I didn’t want to hijack this thread with all the secondary (but important) discussion about wartime income and declaring war.
[Announcer says in a deep voice] We now return to our original programming…
I am intrigued by Refusing the Dragon with a 1939 start and I think it is viable.
The 39 start gives Japan three (Nanking, Tai-Yuan, Henan) of the six wartime ‘bonus’ territories and a pretty good number of units (16 total) on the mainland. But the KMT has 10 units and the CCP has 11 units bordering those territories. In the spirit of “refusing” to engage the Chinese, Option 1 is to migrate troops north into a stiff defensive line (Henan, Tai-Yuan, Shanxi) and swap Nanking for Peking. That’s a net +1 IPC for Japan and +2 for (most likely) the KMT, with an overall swing of -1 against Japan. At some point, though, these will have to be reinforced. To delay that and do more refusing, go with Option 2 instead and dig in at the Tai-Yuan/Shanxi line. That’s a net -3 IPC for Japan and (likely) +2 for both KMT and CCP for an overall -7 IPC swing. Finally, Option 3 would do the least “refusing” and create the longest defensive line (Henan, Tai-Yuan, Shanxi, and Zhejiang). It would also generate the most income, with +7 for Japan and -2 for the KMT (an overall swing of +9), but require the most resources to maintain.
With nothing else to do, hopefully the KMT and CCP will go at it and exhaust themselves in the process. Worst-case, though, is if they decide instead to build up their forces. This would necessitate Japanese reinforcements to maintain a stalemate along the established defensive line. The required investment would be 11 IPCs for Option 1 (less $$ but start sooner) or 16 IPCs for Option 2 (more $$ but start later). I skipped calculating the investment for Option 3 because it depends how the opposing forces are concentrated. Much of the necessary investment can be made up in the USSR, with 9 IPC available from all eastern USSR territories. As has been said, this would have to be well-coordinated with Germany. Alternatively, go south for Netherlands gold – 11 IPCs total including bonuses.
From an IPC standpoint, how do the Options compare to the opposite strategy i.e. refusing to refuse the dragon? Let’s call it the “Swallowing the Dragon” strategy. I did it in my first game and was quite successful. It starts before Japan’s first move by signing the Japanese-Soviet Non-aggression Pact. This frees up units in Manchuria to go south. Next, kill the KMT and make sure they can’t buy artillery. I mobilized every available land unit and the entire Japanese air force against the KMT. I took the other three ‘bonus’ territories (Peking, Zhejiang, Guangxi) and Yunan by T2. That effectively ended any immediate KMT threat, though I still needed to reinforce my position against the 11 CCP units. To finish things off in short order (and prepare for an overland invasion of the FEC), I placed two minor ICs in China at the end of T2. All totalled, that’s a +10 IPC gain over Option 1, +13 over Option 2, but only +4 over Option 3. Japan can make similar IPC gains by Refusing the Dragon, but it will take longer than 2 turns.
From a political standpoint, Refusing the Dragon will have significant consequences over Swallowing the Dragon. If Japan goes north, it’s at war with Russia. If it goes south, it’s at war with the British Commonwealth (BC) and France. All are major powers. There is an additional complication that must be planned for. If Japan goes north, Germany must not take the Netherlands. Otherwise, the FEC (or Anzac) will get 9 additional IPCs per turn for the Dutch East Indies. If Japan goes south, Germany has to wait until Japan has possession of most of the DEI so that the FEC (or Anzac) doesn’t get much additional income when Germany takes the Netherlands. Swallowing the Dragon, on the other hand, has no significant consequences. Neither the BC nor the US can declare war on Japan until Japan declares war “on another nation during the game”. France is the exception. It can declare against Japan but has to pay 10 IPCs to do it (half its per turn income). Not that it would matter. France isn’t any kind of threat to Japan.
Refusing the Dragon can work with a 39 start, but I agree with Warwick that against strong players it will be difficult to pull off. Still, I especially like the idea of going north and ‘sticking it’ to Russia. And I look forward to trying it because it’s my style of play – all in one way or another.