Russian Strategy for “Hearts of Iron II”

T34/85Hearts of Iron II is a grand strategy game from Paradox Interactive. It lets you play the leader of any of the Allied or Axis powers in World War II and decide the politics, the kind of army, and the way the war is fought for that power. Games can take days to complete – if you are into WW2 history and have a week or two you want to see vanish, this is your ticket.

Playing Russia is an interesting challenge. You don’t have the advanced research capacity of the Western powers, your army is out-of-date at the start of hostilities, and you don’t have the industrial base of the US. You do have lots and lots of manpower and plenty of space to fall back. So here is a nice technique to not only win as Russia in the Grand Campaign (1936-1947, Hard/Aggressive dificulty level), but also to have some pretty exciting game play.

Research Goal : You want to streamline your research so that in the Spring of 1941 you have Improved Infantry, Mountain, and Medium Tanks. You want La-5 Fighters as well as Pe-2 Tactical Bombers. You want the Small Arms factory bonus too. All these are possible if you are careful with how you use the best research teams. Other than Land Doctrines and Long Range Subs, the only other research should be industrial (rockets, aggriculture, oil refining) and Air Doctrine (when you can fit one in quick).

Politics : Keep moving closer to Hawk and Standing Army. The latter is important as you will eventually have a very big army and you don’t want to spend forever on upgrades.

1936, 1937 : Build nothing but industry for the first two years. By the spring of 1938 you should be able to add 40 or 50 more IC. You’ll need them. Turn your Upgrade slider all the way down. Leave you army as is for now. Leave enough IC to build a few more Mountain divisions – you want 18 – and equip each with an Engineer brigade. Now go watch TV while the game plows through this production cycle for two game-years. In 1937 switch your leadership for the improvments in manpower growth and consumer load on the economy.

1938 : Once you have all these nice new factories, build tanks in 1938. You have 15 Motorized divisions, you need to build 11 Tank divisions to pair up with them. Yes – two-division corps … it’ll make sense later.

1939 : Now things start to get creative. Ditch all your artillery and anti-tank brigades. All of them. You haven’t researched any of these techs anyway, so may as well. By now you should have basic Fighters and basic Tactical Bombers – so ditch your enture current Air Force too. It’s more efficient to rebuild from scratch. You should be up to Basic Infantry and Improved Light Tanks by now as well. Build 4 new Tac-Bombers and 8 Fighters. Everything else goes to upgrading. Prioritize your Mountain and Tank divisions for upgrades.

After Germany takes Poland, pre-position your Tank and Mountain corps on the Finish border. When you go to war with Finland, settle for the armistace. The reason is that if you puppet or anex Finland now there will be a very large German force coming at you from the North. Yeah – this is kind of “gamey” but what it lets you do later is fun.

1940 : Upgrade. Get everything up to “Basic” level. Build some more infantry so you have about 140-150 divisions, mostly on the border with Germany. Send your cavalry to the Afghani border – just in case. You’ll want these around later when you get Armored Cavalry technology. Also build about 24 Long Range subs and base them in Murmansk.

1941 : You should pop Improved Infantry, Mountain, and Medium Tank technolgies in the Spring, as well as the Small Arms factory upgrade. You should also have La-5’s and Pe-2’s available for your air force. You’ll be working on Impoved Motorized Infantry and Basic Mechanized Infantry heading into summer – you should get these just as the Germans attack. Prioritize your Mountain troops for upgrade and pre-position then to attack from Murmansk right into Norway. Move your 4 groups of Pe-2’s up there too – command them with Fleet Destroyers. Group your armor into 5 Tank Armies of 3 corps, each with a Tank and Motorized division – station one in Leningrad. Once you get La-5’s build about 8 more wings – you want about 20 total when war comes. Around April start a queue of Improved Infantry – about a dozen divisions wide and about 4 deep. Everything else is put into upgrading.

When Germany attacks around the end of June you want to do a few things right away:

  • Declare War on Finland and send your Northern Tank Army across the border. Send your Mountain troops across the North towards Norway.
  • Send your subs out to interdict transports coming into Narvik and Tronheim. Expect to lose most of them. Use your Pe-2’s to hunt freighters.
  • Switch your leaders to bring in Meretskov so you regain organization faster.
  • Launch all your La-5’s on Air Defense duty – keep them in groups of 4.
  • Divert all available IC to pumping out infantry divisions for the rest of the year. You should be able to get close to 100 divisions out by early 1942.

As the Germans push forward give ground when you look to be encircled. Use strategic redeployment to avoid getting cut off if need be. SAVE YOUR ARMY. Don’t bother counter-attacking yet unless it’s an obvious win. You should have infantry in corps of 3 so as to get as many leaders trained as possible during the Blitz.

While this is going on, conquer Finland and puppet them. Send some Finish divisions North to do anti-partisan duty in Norway. Once you get past Narvik you should be able to race down Norway against maybe a dozen divisions. The Germans will try to reinforce, but with subs in wait and Pe-2’s trolling you should be able to cut most of this off. Liberate Norway and leave a Finish garrison behind – along with a squadron of La-5’s for air defense. Use the 1009 cheat to clear the idiotic dissent you get charged for liberating a country.

1942 : If all goes well your army should surpass the Germans in size right around the start of 1942. You once thin lines will now be 9- or 12-divisions strong all along the front. And it’ll be Winter. Now start building 15 Mechanized divisions (one per Tank corps) and use the rest of your IC to upgrade. When the Germans launch their Spring offensive, its just a repeat of last summer – fall back, counter-punch – hold on to Moscow, Leningrad, and Stalingrad at all costs. Keep an eye out for the Germans over-extending themslves as you can often trap and eliminate 6 or 8 divisions at a time that way. Keep researching along the lines before – and don’t forget the strategic missile tech’s – since you have no strategic bombers, you’ll need these.

1943 : This year you get Advanced everything – so it’s a year of upgrading. Your forces should now be the equal of the Germans so anything they take you can get back. Your 5 Tank Armies can react to any threat. Build 5 more tank corps (1 ea. Tank, Motor, Mech) and once you get the 1943 Land Doctrines add one HQ per Tank Army. No more infantry is needed, no more aircraft either. Your Improved/Advanced fighters will stop any attacks by the Luftwaffe. By Fall you should be able to start taking back territory. Deploy all your Mountain troops to the Southern front (you’ll need them there eventually for the Balkans). Research Advanced Light Tank brigades.

1944 : The year things turn. Odds are you discovered ballistic missiles in 1943, so you should have these by the Fall. Build Adv. Light Tank brigades for every division in the Tank Armies. No other building – just upgrades to the newer techs as they come online. Once the ground is dry around May just attack from everywhere with everything. At first you’ll lose as many as you win, and the Germans will counter-attack hard. But by mid-summer you’ll see their number of divisions start to dwindle. Keep attacking. Look for pockets you can cut off too – the Baltic, around Dnepropetrovsk, and the marshes around Pinsk. Keep driving until you personally need to stop to sort out the mess.

By which time you should have ballistic missiles – start long queues of these. Group these in 2’s and hit the obvious areas. You can drop 8-10 IC per pair of V2’s. Assign air leaders to these as they get experience for launches. By the Fall Germany should be down to 120-140 divisions and you’ll be at around 350 divisions. Germany will have next to no manpower left and their IC will be getting hammered by your missiles fired from Moscow.

Keep pushing right through Winter. Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary will switch sides.

1945 : It’s over by now basically. Italy will fall in a month once you cross the Alps. If you feel the itch to attack Japan, start deploying your missiles to the Pacific front so that you can drop their mainland industry in one fell swoop.

The keys to this approach are streamlining your research and production, having a modern army at the moment of being attacked, and then using attrition to turn a stalemate into a rout. 1941 is a nail-biter as you’ll be filling your lines with divisions right out of the production queue. And 1944 is wild because you need to switch from a basically defensive posture to all-out offense across the entire front once you start to see the Germans crumble.