[Much of this was posted as a reply in the Refusing the Dragon thread. I thought it appropriate to post separately for any follow-up.]
In my first game as Japan, I decided to go ‘all out’ against China and was quite successful. In a nod to Jinx1527, I call this the “Swallowing the Dragon” strategy.
It starts before Japan’s first move by getting the USSR to agree to the Japanese-Soviet Non-aggression Pact. That kills any possible USSR lend-lease to the KMT. It also eliminates the worry over border clashes and building up of troops in the north. Thus, the units in Manchuria are freed up to go south.
The CCP is hurting for money, so it seemed logical to go after the KMT first, especially the Burma Road to make sure they couldn’t buy artillery. I mobilized every available land unit and the entire Japanese air force against the KMT. I was able to take the remaining three ‘bonus’ territories (Peking, Zhejiang, Guangxi) and also Yunan by T2. That effectively ended any immediate KMT threat.
Although they are hurting for money, the CCP starts with 11 units plus they get a recruitment roll. After fighting the KMT, I still needed to reinforce my position against them. Initially, aircraft were used. In following turns, armor would be forthcoming from the two minor ICs, one in Henan and one in Zhejiang, placed at the end of T2. (These ICs will also be used to prepare for an overland invasion of the FEC.) With four additional infantry to be transported from Tokyo, there was really nothing the CCP could do so they stayed huddled in their two territories. Attack Communist China on T3. Note that we were also using the Fighting Railways expansion which gives Japan an armored railcar (8 movement) for transporting one unit into battle. Getting that extra unit around was very helpful…
From an IPC standpoint, Japan gets an additional 11 IPCs per turn by the end of T2 – that’s the same amount as all of the DEI without the hassles of being at war with the BC and France. Japan will get 2 more per turn for Communist China by the end of turn 3. This income will provide Japan a big boost in setting up for its next step, be it the DEI, FEC, Anzac, or Russia.
From a political standpoint, starting with this strategy has no significant consequences. Neither the British Commonwealth (BC) nor the US can declare war on Japan until Japan declares war “on another nation during the game”. So Japan can beat up on China all day with no worries. France is the only exception. While it can declare against Japan, it’s not realistic because France would have to pay 10 IPCs to do so. That’s half of its per turn income. It wouldn’t matter anyway because France cannot threaten Japan. It only has 2 land units and its navy is certainly no match for Japan’s. Other strategies, like Refusing the Dragon (see that thread for more), do have significant consequences.
Overall, Swallowing the Dragon gives Japan a good, solid, conservative start and it is very easy to implement.