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Hearts of Iron IV – Basics for Beginners

Starting the Game

Welcome to Hearts of Iron IV! This game is confusing, so let’s keep things simple. When you start a new game, choose the 1936 starting date. You will have the option to choose one of seven countries to play as. (At this point, I’m assuming you played the tutorial. I’m here for concepts, not controls) Of the seven countries you can pick, you already tried Italy, which sucks.

Seriously, don’t play as Italy. Instead, click on the “Other Countries” portrait. This will bring up a map of the world, centered on Germany. To its north is Sweden, which we’ll use for this guide. Click on the country, then select your difficulty (if you’re really new, I’d suggest civilian). Make sure the box for “Historical AI Focuses” is checked. After that, select “Start Game.” After some loading, you will be taken to the main screen of the game.

January 1st, 1936

You should now be looking at what I call the standard screen. This shows the map, with the various buttons at the corners. There will be a lot of notifications at the top telling you what to do, but we’ll go through them in a certain order so you can set yourself up for success.

Politics and Government

This is the first screen we’ll visit. You reach it by clicking on the picture of your country’s flag in the top left of the screen. This should open a tab on the left side of the screen with a picture of your leader and a whole bunch of other stuff. This is divided into horizontal sections. We won’t do anything here yet, but we will familiarize ourselves with it.

At the top, tere is a large button that should read “Select National Focus.” That’s important, but we’ll come back to it. Below that is a space called “National Spirit.” Spirits modify the way your country behaves in all fields, and are important to stay on top of. Sweden has two. One is a picture of balanced scales. That’s “Neutral Foreign Policy,” which prevents you from doing anything exciting until World Tension (more on that later) is at its max. The other is a picture of a guy. That’s “En Svensk Tiger,” which is less cool than it sounds. If you hover over it, it tells you that partisans are less effective, but that doesn’t really matter to you. The last part of the top region is a pie chart, showing the four political parties in Sweden. Right now, you are Democratic (blue), which raises Tension requirements for doing stuff in exchange for being able to ally with the US. The other three parties are Non-Aligned (gray), which doesn’t matter to you; Communist (red), which has lower Tension requirements and can make Puppet Governments; and Fascist (brown), which has low Tension requirements but is a lightning rod for pain. For this playthrough, we’ll stay Democratic.

Below all this is the first line of Policies. There are six slots on every line. This one has (from left to right) your conscription laws, trade laws, economic mobilization, and three advisors (these are empty). Conscription laws determine how much Manpower you have for use in your military. Trade laws modify the percentage of resources you extract you can’t use (because they are exported). Economic Mobilization is about how many factories are used for the war effort. Right now, you are in Civilian Economy, which has nasty debuffs. The next three slots are for advisors, which give you various small bonuses.

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The second Policy line is for Design Companies and Theorists. The first four slots are for Tank, Navy, Air, and Infantry design comapnies, which give you bonuses to specific things in those fields. Look through them to get an idea of what that means. The next line is for an industrial concern, which decreases research time for industry (ignore electronics concerns, they’re useless). The last line is your Theorist, who gives bonuses to miltary doctrine research. You don’t have any cool Theorists, but simplicity is helpful for now.

The third Policy line is your Military Command. The first slot is your Army commander, who buffs a particular stat of your army as a whole. Next is the Navy commander, and then the Air commander, who do the same thing for their respective branches. The last three are High Command slots. These guys can give potent bonuses across your miltiary, in all branches. You don’t have many to pick from, but be sure you look into them before going to a major country.

National Focuses

We now return to the top of the Government tab, with the button for National Focuses. These are important: they give you huge rewards, including extra research slots and free factories! It is hard to overstate just how much these matter, so picking the best ones is paramount. Since Sweden starts with a fair industrial and research base, we’ll take Political Effort as our first Focus. This will give you 120 Political Power, which is used to modify your government Policies. You get PP overtime, but taking this Focus now will help us when it finishes.


Close the Gov’t tab, and select the research tab (picture of an Erlenmyer Flask/test tube). You have three research slots. Above those are research modifiers, which you have none of right now. Click on the first slot, go to the Industry tab (last on the right), and select “Basic Machine Tools” (picture of a wrench), which will increase your production output. ALWAYS research this first. Your next slot is under the Engineering tab (next to Industry), where you will research “Electromechanical Engineering” (picture of a lightbulb). This will decrease your research time. Finally, your third tech should be something you plan on focusing on this game. Sweden is pretty secure and has tons of Steel, so we should go with naval technologies. Select “Light Cruiser II*.” With that, you will be researching what you’ll need to have for a solid start.

*Experienced commanders will balk at this, given that you can have level IV battleships by 1940, but this is for beginners, and Light Cruisers are more versatile.


Move on to the Consturction tab (picture of construction machine). Here, you will have the ability to build factories. For now, all we need are Civilian (orange) factories. Build these up to max level everywhere EXCEPT two states with three open slots. Leave those six spaces open for synthetic refineries (which we’ll build later). Do Not add to this construction as you unlock more slots. This is just meant to ne enough to get you off the ground.


Now click on the picture of a wrench to open the Production Tab. This handles production of everything your military will use. Produce Infantry Equipment, Support Equipment, and Artillery, with at least one factory for each, preferably two for InfEq. Leave your naval production alone for now.

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Your Military

Go back to the standard screen. Select all of you land units, then put them in one army. Select all of your cavalry and garrison divisions, then delete them, leaving you with only infantry divisions. Set up a front line with Denmark, then begin military exercises.

Next, select all of your navy, then move it all to one base. Merge all fo your fleets together, then separate out the submarines. Set the surface fleet to patrol the Baltic, and the subs to convoy raid the Baltic. Go back to production, then go to your ships. There should be a button labelled “Auto.” Click it to open the ship deployment menu, then send the subs to the sub fleet and the ships to the surface fleet.

With that, we are now done with setup.

Getting to the End of 1936

Your goal is to have a serviceable military by August 25, 1939 (the day the war starts in this game). The first big thing to happen will be your Focus completing. When it does, go to the Gov’t tab, and select the Advisor with the trait “Silent Workhorse.” Go to your Focus Tree, then select “Liberty Ethos.” Under Production, set up a line for Light Cruisers (whatever level you have) with 15 dockyards, deploying to the surface fleet. You’ll want at least five of these, but only produce one if you do this before the research finishes on CLII. A few days after the focus ends, Electronicmechanical Engineering will finish. Click on that research slot, then select “Mechanical Computers” (looks like a typewriter). When “Basic Machine Tools” and CLII (=Light Cruiser II) finish at the same time, go to the Industry tab and select “Concentrated Industry” (one of the two factory lines) and “Construction I.” After ConI will be the next Machine Tools, and ConInd you follow to the second level. By that time, you should be at the end of 1936. When Computers finishes, do “Synthetic Experiments.” After “Liberty Ethos,” begin the Industry part of the tree (the civilian side). Use the research bonus on ConInd II. You’ll stay on this part of the tree until you have “Extra Research Slot I” finished. You can use that slot for anything you like.

Getting to August 1939

After the end of 1936, you can do whatever, really. Make sure you build six Synthetic Refineries, and use your Army Experience to make 14/4 Infantry divisions (14 infantry regiments, 4 artillery) with Engineer, Recon, and Artillery support. You’ll want six of these, at least. For your navy, just build CLs.

Techs should get you to 1939 InfEq and Artillery, as well as the next level of Computers and 1939 Machine Tools and ConcInd. If you have spare research, do Construction and Mining techs, as well as the Superior Firepower army doctrine.

Your government should eventually include a Captain of Industry, a Democratic Reformer, an Industrial Concern, the Bofors design company, the Artillery Expert, and a navy designer (one that gives a bonus to screens), plus whatever you want. For Focuses, after Research Slot I you should go down the Neutral path of the polititics branch, getting “Deterrence.” After that, it’s up to you.

For industry, try to get to at least 15 civilian factories constructing things. After that, set up Level 10 Coastal Forts in the province your army is in (doing this makes you invincible). Try to get some military factories built so you can make fighters and naval bombers.

Hopefully, by August of 1939 you will have done most of these. You will be ready for war.

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The War

When the war kicks off, make sure you have guaranteed the independence of Denmark. After the war begins, ensure that your navy and air force have missions assigned. If you don’t have the forts yet, they become the FIRST PRIORITY. When Germany declares war on Denmark, join the Allies (you should be able to), but do not move your army. They will defend that spot of coast the Germans must attack to get to Sweden. With the war in full swing, get at least “Limited Conscription” and “War Economy.” Try to get 12 divisions defending the coast.

Hopefully, the Kreigsmarine has already been annihilated. You don’t want to fight them if it hasn’t. If the German navy is in tatters, set your surface fleet to Search and Destroy. Begin building some Heavy Cruisers alongside the Lights. Build more refineries if you need them.

With that, you are invincible. The Germans will lose hundreds of thousands of men trying to cross the Denmark Strait, while you lose a few dozen. As long as you do not attack, victory is assured.

The 1940s

With your front secure, you can coast through the early 40s. All I recommend specifically is getting advanced ships and 24 divisions of 14/4 infantry. You may begin doing tank research (Medium is the best). You’ll only need 12 divisions to hold the coast ad infinitium, so you can send the other 12 to places like Africa.

Hopefully, Germany will declare war on the Soviet Union. They won’t if you killed too many of them, but hopefully the war with the Soviets still occurs (in my experience as Sweden, you have a fifty-fifty chance). The Soviet War will bring Germany to tatters, destroying their army. By 1943, the time will have come.

Ending the War in Europe

You won’t. As in, someone else will do the heavy lifting while you support them. By the end of 1943, the Soviets will be pushing back against the Germans (hopefully). At the same time, the Allies will begin throwing endless naval invasions at the Benelux (turn on seeing Allied plans to see these). Eventually, one will stick, and the entire Allied armed forces will cram themselves into that space. Here’s your part: either send half your army to support this operation, or try to liberate Denmark. Crossing the strait will be as hard for you as it was for the Germans, so try to throw as much CAS and naval support at it as you can. If you cross into Copenhagen, begin carefully pushing South. By the end of 1944, someone will control Berlin, and the war will be almost over. Help the Allies finish off Italy, and then check to see how the Pacifc War is going.

Ending the War in the Pacific

Normally, the Pacific will be a stalemate, with Japan in control of the seas by virtue of superior carrier fighters. Sweden cannot do much about this. Even if you undergo a huge naval buildup through a boatload of new dockyards and advanced carriers, Sweden lacks the industrial capacity to build enough dockyards to truly upset the status quo. Build one or two carriers, and see what you can do to help. If it’s really bad, wait until you have four plus some battleships, then send them on a hail mary suicide mission to destroy the Imperial Navy. If it works, you can invade Japan and end the game. If it doesn’t, I’d recommend calling it a day and exiting the game.

Written by Gabriel

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