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Bulgaria is not an easy country to play with, given its relatively low IC (26 base value) and leadership points (about three). However, it has the great advantage of not having direct borders with any of the majors, unlike Romania, Turkey or Yugoslavia. Bulgaria's neighbouring countries pose no direct threat, therefore should a player decide to start the game from 1936, winning and building an empire is likely if clever research and diplomacy are applied. Victory is possible with all factions, and early aligning towards one of them (unless you use the Axis strategy) is not recommended.
Bulgaria has a relatively high Infantry practical upon start, so researching your infantry weapons should be your primary concern. Research the main weapon up to Lebel 1907 rifles, then light artillery up to level one or two. Your infantry will need organisation, so make sure you also research Infantry Warfare up to the 1936 standard. After you are done with these, the choice of techs to research is yours - however, it is highly recommended that you increase your leadership with Education, your supply production with Supplies production, and invest some time in Electronic and mechanical engineering. If you manage to further equip your infantry with the level 3 Sbrujowka SMG, you will have a very well armed and organised army. Constructing decryption/encryption machines, radar listening stations and electronic calculation devices will be of great use later on in the game.
Distribution of Leadership
Research is very important to succeeding as Bulgaria. In order to have efficient research, choose a Big Education Investment from your Politics menu - it will cost you, but the efforts are worth it.
Start by aligning yourself toward the Axis, normally at the start of the game you are drifting 0.4 towards Allies.
Here you can choose the aggressive game strategy or not - you choose. Be aware that everybody joins the Allies eventually. Also you may start influencing Albania and Romania when you are part of the Axis, so you will not have to occupy it, alternatively so that they wont be able to join the Allies before you are ready to attack them.
No matter which strategy you choose, one of your enemies will most likely be your neighbour. As it is almost certain that Greece and Yugoslavia will align towards the Allies, invest at least 1.30 of your leadership in Espionage, and make Romania your level 3 (green) priority target. Select "Increase threat" as a mission. If you have enough luck, by 1938 Romania will have a global threat level of about 45 - far larger than that of Japan. If you also send spies on a level 2 priority threat mission in France, its threat level will increase to 2 or even 3 - this will keep most countries, including your neighbours, drifting away from the Allies. After all, the best target is one that is both unaligned and posing a large threat. The purpose of this exercise is to attack and conquer one of your unaligned neighbours by 1939/1940, thus securing its resources, IC and leadership. If you make it a puppet, you will have an excellent buffer state - it will protect you from the majors, yet you will be able to exploit its capacity to the fullest. In order to ease things, select "Lower neutrality" as a mission to your domestic intelligence. If you manage to conquer Romania, you will gain access to rich oil, coal, metal and rare material deposits.
Choose your production wisely. From the very start you need to build two infantry and one militia divisions as regulars (not reserves). It will be excellent if you manage to add armoured cars to your infantry divisions. ACs are an excellent light infantry support and give you a lot of edge against regular infantry divisions. DO NOT invest too much IC into production, and don't switch to Mixed industry immediately; this will only drain too much resources into supplies and consumer goods production, and actually has the opposite effect upon production. It's better to have lower IC efficiency and wait for one more week to train two divisions, instead of making only one division faster while struggling to keep your consumer goods production to a decent level. Also, try securing a licence production of one unit (air unit if possible) from a closely aligned state.
An Axis Yugoslavia
how can you attack Yugoslavia with your neutrality at 80 in 1936? It's the slowest occupation, but all the strategies depend on you having transport ships to speed things up. How you defeat them is your choice, but a suggestion would be a World War 1 charge of Infantry mixed with Cavalry and Artillery. The time when you choose attack Yugoslavia is your choice as well, but late Spring 1936 or early Summer 1936 are good starting areas, so your advance doesn't slow by the winter. Yugoslavia are the first target because their army is very weak in 1936, consisting of WW1 infantry and one bomber wing, also they will not be mobilized for war yet.
An Axis Romania
If Romania is part of the Allies, attacking them is not advisable. A little note of caution first of all - this is a challenging occupation, your Axis allies cant come to your aid unless Italy turns up on the coast with a couple divisions to distract the enemy. The main target for start will be to place your forces on a wide front infront of the Romania army locations. If you can spare you should move some brigades to the far northwest to ensure a successful flank of the Romanian army. At this point in the game the Romanian Army should be twice the size of your army with one armor division but they will not be Mobilized for war so their strength shall be very low. Move into attack state just after declaring war, their forces are going to be heavily focused on the Soviet front rather than yours, allowing them prepare fully for your invasion will give them time to gather strength and counterattack. They have a small amount of air units. Move your ships to Black sea and defeat their navy. Once the Romanians give up, make them a puppet, you'll have a large AI army to guard you against the Soviet forces once the invasion starts.
Gaming the System
Conquering the Balkans
The invasion is also used to extend the front across the Greek Border, past their land defenses and to surround Albania completely. Your first Objective for your armies should be to occupy Beograd, securing the capital will give you a much needed IC bonus and it will lower their national unity. Just before capturing Beograd use your ships if you have any, to transport 4 brigades to the far end of Yugoslavia, when Beograd has been captured advance them to the new capital, this should force them to surrender. Annexing them is the best choice, their forces are weak and of no use to you and their land will be put to greater use under your control. Turkey is the next target. Move your forces to their borders of Turkey, when the attack begins, secure Istanbul and the peninsula. Once secured cross over into the Anatolia peninsula, using the same crawl tactic that worked against Yugoslavia. Now if you still have transport ships or a small navy you can open another front on their territory and flank them on the southern edge of the peninsula. The Turkish have navel units so your transports are vulnerable without cover from destroyers or frigates. Turkey will be your first puppet, this is the best course of action because when the axis decide to invade the USSR they will be a buffer between them and you. Revolts are going to be a constant problem in the captured territories, building four garrison divisions and two militia divisions to act as suppress and reaction forces in case of revolt.
The Bulgarian Empire
Bulgaria as a colonial power is extremely ahistorical, but nevertheless it is possible with some luck. I had the luck of having the Netherlands join the Axis - and I managed to conquer two vast islands of the Dutch East Indies around 1941. In only two months, my metal supplies jumped from 3,500 to 28,000, my crude oil supplies - from 890 to 9,000, and my rare materials - from 1,200 to 19,000. If this does not work with you, try conquering faraway and badly protected colonies. Italy's colonies in Africa are badly protected, though you will probably need to research Desert Warfare to make your divisions fight more efficiently there. All this is needed so that you can secure both victory points and massive amounts of resources that will sustain your development in the longterm. When you have enough resources, there is no need to do any of the Chemical research upgrades or trade and become dependent on other parties. Now that you have secured the necessary resources to maintain and expand your future empire, your hands are untied to construct infantry and armoured divisions, aircraft and convoys. You may declare war on your neighbours and conquer them (if you have invested enough effort to keep them unaligned), and after you stabilise your gains, you may align to either the Comintern or the Allies and be brave enough to be one of the main contributors to Germany's defeat.
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