Hearts of Iron 4 can be unapologetic ally brutal to new wargamers with the sheer amount of systems involved, and especially after several DLCs and patches. Whether it’s figuring out how to structure your forces or what plan of action to take as an Allied state facing imminent doom in 1936, it can be quite a challenge.
Your ability to lead your nation is your supreme weapon, the strategy game Hearts of Iron IV lets you take command of any nation in World War II; the most engaging conflict in world history. Hearts Of Iron 4 Army Composition This technology is a must-get for players who value power above anything else and who like dominating over the opponent n terms of firepower and numbers, It should be noted that building an appropriate fleet for this purpose may take a while. Hearts of Iron IV is an epic historical simulator that allows you to experience the Second World War as any country, and perhaps, change history. These articles examine the benefits and drawbacks of playing as any of dozens of minor countries in HOI IV. Hearts of Iron IV – Historical Infantry Division Layouts – Early War. This video covers 9 historical division layouts and how you can recreate them in Hearts of Iron IV, also the video explains the methodology on how I determined those layouts.
Luckily for you, that's where we come in! Now you have a handy guide to aid you in navigating the choppy waters of the second war to end all wars. Make sure you're up to speed with all the latest changes as of the 1.9.3. Patch.
Before we talk about the grand strategies that will fuel your world dominating/liberating campaign, it’s important to talk about the cogs in your war-machine. The level of control you have over the makeup of individual divisions and ships can be daunting, but as long as you follow the rules laid out to you, you will be conquering away in no time.
Arguably the most important part of an HOI4 military, most of the game’s combat mechanics revolve around divisions slugging it out with their evil counterparts on the opposing side. The most distinguishing feature between any two divisions is their makeup in the Division Designer. Here, you can add and subtract different types of battalions from a division, altering its combat stats and overall performance.
One of the most important considerations to take into account when designing a division is combat width. Each division will take up an amount of space on the battlefield, and having more divisions on a side in a fight will lead to reduced effectiveness, or will block reinforcements from joining the fight altogether. Most battlefields will have “combat width” of 80, meaning that optimal division sizes should be either 20 or 40, if you’re looking to min-max as much as possible (Note: if a province is attacked from multiple directions simultaneously, each new province will add 40 to the total allowed combat width, which means more units will be able to fight at once). Generally, frontline battalions will have a width of 2, the most common exceptions being dedicated anti-air and anti-tank battalions. These both cost 1 width as they’re not considered 'frontline' fighters. Artillery is the other main outlier, costing a heavy 3 width. If you’re approaching your comfortable limit, consider adding a support artillery company rather than an artillery battalion. These 'support' companies don’t bring as much firepower as their larger counterparts, but they add nothing to the total combat width of a division.
On the subject of support companies, two that are almost necessary to include are the engineer company and the recon company. The engineer company increases the amount a division can entrench itself, meaning that given enough time, a single division with an engineering team can become a major problem for an attacking force. Through research, the engineering team will also increase the general attack and defense of the division, particularly in rough terrain, i.e. urban environments, across rivers, forts, etc. The recon company provides simpler benefits: speed and reconnaissance. A division with a recon team will move 10% faster across every terrain type, meaning they can reach the fight faster. This is incredibly important for any division that can expect to fight, but particularly so for divisions that use vehicles. When your division does get into a fight, reconnaissance determines which tactic a side will pick in battle. The higher the reconnaissance value one side has in the fight, the higher the chance their general will pick a favorable or countering pick to the opposing force’s choice.
There are other considerations to take into account when forming a division, such as what your enemies’ divisions look like, and where you will be fighting them. For example, a division meant to fight tanks in European plains is going to suffer heavily if fighting infantry in African jungles. As such, here are some general tips to keep in mind when building divisions:
- The more battalions a division has, the more supplies it will need, so “heavier” divisions will frequently suffer attrition in bad terrain. Try using smaller divisions, or adding logistics companies to reduce the negative effects of the environment.
- All divisions that use trucks, half-tracks, or tanks should invest in a maintenance company. These companies will increase the reliability of the vehicles, meaning less are lost to attrition, and they will also capture a percentage of enemy equipment for you to use.
- Anti-air companies/ battalions increase your air superiority in a province, but they will only target close air support aircraft, not aircraft with strategic bombing missions (presumably, they fly too high for the anti-air guns to shoot them down).
- Standard “leg infantry” divisions are the most reliable and cost effective divisions you could hope for. You can build an infantry division to 20 width, add the necessary support companies, and then copy the template so you can alter it to fit your specific needs. Most of your divisions should be infantry divisions.
- Motorized divisions are faster than mechanized divisions until the third halftrack becomes available, keep this in mind when looking for speed.
- A division only travels as fast as its slowest part, so it may be wise to pair up a single super heavy tank battalion with an infantry division, as they move at the same speed.
- A single anti-tank company with the most up-to-date guns can allow most divisions to pierce enemy armor.
- Infantry has naturally higher organization than tank battalions and support gun battalions. As such, for campaigns that see units being in repeated battles, divisions with a higher ratio of infantry will be able to stay in the front lines longer.
For more information on divisions, I recommend checking out the Hearts of Iron 4 wiki page on the Division Designer & land combat stats.
Editor's Note:Grand (Strategy) Master T.J. Hafer also wrote a Division build guide for us that you can check out, although it's a tad outdated at the moment - part of the reason we decided to launch a new, more comprehensive tips guide for the game.
The naval mechanics had a major overhaul thanks to the Man the Guns expansion, so don’t feel alone if you haven't played in a while and are confused about what’s new. Ships used to have a similar improvement structure to armored land vehicles and aircraft (which we’ll cover after this section) where a specific ship would be researched, then could be improved by spending experience points. Now hull types rather than whole ships can be researched, as well as the individual modules for ships. Every ship has an amount of slots that can be filled by these modules, but the catch is that ships will take longer to be built with advanced modules and higher amounts of modules overall. There are also restrictions on what ship types can equip certain modules. It doesn’t make much sense to put an aircraft hangar on a submarine, even though you really want to!
There are 5 main types of ship hulls: destroyer, cruiser, heavy, carrier, and submarine. There is a 6th hull type, the super heavy hull, but that only exists as an alteration of the 1936 heavy ship. These ships can vary widely in their roles based on what modules are placed on them, so we’ll go into a breakdown of the general capabilities of specific hull types.
Destroyers are light and fast ships that are some of the quickest to produce. They can be outfitted with some modest main guns, but the 2 main uses of destroyers are as torpedo boats and submarine hunters. Due to their speed, a large amount of destroyers can swarm enemy heavy ships and deal heavy damage with torpedoes. These fleets are relatively easy to build due to the short build time of destroyers, and everything but torpedoes can be stripped off the ship to make the build time even quicker, though this will render them ineffective in any other situation. Destroyers can also be outfitted with sonar and depth charges, which is the one way surface vessels can attack submarines. Curiously, due to naval battle AI, submarines will flee almost any battle with depth charge-equipped destroyers, being that the destroyers can actually hurt them. This means that as of the current patch (1.6.2), destroyers may actually function better as convoy raiders than submarines, because destroyers will not automatically flee the second a small enemy force appears (Note: thanks to Rimmy for pointing this out in his HOI4 video!). This will hopefully not be true forever, but keep this in mind for the near future.
Cruisers are the most versatile of the hull types, with the ability to fill almost any role needed. Cruisers can be outfitted with heavy guns and armor, classifying them as heavy cruisers that can perform reasonably well as capital ships. Alternatively, they can have lighter guns mounted with a stronger engine, and they can pursue marauding destroyer packs, or they can have several anti-air batteries bolted to the deck as a means of creating a floating “no-fly zone.” But even though cruisers can cover many different bases, they don’t excel as much as the ship types that are meant to perform in those roles. Cruisers take longer to build than destroyers and aren’t quite as fast, and the heaviest cruiser will most likely lose a prolonged engagement with an enemy battleship. Even so, they can be a multi-tool for any situation, and can be refitted to change their role in the seas.
Heavy ships are the undisputed kings of the sea in the first several years of the game. They have access to the thickest armor and the largest guns out of all ship types, but they are generally slower than other ships, and take longer to build as well. The big guns on battleships are excellent at killing cruisers and other capital ships, but they are less accurate against destroyers. Battleships can trade some of their extra module space for smaller guns specifically meant to target lesser ships, but this lessens the effectiveness of the battleship in its primary role, which is to fight the enemy’s capital ships. Battleships also take a very long time to build compared to smaller ships, meaning that ships you begin construction on will likely be equipped with subpar tech by the time they launch. However, an old battleship is still a battleship, and can be very useful when working with a capable fleet.
Carriers are very straightforward as far as ships go: their sole purpose is to launch aircraft that will assist in combat. Aircraft are very effective against enemy fleets in large numbers, but a fleet with solid anti-air cover can severely inhibit a carrier’s ability to do its job. Outside of fighting specific anti-carrier fleets, carriers are arguably the strongest ship type in the game for the ability to project air power not only in battle, but in the sea region the carrier is operating in, or even the neighboring land province.
Much like battleships, carriers do take a long time to build, but battleships and some cruisers can make up for this time by performing carrier conversions that slap a flight deck onto these ships after removing the guns. They do not have the same aircraft capacity full carriers do, but they can be sufficient as support carriers. Carriers are vitally important to fleets in HOI4: if you don’t want to build any of your own, you should still plan to specifically target and kill enemy carriers. As of the most recent patch, fleets with the Carrier Air advantage impose positioning penalties on the opposing fleet as well
Speaking of killing enemy carriers, Submarines excel at hunting down enemy capital ships and shipping. They are also very, very cheap compared to other ships, so a fleet of submarines can quickly be assembled to threaten unprotected enemy ships.
General tips on building up a navy:
- Submarines, destroyers, light cruisers, and eventually bombers can lay mines in naval regions if they have minelaying modules. It may be beneficial to build cheap ships that just have minelaying / minesweeping capabilities so you can quickly build up defenses or clear them out as the need arises.
- Don’t be afraid to launch a ship then immediately send it to be refit with newer technology, the benefit of the newer tech can be worth the wait.
- Air superiority will impact the effectiveness of naval missions, so provide air cover for your fleets when possible.
- Build your fleet to counter the enemy fleet. If the enemy is focusing on building mainly capital ships, invest in torpedo technology. If the enemy likes swarms of smaller ships, build ships with many light guns that are more effective against those ships.
- Research engines early, being faster than the enemy fleet will give your ships a huge advantage.
- The bigger the ship, the more fuel it consumes. Ships with more advanced engines will use more fuel, so keep that in mind when your fuel is running dry.
The Air Force
The air power part of the combat trifecta is undoubtedly the most abstract, and has less moving parts than either of the other two dimensions. However, it is airpower that can be the determining factor in land or sea battles, so it is important to detail. Aircraft are split into 2 main trees, which I’ll refer to as the “light” and “heavy” trees.
The “light” tree has close air supports (CAS), fighters, and naval bombers. These aircraft are generally more agile and faster than the aircraft in the other tree, but have less heavy armaments and have shorter ranges than the heavy aircraft. These aircraft also have carrier variants that are generally slightly slower than their land-based counterparts, along with further reduced range. Light aircraft are meant to be deployed at the tactical level, or attached to an army so they follow them along the front as support.
The “heavy” aircraft consist of the heavy fighter, the tactical bomber, and the strategic bomber. These aircrafts have longer range and stronger armaments than the “light” aircraft, but consume more manpower, and are not as good at targeting specific units. “Heavy” aircraft, due to their range and their intended targets are generally better at the strategic level.
All aircraft can have variants that be upgraded in 4 categories: reliability, range, attack, and engine. Generally when creating a variant of an aircraft, it is beneficial to upgrade the category that the aircraft already is dominant in, in order to increase their strengths. For example, a fighter’s strength comes from its high agility, which both helps them to attempt attacks on enemy aircraft and avoid attacks from the enemy. Upgrading the agility of fighters would give them even more of an advantage over the enemy. However, the other categories do not need to be neglected for the “preferred” category, but every point sunk into an upgrade makes the next one more costly in experience points, so spend carefully!
General air composition tips:
- Heavy fighters perform better in larger provinces due to their increased range, while regular fighters perform better in smaller regions.
- Upgrading reliability on aircraft is always a smart move as this will decrease the amount of aircraft lost to accidents.
- The strategic bomber is relatively expensive compared to the tactical bomber. It may be wise to build more of the less effective tactical bombers for strategic bombing in order to have enough aircraft bombing the enemy’s factories.
- Heavy fighters are more expensive than regular fighters, but heavy fighters count more towards air supremacy for your side. Consider investing in a more agile heavy fighter to make more use of this effect.
- If you have multiple air bases in an air region, investing in longer-ranged aircraft is less important so you can rebase the aircraft to where you need them.
What other guidance would you like to see? Let us know your top Hearts of Iron 4 tips in the comments!
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This article was written in collaboration with the Loresworn Order, who provided a lot of the theory-crafting behind today's piece. Also thanks to this Reddit thread, which has a lot of tips beyond what we talk about today. Additional thanks to reddit user 'billguncrash' for writing int with some additional tips and pointers.
Hearts Of Iron 4 Army Composition Chart
If you're a wargamer who's into his/her videogames, you'll most likely have seen (if not played) Hearts of Iron IV. The fourth iteration of their 'grand strategy wargame', Hearts of Iron manages to keep the classic Paradox grand-strategy scale, but focus it into a wargame context by having players navigate the political, and then military landscape of the world between 1936 – 1948.
An integral part of the game, as you can imagine, involves fighting in the wars that erupt during this era. While history is directed a bit more than it is in other Paradox games, there's actually more flexibility here than previous iterations. So while you're always fighting, in a very general sense, the second 'War of the World' the nature and course of that war can be radically different every time.
Land, Sea and Air.. And then more land
While HoI IV has dedicated mechanics and systems for fighting in the air as well as at sea, at its heart (… of iron?) this is a game about land wars. To fight the land wars, you need to create divisions using the wonderfully flexible, and slightly impenetrable Division Designer. What does it all mean? What do all those stats do? What defines the effectiveness of one Division vs. another? That's where we come in.
First off, you'll want to watch this video. TJ's done a great job at breaking down what all the stats mean, even if he is dropping F-bombs like its the Battle of Britain. With a basic understand of what everything does, you're ready to start looking at how to craft divisions.
There are a few basic things to remember:
- General consensus is that Combat Width of a division should be kept at or below 20 (see section below).
- Research & Doctrines will affect some of the basic principles laid out here, as will more advanced models of things. Always check the tool-tips.
- Always keep in mind the production capacity of your nation. If you're a smaller, poorer country you will need to scale down considerably.
- Changing division templates costs XP, which can be hard to get in the early game depending on who you are. Try to plan ahead how you want to set up your divisions, as you won't be able to afford too much trial and error.
- A good way to get XP while at peace is to train divisions, and send volunteers to other wars (which is dependant on ideology and World Tension). Training divisions costs equipment, but the combat bonus units get when they reach level 3 is invaluable, so you get dual benefits.
- A Division is made up of Regiments, which are in turn made up of Battalions. Regiments are columns, so the more battalions a regiment is the more troops it has to cycle though, but generally speaking you want to be as 'deep' as you are wide, especially at the 20 Combat Width size. A 3X3 grid or a 4/3/3 set-up usually works.
- In very general terms, Infantry provide a Division with HP, Defence and Organisation, while Armour provides the hitting power in terms of Hard Attack, Soft Attack (although infantry are good on this as well) & Breakthrough.
The basic combat width of a province (without any modifiers) is 80, which means each side can field up to 80 widths worth of Divisions (not account for any modifiers). In addition, an extra 40 width is applied per additional ‘front’. So if you’re attacking one territory from three, that’s a width of 160. In practice and sticking to the 20 width per division, you’ll be attacking with 4 divisions on the main thrust, and then two per flank. It’s worth noting that in this 3 v 1 scenario, only you get the extra width - the enemy has to stick with the 80 they get from their one province.
The reason you should stick to a combat width of 20 is down to how the game handles someone being ‘over’ the limit of a province. In simple terms, 4 x 20 = 80, but 4 x 21 is 84. This means an entire division gets sent to reserve resulting in you actually only attacking with 3x21, which is 63. If your enemy has stuck to 20 combat width, and assuming they've designed well, you’re at a 17 point disadvantage and will probably lose.
Support Vs. Line
Support Battalions are a key part of a division's make-up. You'll notice certain types, like towed Artillery & Anti-Tank guns, can also be put in as 'Line' Battalions as part of dedicated Regiments. The main differences between whether a battalion is 'support' or 'line' is:
- Support slots don't change the speed of a division, which is set to the slowest unit. This means you can put support artillery with a motorized infantry division and it will still go as fast as the motorised units, for example.
- Support regiments can be air dropped along with paratroopers, which allows you to give some much needed backbone to these divisions.
- Support regiments require less equipment and manpower. But in the case of, say, artillery or AT, they also have less of an effect on the division's stats in comparison to a full regiment of the same type.
With this in mind, it's only really worth putting 'Line' versions of things like Artillery and AT on foot-infantry divisions. The speed penalty won't affect things as much, and you can give Infantry a lot more firepower. To keep within the 20 combat width limit you'll need to sacrifice an Infantry Regiment, but the trade-off in terms of HP and Organisation are worth it.
For armoured/combined arms divisions, generally you want to give them support battalions until you unlock the self-propelled tank chassis versions of Artillery & AT, so as not to be hit by speed penalties.
While you can create divisions that work for a specific purpose, you generally want to mix things up. Depending on the role your division will be filling will dictate the make-up. As we mentioned above, Infantry provide a lot of HP, Organisation and Defence, while armour provide a lot of the punch.
Again TJ does some great videos talking in depth into general theory crafting for Infantry and Armour divisions:
There's also one for more motorised divisions, but it generally covers elements from the other videos, and until you get to mechanised I would personally advise against having all motorised infantry divisions because they cost 200 extra manpower per battalion, plus have severe terrain penalties. All you get in return is really the extra speed, but there are better combinations you can use.
A 'Light Armour W/ Motorised', for example, is a more rounded unit, but Light Armour has its own drawbacks - they cost as much 'Medium' tanks but aren't as good, some one school of thought is to wait until you hit Medium before adding tanks to divisions.
Make sure you check out this video on special forces design as well, including a dedicated Anti-Tank division. TJ also covers a land-based AA template, but we're getting conflicting reports over whether division-based AA actually has any effect right now. Windows 2016 version list. Personally, I never bother with it. Also worth keeping in mind is that Marine and Mountaineers are considered vastly superior to regular infantry due to the stat distribution (lower HP, but better organisation), so one option is to switch out all of your infantry for a specialist unit where possible.
We won't repeat too much of what TJ talks about, but there are some important lessons to always keep in mind when building and trying out new division templates:
- Organisation is important. You'll run of organisation a lot sooner than you'll run out of health, and you'll lose 99% of battles due to low organisation.
- Engineer and Recon support battalions are auto-include. If you've got motorised or amour, Maintenance is also a must, with Field Hospital being good for infantry divisions. If you're fighting outside of mainland Europe, Logistics can also be a life saver.
- Signalling support is a secret weapon – use it more.
- You'll want separate Divisions for attack and defence, although it's possible to design all-rounders as well. Generally Infantry are better on defence than they are on attack, but Mechanised Battalions change this dynamic some-what.
- Standard Division templates for Infantry is 4/3/3, same for Infantry. Working towards the 20 Combat width, you then add and subtract other Battalion types from there. E.G., 3/3/4 Tank/Tank/Infantry (Motorised or Mechanised).
- With regards to trying to fight armour, a single AT battalion/support AT per division is enough at a minimum: 'A division's piercing is equal to 40% of the highest piercing in the division plus 60% of the weighted-average piercing of all battalions in the division' - HoI4 Wiki
There are exceptions to all the things above – terrain, who you're fighting, the production capacity of your nation, research.. these will all dictate or otherwise change what your 'optimum' regiment builds will be. You won't need much AT fighting against China, but you'll want a f***ton for Russia. The mountains of Italy are going to be problematic for armour or combined arms divisions, so the Mountaineer special forces troops will shine here. Also, we're told to avoid mud at all costs, apparently.
If you've yet to dive into the game, don't forget to check our our review of Hearts of Iron IV, which James split into two parts covering the civilian and military aspects. For my part, I think it's infinitely more accessible than Hearts of Iron III was, but still suffers from the peculiar problem of the planning and preparing for war being more fun than fighting the war itself. Still it's worth getting and will only get better over time, so for now at least consider yourself armed and ready for whatever is thrown at you.