Hearts of Iron 2
is a grand strategy game, plonking you in control of a country, kicking off in the 1930s or 1940s (your choice) and you can do pretty much what you like, though nearly everything you do is military in nature. There's not much in the way of civilian governing going on. You create armies, navies and air forces, use spies and diplomacy to pick on/make friends with other nations, trade goods and move your troops about as you like, declaring war on whoever takes your fancy. So you can change history.
A quick precis of my first game. Well, the first game that didn't end in tears, anyway.
Starting in 1936 as the UK, I wasted no time and immediately started to meddle. I jumped in on the side of Ethiopia and booted the Italians out mid-invasion, and then out of Africa entirely. Italy sued for peace, which I ignored, quickly shifting the Royal Navy and RAF to bases in the Mediterranean and North Africa, and invading the islands of Sicily and Sardinia. Italy promptly threw its toys out of the pram and refused my generous peace terms (I keep everything, you don't get blown up) and was only brought to heel by six months of bombing, convoy raiding and naval blockading. Honourable mention goes to the French here, they wasted no time in joining in, and although they made no headway at all into Italy (must have been quite a Surrenderathon), they bombed the shit out of northern Italy and tied up lots of Italian troops.
And so we had indeed, peace in our time, for about two months, when I joined in the Spanish Civil War
on the Republican side, actually not getting involved that much beyond using my small expeditionary force-style army to hold Republican provinces, and using the RN and RAF to batter Fascist Nationalist forces and make the battle easier for my Commie muchachos. Cue me picking up even more territory in Africa as Republican colonies turned Fascist and then turned British. Needless to say, the pinkos won, and Spain joined my wonderful alliance, solidfying Western Europe.
Unfortunately, this warfare had done nothing to stabilise the situtation, and France, God knows why, invaded Germany in 1937. They invaded Germany all the way to Paris, in fact, embroiling me in WWII two years early when my forces were in severe need of an upgrade. Joining in the defence of France was out of the question, I had no wish to replicate Dunkirk
, so I retreated to the UK, leaving a few divisions on the narrow Spain/France border, to hold it against the might of the Wehrmacht.
WWII sort of happened, with most of Europe being involved, the Soviet Union kicking off in 1943 and the war ending in 1948, with most of Europe under Soviet rule. I broke out of Spain in 1945, managing to save about a third of France from the Iron Curtain, along with Italy, Greece, Albania, etc. Finland fell to the Russkies. The US never got involved, Japan conquered meaty chunks of China, then started on Russia.
I had to get rid of a big chunk of my forces, thanks to the slackness of the peacetime economy and India going independent in 1948, and then went on a bit of a rampage in the Middle East, conquering lots of little countries for oil (Persia, and of course, Afghanistan), while simultaneously liberating most of Africa into little countries that would starve themselves right on into the 21st century. South Africa, my stalwart ally, ended up acquiring the lower third of the continent as I sold provinces off.
WWIII started in 1953, and was a bit of a muddled affair. Japan and its Chinese puppets, Manchuko and Menguko, were still at war with the Soviet Union. The US went to war with the Soviet Union as well, as did my alliance (the Free European Alliance Revolution, as I dubbed it
). Thanks to this odd situation, Japan and the US invaded the Soviet Union side-by-side, with the Yanks taking the Kamchatka Peninsula and Japan going in through Mongolia. Most Soviet troops must have been in the East, because FEAR punched deep into Europe, liberated everyone and then bogged down in Russia in winter.
And I thought I had learned from history.
The game ends in 1964. At this stage, Europe was free, sexy, and all allied to me. The US and Soviet Union made peace in 1960, leaving the US in control of Siberia. Japan and the Soviet Union were still battering each other, and were still in Mongolia, the conflict being something of a stalemate. Most of Africa was liberated, the Americas were unchanged, and Asia was a mess, though Nationalist China swallowed Communist China sometime in 1951. I owned islands all over the globe, but didn't have the economy to develop them further.
Apologies for the essay. This game will definitely help your geography and history, if nothing else. It's quite slow, but fun if you want to mess about with history. There's no tactical element, but there are lots of different units once you develop past the WWI kit.