Hearts of Iron Beginner's Guide
Published on 7/26/2003 by Scott Parrino.
Hearts of Iron can be overwhelming for new players. The options of play extend beyond what many traditional gamers have ever managed in board games. The multitude of options can press even an experienced grognard. Instead of jumping in and conducting the German blitzkrieg in fall 1939, or taking up the defense of the British Empire, an indirect approach to learning the ins and outs of play can provide ample opportunity to learn its subtleties while experiencing some of its unique alternatives.
Hearts of Iron, unique among strategy games set during the Second World War, allows the player to control almost any country that existed at the time. Because play mechanics can overwhelm anyone who attempts to take the reins of Germany or the United States, begin play by running one of the game's minor nations.
This article assumes that players will want to discover the parameters of the operating system on their own, through play. Therefore, no hints are offered as to how to play through the scenario. Only "suggestions" for which game concepts might be used will guide the player with regard to individual scenarios. Incidentally, every player must download the update for the game in order to play the game to its fullest. The following is a suggested sequence of scenarios for learning many of the game's procedures.
1. Italy 1936 - Ground Combat, Supply, Basic Economy, Naval Transport of Ground Units, Leadership: Playing Italy in 1936 presents the player with a small war in Ethiopia and, if pursued, an opportunity to invade Albania and, perhaps, Greece. In this conflict, gamers will learn the basics of ground combat. Individual battles will unfold between groups of small units. Units need to be supplied and reinforced for maximum strength. Additionally, players should look at the national economy when playing this scenario.
2. Spain 1936 - Air Combat, Overseas Colonies, Expeditionary Forces, Popular Governmental Support: Playing Republican Spain presents the player with a scenario in which most of the armed forces of Spain defect to the Nationalist cause, except for the air force. Because it is the only branch of the Spanish military which remains loyal, the player will learn different ways to use an air force to attempt to steer events. Additionally, the player will need to pay attention to the popular will of the public. Various options to influence other nations diplomatically may occur.
3. 1939 - Several countries are quite fascinating to play during the scenarios during this watershed year. Germany and Italy, under the control of the AI, may not always invade countries that the player would expect them to. If that is the case, repeat play may be needed to confront the attack of a major power. However, the problems presented to several counties offer players a chance to learn basic game play options.
4. Norway 1939 - Naval Combat, Supply, Diplomacy, Terrain: The Norwegian player is faced with an impossible situation should Germany invade. However, from a gamer's standpoint, learning to frustrate seemingly irresistible assaults and to maneuver and reinforce units is quite beneficial. Additionally, this scenario involves several diplomatic options.
5. Finland 1939 - Diplomacy, Leadership, Land Combat: The actions of this scenario depend upon the actions of other nations. If active, the player learns several combat tactics and the benefits of correctly functioning diplomacy. The ground combat options invite maneuver and tactics.
6. Yugoslavia 1939 - Combat, Production, Research: Yugoslavia has time from the beginning of this scenario to attack outside powers and to reap the benefits of research and production, including building new IC and anti-aircraft capacity. Though in a difficult, if not impossible position, when attacked, playing Yugoslavia is interesting both politically and militarily.
7. Greece 1939 - Combat, Foreign Intervention, Politics: AI insures that playing Greece differs from game to game, but Greece is typically faced with either an Italian or German invasion or an invasion from both counties with Bulgarian assistance. This difficult situation is fun to play with its options for a last stand defense of Crete.
8. France 1936 - Production, Leadership, Diplomacy: Back-tracking to 1936 at this point permits one of the most interesting 'what ifs' of the game. France has a multitude of production and deployment options (advanced fighters or tanks) that can be explored in this global play of a major power.