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You basically start with limited IC and research. Your best bet is putting research into things that increase your production capacity and leadership. Its possible to get a minister later into the game that provides a 5% leadership boost, but that won't come for a while.
In terms of conquests you don't have a lot of options around you. When Vichy France is created you can work to increase its threat towards you and declare war against it. Otherwise South Africa might be an option if you are willing to forgo joining the allies (until it is conquered).
Joining the allies and arranging lend-lease arrangements with Britain and the US is pretty much essential if you want to get anywhere.
At the start of the game you have two infantry. Dismiss them if you don't plan on invading South Africa. They won't do you any good at this point except be a drain on your limited resources. From a military standpoint you want to focus on upgrading your infantry tech. That and maybe cavalry.
|Major Powers||France · Germany · Italy · Japan · United Kingdom · United States of America · Soviet Union|
|Regional Powers||Argentina · Australia · Belgium · Brazil · Bulgaria · Czechoslovakia · Guangxi Clique · Hungary · Manchukuo · Nationalist China · Nationalist Spain · Netherlands · Poland · Republican Spain · Romania · Sweden · Turkey · Yugoslavia|
|Minor Powers||Austria · Canada · Chile · Colombia · Denmark · Finland · Greece · Ireland · Mexico · Norway · Peru · Portugal · Shanxi · South Africa · Switzerland|
|Micro Powers||Afghanistan · Albania · Bhutan · Bolivia · Communist China · Costa Rica · Cuba · Dominican Republic · Ecuador · El Salvador · Estonia · Ethiopia · Guatemala · Haiti · Honduras · Iraq · Latvia · Liberia · Lithuania · Luxembourg · Mongolia · Nepal · New Zealand · Nicaragua · Oman · Panama · Paraguay · Persia · Philippines · Saudi Arabia · Siam · Sinkiang · Tannu Tuva · Tibet · Uruguay · Venezuela · Xibei San Ma · Yemen · Yunnan|