Hearts of Iron IV: A Guide For Latecomers

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Since its initial release in June 2016, Hearts of Iron IV (HOI IV) has become a flagbearer of the historical wargaming genre, attracting rave reviews from fans and experts alike in the process. In the intervening years, the launch of successive DLCs has made gameplay ever more expansive; the most recent, the Battle for the Bosporus, creates unique focus trees for Turkey, Greece, and Bulgaria. However, the title’s comprehensive nature has created a low threshold for player confusion, with battle and economic planning needing intricate management if players are to achieve their in-game goals.

This article should allay such problems, re-examining potential concerns to give latecomers a clearer understanding of how to play.

Battleplans

Being new to Hearts of Iron IV myself, having purchased it last December, understanding how to formulate viable battleplans has been the aspect of gameplay I’ve found most difficult to grasp. My first campaign was particularly difficult; in control of British/Commonwealth forces against German forces, I found advancing onto German territory near-impossible, only gaining land around Saarbrucken and Bitburg in two years of fighting. Admittedly, my fight was hindered by circumstance; I declared war early in 1938 over Czechoslovakia, not Poland, with the Low Countries staying neutral. Therefore, Western fighting was limited to the Franco-German border; something I now realise has exacerbated my problems. Basically, any section of land can support only a finite number of forces – any additional units will be pushed into a reserve, only taking part in fighting if a frontline unit is eliminated. Therefore, it is important to spread your forces along a wider area (though not too wide, to avoid penetration of your lines), as this will maximise your offensive power.

An exception to this rule comes from launching a spearhead attack. This strategy involves a single, one province-wide assault towards a specific target, such as an enemy-held city. Best suited to armoured divisions, this strategy can help players capture set targets, or launch a pincer movement, cutting off enemies from supplies and making it easier to eliminate them.

Furthermore, players ought to familiarise themselves with the dynamics of battle options before launching a campaign. For example, for naval invasions, patience is key; preparing supplies etc. for an amphibious assault takes seven days/per unit. Therefore, a larger invasion would be susceptible to changes in the balance of a conflict between planning and launch. You also need naval supremacy over waters between your home port and the invasion site, to avoid losing all your troops before the battle even begins.

Similarly, for para drops, air supremacy of at least 70% over the target area is necessary, to protect your transport planes from interception. Only paratroopers, not regular troops, can be airdropped, preferably onto an unoccupied territory. Finally, it is advisable to land paratroopers near an enemy airfield or port, which can be easily assaulted, as this makes supplying your forces altogether easier.

Economic Planning

Though more simple than planning battles, the game’s economic system can nonetheless take a while to understand. Players have two types of factories at their disposal; civilian and military. The latter is fairly straightforward, being put towards armament production; however, the former is more complex. They’re involved in constructing and repairing all infrastructure, including factories, forts, and railways; consumer goods; and trade, in the standard version. The more civilian factories you have, the quicker such construction will occur.

On the topic of trade, civilian factories are exportable to non-enemy nations, in exchange for resources needed to produce armaments (e.g. Oil, steel), unless you’ve banned exports. That said, as you’ve only a finite number of civilian factories, this should only be done if essential. Civilian factories can be converted to military use if necessary, though this takes time and must be offset against other construction priorities (e.g. Dockyards, coastal forts etc.).

Conclusion

Overall, despite being released in 2016, Hearts of Iron IV’s complex dynamics can confuse latecomers like me, if they’ve never played a similar game before. Hopefully, this article will help to assuage some of these concerns.

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