Hearts of Iron: An AAR, Part 2

Probably shouldn’t mess with those guys.

(This is a continuation of the last post, a game of Hearts of Iron 4, just because I wanted to. Also, AAR stands for “After-Action Report,” a common way to recap/follow games on the forums for such.)

So we captured Panama. So far so good. The decision is whether to go down south into Colombia, or to take over the independent islands of the Caribbean. Looking just at resources, Colombia (and Venezuela, and Ecuador, etc.) basically just have more oil, of which Mexico has plenty. Cuba, however, has a ton of chrome, which is needed for tanks, which I’ll need if I’m going to take on the larger countries down south. (My armored divisions are still using light tanks, because I’ve been up against pure infantry up to now.) So Cuba is the target. Should be easy, right?

Easy victory…

Not so fast! Despite having a total force smaller than any single one of my armies to this point, and no air force at all, and no mechanized or armored divisions, they still put up a hell of a fight. My first attempt (I’ll admit, I savescum) was to invade from the south/east, from Guantanamo. Initial landing took way too long, and eventually they beat back my forces completely.

One thing to note about combat in this game is that you need to sorta think about supply lines. Now, in this game they are very abstracted, basically you just need a direct line back to your main areas. This can include over water, but you need a port, not just a coast. No port, and your supply line is cut off. Also, you need a place to retreat to. If you have that, your defeated divisions can go back a territory, to rest and rebuild. This process doesn’t take that long…if you have the supply line intact. If you don’t, then the defeated units don’t rebuild – and a damaged unit is barely better than no unit at all. And if there is no place to retreat to, then the unit gets destroyed instead of retreating. Another thing to take into account is that only a certain amount of individual divisions can actually take part of the battle at any time. The rest of an army is in reserves, and gets called up as the front line retreats from damage. So having a huge stack isn’t immediately better.

Taking those things into account, a country like Cuba presents problems. Having a lot of armies with many divisions, like I did there, isn’t a huge advantage in a place that’s basically a line of territories. As I defeated their divisions, they’d just retreat, heal up, and come right back. I could do the same thing, sometimes. But as my supply lines were longer, they could do the meat grinder longer. And if any army got isolated, it was over quickly. Also, my initial tries didn’t have marines, which are basically custom-made for sea assaults; regular units have a much harder time.

I tried several times, going back to the save at the start of the war, trying different landing strategies. Even when the initial assault worked, my forces would inevitably get annihilated, even outnumbering the enemy 4:1. It took several hours real-time to crack this nut (I wrote the last post after the above defeat, as it was getting late). However, I eventually got it, and when I did it right, it was ezpz. I split up one of my armies in half, for a total of five armies: two big standard armies, a small army of just marines to go against Havana (which is fortified), and then two smaller armies. The strategy was this: start the initial assault against the west part of Cuba, like usual, draw up all the enemy to that side of the island as usual, and then a short while later assault the east end that would be completely open, then cut off the opposition from reinforcement and sweep them up. The initial landings went even better than expected, and pretty much as soon as I occupied the east it was over, with barely any fighting.

Next up is just hopping to the next country, Haiti. This was going to be a cakewalk – or so I thought. Haiti hadn’t been idle this whole time, and had built up a decently strong force. They rebuffed my first attack completely. Trouble is that they only have three territories, only one of which has a port, and it’s the one in the middle. So even landing on all three and getting the outside two isn’t that big of an advantage, since those two are now cut off from the supply line (this game apparently has never heard of setting up beachhead ports), and thus have an enormous disadvantage: even taking it from three sides, they were able to defeat me utterly. I hadn’t really committed, as I was also planning on invading Belize, so that was a bummer. Next time, I committed my entire forces, which almost had the same end. The first landing against Port-au-prince was repulsed, but my marine army had healed up, and was able to come back and save the day, and Haiti was conquered as soon as the capital was occupied.

Now, this whole time, the rest of the world was not idle. (Well, except for the USA, which I don’t think did a single thing the entire game but switch between communism and fascism every election. Oh wait, they formed their own faction (Axis, Allies, Comintern, etc.), with them and Paraguay, right at the end.) As I was conquering Haiti, the Axis finally defeated the Allies. All of Britain’s American territories went to Italy, so if I wanted to get Belize, I’d have to take on the whole Axis. Which wasn’t happening. And so the world was now at peace, and the Olympics could resume.

I’ve never actually finished the whole timeline for this game, so I was surprised when the game itself ended in 1949. Didn’t do too badly for myself, but was still way behind in points. Having basically the bare minimum in armies, navy, and airforce kinda does that. Also didn’t have as much industry or infrastructure as I could have. But I accomplished what I wanted, which was fine.

Still has a lot of the same problems. I don’t own any of the DLC. Paradox’s MO when they release DLC is to make major patches for free, with lots of changes, which are mostly negative/nerfs, if you don’t have the DLC which adds systems to take advantages of those nerfs. So, not buying DLC is basically a net negative for these games. (Though sometimes it doesn’t add annoying mechanics, like the Aztec invasion or plagues in Crusader Kings II, if you don’t have those DLC.) And this game isn’t really worth playing on its own, let alone buy DLC: it’s very shallow, despite the complexity. But hey, at least they took out the event where the USA shuts down any smaller American nations, so that’s a plus.