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Hearts of Iron 4 DLC guide

Here's everything you need to know about the various DLC expansions for Paradox's premier WW2 wargame.

Hearts of Iron 4 DLC guide main image artwork showing Erwin Rommel in a Tiger Tank

Paradox’s grand-strategy wargame Hearts of Iron 4 hasn’t built up as powerful an arsenal of DLC as its other squadmates in the Paradox Development Studio roster, but there’s now enough extra stuff available for purchase that you might want to know which order to attack them in.


We’ve called each paid offering to attention to assess their capabilities and see how well they pass muster. These expansions are all sold separately; the popular ‘Colonel Edition’ – and the ‘upgrade pack’ DLC bundle of the same name – are no longer available. All the content that was originally part of those versions (which was mainly cosmetic) has either been re-released in a more dedicated DLC, or has simply been folded into the base game for free. This makes life simpler for new players: just dive into the guide below and find out which expansions do it for you!

The best Hearts of Iron 4 DLC packs are:

  1. Waking the Tiger
  2. Man the Guns (could be number one if you love naval warfare)
  3. Together for Victory
  4. Death or Dishonor
  5. La Résistance
  6. Battle for the Bosporus
  7. No Step Back

If you’re an older hand at the game and managed to get hold of the no-longer-available Hearts of Iron IV Expansion Pass back at launch, then – lucky old you – you’re partway there already; every major DLC mentioned in this guide is included with the Expansion Pass, up to Man the Guns. Anything from La Resistance onwards, however, is not included and must be purchased separately.

With the fiddly details out of the way, let’s get to it: this is everything you need to know to choose the best Hearts of Iron 4 DLC for your game. 

Waking the Tiger

As the title suggests, this one leads with a suite of more complex features and mechanics to do with the ancient and perpetually embattled nation of China. Waking the Tiger adds new focus trees for Communist China, Nationalist China, the Chinese Warlords, and the imperial puppet state of Manchukuo, as well as new unit models for Chinese infantry, cavalry, artillery, and planes.

There are three bespoke new features to simulate peculiarly Chinese dynamics in the interplay of WW2. ‘Border conflicts’ allow Chinese factions to engage in a limited skirmish over control of a single state without declaring all-out war, while the ‘infiltration’ mechanic provides for the Chinese communists to subvert local authorities and seize control of states covertly. The ‘power struggle’ system, meanwhile, allows multiple Chinese factions to compete for national leadership politically, without bloodshed.

Besides the China rework, though, this DLC includes a vast swathe of new features spanning most of the game’s systems. Two of the major Axis powers get new, ‘alternate history’ focus tree branches: Germany can now bin Hitler and restore the Kaiser (or even go democratic), and Japan, too, has parallel paths for democracy or communism.

On the battlefield, there’s a slew of army changes. New attrition mechanics mean troops who remain in a hot or cold area long enough can become acclimatized, gaining modified unit models and reduced penalties for fighting in that climate. Under-strength divisions can now be merged to consolidate forces and tidy up your battle maps, while the new command abilities allow generals with certain traits to spend command power on temporary, unique buffs to the armies they lead. Best of all, you now get the ability to set custom insignia for each and every one of your divisions (remember, skull-and-crossbones means baddies).

Turning to the air war, air wings can now be sent as volunteer forces, along with land divisions, and new orders give you more control over what types of targets you want your strategic bombers to prioritise.

Even the politics systems get a bump: countries who can’t send volunteers to aid a warring can now despatch a military military attaché to help out (and nab some army xp). Plus, the list of ‘decisions’ has been expanded, including options to form (or reform) some ahistorical nations, or develop strategic resources in historical areas that did not have them at the start of the war, but were discovered to have them later.

Oh yeah, and it adds a minimap to the game, too. Phew.

Is it worth it?

If that feature list seems huge compared to the previous two expansions, that’s because it is. Waking the Tiger is definitely the most value you can get for your money of the currently available Hearts of Iron  4 DLC. It’s the first expansion that really feels like a Paradox expansion in how much it changes things up.

The Chinese focus trees aren’t all great – for instance, a lot of the interesting power struggle stuff for China becomes irrelevant 90 percent of the time since the United Front must either band together or get absolutely demolished by Japan.

Border Conflicts, especially, seem like a rushed feature that doesn’t always behave in logical or predictable ways. The new options for Japan and Germany are a lot of fun, though. The new unit models and Acclimatization system bring even more realism and some unique strategic concerns – you don’t want to train troops you plan to send to North Africa in the mountains of Montana, for example.

Man the Guns

At its heart, Man the Guns is a gigantic upgrade to the game’s systems for navy-building and naval warfare, and, in so being, constitutes the game’s biggest post-launch ‘overhaul’.

The new ship designer tool allows you to customise your ships by equipping different components to different slots. Ships can now return to a shipyard to refit and upgrade to a newer version, while admirals now have in-game traits similar to what was introduced for land generals in Waking the Tiger. The expansion also adds amphibious tanks and troop transports to aid in naval invasions and attacks across rivers.

There are a couple of new options for your territorial waters, too – you can now customise the routes taken by your supply convoys and transport craft, and deploy sea mines in critical zones to defend your territory from enemy ships.

And, besides the core nautical features, we also get new focus trees for the US, UK, Mexico & Netherlands, offering a variety of alt-history and in-depth narrative options, as well as a ‘government-in-exile’ mechanic which allows you to keep playing even when you’ve lost your core territory.

This one really is a chunky package.

Is it worth it?

It’s a pretty definitive ‘yes’, although the caveat is if you typically avoid big naval powers or generally don’t play the nations that are getting the most improvements here, then you may struggle to get much out of this. Outside of that though, while it doesn’t offer as many features as Waking the Tiger added, these features have a lot more impact and take better advantage of the changes that have come as part of the 1.6 Ironclad update (namely, the addition of Fuel and the overhaul of naval combat mechanics).

Being able to design ships, refit and all of the other little naval goodies completely revolutionises the naval game, where-as the Government-in-Exile mechanic is crucial if you like play nations that typically can get steam-rolled by larger powers. The new focus trees, while a bit complex to navigate, also bring the four targeted nations to up to the same level of flexibility nations like Japan, Germany and the Balkan nations.

Overall, this is either tied, or a very close second, in terms of value, and the only real deciding factor is how much you enjoy the naval aspects of WW2.

Together for Victory

Something of a ‘grab bag’ of assorted upgrades, the Together for Victory DLC leads with new focus trees for the nations in the British Commonwealth: Canada, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, and the British Raj, along with 19 new infantry and aeroplane 3D models specific to those nations.

It then doubles down on the ‘colonial’ theme by adding an autonomy system, which allows for subject countries to assert their independence over time (or, conversely, for overlords to integrate subjects more fully).

Outside that, we get the ability to request (as well as offer) the lend-leasing of equipment, a technology-sharing mechanic to get discounts on technologies that have already been researched by another faction member, and a new ‘spearhead’ command to include more direct, focused assaults in your battleplans.

Finally, it delivers a tranche of new voiceovers in German, French, Italian, British English, American English, Spanish, Russian, Mandarin, Japanese, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish.

Is it worth it?

The focus trees for the Commonwealth nations are pretty underwhelming.

There are mods available on the Steam workshop for several them that, in my opinion, are more fun to play with than the official DLC ones. How much you’ll enjoy the rest of the grab bag features relies a fair bit on how much you enjoy playing minor nations.

Autonomy can be a fun way to go from a subject to an equal partner, but from the overlord side, you’ll rarely have the time or resources to do much with it before the war ends. Spearheads can be a nice time-saver, but also don’t do anything you couldn’t accomplish already by micro-managing your tanks. Honestly, my main reason to recommend it is the new unit models and voice overs, which help add texture and immersion to the war.

Death or Dishonor

In Death or Dishonor, we get new focus trees for four minor European powers: Hungary, Romania, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia, plus the customary new unit models and voiceovers to go with them (the game’s 1.10 Collie update, in October 2020, added further new content for Yugoslavia and Romania).

There are also new mechanics for equipment production: the new conversion mechanic allows you to re-purpose old or captured equipment (such as refitting older Panzer models into StuGs), while equipment licensing grants the option to gain access to another nation’s equipment designs in exchange for industrial capacity (or license your own designs for a profit).

Finally, we get some new variant types for subjects of Fascist nations (such as the Reichskommisariat), which behave differently from normal puppets.

Is it worth it?

I think the content designers did an overall better job on the focuses and events in this pack than they did in Together for Victory. From restoring the Austro-Hungarian Empire to dealing with King Carol of Romania’s ongoing antics and shenanigans, I got some of my most entertaining playthroughs trying to scrape by on the mean streets of South-Central Europe.

I don’t really find myself using equipment conversion that often, but licensing is great if you’re playing a country with limited research slots and you don’t, for instance, have the luxury of always staying up-to-date in fighter tech. As with Together for Victory, the new unit models and voice overs offer a lot of value for me – but your mileage may vary if you’re the NATO counter type of player.

La Résistance

La Résistance‘s ‘hero’ feature is the addition of mechanics to establish an espionage agency, recruit operatives and send them off on secret missions.

However, it also packs in a bevy of other add-ins and new systems, including new national focus trees for France, Spain & Portugal, mechanics for collaborator governments, a new intel system and more complex AI simulation surrounding the Spanish Civil War, with the potential for four-way conflicts.

There are also a few new military features,  including scout planes, armoured cars and special recon companies for your army divisions.

Is it worth it?

This one is less certain than previous expansions. It’s not that it’s a ‘bad’ expansion, but the new features are less ground-breaking and/or have less of an impact than what’s come before.

If you’re interested in the Iberian peninsular and playing a more fleshed out Spanish Civil War (either as one of the Spanish factions, or as someone like Portugal) then this is a must-have. If you don’t care though, the new SCW potential can still trigger without the DLC, adding another tool to the sandbox. The new units fill interesting little niches we didn’t know were there, and the Intel system is a bit more interesting now.

But things like Espionage and the new ‘agencies’ don’t pack as much punch as we might have expected. I guess they couldn’t have designed this system to be too powerful as it might upset the game for non-buyers, but as it stands it’s a fun system to play around with, but it’s not game-changing. Or even war-winning, although we’ve yet to explore that fully. France gets some unexpected love here as well, and the free 1.9 Husky patch improves the way garrisons and resistances work.

Battle for the Bosporus

Battle for the Bosporus’ main offering is the whacking great new national focus trees for Turkey, Greece and Bulgaria.

Beyond that, it adds new voiceover lines for those three nations, some new 3D models for Balkan and Turkish armies and a few new music tracks.

Is it worth it?

This is a very specific offering, and an attempt by Paradox to bring back the ‘Country Pack’ idea that was started with Death and Dishonor. If you care about Greece, Bulgaria or Turkey, then this pack is aimed at giving you a more complete experience with dedicated new national focus trees and some new 3D models.

It literally has no other content for any other nation, so if you’re not that bothered living out a ‘nu-Ottoman’ fantasy, then feel free to skip. According to the dev team though, Turkey was the most requested minor nation that everyone wanted to see get a new focus tree, so we dare say that some of you may be interested at least. For more on this latest expansion, read our Battle for the Bosporus review.

Hearts of Iron 4 DLC No Step Back poster showing Soviet workers and soldiers

No Step Back

2022’s No Step Back adds a bounty of new focus trees for the nations of East Europe.  Some bonkers alt-history pathways are added to Poland, and big changes are made to the Baltic states. Most numerous of all, are the new Soviet Union paths. Some will historically expand the nation’s political potential, while others are downright wild, like those that let you restore the Tsar to power. The Soviet Union in No Step Back is a radically different beast from the nation in the base game, forced to grapple with a paranoid Stalin, purged generals, logistics nightmares and contentious political factions.

Alongside those new pathways and country-specific systems, No Step Back also makes significant changes to the game’s logistics system. Railways are key to supplying your troops on the frontline, as maintaining your own lines or sabotaging the enemies’ takes on great importance.

There’s also some smaller additions, including a tank designer that lets you customise your armoured divisions, railway guns that can barrage cities from afar, and a new ‘army spirits’ system that allows you to customise the expertise of your general staff.

Is it worth it?

If you’re a fan of playing the Soviet Union, or any of the Baltic states for that matter, No Step Back is an incredibly easy HOI 4 DLC to recommend. It fleshes out the Soviets to the point that they’re likely the deepest nation in the game – full-stop.

If you’re not so eager for the Eastern Front, this one’s slightly harder to recommend, as many of its extra features feel rather fiddly and inconsequential at their worst. Read our No Step Back review for more details.

The Hearts of Iron 4 DLC you need for each nation

  • Germany – Death or Dishonor, Waking the Tiger, Colonel Edition Upgrade Pack, Axis Armor Pack
  • Japan – Waking the Tiger, Man the Guns, Death or Dishonor, Axis Armor Pack
  • Manchukuo, All Chinese Factions – Waking the Tiger
  • Britain – Man the Guns, Together for Victory, Colonel Edition Upgrade Pack
  • United States – Man the Guns, Colonel Edition Upgrade Pack
  • France – Colonel Edition Upgrade Pack, La Résistance
  • Canada, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, British Raj – Together for Victory, Man the Guns
  • Hungary, Romania, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia – Death or Dishonor
  • Spain, Portugal – La Résistance
  • Turkey, Greece & Bulgaria – Battle for the Bosporus, Man the Guns, Waking the Tiger

Hearts of Iron DLC guide artwork showing missile launch site

Hearts of Iron 4 Next DLC

The next DLC for Hearts of Iron 4 is By Blood Alone, an expansion that will expand the focus trees of Italy, Ethiopia, and the famously neutral Switzerland. It will introduce a few new mechanics to the game, such as deeper diplomatic systems, including more in-depth peace conferences and new embargo options.

There’ll also be a new aircraft designer – presumably much akin to the tank designer found in No Step Back – and the option to award medals to decorate your most dedicated divisions.

The release date for By Blood Alone has not been announced yet. According to Paradox, it will be released “later this year” and launch alongside a major free update to the game.

Miscellaneous DLC

Hearts of Iron 4 DLC guide radio pack screenshot

Radio Pack

What’s in it?

A total of 35 new songs spread across three faction specific radio channels, each with their own unique look and design.

Is it worth it?

The music in HOI4 is already quite good, but if you were looking to double-down on this side of things then there are worse things to spend your money on.

Hearts of Iron 4 DLC guide allied speeches pack

Allied Speeches MUSIC Pack

What’s in it?

Another audio pack, this DLC contains around 70 minutes worth of speeches, spread across 13 specific excepts, recreating famous addresses given during the time period. These includes notables such as Neville Chamberlain’s “Peace in our Time”, Churchill’s “We will fight them on the beaches” and even MacArthur’s “I have returned”.

Is it worth it?

If you’re a history buff who already knows about these famous lines, then it might be a nice value add to have them playing while you’re playing the game. If you’re not that bothered this essentially becomes more background noise, and not even the musical kind.

Hearts of Iron 4 DLC guide axis armor pack screenshot

Axis Armor Pack

What’s in it?

  • 19 German Armor Models
  • 22 Japanese Armor Models
  • 12 Italian Armor Models

Is it worth it?

This is pack aimed at a very specific set of WW2 enthusiasts. If you’re one of them, you probably already have this but this is basically just a cosmetic pack that adds in new skins for specific types of vehicles. Depending on your Division composition you might not even see most of them.

Hearts of Iron 4 DLC guide Allied Armor Pack

Allied Armor Pack

What’s in it?

  • 7 British Armor Models
  • 17 American Armor Models
  • 8 French Armor Models
  • 13 Soviet Armor Models
  • 8 Additional Tank Models for each of the major Allied powers, for a total of 32.

Is it worth it?

This pack was released in June 2020 and is essentially meant to be a sequel to the Axis-themed armor pack. It’s worth nothing this pack also includes unit skins that were previously available as part of the Colonel Edition, below which may reduce its value depending on whether you already have that or not. There’s not as much interest in Allied armor models as there is Axis, but it does add another layer of authenticity.

Hearts of Iron 4 DLC guide sabaton soundtrack key art

Sabaton Soundtrack

What’s in it?

Five World War II-themed songs from Swedish power metal band Sabaton.

Is it worth it?

If you like Sabaton, sure.

Hearts of Iron 4 DLC guide sabaton soundtrack concert shot

Sabaton Soundtrack Vol 2

What’s in it?

Ten more World War II-themed songs from Swedish power metal band Sabaton.

Is it worth it?

If you really like Sabaton.

Make sure you check our DLC Buying Guides regularly, especially after a major DLC release or around a major sales event. We’ll always keep these up to date so you’re fully informed as to what to buy.