I hope someone remembers Imperialism, a turn-based strategy game about the industrial era released in 1997. I enjoyed playing the game a lot at the time. The economic system is relatively sophisticated and requires careful balancing, but all production is concentrated in a single city (the capital), so the game mechanism is quite different from the city-state-approach that is common to most games of the genre.
The standard game is played out on random maps with fictional countries, but there are three scenarios set in the (more or less) historical Europe of the 1800s. One of these scenarios has proved rather challenging to me and I have not finished it successfully either during my initial enthusiasm with the game or in my annual relapses. After more than eight years, I think I'm allowed to ask for help.
The scenario is called "Recovery of France". It starts in 1820 with France having no railroads and no navy at all and only a minimal army and merchant marine. About two years (each year comprising four turns) into the game, Britain inevitably (?) declares war.
Now, here is the dilemma:
- You have only a short timeframe in which you can safely trade for coal and iron (to turn fist into steel and then arms) on the world market. After the British navy shows up in the Channel your merchant ships are at risk whenever you buy resources abroad.
- Your domestic sources of coal and iron are limited and far from the capital. It takes about five years to get both of them connected and total production is limited to 4 steel units or 2 armaments per turn.
- The British will attempt naval landings. You cannot defend all coastal provinces, so you need to move your tiny army as soon as you see them establishing a new beachhead. You need to spend the first armaments produced to equip cavalry units that can move fast enough to arrive before the enemy. Once the British have taken a coastal province, they are very hard to dislodge.
- The construction of a credible navy takes a lot of time. Each Ship of the Line requires five armaments, so even after your arms production is in full gear, you can only build two of them every five turns. It takes very long to even get enough ships to escort your merchants.
- By the time you have a few escort ships assembled, other Great Powers will have become favourite trading partners of the minor countries that sell coal and iron, so you will hardly get any offers on the world market.
- Diplomatically, the other powers won't help you out. You can get alliances from everyone but Britain and Russia during the first few turns, but they will be broken when Britain declares war.
Most of this should be familiar to those who have played the scenario, but maybe they will notice aspects that I have missed or that they perceive differently. So far, my success has been limited to keep the British out and slowly build a navy that is strong enough to escort merchants, but not to defeat the British fleet until either Britain gains a diplomatic victory in 1835 or, shortly afterwards, the other Great Powers declare war as well.
I know this is a very specific question for a very old game, but maybe there is someone nostalgic enough to dig out his memories and talk about his approach to the 1820 scenario.