Have you ever thought about what if scenarios involving major historical combat events? Have you ever wanted to play out those scenarios for yourself via simulation? In the previous series, we got to follow the conquests of the Golden Horde in Europa Universalis IV a game that lets you play out what-if scenarios like what if the reformation had been stomped out or what if China had developed its gunpowder technology into the first major armies using cannons.

Today we look at a time frame from the more recent past. The Hearts of Iron series has been simulating scenarios from 1936 all the way up through the end of World War II and beyond. You are given the position as a guiding force of one of many selectable nation states and can play our what if scenarios like; what if the big three Moscow, Stalingrad, and Leningrad had fallen to the German Blitz, what if the attack on Pearl Harbor never happened, what if Great Britain had taken a stand against the annexation of the Sudetenland?

The first of these games I played was Hearts of Iron II, it was my first experience with a World War II game that had such a high level of detail. I faithfully played and even got my hands into modding as the series developed. Since its release on the anniversary of D-day this year Hearts of Iron IV has been the latest installment in this series. I’d postponed purchase and playing until a couple of improvement patches came out and a sale brought the price down as I do with most games.

After having kept track of the development process, watching videos, and reading topics on the forums and other locations I feel ready to get neck deep in the eastern front. The first game was as Germany with the goal to just try to get a feel for the game and knock out Operation Sea Lion (Control British mainland as Germany) and True Blitzkrieg (As Germany have both Poland and France surrender before January 1st 1940) achievements if possible. It turned out easier than expected, Operation Sea Lion was completed by November of 1936 and True Blitzkrieg by March of 1937. The USSR came to the defense of France, so I decided to push through there as well, in spite of having not been at all prepared for it. This too was finished by January of 1939.

That’s a nice ratio in loss of lives, it turns out taking the UK isn’t a bloody affair.
With the fall of Danzig, Poland is out well ahead of time for the achievement.
Nationalist Spain was involved due to Republican Spain joining the Comintern. It was just Germany as the Axis.

If I sound lackadaisical about the casual mention of defeating the Soviet Union with meager forces it is with intent. This is one of the areas that HOI IV does not shine. The representation of the difficulties caused by weather, terrain, and attrition seem to be lacking compared to previous versions.

I’m getting ahead of myself, though let’s discuss what I did like in this initial impression first.

The rehaul of the resource system makes sense to me. Instead of trading resources for one another like in previous HOI titles, you trade civilian factory production for resources. Basically, it simulates the production of consumer goods to be used in exchange. This makes far more sense. These resources are components like steel, tungsten, rubber and oil. They are all needed for different components of your war machine. The Axis nations have a historical disadvantage on resources compared to the Allies or Comintern while having an advantage in military industry.

Your country has a national focus which you can use to define and direct the role you play on the world stage. This is far more well organized than the obscure processes in the last games such as influencing political organization to trigger the Anschluss of Austria event.

Issues with the supply system plagued HOI III, in general it was one of the biggest faults in that game. The supply system in HOI IV seems to be an improvement so far if a bit too forgiving. Still though far better than HOI III was at several months after launch.

The game itself looks incredible. While grand strategy titles aren’t the type of thing people play for the graphics HOI IV is a substantial improvement.

I’m going to do several more playthroughs before getting beyond an initial impression which will be posted here in the weeks ahead discussing the items I’m critical of when I have a fully formed opinion. In the meantime look here next week as we attempt the Poland Can Into Space (Finish all Rocket Technologies as Poland ) achievement.