving you 3 spies total. Build collaboration government in China until you have at least 80 compliance (100 is best). If you can spare another 150 PP get the +Infantry military staffer.
Basically the idea is to wait until the Marco Polo penalty is gone, then overwhelm them with mobile forces. Their army is huge but inferior in quality, so the first few months of the war should be devoted to encircling and destroying as many divisions as possible. You will kill faster than they can replace. You may only end up adding 10 or so divisions of your own during the course of the war, so use your starting forces wisely and it should take maybe 12-18 months (including the 4 spent doing nothing).
Once China is at 80-100 compliance through the spy missions, switch to doing the same to Dutch East Indies asap. Getting them at 100 before the war allows you to create a collaboration government as soon they capitulate, meaning they become a puppet and you can trade for all their resources for almost nothing. You probably won’t have time to do the same to Malaya but it would be nice if you can.
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