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Simulating the american military industrial complex is no easy task. It takes a lot of patience and a lot of RAM. Published on Tue, Mar 17, 2020. Written by Michael Bassili.

When playing Total War: Rome II (2013), you might find that a valid way to generate revenue for your empire is to maintain front lines of conflict throughout the world. Every conflict earns your empire monetary and slave-related rewards. These rewards are often more than you can stand to generate from trade and looting. So it stands that the best way to keep your economy thriving in the 200 BCs is to keep your enemies close. You are actually at a disadvantage to other players if you don’t do this. Money buys troops which allows you to secure vital pieces of land which helps you maintain your claims. If one other empire is farming gold through conflict, they’ll lap you.

This kind of perpetual conflict is similar to the ways the american military industrial complex maintains its steady income stream (although you are not required to manufacture war goods and services in Total War). Hearts of Iron IV (2016), on the other hand, actually does simulate aspects of the modern american military industrial complex. You build military factories that product war goods to send to the troops. You enlist as many civilians into your army as possible in order to keep up appearances on the world stage. You enter wars with neighbors (and whichever nation you’re allied against in WWII) which keeps the factories producing. Your economy becomes intertwined with the war, a sentiment most obviously seen when you try to demilitarize and pacify your nation.

Of course, these games would be a lot less fun if we weren’t waging wars all the time. But I still find the idea to be absolutely fascinating. The closest I’ve ever gotten to my anti-war dream in Hearts of Iron IV is a demilitarized Canada. My economy was fine, albeit much smaller than my southern neighbor. But I was swiftly annexed by the Soviets. Playing a pacifist in Civilization is also nigh on impossible. The enemy AI in Civ will always try to wage wars of conquest. You can raise defensive armies and only attack when provoked, but the war may go on indefinitely if you don’t push forth and take the enemy’s cities. They will just keep sending their troops to the front lines only to be mowed down by a sad, tired defensive fortification.

Well how about Crusader Kings? In that game, you can absolutely maintain pacifism through the use of strategic marriages and gifts. I’ve thrived as a pacifist state many times in Crusader Kings II (2012). My daughters and sons used their sexuality and their cunning to ensure the motherland would never be harmed. Good stuff!

And what’s with all these good 4X strategy games coming out between 2010 and 2015? There was a mainline Civilization game, a mainline Crusader Kings game, a mainline Hearts of Iron game, albeit one year off. I’m sure the publishers guild-or-whatever didn’t all convene to plan their mass release of their 4X strategy game. And it’s not just that these games were released. Every one of them was amazing. Not a stinker in sight. It’s wild that so many high quality 4X strategy titles were released so close together while receiving such high review scores. That’s just insane to me…

Let’s refocus. Stellaris (2016) allows you to start and end the game without waging much war at all. Pacifist runs can definitely be achieved by establishing good relations with your neighbors in the galaxy and forming a dominant federation. Diplomacy options are aplenty and there’s always a kinder way to settle border disputes. Wars are fun and all, but they’re not necessary for your empire’s economy. Mining ships and trade can easily sustain your empire. The downside is that in order to defend against asshole empires in your galaxy, you’ll have to raise a fleet. Fleets cost money to build and keep costing money to maintain. And the second they leave the hangar, they cost even more! A valid defensive strategy would probably be to maintain several smaller fleets in hangars around your empire. Keep them docked so that they don’t deplete your resources. Try to defend your territory from the comfort of your hangar, only deploying your fleets should the situation become dire. The galaxy might think you a coward, but you’ll get brownie points with me.

I encourage everyone I meet to try pacifist runs of their favourite 4X strategy games. It’s always interesting to see what kinds of governments and economies people come up with on their quest to be the nicest empire in all the land. And who knows. Maybe you’ll like it!


A big thanks to Kyle Isaak for his continued support of Mike’s Gaming Trove. If you want access to exclusive articles and goodies (and/or you also want to help support the site), you can support us on Patreon.

804 Words
4 Minutes To Read
Posted on 17/03/2020

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