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Monty's Icons: Hearts Of Iron IV

Majestic maps

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.

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