[Screenshot Let's Play/No 56K] Hearts of Iron IV... as Equestria?

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[Screenshot Let's Play/No 56K] Hearts of Iron IV... as Equestria?

Post by VX-145 » 2018-06-09 11:51am

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Well, this certainly is a thing.

Wait, what?

Hearts of Iron IV is the latest in a series of World War 2 Grand Strategy games developed and released by Paradox Interactive, a game studio based in Stockholm. Released on June 6th 2016 in order to coincide with the anniversary of Operation Overlord, the game involves the player taking control of literally any country on the planet in either 1936 or 1938 and leading them through the Second World War. Since its release, it has seen several major expansion packs and updates, some of which have changed fundamental game concepts like aerial combat.

No, but Equestria?

Equestria is the fictional country (or perhaps planet) that serves as the setting of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, a cartoon TV show premiering on October 10th, 2010. The show follows the adventures of the Unicorn Twilight Sparkle and her friends as they learn about the magic of friendship, and has recieved something of a cult following amongst those who are decidedly not its target audience since its debut. Yes, that does include myself. Equestria is nominally ruled by four Alicorn Princesses: Princess Celestia, who raises the sun each morning, Princess Luna, who raises the moon each night, Princess Cadence who... it's not really clear what Cadance does, and Princess Twilight Sparkle, who became an alicorn as part of her adventures. In practice, however, the country is largely self-ruling, and-

Just what in the name of the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch am I looking at?

Oh, right. So some intrepid people decided to port the whole world of My Little Pony into Hearts of Iron IV. This mod, called Equestria at War, was released on September 17th, 2017, and features a more grim and gritty version of the setting.


Oh, and when I say the whole world...

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I mean the whole world. There are two major continents. The mane MAIN continent containing the nation of Equestria, along with the Changeling Empire, Stalliongrad (a fan-made USSR analogue), the Crystal Empire, Olenia (another fan-made nation, this time populated by deer), and a bunch of minor nations:

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These images have been taken after I did my initial setup. You'll see what that means in the first actual game post. Also, take note of those two non-green bits in Equestria - those are independant states.

and the continent of Griffonia, dominated by the River Federation (made up of Ponies) and the incredibly fragmented remains of the Griffon Empire:

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You see that blob of yellow nations? Yeah, that's all Griffons. So are all the nations in the ring around them, and a few more besides.

This second continent is the focus of the mod's most recent expansion, "Knights and Flowers", released on April 1st 2018. The vast majority of these nations have their own fleshed out National Focus tree and custom events.

Okay, but... why are you showing us this?

It's interesting and I felt like taking on a new project.

So what does this Let's Play actually entail?

We will be playing as Equestria, mostly because it's the nation I'm most familiar with. We're playing on Regular difficulty, meaning neither we nor the AI get any bonuses or maluses. I've also turned historical focuses off, because I'd like us to be surprised. With historical focuses on, the AI will choose a specific national focus path to go down, which results in the same wars happening each time you play. It will be partially narrative, because I am a story writer first and foremost, so those of you hungering for terrible fanfiction can rest assured. I might also occasionally ask for strategy input from the audience, especially regarding certain events that'll come up in the course of this Let's Play. What form that takes is yet to be determined, but will most likely just be votes on certain decisions. If any of you want to write terrible fanfiction of your own, feel free to do so. We'll probably only play up until just after the end of our first major war. After writing out the first update, I can tell you I probably won't last much longer than that, if I even get that far.

Links:
Mod's Moddb page: https://www.moddb.com/mods/equestria-at-war
Hearts of Iron IV Wiki: http://hoi4.paradoxwikis.com/Hearts_of_Iron_4_Wiki (please read through the beginner's guide on this if you're not familiar with game mechanics - I'm not confident in my ability to explain them. There are some differences between the version used for the beginner's guide and the most recent version, but I'll cover those if they become important.)

Also, I've noticed a problem where some of the images I've used are a bit too small on this forum to make out details. Could someone please advise me on how to make them bigger? This is literally my first attempt at a screenshot Let's Play, so any advice would be appreciated.

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Re: [Screenshot Let's Play/No 56K] Hearts of Iron IV... as Equestria?

Post by VX-145 » 2018-06-09 11:51am

Part I: January 1st, 1007 Celestial Era

Equestria, the land I love... -Opening words to the Equestrian National Anthem.

Our story begins not in Equestria, but in another universe entirely. With the stabilisation of the portal between Canterlot High School and Equestria in August 1003 Celestial Era, the way was cleared for an immense transfer of goods and ideas between the two worlds. For the most part, this was beneficial: humans gained access to magic, and ponies gained access to technologically-advanced human goods.

Equestria itself entered a period of rapid development, new factories sprouting up almost overnight across the country to meet the insatiable demand for consumer goods. Civilian development went hoof-in-hoof with military development, too; new "rifles" replaced the ancient spears of the Royal Guard, sleek iron ships replaced the aging wooden frigates of the Royal Equestrian Navy, and an entirely new branch of the Equestrian military was formed when the first non-magical heavier-than-air aircraft took to the skies in late 1004. These developments were carefully copied by Equestria's neighours, spreading the technological revolution to those nations not quite so magically-blessed as Equestria. This fact was not lost on Princess Celestia, nominal ruler of Equestria.

With new tools came a need for new ponies with new ideas, and where better to get those ponies than the world of Canterlot High? Princess Twilight Sparkle was tasked with the mission of recruiting as many human military experts as she could, but found that not many wanted to give up their positions (and perhaps more importantly, their opposable thumbs) to serve a nation they had barely even heard of. She returned to the Equestrian captial of Canterlot with barely a handful of people in mid-1006, none of whom had ever actually served in a real military. Before Princess Celestia could mount a second recruitment drive, however, disaster struck.

A Changeling infiltrator, under orders to obtain the same expertise, was unmasked as they were making the return trip. In the ensuing conflict, the changeling escaped... and the portal was rendered useless. Not even Princess Twilight could return it to working order, trapping Equestria's new "experts" in an unfamiliar country and unfamiliar bodies.

Princess Celestia wasted no further time, immediately organising these "experts" into a body known as the Special Advisory Council. They were headed by a pegasus pony by the name of Typhoon, whose sole qualification for the job was a bachelor's degree in history and some wargaming experience. New legal powers were granted to the SAC, and by the end of 1006 the body was given the task of inspecting Equestrian society and making it ready for the worst. They were second only to the Princesses, a development that troubled much of Equestrian high society.

With orders in hoof hand, the SAC immediately began a review of the entire Equestrian military apparatus and the world situation, starting with the world situation. What they found was best described as an utter mess.

Part I.a: The World Situation

Partial transcript of an SAC meeting, December 20th, 1006:

The chairman of the SAC, Typhoon, rises from his seat and glances down at his notes. Clearing his throat, he begins to speak to the assembled ponies of the SAC.

"Ladies and gentlemen... sorry, gentlecolts, I'm sure you all know why you're here and are eager to get to work."

Murmurs of acknowledgement are given from around the room.

"Well, thanks to the tireless efforts of my adjutant and several day-long stints in the Royal Canterlot Library, I can now present a basic picture of the world situation. Going forward, we'll be using this picture to figure out our long-term strategy, so pay attention."

A projector is produced, and slides loaded.

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(When zoomed out at this level the game consolidates all the division icons together. That's why it looks like we have a division in Stalliongrad.)

"On our north-eastern border, we have the Republic of Stalliongrad. Yes, it's yet another horse pun. Putting that aside, Stalliongrad is a relative newcomer to the political scene. Originally, the territory they occupy now was just considered another part of Equestria, but after the complete works of Leon Trotsky managed to make their way up there they closed themselves off. They appear to have undergone the same rapid industrialisation as Equestria, at the possible cost of their agricultural sector. Their rhetoric is violent, calling for an overthrow of, and I quote, "The Bourgeoisie Royalist Reactionary State", but their actual military potential is rather minimal at this time."

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"Moving westwards, we have the Crystal Empire. They're effectively a puppet state of Equestria, although there's an outside possibility that could change. Since King Sombra was deposed and the Empire returned to this plane of reality, they've been on a crash rebuilding and modernising program. We have a unit of Royal Guard stationed in Crystal City - the capital - to safeguard Princess Cadance and her husband, and they have some forces of their own that will help us should a war break out. That said, we don't have direct control over them, so we can't stop them from making stupid decisions."

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"Even further west, we have the Changeling Lands, which is where changelings come from. It was a changeling spy that trapped us all here, in case you've forgotten, and they've been damn persistent in their attempts to infiltrate and take over Equestria. Their queen even tried to hijack Princess Cadance's wedding a few years back. If there's one nation we're going to go to war with, it's this one. That said, we know next to nothing about their society or their military, aside from the fact that they also have access to modern equipment."

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"The last of our neighbours - sorry - is Olenia, a nation made up of deer. Yes, deer. Look, there's weirder species on this bloody continent. They seem to have gone through some sort of succession crisis recently, and their queen has put out feelers to obtain shelter here in Equestria. Other than that, they're a major power on the continent, although given their location I imagine they're also going to be the first to be eaten by changelings."

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(you see that tiny slip of green at the bottom of Nova Griffonia? Yeah, that's ours, and that bugs me. Screw border gore.)

"The rest of our continent is occupied from, going from east to west, a Griffon colony, Penguins - yes, penguins in the north, more griffons, two clans of yaks, and some polar bears. Also a small free city called "Our Town", but that's too small to really be important. Of these, the biggest threat comes from the griffon colony of Nova Griffonia and their expansion efforts in the Griffon Frontier. Griffons are notoriously greedy, from the accounts I've read, and they have the landmass to back up any attempt to conquer the local area. That said, it'll take them a lot of time to do so, and they'll probably never build up enough to actually be a threat."

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"Moving across the ocean, we come across the island nation of Haukland. It's a very minor griffon nation, used as a stepping stone by the former Griffon Empire to colonise Nova Griffonia."

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(Oh god Celestia god, why)

"Speaking of the Griffonian Empire, here it is. Yes, this map has it all in yellow, yes, that's two nations bearing the same name down there in the south, yes, this is made up of about fifty different nations. After the loss of their golden idol, the Griffonian Empire fragmented and collapsed. Nominally, the Emperor - Grover V - still reigns over the Empire, but their actual control extends to the immediate area around Griffenheim, the Imperial capital. Lots of the outlying territories have embraced human ideologies, some going Communist and others Fascist."

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"One consequence of that has been this planet's first real war, the Prywhen Civil War. After some reactionary policies introduced by the Kingdom of Brodfeld resulted in one or two massacres, a group calling themselves the Griffon Liberation Army found themselves some modern rifles and started a civil war. At least, that's the impression I get from the one newspaper article we have on it. Just westward, we have the Blackrock Bandits, a smallish bandit kingdom looking to take advantage of the chaos."

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"Moving back west, we have the Equestrian colony of New Mareland, which I think has something to do with the old country of Maretania? Look, the books I found don't really explain how this place popped up. They're in a similar state to the Crystal Empire, with their rulers coming from Equestrian nobility, and as such can be counted on as allies should something kick off. That said, if someone attacks them, we're bound by treaty to help them, which could be disastrous. You can also see some more damn griffons - if you want a real-world analogue to those griffon nations, think of the Balkans in Europe. We do NOT want to get involved here unless we have to."

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"Now, this is where I have to start questioning the validity of our maps. There's supposed to be a nation of necromancers calling themselves the "Dread League" on that peninsula, along with the Arcturan Order, a knightly order dedicated to containing them. Honestly, even for this world I think that's a stretch. Nonetheless, if they turn out to be real we'll deal with them. Also visible here are several areas of pony settlement: the Northern Tribes, Watertowns, the Firtree Villages and Farbrook. Even more interestingly, the nation of Greneclyf is rumoured to be made up of friendly changelings, if such a thing exists. Of course, right now we can safely ignore most of these nations."

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"South of all that, we have the River Federation, a large pony nation. This region is probably where ponies come from, given the legend of Hearth's Warming Eve, and yet it isn't covered in a blanket of snow. One can only presume they found some countermeasure to the Windigoes. They're the other major power on the continent, but contact between them and us is sparse for the foreseeable future."

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"Now, we're skipping over the entire Griffon continent westwards to our southern seas. Here is the home of the dragons, in the Dragon Isles. In addition to the isles, they also maintain an enclave of sovereign territory in Equestria itself, which is... annoying."

The projector moves to the next slide, which is blank.

"So that's it. Aside from some more bloody griffons, that's the entire world. At this stage, all we know is that our threats are the Changelings and possibly Stalliongrad, and I have no intention of getting us involved in the Griffon continent if we don't have to. That concludes today's session. I'll present a full report on our military and industrial situation at our next meeting in the new year."

Part I.b: The Nation
Morning in Equestria shimmers...
Princess Twilight Sparkle, August 1003.

Regardless of all the turmoil abroad, the nation of Equestria itself was still going strong.

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Those numbers basically add up to not being able to start a war or really profit from one.

A survey taken by the SAC in the winter of 1006 showed an overwhelming amount of support for the Princesses, with just 25% of the populace expressing a desire to move towards a more autocratic Stalinist system. The primary reason given was that the Princesses would veto any attempt to start a war or annex any territory not already part of Equestria.

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Oh dear. That -1.2% recruitable population is painful - it basically means we can't recruit any more divisions until we either fix that or up our conscription law. That, added to the military factory construction speed malus, makes the first few years quite difficult.

This meshed well with the peaceful nature of ponies in general. After all, why go to war when you could make friends instead? Recruitment centres across Equestria stood empty, and there was a general popular resistance against building any more factories for the military.

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I'm... not too sure why there's a war support buff here when we also have that penalty from the Magic of Friendship

The rule of the Alicorn Princesses made the nation remarkably stable and resilient to external shocks. Furthermore, it was well known that the alicorns would take to the field themselves in the event of a war, which had a remarkable effect on the soldiers' morale.

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Ponies all across the country were filled with national pride and a stubborn determination not to give in to the changeling menace.

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Hahahaha no thank you. 30% of our civilian factories are completely useless, yet another malus to war support, -35% to our research time and that's just the first few lines.

However, that national pride and the sense of security came at a steep price. While ponies had accepted the need to industrialise, very few were willing to go much further than they had already. Equestria had endured for a thousand years, it would endure for a thousand more. This problem was made worse on account of Princess Celestia, who was having a hard time grasping many of the advanced scientific concepts now being advanced.

Let's talk for a moment about the icons in the bottom half of this panel. The top row is our civilian government, the middle is our military-industrial complex, and the bottom is our military high command. Below that we have some the "Development" row, which doesn't apply to us - we're already at the top of the development chain. That's part of another mod, which has been folded into Equestria at War. Most of those posts are empty, and require political power to be filled. However, we do have our conscription law, our mobilisation level, and our trade law to change. The first affects how many people we have in the ponypower pool (I really am sorry for all the horse puns), the second affects how efficient our industry is, and the final one affects how many of our precious resources foreign nations can buy off of us. Right now, we can't actually do anything here, so we'll move on.

Across the top, from left to right, we have our political power, stability, war support, ponypower, covoys, factories, command power and army/navy/air XP.
Political power lets us change things in that box on the left, and recruit new army or navy commanders.
Stability reflects how easy it is for another nation to force our surrender - right now, they'd have to take most of Equestria to get us to surrender.
War support determines how fast conscripts come in, how much command power we gain and also affects our surrender limit. Right now, the first two are in the toilet.
Ponypower is how many people we can recruit for the military - planes and ships also take up ponypower, so one has to be careful.
Convoys are required for supplying your army overseas and conducting international trade - thankfully, as Equestria we don't need to do much of the latter, as we have abundant natural resources.
I'm not too sure why the Factories number exists - it's replicated in the tabs for civilian and military production. Civilian factories build more buildings and military factories build guns. A percentage of the total number of factories are reserved as Consumer Goods factories, which are useless to us.
Command power lets us promote generals into field marshals and potentially do other stuff which I'll get into when it becomes relevant.
The different XP totals come from fighting or drilling our soldiers, and is mostly used for making variants on our equipment. Army XP is doubly important because it lets us change the composisiton of our divisions - again, I'll get into this when it comes up.


Part I.c: The Army

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That little symbol in the middle of the screen represents a division of our army. In this case, the division consists of six Infantry (the little helmets) and one Support Artillery company (the gun icon - there's a little plus in the top-left of that icon that can't be seen). That's... suboptimal to say the least.

More game mechanics - the green bar under the unit icon represents organisation, which can be thought of as a sort of "soft" HP. A unit without organisation cannot move or fight, and will retreat if attacked. Organisation recharges by itself so long as a unit can recieve supply, but will drain by itself if the unit is cut off. The second bar represents "Strength" - i.e. how much equipment the unit has. This includes people, and as I'm sure you're aware, a unit with no guns or people cannot fight. A unit which has lost all of one bar and cannot retreat is destroyed if attacked, which makes encirclements very tasty because training a new unit takes far longer than reinforcing an existing one. As you can see, the unit has full organisation but 20% strength. Equipment is replenished automatically if it's in the stockpile, but this also requires the unit to be connected to a supply line.

"One division." Typhoon looked up from the stack of papers in front of him and raised an eyebrow at the messenger pony assigned to him as an adjutant. "We have one division defending our border with the Changelings?"

The messenger pony, a grey pegasus with blonde hair and yellow eyes, nodded.

"And it's understrength."

Another nod.

Typhoon sighed. "Okay, well maybe those three Crystal Empire divisions can help if a war breaks out."

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While technically independant, the ruler of the Crystal Empire was also one of the four Equestrian Princesses. Four divisions wouldn't be nearly enough, though - they'd need to reinforce that border, and fast. "What about the units stationed in Vanhoover?"

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Oh dear. Those red arrows indicate that this is a reserve division, and as such it is on the bottom of the priority list when it comes to equipment.

The messenger pony shook her head and passed over the next piece of paper in her satchel.

"The three hundred and second... guard... auxilliary?" Another sigh from behind the desk. Typhoon tried to push the piece of paper aside, only to shove the entire stack instead. Damned hooves. "Four thousand ponies. One hundred fighting ponies per battalion, for an effective line strength of four hundred ponies. Also currently understrength. Right. Who else do we have, army-wise?"

A few more sheets of paper were produced.

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A second infantry division was discovered near Vanhoover. Naturally, it was understrength.

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A unit of Royal Guard, with attached reconnaisance support, was stationed near Las Pegasus.

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A training regiment and another garrison unit stood ready near Appaloosa, guarding the Equestrian border with the Buffalo tribes. The Buffalo had been quiet recently, but the Appaloosans hadn't quite forgotten - or forgiven - the last raid into their fair city.

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There was at least some cause for celebration: four Royal Guard units were stationed in the area around Canterlot. These divisions, filled with well-trained ponies, were the golden children of the Equestrian military. On the other hoof hand, they too were understrength, yet another victim of Equestria's rapid industrialisation. There was also the Wonderbolt's infantry division. While the Wonderbolts were primarily a stunt flight, no-one could turn down six thousand pegasi.

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Yup, my cursor was over that one.

Make that five Royal Guard divisions. The Ponyville Guard, while new, were certainly up to the task of defending Equestria.

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On the border with Stalliongrad were two more garrison units and yet another training regiment. Enough to secure the border, not enough to resist a determined attack.

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Oh, now THIS is what I'm talking about. Tanks. Glorious, lovely, tanks. Sure, those divsions are set up in a horrible way, and sure, they're light tanks, but TANKS!

More good news came from Manehattan. Along with the Manehattan Coast Guard were the two Royal Armoured Corps divisions - the 1st "Selenian" and 2nd "Royal Daylight". They were equipped primarily with "Sparrow" light tanks, armed with a 37mm cannon and clad in 25mm of rolled steel armour plate. The problem was, they were bogged down with a sizable organic on-hoof infantry contingent. Despite that, they'd still work wonders if the Equestrian Army ever had to go on the offensive.

Other than that, however, there was mostly more disappointment. A few more Royal Guard units stationed along the coast, and a few more garrison divisons scattered about.

By the time Typhoon was done reading through the reports, the moon was shining through his dingy office's window, and the messenger pony had long since disappeared. Letting out a long sigh, he mentally prepared himself for an all-nighter.

Part I.d: The Navy

Much ado had been made about the new Royal Equestrian Navy, and for good reason. A few short years ago, the fleet consisted of a few wooden-hulled sailing ships, tasked mostly with coast-guard duties.

Now, however...

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Quick naval classification guide for the uninitiated: CV = aircraft carrier, BB = battleship, BC = battleruiser (less armoured but faster battleship), CA = heavy cruiser, CL = light cruiser and DD = destroyer.

The bulk of the ERNS Pegasopolis, the pride and joy of the Equestrian fleet, the first aircraft carrier in this world, loomed over Typhoon as a small party of Royal Equestrian Navy officers met him on the dockside. The pony at the head of the party, a dark-skinned, blonde-haired mare bearing an Admiral's insignia, saluted.

"Admiral Evening Squall, CO of the Pegasopolis," she introduced herself. He already knew her name - Evening Squall had been given the task of reporting to the SAC on the state of the navy by Princess Celestia herself.

Typhoon held out a hand hoof. "Chairman Typhoon of the Special Advisory Council. Permission to come aboard?"

"Granted," said Admiral Squall, shaking Tyhpoon's hoof. "Follow me." She gestured over to the gangplank leading up to the Pegasopolis, and began leading the party on board. "I do have to question the need for this inspection. We have the newest and best weapons in all of Equestria, after all, not to mention the best officers and sailors in the world."

"Who's currently in charge of the Celestial Sea Fleet?" asked Typhoon. The roar of a Nimrod taking off temporarily put a stop to conversation, and the pegasus craned his neck to see the biplane fighter flash past overhead. He let out a quiet sigh; the Pegasopolis' air wing was made up entirely of 45 Nimrods, none of which were fitted with even the lightest bombs. They'd serve a vital scouting and anti-aircraft role for the rest of the fleet, but it would probably be a few years before Equestria could lay claim to having a true aircraft carrier force.

Admiral Squall was taken aback. "Well... nopony, right now. Princess Celestia hasn't appointed anypony as C-IN-C Celestial Fleet."

"Mhm," Typhoon replied, stepping onto the Pegasopolis' flight deck. Just past the conning tower, he could see the squat forms of the Vanhoover and Canterlot, two of the Celestial Sea Fleet's battleships. Modelled after the British Royal Navy's Revenge-Class battleships of the First World War, they formed part of the Royal Equestrian Navy's iron fist. "We're going to have to fix that soon." He returned his attention to Admiral Squall. "How are you finding the Pegasopolis?"

The Admiral shrugged. "She's a good ship, with a good crew," she said. "I'd prefer a cruiser, or a destroyer, though. Something that works at night, with torpedoes."

"They don't call her the Nightmare of Solomon for nothing," one of the other officers muttered.

Typhoon stopped in his tracks. "I'm sorry, what?"

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Fe Fi Fo Feal, I smell an Original Character (Do Not Steal). Those buffs are pretty good, though, and she'll probably end up being our overall fleet commander.

Admiral Squall at least had the decency to look embarrased about the nickname, waving a hoof at the officer who'd spoken up. "It's nothing," she said. "Just something the pirates of the Spa Islands started calling me after I sank their king's ship and entire fleet with just a single destroyer squadron."

"Neat," said Typhoon, deliberately not responding to the Admiral's boasting. "What's the status of the fleet?" he asked, getting the conversation back on track.

There was a flash of irritation on Admiral Squall's face, but it was soon replaced by a look of professional calm. Good; she could put aside her ego if necessary. That professionalism was a bit of a rarity amongst the ponies of Equestria, in Typhoon's experience. "Aside from the Pegasopolis, which has developed some condensor trouble, the rest of the fleet is ready to sail within four hours of the order being recieved," she said. "Currently, it's organised into the Battle Division, consisting of the five Revenge-class battleships, the Crusier divison, headed by the battlecruisers Lunar Herald, Solar Herald and Sabre, and the Carrier division. Destroyers are distributed as needed between the squadrons."

"Battlecruisers?" Typhoon asked, incredulous. "Excuse me for asking, but aren't those a bit of an outdated concept? Who decided to build them?"

"The Bureau of Naval Procurement," replied Admiral Squall. "They make perfect backup to a cruiser force, and their lack of armour shouldn't be a problem if we keep them out of the battle-line."

"If", said Typhoon. "Well, if a war breaks out within the next few years we'll need them, as much as I'd prefer otherwise. What of the rest of the navy? There's other fleets stationed around Equestria, what's their status?" Five battleships was a respectable line force, but if the rumours of a Changeling super-battleship were true, equestria would need more.

Admiral Squall put on a pained expression. "There are other fleets, three in fact, but..."

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Oh well, I was going to consolidate all our ships into one fleet anyway.

"Each one only has one or two destroyers assigned to them. They're meant for coast-guard duties, and forming the nucleus of a larger fleet, and the Navy hasn't had the budget for any expansion since '04."

Typhoon nodded, resisting the urge to let out a sigh. "Okay," he said, warily eyeing a Nimrod that looked like it was about to come in for a landing. "Now, can we get on with the tour and stop cluttering up your flight deck?"

"Sure thing," said Admiral Squall.

Part I.e: The Air Force

"Ladies and Gentlecolts, welcome to the 1007th Annual Canterlot Air Show! A lot's changed since last year, and we certainly have a treat for all you ponies out there today!"

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Well, this isn't great but it isn't too bad either. As per usual, we'll get into how air combat works when we actually have some air combat, but it basically boils down to having more and better planes than your opponent. There is one interesting quirk in that planes don't travel to and from areas they're assigned to from their airfield - they just appear there.

"Firstly, a flyby from a combined bomber force from Number 7, 8 and 9 Squadrons! With their Wheatley bombers, these brave ponies can blast away rockslides and drop supplies to disaster-struck regions all across Equestria. They stand ready in bases near Vanhoover and Manehattan, with the five-machine strong 9 Squadron ready to help our neighbours in Stalliongrad the moment they ask!"

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Aces crop up randomly whenever a squadron is in combat, and provide buffs to whichever squadron they're assigned to. They can also die in combat, and shoot each other down.

"Next, a full 25-plane formation from No.2 Squadron. Led by Wing Commander Night Glider, No.2 Squadron is the largest in the Royal Equestrian Air Force, numbering a round one hundred machines! From their base in Canterlot, they guard the heart of Equestria! Just look at their perfect formation flying - not one plane out of position!"

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"And following them, we have three planes of No.3 Squadron. Flying out of the great city of Cloudsdale, Squadron Leader "Scroupy" Whitemares - you can see him there, in the pennanted machine - trains new pegasi in the operation of the Gladiator aircraft that serves as Equestria's main fighter. With their hybrid magic/oil combustion engines, these fighters let unicorns and earth ponies take to the skies, and extend the range a pegasus can fly tens of times over. A true wonder of the modern age!"

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"Trailing to the rear-right of No.3 Squadron are two planes from No.4 Squadron, also based out of Cloudsdale. Unlike No.3 Squadron, No.4 is a scouting and disaster relief squadron. Squadron Leader Vapour Trail prides himself on his squadron's impeccable response times in disaster training, and the rest of his squadron remains on standby in Cloudsdale just in case. If you look closely at their machines, you can see that they've stripped off every last piece of unneccesary weight to get to a disaster just a fraction of a second earlier! If anypony wants a closer look, Vapour Trail's aircraft will remain on the air show grounds until the end of the day. I'm... being asked to tell you all not to climb into the cockpit, and definitely not to touch the trigger on the flight stick."

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No comment.

"To their left, we have Squadron Leader "Bolty" Lolcats of No.5 Squadron. The final of the three Cloudsdale squadrons, No.5 Squadron is currently tasked with courier duties, delivering important mail and packages across the country. In fact, it looks like... yes, he's dropping a package right now! That's dedication, folks!"

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"And now the ponies you've all been waiting for, ladies and gentlecolts! The one and only... the WONDERBOLTS! I'm sure most of the ponies require no introduction, but in the third position we have newcomer Rainbow Dash flying without a plane. Now, some of you may remember Rainbow Dash from all the times she's helped save Equestria, or from her amazing performance at the Cloudsdale Young Fliers competition some years back, but since we have such a large crowd of ponies here today I thought it'd be best to reintroduce her. And now, the Wonderbolts will run through a collection of stunts both with and without planes, so relax and enjoy the flying!"

Away from the crowd, Typhoon sat back in his deck chair. The air show was going well, at least - he'd had some reservations about unveiling the "new" planes to the public, but all that talk of disaster relief and courier duty seemed to have papered over their more offensive uses. Hopefully the inevitable changeling spies in the audience took the bait, too. Finally, he could relax for the first time in months.

A hoof tapped him on the shoulder just as he was closing his eyes, and he looked up into the face of his adjutant. She was holding a message cylinder in her mouth. Wordlessly, he took it and opened it, and swore. "Couldn't even get one bloody day off, could I?"
Message wrote:PRESENT SELF TO PRI.CEL. ASAP STOP. EMERGENCY WAR COUNCIL ASSEMBLING STOP.

Okay, this was a lot more effort than I expected it to be. Next time: actually doing things in the game! (But still leaving it paused...)

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