Wot I Think: Hearts Of Iron IV – Together For Victory

Playing any nation in Hearts of Iron IV [official site] beyond the big players, like Great Britain or Germany, is a lot like sitting at the kid’s table. The pace is slow, there are less complex decisions to make, and it never feels like anything that’s going on is nearly as important as what’s happening at the adult’s lavish banquet table. They’re dragging the world into a global war while you’re wondering if you’ve been completely forgotten.

Together for Victory promises to change that, at least for the Commonwealth countries: Canada, Australia, South Africa, India and New Zealand. The expansion gives these five nations a serious makeover, and they now sport unique national focus trees, historical and speculative events, and more freedom even while they remain stuck to Britain.

I found myself taking a trip down to South Africa, perhaps tempted by the knowledge that, right now, it’s summer down there. It’s also a country I haven’t played before, largely because there never seemed like much point.

South Africa, in the base game, doesn’t exactly do much to capture one’s attention. There’s little beyond its geographical location to set it apart from any other nation, with no national spirit and only the generic national focus tree. The generic tree isn’t terrible, it’s just very broad and lacks the historical flavour of its nation-specific counterparts. Since it’s the same tree for all but the war’s key players, it fails to give countries distinct strengths or unique paths. Ultimately, managing South Africa is pretty boring, something running a nation during World War 2 should absolutely not be. That South Africa no longer exists in Together for Victory.

Suddenly there are all these distinct options, specifically tailored to the country, that let you explore a vast range of routes, including remaining loyal to Britain and fending off the Axis in Africa, or gaining independence and carving out your own African faction. And it’s now significantly easier to change South Africa’s direction and transform its staunchly democratic population into communist or fascist supporters. New national focus options – crammed into an absolutely huge tree – speed things along dramatically, increasing the rate at which the country evolves.

I decided to free myself from the shackles of Britain. South Africa has an early focus, Abandon Westminster, which increases the rate of autonomy, preparing the country for independence. It also unlocks paths into supporting Germany or the Soviet Union, saving you from spending all of your political power befriending them. Going down these roads does more than help South Africa make new friends, however, as options to outlaw strikes and other actions that reflect the fascist or communist ideologies open up.

Autonomy is described by Paradox as a tug of war. There are four levels, starting with puppet, where the country has very little freedom, all the way up to being an independent nation. To reach a new tier, you’ve got to generate enough autonomy, but Britain can also do things to lower that number. It can also take actions that increase it. Britain might, for instance, see the benefits of Commonwealth nations having stronger armies and infrastructure, even though this could encourage the country to make a bid for freedom. Unfortunately, while playing as South Africa, which is a dominion and thus only one tier away from independence, that tug of war simply never happened. Britain pretty much just ignored me. Rude blighters.

India under the British Raj starts in a more interesting but precarious position. It’s a colony, so it’s at the beck and call of Britain and can’t make any big moves, like declaring war or making guarantees. One of its starting national spirits, Princely States, also means that autonomy is constantly decreasing. Reaching the next tier and becoming a dominion, which is a little closer to a partnership, requires you to work your way down the national focus tree, unlocking the political-themed options. Eventually, India can even seek assistance from the Germans or Soviets, which increases autonomy as well as generating more support for fascism or communism. It’s a bit like making a deal with the devil; you’re not necessarily buying into these ideologies, but rather you’re willing to do anything to free India from tyranny. It’s a lot more involved than splitting from Britain is as another country, but even more imperative if you’re to have any influence on the rest of the world.

With the arrival of 1938, South Africa had become independent. Lamentably, the climax of this event was a little underwhelming. There was no fanfare, no posturing from Britain, it just happened and immediately became the new normal. From that point, I essentially rebuilt South Africa in Germany’s image, eventually cozying up to the Reich and finally joining the Axis. Research agreements and military aid gave the country a boost, making me bold enough to declare war on Portugal, with an eye toward pinching some of those vulnerable nearby regions.

You can throw your weight around a bit more in Together for Victory. With more ways for the Commonwealth nations to develop their armies and infrastructure, they can get to fighting strength a lot sooner and are more effective when they start pushing their borders. They aren’t bystanders anymore, and can play significant roles in the war, or they create their own separate goals, like slicing off a chunk of the world while nobody is watching or creating a brand new faction.

Spreading fascism throughout Africa left a bad taste in my mouth, so I changed speeds and took control of Canada. This time, I’d spread democracy and cheer and poutine all across the globe. While independence is seductive, there are actually plenty of reasons to remain loyal to Britain, and the decision to remain a dominion comes with unique benefits. Certain focuses can only be selected if the country is part of the Commonwealth, including ones where Britain gives its dominion more land to manage on its behalf. Perhaps the most important benefit, however, is technology sharing.

Every country in the Commonwealth gets a boost to research thanks to its closeness to Britain and the other nations. Every time a country researches something, this reduces the length of time it takes for the others to unlock it. It’s massively helpful when you’re getting started, and it makes a pretty compelling argument for staying buds with Britain. However! Tech sharing isn’t just a Commonwealth feature – every nation can take advantage of it by joining a faction with tech sharing, or by selecting the tech sharing continuous focus.

What are continuous focuses? Only one of the best additions to Hearts of Iron IV. Despite the often huge scale of the game’s national focus trees, you’ll inevitably run out of things to unlock. Maybe you don’t meet some prerequisites, or perhaps you’ve simply unlocked everything that you need. When that happens, it can start to feel like you’re no longer improving your country, and what was once an important aspect of the game gets pushed off into the margins. Continuous focuses rather effectively nip this problem in the bud. These focuses confer a persistent bonus while they’re selected, improving military production, infrastructure, army training, construction, and if you fancy it you can even start subjugating people for kicks.

A lot of the new features and improvements are related to the grand strategy layer, which is prominent between 1936-39, but the wargame layer hasn’t been ignored. There are some new toys to play with, and there’s fun to be had in creating an alternate history where little New Zealand successfully starts making its own tanks. There’s the adorable Bob Semple tank, for instance, which never made it into mass production because of how terrible it was. In Together for Victory, you can give them the chance they never had.

When you give your troops their marching orders, you’ll notice a new option: spearhead. Its role is somewhere between the regular offensive lines, which are flexible and allow troops to react to changes rather than just marching forward regardless, and manual control. When you use this option, troops will aggressively attempt to take every province in the order they were painted in, trying to smash through regardless of what’s happening. It can be reckless, but can be very handy when it comes to poking holes in the enemy line or cutting them off. Ultimately it reduces some of the micromanagement demands that come with controlling individual or small groups of units without sacrificing precision.

Scraps in Hearts of Iron IV can get messy. Terrain, weather, attrition, supply, all the different divisions and equipment that might be involved in any given confrontation – there’s a lot to keep track off and no single place where you can see absolutely everything you need to know clearly. Well, that was until the introduction of the combat log. It’s brilliant, and I never knew how much I needed until I started poring over it.

Bring up the log and you can see absolutely everything you need to know about every single engagement you’ve been involved in, or at least all of them in the last year. How much equipment have you lost, and how did you lose it? What was the manpower situation in that fight you just got annihilated in. What type of terrain are you fighting in the most? This wealth of accessible knowledge is invaluable. The abundance of statistics can be intimidating, especially if you’re looking at an entire year of fighting, but from it you can see exactly where your strengths and weaknesses are, and thus formulate new plans. Conveniently, you can also click on them and immediately be taken to the action.

I’m not convinced that playing a nation like South Africa or Canada will ever be quite as engaging as playing Britain or Germany, at least not when it comes to the war itself. They still have to play catch up, and they’re always going to depend on the superpowers. Together for Victory doesn’t simply buff the Commonwealth nations to make them more viable however – it gives them more options and more nation-defining decisions, especially in regards to creating an alternate history. It’s an entirely different focus, and a welcome one. There’s more room now to carve your own path, as Hearts of Iron IV takes another step toward being more than just a World War 2 game, instead becoming a 20th Century sandbox.

27 Comments

  1. Pravin Lal's Nuclear Arsenal says:

    You know, this might actually be the expansion that finally leads me to try HOI4. I’m a bit of a prodigal son when it comes to Paradox games: I played nothing they made since the early days of EU2 and, since the last two weeks, the hours in CK2 are rapidly ticking up.
    Plus, I’ve always been a fan of wargames that give some limelight to the underdogs and the minor fronts. We’ll see.

    Anyway, I’m looking forward to the 3 Moves Ahead episode on the subject, Fraser. Will you and Tom “I’m going to say something hilariously racist about Scotsmen and it’s going to be awesome” Chick be there?

  2. Fraser Brown says:

    It seems likely!

  3. SuicideKing says:

    As a non-HoI player, and as a potential HoI4 player, I haz question:

    Assume I’m playing as the British Raj, and a gain independence
    1) Can I switch ideology from non-aligned to socialist democracy (keeping the same party)?
    2) Will the leader change or can i force the leaders to change?

    I have some reservations about how the Indian National Congress appears to be an authoritative ruling party of the Raj, and with a British leader, but it’s something that has been helpfully explained to me on the paradox forums.

    EDIT: You mention taking the help of fascists or communists to gain independence, is there no chance of doing it internally through a freedom struggle?!

    • Fraser Brown says:

      1) I’m not sure since I never went that route – but usually switching ideologies means switching parties.

      2) Pretty much same as above

      3) You can totally do it without seeking help from the Germans or Soviets, but it might be a bit trickier. There are lots of ways to gain autonomy points, but fewer ways to reverse automatic autonomy decline unless you ask the fascists and communists for a hand.

    • Zealuu says:

      At an early stage of the independence path of the focus tree, you “pick” who wins the first Provincial Elections: The radical Swaraj movement or the more measured Indian National Congress. Swaraj tends to lead you into cahoots with either communists or fascists, while INC is the “democratic independence” path.

      The tradeoff for going independent as a democracy is that you are strongly encouraged by the game mechanics to go for the Two-Nation Theory focus, which means that as soon as you actually gain independence, Pakistan is split off as a separate nation, taking with it some of your western provinces, and East Pakistan (Bangladesh). If you forgo the Two-Nation Theory focus you’re very likely to suffer a daily loss of autonomy that you will have to compensate for by lend-leasing equipment to the UK, or by participating directly in the war.

      As for the implementation of these custom focus trees in general, they’re an obvious buff for some nations, but for India it’s a significant nerf, especially the Agrarian Society national spirit that reduces your effective manpower by 66%-ish. The Generic Focus tree is surprisingly overpowered when applied to nations with a lot of provinces and manpower (like, say, China or pre-TFV India). The ability to pump out hundreds of divisions each year quickly make up for their deficiencies in research and industrial capacity, and then they become a sort of pocket Soviet Union for whichever faction they’re part of.

      • SuicideKing says:

        Thanks, this was very helpful, and the kind of answer I was looking for.

        Surprised that Agrarian Society reduces manpower by that much, but then again i’m not familiar with HoI logic…

        • Zealuu says:

          Well, there are two separate instances of manpower in HoI 4: The first one is your “Core manpower”, which in most instances is simply the population of the country at the time. The number is usually a given but various nations receive penalties designed to reflect certain historical situations. With India, it’s to let the country keep a historically correct population count, while also reflecting the reality of Indian military capability at the time. As someone on the Paradox forums pointed out, most of the country simply couldn’t have been drafted or conscripted into service without seriously disrupting the food supply and causing widespread famine. So the way it works in the game is that your population will read so-and-so millions, but out of those only 1/3 are actually counted towards your -effective- Core population %

          And that’s other one: Your currently available, recruitable manpower. This frequently starts at 1.5% (for India, of that 1/3) and must be further increased through harsher conscription laws and (commonly) through National Focuses. Increases are measured in % and outside of laws, which overwrite one another, are also additive. India can’t change conscription laws until they’re independent, so a large army isn’t really feasible until then.

          The fascist path of the generic Focus Tree infamously lets you recruit 10-15% of your Core population without getting to the point where conscription disrupts industry. With pre-TFV India and no Agrarian modifier, that’s a lot of divisions. So while it may sound extreme with a -66% malus, I personally think it’s a very sensible setup.

          Mechanically I find it far less harsh than the stuff imposed on poor Canada. As I discovered in my game today, you effectively have to choose to either power up your economy, OR solve your manpower issues. You can’t do both, thanks to mutually exclusive Focuses. I went the industry route and struggle to maintain a very cursory navy, 5 garrison divisions and a small overseas army of 10 divisions actually fighting in the war (but they held Norway!).

          Contrast with my India game where by 1940 I had 24-Division armies in three theatres, plus a coastline garrison extending far into China. Even with the malus, manpower is not really an issue post-independence.

  4. vahnn says:

    “poring over”

    I just came to say how good it is to finally see someone speak that properly instead of “pouring over.” A grammar nazi I’m not, but that one just really gets me!

    Also I’m now going to finally buy HoI IV.

    • vahnn says:

      *spell

      Oh, the Hearts of Irony.

    • Fraser Brown says:

      Adam gets the credit for that one because I actually wrote “pouring” by mistake. Thank goodness for editors!

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      Well I have learnt a new thing. I assumed it was pouring, because someone reading intently looks like they have been poured like a liquid over the surface of a book.
      What’s the reason it’s poring? Some link to pores?

  5. EvilMonkeyPL says:

    I have a feeling that we will get a Sunset Invasion style DLC somehow connected to Stellaris at some point. Would be neat to try and defend the earth from some space bugs using WWII era equipment.

  6. Canadave says:

    Thank you for making me Google the Bob Semple tank. What a hilarious little kitbash of a tractor and someone’s old shed.

    • xyzzy frobozz says:

      I did the same and I’m pleased that I did.

      The Bob Semple tank… only the Kiwis could have come up with that.

      I especially like the following bit from the Wikipedia article:

      “The idea was discarded after the tanks attracted public ridicule”.

  7. Gomer_Pyle says:

    This time, I’d spread democracy and cheer and poutine all across the globe.
    That gave me a little chuckle.

  8. Malarious says:

    I gotta say, the new focus trees are massive (and fun!) but seem a bit weaker in general than the standard tree. I played a fair amount of communist/fascist Canada at launch and it was usually pretty easy to steamroll the USA and take all of North America because the default focus trees were just so versatile.

    I played a game as democratic, loyal-to-Britain Canada with Together For Victory, and really struggled to industrialize early (especially since so much of your tree requires you to be at war!). The bonus resources are really nice though, and it’s certainly more flavorful than before.

  9. ahmedabdo says:

    How is the AI? Is it still dump?

    • timmins says:

      It supposedly is better at resisting encriclements, And I think I notice it. I am playing the British Raj fighting in Mainland china, and I have managed to cut off divisions, but it seems like as soon as you do, the AI IMMEDIATELY launches a significant attack to retake the connection, and they seem to pull forces back voluntarily when they start to get too thin. I am still playing with 20 divions of colonial cavalry (basically, a width 10 unit of nothing but mounted infantry with no support equipment), so I haven’t had a chance to really feel out the AI changes by putting it under major stress…. but I think it’s improved.

      But overall, not really leagues ahead of where it was. China, even though they were providing me military access, and we both had +100 opinion of one another, and with basically my entire army ALREADY IN THEIR COUNTRY, was fortifying our border…. while Japanese forces, after taking his capital, were approaching Hong Kong. Similarly, once I showed up and started kicking Japan’s ass, I have no idea where their giant army was. I controlled what had to be half the front line between china and Japan, and not only were there nowhere near even a sixth of his forces on that line, some of the tiles were intermittently completely undefended. I managed to reach Beijing without ever winning an offensive combat against an enemy not completely surrounded and out of supply. Just literally wait for a tile to be left empty and walk onto it, then defend the counterattack. From Hong Kong to Beijing. Including essential japanese held ports. I could literally wait until the port supplying the army in the area was completely empty, and walk in. about 8 times, because that’s how many ports there are between beijing and hong kong.

      Meanwhile, Austrialia’s TINY force of Armored cruisers and destroyers were for some reason trying to conduct a major offensive in the Yellow sea, with exactly the results you would expect when 2 light cruisers and a destroyer go up against the entire might of the second largest navy in the world operating in it’s own home waters. Turns out when the enemy has more battleships than you have cruisers, that’s not good.

      The AI is better at the micro scale, but it’s large scale decision making seem….. misguided. Their forces have the wrong level of ambition and defend against the wrong types of threat.

  10. Jaybird says:

    I hope we may see new focuses with other nations that have been somewhat lacking. Central & South American nations could use some unique focuses. Maybe one that could bring those nations more to the fray than before, either letting the US create a sort of Pan-American faction separate from the Allies/Axis, or let the other nations break off from US influence & become their own powers. Essentially another “Together for Victory”, but set within the Americas.

  11. PGriff says:

    In one of my first HoI4 playthroughs, I turned Australia into the Empire of the Platypus (before the first patch was released, turning Australia fascist would change its name to Empire of the Platypus), left the Allies, and joined the Axis. By the time I nuked the US into submission, Australia was listed as a major power, and I had enough victory points to annex large chunks of India, Africa, and North America. If I was able to do that with the generic national focus tree, I can’t even imagine what I could pull off with a unique national focus tree.

  12. Fishslap says:

    I was wondering if they had developed the post-war game at all. I had a lot of fun with this game, but that lasted until the war was over, when absolutely nothing happened, which was disappointing. In my last game I allied to the USA and Japan as Germany and conquered the world. Once the USSR fell the entire world was basically Axis, and everyone just sat around making stuff. And because everyone was allied to me, their troops were visible while the AI hoarded stuff without doing anything, until the game slowed down to a crawl because of all the clutter.
    In 1962, 18 years after the war ended, my post war production queue was done and I gave up. Literally nothing had happened in those 18 years. I guess not winning the war so it might have dragged on forever would have been the way to go.