How to Play Hearts of Iron IV For Beginner

How to Play Hearts of Iron IV For Beginner

At first playthrough, Hearts of Iron IV can be very confusing. The game is an advanced strategy game set in World War II. Although there are many intricate gameplay mechanics, with enough practice and time, you will eventually get a grasp of the game. In this article, I will be going over how to play Hearts of Iron IV, and everything you need to know to get started.

Choosing Your Country

The first thing you want to do is pick your country. Choosing your country is completely up to personal preference. You can either choose "interesting countries", such as Germany, France, England, the United States, Soviet Union, Italy, and Japan, but you can also choose any other nation. ( Note: that nations that aren't "interesting countries" have the same preset focus tree.)

  • Interesting Countries

As a beginner player, a great country to start out with is Italy.

  • Italy

As a new player, you will learn how to fight right away. Italy always starts off in a war with Ethiopia. You start off with a good army size for beginners (39 troops).

Focus Tree's

Focus Tree's are used to make your nation stronger or weaker depending on the choices you make. From turning your nation Communist to becoming the most unstoppable army in the whole world, it is all up to the choices you make in your Focus Tree.

  • Italy's focus tree

Italy's focus tree is revolved around winning the war against Ethiopia and prepping themselves against the inevitable invasion of the Allies. I will list some of the following focuses that would help your Italy.

  • Triumph in Africa

The benefits of choosing this focus are gaining War Support and Stability, which will help your country stay afloat if you enter a war.

  • Albanian Occupation

After completing Claims on Yugoslavia or Befriend Yugoslavia, Italy will have the choice to completely annex Albania. Once the focus completes, Italy will completely annex the nation and gain a foothold in the Balkans.

Claims on Yugoslavia - Once the player completes the Triumph in Africa focus, they have the choice to place claims on Yugoslavian lands. The benefits of placing claims on Yugoslavia is getting more factories, land, and population. However, if Italy wins the war, the player now has to deal with resistance groups forming in the newly acquired territory which if left unchecked could lead to a rebellion. ( Note: choosing this option as a beginner could lead to your country getting taken over by Yugoslavia. )

Befriend Yugoslavia - If the player doesn't wish to place claims on Yugoslavia, the player could instead "befriend" them by sending in fascist sympathizers to boost fascism in Yugoslavia. The benefits of befriending Yugoslavia allow Italy to gain an ally without bloodshed. However, the player will lose the claims and not gain any benefits for having the Yugoslavia territory.

  • Other Countries

"Other Countries" are countries without any special focuses. They have a basic focus tree that improves naval, army, politics, and aviation, but the basic focus trees leave a lot of room for your country to expand into anything. I will list a few focuses that will help your country greatly.

  • "Other Countries" Focus Tree
  • Armament Effort

Armament Effort helps your nation by giving it free military factories, which will help your nation to produce weapons faster and in greater quantity.

  • Political Effort

Political Effort benefits your nation by giving you one-hundred and twenty-five political power which can be used to hire cabinet members or change laws. (Note: This decision will also unlock Collectivist Ethos or Liberty Ethos.)

  • Doctrine Effort

Doctrine Effort is the best way of buffing up your army. The doctrine increases your "army experience" so you can make custom templates and speeds up "Land Doctrines" so you can be ahead of other nations.

Building an army

After choosing a country, the army will be the most essential part of the game. The purpose of the army is to invade other nations while protecting your own from would-be invaders. It is not just about invading nations or protecting your own, you could also send in your army as volunteers or expeditionary forces. (Note: expeditionary forces can only be sent out if you're in a faction with the country that you want to give your forces to.)

  • Building an army

By pressing the shortcut: U, it will open up the "Recruit & Deploy" menu. This will bring up the present templates that your country has. (Note: Different countries have different division templates.) Once you click the "Train" button, the template will begin training that troop, but you will have to wait for a certain amount of time before the troop is considered "Trained." You could also click the "Deploy" button but will result in your troop being "Green" making them weaker than usually "Trained" troops.

  • Building a Navy

By pressing the shortcut: Y, it will open up the "Production" menu. Boats are considered "production material" and have to use "dockyards" to complete the construction of a boat, once the boats that have finished being constructed will be sent to a "reserved fleet" which can now be used by the player. The navy has several options on how to control the seas:

  • Convoy Raiding - which will sink the enemy's supplies.
  • Convoy Escort - which will protect your supplies from getting sunk. Strike Force - will make your navy attack the enemy's navy.
  • Patrol - can help you spot enemy boats in your area.
  • Naval Invasion Support will help your troops to cross the ocean without getting killed along the way.
  • Building an Air Force

By pressing the shortcut: Y, it will open up the "Production" menu. Just like the boats, airplanes are considered "production material" but instead have to use "military factories" to build an airplane. Once an airplane has been built, you will need to click on an airbase and select "Add new Air Wing" to deploy your newly created airplane. Air superiority is very important in the game if the enemy controls the skies, your troops or even your navy will suffer greater losses than the enemy. Your Air Force has nine ways on combating your opponent, but I will mention the three recommended combat operations:

  • Air Superiority - will try to achieve air superiority by attacking other planes
  • Close Air Support - will help your troops by attacking enemy troops
  • Naval Strike - can help you by attacking enemy ships or naval invasion troops
  • Strategic Bombing - which is really useful to ware your enemy down by bombing enemy military factories, civilian factories, forts, and even infrastructure.

Fighting a War

When your army is up and running, you can now start to declare war. Starting wars can be very risky for you since you are risking getting a game over if you lose the war. Learning the battle tactics is vital for any new Hearts of Iron IV player to learn.

  • Front Lines

You first need to make a general by selected all your troops and clicking the empty portrait at the bottom of your screen. By clicking your general or field marshal, you will bring up battle plans. Once you have selected Front Line, you must click the border of the country that you will station your troops at. To prevent your country from getting invaded easily, making a Front Line will allow your troops to block incoming attacks from enemy troops.

  • Offensive Lines

Another battle plan for your generals or field marshals is the Offensive Line. You can draw a line by holding down left mouse button on the territory you would like to invade. By clicking the green arrow on top of your general or field marshal, you can initiate the Offensive Line order for your troops to attack enemy troops or to take over a city. (Note: You must have a Front Line set up in order to use Offensive Line.)

  • Naval Invasion Order

You also have the option of selecting the Naval Invasion Order for your generals and field marshals. To activate the order click the green arrow on top of your general or field marshal, so you can initiate the Naval Invasion Order for your troops to naval invade a country. To initiate the order, you must click a port from your country, than select an enemy's port to land your troops at. The purpose of naval invading would be if you are attacking an island nation or if you have stalemated at the front lines. (Note: You must have naval superiority over the waters of the nation that you are trying to naval invade)

  • Air

Also, Italy starts off with some planes and air sup will help your troops have an easier time invading. So how to conduct an air attack is to first press F3 and then highlight your planes, and then click on the air superiority tab. And then right-click on the selected region. Then your planes will automatically carry out the orders.

Steadying the Home front

Army and choosing your nation are important, but leaving your nation to fend for itself will result in your chosen country to fall into anarchy. As the player, you will choose how the country's laws and policies will benefit or hurt your country. Some policies or laws are locked behind requirements like: Being Fascist, Communist, Democratic, having high war support, or even focus tree events.

  • Stability

Stability is your life and blood of the country. If it goes below 50% your country's political power gain, factory output, and dockyard output will start to go into the negatives and if you are currently occupying a nation, resistance will start to thrive. High stability will make laws and policies easier to get and occupied countries will cooperate with your country.

  • Political Power

Political power is vital to change your government's laws and policies. Having high political power can allow you to change conscription laws, economic laws, trade laws, hire political advisers, or hire an army staff. A recommended setup for starting players is: Limited Conscription will increase recruitable population by 2.50%(or Extensive Conscription which will increase your recruitable population by 5%, but only if you are a Fascist or Communist.), Free Trade if since your country will benefit from the factory output, research speed, and construction speed, War Economy is necessary for any Hearts of Iron IV playthrough since it'll speed up military factory construction.

  • War Support

War support is your country's willingness to go into a war. A high war support will get your army up and running as soon as the bells of war have rung. If the country has low war support, it will take longer to mobilize and your country will be more likely to surrender.

  • Manpower

Manpower signifies the recruitable population in your country. Manpower can be used to make troops or garrison forts in occupied countries to lower resistance in those areas.


Hearts of Iron IV is very complicated in the beginning, but with enough time and practice, the game can be a lot of fun. The best way to learn is by jumping in and experiencing it first hand. Make sure to read all of the options carefully and experiment with different upgrades. I barely scratched the surface of this game, but I hope this can help you get started.

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