Ever wondered what nautical straits we’ve added to East vs West? Wonder no more! What would be better, then to bring you this map development diary regarding strategic bottlenecks and positions in East vs West. Let’s get strait to it!
Straits in East vs West are chokepoints of sea routes and some of these straits are narrow enough, to be blockable. By controlling key provinces you can reap the benefits of being the authority in the region. You can let your friends and allies through, while denying your foes access. Is that it, you might ask?
There is more! Controlling particular straits is also a possible goal in the game for naval nations, granting strategic effects. As long as you own one province in the relevant continent and own at least five ships, you‘ll be able to see which straits exist in the continent, their benefits, and what you need to do to take control of them. To control a strait you need to control its “blocker“ province, a strategic land province adjacent to the strait. For example, to control the Straits of Gibraltar, you need to control the province of Gibraltar. As soon as you lose control over the blocker province, you also lose the associated benefits. Those previously familiar with Hearts of Iron series will recognize this but unlike in previous HOI games we’ve aimed at including straits worldwide on a previously unseen scale. This gives many regions increased dynamics and creates local country-to-country hotbeds.
Straits are, of course, also important to factions and thus by taking advantage of the strategic goals we’ve created long term faction goals. This means that if you manage to gather enough strategic naval positions, ports and straits via faction members, you can gain territorial naval dominance which grants your faction a bonus. These territories are: North America, Latin America (including Mexico), Western Europe, The Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, China, Pacific (including Korea), Eastern Europe and Siberia.
Below you can find the complete list of all the straits with strategic effects:
The idea of linking the Mediterranean and the Red Sea dates back to Antiquity, although the ancient Egyptians made a canal starting at the river Nile. The modern Suez Canal was opened in 1869, after 10 years of work. A hotly contested piece of land, it remained under British administration until 1956. An alternative route from Europe to Asia goes around Africa, adding more than 4000 km to the length of the journey.
Once you pass the Suez Canal on your way to Asia, not all is safe yet. You might end up stuck in the Red Sea if the Bab-el-Mandeb is locked. This strait connects the Red Sea to the wider Indian Ocean (more precisely, the Gulf of Aden). Djibouti, or as it has been historically, the regional power of Ethiopia on the African side is the key to access.
The Bosphorus Strait/Sea of Marmara
The Bosphorus Strait goes through Istanbul, diving the city‘s European and Asian parts. It is one of two parts for any nation to gain an entrance to the Black Sea and part of the Turkish Straits together with the Dardanelles. Under the Montreux Convention of 1936, Turkey has the right to restrict access through the strait to non-Black Sea nations.
The Dardanelles Strait, much like the Bosphorus, divides Europe (Gallipoli peninsula) from Asia (Anatolia, aka Asia Minor). It is one of two parts making up the entrance to the Black Sea and part of the Turkish Straits. Much like it‘s cousin the Bosporus, it‘s covered by the Montreux Convention of 1936.
Strait of Kerch
The Kerch Strait connects the Black Sea to its tributary Sea of Azov. One might think that it is a small and insignificant strait but control of it blocks an important Russian port of Rostov-upon-Don (Rostov-na-Donu) and the whole river Don.
Strait of Gibraltar
The famous Rock, Gibraltar is a British fortress at the southern tip of Spain, guarding the legendary Pillars of Hercules, otherwise known as the Gibraltar channel, connecting the Mediterranean Sea with the Atlantic Ocean. This is the western gateway and with the power to prevent ships from entering or leaving the Sea, potentially cutting off tens of countries (and navies) from the wider sea access to and from the Atlantic.
Strait of Malacca
The Strait of Malacca is the major link between the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It runs between the Indonesian island of Sumatra and the Malay peninsula of Malaysia. Most of the shipping to and from China, Korea and Japan goes through this strait (unless, of course, it goes to the Americas). Without access to it, ships would have to navigate much more dangerous internal waters of Indonesia, adding hundreds of kilometers to the trip.
Sunda is one of the myriad straits within the Indonesian archipelago. This one runs between the islands of Sumatra and Java and is therefore a passageway from the Indian to the Pacific Ocean. Controlling it may severely hamper the naval plans of your enemies, who would now have to go around one of those two islands in order to enter (or leave) the archipelago.
The strait of Qiongzhou separates mainland China from the island of Hainan. Although today Hainan is firmly a part of the People‘s Republic, it is conceivable that the Republican forces might have barricaded there during the Chinese Civil War, much as they did with Taiwan.
Several straits divide the Japanese island chain and allow access to the Sea of Japan from the Pacific. One of those, in the north, is the Tsugaru Strait. It separates the main island of Honshu from Hokkaido to the north.
Strait of Tartary
This ominous name is given to a strait that runs between the island of Sakhalin and mainland Asia, in the Russian Far East. Although both the island and the mainland were controlled by the USSR for the game‘s timeframe, one can imagine an invasion starting through there. In that case, the passage of ships along this narrow strait may become a crucial issue for both the invaders and also the Russians, who might have to reinforce Vladivostok by sea.
Did you know that New Zealand has more than two islands? What you might not have known is that the strait between the third largest island and the South island is called Foveaux Strait. Even today, the strait‘s waters are treacherous, taking some 20 lives every year, so care must be taken when traversing it. In East vs West this serves as a blockading wall in south eastern Oceania.
The second of the two best-known man-made canals, the Panama Canal connect the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans (a bit of trivia: the Atlantic Ocean is on the western end of the canal). Construction began in 1881, but was only finished in 1914. The canal provides a significantly shorter route from the East coast of the US to the West and vice versa, and for ships from Western Europe to East Asia. The canal was owned by the US until 1977, and finally taken over by Panama in 1999.
Strait of Magellan
The very southern tip of South America is an archipelago known as the Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire). The meandering passage among those islands is known as the Strait of Magellan. It runs through Chile and saves time when navigating around South America.
When going from the North Sea to the Baltic, Skagerrak and Kattegat are just the beginning. Later, you need to navigate through the maze of Danish islands, and your path will inevitably lead through one of three channels. Two of those – Lillebaelt and Storrebaelt (Little Belt and Great Belt) – pass fully through Danish waters. The third of the three main channels past Denmark into the Baltic Sea is the Öresund. This strait separates Sweden and Denmark and is only 4 km wide at the narrowest point. Sailing through it past unwelcoming Danish military would certainly be a challenge to anyone.
The Limfjord is a channel running between the Danish mainland (Jutland peninsula) and the island of Vendsyssel-Thy. The city of Aalborg straddles the strait close to its eastern end. If passage through the channel cannot be negotiated, ships would have to sail around Denmark from the north, adding valuable hours to their travel time.
What was once the Kaiser Wilhelm Canal is now simply the Kiel Canal, and it connects the North and Baltic Seas through the German state of Schleswig-Holstein. Going through it rather than around the Jutland peninsula shaves almost 500 kilometers off the trip length. Furthermore, it allows ships to pass without entering the potentially stormy parts of the North Sea.
Straitening it out
Some straits are important but not possible to close or block by land province control because the waters are not narrow enough to close off. These straits are nevertheless areas where a friendly stationed fleet or regular patrol might do wonders. Some of the more important ones to mention are:
Strait of Hormuz
The Strait of Hormuz, connecting the Gulf of Persia and the Gulf of Oman, might not seem that important at first. But given the amount of oil in the Middle East, the strategic importance of this passage is immense. Either Persia or the United Arab Emirates or even Oman, which controls a small exclave of Musandam just at the narrowest part of the strait can contest control of the strait, potentially bringing the oil-dependent West to its knees.
The Indonesian archipelago is home to thousands of islands and a similar number of straits. One of the most important is the Strait of Makassar between the islands of Borneo and Sulawesi. With the Java Sea to the south and Celebes Sea to the north, going from Western Australia to the Philippines, this is the straightest path and thus a hotbed of activity.
Strait of Taiwan
The Strait of Taiwan, as the name implies, runs between mainland China and the island of Taiwan. As you may imagine, there have been tensions across the strait between Communist and Nationalists Chinese governments.
Strait of Florida
The Florida Strait is one of the entrances to the Gulf of Mexico (the other being the Straits of Yucatan). It runs between the southern tip of Florida and the island of Cuba. It is wide and not easily blocked yet incredibly important.
Strait of Dover
The Strait of Dover is the narrowest part of the English Channel, connecting it to the North Sea. It also serves as a barrier separating Europe from the British Isles. Important for supply purposes it is a region that needs to be contained if not controlled to be able to dominate Europe.
The Gulf of Finland and the Neva Bay are the waterways one uses to approach Leningrad, the major Soviet port city. This entryway through the Gulf of Finland via the Finish Coast is vital to the defense of and against Leningrad.
That’s all for now and keep in mind that sometimes it’s important to keep a strait focus on your goal!
Kastytis Zubovas (Map Team)
Adam Kun (Map Team Leader)
Rui Costa (Event Scripter)
Espen Almerud (Alpha Tester)
Gellert Keresztes (Game Designer)
P.S. A question was asked elsewhere:
It's pretty obvious this is how:How would for example an invasion of say Scandinavia by the soviets take place considering the straits in the DD?