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Japan strategy guide
Japan starts out in 1936 as a major power. It has a leadership pool just large enough for proper research and little else, and an economy that is simultaneously small and resource-deprived even for its size. To succeed, Japan must expand. Japan can choose to go to war with China starting on 1 July 1937. Quick expansion in China is a worthwhile early goal. Where to expand next usually sets up a war against the USA and the allies or the USSR - and it is this choice of opponents that dictates the rest of the game.
Japan starts with plenty of Leadership to get all the equipment and doctrines future wars demand, but still research should be primarily focused on current year technologies to avoid heavy penalties. Japan can start the game with around 15 to 18 leadership allocated to research, depending on the player's other priorities.
Army technologies help ensure Japan maintains a quality advantage over its adversaries.
- Infantry technology: The backbone of Japan's military, steady research here will be important throughout the game. In 1936, infantry specializations are important to work towards.
- Armor: Due to Japan's shortage on resources and general supply problems, armor is of very limited utility. The two artillery technologies may be worth considering. Advanced players may consider light armor, armored cars, and sp-art especially for later parts of the game and wars in India, Siberia and eventually for invading the US.
Naval technologies should be given priority due to the construction times involved and the inability to upgrade:
- Escorts: Japan will need to choose one escort type: either a Destroyer or Light Cruiser. Due to long-range nature of wars IJN will have to participate in, Light Cruisers is obviously an easier choice here.
- Capital: To effectively project Japanese power to the provinces thousands of kilometres of sea away, a fleet built around Carriers is necessary. Carriers don't need to be the main component of the fleet though. Using of a healthy mix of Carriers and escorts is advised to limit own losses and increase enemy losses. When Light Cruiser is picked as escort of choice, due to shared nature of (light) cruiser practical and (battle) cruiser doctrines, Heavy Cruisers can become a good capital ship supplement to the fleet.
- Submarines: Submarines aren't advised for roles other than scouting and convoy raiding in safe waters and building large numbers of them isn't advised.
Airpower research will become important once Japan confronts the Allies. Japan begins the game with advanced air capabilities:
- Bombers: Tactical bombers with their long range are very good choice for the future wars in Asia where airports aren't common commodity. Due to shared nature of Twin-engine research and practical knowledge, it's worth considering supplementing Tactical force with some Naval Bombers, but not many.
- Fighters: Japan will not meet significant air resistance for a long while in the game, Allies and Russians will use most of their air force in Europe against Germans so fighter research isn't necessary until around 1940 when preparation for the US needs to start.
General research is important for Japan:
- Industry: Education, Industrial Efficiency and Production are must-haves. Other than that technologies increasing Energy production and conversion rate to Crude are necessary. Metal and Rares will be abundant after conquest of Indochina and India and there's no need to research their production. A small boost to Crude output is useful though.
- Theory: Supply-related techs are a must-have for war in China or Siberia/India. Other research in this area should be ignored.
- Land: Historically Japan specializes in the Grand Battleplan doctrine (Infantry, Artillery, Special Forces and Engineers). In addition to this doctrine tree, Operational Level Organization is always useful for reducing attack delays. Operational Level Command Structure is also useful for increasing attack movement speed. After those basics are covered, research of fast units like tanks or motorized/mechanized infantry can be pursued.
- Naval: Doctrines for ships of choice should be picked right away. Other than that, Base Control doctrine is the one Japan needs to pursue the hardest. Especially Basing and Spotting research allowing to pour more supplies through naval bases and to detect enemy navies easier.
- Air: Air doctrines should focus on TAC for land army and CAG and NAV for navy. This means researching upgrades allowing for easier Ground Attack, Logistical Strike, Naval Attack and Port Strike.
Distribution of Leadership
Japan has a barely adequate sufficiency in Leadership but situation vastly improves over time.
- Espionage important for the first 10 domestic spies. This will also become useful to increase threat on Yunnan and Guangxi Clique in order to declare war on them.
- Officers ratio is ideal to keep high in order to maximize the efficiency of limited combat forces. Not necessary for the war against China, but will be helpful in later campaigns.
- Diplomacy will be handled by other Axis powers, investing 2 points here to influence USA out of Allies so they can't join before 1940s is a possibility.
- After those areas are covered, Research will consume remainder of Leadership, often as high as 90-95% of it for most of the game.
Axis - historical route
Japan should follow the historic route, joining Axis and making the Far East its playground. This is the most interesting course, allowing to clash all the non-Axis superpowers of the world over the course of the game. Starting with China conquest, later challenging European Allies for their colonies in Asia, helping Germans in their war against Soviets and finishing the game with invasion of the USA.
Japan can join the Allies but this restricts opportunities for overseas expansion after China. However, there's no serious Axis threat in the Far East, the Royal Navy and USN would protect the shipping lanes, the US will trade most of the resources that Japan needs and it leaves open the option of taking on the USSR with Allied support (probably best done when the Allies are ready to re-engage in Europe or there is a risk that Germany will defeat the USSR and develop a direct threat to Japan in the Far East).
Japan can join the Comintern and then follow the historical expansion into the Dutch East Indies, Philippines, Borneo etc. This offers great opportunities for resources purchase while providing an alternate ally to assist against the power of the USA - likely to become a substantial threat later in the game. The USSR while geographically closer than Germany cannot offer much in terms of practical support.
The fourth option is to remain non-aligned, building up Japan's own strength through expansion into China and Indochina. But once done, there are limited opportunities without coming into conflict with one of the main factions. At some point Japan has to choose - it pays to decide early in Single Player games, but can be left until it is more obvious which is likely to be the stronger faction in Multiplayer. In both, the player will benefit from picking their own time.
Marco Polo Bridge: The decision to go to war with Nationalist China becomes available on 1 July 1937. It will reduce Japan's neutrality and its relations with other majors. Nationalist China will drag most of the Chinese minors with it with the exception of Yunnan and Guangxi Clique. It is generally a good idea to begin this war sooner rather than later, with tangible advantages gained by doing so before the winter.
Establish Mengkukuo: This creates a Japanese puppet state Mengkukuo. Practically speaking, this state will serve no purpose throughout the course of the game expect to prevent partisans from uprising in the few provinces controlled by the puppet. A decision to expand the state is possible by capturing two more western provinces of Uxin Ju and Shizuishan. This will expand Mengkukuo by approximately eight provinces.
Annex French Indochina This decision will appear in the Diplomacy screen after Germany beats France and Vichy is established. If Japan is a member of the Axis, the player will be able to press Vichy for French colonies in the region and they will then cede Indochina. This offers around 15 IC and a bunch of resource-producing provinces, mostly rich with Rares and some Metal too. If you have taken any of the Indochina provinces then you will not get this desicion.
Put pressure on Siam Right after Vichy cedes Indochina, Japan will be offered a third decision. There are two ways out of it. Siam may decline to join the Axis and Japan will then be offered the opportunity to declare war on them or let them go. More often, Siam will accept and become a Japanese puppet from whom Metal and Rares can be obtained cheaply.
Japan begins the game with a fractured government. While it is possible to eliminate this by 1939, it will require constant vigilance to maintain.
Ministers should help supply, army organization and match Japanese priorities in the air and in the sea.
In 1936, the following options should be considered:
- Armament Minister: Shoda Kazue (Supplies +20%)
- Minister of Security: Fujie Keisuke (Ruling Party Support +15%)
- Foreign Minister: Okada Keisuke (Ruling Party Support +10%)
On 1 January 1937, Nakajima Kesago becomes available as a Minister of Security, offering a valuable Leadership Modifier of +5%.
In 1941, Fujwara Ginjiro is available for a 10% IC bonus.
- Civil Law: Repression
- Conscription Law: This should be changed to a Three-Year Draft.
- Education Investment Law: Big Education Investment
- Industrial Policy Law: This can be changed to a Consumer Goods Orientation while Japan is at peace. This saves IC via consumer goods, while industrial efficiency is reduced only slightly.
- Press Law: State Press
- Training Law: For the training law, there are two basic approaches. The first is to create a Japanese Army of strong forces with Specialist Training (the historical route), which is a good balance for Japan's limited resources. An alternative approach is to use Volunteer Army policy to save on IC.
Japan's Leadership is best spent on research projects rather than spying. Intelligence operations should generally be limited to the homeland with the exception of increasing threat on Yunnan and Guangxi Clique in order to declare war on them after China has been defeated. Domestic spies number should be raised to 10 in Jan 1936 and they all should focus on "support our party", with occasional changes to counter-espionage to clear the nation of foreign spies.
Japan is one of the most resource-deprived majors in the world, a more or less industrialized island nation like the UK but with no colonial empire to support it. The conquest of China can provide Japan with all of its energy and metal needs, while the conquering Malaysia and the Netherlands will provide the necessary rare materials. In the meantime, however, Japan will need to rely on trading. Note also that the Allies are quite good at sinking convoys, so having extra convoys created before the war is quite important (approximately 200-400).
- The USA is Japan's best trading partner - it is relatively nearby, relations start out strong, and because the USA will be at peace and therefore not mobilized for so many years, it will have a huge resource surplus for a very long time. All of Japan's needs can be met by the USA. A good starting point is to sell the USA 50 supplies for money, and then use that money to get all other resource needs.
- The USSR is the second best trading partner. It has huge quantities of the resources Japan needs - and with a non aggression pact or alliance may remain a reliable source throughout the game.
- Germany, Persia, Romania, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela are smaller trading partners and should be treated accordingly with a few smaller deals to increase your mutual relations. These relationships can be helpful for mid to late game, though they require a considerable number of convoys to maintain.
A vital role of Japan's construction queue is to have ships, infantry and planes in constant construction to ensure practical knowledge remains high. While Japan's military requires extensive upgrades, keeping practical values above 5 is critical in the necessary areas. One strategy is to invest considerable excess IC during the war with China to expand industrial capacity. This will provide construction practical experience, useful for later infrastructure building, upgrading naval bases and increasing airport coverage of the empire.
Japan needs to achieve elite status in two of the three major military branches: Navy and Air force. A powerful Navy is essential to everything Japan does in the mid to late game, while a strong air force is important for achieving superiority over vast stretches of poor infrastructure throughout the Pacific theater.
Japan requires a focus on the fundamentals of an elite land-based army:
- Infantry and artillery: The backbone of Japan's military.
- Calvary: A useful mobile force for exploitation when upgrades are avoided to prevent fuel consumption.
- Mountaineers: Great for terrain throughout Asia.
- Marines: Important for developing beachheads and taking islands.
Following the premise of an elite force, advanced players may use paratroopers for flavor to assist in island hoping and territorial exploitation. As a general rule, any units that require fuel are quite problematic for Japan due to resource constraints and the poor infrastructure of the Pacific Theater, causing significant supply issues.
Since Japan's continental holdings have such vast land borders with potentially hostile nations, two-brigade divisions of garrisons guarding key locations, (especially naval bases in area of conflict where they prevent enemy landing until navy comes to rescue) with no additional brigades are a cheap and reliable option. Corps HQ are not necessary for garrisons, so the player should consider attaching them directly to Kwantung and Imperial Theatre HQs to save officers for the fighting army.
The Imperial Japanese Navy has nothing to fear from any regional power but requires significant expansion if it is to fight navies of the UK or the USA. Japan starts with 3 Carriers, 6 Battleships, 4 Battle-cruisers, 1 Escort Carrier, 14 Heavy Cruisers, 21 Light Cruisers, 20 Destroyer flotillas and 8 Submarine flotillas. There's also a very solid reserve of 20 Transports at IJN's disposal, though building more transports are highly useful. As a general rule, the 1918 technology (Level 1) ships are not particularly useful at doing anything: in addition to using supplies and fuel, they will take some upgrades over time costing IC. While disbanding level 1 naval vessels has some advantages, level 1 destroyers with upgraded ASW capabilities can still be effective. It is wise to attach the navy to a Naval Army Group led by a good general, Yamashita for example. This saves supplies as long as navy is stationed in nearby ports and not out to sea.
- Carrier task force (CTF): Carriers are the most important point of focus for Japan. Japan starts with sufficient carriers for a single task force, which should include a couple of capital ships and screens. Japan can have two CTF's by 1939 with four carriers each by investing a reasonable amount of resources. A total of four CTF's are desirable for the war with the USA. a 1:2 ratio of carrier to CL screens should work. 4 CV + 8 CL composition for your first CTF.
- Surface Action Groups (SAG): Japan does not have the resources to create a significant SAG force, especially early in the game. Existing ships can be used for form a modest SAG, but arguments can be made for splitting those ships off into other duties such as escorts for ASW and transport fleets.
- Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW): Japan heavily relies on convoys, and the Allies will decimate the Japanese merchant marine throughout the game. While excessive convoy building is necessary, so too is a focus an ASW fleets. Destroyers offer the best ASW capabilities, especially early in the game, and should be built in mass. Several fleets of six ships, at least four of which are destroyers, provide good ASW focus. Further, radar technology research should begin as early as January, 1937. During war, fleets should be regularly sent back to port to receive the latest upgrades in technology.
- Submarines: Japan can safely ignore submarine investments. Existing submarines are sufficient for light convoy raiding duty.
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Japanese starting airforce has very good numbers and highly versatile nature. Major expansion can be neglected until later in the game.
- Tactical bombers - Japan's 5 Tactical bombers (TACs) are useful for softening troops and turning the tide in tough battles.
- Interceptors - The 4 Interceptors (INTs) will not have much to do throughout the game.
- Naval bombers - Naval bombers can be useful for Japan, even to the extent of building one or two more. That said, with effective CTFs, naval bombers are a luxury and not a necessity for Japan.
- Carrier air groups (CAGs) - CAGs are far and away the most important air power for Japan: all air research should be directed towards them at a minimum.
See the Japan military leaders for an overview of all Japanese military commanders. Keep in mind that leaders at the Army level and above do not rank, thus are best suited for leaders with relatively low maximum skills.
- Imperial: This theater (hopefully) has a very limited role in the game since it is focused on the mainland. Traits are highly ineffective at this level, but the logistics trait can offer modest assistance. Ideal commanders include Yuhi, Kano, Terauchi T.
- Kwantug: Stacking penalties will not be a significant issue in China, thus the theater commander is not particularly important here. Offensive traits can offer minor assistance. Ideal commanders include Inagaki, Abe, Ueda, Saito Y., Kanin, Ito.
- Indochina: Based out of Singapore or Saigon, this is an important naval theater. Since limited land fighting is necessary, traits other than logistics offer little value. Ideal commanders include Okabe, Sakabara, Nishio K.
- Soviet: Logistics are the primary concern for this theater, thus ideal commanders include Matsuda, Sumida, Ide T.
Army Groups: All of Japan's army groups will have similar needs: to reduce supply consumption. Since all starting commanders at level 4 have good upward mobility for ranking, the best early game choices are generally level 3 commanders. As a result, ideal commanders are Dohihara, Amemiya, Hirota, Homma, Honda.
Army: Armies are assisted with organizational bonuses, and generally benefit from offensive traits. Thus, Tsuda, Shima, Sakai T., Minami, Asaka, Baba, Obata.
Corps: Japan begins the game with a limited number of Corps, which is a pragmatic way of dealing with the short range of corps HQ which is unsuitable for Asia. Corps commanders are primarily only useful for specialized units where traits can assist the whole unit.
Division: Japan will generally have only a handful of divisions that witness intense fighting. Most other units will serve to simply hold the line. Note that Japan has a relatively limited number of commanders, thus many garrisons should be left without any commanders.
- Land: Yamashita is the best Japanese land general in the game, with four different specialities. Starting at skill five, he is the only Japanese commander with a maximum skill of 9. He's known as the Tiger of Malaya, because he conquered the region for Japan. Historically, he was demoted by the Japanese government to commanding a division because of a coup he participated in.
- All level four commanders have a maximum level of 7 (except Ishiwara), and thus would form an excellent spearhead division.
- Level 3 commanders: Ando R., Fujie, Iida, Imamura H., Itagaki, Sugiyama, Yamada
- Level 2 commanders: Kawabe S., Nakai, Sakaguchi, Tanaka Shinji
- Level 1 commanders: Hanada, Kaneoka, Nishio J., Shibazaki,Tsuchihashi
- Naval: Ozawa, Yamamoto, Mikawa.
- Air: Genda, Ozawa, Fukudome
Original names for Japanese military forces
Command Hierarchy names:
- Kwantug HQ: Kantogun
- China HQ: Shinagun
- Pacific HQ: Pashifikkugun
- Australian HQ: Goushuugun
- Indian HQ: Indojingun
- Indochina HQ: Indishinagun
- Corps: Gun
- Army: Homen-Gun
- Army Group: So-Gun
- Infantry: Hoheishidan
- Garrison: Kempeitai
- Motor: Gendoukishidan
- Armor: Kikoushidan
- L.Armor:Ranpu Kikoushidan
- Eng: Koukei
- Cav: Kikeishidan
- Independent: Jiei
- Mixed: Mikusuto
Regional Army names:
- Burma: Burima
- Central: Naka
- Northern: Kita
- Southern: Minami
- Eastern: Higashi
- Western: Nishi
- Island: Shima
- Shanghai: Shanhai
- Philippines: Firipin
- Africa: Afurika
War in China
China fields a fairly large army of under equipped soldiers with outdated technology. The nation's infrastructure is atrociously bad, particularly for modern armies that consume fuel. Thus, the Imperial Japanese Army will have to maintain a very large front while using as few supplies as possible. China's navy poses no serious threat, but will have to be defended against simply by stationing fleets outside of both of China's ports.
Japan's starting army is sufficient for defeating China: on harder difficulty levels a few extra corps are useful. Essentially, two armies should be formed:
- North China Army: Composed of three to four full infantry corps/armies (e.g. a total of 12 to 16 triangle infantry divisions). Japanese forces in Manchukuo can be moved use to form the Northern Army of Japan's invasion into Shanxi, though not all forces will be needed. The Mongol Army, for example, is more useful as a part of the Central China Army. This army group will be primarily tasked with three strategic objectives: (a) defeat Shanxi (b) defeat Communist China; (c) invade Western China.
- Central China Army: This Army will be tasked with taking China's two naval ports Qingdao and Shanghai, and thus will stage separate landings. Calvary is useful here for exploitation, while Mountaineers are useful for southern China. This army group has several strategic objectives: (a) link all Chinese ports, including Dagu, via land; (b) spearhead into Central China to create a front line thousands of miles long where Japanese force superiority will overcome the Chinese.
Japan's strategic objectives for defeating China are listed in order of priority:
- Secure the ports of Dagu, Qingdao and Shanghai to ensure ample supply sources.
- Connect all ports via land connection in China to create a robust supply backbone.
- Defeat Shanxi
- Defeat Communist China
- Capture Pizhou province to secure the strategic resource of aluminum.
- Capture Zhushan province to secure the horses strategic resource.
- Using the AI to command Japan's two army groups is worthy of consideration. While this will slow down the war effort, it will provide more experience to commanders due to more battles being waged.
- It is useful to intentionally prolong the war with China, as it provides Japan total economic mobilization and excellent officer recruiting benefits. If China is nearly beaten, hold the lines to ensure the war continues.
- Xibei San Ma can be generally ignored with the exception of capturing the two provinces required for the expansion of Mengkukuo.
War against the Allies
A successful game as Axis Japan requires a successful Germany, thus any considerations of war against the Allies firstly hinges on aiding Germany and secondly meeting Japan's strategic objectives.
South East Asia
Japan's goals in South East Asia require a minimum amount of manpower: a single Marine corps is sufficient for everything except for Australia, which simply requires a second corps to hold VP locations. If the player begins war with the Allies based on Danzig, then Japan's initial targets are:
- Malaysia: Excellent source of British rare materials, and an excellent port in Singapore. A radar installation in Singapore will significantly increase detection.
- Hong Kong: British territory that should be taken before a stronghold is established.
- Australia: While Australia itself is a negligible threat, it provides a friendly harbor for Allied forces. Using the war goal of puppet is the best option.
Once Germany declares war on the Netherlands, Indonesia is a valuable source of resources and strategic resources. Use the war goal "Acquire Dutch East Indies" to ensure that Japan will annex the territory when the Netherlands is defeated, which is a trivial task due to minimal garrisons in defense of VP locations. Note that French Indochina should be completely avoided: when the Vichy event fires all of Indochina will go to Japan via an event.
Middle Eastern Theater
Fighting in the Middle East can serve two basic strategic purposes: (1) to provide assistance to Italy in North Africa and to secure the Mediterranean for the Axis; (2) to provide a staging ground for establishing a Caucasus front against the Soviet Union.
- India & Burma: While these areas do not hold considerable strategic value, they will hold several British corps that can be eliminated. This front will require approximately one Japanese army (e.g. 4 to 5 corps) in order to subdue in a reasonable amount of time. Multiple axis of attack should be made in order to spread out British forces.
- Iraq: An easy target for a single Marine corps, Iraq should be annexed or made into a puppet.
- Middle east & Gibraltar: Japan's primary purpose will be to secure the Sinai peninsula and control the Suez canal. Battling British forces here should be enough to allow the Italians to begin pushing the British out of Northern Africa. Depending on how Italy is doing, it may be necessary to capture all of Egypt. Finally, Japanese marines should be used to capture Gibraltar in order to close off the Mediterranean.
Technically speaking, a Japanese player could pursue a strategy to occupy the British Isles. The Japanese navy is generally superior to the UK, and Japanese Marines could be used to storm British beaches. If the Middle Eastern strategy is pursued, Gibraltar can be used as a staging ground. Alternatively, Japan can simply use German ports to stage the invasion. Approximately one Japanese Army (4 - 5 corps) will be necessary to defeat England at home.
War against Soviets
War against the Soviet Union will be the most challenging land engagement that Japan faces in the game (short of landing on US soil). As a result, considerable planning and preparation is necessary to ensure success. Japan is a secondary player in this war: Japan's primary focus must be on ensuring Germany's success.
As a general rule, Japan can only have a limited impact on the war via the Siberia front. Japan's first and most obvious objective is to secure the Soviet port of Vladivostok. Beyond this, Japan's goals generally include the Primorsk and Khabarovsk regions. Successful combat here requires approximately one Army (Homen-Gun) comprised of approximately 3 to 4 corps.
- The Soviet force in the Primorsk region is highly vulnerable to encirclement. Achieving this will deal a heavy blow to the Soviet Far Eastern theater for the first year of the war.
- All Soviet ports are worthy of capturing fairly quickly, as they will provide facilities for Allied submarines and harass Japanese convoys if given the opportunity.
- Mongolia is fairly easy to defeat with a single, preferably mountaineering, corps.
- Irkutsk is a worthwhile target for its strategic resource of fur.
Japan will not be able to push too far into Eastern Siberia, as the infrastructure is too low to supply an army large enough to hold the eastern front. Thus, the Japanese player must have assumed another axis of attack to have a meaningful impact on the war against the Soviets.
A second and more ambitious front for Japan to manage is a front through the Soviet Caucasus region. Establishing this front essentially means that Turkey, Iraq and/or Persia have been defeated or brought into the Axis. These territories are then used as the staging ground for the Japanese invasion. Doing this successfully requires two full Army Groups (So-Gun) of approximately 10 to 14 infantry corps total.
- Rostov So-gun: The largest army group should aim to capture the city of Rostov as an anchor for its operations. Divisions can stream along the Don river to the East, forming a basic defensive line behind the river. This can extend all the way to the Volga and through the city of Stalingrad, which is an obvious objective for the Japanese forces.
- Baku So-gun: Best compromised of a some mountaineering corps, this army group can begin pushing Soviet forces into the natural pocket that will be formed as Japanese forces gain control over the Don and the Volga. As the two fronts merge, a significant encirclement of Soviet forces will occur.
Once the first major encirclement of Soviet forces occurs, Japan needs to aide Germany just once more with a second and final encirclement. The main Japanese Army Group can move West towards advanced Axis forces to create a second pocket of Soviet forces. Once sufficiently collapsed, the Soviet surrender will be eminent. As a result of extensive involvement, it is possible for Japan to achieve the war goal of conquest of the Soviet Union itself.
War against the USA
It is in Japan's best interest to delay war with the USA for as long as possible. This is possible to manage until around 1943, but if the Soviets are defeated earlier and the UK is eliminated as well, the USA should be Japan's last target.
- Philippines: A US puppet close to the homeland.
- US Pacific Islands: Guam, Wake Island, Midway, Johnson Island & Hawaii
Gaming the System
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