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All the little things which can turn taking over the world in Hearts of Iron trival. Some of them apply to all installments, some to specific parts.

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     General  
  • The United States is pretty much considered "easy mode", and for good reason, particularly in III. They start off with the largest amount of IC in the game, the biggest knowledge pool, and a very powerful navy — and it only gets bigger and meaner as the game progresses. And then there's the obvious fact that the Axis can't hit the American mainland because of geographical separation, and even if they managed to get a few ships to the coastal areas, they'd get massacred. The only weaknesses the US has is that, starting out, they have a weak army and air force and low technology, so using that knowledge pool is essential to catch up with the rest of the world. But by '45, the US will almost always be in a dominant position, as the only other economic powerhouse, the USSR, will have almost certainly spent a lot of resources and taken a lot of damage fighting Germany. All of this isn't just Truth in Television, it's actually toned down compared to how powerful the US economy was in World War II, complete with the fact that, by the end, the USSR was the only nation that could hope to compete with them. Later expansions make the US even more broken, with For The Motherland actually allowing the US to get a massive manpower boost once "The Day of Infamy" event triggers, which not only adds 400+ manpower instantly to their pool, but also revokes The New Deal (which imposed a manpower penalty on the USA) and gives a 25% bonus to manpower growth for a couple of years.
  • Starting from II, engineer brigades are one of the most useful things you can equip your units with, doubly so if fighting a defensive war. Engineers are relatively cheap addition to your troops and cost small amount of fuel from the start, but in the same time they considerably increase defense capabilities of units they support, increase dig-in cap, remove or at least seriously decrease penalties for fighting in otherwise horrible terrain, bypass fortification bonuses, considerably decrease amphibious assault penalty, allow effortless river-crossing and - at least in II - increase the speed of unit they accompany by 1. In case of III, they start with speed of 8 - which is enough to keep up with medium tanks and motorized infantry without slowing them down. In II, later models also start to gradually decrease softness value of units they accompany, which means at least part of the damage that normally hurts infantry will be ignored.
    • IV changed Engineers from being a brigade to a support company, but made them into a support company that every single possible unit can benefit from having due to their all around bonuses and cheap price. While a lot of support companies are situational, Engineers are a mainstay regardless of anything.
  • Close air support units, especially in II and III. They are really good at their job (directly hitting infantry and tanks) and can keep up on their own in the air, while other bombers require escorts and general air superiority. But what really makes them game-breakingly powerful is the ability to cause damage to retreating units. Normally when unit is retreating, it can't be hurt with anything, short of nukes. CAS units can keep pounding such units and do so with complete impunity. So when unit finally reaches nearby province, it can loose up to third of its strength, making it an easy pick for ground units... and the bombardment can continue. Also, in II, most of CAS doctrines are accessible by '38 mark, making their missions roughly twice as efficient before the war even breaks out.
  • Naval Bombers, to the point that many players constructed Naval Bombers exclusively instead of naval fleets. Paradox tried to combat this problem in later patches by (unrealistically) requiring other ships to detect enemy fleet before Naval Bombers could engage them. While not as useful as in II, even in III they are still very powerful units against enemy fleets, especially convoys. And depending on size and shape of the air theatre toward location of naval bases, they can potentially sink half of enemy ships within a month of intense bombing in IV.
  • If done right, convoy raiding can completely collapse AI's ability to conduct war. It was proven time and again a continuous and extensive convoy raiding will render British Empire defenseless, as troops stationed in the colonies will be extremely undersupplied, making them easy pick for Japan and even Italy. Meanwhile, a large stockpile of resources will wait in colonial ports, allowing conquerors to take them over and use for their own industry.
    • Speaking of submarines - torpedoes research in Darkest Hour, III and IV can turn already powerful submarines (if well-used) to terror of the sea, especially if rushing the tech. With proper research, submarines can get so powerful, a single unit of them will be capable of what normally takes three. And the smaller the size of submarine stack, the harder it is to detect them, making them even more efficient. In case of IV, the convoy hunting rating goes into just silly values with better torpedos. But more importantly, the torpedoes increase general hitting power of subs (and also increase their attack range in Darkest Hour), so it's possible to take down destroyers with ease - while normally destroyers are designated submarine hunters.
  • Intentionally prolonging war in Ethiopia as Italy is one of the most gamey tactics imaginable, in all game versions. In II, since you are at war, it halves the demand for consumer goods, which increases usable part of Industrial Capacity. In Darkest Hour it also allows better training of your commanders. In III it combines both of above, giving you more IC to use and providing a source of experience for troops and commanders, but most importantly it generates Land and Air Experience, which affect research speed of respective doctrines and certain key technologies, giving Italy a massive bonus three years before the outbreak of WW2. In IV, the war can go for as long as the Italian player doesn't want to engage in the political part of the focus tree, providing with tonnes of Army and Air experience. It also allows other fascists countries to join, either with land-lease for Ethiopia (so it maintains cohension longer and provides free experience via equipment usage) or sending a division or two to Italy as volunteers to grind some extra experience directly. There is a tendency to at least ban outside countries from meddling in the war during multiplayer matches.
    • Darkest Hour eventually worked around this by giving Italy a steep penalty for being at war before '40, thus enforcing a quick conquest of Ethiopia.
    • As counter-intuitive as it sounds, sending volunteer forces as Germany to Ethiopia in IV when Italy is AI-controlled is one of the most gamey tactics imaginable. You can effectively prolong that war as long as you want, giving a two-fold advantage: it generates crazy amount of army and air experience (combination of volunteers, land-leased equipment and military attache) for you (and by proxy to Italians, as they can't waltz through the country within days) and, since AI can't engage the political branch of focuses, it has to stick to the industrial and research ones, giving it much stronger economic base for future wars while having better units. The moment you are done with your grind, just retreat your forces away from frontlines, let Italians capture all the strategic objectives withing a week and get your volunteer force back. With release of La Resistance the game-breaking potential was nerfed not by directly affecting the whole exploit, but simply by reworking how Spanish Civil War starts and unfolds, making it far more profitable to ignore Ethiopia and focus on Spain instead... but nothing prevents you from doing both.
  • Strategic rockets, especially after developing V2 or stand-ins for it. Unlike strategic bombers, rockets are extremely cheap, and more importantly, fast to construct. So what if they are one-use-only, if singe rocket can achieve in one hour more than strategic bomber in a month. By the end of the month, you will produce another two. It is entirely possible to produce enough rockets to absolutely crash entire nations, especially in II and III. In fact, in II rockets are often banned in multiplayer, because with loss of IC, players also lose slots for their tech-teams, which alone can cripple a country without any way to regain lost time. If played right, a handful of rockets can turn England into rubble, while the infrastructure will be so damaged it will take at least few months to get the country up and going. And when the industry is down, no units are produced. At all.
    • In IV, due to how repairs are reworked, it's entirely possible to cripple AI forever. AI has a tendency to convert as much factories as possible into the war material ones. Repairs are done with use of civilian factories. And AI will keep only the minimal required amount, so in case of heavy bombardment, it might take years to rebuild, while also lacking resources to retool some factories into civilian ones. Later patches "fixed" this by making repairs considerably easier to conduct, solely to counter AI's eagerness to get rid of all civilian factories.
  • Trade deals in II and III can be abused against AI. Each trade deal increases diplomatic relation between both sides and the higher the relations, the cheaper the exchange goes for both countries, but the exchange rates of old deals are kept intact. In practical terms it means it is perfectly possible to sell supplies to AI for money, making few separate deals for it. The first one will be about making big bucks, the following few will be about building up relations and still making pretty penny. Then, when relations are high due to this string of deals, AI will sell own resources at a discout price to a "befriended" country, usually accepting back own money paid for the overpriced supplies. AI will be unlikely to cancel any of those deals due to combination of high profit and script calculation of how "favourable" the deals are. If done right, the final exchange rate might even triple the value of trade in favour of human player, allowing to rob AI blind.
  • Paratroopers:
    • Dropping behind enemy lines can in certain cases win a war within a day or so. AI tends to focus all the units on the borders, rarely keeping anything stationed in the interior, aside maybe capital and extremely important strategic locations. Which means most of the provinces containing victory points are left unguarded. And they usually also contain factories. Few well-timed drops can take out most of enemy industry and victory points, either shortening the war considerably or outright winning it. Suicide mission for capital is also one of pretty good strategies.
    • If capital is taken, entire resource base is lost and all supply lines are cut. This is considered equal to cheating and usually banned in multiplayer. But outside outright gamey strategies, sudden para-drop can cause massive disruption of enemy supplies and quick encirclement of large amount of troops.
    • Para-dropping into nearby provinces is also very helpful while conducting amphibious assault, as it prevents enemy from sending reinforcements, while causing encirclement and double envelopment of troops guarding shore - they have to deal with landing party and paratroopers in the same time, while being cut out of supplies, which can cause penalties so high their defense percentage might end up reduced to single digit.
    • If the drop zone happens to have an airport, you can resupply your paratroopers the moment they take over the province, or, more importantly, pick them up and hit another target, this time deep behind enemy lines. And your bombers and dogfighters just gained a staging ground, while enemy is denied landing zone.
    • If by chance any air wing is stationed in the airport when a province is taken, all the planes are instantly destroyed. Sudden drop behind lines on unguarded airfield, before the planes can take off, can absolutely wreck enemy air capabilities.
    • In IV AI not only still fails to properly garrison own territory, making it very easy task to create a truly massive airborn invasion, but has a tendency to easily surrender. Since the warscore is heavily tied with control of strategic cities and provinces, it might force AI to surrender despite having superior army and actually winning the war on the frontlines. And while there is a percentage limit of how many special forces batallions you army can have as compared to other units, there is absolutely nothing preventing player from designing an unit that consists of only single batallion, giving few dozens of batallions to drop rather than 3-4 divisions. Sure, they are going to be utter crap in combat, but so are "full" divisions. And they aren't supposed to fight in the first place. And since there are so many batallions ready to be dropped, losing one or five doesn't hurt at all, as opposed to entire division being wiped out.
    • That being said however, Paratroops come with some very significant drawbacks. Paratroops are reliant on transport plains that are the most expensive unit type in the entire game and this requires for you to both research and build two unit types at the same time. Transport planes are also completely defenseless requiring you to have a proper fighter escort to protect them during their missions. Paratroops are also the third weakest Infantry unit in the game after Garrison and Militia, meaning that if they face anything stronger than these units in equal or superior numbers, they are going to be overwhelmed in a very short order. Since Paratroopers start out most of their missions being encircled, loosing a fight will almost certainly mean that you will loose the entire Paratroop division you just deployed, requiring you to build an entirely new one.
  • Invasion of the British Isles is easily one of the cheapest tricks you can pull in II and III, giving you well over 100 Industrial Capacity and all of the empire's resources. Due to the British AI's tendency to spread out their forces, Britain itself often left weakly defended and is rather easy to take over with any decent sized nation that can muster about 15-20 divisions and a convoy force large enough to support your troops for a few months before they are inevitably sunk. Since the Royal Navy is spread all over the Atlantic, you can easily push through with a large concentrated naval force and get your troops on shore before the AI manages to bring in enough ships to counter your invasion.

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     Hearts of Iron II & Darkest Hour  

  • Producing Garrisons with Military Police detachments can completely negate partisans. It might not sound impressive, but Garrisons in such configuration can outperforming presence of few divisions in a province and quite efficiently spill the control to the neighbor ones. This was nerfed in III, where conquered or controlled foreign land always has minimal partisan rating, slowly decreasing over the course of 20 years, which is more than the game lasts.
  • All supplies for a nation's armies originate from their capital city. This means if an enemy capital city is surrounded, but not taken, then the war is effectively over: the opposing side's entire military outside of the capital is automatically cut off from all supplies and reinforcements and will quickly disintegrate.
  • Darkest Hour rebalances numerous attachment brigades and expanded their sheer number and variety.
    • Almost all land units are restricted to single brigade attached. Infantry divisions can have two. Around '42 or so mark it means the unit in question can get the firepower doubled thanks to attachments, while saving manpower, IC and most importantly - unit counter for command structure - by fielding one buffed division instead of two basic ones. A '42 division with towed artillery and tank destroyers is virtually unstoppable by contemporaries.
    • Cavalry is one of the cheapest and most over-looked brigades in the game. Not only it is very powerful for its price, it also has almost no terrain penalties and costs no fuel to run. As long as you are not facing tanks, cavalry brigades help shred infantry into ribbons due to big Soft Attack bonus. Later models represent moto- and mechanised cavalry, so they decrease division's Softness rating due to having half-trucks, armored cars and tanks, while carrying even more guns. This is especially useful for Japan when fighting war in China, as it bypass Japanese lack of fuel and the abysmal infrastructure and terrain in China.
    • Extra anti-air attachment for ships quickly become ridiculously powerful. Around '43 mark, the ship AA defense is so strong thanks to those, it is possible to essentially negate the superiority of carriers. If combined with radar on any of the capital ships, fleet uniformly equipped with extra AA is a total overkill for planes. And it can go even further from there once rocket technology is advanced enough to develop surface-to-air missiles for additional punch.
  • Coastal forts. Only specific shore provinces can be targets of amphibious assault, marked by a beach icon. Amphibious assault comes by itself with the highest possible penalty for attacker and the amount of trooops used for it is strictly limited, even with maxed out technology. Thus with coastal forts of at least level 6 (out of 10), it is possible to stack a penalty for landing party so high the attack efficiency will hit zero percent. Coastal forts are very fast and relatively cheap to build with 1940 construction technology. And there is also entrenching bonus of the troops simply stationed in those provinces, adding another debuff for attacker. If neighbouring provinces are also garrisoned by anything above militias, it won't be possible to create encirclement for the shore garrison using para-drop. Once properly prepared, defenses against amphibious assault are impossible to overcome and thus making it impossible to land troops. III nerfed it by making it possible to land anywhere, but only ports are capable of resupplying troops and naturally there is still only one province to land on when it comes to tiny Pacific islands.
  • Carriers are absolutely broken in naval combat, especially when facing a naval task force without their own carrier(s). Unlike all the future installments, in II and Darkest Hour carriers do not have actual airplanes on it. Instead there is a CAG attatchment, representing those planes. This significantly affects how carriers fight: by game logic, they aren't a floating airstrip, but a ship like any other, only one that just happens to have a range of its "guns" around 150-200 km and dealing damage with air-related stats. For comparison, a late-war battleship will have hard time firing further than 40 km and anything smaller than that will be having hard time firing at more than 10, making it virtually impossible to hit back a carrier.

     Hearts of Iron III  

  • Practical knowledge. It replaced already powerful gearing bonus from II, but gearing bonus required continuous production of the same series of units. Practical knowledge is just accumulated with each finished building or unit. And it not only decrease the time and costs required to finish production, but also affected related research by really large margin.
    • One of the most gamey tactics for industrialization is based on building relatively cheap infrastructure (which is always useful to move supplies and units), thus quickly gaining large amount of Construction practical knowledge, making factories much cheaper and finished in few weeks instead of over a year... and they will further fuel the practical knowledge, snowballing the bonus further. Or just building suddenly cheap and fast forts. USA pulling this goes from already powerful to virtually unbeatable due to having bigger industry than all other Great Powers combined
    • Preparing anti-air defense has similar, and utterly accidental, effect. By building just a handful of provincial AA defenses, practical knowledge for artillery skyrockets, greatly decreasing construction and research of all types and sorts of heavy guns, including those from tanks.
    • Building vanilla heavy cruiser - without absolutely any improvements on board - takes roughly 6 months and costs nothing. And even if seriously underequipped, it will still do fine up until about '41 mark or can be used to hunt down convoys with no fear from destroyers. But the real kicker is about how it provides capital ship practical knowledge and a lot of it, which can in turn greatly speed-up construction of the real deal: battleships and battlecruisers. Normally they can take up to three years to finish. Japan can gain this way mad amount of practical knowledge for capital ships, thus entering Pacific War with numerous and modern battleships, utterly wrecking US Navy or even standing a chance against player-controlled America.
      • Germans start in '36 with few of their pocket cruisers almost finished - which makes construction of not two, but entire series of Bismarck battleships even more tempting.
  • Humble drop tanks. While all fuel tank improvements make aircraft easier to pick and slows them down, drop tanks can go as far as double range of certain types of planes, with minimal drawbacks. This is extremely useful when fighting in Russia (where airfields are few and sparse) and in the Pacific (where you only have a handful of islands and carries as possible landing spots) and can pretty much turn the tide of war all by itself once implemented.
  • Buying fuel directly, rather than crude oil from oil-producing countries, is far more efficient. Short of the US and the USSR, all other oil-producers have virtually no need for fuel on their own, while they sit on massive reserve of crude. Thus their AI easily accepts selling the finished product, as the crude-to-fuel ratio always remains very high for crude, thus the AI is assured with strategic reserve it has. Also, in earlier builds of the game, the efficiency of fuel production was tied with the size of the crude oil stockpile, thus it was best interest of everyone to not buy crude at all from oil producers and thus increase their fuel production instead. For obvious reasons that got cut.
  • Convoy raiding and strategic bombardment of any type is this in certain versions of III (it was nerfed quickly with patches). The national unity can be decreased with extensive destruction of merchant marine and continuous bombing. In fact, it's possible to bomb Britain hard enough for it to surrender, while not doing any invasion on the Islands.
  • Using wars with minor countries to let you pass Total Economic Mobilization and Service By Requirement laws lets you swell your IC and manpower by a hilarious degree before World War II starts. Especially bad if you're a major power, and just ignore the "war" while you build up a huge number of divisions, planes, and ships. This got so bad that for the Their Finest Hour expansion, a special restriction was set where those laws could only be passed if the enemy you faced had a minimum of half your IC, otherwise you're stuck with just War Economy and Three-Year-Draft.
  • Earlier editions of III turned your intelligence apparatus into one of these when used properly. The "Sabotage Production" mission, when coupled with "Counterintelligence" to eliminate enemy domestic spies, enabled allowed you to utterly cripple an enemy's industrial capacity, to the point that, for example, Germany would take months to conquer Poland and would get stonewalled in France, leaving them ripe for an American or Soviet attack. Later expansions removed the ability to sabotage production.
  • Since III has the most advanced logistic system in the entire series, air strikes against enemy controlled infrastructure could bog down both offensives and defensive frontlines. Knowing or assuming possible logistical patterns of enemy and then bombarding specific provinces would drop the local infrastructure. This in turn would not only cut off supply transport for given day, but also make less supplies pass through that area due to damaged infrastructure or forcing a lenghty detour. And since each province in the logistic chain retains part of the supplies to sustain the system itself, a detour or just smaller flow could easily mean not enough - or none at all - supplies would reach frontlines. In similar vein, a handful of surgical strikes on ports used by enemy can effectively cut the invading force from supplies and making it easy prey for your troops.
    • Trans-Siberian Railway is the only half-decent infrastructure for entire Soviet Far East. Bombing 2-3 provinces containing the railway cuts out entire Soviet army in the region out of supplies. AI then tends to send convoys to make out for the shortage. Convoys that go all the way from Murmansk and Arkhangelsk to Atlantic Ocean, around the Africa, Asia and then trying to reach Vladivostok. Needless to say, this takes a lot of convoys that can be effortlessly taken out by Imperial Japanese Navy, hurting Soviet Union even more.
  • A minor one but in the first year of the game, AI-controlled France and the UK commit very little effort towards counterintelligence. They also have some good technology researched at the game start. This means that, with good RNG, a technologically underdeveloped country can assign spies to steal their technology and get a jumpstart on their tech tree. USA doesn't commit much to counterintelligence until 1940, so it's another good source of tech.
  • Supplies are delivered to any given place two ways - either shortest route from capital or nearest factory when the capital is overseas or simply lack direct land connection. It doesn't sound like much, but by building just a single factory in various isolated areas, you can circumnavigate around supplies shortage, because the amount of supplies isn't closely scaled with the size of local industries. Various places that are normally hard or near-impossible to kept supplied turn into massive depos, while saving you the trouble and hassle of building and maintaining huge convoy fleets. Of course, the industry itself requires resources, but even if you don't deliver them and don't benefit to your total IC counter (due to the factory being listed as unoperational), you still get supplies produced and distributed locally. This also leaves the issue of fuel unchanged, so the exploit won't work with motorised units. Ironically, this change in supply chain comes directly from battling the well-known exploit from HoI2, where all supplies came from capital and thus it was very easy to completely disrupt them.

     Hearts of Iron IV 

  • Fascism ideology is seen as this. You can get yourself ready for war faster, can have a larger manpower pool, can invade other countries and puppet them easily, and can have numerous industry-boosting attributes. Democracies and Communism are seen as inferior, compared to it.
    • Generic focus tree for fascism gives a gargantuan 7% increase of recruitable population, combined with -10% training time, regardless of actual conscription law and all of that during peace time. For comparison, communists get 10% extra division recovery ratenote  and 550 Political Power, while democracies get 20% trade deal opinion and either 20% fort, AA, and military factory construction speed bonusnote  or the ability to send volunteer forcesnote .
    • The limit on declaring war? Non-existent. It is completely possible (and strategic) as Germany to begin justification for war at the very beginning of 1936 and annexing Poland (while gaining army XP and training generals) before the Allies can even lift a finger. A really effective strategy is to straight-up rush the Soviet Union in 1937 and laugh. This will break the game in so many ways the AI will be unable to handle it. Bonus points if Stalin purges the officers WHILE being invaded.
    • Fascist nations now have access to Collaboration Governments, which increase the compliance of the nation's states postwar,note  and also lowers the nation's surrender limitnote 
  • Sending volunteers was always strong, but with Waking the Tiger DLC it can win the world war for Fascist countries by itself before the war even breaks out and considerably strengthen Soviets, despite issues with the Great Purge. Volunteers generate Army experience when fighting, while the units send as them and commander grind experience for themselves, too. The government accepting volunteers is also willing to accept a military attache, which will provide sending country with 20% of all experience gained by receiver of the attache. Combine that with land-lease of equipment, preferably the obsolete one that is useless anyway and the experience gains are around 2-2.5 points per day for both army and air, because your volunteers have your own air wings attached to them now and old planes were given as lend lease. All combined, this allows to easily gain few hundreds of experience points before outbreak of the war, allowing to design desired divisions and produce powerful variants of tanks and planes. All while democratic and unaligned countries are stuck with gaining minuscule experience via army training.
  • Lend lease itself is very useful, because there is nothing preventing you from arming both sides, so the experience gained this way is doubled and can prolong the war, meaning even more experience gained. Immoral? You bet it. Effective? Like nothing else.
  • Support companies:
    • All the artillery support companies you can attach to divisions. While they are just a single brigade of given type, they still provide additional punch to your unit, while not following rules of standard artillery. Adding standard towed artillery brigade(s) decrease speed of the unit and costs a lot of resources. Support units don't have this problem, so you can attach artillery and AT guns to your light tank brigade without slowing it down, while almost doubling its fighting capabilities, at almost no price to that. They also don't have any terrain penalties that are a nightmare for artillery divisions, thus Mountaineers, Paratroopers and Marines can gain additional punch, without any trade-off. If you are developing Superior Firepower doctrine, then artillery support companies can gain massive bonuses to their attack ratings that are well-worth it, even at price of bonus to artillery battalions.
    • Recon companies. They are the only way to increase recon value of a divisionnote . During combat, the unit with higher recon, regardless if defender or attacker, has combat initiative. The higher the recon, the bigger the chance for commander to pick the best tactic for given moment. And if your recon is higher than enemy's, you gain reroll for tactics, always being able to counter their commander. On top of it all, it increases attack speed by 10%. Since it's cheap and accessible from the start, it's a must-have for almost everyone.
    • Maintenance company allows to completely ignore reliability stat of land units. Normally, you can spend army experience to make better models of given equipment, but it almost always decrease their reliability, so you have to spend a lot of experience on reliability too, or the equipment will be prone to breaks, jams and other mechanical problems (think German Tiger and Panther tanks). Maintenance company starts with +5% to reliability (and non-modified equipment has reliability of 80%) and only goes higher from there, so you can completely ignore reliability of your tanks and artillery, saving huge amounts of experience, while enjoying all the benefits of better models. If that wasn't enough, Maintenance company allows to capture percentage of weapons used by defeated enemy, also 5% per tier, allowing countries like China to keep on fighting despite insufficient own production of equipment.
    • Anti-air, at least in multiplayer. It's so-so by itself, but it's something most players just ignore to both incorporate and account for, leading to a nasty surprise when the air fleet on ground attack mission is burning through planes like there is no tomorrow. And they also provide a small bonus to hard attack and piercing ratings, being handy against armour.
  • Heavy Tanks and their Self Propelled & Tank Destroyer variants. Putting a single Heavy Tank battalion even on regular infantry divisions will give such a massive boost to their armor, that the AI can't figure any way to counter it, effectively always giving you a massive 50% increase to damage and defense.
    • And self-propelled artillery guns mounted on heavy tank chassis takes it a step further, as they provide insane amount of soft attack and decent hard attack, while retaining all the other benefits of heavy tank battalion. They are so powerful, most of guides for long-lasting wars with bigger powers than own country call for using those SP guns. While they are relatively expensive to make and need to be researched first, a single battalion of most primitive model has bigger punch than most end-game artillery pieces. They are so broken, they can be even used against unsuspecting human-controlled army in multiplayer. And if another battalion of anti-tank version is added.
    • Army XP upgraded Heavy Tank Destroyers attached to regular infantry with support units make those units extremely effective at holding defensive lines. Heavy Tank Destroyers help improve the divisions hardness which makes them better against artillery and infantry and the extremely high piercing will make the attacking tank division lose it's organisation extremely quickly. They aren't as useful on attack as infantry units with artillery (either regulation or self propelled) but it costs less production than arty or normal tanks.
  • A so-called Space Marines combined listed above exploit of SPGs and TDs models based on heavy tanks with replacing all infantry with marines brigades, to gain massive buff in hard terrain and negate penalties for river crossing and potential amphibious assaults. It was so powerful and overused, most players didn't make anything else for their land forces aside maybe token mobile forces for encirclements. Currently all types of elite infantry brigades can only make very small percentage of all fielded brigades, specifically to "fix" this issue. But while this prevents universal use of Space Marines, it is still possible to have a handful of such elite divisions.
  • Due to the way how targets are accquired by air units, the best way of managing airforce is to create hundreds of tiny air wings, 10-20 planes each in case of land-based and no bigger than 5 for carrier-based airplanes. Each air wing entering combat can only accquire single target for the duration of the engagement, which more often than not means a total overkill of said single target... but leaves everything else untouched. So all the 50 naval bombers doing carrier sortie attack the very same battlecruiser, leaving the rest of enemy fleet unscratched. But if planes are divided into tiny air wings, each of them accquires a target on their own, since they ignore targets already taken (unless there are not enough targets, when they will concentrate). The same 50 naval bombers can attack 10 different ships (and still easily sink or badly damage most of them) if they operate as ten small wings rather than single big one. In case of air-to-air combat it also makes short work of enemy interceptors and fighters, as there are just many, many more targets, each attacking the same, huge air wing of enemy. Tiny air wings, each engaging on their own, also drastically increase chance for getting Ace Pilots (and make their bonus twice as strong due to "small air wing" multiplier).
    • Technically, the best wing size for interceptors consists of only 3 planes. They have the best K/D ratio (to the point where their superior combat efficiency and targetting is noticable within just few days of intense air combat), but it takes just too much clicking to make them so small, while there is a keyboard shortcut for making wings in size of 10 planes and those are still better than anything larger. And depending on the game version, this was "fixed" to prevent overcrowding with small air wings. The game still however favours small size of wings even in latest versions.
  • Inversion of above is the reason why 40 width divisions can easily beat anything else that isn't also 40 width. While two 20 width divisions can technically attack "twice" a 40 width division, they have only half of its stats (which is a BIG issue when it comes to, say, piercing or armor). Meanwhile, the 40 width division can only engage one of those 20 width, but brings twice as much firepower, concentrated on a single target, in quick succession turning it into mince and forcing retreat, leaving the 2nd 20 width division to be pounded by twice as strong 40 width, now with clear numerical superiority. Reinforcements? A 40 width division entering a fight will need a single tick to get another 40 width division to join the fry. 20 width division will need three to bring the same amount of firepower into combat - by that time the first division might be already routed thanks to being pummeled by two 40 width ones. There is also the sheer equipment efficiency due to smaller number of support companies needed for 40 width (two 20 width will need their own set of companies, doubling the cost - this can put quite a strain after certain point, especially if using equipment in short supply) and flexibility from division composition, as there are twice as many brigades to mix and match for maximum efficiency and tailoring them to specific tasks. By game mechanics, 40 > 20+20.
    • Taken to logical extreme with Mass Assault land doctrine: both branches of it offer a tech that reduces combat width of infantry batallions by -0.4. At 20 width, that means gaining room for just one extra infantry batallion. At 40 width, it's 3 of them, or that free space being used for some more artillery.
  • Motorised infantry in general. Accessible from the start (or requiring just a single, unpenalised by year research - and countries that don't have the tech get a research bonus to it) and very, very cheap to produce. It's point by point the most cost-efficient "vehicle" unit in the whole game, offering fantastic speed, buffed infantry stats, a hardness value, and, compared with other vehicle types, non-existing terrain penalties. Even with fuel returning to the game, they are still far less gas-guzzling than alternatives. For AI, it's more than enough. Against human, the Zerg Rush capacity of motorised tends to be a nasty surprise, especially with post-MtG reworks. Stat-wise, they also make mechanised infantry utterly pointless, since for the same production, far less resources and potentially zero research, they allow to build three times as many divisions, while being on par with late-war mechanised units. Divisions that can be pumped from '36, rather than waiting till late '43 to even consider.
    • Man the Guns reintroduces motorised artillery. It's your regular artillery, but towed by fast moving trucks. Previously, the only way to give motorised units extra punch was costly and hard to research motorised rocket artillery, which also had the disadvantage of being only good against soft targets and requiring investment into otherwise nearly useless rocketry technology to get the most out of. With all types of artillery being now motorised, it is possible to replicate the all-powerful 14-4 infantry-artillery divisions obliterating everything on their way, only moving three times faster and having small hardness value on top of that. And without the costly research and production or slow movement of tank-based self-propelled artillery and tank destroyers.
  • Dispersed Industry tech-tree in its current form. On paper, Concentrated Industry outperforms it with sheer production output by a margin of 5% per tier (totalling at 25%)... but any switch of production lines requires lenghty catch-up, as the production efficiency drops to baseline 10%. Dispersed Industry allows to retain part of the existing efficiency when switching to higher tier of gear, while also having higher production efficiency base (up to starting at 35%). On top of that, there are also bonuses to equipment conversion and against air raids. So while final result of 100% production efficiency is lower for Dispersed Industry, it can reach that level about a year earlier and allows to put any new factories into better use thanks to higher baseline efficiency. Ironically, Dispersed in initial form was clearly inferior to Concentrated and then it was "balanced" with one of the patches, but only on paper. In practical, gameplay terms, Dispersed Industry is perfect for fielding top tier equipment and taking benefit from new technology, aka something you need to win the war.
  • Using Air, Army and Naval XP to create vehicle, plane or warship variations.
    • Army XP is extremely easy to get once the war starts in earnest. After the initial training period where you get a small handful of the XP to make sure your divisions are properly equipped, you only really use XP to upgrade tanks. Getting 500 XP easy when in combat. The best strategy is to wait until you've researched a new tank, destroyer or self propelled model and immediately use 500 XP to upgrade it. Start by upping reliability by 4 or 5 points, and then armour (for a tank) or the gun for a tank destroyer or self propelled artillery. It will be roughly 80% as effective as the starting model in the next tier is, which is often several years away. The 1941 Medium Tank can often be rushed very early, and with 500 XP spent upgrading you can keep using them until you eventually research the modern tank.
    • Using air XP follows the same strategy as tanks. Rushing to 1940 Tier 2 fighters and upgrading them to have increased reliability and agility will make them extremely survivable. The other types of planes, upgrading their attack ability can make them extremely deadly.
    • Naval XP is needed to assemble ship models at all and allow to even retro-actively refit them with new, more advanced parts. Or just add more of them.
  • With proper timing of national focuses, Germany could enter the war with Panther tank and in advanced variants, not just stock version. That means a medium tank tier 3 with upgrades, with nominal year of research set for 1943. Allies, if lucky and dedicated, will at best have medium tank tier 1 when the war breaks out. The advantage is so huge a handful of divisions can annihilate entire armies without even slowing down. Britain was able to manage a similar feat with fighters, getting 1944 Supermarine Spitefuls in production before 1940. The Soviet Union could go one further than either and have T-54s by then. These tech rushes led to the entire system of tech bonuses being overhauled so that they increase research speed instead of decrease research time, making it no longer possible to negate ahead of time penalties or reduce tech times to only a few days.
    • On the flipside this buffs America (who can get 6 research slots) allowing a player to straight up out research mostnote  other powers.
    • The rework also makes research agreements broken as it allows a player (e.g the UK) to passivly get 50% research buffs on things they don't prioritise to research. And it gets just silly in multiplayer, where the players can co-ordinate their research plans.
  • With Death or Dishonor DLC, out of all countries, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, both minor states that can barely hold ground (and Czechoslovakia isn't even there anymore in '39 start), turn into absurdly powerful countries even without any gamey tactics and tricks. Czechoslovakia can quickly turn into a fortress almost impossible to pierce, with all borders covered with high level forts and recruitment pool increased enough to man all those forts, stalling any possible advances forever over hard terrain and numerous bunkers. Yugoslavia almost doubles its resource (it's one of the main exporters of aluminium from the start and gains more of it) and industrial base, while gaining additional research and military bonuses (and since it has much more resources than it will need for a looong while, they can be easily traded for free access to foreign civilian factories, allowing to quickly build up own industry) and basically is stronger than neighbouring Italy in the end of national focuses.
  • With Man the Guns, light cruisers became extremely efficient at doing their job, that is - screening the fleet and tearing everything smaller than a battlecruiser apart. Even if following patches rebalanced stats around to make them less broken, it is still perfectly possible to produce fast, well-armed and most importantly, well-armoured light cruisers that will easily resist other screens and have them for breakfast. All it takes is putting maximum armour and two light cruiser light batteries, accompanied with as many dual-purpose secondary guns as only feasible and token depth charges to ward off submarines, along with token torpedos to still have an opening against large ships. With armour value of 10 (and preferably 12) light cruisers will be impossible to pierce by anything lesser than a battlecruiser. This makes them extremely survivable in combat, since heavy ships target other heavy ships and only then screens, so well-armoured light cruisers will predominately face other light cruisers and destroyers, receive no damage while dealing a crapload (values between 30-40 are a norm, while screens usually have 140 HP max) themselves. And since adding radar is cheap and fast, they can be retro-fitted later for additional combat bonuses. In the end, a well-designed light cruiser can take out even weaker heavy cruisers and thanks to having relatively heavy armour will also survive encounters with outdated battleships and battlecruisers when they for any reason go for screens first. All of it at a bargain price and ability to assign up to 10 dockyards to do the job. note 
    • And if you play as fascist/monarchist Britain you can add the "Sun never sets" and "Secure Imperial Shipping" buffs decreasing production costs on cruisers by 10% and increasing their speed by 35% and range by 25% on top of doing the focus that decreases repair and refitting costs. Combine this with either "Escort Fleet" or "Coastal Defense Fleet" hardware designers and you have either a entire fleet of super-cheap Glass Cannons that can grind down capital ships or a VERY far reaching raiding flotilla that can outrun any blockade or convoy.
  • Axis members switching to Free Trade policy in multiplayer. Normally, Free Trade is undesired, as it decrease the amount of resources country has for own use, automatically exporting 80% of them, traded for civilian factories - a terrible idea for pretty much anyone but top producers of resources and with unpredictable AI that loves to drop the deals. But in case of multiplayer, human players can trade between each other without the fear of AI breaking the deal, essentially making the downside of the policy meaningless, keeping their industrial potential intact (since they give each other factories back) and get all the benefits of Free Trade: +15% construction speed and -10% research time. All Axis countries get additional bonuses to construction speed early on, especially Germany with their MEFO bills spirit, so that extra +15% provides a substantial edge.
  • World tension, or rather lack of it. Almost all Allied countries need specific threshold of world tension to even start national focuses related with rearming and gearing toward the war. With a bit of proper timing and self-restrain, fascists countries can keep the world tension at bay, preventing war preparations for their future enemies. In multiplayer, it is usually outright demanded for players behind Germany, Italy and Japan to take certain focuses in specific years, because otherwise Allied players are completely blocked. But against AI, such actions can neuter completely any resistance, because AI is scripted to take historical focuses in sequence and gets seriously confused when it can't.
  • A bug-based exploit: Creating a massive division as Spain, and then changing the name of the division to Brigada Legionario before the civil war means that instead of spawning in dozens of weak infantry units, it spawns in the massive division that you created. Same with "Brigada Internacionales".
    • This also applies to other countries that get event-based division templates.
  • As any non-democratic country, stage a communist civil war in France RIGHT on the maginot line, this will keep France busy for a long time as the revolution will be deathstacked on level 10 forts with the AI refusing to do anything due to the “defensive focus” trait note 
  • Ever since Man the Guns and reworking of the supply/resource import mechanics, submarines went from being the most useless naval class to completely broken. A fleet of sub IIIs equipped with snorkels can easily cut the supply lines of nations and, thanks to the stupidity of AI, cause hundreds of thousands of casualties in the opening days of a war as the AI moves its troops around. They can also negate enemy fleets in the same way, as the UK and Japan, two of the major naval powers, must import the oil needed to run their ships and once their merchant fleet is gone, their ships won't be able to operate. All of this means the player can effectively ignore all the new naval mechanics introduced; sure you min/max your fleets or just pump out dirt cheap submarines. Most importantly, submarines are the only vessels that are replacable in any meaningful way - they are so cheap and fast to build you can afford losing some.
    • Cruiser submarines. Only a small handful of nations get access to them via national focus, but that's about their only downside. Cruiser submarines are accessible relatively early on and are equal with tier 3 regular subs. Their special slot means they can take additional fuel containers, extending their range to that of tier 4, years before you could access them. But the real kicker is how they can have plane launchers installed instead. Two of them, actually. This means a single cruiser submarine has a spotting rating equal to a small squadron of purpose-build light cruiser, takes half the time and maybe tenth of resources to build and remains undetectable itself. So after spotting enemy fleet, it can safely retreat, while the real naval force will come in to pound (unsuspecting) enemy ships. This also means a massive save on fuel, since it means just a handful of submarines, instead of an entire fleet of light cruisers doing patrols. Doing effective raids as Kriegsmarine never been easier.
    • And let's not forget about submarines being built as mine-layers. They can reach spots that would be suicidal for surface ships, while being cheaper than any other alternative and burning less fuel. Combining convoy raiding with laying out mines for combat ships means taking a massive dent in enemy's capacity of running any sort of naval actions, as the ships not sunk by torpedos are going to go down thanks to mines or will simply underperform in naval combat as they will be forced to carefully maneuver around plentiful mines.
    • Still want a use for all those expensive Capital Ships? Set them to strike force and engage at low risk and maintain naval supremacy purely through existing.
  • After La Resistance debuted, the new model of intel provides such massive amount of information about enemy, it's almost as if there was no Fog of War. And following patches not only kept it, but buffed it further as of 1.9.2 patch.
  • Prior to La Résistance, there was no point in going down Britain's "Revisit Colonial Policy" focus tree if you weren't planning on going communist. However, with the DLC, you gained one free operative for every two independent nations in your faction if you're the spymaster. Suddenly, you could decolonize Africa as Great Britain and gain a legion of spies with which you could boost ideologies in your enemies, lower their stability, and stage coups in them virtually limitlessly. Unfortunately, in 1.9.1 they nerfed the number of operatives gained by nations in your faction that have 0-50 factoriesnote  and capped your total number of operatives at 10, though it's still a substantial number if you let (or help) them build up.
  • France as of 1.9.0 with La Resistance is now severely in need of a re-balance, by going monarchist you gain war goals on the all the majors of the allies and axis, a extra +25% manpower base and 3% recruitable, -20% training time on top of the new military focuses reducing production cost of ALL forms of artillery and infantry equipment, another focus increasing production efficiency growth and cap by 10% and another that gives up to 8% non core manpower. allowing France to highhandedly fight all of Europe and WIN, note though you still have to survive the initial years as you build up, but by 1940 if France hasn't fallen they will basically become the France of Europa Universalis IV.
    • One of the other monarchist nations added in La Resistance, Carlist Spain, also gets war goals on most of the European majors, alongside the Benelux and America, and gets a much longer focus path that gives it -20% training time, extra +20% multiplier and flat +5% to recruitable manpower, while also giving the whole army large bonuses to almost every combat stat, making the Spanish Army stronger than every other army in the game. The only "downside" is how deep in the tree it is and thus how long it takes to get there, but there is really nothing stopping anyone from simply waiting it out.
      • On a slightly less extreme note, fascist Spain can get similar (though much less extreme) boosts that can make a player have a much easier time.
  • Even at the top difficulty level, the AI isn't capable of building units that can properly defend against a 26 width (with 26 neatly fitting 3 units into the typical 80 width combat) division made up of 6 Medium Tanks & 7 Motorised Infantry with the Mobile Warfare Blitzkrieg doctrine. If the player is using Medium Tank 2 or 3, with upgraded speed & reliability, the tanks become as fast as the motorised divisions, and that will create a massive amount of over-runs that instantly wipe out enemy units. In North Africa, the Russian steppe or the US great plains, these units can break entrenched enemy lines, easily encircle & over-run hundreds of infantry units and will not stop moving while doing so.
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