Review: Hearts of Iron IV: Death or Dishonor14 Jun 2017 0
Review: Hearts of Iron IV: Death or Dishonor
Released 14 Jun 2017
Paradox Interactive continues to cover the world with their latest country add-on pack for Hearts of Iron IV, Death or Dishonor. The new countries, complete with unique focus trees, research area, units and leaders, are Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania and Yugoslavia. Historically, all of these nations were either puppets or fodder for the Germans. So why bother to play them?
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Before going into each country, a few new features have been added. All countries can now convert older vehicles to other versions, e.g. making PZKW IIs into Stug Is or using captured enemy vehicles as the Germans did with French Char Bs. The other important addition is buying or selling licenses for the production of equipment as a diplomatic function. The new countries need to get better arms quick so they should make an offer to a friendly power to allow them to produce superior weapons. Selling licenses is also a fast way to make money. Fascist countries don’t bother with diplomatic niceties as they can wring their puppets and conquests dry with the new Reichskommissariat function.
At first blush, Czechoslovakia seems to be the strongest of the four new nations in1936. Having a solid industrial base including the famous Skoda works, the democratic government is stable, supported by a relatively large army including the great Czech Legion and a good officer corps. Czech research is fairly advanced so having only three science slots exist is not fatal. Resources can be obtained despite being landlocked. Two problems, though, make survival rough. National unity is only 50% because the Czechs don’t get along with the Slovaks as witnessed in the “Velvet Divorce” of 1993. Low unity decreases production and political points. The problem can be assuaged partially through the focus tree. The other thorn is German ambition. Again, the focus tree allows for ceding the Sudetenland and becoming a puppet or standing up to Hitler by building fortifications. If relations with France and Britain are good, this time they may declare war on Germany if it invades. The ensuing fight is interesting; Czechoslovakia may go under but the Germans fight earlier than they are prepared for.
Quasi-independent since 1866, Hungary was not treated well by the victorious powers in 1919. Her industrial base was almost non-existent; her army weak with bad officers and research was decades behind the times. Her real ruler was the fascist regent Admiral Miklós Horthy. The first priority for the player is to improve industry, quickly done with the focus tree and gain a fourth research slot. The next question is whether to follow history and jump on the Nazi bandwagon or snuggle up to the USSR. The outcome of the first was terrible but Germany could win this time. On the other hand, playing nice with the Great Bear has its own dangers. Another route unexplored is a democracy. Regardless, low manpower makes any real impact on the international scene highly unlikely with some kind of independence in 1946 the best possible outcome.
As the only country of the four not created by the Versailles Treaty and having fought on the winning side in World War I, Romania starts 1936 looking comparatively strong with a large military, reasonable industrial base and a normal level of research. Her government is a constitutional monarchy. The monarch presents the first problem for players as the king is not the most discreet individual. The first decision demanded is how to pay for his mistress’ new house followed a few months later by how to handle press coverage of the king’s indiscretions. Romania’s opening strength presents a unique focus tree thread called Balkan Dominance. Once an army of 400,000 men is fielded, neighboring states can start being bullied and brought into a coalition. Another route to the same goal is Dictatorial Monarchy after the embarrassing king is replaced by a more stalwart royal (read Edward XIII versus George VI). Less radical threads include allying with Germany, allying with the USSR or firmly joining the West. Romania, unlike the two countries described above, has a port on the Black Sea so a navy is possible. Resources are a problem as the number of civilian factories available for trade is quite limited, thus making that large army difficult to form. Romania’s political possibility to become a regional power makes it interesting to play.
The country of Yugoslavia was a product of a bizarre misinterpretation of Pan Slavism by the writers of the Versailles Treaty. Serbs, Croats, Muslims and Christians had been at each other’s’ throats for centuries. Why jamming them into one country under a Serb king was thought to be a good idea staggers the imagination. Only luck and an authoritarian like Tito kept the country together until 1992 when it fell back into its usual ethnic chaos. No wonder national unity starts 1936 at a miserable 35%! Improvement can be attained in the focus tree by concepts like making Croatia semi-independent but this takes two years while other matters wait and filling cabinet posts is unusually expensive. The industrial base is poor; the army, though numerous, is ill-equipped and ill-led; research is at a 1918 level and the navy doesn’t even have convoys so trade is hampered despite the long Adriatic coastline. Modernization including a fourth research slot takes until 1940 to be even slightly meaningful in creating a modern military while Italy still wants Trieste. The usual alliance choices of the West, the Axis or the Comintern are present but none speak to survival. The Axis and the USSR pick at Hungary and Romania so the cloud of invasion creeps ever closer to Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia can only hope to exist until 1941. Only skillful players can succeed in this exercise in nation building.
Given that these four nations – with the possible exception of Romania – can never be powers, why should players bother with them? Actually, several motives exist. Anybody can “throw a little stick around” with a major power but keeping a small country’s head above water challenges thought beyond brute force. More importantly, any of these countries can be a spoiler or a key to success in multiplayer mode, reminiscent of the old Diplomacy franchise when weak powers won by playing both ends against the middle. The historical accuracy alone makes purchase of Death or Dishonor worthwhile but the true worth is in the challenge.