In a fascinating post on his blog Idle Scrawl , BBC's Newsnight economics editor Paul Mason attempts to re-fight the Second World War in Hearts of Iron III in order to try out a popular theory that the war could have ended far sooner had things worked out differently. Read on to learn how he did.
Among some historians, the theory goes that if the Allies had mobilised their forces and defended Czechoslovakia in 1938, the mass slaughter of the Second World War would have been replaced by a much shorter conflict. Mason attempted to see if this was a viable theory by re-playing history through Hearts of Iron III, creating an alternative past that he found "frighteningly accurate".
Playing as France, Mason attempted to re-arm his nation and strike against Germany after signing defence pacts with the Polish and Czechs. He soon found though that the game's complex political system ensured that this was not a simple task, with the neutrality of the Allies reflecting the mood of the 1930's accurately, meaning it was difficult to to install war-time plans and relationships.
"At first I thought this was a pretty unforgiveable glitch" writes Mason. "But digging into the rules, hacks and kluges of HoI3, and real life history, the game is frighteningly accurate."
Eventually, it all goes wrong. Whilst the Allies amass tanks ready for invasion, the Americans refuse to lend Mason's French army a hand. The situation declines. "The game is trying to tell me that if the Allies had adopted re-armament earlier, with all the military rhetoric and sentimental songs and propaganda films that would have gone with it, Russia may have cemented its alliance with Germany much earlier than in real life, and American neutrality - never fragile when it came to wars in Europe - may have been strengthened" explains Mason.
The blog is a fantastic study into the possibilities of alternate histories, and will certainly appeal to those with a knowledge of the period. Head over to Idle Scrawl to read it in full.