|Government type||Absolute monarchy|
|Ruling party||Royal Faction (conservative)|
|Capital||Bangkok (ID 1346)|
The Kingdom of Siam vies with Dai Nam as the strongest of the Southeast Asian minors at the start of the Grand Campaign. Historically, Siam was the only Southeast Asian nation never colonized by the Europeans, though it suffered unequal treaties and was forced to sacrifice a fair amount of territory. With luck, however, Siam in Victoria 2 can westernize quickly and, with a bit of skill, potentially dominate the Far East.
- 1 Initial Positions
- 2 Initial Position
- 3 Foreign policy
- 4 After Westernization
In 1836, Siam is a tropical backwater of a nation. Its small, illiterate population is predominantly agricultural, and the main exports are opium, tropical wood and grains. Siam begins in a precarious position surrounded by potentially hostile neighbors. The country, however, possesses several key advantages. First of all, it is fairly remote. In 1836, the only European nations likely to invade you in strength are the UK and, to a lesser extent, the Dutch.
One should start moving towards Westernization from Day One. Set the national focus to encourage clergyman to increase the literacy rate and improve research. Education should be given a high priority since one simply must increase the literacy rate.
In the early years of the game Britain and China will be busy taking Burma apart while Great Power interference in the other SEA states will be minimal, so make the most of this breathing space and quickly move against the surrounding neighbors. One can start with Johore, Luang Prabang, Burma, Atjeh, Brunei or Bali. If one feels strong enough, one can take on Dai Nam/ Cambodia too. In the meantime, try not to annoy any of the Western powers.
In addition to the three core states, Siam controls slivers of Laos, Malaya, and Cambodia, which makes Siam very difficult to annex, which is quite unique in Asia. If Siam can cement its hold on Southeast Asia, it will have easy access to several important resources, including iron, tropical wood, rubber, cotton, and oil. These can be converted into a respectable industrial economy. If the player is able to gain access to sulfur and coal, they will not lack any significant industrial inputs. The Siamese economy is really not that bad off, particularly if one has managed to take the gold mines of Johore.
The disadvantages faced by Siam are steep but surmountable. The literacy rate is poor at 5%, they have a very small cultural group that will prove a severe limitation upon their accumulation of National Focus points, the nearest sources of coal will be difficult to procure, and their national parties will make liberalization challenging.
Allies and Enemies
Siam's two regional rivals, Burma and Dai Viet, are also prone to ally with each other and either is capable of defeating Siam's military force in a war. On the other hand, Siam begins with a decent starting army that is actually accruing attrition just by standing in the capital. The large number of provinces coupled with the diverse ethnic makeup men that the army brigades will accrue very slowly, and once utilized in a conflict it will take a very long time for them to replenish fully. Much of Siam's territory is also either jungle or hill, which will make it difficult to quickly industrialize with railroads.
Most players will find it preferable to achieve good relations with the UK. Relations should also be boosted with the Dutch and every other European colonial power, but the British should be given top priority.
The player may also begin the slow process of improving relations with the Burmese and/or Vietnam, in the hopes of tempering Burmese aggression. Most players will not want to increase them much past 100 since it will make it difficult to develop a CB later in the game. An alliance with China can also be useful. This will be very challenging with the liberal party in power and many players will be forced to use mainly conservative or reactionary parties for much of the approach to Westernization. Following Westernization, many players will avoid the liberal party like the plague since the Siamese industrial economy has to be handled like a baby and L-F economics spell doom for a semi-industrialized economy.
Westernization and reforms
Due to the looming Burmese menace and the presence of multiple conquest targets, many players will opt for military reforms starting with foreign weapons. Watch the militancy carefully. If the population are taxed too hard and Siam is subjugating its neighbors in lengthy wars, the people may revolt. One can also consider a naval reform in order to build a naval base.
One problem with militancy is that it will dramatically increase flashpoint tension, and a crisis war will not end well. Even if one wins, the cost is too great. Being remote might however make the majority of Great Powers fail to take an interest. If one is allied with UK they can also protect from Crises.
Much of what the player does will depend upon what the European powers do. The British will often quickly move against Burma, and less frequently to take Johore. The Dutch will sometimes focus their aggression against Atjeh, Johore, or Bali. Since Johore and Burma are the neighbors that are most likely to be taken by European rivals, they should probably be the initial focus of Siamese military action.
Johores gold mines will provide a significant and game-changing boost to Siam’s economy that will allow the player to boost their military and education budget. This move has however a few drawbacks. First of all, Johore will have to be taken with a Conquest CB, which can potentially result in 22 infamy. Secondly, while Johore only has 9,000 men and begins the game with no allies, the player will suffer serious attrition which is likely to reduce several of their brigades below replacement capacity. Finally, moving against Johore early will not provide much benefit in terms of Westernization research.
An aggressive alternative is to begin working on annexing Burma at the start of the game, before the army is weakened by other wars. This is an extremely risky move as Siam will almost certainly be invaded by both Burma and Dai Viet (and Cambodia), and sometimes by Luang Prabang. Winning this war will be challenging and requires a great deal of patience. The player should allow the enemy armies to siege many of their provinces before counterattacking the scattered enemy armies. The player will then have to immediately move into enemy territory, leaving their provinces in enemy hands in order to annihilate the enemy reinforcement troops. Even if this war is “won,” it will leave the player with horrible war exhaustion, a militant Burmese Liberation Front, and greatly reduced military capacity. Many players will find it preferable to wait until they have gained access to Western infantry units before attacking Burma. The problem with this approach is that the UK will either invade Burma or work to place them in their sphere.
Dai Nam and Cambodia
Dai Nam is the second largest nation in South East Asia, has Cambodia as a puppet, on which Siam has cores and is often allied to China.
Dai Viet has Cambodia as a puppet state, which means that Dai Viet will usually have to be dealt with before Cambodia can be annexed. If the player waits until late in the game to annex Dai Viet, Cambodia will often wind up in the Japanese sphere. If one manages to completely remove the Cambodian army in conflict it will increase the chance that they go through a revolution that will make them independent. One can also annex Dai Viet entirely. On occasion, the player will have the option of using an ally to trigger a war where China cannot join. In other games, Vietnam will probably have to wait until after Westernization. If one is able to get into the UK’s sphere, the UK may offer an alliance following westernization which can be activated during an invasion of Vietnam.
The most efficient approach is to work on a conquest CB, rather than take them apart state-by-state, unless they have been partially taken by a European rival. If the player activates a hypothetical alliance with the UK during an invasion of Dai Viet, the player should focus on taking Vietnamese territory as quickly as possible rather than resisting the Chinese. If progress is not made immediately, the UK as war leader may opt for a white peace. Let the British troops deal with any Chinese invaders.
Atjeh and Bali will sometimes be snapped up by the Dutch (or whomever), and there is little Siam can do to stop it. The player will likely focus on neighboring targets first, and see taking Atjeh or Bali as a luxury. Brunei is probably more valuable since it will provide oil later in the game and is also one of the easiest countries to conquer in the game. Bali is easy to conquer and will provide a disproportionate number of troops relative to its small size. Brunei is by far the most likely to survive unconquered and outside of a sphere of influence until after westernization and may thus be given the lowest priority. If one has infamy to spare, however, and either wants to expand as quickly as possible or accumulate research points, all three are fairly simple targets that will eventually prove worth the exertion. Be aware that taking these increases the chance of Dutch aggression unless Siam is in a sphere of influence such as the UK’s (or the Dutch’s). It is also worth noting that taking any of these will require constructing a navy, which is challenging for any uncivilized nation due to the lack of readily available clipper convoys. Three ships are more than sufficient to take any of these.
If the player is keen to acquire parts of Arabia or Central Asia, it is probably best to wait until after Westernization. Key targets, such as the oil fields of Abu Dhabi, are often available midgame and the infamy and attrition will be greatly reduced if one is patient. If one is unlucky and
Hawaii? One will need a navy, that can likely be lost on the voyage. One will need to work fast before the USA can intervene or annex them. The player may have little to fear from American intervention early in the game, but it is probably not worth the headache. The benefit, however, is that Siam will be in pole position to colonize the Pacific and will be assured of having a valuable naval base for a hypothetical invasion of the Americas.
Madagascar also has coal, but like Hawaii is an ocean away from the nearest port. Unlike Hawaii they actually have an army to speak of and they are a high priority for French influence. French intervention is much more worrisome than American and will probably preclude any attempt at colonization unless the war can be perfectly timed. Taking Madagascar early will prove to be a tremendous challenge and will require the player to prioritize military tech and naval bases during Westernization. Drop off 12,000 infantry units and hope to heck that they survive both the ocean and the locals. Build more ships if necessary to drop off more men.
Industrialization can be the path to riches or bankruptcy. Think carefully before building factories, pay attention to market price, and think long-term. With Siam's rubber and oil, it has a good chance to get into advanced factories such as electrical gears, fuel, and automobiles. That is however very far away and one first have to catch up with Europe. Siam is not geared towards glass and cement factories. Furniture and luxury furniture might however be more fitting. One needs inventions just to construct these factories and that can take a long time. Glass and dye are often much easier to come by late in the game than early on, which means that one can build a few liquor and wine factories and can probably support at least one fabric factory. The problem is that Siam has a niche market and will be competing with Europeans who have been at this for a while. One of Siam's weaknesses is that the two conservative parties favor State Capitalism and the two liberal parties favor lasseiz faire economics with no interventionist option. The limited focus points will make encouraging craftsmen and capitalists a prolonged struggle. Clerks are the most difficult to come by of all. Be careful to not overbuild and make sure to increase efficiency through building railroads, technology, and encouraging capitalists and ever-elusive clerks.
Technology: Something’s gotta give
Much of the strategy will depend on how far behind Siam is. A long-term strategy can be to immediately focus on research-boosting technology, followed by prestige-boosting technology, followed by education-boosting technology, with a railroad or industrial tech or two mixed in. The industry is negligible and the military is good enough against the immediate neighbours, while everyone else is out of reach. The only exception could be China.
It is up to the player to determine how they will value land and naval technology. One strategy can be to basically ignore most army technology and to focus on domestic matters. One way to equalize the field significantly can be to almost entirely ignore naval technology and focus on land technology. Because Siam have already taken all of the easy targets, European naval presence in the Pacific will be limited, and it can survive on clippers and a Man O’ War until embarrassingly late in the game. Being a land power will allow you to beat up on the Chinese and to dare the Japanese to land troops on the coast.
It can also help against the very big fish. Europeans will often invade slowly, 50k troops at a time. If Siam can swallow these armies before reinforcements come, one can rack up serious war score and prestige. The counter strategy can be to rely on the navy as a powerful deterrent to invasion. In most cases, distant enemies will not be marching. The problem rises when the enemy gets a military access and bypasses the navy. Also, ship building will greatly increase military score and thus the chances of becoming a Great Power. Finally, if the player desires to invade Japan, naval technology will be absolutely vital.
Colonization of the Pacific
If the player has managed to Westernize before the colonization wave, they can choose to devote resources to the scramble for the Pacific or even the scramble for Africa. The technology needed for colonization (Breech-Loaded Rifles, Medicine, and State and Government) is not excessive and mostly consists of things one will likely want to research anyway. Since a Great Power (and a neighbor) is likely to get Colonial Negotiations before Siam, one will not need to research the higher level technology. If one researches prestige techs and industry, Siam could hit secondary power status fairly quickly. The amount of Colonial points will be minimal, but more than enough to colonize a small share of Africa or the Pacific. Apart from Borneo, the real limitation on colonization will be naval bases, and the player may be unwilling to build high level naval bases in offshore provinces in order to boost colonization range and naval support limits to the max.
What is more, Siam's main advantage over the Europeans is remoteness. The Europeans are prone to leaving large numbers of troops in Africa, for example, and Siam will most likely be unable to hold overseas territory in a war. In many cases, the resources expended to become colonially active will not be worth the gain, but it is up to the player.
Following Westernization, the player will have several avenues for expansion open to them. Most players will benefit from focusing initially upon taking any remaining regional neighbors, maintaining friendly relations with the UK, checking Japanese imperialism, and destabilizing China as much as possible. The UK makes a good, if not the best ally one can have, and as a regional power one may have the opportunity to ally with the Japanese or powerful independent Chinese substates. Given the tremendous infamy necessary to take Johore, Burma, Dai Viet, and Cambodia, it is quite likely that the player will have been unable to annex them all until well after they have westernized.
Brunei is best taken as a protectorate in order to conserve infamy and should be somewhere high on the hit list before the oil is apparent. Luang Prabang will honestly not help much, but can often be taken as a protectorate with little effort. Korea can provide the valuable coal and steel that the industry needs to thrive, but they are a dangerous target. Korea will often be either in the American or Japanese sphere. The Americans are a long way away, and can be dealt with easily if one has even a somewhat advanced military. The Japanese are a much more immediate threat and should only be riled if the player is confident that they can annihilate wave after wave of Japanese troops. Manchuria can be another target, but often goes to the Russians by event. The player should also pay close attention to the situation of the Dutch. With a little luck, one can pry a piece or two of the East Indies from their grasp with minimal effort. If the principal Dutch ally is land-based (like Germany), the player may gamble that they will be able to handle any invasion force. Similarly, if the Spanish begin to decline, taking the Philippines might be an option.
Once the player has devoted time to land technology, they should be capable of taking on China alone. It is advised that the player fight conservatively, try to make the most of defensive bonuses, blockade the Chinese mercilessly and avoid wandering too far into the interior without backup. 200k Chinese troops can appear out of nowhere. The war score system in Victoria 2 privileges battles, blockades, and ticking war score to a large degree. If China has fallen apart or been invaded by European powers such as the Russians, it is a good time to strike. China possesses some of the most valuable states in the game, states that will pump out brigades on demand and (if they are taken as states and not concessions) large numbers of craftsmen that Siam can use to become a Great Power. Unless they have been softened up, the first war will be brutal, but Every subsequent war will be easier and will increase the likelihood of China becoming so unstable that it will no longer pose a threat.
Becoming a Great Power
Becoming a Great Power is as simple as promoting prestige to a nearly unreasonable degree, cultivating an actual, if unimpressive, industrial base and building the biggest military one can. Becoming a top-flight Secondary Power is quite likely for Siam. Unless one has made significant inroads against China or Japan, it is likely that they will have to wait until a Great War has cut a marginal Great Power down to size. Spain, Italy, and in some cases Russia, for example will frequently be shellacked to Secondary status and open a new spot at the top. Make the most of it. It is recommended that the player goes on a foreign investment building spree in order to boost their industrial score and seriously considers any offer to back a crisis war. If the crisis war concerns a European country (e.g. Greece or Poland), there is a good chance that one can avoid fighting at all. A European crisis war will almost certainly be a Great War. Check to see what the UK is up to first and see who (if anyone) is backing the other side.