Video Game / Hearts of Iron

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A series of World War II Turn-Based Strategy / Real-Time Strategy and management Simulation Games by Paradox Interactive. The games allow players to take the role of virtually any country on Earth as of the time at the beginning of the games' various scenarios.

The series currently consists of :

  • Hearts of Iron (2002)
  • Hearts of Iron II (2005)
    • Has two expansions: Doomsday and Armageddon
    • As well as two official updated version/add-ons: Arsenal of Democracy, and Iron Cross
    • Another update which includes World War I has been released: Darkest Hour
  • Hearts of Iron III (2009)
    • Has received four download-only expansions: Semper Fi, Dies Irae: Gotterdammerung (a Germany-focused mod for Semper Fi), For the Motherland (which breaks compatibility with DI:G), and Their Finest Hour.
  • Hearts Of Iron IV (2016), released on 6th June 2016.
    • The first major DLC, Together for Victory, focuses on the Commonwealth nations (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, British India) and also adds a new system for puppet nations.
    • The second DLC, Death or Dishonor, focuses on the Axis nations, and also adds new focuses and events for Czechoslovakia, Romania, Hungary and Yugoslavia.
    • A third DLC, Waking the Tiger, focuses on China and Japan and also adds alternate history paths for Germany to become a democracy or return to monarchy.
  • Hearts of Iron: The Card Game (2011) which uses the series name and is based on World War II but has little else in common
  • East Vs. West, set during the Cold War, which was canceled.

The games have a large modding scene actively encouraged by the developers. Among the most prominent and elaborate mods with TV Trops articles are:


This video game series provides examples of:

  • Acceptable Breaks from Reality: Many of the political focuses in IV such as Britain turning fascist/communist, Trotsky returning to USSR and Germany retuning to monarchy would've taken Alien Space Bats to succeed post 1936, but are featured in the game because it's more fun to give players more alternative scenarios and modeling political events beginning in the year 1920 would be extremely difficult as well as demanding on hardware when the game is known to have problems with just reaching its 1949 end date on acceptable frame rates.
  • Ace Pilot: In IV, there is a chance to generate those during air engagements. Ace attatched to an air wing increase its performance in specific missions. Aces themselves are tiered, with the basic one representing what Ace Pilot is in Real Life, while tier 3 comes with Improbable Piloting Skills, Improbable Aiming Skills and make entire air wing perform as if it was fitted with lesser aces.
  • Alternate History:
    • A major marketing point of the series, the game allows for things as big as the USA having a revolution in response to the Great Depression (you can choose whether to become Socialist, Fascist, Communist, or something else), to events as small as a historically-neutral country joining a certain side (Spain/Turkey/Argentina/Portugal joining the Axis or Allies, Brazil joining the Comintern, the USA joining the Allies before Pearl Harbor, etc).
    • The second expansion for HoI2, Armageddon, features a full-on alternate history as one of its campaigns. Nations include the United States of North America (US/Canada), the Confederates being independent and owning Mexico, a communist Britain that controls the low countries and Denmark, a communist Japanese republic, Russia still being a monarchy, Prussia still being an independent nation, and many others.
    • IV gives players the option to choose whether the AI will pursue historical options (Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, Pearl Harbor, etc.) or whether it can go off the rails even without player intervention. For example, Germany and Poland reaching a peaceful resolution over Danzig or Japan deciding to look to Siberia for expansion rather than the Pacific. Additionally, with the right ministers, you can reform Germany into a democracy. With Waking the Tiger Paradox has begun to add in added alternate-historical branches as DLC material accompanying patches that modify the base tree — such as adding in options for Germany to go Imperial German or democratic German Empire or Japan going communist or returning to democracy.
  • Alternate History Wank: Any good player will cause this in the nation they play as: Germany conquering the Soviet Union and the world, Japan conquering China, France or even Poland holding off the Nazi tide, the red flag flying over all of Europe, the United States conquering the Soviet Union and Germany, a boatload of historically neutral nations (Argentina, Sweden, Turkey, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Spain, and so on) joining the Axis, Republican Spain winning the Spanish Civil War and entering WWII with the Allies to help France to hold against the German invasion or beat Fascist Italy to death, WWII stretching into the 1950s, Nationalist China winning the civil war, etc. Anything is possible.
  • Artificial Stupidity: The AI isn't completely stupid, but has a number of fairly obvious failings, some of which were covered up by bending the rules a bit. The AI is particularly deficient in the second installment when it comes to nuclear weapons:
    • AI nations will never develop nuclear weapons, as it was not written into their code.
    • AI nations that start with nukes (such as in the Doomsday scenario) will use them immediately against anyone they are at war with, regardless of how many their target has, ethical considerations, or if they even need to.
    • Possessing nukes will not act as a deterrent to the AI, nor will using them make a country any more likely to surrender. Similarly, other countries will not care if you use nukes, regardless of who you attack or with how many. Though they are not as much of a Game-Breaker in this game as they were in Real Life (particularly because they cannot be mass-produced), it is uncharacteristically ahistorical for there to be no political effects at all from the use of nuclear weapons. However, being nuked does raise dissent in the attacked nation, to the point that five or so nukes would completely remove its effective industrial capacity, even if majority of industry is still intact. Furthermore, Darkest Hour adds surrender events for nuked Japan, Soviet Union, United Kingdom, and USA.
    • The AI does not seem to comprehend the value of turning its piles of divisions into proper units, leading to stacks of a hundred small units (frequently hodgepoged from expeditionary forces around the world) with atrocious organizational value that will get steamrolled by a player organized army with laughable ease.
      • Additionally, in II and III, the AI is overly cautious, leading to long drawn out deadlocks with nothing happening when faced with large stacks that it really should be able to break through. In an Axis South America game this can be seen quite clearly by putting a few dozen divisions at the narrower points of Central America and witnessing American forces several times your size just standing there even though they should by all rights win, or in Italy where the Axis can deadlock Comintern or Allied forces for ages on end.
    • In III, many nations (notably the UK, USA, and Japan) do not defend their ports at all, leading to them being laughably easy to conquer if one can defeat or outmanoeuvre their respective navies. This was patched in later expansions, for better or for worse.
    • Also in III, the Soviet Union in a 1936 game will often build tons of reserve divisions, which are divisions kept at half-strength until mobilization. While the huge number of divisions it fields may look imposing (often hundreds), when Germany declares war on the Soviets, mobilization will completely deplete its manpower attempting to fill them all up (as Germany's already full-strength army hits them like a Mack truck). Predictably, this leads to the Red Army's full-scale collapse.
    • In IV the AI is basically completely incapable of managing the war in the Pacific; both the UK/US and the Japanese AIs. Or more specifically it is completely incapable of managing the amphibious landing part, with both the Allied and Axis AIs leaving islands that were historically bled over untouched and at worst no amphibious landings will take place at all while the IJN fights indecisively with the American and British navies, waging entirely pointless battles. While this has been alleviated somewhat, the Pacific War is widely regarded as the most weakly modeled aspect of WWII where the AI's incompetence at naval landings and warfare come to a head. And you can forget about anyone trying to land on the Japanese Home Islands without the player in the driver's seat. This can lead to World War II going on basically forever as no one bothers to actually deliver the knockout blows to Japan and whatever islands it does take once it's booted out of the continent.
    • In some games in IV, the AI will simply forget how to build tanks and train armoured battalions (even if you lend-lease them tanks), resulting in a bizarre scenario where, outside of player-controlled nations, tanks have become a Lost Technology, with the only the ones that existed when the game started being used. Since this means that the only counter the AI has to armour is, at best, towed anti-tank guns, this turns the already Game Breaking Heavy Tank battalions into super weapons.
      • In similar vein, if a country is not scripted to use them, it will never form air wings of naval and strategic bombers, even if they are leased to it. Some countries are also unable to make wings of heavy fighters and most of minors are prone to field Close-Air Support far away from frontlines, making them barely useful in combat. AI has also serious issues with managing its carrier air groups, usually overstaffing them with single type of plane (and often that type is CAS, which are only good for shore bombardment).
    • Sometimes, in IV, if you take some of an AI nation's territory while at war with them, they will endlessly attack your entrenched front lines until they run out of manpower and supplies, after which you can effortlessly push for capitulation.
    • AI is very bad at making trade deals. It often proposes deals unfavourable to both sides or at least the AI and rarely takes into account such minor factors like diplomatic relation value or distance (and thus requirement for convoys). In IV it additionally has absolutely zero strategical input toward making deals, often leading to situation like Germany buying resources from Allies before the war (thus giving away own industrial capacity to future enemies) or Romania trading oil with everyone, but Axis members.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Or, in this case, looks foreign. Comintern nations in the third installment will have their names written in faux-Cyrillic on the map. This led to a fair amount of complaining from Cyrillic reading fans. As usual, there's a Game Mod to change this.
  • Attack! Attack! Attack!: With III's Their Finest Hour expansion, you can set a general's aggression level. At maximum, he's likely to pick extremely aggressive tactics, including "Reckless Assault" which gives the attacker a 50% bonus to damage, at the cost of taking 25% more damage from the defender. This aggression can backfire, though, if a skilled defending general picks the ideal counter-tactic, effectively blunting the entire assault and killing huge numbers of attackers.
  • Awesome, but Impractical:
    • Super-heavy armor, strategic rockets, and super-battleships tend to be like this. However, when deployed properly, they can be quite effective. Also, strategic rockets can attach nukes to them, creating an ersatz MRBM nuclear missile.
    • Nuclear weapons in Hearts of Iron II fall into this trope more often than not. They can only be unlocked after a long, difficult research chain that offers no other benefits, and can only be produced one at a time after building a hugely expensive test reactor. Only nations with plenty of industrial capacity and a tech team that specializes in nuclear technology can even consider them. Of course, scenarios where nuclear weapons are already available are the exception.
      • In III, the test nuclear reactor you must build does supply power, making it not entirely useless. That said, if you're a nation that can afford the nuclear tech tree (i.e. a first or second-tier power), in all likelihood you're not hard up for electricity.
    • Battalions that can be attached to divisions in II border on this and Cool, but Inefficient - most of them provide meaningless bonus or are outright useless. The few that are actually useful show up too late to make any real difference or are still underpowered in relation to their price, required research and build time. It was somewhat fixed in Darkest Hour, but only to certain degree. The only exeption might be towed artillery, but only when added to Marines and Paratroopers - they need every single bonus they can get, as there is limited amount of troops you can use for amphibious assault and paradrops, while mobility isn't an issue for them at all.
    • In IV, mechanized infantry eventually trumps everything else on land. They have infantry-level hit points, armored vehicle armor, enough antitank capability to blow through panzer armor, and speed that equals that of motorized infantry. However, they are by far one of the most expensive things to field. It takes a lot of industrial production and resources, to the point a single mechanized vehicle costs as much production as 5 trucks or most advanced model of a medium tank. And most importantly, the mechanized infantry only gets really useful with the final, third technology, set for 1944 for research, otherwise being lackluster, but still extremely expensive to make. It all makes them impractical to research and produce before the war is usually already done with and the actual benefits of deploying tier III mechanized vs plain motorisednote  are cosmetic. And having 4 division of tanks supported by motorised is always better than having one of tanks with mechanized infantry, not to mention other ways of spending all the saved production.
  • Balkanize Me: China is represented as an alliance of several warlord factions (the Nationalists and Communists are just two among many) essentially functioning as an Enemy Mine to defend against Japan.
  • Bonus Boss / Easter Egg: In II, open up the console and type "Alienattack [province number]". Watch the slaughter begin.
    • Arguably the Soviet Union is a bonus boss for the allies and vice versa, America can also be considered one for the Axis especially if you can take out the allies before America joins the war.
  • Boring Yet Practical: Infantry: versatile and doesn't require fuel or any other resource besides manpower, which, unfortunately, they eat like nothing else. With Their Finest Hour, infantry are actually required for any Combined Arms bonus. You can have all the tanks, artillery, and other specialized brigades you want, but without infantry, motorized infantry, or mechanized infantry, they get no bonus at all. Furthermore, militia do not count as infantry for Combined Arms.
    • Towed artillery, especially in Darkest Hour and IV, is an overkill for soft targets (like infantry) for almost no price. Compared with all other things you can research and build, those are just a handful of field guns and howitzers that punch really hard, are very cheap to produce and even easier to research. Excluding III, certain upgrades don't even require direct replacement of the already fielded pieces, making them all that cheaper to operate.
  • Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys: Sometimes averted, sometimes played straight, depending on how the game evolves. With the most recent version of HoI III, France (as per Paradox Interactive tradition) is somewhat of a monster.
  • Character Portrait: Every general and every minister for every country in the world has one. Some of these, like "General Camerashy" and "Admiral I'm on the Phone" have reached Memetic Mutation levels.
  • Command & Conquer Economy: Pretty much a Justified Trope, especially for countries like Germany or the USSR. You can mandate new industrial development and allocate amounts of industrial capacity points to the areas of consumer goods, production, supplies, reinforcements and upgrades, with boosts or penalties to said industrial economy with certain minister types in your cabinet, whether you are at war and what choices you make in some events.
  • Commie Nazis: The literal version can happen in IV. After signing the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, Germany can invite the USSR into its faction, disbanding both the Axis and Comintern and creating the 'Berlin-Moscow Axis' in their place. Unsurprisingly, this horrifies pretty much everyone else in the world, especially other fascists. The effects of forming the Berlin-Moscow Axis are so bad that a fascist/communist America can return to democracy immediately, while Britain rallies every last democratic nation on Earth to form the Grand Alliance faction as protection from the new Axis.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: In the second game the AI can see everything; it can carry out amphibious assaults anywhere on the globe; and its organisation regenerates while moving. It can also materialise massive fleets that weren't anywhere on the map or in any port a moment ago when you checked with the nofog cheat to make sure there weren't any nasty surprises waiting for your amphibious assault somewhere.
  • Cool Plane: as if air superiority in the series wasn't deadly enough, you have the option of researching air-to-air missiles, jet engines, radars, radar-guided bombs and missiles, and Rocket Interceptors. (All perfectly period appropriate, by the way.) Focusing on such advanced techs can give you quite the edge in air battles, especially if you also upgrade your AA defenses to fire surface-to-air missiles.
  • Cool Ship: Advanced Super-Heavy Battleships, topped only by Nuclear Battleships.
  • Cue the Flying Pigs: IV's waiting screen occasionally quotes one of Hermann Göring's more famous (and far less foresighted) boasts, then decides to have some fun with it.
    "No Enemy bomber can reach the Ruhr. If one reaches the Ruhr, my name is not Göring. You can call me Meyer." - Hermann Meyer
  • Delaying Action: With the correct doctrine, or luck, defenders can activate a "Delay" event, which slows down the attacking sides advance and penalizes the attackers chances of causing casualties to the defenders, for a slight reduction to the defenders own chances.
    • This is basically the player's strategy for France, holding off the Germans until the British (and later the Americans) show up. How well it works depends heavily on you.
  • Disc-One Nuke: In Hearts of Iron 3, there is a stat which keeps track of what percentage of your army is made up of officers, and this directly affects how well your units perform (training more officers means your men are led better in battle). Keeping it up to at least 100% is necessary to have your troops in good shape, but it can be boosted up to 200%. This means all of your military will be at double their normal organization. And since the highest the AI will raise their officer ratio is about to 120% or 130%, it's fairly easy to steamroll over everyone else just by taking advantage of this stat, at least in the early game. Multiplayer games tend to have a 'house rule' of only raising the officer ratio to 120% or so, while later in the series the producers took steps to tone down the effect.
  • Divided States of America:
    • It's quite possible, if the Random Number God is unkind to them in regards to random events or if they handle the aftermath of the Great Depression especially poorly, for regions of the United States to start organizing partisan militias and declaring themselves independent, eventually resulting in either the complete collapse of the country or a Communist revolution.
    • While the first game and HoI2 only involve the CSA, Texas and California seceding, one of the expansions, Iron Cross, takes it to a new level and adds Alaska, Hawaii, an Indian nation, Deseret, Chicago, New England, the Intermountain Federation, the African-American nation of New Afrika, and Cascadia.
  • Double Standard: Bizarrely, while the Rape of Nanking is an in-game event (though outside of the Japanese player's direct control) things such as The Gulag, terror bombing, or the Holocaust are officially banned. The USSR does have the choice of enacting the Great Purge though. The game gives a severe penalty if you don't do it.
  • Dummied Out: Hearts of Iron II has a scripted assassination event, where the US can kill a Japanese leader. Arsenal Of Democracy comments it out and makes it unusable, but it otherwise remains.
  • Easy Logistics: Averted. All units consume "supplies" that needs to be transported to the front. Getting cut off from supplies is a VERY BAD THING. Also, motorised units require fuel as well as supplies. Running out of fuel? Well, better build something other than tanks...
    • Semper Fi now gives you a choice. You can use the 'realistic' supply system, which features convoys, air-drops, and is based on an engine that calculates the efficiency of your logistics system by how far from your nation's capital your troops are to simulate the logistics... or you can use 'arcade mode'. In arcade mode, you troops receive supplies no matter where they are, and as long as you don't run out of them you're fine.
    • One critical but often underappreciated feature of the logistics system in III is the role of La Résistance, represented by "revolt risk." There may be no armed rebels actively fighting against your army, but there is passive resistance sabotaging your supply system. Germany is, true to history, particularly heavily affected by this. You can have piles of supplies in your capital, but your troops in Torun, just stone's throw away from Berlin, are running out of supplies because of popular resistance. One way to re-open up the supply lines is to deploy regiments of "military police," which are really State Sec repressing unhappy locals and are good for absolutely nothing else (they have such ridiculously low combat value that they would flee instantly even in fights against rebels most of the time).
    • Averted with a vengeance in IV. The logistical system has been completely revamped so that players must manufacture all individual equipment needed for their army, including infantry weapons, support equipment, artillery pieces, to even individual tanks and airplanes. In addition, changing an assembly line resets the efficiency. For instance, if the player changes a line manufacturing artillery at 90% efficiency to manufacturing anti-air guns, it will reset to 10% due to the factories having to start again. On the other hand, troops no longer need fuel and supplies other than replacement weapons when already fielded. It's impossible to actually be out of supplies or gas, making combat and army operation much easier to perform than in any of the previous installments, resembling 'arcade mode' from III.
  • Elite Mooks: Mountain, paratrooper, and marine divisions are specialist infantry divisions, and have a slightly stronger offense than their regular infantry counterparts on top of their special abilities. Their Finest Hour adds special elite infantry units for each of the major powers, i.e. Army Rangers for the USA, Guards for the Soviet Union, Gurkhas for the UK, and so on. They are notably more powerful than regular infantry or special forces for each country, and depending on the unit get certain bonuses, i.e. Rangers get an attack and movement bonus in woods.
  • The Empire: Without heavy player intervention, Germany tends to explode out of it's borders and overrun the majority of Europe by 1941 and keep it overran for years until the Allies and Comintern force them back (though if Germany wins the war in the eastern front the Allies are in for a bad time). Japan is also quite capable of overrunning much of Asia (and rather ahistorically tends to win the conquest of India due to Britain's generally lackluster efforts put into defending it) and forming one of these for a good while before they are thrown back. Italy tends not to have so much luck.
  • Evil Versus Evil: Depending on the course of history, it's entirely possible for the game to end in a final showdown between an alliance of fascist dictatorships and their conquered puppet states and an alliance of equally repressive Stalinist dictatorships and their puppet states. Or a final showdown between Germany, Italy and Japan when they're the only ones standing at the end.
  • Fan Sequel: Arsenal of Democracy, Iron Cross, and Darkest Hour are all derivatives of the second game and use its game engine, and Paradox Interactive publishes them, but each is developed and maintained by an independent team consisting of fans of the original series rather than Paradox's own in-house developers.
  • Forever War: Disturbingly easy to make happen in II. While the War in Europe, Africa, and (possibly) the Middle East generally ends before the 40s are out no matter how many extra nations you throw into the Axis (Spain generally ends up being a bridge into Axis Europe as Franco can't quite cut the mustard against Gibraltar without help, while adding Axis Sweden tends to lead to Red Scandinavia, and Axis middle eastern powers usually fall to the Soviets or British soon) as the Allies and Communists usually beat the Germans and mop up the Axis minors, the war in Asia can go on for much longer if the AI decides it'd rather not do naval invasions today, and in the case of a South American Axis the Allies seem to have trouble pushing past a blockade above the Isthmus of Panama. The fact that the AI in II generally refuses to surrender without being occupied entirely or through event flags is a large factor in this.
  • Game Mod: Countless, including ones which take the game to an Alternate History, World War I, The Vietnam War or Turn of the Millennium setting. A Cold War mod is presently in development). Also there is a Fallout mod. Some of these mods have/are being released as stand-along games, such as Arsenal of Democracy, and Darkest Hour.
  • Geo Effects: Terrain has a dramatic effect on combat; harsh terrain types like mountains, jungles, deserts, and any arctic environment impose penalties on attackers and defenders (but more severe for attackers) as well as doing attrition damage to the strength of whoever's invading. Rivers also impede progress and impose a penalty to attackers. Armor and artillery suffer the worst, while infantry suffer the least. Special forces divisions like mountain units (for mountain, arctic, and hilly terrain) or marines (for jungles, marshes, and rivers) actually get bonuses when attacking or defending in these areas, and engineer divisions greatly reduce penalties for harsh terrain. Certain technologies can reduce attrition in these areas as well.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: "Foreign IC", "foreign manpower" gained from appointing an Efficient Sociopath or Prince of Terror as your minister of security.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Kenneth Althaus – in real life he was a very obscure US tank commander with no ties to Fascist or Nazi groups. In game he is a National Socialist chief of army minister if the US slider goes right/authoritarian enough.
  • Hitler's Time-Travel Exemption Act: Because the game mechanics of the series revolve around preparing and fighting for a major global war, this is in full effect. Even in the cases where Germany or Japan doesn't kick the war off, the British or Soviets will.
  • Hollywood Tactics: Can be used by the player or the AI, though generally not advisable, unless you have a serious numerical advantage. Surrounding and cutting off the enemy is a good strategy, however, because it cuts them off from supplies; it's also the easiest way to take out a brigade for good, rather than just allowing them to retreat and get reinforcements.
  • The Hunter Becomes the Hunted: In early game, submarines can operate with almost total impunity, with most of doctrines for them being ready around '40. But around '41 mark, a lot of radar technologies, new destroyer models and anti-submarine warfare doctrines are no longer penalised for research, quickly turning the table and making life for subs hard. By '43, submarines are virtually useless, as even AI controlled nations will easily hunt them down.
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: The Silent Workhorse minister trait is basically this.
  • In Spite of a Nail:
    • Most often seen when importing in a scenario from Victoria: An Empire Under the Sun. Whilst the borders and existing countries will change, the leaders most often won't. Meaning that you can have Adolf Hitler in charge of a democratic Germany, with or without the World War I scenario having happened.
    • Great Britain is hardcoded to always declare war to Germany in the Forties, no matter what is the geopolitical situation. Even if you managed to play Germany as a democratic state with peaceful relations with Poland and the Western Europe.
    • In IV, there's a chance that someone will spot the problem that would have caused the Hindenburg disaster, resulting in it safely reaching the its destination. However, it's stated that the public's trust in airship travel is still shattered due to how close it came to disaster, since the problemnote  was only discovered by a stroke of luck.
  • Joke Character:
    • In HoI4, several of the Chinese minor factions (Shanxi, Yunnan, Xibei San Ma, Guangxi Clique) are basically unplayable because a scripted event merges them into Chiang Kai-shek's China once Japan starts invading mainland China (end of 1937). They become functional countries if you play with the Waking the Tiger DLC, though.
    • Waking the Tiger allows the current "main" faction in China to eventually get American support in form of general Stilwell. He is skill 1 general with lackluster traits, while even the least competent Chinese ones start at skill 2, on 1-9 scale. The fact he's very low in the focus tree makes it even worse, because due to fighting defensive war against Japanese for past few years, Chinese commanders will be even better by the time Stilwell is unlocked.
    • Tannu Tuva. A tiny nation located in Southern Siberia that starts in the Comintern. The Soviet Union has a focus tree to annex it, as they did historically in 1944. Being the game it is, you can still do world conquests at least in HoI4, it just takes a lot of luck and skill because you have no manpower, awful technology and the spectre of the Soviet annexation looming. You basically have to invade Sinkiang, Tibet, Nepal and then take Xibei San Ma then the People's Republic of China with all of these problems so that you will have the manpower & factories to resist the Soviets when they come wanting to annex you.
  • La Résistance:
    • It's possible for partisan groups to form if unrest is high enough, with this generally being significantly more likely in occupied or colonized territory than in your home nation. High partisan activity can positively cripple a country's infrastructure, and eventually may lead to open revolts in which the partisans organize and outright seize territories from their host nation. The Mass Assault land doctrine in the fourth game has the final skill in the Mass Mobilization tree give a huge +20% bonus to partisans, which often results in lots of factories being sabotaged.
    • The For The Motherland expansion will allow players to build "Underground" commando units to arm and mobilize resistance units in enemy-occupied territory, allowing for anything from subtle partisan resistance to sudden revolts and large-scale assaults by well-equipped rebel formations. This can be used to play merry hell with an enemy's supply infrastructure. In fact, this is one of best weapons a government-in-exile has available to it.
    • High revolt risk disrupts supply, which can seriously downgrade an army's fighting capability, even when there are no active rebels. This represents sabotage and various other acts of passive resistance.
  • Leitmotif: Each faction, most recognisably the Comintern, gets its own theme in the third installment. The themes get retooled depending on how each faction is doing; if they're winning it's loud and triumphant, if they're losing it's quiet and subdued.
  • Magikarp Power:
    • Nationalist China has this going for them from the start. Rare materials, industrial capacity and tech are lacking from the start, and China's general region is divided into many warlords and some opposing factions, with Japan is peeking at them from a distance and Communist China threatening to backstab them. Should they survive the first couple of years and push back against the factions and especially Communist China, as well as building up a strong enough army to deal out serious blows against both, China becomes a solid major power capable of world conquest. And if China becomes democratic, it can become one of the most powerful members of the Allies after the Chinese Civil War is finished.
      • In Hearts of Iron II this goes even further. If China successfully push Japan off the Korean peninsula, they can receive the "Setting Sun" event which forces Japan to hand Korea over to China; due to how the game mechanics work, Korea inherits all the technology Japan had at that point and offer free blueprints as they are a puppet nation to China. The same event also provides China with new, upgraded tech teams. This allows to catch up tech gap at very quick rate.
    • In II and Darkest Hour, cavalry is basically outdated and outperformed by pretty much anything it can meet, as contemporary units will be always stronger, better armed and armored. When cavalry gains few trucks, a purposefully build motorised infantry is already present. Cavalry gets halftrucks? There is mechanized infantry already for few years. And then after a series of semi-related secret tech research, you unlock air cavalry. Your cavalry scraps most of its land vehicles and is outfitted with choppers instead, turning into blitzing fast unit that packs a serious punch, is cheap on both manpower and IC (just like all other versions of cavalry) and basically outperforms most of contemporary units even if they carry support battalion or two. Also, air cavalry still count as land unit, so you don't suffer air drop penalties nor have to deal with enemy interceptors and fighters. In case of finding hole in enemy lines, you can outrun half of the country until you run out of fuel or get encirclement. And due to their speed, air cavalry units are almost tailor-made for quick, swift encirclements, allowing to wipe out entire divisions caught in the pocket and cut entire armies out of supply.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Any Head of Government ministers with good traits are this, especially if the Head of State is a "Insignificant Layman" or "Popular Figurehead".
  • Nerf: Naval bombers have a rather uniform history of being continously nerfed in each part of the game and with all major patches, often to the point of highly unrealistical restrictions. And yet they are still extremely efficient in their job and always considered the biggest threat to any navy within their range.
  • New Meat: Replacements for killed soldiers decrease the experience value of the whole division. Take enough casualties and even that elite division of yours will turn into poorly trained fodder.
  • No Campaign for the Wicked: Averted. You can play any nation that existed or plausibly could have existed at the time of the game's scenarios apart from microstates like the Vatican or Monaco, including more obscure (with respect to WWII) nations such as Nicaragua or Liberia.
  • No Swastikas: Averted by some user-made modifications, though discussion of them is generally penalized on the official forums and After-Action Report writers often pixelate them if they're using such a mod. Played straight in "vanilla" III (which uses the Imperial tricolornote ) and IV (which uses a variant of the war flag with the Iron Cross in place of the swastika).
  • Nuke 'em: You can do this after some appropriately lengthy research. Using a nuke not only destroys large stacks of units, it also gives the targeted nation a major dissent hit. This causes their army to perform very weakly. In the third installment of the game, nuclear bombs also pretty much level the entire infrastructure of the target province (air bases, roads, factories, rocket test sites, and so on) with the ground.
  • Old Save Bonus: Paradox have a range of similar titles based on periods throughout history, and it's possible to start a game from 1066 (in Crusader Kings) or even 769 (in Crusader Kings II) through several other games (Europa Universalis and Victoria: An Empire Under the Sun) until Hearts of Iron ends the campaign in 1964. East Vs. West was supposed to cover the Cold War era but it was, unfortunately, cancelled.
  • Paper Tiger: France is a third-tier power (think Japan) masquerading as a second-tier: it starts with useless generals, weak tech, fractious politics, and a hostile first-tier sitting right across the border. Your primary goal playing this nation isn't so much winning as avoiding being booted off the continent entirely.
  • Point of Divergence : Even without your input, there is a certain chance that historical events will play out differently than they did in Real Life; for instance, the Hindenburg's gas leak is spotted and repaired in time (thus averting her fiery explosion), Amelia Earhart successfully touches down on Howland Island (instead of mysteriously disappearing on her way), and Leon Trotsky overpowers and kills his assassin with an icepick (instead of getting killed by a blow to the head). Some on these bring potential changes your gameplay options (enabling you to hire Earhart as an advisor, or as an ace pilot in IV, or initiating a resurgence of Trotskyism).
  • Puppet State: Present in all four games, with the Communists being particularly fond of creating them. IV adds a tiered system of levels of dependence, ranging from a Dominion (like Australia or Canada) that's largely independent except in foreign policy, to a somewhat autonomous Colony (like The Raj), to a totally subservient Integrated Puppet (like Manchuko). The tiers are indicated with chess pieces, from pawn to queen. Death or Dishonor adds a separate system for fascist nations, going (from least autonomous to most autonomous): Reichskommissariat -> Reichsprotectorate -> Satellite -> Independent.
  • The Purge:
    • The Great Purge can be conducted by the Soviets. There's good reasons to do it, though if playing a long game, many Soviet players will avoid it and gain control through less brutal means.
    • Darkest Hour for HoI2 has a generic Purge-like decision. Using it gets rid of "disloyal" generals.
  • Railroading: In the third installment, the British will always declare war on Germany by 1941, even if they're allied with Poland, have the United States in their sphere, or didn't even annex Austria. If you make use of the "noneutrality" cheat, your threat will shoot through the roof very quickly, so Britain may actually declare war on you specifically for annexing Austria, the Sudetenland, or Czechoslovakia.
  • Red Baron: Ace Pilots always come with nicknames. If they are a historical figures, it's their real call sign
  • "Risk"-Style Map: Hundreds of provinces. The third installment has somewhere in the region of ten thousand regions, achieved by subdividing territories and provinces into smaller areas that must be fought over individually. The fourth installment has even more, but makes the bloat less notable by making provinces nameless and relevant purely for unit movement; they're essentially somewhat irregularly shaped hexes. Everything except unit movement - production, resources, infrastructure and supply - is handled at the level of 'states', of which there are a mere few hundred.
  • RPG Elements:
    • Cabinet ministers and military leaders have different traits which have varying effects on the nation, diplomacy, the military and the troops under their command.
    • Then there is the experience meter for units and leaders. Experience of units is transmitted directly into their combat effectiveness, while leaders can gain new traits (HoI2) or grant bigger combat bonuses (HoI3)
    • The third installment introduces "strategic effects", which you can gain or loose depending on certain conditions, such as joining a faction, fighting enough battles, controlling a strait or canal, or holding enough provinces to dominate a body of water like the Baltic or the North Sea.
    • Their Finest Hour now allows generals to develop combat traits in addition to the ones they already possess, including new terrain traits like "Jungle Rat" or "Hill Fighter".
  • Schizo Tech: Bike battalions are present in IV for Japan, the only country that used such infantry in any meaningful quantity or success. They have virtually the same stats as regular infantry, but move much faster. They also make a great tandem with heavy tanks out of all things, since they both have similar speed and are faster than foot infantry.
  • Selective Historical Armoury: Some of the equipment and vehicles used in IV are a bit... odd.
    • Canada uses the American M50 Reising SMGnote  instead of the Stennote  or the Thompson note , and the M1944 Johnson LMGnote , instead of the Sterling SMGnote . They also use the Austin K5 trucknote  instead of the Canadian Military Pattern(CMP) trucknote , especially egregious since the production of the CMP and several other trucks was one of Canada's largest contributions to the war effortnote .
      • In a reversal of the trend, they have the Ram and Grizzly tanks instead of the Sherman, despite the fact that neither ever saw combat service as a gun tank (the Ram was mainly used for training, or converted into various other vehicles, primarily the Ram Kangaroo APC. The Grizzly was just a Canadian built M4A1 Sherman, and most were turned into Sexton Self-Propelled Guns. Only 180 of them were made, and they saw only two years of service in the Canadian armynote )
    • The Soviet Union's infantry sprites are all shown using the Tokarev SVT-38/40 as their main service rifle, instead of the far more famous and common Mosin-Nagant 91/30. The SVT-38/40 was considered too complicated for normal infantry use, and was given to snipers and elite troops instead.
    • The Czech infantry sprites use the rare ZH-29 semiautomatic rifle instead of the famous vz.24, considered one of the best Mauser-pattern rifles ever made, and built in the millions.
    • While their sprites are shown using bolt-actions, the Polish forces are issued the Kbsp wz.1938M semiautomatic rifle. This is particularly egregious as only 150 were built, and practically all Polish soldiers used the bolt-action Kbk wz.29 instead.
    • Australia starts off with the Lee-Enfield No. 4 Mk I...which they didn't even produce in real life, sticking with the SMLE No. 1 Mk III* model for the whole of the war. India also uses it when they used the No. 1 Mk III* in real life. New Zealand has the No. 4 Mk I unlocked for their 1936 service rifle, yet historically they only replaced the No. 1 Mk III* in 1945. Especially odd is that their infantry sprites are correctly modeled to use the No. 1 Mk III*.
  • Self-Imposed Challenge: There are plenty of nations that are much weaker that the player can play as and try to beat the historical odds.
  • Shout-Out: Plenty, especially in the achievements and ahistorical focuses in IV.
    • "Poland Can Into Space" which is gained from reaching all Rocket Technologies as Poland is yet another entry in Paradox's Running Gag references to Polandball.
    • For commanders with the trait "Logistics Wizard" the description is as follows: Supplies are never late, nor ever early, they arrive precisely when I mean them to.
    • "Med plutonium..." which is gained from nuking Denmark while playing as Sweden, is a reference to Riget, wherein the Swedish Dr. Helmer goes on angry rant about Denmark, which includes the line "Med plutonium tvingar vi dansken på knä!" (With plutonium we bring the Danes to their knees!)
    • "Our Words Are Backed By Nuclear Weapons", which is gained by developing a nuclear arsenal as India, is a reference to Civilization (where a Good Bad Bug made the Indians under Gandhi really like nuking everyone).
    • "Duce Nuked'em" is pretty obvious.
    • "District 9" is gained by building 9 factories in the Transvaal.
    • New Zealand can go fascist by choosing the national focuses "In the Darkness" and "Rule Them All".
    • "Nobody expects..." is gained by conquering France as Spain.
    • "The Bell Tolls for Us" requires winning the Spanish Civil War as the Republicans.
    • The flavor text for the UK's "British Stoicism" national spirit is from Kipling's poem "If—".
    • "Miklos Horthy and the Habsburg Prince" (received if the player restores the Austro-Hungarian Empire as Hungary) should be obvious.
    • The achievement "The Empire Strikes Back", for declaring war on a former Commonwealth state as the UK.
    • The achievement "The Good, the Bad, the Weird", for developing a strong oil industry as Manchuko.
    • The "Romance of the Three Kingdoms" achievement, for puppeting and annexing Guangxi and Yunnan as China.
    • The "Make a Man Out Of You" achievement, for having a million manpower for deployment as a Chinese warlord.
    • There are also several Shout Outs to Paradox's other grand strategy games:
      • The event "Komet Sighted" is a reference to an infamous Europa Universalis event that destabilizes the country.
      • The achievements "Crusader Kings" and "Crusader Kings 2" require, respectively, a fascist South Africa under Edward VIII conquering Jerusalem, and a communist black nationalist South Africa leading an anti-colonial crusade.
      • The "Sunset Invasion" achievement, requiring you to invade Europe as Mexico, is a reference to Crusader Kings 2's DLC of the same name that featured an Aztec invasion of the continent. There's also "Sunrise Invasion" for invading Europe via Mexico as Japan.
  • Tactical Withdrawal: Both on the strategic and tactical levels. Players may well choose to pull back from a section of their line in order to withdraw from an obviously lost fight towards better terrain/reinforcements or they may be pulling the attacker into an encirclement trap assisted by the rest of the front line and reserves. Defending generals with the right doctrine or who are just lucky can also get it; it shortens the front, leaving attacking and defending units who take up more room than the front allows Locked Out of the Fight, and gives the defender a net advantage (both sides are penalized in their attack chances.)
  • Taught by Experience:
    • Units start on specific level of training, ranging from barely organised conscripts with few days of training to well-drilled, but never tested in combat troops. At least in IV divisions can be ordered to perform exercises, increasing their competence outside of combat to a certain level. However, the main source of experience for troops beyond training comes from fighting. Depending on game, this can go as far as provide whooping 75% bonus for hardened veterans, but it takes months or even years of very intense combat to reach that level and each replacement in the division decreases that value.
    • Officers in charge of troops start with scripted level and traits. From then on, only by leading troops in battle (or commanding other officers in a larger front/theatre) they can increase their skills, both in form of general commanding competence and specific traits, like bonus for specific type of troops or terrain. Excluding IV, there is also a scripted Cap on how high the skill of each commander can go, which means some of them will never be good, while other will run out of wars to fight before hitting their limit.
  • The Strategist: Any commander with Brilliant Strategist and Organizer traits becomes one, having a considerable advantage in forming battle plans
  • Title Drop: Not for base game, but for addons. Arsenal of Democracy is the USA. Darkest Hour has one in 1914 scenario, though player doesn't usually sees it, as he either wins, or quits game before he sees it: Any major nation defeated in World War One has final surrender event, which results in most its remaining army disbanded, disputed territory ceded to enemy, and being forced to pay high reparations, all of that without option to fight on despite the odds, or trying to negotiate with winner imposing his conditions. The only option in those events is, appropriately: "Germany Lives its Darkest Hour", "France Lives its Darkest Hour", "Russia Lives its Darkest Hour", etc.
  • Urban Warfare: Urban terrain types cause your units to suffer penalties in combat, with armor and artillery suffering the worst and infantry suffering the least, especially with engineers attachednote . Since urban provinces are also almost always victory point provinces or capitals, this also means plenty of hard-fought battles to take these cities.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Industrial capacity. It's allocated purely for balance issues and is in no way an accurate depiction of world industrial capacity at the time. If it was, the USA would have 40%, the Soviet union and Germany with maybe 14% each (though both would expand rapidly as the years roll on, with Germany reviving its industry and devouring most of Europe and the Soviets still frantically industrializing), Britain with 10% (not including industrialized parts of the Empire like South Africa, Canada, and Australia), France with 4%, Japan with 3.5%, Italy with 2.5% and the rest of the world with 10% combined. Hearts of Iron 2's logistics system is also extremely unrealistic in that it is completely perfect - there are no supply problems, ever, apart from the underproduction or isolation. Hearts of Iron 3 makes some improvement on this, but logistics problems are still severely under-estimated.
    • IV takes a step backwards, removing the more complex logistics system of 3 and only offering the equivalent of the previous game's simplified "Arcade" logistics system. It does somewhat improve in another area, as it gets rid of the all purpose "Supplies" resource used in the previous games, requiring separate production lines to produce individual vehicles, planes, and weaponry (though it does still have "Support Equipment", a catch all covering stuff like radios, medical supplies, and engineering equipment). It is also somewhat more complex in that, in addition to designating specific Military factories to produce a specific equipment type, it also has Production Efficiency, which increases the speed that a production line produces its equipment, and goes up over time so long as the line is producing that equipment, simulating the workers becoming more familiar with the product and able to complete it faster.
    • On the political front, in 3 Canada, for some bizarre reason, does not start out allied with the United Kingdomnote 
  • Villains Act, Heroes React: The democratic powers have far larger economies and populations than the Axis powers at the start of the game, but can't do anything about fascist aggression until 'belligerence' (in II and its derivatives), 'threat' (in III), or 'world tension' (in IV) reaches certain levels. Democracies are also limited in their ability to conscript soldiers and channel their industries into military production before the war starts.
  • War Is Hell:
    • Much of the game has a bleak, depressing atmosphere. While many strategy games represent huge armies as single units with nondescript "hit points", Hearts of Iron represents units as divisions of thousands of troops, who tend to die in large numbers when armies clash. Fighting a war and receiving reports of tens of thousands of soldiers losing their lives in a single battle can be very sobering.
    • A lot of the historical quotes seen in the loading screens of Darkest Hour exemplifies this.
    • Even the map is darker and more subdued than other Paradox titles. This, combined with a very utilitarian interface, this makes for a very different game experience than, say Europa Universalis or Victoria.
    • If you've activated popups that report the effectiveness of bombing missions, it can get even more sobering, especially once you start teching up your tactical bombers. Seeing regular reports of a wing of bombers killing three hundred enemy soldiers in every strike, with six or so airstrikes a day, for weeks on end, can really put a perspective on things.
    • Made even worse with Hearts of Iron 4, where as you fight a war you get a constantly updating casualty list that can go into the millions or tens of millions, depending on how long the war lasts and the size of both countries.
  • We Have Reserves: If your manpower laws and focuses give you a good enough manpower pool you can start to have this attitude, though at the same time it's actually played with; having too many troops in a certain area can stretch your supply situation to the point where your units suffer attrition.
  • World War III: Happens 8 times out of 10, given the fact that the victors (for instance, the Allies and the Comintern) tend to fall out over the spoils in a pretty dramatic fashion. Though the AI isn't particularly great at naval invasions.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: Once you have built nuclear weapons, you could declare war on a defenseless country like Haiti and nuke it, over and over again. Even using a cheat to give yourself nukes just so you can nuke Haiti or other defenseless countries, several hundred times.


Alternative Title(s): Hearts Of Iron II, Hearts Of Iron III, Hearts Of Iron IV

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/VideoGame/HeartsOfIron