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Video Game: Hearts of Iron

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 One 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 (2015), announced 23 January 2014.
  • 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

This video game series provides examples of:

  • 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, Brazil joining the Communists, the USA joining the Allies before Pearl Harbor, etc).
    • The second expansion for HoI2, Armageddon, features a full-on alternate history as one of it's 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.
  • 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, world war 2 stretching for years longer than it historically did, 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 A.I does not seem to comprehend the value of turning it's 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 A.I 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 outmaneuver 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.
  • 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.
  • 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: 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 consider 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.
  • Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys: Sometimes averted, sometimes played straight, depending on how the game. 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 And 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 (or not) it works heavily depends 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 base game and HoI2 only involves 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 A.I 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 A.I 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 One, 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 is 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 slides right/authoritarian enough.
  • 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.
  • 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 One scenario having happened.
  • Katanas of the Rising Sun: Imperial Japan is a playable faction. True to history, it's nowhere near as strong Industrial Capacity wise as Germany, the Soviet Union, or the United States, but is ahead of Italy, France, and China, but is somewhat behind Britain. Fortunately, most of it's enemies have their strengths located far away (The Soviet Union, the United States, France, and Britain) and generally focus on the European Axis, would put up a good fight were they not so disorganized (China), or are hopelessly outmatched (Dutch Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand).
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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".
  • 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: Thankfully 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.
  • 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) through several other games (Europa Universalis and Victoria: An Empire Under the Sun) until Hearts of Iron II ends the campaign in 1964. East Vs. West doesn't offer a save-game port (at launch, at least).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • "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.
  • 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".
  • 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.
  • 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.)
  • The Dev Team Thinks of Everything: FAR too many examples to list here, but for instance, if Germany attacks Poland and then makes it into a puppet state, the USSR will automatically invade the eastern part, and Poland will receive the same provinces it did in reality.
  • The Strategist: The player basically becomes this.
  • 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 it's 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.
  • 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.
    • Heck, 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.
    • East Vs. West tracks population numbers in each province, and naturally, the population's numbers will decrease based on how intense the fighting is going on in said province. If you nuke it, well, the results to those numbers will be both obvious and probably very disturbing. It even tracks age brackets, so you can tell just how many children died in that last strike you ordered....
  • 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 A.I isn't particularly great at Naval invasions.

BlitzkriegWorks Set in World War IISilent Hunter Series
HarpoonReal-Time StrategyModern Day Scenario II
H.A.W.X.UsefulNotes/SteamHeavy Weapon
One Drink Will Kill the BabyImageSource/Video GamesThe Computer Is a Cheating Bastard

alternative title(s): Hearts Of Iron
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