Man Believes He Can Win WW2, Is Wrong

Paul Mason, Economics editor for BBC’s Newsnight, has only gone and written one of the most interesting pieces of games journalism I’ve read in a while. In a blog post entitled “I re-fight World War Two and lose“, Mason takes a shot at playing hardcore World War 2 strategy game Hearts of Iron III using tactics that some WW2 historians believe could have brought Hitler’s Germany to its knees in a fraction of the time. As you may have deduced by now, it doesn’t go so hot.

Firing up the “Politics” interface I was at first amused to find my president, Albert Lebrun, classified as “barking buffoon”, prime minister Albert Sarraut as a “happy amateur” and my intel boss as a “dismal enigma” – but not amused to find that I could not change any of this before the scheduled election in 1940. My finger itched over the military coup button, and I immediately resorted to installing a far-right French police chief to quell dissent and abolish strikes.

Go read! Thanks to Fred Wester, CEO of Paradox for the tip-off. No, really.


  1. Javier-de-Ass says:

    Hehe nice.

  2. Megadyptes says:

    I feel sorry for him for actually playing HoI3. What a terrible buggy mess. He should have played 2 with addons instead.

    • Quintin Smith says:

      I thought the word on the imaginary street was that between the devs, the community and Semper Fi it’s been repaired. Is this not the case?

    • Megadyptes says:

      To be fair I’ve not played it in a while to see if anything has been fixed up but the original game left such a bitter taste in my mouth that I haven’t been bothered to find out. A lot of the problems were fundamental design decisions in the game that I doubt patches/addons/mods can really fix.

      I am looking forward to Darkest Hour, though. Another fan licensed game based on the HoI2 engine.

    • Malawi Frontier Guard says:

      I played 30 hours of unpatched HoI3 with one of the perfomance modifications from the forums when it came out. I enjoyed that quite a bit.

      Victoria 2 on the other hand…

    • Javier-de-Ass says:

      yeah, it’s a lot better after Semper Fi. but it still has a ways to go. For the Motherland should do the trick, hopefully.

    • Alexander Norris says:

      Quinns: the definitive word is that with SF it’s now playable, but it’ll need a good 2-3 more expansions before it’s fun.

    • Sunjumper says:

      Which version of Hearts of Iron with which expansions and mods is considered the best?

  3. BooleanBob says:

    I think I can hear the distant clatter of a thousand RPS aficionados checking to see if the username Fred Wester, CEO of Paradox has already been registered.

  4. Vague-rant says:

    Heh, that reminds me. A friend once claimed WW1 could’ve been won with a really long hose pipe, quite a lot of trained dogs and a large pump of poison gas. Save everyone lots of time and be back for Christmas. I wonder if any game has a simulation for that.

  5. Fede says:

    Very interesting material. Of course a very experienced player would probably have won, but as he points out the French leaders of the time weren’t really the best, and he’s probably better at HoI3 than they were at managing France :)

    It was also discussed in your forums during the last days! You should check them, Quinns :P

  6. Sagan says:

    I tried to write a smart comment, but can’t come up with anything. So I just want to say: This is great.

  7. Sweedums says:

    I quite like his closing idea of giving sixth formers the game as a project… to find a way to win world war 2 in a quicker, less damaging way… I bet they would be willing to put more effort into it, and if the game really is as accurate as it sounds, it could be used as quite an effective tool for history lessons etc.

  8. alh_p says:

    A REAL grown-up playing games? Good grief! surely not?

    I now want to hear about Paxman’s Dwarf fortress adventures.

    • Blackberries says:

      I would honestly be very happy for my license fee to go towards this.

  9. Navagon says:

    It looks like Fred was right.

  10. Lack_26 says:

    I’ve tried stopping Germany early on, most of the time I end up with WW1 part 2: The Reckoning, if I do manage to beat them I end up with a war against the Soviets that normally goes Nuclear a couple of dozen million deaths later.

  11. Daniel Rivas says:

    The comments on that blogpost are amazing. Especially the one bemoaning that we never entered into alliance with Hitler.

    “Ironically had we not entered the war…. but negotiated with Germany…. we could have formed together a successful superpower and kept our imperial sphere of influence out of the clutches of Wall Street and the CIA.”


    • BooleanBob says:

      Yeah, if you think RPS can be vicious, comments on just about any BBC blog post will blow you away. Guido Fawkes is more civil. [Comparison intended for effect, not as an endorsement of Guido Fawkes, which is a snake pit].

    • Om says:

      Not an uncommon sentiment at the time actually. I’ve been doing a lot of research into the period recently (for a HoI AAR actually) and its striking the degree to which elements of the British and French elite were pro-Nazi. ‘Better Hitler than Stalin’ and all that

      In fact, and somewhat contrary to what the author suggests, where there was an impetus for anti-fascism it tended to come from below, from the streets. France’s Popular Front being a notable manifestation of this (one roundly ignored in the game)

    • Maykael says:

      I was disappointed to see a surprising amount of comments criticizing Paul Mason for playing a GAME and not focusing on the real world.

      I just want all this “only children play video-games” bullshit to end. I’ve had enough of it and I’m sure you guys feel the same way.

    • G says:

      I read Paul Mason a lot (I posted this in the forums last week) and to me he puts forward the best justification for Twitter over forums etc. – it’s much easier to ignore idiot commentators.

    • President Weasel says:

      the blogpost comment is nearly right, but if you’re re-running history so the British Empire wins, why not go back in time another 40 years and instead of making secret pacts with France and then forming a massive bloc aligned against the central powers, ally with Germany instead?
      Kaiser Wilhelm was a bit unstable, but he’d probably not have been making those pronouncements against Britain if we hadn’t been allied with his enemies – he was Victoria’s nephew, after all. No economically crippling naval arms race with Germany would leave Britain’s imaginary counterhistorical economy in much better shape.

      If we’re re-running history anyway, why not do it this way and avoid the rise of Nazism, the Bolshevik revolution, and the crippling war debts to America? A much better idea than “let’s go back in time and make friends with Hitler”. Once you’ve had the first world war as it actually happened, the Empire is basically screwed.

      We’d still need some way to turn the British Empire from viciously repressive, racist dicks into somewhat more enlightened and a bit less repressive, only-mildly-racist dicks, before all the colonies rebelled though. Let’s start with imaginary home rule for Ireland, Canada and Australia and some kind of Parliament of the Empire, and see how we go?

    • sinister agent says:

      I eargerly anticipate HoI 4: Un-fucking Versailles.

  12. dethtoll says:

    Excellent read. And the article, too!

  13. Cooper says:

    NGJ from Newsnight journalists?

    The project has gone mainstream!

    And therefore is no longer cool. We need some more of tha NNGJ.

  14. Tetragrammaton says:

    My suspicion that the Hivemind never checks the forums seems to be on the money.
    Still, Fred Wester is my hero, so its all golden.

  15. Mark says:

    I’m glad RPS picked up on this. Considering how much of the games coverage on the BBC is fairly pedestrian, I was surprised by this wonderful piece of journalism.

  16. pepper says:

    Hello, my name is Fred Wester, CEO of Paradox Inter… ah screw it. You ruined it RPS!! We cant all be Fred Wester anymore. What am I going to now with my spare time?

  17. kwyjibo says:

    Correction, the title should read “Man Believes France Can Win WW2, Is Wrong”.

  18. Werthead says:

    Great stuff. However, the central part of the problem is that France was still shell-shocked and suffering a kind of national PTSD after losing 2 million men in WWI (three times what Britain lost) and had no appetite for war. The elected government reflected that total lack of appetite and interest in war.

    If you could solve that, then yes, we probably could have won in 1938. However, mainly because the 1938 plans called for the USSR to attack Germany simultaneously from the east. When Poland refused to let Soviet troops cross its territory (not entirely unreasonably) and Britain and France refused to pressure Poland, the Soviets shrugged and walked away. France and Britain could have done a hell of a lot of damage to Germany by themselves, but winning the war outright is a bit more speculative.

    Given hindsight and what happened to Poland anyway, then it would have been the right choice. But in France and Britain’s favour, selling their ally Poland to the Soviet Union in 1938 was a completely unacceptable and dishonourable option.