What follows is the eighth entry in the trying tale of Make Love, Not Statecraft. For those who’ve just stumbled onto this saga, or for those in need of a serious refresher, go ahead and check out the first episode, last week’s entry or get right into the action now.
My (virtual) people were dying by the thousands, lives cut short by a vile, supernatural plague. It was a divine punishment; a plague of biblical proportions sent from on high. This contagion had metastasized and spread like wildfire. Emanating from the Durendal Khanate’s capital of Rocamadour, the pandemic quickly infected every last country in the world of Statecraft.
The rates of infection had varied and the damage may have been unique to every nation, but the results were the same: complete and utter pandemonium. According to the almighty Kyle, supported by the admins of Statecraft, to survive the pandemic a nation had to raise their health rating to a predetermined level. Weaker/less infected nations had lower thresholds, while ravaged nations like my own had absurdly high requirements.
We had until the end of Turn 8 to get our health score up or our entire nation would breathe its last. No biggie, we thought. We were in the middle of Turn 7 and had a bit of time. Not only that, we had the resources to build a legion of clinics, hospitals, and medical research labs to combat this pandemic. It would hurt, but we could do it once we put our minds to it.
Except there was a secret wrinkle. We were sent a private message, which informed us that, due to our unique circumstances and connections with the greater world, if a single country failed to survive the pandemic, our economy would collapse. It would be our responsibility as hegemon to save the rest of our world...or else.
It didn’t help that the Durendal Khanate had been sent to the brink. This mystical pandemic knew nothing of class nor creed in its wave of destruction. The gentry and peasantry died in droves, but so did our scientists. And the latter casualties had the most dire implications.
The death of our most prominent scientists had inadvertently led to the destabilization of our orbital satellites. These satellites made up the bulwark of our Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), a laser-guided shield that protected the homeland from all potential nuclear strikes. Its existence enabled the Khan Doctrine in the first place -- without it, the horde of the Khanate, the Isten Kardja, could not hope to quell rebellious, nuclear-armed factions. Without these satellites, the homeland was suddenly vulnerable to nuclear strikes once more.
Needless to say, this was problematic. The whole structure of the Khanate’s war machine, and the economy that fueled it, was highly tuned and complex; a result of weeks of effort and calculation. Much of our strength came from early-game investment in industry and infrastructure, along with mid-game Big Project construction. Individually, the bonuses these structures gave were formidable. But combined together, their bonuses compounded and expounded, granting the Khanate an immense base of power.
However, the structure of the game meant that all Big Projects had to be built in a nation’s capital. Now, this isn’t normally too big of a deal -- most nations would only have one Big Project. The Khanate though? Eight. One nuclear strike to Rocamadour and all of those wonders would go up in radioactive smoke. Interestingly, this meant that the incentive to compete with the Khanate through nuclear buildup would be higher due to this asymmetric weakness. A nation with a more spread out power base would be more willing to risk a fight with us. If they could land a successful strike on our weak spot -- our ‘center-of-gravity’ as Clausewitz would put it -- we’d be brought to our knees.
Our rival, Styrkuria, could easily exploit that. Or a certain rogue nation that we’d recently invaded.
Speaking of rogue nations, we had the problem of DACT. We had to ensure every single country survived, including occupied nations. That meant we had to 1) give them at least one city back, 2) give them the appropriate health technology, along with the resources to construct health structures, and 3) hope they don’t kill us in the process. If the members of DACT knew our secret objective, though, they would be able to extort us to no end. On the surface, the Khanate had the better bargaining position as occupiers, while in reality, we were completely at the mercy of DACT.
Some diplomatic tact would be necessary.
We couldn’t simply gift them the cities. Remember, our goal in liberating their nation was to destroy their nuclear program. We had been planning on giving them a small portion of their nation back in return for the destruction of their nuclear weapons. Furthermore, we had been planning on giving them only a small tract of land, insufficient for any more nuclear build up. Now, if we gave them the cities for free, they would still have their nukes. They also knew we were defenseless to nuclear attack, and thus completely vulnerable to a strike from their weaponry. Only one nuke would be needed to cripple our country.
And could we blame them? Diplomatic relations between the occupied and the occupier are rarely rosy. A spiteful nuclear strike against us would be an understandable retaliation. They’d already lost everything -- what did they have to lose in striking us, once they had nukes again?
Thus, the Durendal Khanate was in a true bind. We could be destroyed in a myriad of ways: by internal disease, by the collapse of a single peripheral country or by a single, surgical nuclear strike.
Being a technocratic military dictatorship, the first course of action was obvious: make some spreadsheets. And made them I did. Absolute efficiency in the use of our resources would be critical. We had to juggle our rivalry with Styrkuria while still saving the world. If we gave up too many resources reconstructing others, Styrkuria could overtake us in key areas. However, focusing too much on our competition with Styrkuria could be more than fatal, for a misallocation of resources could lead to the end of the world... of Statecraft.
Furthermore, this crisis could be an opportunity. We had some bad press -- being seen as the benevolent savior of the world could rectify much of that. A bit of public good will would go a long way in negotiations with DACT, to say the least. Styrkuria had already tried to usurp that opportunity, however. Freuden had sent a “Respected Colleagues” missive within minutes of the pandemic. She’d proposed creating the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as distributing advanced medical technology -- if they received a few Scientific Knowledge (SK)subsidies first.
Despite our rivalry, it was a no-brainer for us to join the WHO -- it gave critical bonuses in medical health throughout the world. However, we would not be one-upped by the communist menace. We decided to spend some of our precious scientific knowledge not on subsidies for Styrkuria. Nay, we decided to create our own medical program. Through some (secret) critical tech trades with Maldonia, our Alliance of Enduring States partner, we’d made it to the same medical tech level as Styrkuria. Then, through the ample application of SK, we blew past the projected tech of our rival.
Then, to rub it in, we gave all of it away -- for free. Even to Styrkuria... just before the end of Turn 7. Why? Because the last medical tech gave access to one of the most powerful Big Projects. We wouldn’t want to give them a chance to undercut us mid-turn and build it. After all, we were still competing in Quality of Life ratings (QOL), of which health was one.
Despite the rivalry and general squabbling, the pandemic was being handled. There was just one small problem: DACT was AWOL. There were no responses to any of our initiatives. Even the ever-diplomatic Freuden was getting the cold shoulder. They’d dropped off the face of the planet -- and if we couldn’t find them, we’d be wiped off it too.