Making The UK Communist In Hearts Of Iron IV

What if the UK was communist, I wondered as I munched on a gruesome burger from McDonalds while browsing for a new pair of Converses on my oversized smartphone. Would I finally have the confidence to pull off a bushy, Stalinesque moustache? Would those red trousers which I bought on a day I lost all sense, but never wore, suddenly look good on me?

To give direction to my aimless pondering I fired up Paradox’s grand strategy-wargame hybrid, Hearts of Iron IV [official site]. Not just a World War II simulator, it’s a What If scenario generator, answering the big questions like: how can Germany win the war? Can Argentina take over South America? And, of course, what if the UK was communist? Let’s find out.

Before we get started – I know! Ugh! More preamble – let’s talk about the setup. I’m picking the 1936 start because beginning the game in ‘39 means there’s almost no time to prepare before the war kicks off, which also means fewer ahistorical communist shenanigans. 1936 – 1939 is where Hearts of Iron IV is most like a grand strategy game, before it transforms into a wargame.

I’m keeping historical AI on, too. This is just a personal preference. The rest of the world will act largely like it should, though some surprises are bound to occur, especially when I attempt to do something silly like stage a communist coup of the USA. Spoilers!

Okay, okay, we’re done with the scene-setting. Let’s make history.

Inheriting the keys to the UK in 1936 is just a little bit intimidating. And by a little bit, I mean I want to run for the hills. Unlike, say, Germany, which has very clear paths and goals with a focus on Europe, the UK’s influence spreads across the globe. Not only do I have to worry about this pokey – but still somehow very important – set of islands, I’ve got holdings in Africa, Asia and North America to distract me as well. There’s a manpower problem, too. The UK still hasn’t recovered from the Great War, which decimated a whole generation. It’s all quite grim.

The political situation has me concerned, as well. Right now, the Conservative Party – the party of Mr. Neville “Peace in our time” Chamberlain – is in power, and the Brits are staunchly democratic. The next election isn’t until 1939, so a democratically elected communist government is a long way off, if I want to go down that route instead of tearing the nation apart with a bloody revolt.

On the plus side, I find myself blessed with options. I can research four different technologies all at once since we’re just so darn smart in Blighty, and the national focus tree is heaving with potential avenues for me to saunter down. Ah yes, national focus – what’s that all about then? Essentially, these focuses are bonuses and event triggers that allow players to fine-tune both their country and its ambitions.

Strictly speaking, there are multiple trees, though some are connected at their roots, while others are wholly separate. New options open and close depending on international and domestic events, so it’s quite dynamic, shifting as the world descends into glorious chaos. The UK starts with three choices: Limited Rearmament, Home Defence and Reinforce the Empire. I choose the first, as it means I get a couple of new building slots and civilian factories, which will in turn let me construct more helpful things like dockyards and military factories, and then more equipment for my forces. It’s all a big, lovely chain.

So I’m playing it safe at the moment (Booo!) by researching tech that will assist in construction and future research, building up my infrastructure on the side. There’s not much more that can be done at this point becau– Oh dear, the King is dead. Yes, George has popped his clogs and now Edward is on the throne. This matters because Georgie Boy gave the UK a boost in national unity – an intangible measurement of a nation’s strength, important when enemies are invading – while his son is now reducing unity by 0.10% a week. Well, bugger.

I was saying, before a dead monarch so rudely interrupted me, that my hands are somewhat tied. Dabbling in the murky world of politics, as well as bringing in military specialists and changing conscription laws, costs political power, a resource that can best be described as extremely bloody limited. Right now, it’s ticking away at one point every day, but I can increase this by hiring some minions eventually, though there are even more ways to reduce it. Ultimately, this means that my dream of spreading communism throughout the isles will have to wait just a wee while longer.

This gives me a lot of time to plan and to look over the map of the world, salivating at the prospect of conquering it all. I’m most interested in France right now. My chums across the Channel might be democratic, like the UK, but there’s a significant number of communist sympathisers. Usually, France eventually outlaws communism, because it’s just too bad ass to be allowed to continue, but if I can have my own revolution before that, I can start increasing their popularity or stage a coup.

I’m currently celebrating with potato-based booze because I have finally collected enough political power to hire a charming communist orator, an event most libation-worthy. He’s now merrily preaching the benefits of going red. When you start shifting a country’s ideology, you get two options: political coup or popular uprising. The former means that, once the nation’s communist influence goes over 50%, that party will win the next election and take over, although it can sometimes happen sooner. A bloodless coup sounds great and all, but I don’t have the patience to wait until 1939 – the year the election will be held. Uprising it is. Civil war is coming.

Speaking of civil war, the Spanish are the middle of their own. The Nationalists, Franco’s fascist faction, are winning. I’d love to help the Republicans, but while the UK is still a democracy I’m unable to send volunteer troops to lend a hand until Global Tension increases. It’s a peculiar system that restricts nations from making bold moves until the world is close to a global war, and mainly affects countries like the UK. Germany, Italy and the like are more free to act, and are largely the cause of rising tension.

Thankfully, things will soon become a lot more exciting for us Brits. Communism has proved to be exactly what the people needed. Even the armed forces are getting a taste, with soldiers flocking to communist groups – though this has reduced our manpower again. A small price to pay for the glorious revolution that we’re working toward. Dasvidaniya, democracy!

Oh boy. So we’ve got a new king, now that Eddie Baby has eloped with his beau, Mrs Simpson, but that’s barely even front page news because we’re also at war. With ourselves. Yes, it’s civil war time and it’s not looking good for the UK. Things are definitely looking up for the Union of Britain, however.

Most of England and all of Wales and Northern Ireland are in the Union, while south east England and the majority of Scotland is fighting for democracy. Abroad, communism has prevailed and the British Raj is supporting the revolution as well. Unfortunately, our pals in the Commonwealth have declared war, but with the real conflict taking place in the UK, they aren’t a threat.

When war kicks off, Hearts of Iron IV becomes a very different game. The grand strategy elements hop over to the backseat, putting the wargamey systems behind the steering wheel. I’m sort of prepared for this. Low manpower means that I’ve not been investing much into my army, though I do have a strong navy and air force, and I still have enough divisions of infantry and light tanks to deal with the remnants of the UK.

My divisions are already combined into one army under a general, allowing me to command lots of men with the touch of a button, rather than faffing around with micromanagement. I’m still able to control each division individually, though; particularly handy when the fighting becomes more intense and chaotic. I quickly surround the last pocket of resistance in England with my army, drawing a front line across the border. From there, I’m able to create my battle plan.

It’s all very tactile, Hearts of Iron’s military system; like you’re painting new nations and dominions with battle lines and warmachines and heavily-armed men. I’m confident and impatient so I don’t even create a fallback line, instead drawing an offensive one along the coast, preparing my forces to push our enemies into the sea. Above, the sky is blanketed by my air support. Fighters and bombers buzz around England, casting their shadow over the battlefield.

Air wings can be given specific orders, like supporting ground troops or bombing areas of strategic significance. I forgo the latter because I’d rather not destroy the very factories that I’ll be using after the war. Civil wars are messy enough without demolishing my own infrastructure.

The resistance in England doesn’t hold out for very long, but the stalwart Scots manage to completely take over the North. Unfortunately for them, they’re merely postponing the inevitable. My divisions rush up and drive the Scots beyond Glasgow and Edinburgh. And we push, and keep pushing, painting Scotland red, until the UK finally capitulates. It is no more.

The government surrenders and then promptly flees abroad with the king, leaving the Empire in the hands of the communists. Elections are cancelled. Why would we need them now, anyway? The rest of the Commonwealth acquiesces, ending the war entirely. Yay, but also… am I the bad guy now? No time to worry about that, as this was merely phase one of my horrific plan.

Phase two actually began before the civil war was even over. I had plenty of political power, and since I was in control of a communist nation – even if it was still fighting itself – I was finally able to start boosting the popularity of communism abroad, specifically in the US and France. I’m on a timer, however. It’s 1938, and with historical AI I’ve never seen WWII start later than 1939.

I’d better get ready. I’m also trying to figure out what our new national anthem should be. And our new national animal. I’m leaning toward Zarya. Give me suggestions!

The tale continues on Wednesday. Hearts of Iron IV is available now on Windows, Mac and Linux.


  1. greywulf says:

    Excellent Stuff.

    The obvious choice for the anthem would be The Red Flag, surely…. link to

    • napoleonic says:

      Billie Bragtg’s version is much better: link to

    • Gap Gen says:

      You’ve reminded me of Kaiserreich, which is one of my favourite things: link to

      It’s a Darkest Hour mod, and is more event-driven than this, but it’s still great to pick a country and run through the scenario chain. It helps that a huge amount of care and attention to detail has been put into it for what is an alt history mod for an old game.

      (And yeah, the Union of Britain’s anthem is The Red Flag in the lore for the mod)

  2. Sakkura says:

    And what if the Soviet Union was the bad guy in WWII, trying to conquer everyone? HOI4 multiplayer game says that means the Hungarian navy subjugates Spain. ;D

    The game gives you a lot of freedom, so the world can really go off the rails in multiplayer.

    • gpown says:

      “What if”??? They basically went and did that on their way to Berlin.

      • Sakkura says:

        Well, they didn’t start the war.

        • gpown says:

          They did. They signed several treaties with Germany before the war and Poland got invaded by both at the same time.

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      The USSR did invade Poland, the Baltic states, and Finland among others. Then they were stabbed in the back by Hitler (quelle surprise), and had to fall back into the Russian defence (pull back and let winter kill your enemies), then they pushed forward and invaded all of eastern Europe up to Germany.
      So yes, the USSR did their own share of invading, and which-ever side you root for, they were ‘the bad guys’ for at least part of the war.

      • Wolfy says:

        Indeed so, even though I’m inclined to call them ‘the bad guys’ during the entire war (and long thereafter), along with Nazi Germany. It was only a matter of time when one of those two nations was going to invade the other.
        A case of plague or cholera really.

      • Sakkura says:

        The USSR was part of the Allies. Normally the Axis are considered the bad guys in WWII.

        • froz says:

          Only by people who simply cannot see the world in any other colour than black and white.

        • klops says:

          I have huge trouble understanding how anyone could see the actions phuzz described as “not bad” (and yes, unfortunately there are lots of those people).

          You do know that Soviet Union and Nazi Germany planned to split Europe in two with Molotov-Ribbentropp pact, right? You do know that as planned, Nazi Germany invaded half of Poland and two weeks later Soviet Union took the other half, like phuzz said? Right?

          WW2 in Europe was not a battle of good vs evil where the good guys won. Very, very big part of it was a fight between two totalitarian, very aggressive nations. Other of those nations happened to win the war in the Allied side, that is true.

          • Lob says:

            Haven’t you heard? Everyone is a “bad guy” to someone, with devious thoughts and blind eyes.

            Sykes–Picot Agreement.

            Operation Unthinkable.

            War Plan Red.

            Operation Keelhaul.

            British and French ignoring the Polish-British Common Defense Pact and Franco-Polish Military Alliance in the context of the Soviet invasion.

            Churchill’s Secret War.

            Just to name a few.

          • klops says:

            I have. By saying that the Soviet Union was “a bad guy” in WW2 (and the fifty years after that) does not mean that the UK, USA or other powerful countries were not. Or aren’t. My reply was to a poster who in my mind considered USSR as the good guys fighting against the baddies in WW2.

            I don’t see anything devious or blind by not appreciating what USSR did, if I understood that part of your post correctly.

          • Lob says:

            Looks like we are on the same page. Calling the USSR “the bad guys” alongside Nazi Germany implies the other belligerents were “the good guys”. The reality is no one is “the good guy” in total war.

            The comment about the USSR starting WWII is also not entirely correct. Technically speaking WWII started in Europe with the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany on 1 September 1939, and the declaration of war on Nazi Germany by Britain and France two days later. This also dragged their various allies into the conflict. The USSR invaded Poland 16 days later, although this was obviously planned earlier. Churchill also stated that “That the Russian armies should stand on this line was clearly necessary for the safety of Russia against the Nazi menace”. It should also be stated that Britain and America agreed at the Yalta Conference that the USSR could annex almost all of their Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact portion of Poland and other states (Hence my “Blind eye” comment). The Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact also only concerned Northern and Eastern Europe, not the whole of Europe.

            Sorry for any misunderstanding, I wasn’t referring to anyone here being devious or turning a blind eye. That comment was about the powers that be in charge of the major players in the first half of the 20th century (and arguably beyond that).

          • Lob says:

            Sorry, you also mentioned the USSR invasion of Poland occurring two weeks after as well. My point is that WWII started before the USSR invasion (hence they did not “start” WWII), and that Poland’s “allies” were quite willing to leave her to the “red tide” during and after WWII.

  3. ZedClampet says:

    Wish I had bought this instead of Stellaris. Will get on payday.

    • froz says:

      Same here. Stellaris was such a disappointement, I can’t even go back to it after playing only several hours…

      • minijedimaster says:

        First two patches added and fixed a bunch. And I’m sure there is more to come. I’m still enjoying the hell outta Stellaris.

        • froz says:

          Well, I will have to try it again at some point, but to be honest, I don’t think 2 patches are able to fix what’s wrong with the game.

    • TheAngriestHobo says:

      I think you can attribute a lot of the difference in quality at launch to the fact that HoI4 is the fourth installment in a franchise, and so could be built off of complex systems that were already tested and established. In contrast, Stellaris was meant to be more of Paradox’s foray into the 4x genre, bringing some of their experience in building complex historical tapestries from their grand strategy titles. It was an ambitious venture and it’s not surprising that it initially failed to meet expectations.

      Of course, like many others I remain confident that it’s a solid foundation to build an amazing strategy game off of, given a little TLC (and DLC). It just needs some time to mature.

      • Saii says:

        I’m yet to play Stellaris for that very reason – give it some time and it’ll improve. The only Paradox title I’ve played when it came out was EUIV, which I cam back to recently and barely recognise.

        • napoleonic says:

          Playing a game called “Something IV” hardly counts as playing it when it first comes out, either.

  4. wombat191 says:

    my favourite game so far was as a democratic german republic joining the allies to fight the evil aggressive soviet union and empire of japan.

    fought them both to victory in august 1945 although the soviet union is now trying to justify war goals against me

  5. jmikelittle says:

    Not sure of the minmax, but to get the political points you need to get the communist minister quickly you (or future roleplayers) may have wanted to forgo a national focus to get the max political points.

    • Grizzly says:

      Isn’t there always a “Political power” focus you can get very early?

  6. Vesperan says:

    “Most of England and all of Wales and Northern Ireland are in the Union, while south east England and the majority of Scotland is fighting for democracy.”

    “The resistance in England doesn’t hold out for very long, but the stalwart Scots manage to completely take over the North. Unfortunately for them, they’re merely postponing the inevitable. My divisions rush up and drive the Scots beyond Glasgow and Edinburgh. And we push, and keep pushing, painting Scotland red, until the UK finally capitulates. It is no more. ”

    …and with that text I was suddenly uncertain if you were playing a 1938 simulator, or some sort of worse case scenario Brexit 2018 simulator.

    I always love the idea of Hearts of Iron, but it (with Stellaris) is on my “wait a year until they patch and expand it a bunch” list.

  7. TheAngriestHobo says:

    Has anyone ever seen a computer-controlled power change its ideology on its own? Even with ahistorical national foci enabled, I’ve never once seen a country change its ideology unless they started non-aligned.

    It’s kind of a let-down, because it really limits the number of strategic scenarios available. It’s also odd to restrict certain options to human players in a strategy game, especially since the AI is clearly capable of handling them.

    • Grizzly says:

      I have seen it, actually: France became fascistic and joined the Axis in a game where I was playing Poland :-(

      IIRC, the only option the AI is banned from using is the diplomatic option to change political influence in another country (weird stuff apparently happened). Otherwise, nations will rarely change their own ideology mainly because their AI personality is based upon the ideology they start with.

      • Grizzly says:

        Unless focus trees, as is the case with France who get the most flexible one.

      • TheAngriestHobo says:

        Thanks for the info. I figured that if any power could change ideology when left to its own devices, it’d be France, so that makes sense.

        I still have to wonder if the ideological ministers are only chosen by non-aligned AI, though. I’d like to see a bit more political conflict in the 1936-39 period than we get at the moment.

  8. iviv says:

    link to
    All hail Britannia!

  9. NephilimNexus says:

    Spend all Political Points on Boosting Popularity in all democratic countries. Do nothing except sit & wait for elections. Axis wins game without firing a shot.

  10. Jetsetlemming says:

    I’m confused as to who you’re actually playing as. Not Britain as a whole (until the end of this post I guess) since you had to try to take it over. A Stalinist Party in the UK? If you started as an Imperialist would you default to full control over the country and get the standard god-king control these kinds of games tend to give players? I haven’t played this series at all, so I’m surprised at this Crusader Kings-esque content.

    • Haplo says:

      From what I know of HoI4, you do just pick nations to play, not parts of it. So he started off playing as Britain, controlling all of it, its militaries etc. However, his goal was to make Britain communist, and because these games model political systems and ideologies to an extent, he had to pick options that encouraged the growth of communism. I can’t be certain, but during the civil war he probably had the choice of which faction to play.

    • Zealuu says:

      You start play as an entire country, but in the case of a civil war that splits the nation, you take control of the political faction you have been actively creating. Each country has at least a choice of three different “political advisors” who will pull the country in the direection of fascism, communism or democracy as long as they’re active. It’s there more or less just to let you go ahistorical. If you want to stay historical you use other advisors who confer other bonuses. Big players like the UK tend to have more choice when it comes to advisors, but if you want to switch government type your first PP investment should be the one who starts communist/fascist/democratic growth.

  11. SaunteringLion says:

    I love, love, love this game. I’m enjoying it heartily. After the 10-20 requisite hours necessary to learn the ins and outs, I feel like I have a tangible grasp on getting what I want done and a reasonable chance of accomplishing that through planning and foresight.

    The best part is the alternative scenarios and potential things that can occur, and in that respect the major powers are far and away the most fun (France, Italy, the UK, Germany, the USSR, Japan and the US, with Poland as free DLC).

    The last game I played as Poland, because I’ve began to find it almost too easy and wanted the supreme underdog. Eschewing history, I focused on Polish Militarism and Revanchism, gained the ability to declare war early, swept into Czechoslovakia before Germany could claim a thing, and took out Fascist Hungary before the Germans were willing to back them. At this point in ’39, I had a huge border with Germany and Britain and France were ensuring my independence. When Germany declared war, my entrenched and equipped troops bled them on the East, while France swept in on the West. I pushed them back after their reserves were depleted and had Berlin under Polish control by ’40. The Soviet Union fell relatively quickly after to me too. The game was about ’44/’45 with half the world under my Polish faction, with the Allies gearing up for a fight.

    • SaunteringLion says:

      The one thing that is a bit of a cheese is that right now, declaring war as soon as possible is usually the best possible option. As the Reich, I swept into Britain in ’36 and won by early ’37, before the Allies even formed. Then France shortly thereafter.

  12. Chaoslord AJ says:

    I’d wear a black leather jacket and white cotton T with the red pants.
    Better to stand out than to follow.

  13. RanDomino says:

    What a HoI-like really needs is a system that looks at the world in terms of class rather than nation, divided by nation when appropriate. “Class” defined very broadly- “group” is probably the better word. So rather than playing as “Britain” you play as the British Communists, who have X influence in Y and Z other groups (such as the urban proletariat or the rural landowner elite, but probably not at the same time), and are affiliated with these groups in other countries, and then you get to set organizational principles such as parliamentarianism, guerrilla warfare, terrorism, workplace agitation, etc (surprisingly applicable to all political and economic tendencies).