Monty’s Icons: Hearts Of Iron IV

In the distant year of January 2014, I saw an early version of Hearts of Iron IV at the annual Paradox convention. It was one of the games that I was most interested to see because of the four Paradox grand strategy series (Europa, Crusader Kings and Victoria being the others), the World War II simulation HOI is the one I’ve never quite managed to get to grips with. In fact, I have about as strong a grip on it as I do on a family of eels in a bucket of caviar. Or a MOBA. The military emphasis doesn’t fit with my usual strategic styles of play and I fear the micromanagement. How pleasing, then, that the latest entry combines streamlined production and an equisite battle planning system, which you can glimpse in the trailer below.

It’s the maps you want to look at there, particularly the arrows and other assorted marks on them. Planning an invasion involves gathering troops and sorting them into stacks, and then dragging arrows across the map into the country of your choice. This allows for pincer movements, the creation of fronts (which can be painted onto the map at borders) and the splitting of forces to create multiple pressure points. It’s the kind of thing even an war-weary fellow like me can get his head around.

Creating the necessary armies is as simple as choosing factory output. The aim, or so it appears to me, is to provide control of the bigger picture. If you want to produce lots of cheap, easily replacable tanks, have factories churn out basic units and ignore the new research that rolls in. To create an advanced military, factories must be refitted so that they can handle modern production techniques and create new components – this will slow down production for a while, as it takes a while to get new lines up to speed, but the finished article will be more effective.

This should give each nation a ‘personality’ of sorts, whether it be suited to blitzkrieg, a brutal meatgrinder defensive approach or sophisticated support and air superiority techniques. Decisions made on the tech tree can reflect and bolster a particular approach, or allow players to pursue new options, reacting to their changing status as the war rumbles toward terrible conclusions.

As always, the aim is to allow for entire alternate histories as well as alternate conclusions, and you’ll be able to control any nation in the world. Starting a ruckus in South America seems like a strong possibility for divergent narratives, given that the US is unlikely to intervene unless their own border is troubled. First person to invade Europe as Brazil wins an invisible RPS trophy.


  1. BobbyDylan says:

    I couldn’t come to grips with HOI3, but I’ve become a Paradox fanboy since CK2 and EU4. This is on my pre-order list.

    • Cinek says:

      Oh… a new guy. Welcome onboard. HoI series is one of most engaging and full of suspense of all that Paradox makes, really delivers tons of fun and gives you this “twist in a history” feeling that no other Paradox game managed to capture (they mostly feel like some abstract fantasy – here you really have countries and soldiers battling in one of the most epic struggles in mankind history – feels by far more convincing). If you want to get into the HoI series I might recommend HoI 2 – many people consider it to be a pinnacle of the series, and arguably: the best game Paradox made. Struggling to defend your borders as Poland or withstanding red army as a Germans is something one remembers forever. ;)

      • blastaz says:

        It’s also really easy. Just stack 24 infantry divisions in each province and provide tech and hq cover.

        Ok easy as France, Poland still requires a bit of skill :)

    • barciad says:

      It would be better to play HOI2. It is a much better designed, more accessible game.

      • Shadow says:

        Darkest Hour is essentially a refined and improved Hearts of Iron II, so that’d be my recommendation. It can be dirt cheap when a Steam discount comes around.

  2. Cei says:

    Yes yes yes yes yes yes.

    The new engine used in EU4 is a lot easier to understand, and should help HoI go from being impossible to understand to merely complex. Really excited for this.

  3. Beernut says:

    I never tried one of Paradox’s grand strategy games but would like to. Which of those mentioned would probably be the one with the least emphasis on military solutions? I like strategy games, but I usually enjoy the economic or cultural part way more than having to build armies and waste my resources in battles.

    • revan says:

      Victoria 2 seems like the safest bet to me, if you are not that much into military. It’s not so much the game of conquest but a political simulator, with emphasis on industrialization. That doesn’t mean you can’t kill stuff and paint the map in your colour. :)

      Still, I’d recommend Crusader Kings 2 as the best of the lot. There is conquest, armies and all that stuff, but it’s rather easy to understand. It’s a character driven game, bringing dynastic struggles to the fore.

      • Lyrandon says:

        And you can buy CK II in a humble bundle at the moment for around 6$…
        link to

        • Beernut says:

          Thanks, you two. Will have a look at Victoria, from the descriptions it really sounds like my kind of game. Plus, I like the historical setting better than Crusader King 2’s.

          • Munin says:

            Just one thing that should be mentioned though is that Victoria 2 is part of the previous generation of their games (like EU3) rather than the new one (CK2, EU4) and hence isn’t quite as polished as they are. Paradox have moved leaps and bounds in quality control recently.

            I would also heavily recommend that you also grab the two expansions for it (“A House Divided” and “Heart of Darkness”). Being part of the older series of games it also doesn’t follow their new DLC model where they also release a slew of free content and updates with each DLC. The vanilla experience is stuck in time and missing a lot of the additional quality of life and balance changes of the two expansions.

            That said Victoria 2 is definitely one of my favourite Paradox games.

          • All is Well says:

            Just a side note – After you’ve tried it for a bit, do look up some mods. It’s been a while since I played Vicky 2 but I seem to remember that mods helped with making it even more enjoyable.

            Edit: Also, I agree with what the raven said. And Victoria 2 is currently on sale at Exansions too if you want them.

      • toxic avenger says:

        I would just like to add, that the biggest obstacle many people have getting into the CK series is understanding the government, succession, and inheritance structures of that time period. Nothing that 15 minutes or so on Wikipedia or watching a Let’s Play video won’t solve, however. The rewards from that game are certainly bountiful. While yes, there is a military component, much if not most of the fun comes from managing intra-family politics and murders and biases and what not.

        • P.Funk says:

          The other option is to do the unthinkable and to play a few hours and experience failure at a computer game as a learning experience. I know that this ancient form of self teaching has fallen out of vogue, but its always been my favourite teacher.

    • Cinek says:

      EU IV. Definitely.
      It’s the game that allows you to achieve more through diplomacy, trade, religion and economy than any other one made by Paradox.

      • Munin says:

        I rather disagree. They’ve expanded these options with more recent DLC but ultimately it is the most war focused game of theirs after HOI4. CK2 can be played more or less entirely as a game of dynastic politics and Victoria 2 can very much be played as a pacifist (though obviously in both games most people end up stomping armies around because they have more fun that way).

        Frankly though I like it that way and wouldn’t want them to start doing complex modelling of internal society and politics etc. There are other games in their stable more focused on that.

        • tormeh says:

          I’ve been sort of disappointed by EU4 in that sense. Give me economic policy, dammit! This war thing sucks! But you can always save, take control over the attacking nation and delete all their units and then switch back. Cheating of the highest order, but still.

  4. revan says:

    I’m a huge fan of CK2, EUIV and Victoria II, but HOI3 never really clicked with me. It sounds so very interesting in theory, but in practice I never get to have any fun playing it. Hopefully this new iteration will change that.

    • Lyrandon says:

      Same for me. I have played hundreds of hours of EU III, IV, CK II and Vic II EACH, but never understood what to do in HOI3 or how to have fun with it… really looking forward to this.

      • Chiron says:

        HOI3 was seemingly about taking a step back and automating your commanders role, I could never get into it as a result.

        I played the ever loving crap out of HOI2 and Arsenal of Democracy because you could control a lot more and keep track of things, while HOI3 was all about setting up realistic chain of command, order of battle and all that sort of thing and letting the AI handle theatres by itself with (seemingly) minimal intervention on your part.

    • Cinek says:

      Try different country. I for one had most fun with Japan. Backstabbing Russians, supporting Germans in their defence against communists, trying to keep the peace with USA…. was really great experience. On the other hand I never had much fun with colonial powers, like UK, way too many things to take care of and you can’t really afford doing what you want – you have to do what’s necessary for most of the time.
      HoI 3 is a very special game in that gameplay – and whatever you have fun playing it – depends very much on a country you pick and how far into management you go, perhaps even more than it does with CK2 or EUIV.

    • Sakkura says:

      HOI3 was a colossal failure, it never got to the gameplay level of its predecessor HOI2.

      Right now, the best playable WWII grand strategy game is probably Darkest Hour, which is basically a heavily modded HOI2.

      I hope HOI4 succeeds where HOI3 failed.

      • P.Funk says:

        I disagree strongly. If it failed so miserably then I must not have been informed of it during my hours of enjoyment.

    • MellowKrogoth says:

      I got into Hearts of Iron 2 + expansions by following this great play-along tutorial: link to
      You can’t stay completely in sync with what the guy is doing but a few delays shouldn’t matter, and you’ll learn all the game systems that way. You could go straight for Darkest Hour or Arsenal of Democracy while you’re at it, they’re 3rd party improved versions of HoI2, but the tutorial will still mostly work for them.

      Another idea (which is what I did to get a feeling for HoI3) is to start a game as Italy. You’re already at war with Ethiopia and you can experiment with that rather easy fight. Then start researching better tanks and make loads of infantry, and invade all your eastern neighbours in succession: Greece (use a smaller country as a land foothold), Turkey, and then when you feel ready start eating up Great Britain’s colonies. You can ignore/automatize politics, diplomacy and espionage for the moment.

      Lastly you have short standalone scenarios which are just fighting, such as Rommel’s African campaign, they’re also a good intro.

  5. Premium User Badge

    Bluerps says:

    I want to be excited about this, but I just can’t. The problem’s the setting. As a setting for a video game the Second World War was never interesting to me, for several reasons. And so I read the dev diaries about the mechanics, I see the pretty maps, and often I get excited for a moment, but then I remember that it’s about WW2 and all positive feelings are gone. :/

  6. toxic avenger says:

    “Starting a ruckus in South America seems like a strong possibility for divergent narratives, given that the US is unlikely to intervene unless their own border is troubled.”

    Are you sure about that? It’s been a while, but something something Monroe doctrine, the way it was interpreted by HOI3 anyways, was America declared war on you if you invaded another South American country, as a South American country. Can anyone confirm? Those might have been some of the braincells I killed last Friday.

  7. Eggman says:

    Brazil technically did invade Europe, as part of allied forces in Italy. link to

  8. Stellar Duck says:

    I don’t actually like the map. That’s a new one for me. I usually love maps!

    I lends itself well to unit counters as figurines but I actually prefer the NATO counters of HoI3 and the flat map of that game.