A not-so brief guide to tell you how to win the 2nd ACW ASAP, and break it with exploits.
The KR community has been complaining about how difficult USA is, but it is actually the easiest faction if you play it right (i.e. not MacArthur). And this guide will tell you how to win the ACW so quick like it never happened.
The Garner path of Austerity through the storm is the quickest of all so far, and this guide tells you how to win it within a month or two.
If you intend to win as Huey Long (elect Olson and go down Velvet Glove), skip to the Exploit part.
If you intend to go CSA (assassination), also skip to the Exploit part.
Disclaimer: Because of how the ACW is balanced right now, even if you do the exploit, Huey Long on Velvet Glove will still take a few months, and a CSA win is very difficult right now (a year or two?).
Preparation (Part 1)
First thing you should do is wait for the introduction event and do the Garner-Wagner Bill focus.
And then you should try to compromise with the AFP to slightly increase chances of it passing.
It doesn't really matter if it passes or fails, but you get to place some nice juicy factories if, by RNG, it passes. Don't worry about increasing SPA strength by placing factories in the South (since you are compromising with Long), the CSA's strength is ultimately rigged by the events of 'Austerity through the storm' anyway.
For your production, you can build whatever you want for the dockyards, but I highly recommend you to assign one factory each for light tank, motorized, fighter, bomber, cas, and then 2-3 for artillery and the rest for guns. This guide depends entirely on light tank divisions, and it is necessary to have some equipment for replenishment.
Have a few divisions on training queue, but do not set deployment location. You should only deploy them after CSA broke away, as the CSA will get a buff if you have a lot of divisions at start.
For research, go for the basics: industry, light tank II (MUST), infantry weapons, artillery and superior firepower (or whatever doc that fits you). The CSA gets any tech that USA has fully researched when it breaks away, so to be as gamey as possible, research all your techs until you are 1 day from finishing them, and then switch to another. But I only recommend doing this for important ones (superior firepower, infantry weapons and artillery).
Now, switch the cavalry division to infantry division, and train all your divisions and fleets for xp (VERY IMPORTANT). I recommend scrapping the armored cruisers as they are useless and fuel hungry.
For construction, it is highly recommended that you build infrastructure only. Any factory you build will not be ready for the ACW anyway, and the stacked penalties can sometimes result in deconstruction of your military factories:
(The negative construction speed will actually reverse any progress you had towards building a military factory)
So just build infra in DC and at places safe from the war (Florida, California, etc.). You have enough airfields to handle the war so you don't need to build those.
Preparation (Part 2)
Once you get the event for the coalition, reject it because you want our boy Garner to win.
If the Garner-Wagner Bill passed, congratulations! Place the factories in the South. If you failed, maybe you can even skip those following focuses because MacArthur's plan definitely won't help you secure New York (the starting position in Austerity through the storm is rigged).
All skill no luck
Once you have pp, spend it on the intelligence minister, preferably a technical specialist to get research boost. The constant string of crises means you likely won't get 150 pp for any design company.
But in the rare case that you get enough pp for a company, pick any of these two:
After the ACW kicks off, you will lose most of your design companies. These are the only two that have useful bonuses, that will remain after the ACW kicks off, and that are located where the CSA cannot possibly reach. Don't spend pp on other companies.
Focus wise, after you finished the Garner-Wagner Bill focuses, go down Demand Canadian War Debt, and then Compromise with Canada to increase the chances of them not seizing New England. Usually they will accept.
In the very rare situation that Edward chooses to be a jerk (as in my test run), evacuate New England as they will almost certainly seize it during the ACW.
Don't forget to pick establishment candidates in these special elections.
The Exploit: Renaming Templates
This is the part you have come here to see, and if you watched Dustinl's video you can already guess what I will tell you here (I will tell you regardless).
As you know, the 2nd ACW now depends on the militia you mobilize from states, and this exploits allows you to get light tank divisions instead of crappy militia or garrison. This exploit is done by simply renaming a division template to those of ACW special templates.
This exploits only works for the state militias that are mobilized. The initial batch of troops to spawn by event are not affected, hence it doesn't work well in 3/4 way ACW because all sides get an initial batch of troops that you cannot temper with. Back to the guide.
By now you should have 5-10 army xp after training your men. Go to division designer, select create empty.
Add one artillery battalion, save and rename template to "Revolutionary Militia".
Duplicate and save the template 4 times and rename the rest to "Revolutionary Continental Army", "Revolutionary Garrison", "Revolutionary Mobile Divisions", "Mounted Revolutionary Militia".
For your reference this is the CSA list of special ACW templates (IGNORE the loyalist ones):
Now, go to your armored division template, add a motorized artillery battalion to it, save. Then duplicate the template four times and rename to "Army Loyalists", "Loyalist Militia", "Loyalist Garrison", "Mounted Loyalists". After that you should have something like this:
And then when the civil war kicks off and you mobilize your state militias, you should get something like this for every state:
For those of you who want to play Huey Long, MacArthur, PSA, etc. Here are the names of the other templates:
Preparation (Part 3)
Back to the guide. Pick our boy Garner in the election.
When the New Year Strike kicks in, you know the war is near.
Redeploy all your troops to DC (except for the Panama garrison, they will be returned eventually by event). If the Canadians accepted for the compromise, position 2-3 divisions to New England, otherwise pull everything out of it because the Canadians will seize it for sure.
The inauguration of Garner will coincide with the end of whatever focus you are doing.
Immediately select Austerity through the storm.
Arrange the meeting, and eject Reed.
Agree with Long, and stand by the Republic.
Now you enter the preparatory phase of ACW. Pause the game and begin mobilizing your troops (via decisions). MOBILIZE MISSOURI FIRST (it will fall to CSA a few days after the troops are mobilized), and then North Carolina, Kentucky, and Tennessee. These are the states closest to the frontline that have the most troops. Don't bother with mobilizing California, or other far away states in this stage, the troops mobilized there will never arrive in time before the war ends.
If you did the dirty trick of researching technology to the last day and then switch, now is the time to finish the one-day techs you saved up.
You have a lot of pp now? Don't spend them unless you haven't hired Remington and North American aviation. Don't hire other companies, as some will disappear after the war starts, or become unavailable as states are lost to CSA. Better save them for after the war. Also don't go partial mobilization. When the war starts you will switch to War Economy automatically.
The states hardcoded to fall to CSA in the preparatory stage are: Minnesota, New Jersey & New York City, Missouri, Upstate New York, in that order.
Strategy & Beginning of ACW
To win the war quickly, you should only rush CSA's big core VPs, namely Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New York City;
secondary VPs to rush are: Madison, Milwaukee, Lansing, Charleston, Newark, Buffalo, Rochester.
But you don't all of these to win.
This screenshot above represents how I generally position my troops. Ignore the Mid-Western states. The tanks that you have should be placed under a good tank general (Patton or Chaffee) at Kentucky to rush Chicago and Detroit, and then turn towards Cleveland. Your infantry division (you should deploy those in training now) should be placed around DC and New Providence to seize Philadelphia and New York City (if the Canadians accepted the compromise). Place the armies under MacArthur because he is best at attacking.
Place your tac bombers to support the offensive to Chicago, and your CAS around DC, and split your fighters to support both.
When the war starts, immediately choose Push on the Syndicalist Front for extra attack, and War Propaganda against CSA because you will desperately need war support after the war.
If Edward decides to be a jerk and seizes New England, ignore him for now, you can always kill him later for his insolence.
Don't forget to send your fleets out to cut off CSA from Europe.
For the extra factories you get, put some (~5 each) on building light tanks, motorized, and then devote the rest to guns and artillery. A few factories on planes would be good.
Your offensive should be meeting no problems, as you have fully equipped tank divisions, while most CSA divisions are 0-org artillery brigades, and the few regulars they get can't really stand up to tanks. Push towards Chicago, New York City (if Canada doesn't take New England, you will get a few extra divisions there to push) and Philadelphia.
Don't forget to keep mobilizing your state militias. Delete frontlines and micromanage your troops if your battleplan AI starts acting weird.
Once you took Chicago, leave a few divisions to hold the area around it (or take Milwaukee as well), and then turn towards Detroit and Cleveland.
Philadelphia will usually be a tough nut to crack because that's where CSA volunteers will arrive at. If you can't take it, just wait till the tanks to push all the way to New Jersey.
If the CSA hasn't collapsed before you finish the army reform focus, choose Leslie McNair's Plan. The soft attack his plan gives is very useful.
And then the ACW is over.
Before the End of ACW event fires, pause the game and switch all your light tank divisions to the armored division template. Or else most of your mobilized divisions will get deleted! (Alternatively you can disband them and train new divisions)
Thanks for reading this guide.
My test run with New England seized ended the war in May, but if RNGseus permits and you kept it, with New England you can actually win the war by April.
But even if you lost New England, with so many tank divisions at hand after the war, you can easily stomp Canada.