Hearts of Iron

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The grandest of Grand Vidya Gaem of Grand Strategy in Grand World War 2, made by the equally grand Paradox Interactive. Its contribution to /tg/ can be counted as: Expanding the Nazi Equipment page, inspiring Games Workshop and every little Tabletop gaming company about Dieselpunk, Mecha and Cold War ideas, and especially long nights of greasy, soda-drenched Axis and Allies sessions.

Series in a coconut shell(Couldn't fit otherwise)[edit]

Once upon a time, Paradox released Europa Universalis 1 and 2. Then they realized that the same grand strategy board can be used for a steamy session of World War 2 armchair generaldom, and Hearts of Iron 1 was born. As usual of Paradox Interactive, the sequel which was made months after the first was received with great approval.

  • Hearts of Iron 1 and 2: The map is more or less EU's own, same game engine, not that graphics mattered to the average Paradoxian. Played from 1936 to 1949, the faction with the highest victory points (meaning cities held with corresponding values by the faction members) wins when the timer hits new year of '50. Resources, energy, metal, oil, "rare resources"(Tungsten, rubber, molybdenum, gold rolled into an abstract, single value) are extracted daily and stockpiled, tradeable and exchangable. Mirroring real life, the Axis members need to find some rares and oil *fast*. The games were railroaded more or less, though some policy changes let the players change a few state properties if they kept grinding, up to the point of deposing Hitler or Stalin. Still, the hard-coded scripts kept happening, which became hilarious like a defeated democratic Japan before 1942 STILL re-enacting Pearl Harbor by default and declaring on the USA even when said US conquered her before 1942. Even though modding it was a bitch, the both games have dedicated mods and players even today. The first three games had the following concepts:

Each country has an Industrial Capacity, called IC, which consumes metal, energy and rare minerals to operate. By default, resources are unevenly distributed through the world, making the World War an unavoidable issue. Each country has an unchangable base value plus factories built in its territories. This IC defines virtually everything your country can do, from building up your territories to every military unit, from research capacity to generating consumer goods to calm down your population and earn money for diplomatic actions.

Military units come in a few dozen airplanes called wings, 10000 soldier divisions, tank divisions, and single ships. To add tactical flexibility, divisions and wings can be attached with special brigades much like Wargear or buffs in tabletop gaming, such as artillery/trucks/heavy tank brigades/engineers and military police for land units. Heavy armor(bunch of Tiger tanks) made a division move slower but take more hits and dish out some more damage. Artillery made the division move even slower but hit hard, rocket artillery is more expensive but hits like a truck when fighting(and eats supplies like popcorn), and engineers made the divisions pass rivers and amphibious landings like a breeze. Airplanes can be fitted with smaller escort planes to avoid Anal Circumference when that strategic bomber misses the separately flying fighter wing by one hour and runs smack dab into the maliciously AI-guided Rape coming out of the nearby enemy airbase the moment poor Strato-chan's pantsu is exposed.

Diplomacy is simple, once you declare war, white peace or conquest was pretty much a non-issue, particularly since the offering party needed to choose every single taken town by name. Events were railroaded as fuck, technically you could cancel them but it would severely penalize your country like not demanding Danzig would obliterate Germany's bonuses and take years to fix.

Hearts of Iron 2 had several expansion packs as well: Doomsday expanded the game into 1960's of the Cold War, miniaturized nukes fit into rockets and more "secret weapon" techs like early helicopters, satellites for easy Victory Points and weather forecasts and a new campaign starting possibility: World War 3. Armageddon brought naval modules similar to brigades, made for ships from calculating computers to torpedo launchers and AA batteries.

  • Arsenal of Democracy: HoI 2 sans mods still lacked realism, so a good part of Paradox Interactive and massive fan feedback made this little gem. Basically it's a HoI 2(with all expansions) remake with exact same graphics but massive overhaul sold as a separate game with every small problem and disliked feature in HoI2 solved. It has an even more detailed mod as well, called C.O.R.E which is still unanimously seen as "The most detailed WW2 game mod today". AI wasn't only "polished", but also boosted with so many scripts(When player Germany invests in massive ship tonnage, the Allied AI automatically changes its tendencies and behavior) that it proved to be a serious adversary, particularly late game when all autocracies drifted towards the Axis, and the rest to Allies and Comintern in a massive showdown.

The difference is now that population, army and research teams have money budgets like a modern state and the IC had an auto-slider to allocate money production per day and spare us the headache as well as avoiding generating useless stacks of cash when an angry population was placated with consumer goods; now the player can pay automatically into "civic spending", avoiding losing IC to unrest if he has stockpiled cash from world trades. Excess manpower also generated taxes which would reduce the need to allocate IC to consumer economy if you kept your people alive and out of war.

  • Darkest Hour: This one showed tendencies of brilliancy, yet also was overengineered to the point that it neared Victoria in spreadsheet value. ANOTHER remake of Hearts of Iron 2, its "National choice" tab had immense detail from inflation to public works and the possibility to change history, since now events were triggered by players such as never choosing to give Poland the Danzig Ultimatum.(Which would carry over to HoI 4 as "Focus Tree")
  • HoI 3: The oddball prototype of the 3D engine, it fizzled out even though a few die-hard fans like it. Radio range and "Neutrality" features were adapted into "Reinforcement speed" and "World Tension" in the last game.
  • HoI 4: For the Old Guard of Spreadsheet-Masochism, the game came as a shock to some. No longer bound by real life resource crises with the possibility of changing the worst excesses of WW2 through common sense and friendship in multiplayer, the game was noticeably more Noblebright and extremely streamlined with a heavily modular unit design, having taken some Acceptable Breaks From Reality. Now civilian industry is completely upkeep-free, doesn't consume resources and virtually generates economic activity and builds infrastructure out of thin air (and can build more of itself too). Considering all civilian industry is upkeep free, any carebear roleplayer can make a world where absolutely no one attacks the other (save for Spanish Civil War) and simply pump up civilian infrastructure and industry and make heaven on earth.

The game created quite a bit of argument about "whitewashing" WW2, all the atrocities of Japan and Germany simply don't exist (When Nanjing is taken, the Japanese massacre no one, and Holocaust doesn't happen-however the Great Purge(or USSR civil war between Trotsky and Stalin) does happen). Fluff and civilian industry aside, all arms production by military factories consume resources like steel, tungsten and chrome, and traded for which is streamlined into 8 resources per civilian IC, adding to the exporter's industrial output rather than calculating the trade in fiat money. Countries automatically use up some of their civilian industry value to placate its domestic economy which can be reduced by policies, war bonds and stability. A mana like abstract resource named Political Power defines all state decisions from diplomacy to triggering events, which is influenced by the country's stability and having strong politicians.

Governments are extremely simplified to the point of simply being teams: Communist, Fascist, Democratic and Centrist(generic) rather than the modular government styles of HoI2 which would show dozens of possible gameplay styles from three issues(Nazism being state economy/no elections/right wing, Stalinism state controlled/no elections/left wing, Italian Fascism Free Market/Right Wing/Totalitarian, Social Conservative Free Market/Right Wing/Elections et cetera)

Resources are now similar to Civilization 5 and 6: They are not stockpiled, but constantly produced in controlled areas and can be bought and sold as 8 output units per civilian industry cost(less if the exporter is a puppet country). What the player can stockpile is, equipment to build said units rather than raw material itself.

Railroaded Events are almost non-existent save for simple stuff like Atatürk dying around November 1938, or the Spanish Civil War. The rest of the events are defined by "National Focus", which is a streamlined version of "National Choice" of Darkest Hour and work as a plotline and decisions mechanism. Every 70 days, the played country can complete an action of sorts which triggers an event. For generic countries, this can be a free civilian/military factory or quick infrastructure build, free tech boosts for specific areas, political leanings for specific sides or bonuses. For special/significant nations, unique "Focus trees" can start series of events and start plotlines, and ultimately change the flow of history. For example, the United States can either continue with the New Deal(taking a centrist and/or leftist position), or return to Gold Standard(centrist and/or right-wing, possibly even fascist or Neo-Confederate). Each choice limits the US to certain decisions, and further advances in Focii require certain conditions to advance, or bypass decisions entirely.

Overall, countries are less historically accurate, but more "Multiplayer balanced" with limitations such as a fascist/communist USA forced into a civil war to prevent a quick balance shift, Britain losing every territory outside home islands if it turns fascist/royalist(slowly releasing them if it turns communist), Canada choosing between high economical output and recruits, or India, a potential world changer, heavily limited by agrarian draft issues and radicalized Muslims to prevent swamping everyone with countless soldiers(the latter fixable by a two-state solution).

This is where HoI 4 shines; another example, this time for Germany one can immediately decide to depose Hitler in a coup or go as usual OTL. After Hitler is whacked, the next focii opens up a whole new set of possibilities like establishing elections or bringing the Kaiser. If so, the WW1 can be re-enacted under the Kaiser (Ach scheisse, jetzt geht's wieder los), or establish a new, benevolent, centrist faction called "Central European Alliance" and resist the incoming Soviets as a second, more conservative Allied Nations. Or play Hitler and don't declare war at all, simply turning susceptible countries into fascist friends via coups. Or come back as Trotsky, kill Stalin and make a global communist guerilla war to ignite the revolution wherever you want.

Divisions are completely modular to the point that individual brigades are added piecemeal to them, no longer bound to the 10000 soldiers or even being pure infantry or mobile, thus reflecting realism(U.S Infantry divisions often had Sherman tanks as support). The centerpiece of the divisions are several brigades, usually six or more, with supporting battalions much like HoI2's support brigades up to five. The division's size determines its width, determining the amount of soldiers seeing combat per attack (each province has a 40-width combat limit per attack direction), support battalions taking up none. (which encourages to use them as diversely as possible) The important part however, is now Experience points is a resource. Its gained by fighting, or drilling the corresponding unit in open terrain per Wargames(eats up fuel and replacement parts), or sending military attaches to countries at war to siphon some of the fighting experience as your observers take notes. Last one gives the host country a bonus as well, and makes the enemy they are fighting very angry at you. Experience is consumed every time you add/remove/change a brigade or battalion to a division design. Just be sure you stocked up a lot of AA-gun carriages when you added a supporting AA-battalion to the infantry division design that constitutes your entire army. As for the divisions, they can now be spread with a brush of hand across frontlines and given automatic advance orders, so the player doesn't have to click for hours. Needless to say, this made land combat easier, and faster to organize to watch the screams of gunfire and bombings with a glass of wine and Sabaton blaring in the background. (Paradox, cheeky DLC fuckers that they are, put Sabaton songs as a purchasable. Really? Have you ever heard of Alt+TAB?)

The player no longer builds wholesale divisions with the industry, but produces individual weapons, tanks, artillery and materiel to slap them together with manpower into custom divisions. This sounds ominous at first, but once the production lines are well understood, it becomes just a question of changing a bit of production numbers once a month or so(and AI can design its armies quite decently). This new feature is much more flexible than the old methods, allowing the player to produce mountains of armaments in peacetime, and only starting training at the time of his choosing and making unique solutions for unique situations around the world. It also allows bigger players(We are looking at you, USA) to produce mountains of guns, tanks, jeeps and ship them to friends who could simply maintain said guns with now abstract "supplies", a.k.a Lend Lease. Plus you can use "acquired" materiel from conquests, more so if your attacking armies have "maintenance battalions" repairing captured equipment, since defeated enemy units leave some equipment behind which can be used to outfit your divisions, ESPECIALLY when the divisions are encircled. Doubly awesome if you can convince the bigger countries to give you production licenses, so that you can avoid researching that obscure unit down the research tree or have no time to research a tank when Churchill, Stalin or Hitler can give you T-34/Panzer/Sherman designs for the cheap price of a few civilian factories working for them as long as you keep the license! Plus you can research the licensed unit's national equivalent faster and discard the license when done.

From there, sky's the limit. And if you've been reading closely, the focii is the best moddable part of the game and opens the possibility of countless mods, which we will now list.

P.S: due to loss of competent AI designers Paradox keeps piling ridiculous cheat scripts(freespawn divisions, teleporting units) on AI's behalf to keep up with the players, so Multiplayer or Mods will give a better gaming experience.

Notable Mods[edit]

At least it is not a Habsburg Family Tree

As with any other Paradox game, modding is a big part of it, to the point that some say that people don't buy HoI4 to play HoI4, they buy HoI4 to play Kaiserreich.

  • BlackIce - preferably the HoI3 version, as the one for HoI4 is still in early stages of development. Unlike other mods listed below, this one is strictly historical. It's main appeal is in taking already (in)famously autistic HoI3's gameplay and asking the question "what if we try to salvage it, while keeping it historical". The results is a mod that reinvents the wheel, utilising to full potential all the game mechanics in meaningful way rather than just having them and throwing at player a historical challenge of fighting the war as any of the country would, with thousands of thousands events going on for everyone, based both at starting reality and actions performed by player.
  • 1964 Mod - Arsenal of Democracy mod, made after the end date a multiplayer session, every major power played by very skilled human players over several weeks(The AAR that led to it is named "Democracy's Last Legs", found in paradox forums.) Around 1964, Germany won...kind of. Nazis died out when its human player changed the government to a conservative one simulating erasing the SS and turning it to a technocracy. USSR was defeated, Germany released a puppet monarchist Russia and USSR retreated to the east as Lavrenti Beria used the German peace treaty to conquer China and Asia, turning it to a Pan-Asian Communist Empire. Japan, losing its Asian holdings shat its pants and buddied up Uncle Sam who itself went through a civil war after New York got nuked by Germans, and vice versa. Every capital city is nuked so hard in the conflagration that 1964 is as expansion prone as 1936 due to the devastation and losses, as well as Germany's many released countries to avoid rebellion and manpower waste. Oi Blyad, eto snova my!
  • Kaiserreich - When people think about Hearts of Iron mods, it is most likely that they think about Kaiserreich. Initially starting out as All The Russias, a mod about the Russian Civil War with dozen of sides, it soon evolved into a "What if Germany won WW1?" scenario where USA did not join the Great War, which along with other reasons will lead to the 2nd American Civil War, and where the Bolshevik revolution failed in Russia, but an ideologically similar but different Syndicalist revolutions succeeded in France and Great Britain, with the defeated governments fleeing to North Africa and Canada respectively. And then in 1936, the delayed Great Depression hits, and the already fragile and delicate power balance goes out of the window.
    • Fuhrerreich - There is an event in Kaiserreich which describes a book about "What if Germany lost the Weltkrieg?", which mirrors the OTL but with in-universe's pro-monarchistic bent and with syndicalism coloring the view on communism, and this mod is basically that, meta of a meta.
    • Kalterkrieg - Post 2nd Weltkrieg mod where most of major Syndicalist powers were defeated and the world settled into a Cold War between the Reichspakt and the Entente, with the 2nd American Civil War STILL ongoing.
  • FODD - FallOut DoomsDay mod. As the name implies, this is an old one and lion share of development happend before Bethesda got their hands on Fallout franchise or its lore. It's a total overhaul mod, changing the game completely to support Fallout setting, picking off soon after Fallout 2 ended, with some elements from Tactics thrown in for good measure. It has atypical gameplay, as at the game start, most countries control at best three provinces (usually just one), map is reduced to North America (with its own, far more detailed map) and almost everything starts as controlled by "Wasteland", having to be settled first. Countless flavour events, even for minor nations, along with solid, HoI2 gameplay and making sure things work out within given premise. Eventually migrated to Darkest Hour and added some of New Vegas elements under overwhelming player's demand, but still refused to even touch Bethesda-made content before being wrapped up.
  • Millennium Dawn - A mod set in modern day with 2000 and 2016 start dates. The best thing ever for some, while for others it is an example of the folly of trying to fit Modern Day setup into an engine designed for WW2. Merged with a mechanically very different modern day mod called Modern Day 4 in summer 2019, which received harsh criticism, and several "Classic" mods by different people were created to fill the void.
  • Red Dawn - Soviet Union wins the Cold War(Point of Divergence being Korean War), only to find out that victory is hollow. Per typical leftists, now everyone fights over the concept of "True Communism" and creates fractions, and the US is balkanized between racists, leftist social liberals, rightists, corporatists and every political view imaginable. And Bernie Sanders is a mastermind with a secret agenda.
  • Old World Blues - A total overhaul mod set in the Fallout universe relatively shortly before the events of New Vegas plus fuckton player content such as Latin America under a gas company's A.I, voodoo ghoul drug lords and priestesses. Canada is run by power-armor-viking-pirate clans emulating Ragnar Lodbrok, Caesar's Legion is in pre-White Legs debacle attacking the Hangdogs and NCR is dealing with nearby tribes and squatters. It's as fun and crazy as it sounds.
  • War of the Worlds - Exactly what it says. H.G Wells' literary and Jeff Wayne's musical lovechild made into the game. Martians come in around 1938'ish and land in New Jersey, Grovers Mill. Unbalanced as fuck but it's Martians we are talking about. Martians can become communists and take earth with humans as a servant race(even employ a human minister to suppress and recruit auxiliaries), or go full fascist and eat humans for sustenance, driving every rival nation into panic and full scale war.
  • Equestria at War - An oddball of the bunch, a My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic HoI4 mod about the Post-Season 8 Ponies about to experience the horrors of industrialized warfare fighting against the Changeling blitzkrieg on one side of the ocean, while the mass of Griffon Empire remnant states are trying to restore said Empire in their image on the other side, plus the a planned continent that is combination of Africa and Asia containing a mix of tribal nations and ancient fallen empires. On one hand: It is actually one of the better mods for HoI4, with the amount of well-designed content off the charts. On the other: Ponies.
  • Road to 56 - A Frankenstein amalgamation of mods made into a megamod that gives every nation a unique focus tree, and makes everyone act ahistorically. Has funny bugs, still very popular.
  • The New Order: Last Days of Europe - Coming 2020, the mod is a remake of HoI4 in a terrifying Grimdark fashion with countless new features, from money&taxes to new tickers and gauges for separate factions, like Nazis' "Slave docility" and "Workers' Trust" rating and a Bad End for everyone(Or "good" ending if you play Himmler's Edgytown, Ordenstaat Burgund). Nazis won, the US nuclear bomb is developed too late, but it's not "Man in the High Castle"...Only much worse. Imagine Deathworld minus occult and superscience with a dose of Reality Ensues. US is slowly recovering after the Japanese/German fleet nuked Pearl Harbor, leasing Los Angeles to the Nips a la Hong Kong for peace. Soviet Union is obliterated, degrading into dozens of post-apocalyptic warlord states, from Polish escapees settling in Asia to Mongol warbands, from Neo-Nazi Russians to Lysenko's Big MT expy technocratic city state. Germany? It's fucked too, the Russian war and its consequences led it to be divided to Reichskommissariats outside Germany, such as RK Ostland(Baltic states) or RK Moskowien(Moscow and surrounding area), and that little "MeFo Bill" Ponzi scheme you can read in Nazi page came to roost like a meteor-sized chicken, the economy collapsing entirely. Hitler is a senile moron in coma after an assassin's round, Himmler became completely pants-on-head insane and actively plans a worldwide nuclear holocaust. Reinhard Heydrich, the pioneer of actual Holocaust survived this timeline and runs part of Germany. WITH A NUCLEAR ARSENAL ENOUGH TO WIPE OUT MANKIND. Goering doesn't know shit about economics and goes full Ponzi with a healthy bit of plunder, and he is fatter than before. Martin Bormann plans weird scientific experiments with his head stuck up his ass. Only Speer feels regret about his past and dreams of reforming the Reich, ending slavery of Untermenschen, but everybody hates him and will kill him the moment Hitler croaks. Spain, Italy and Turkey split from Axis to form Mediterranean Triumvirate because the most retarded idea in the Reich, Atlantropa completely fucked the Mediterrenean Sea and sank the sea levels, destroying the sea trade and economy of southern Europe. Africa is under the Nazi fist and has slave factories, and this is all you need to hear. Fun times. P.S: If you make two major powers declare war on each other, be sure not to take a core territory from the enemy. Or do it and... Overall a narration driven, story rich mod(the Japanese campaign starts with a player-controlled detective story that will set the plot rather than strategy buildup).