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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

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Guten abend, sehr geehrte Damen und Herren!

Following on from the award-winning (well, maybe one day) Darkest Hour: The Game of High-Explosive Diplomacy, I have decided to turn my enormous diplomatic talents to Hearts of Iron 3. The purpose of this AAR is to break new ground, by playing Germany on Normal difficulty!

I plan to use the same strategies discussed in my previous AAR to achieve 'Ganzeuropaerobertheit', by following these strategic doctrines:

1. Strategic Haste, or 'Zoomigheit', as originally proposed by Prussian general Carl von Zoom - start wars as early as practicable, complete them as quickly as possible, and move on to the next objective as swiftly as possible, to prevent the superior industrial capacity of the enemy from overwhelming the Third Reich.
2. Unterseebootsbezergung, which translates as 'bloody hell, that's an awful lot of submarines.' I cannot possibly defeat the Royal Navy in a stand-up duel, so I simply won't bother - instead, we shall fill the ocean with so many submarines that they can't move without hitting something!
3. Luftsoldatensturm, or 'gordon bennett, the sky is full of germans!' In Darkest Hour, the best way to achieve Sealion is to seize Hull or Sunderland from the sky and then sail boats full of angry land-germans into the ports. Now I get to see if the same strategy works in Hearts of Iron 3!
4. Don't place your destiny in the hands of the AI! I'm going to avoid allying with Japan at all, and I'm almost afraid to ally with Italy. The infamously brilliant Italian military can handle Africa on it's own...right?
 

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Of course the AI can handle itself ... whenever has it not? :p:D
 

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Part One – Setup

Hearts of Iron III is a much more complex game than Darkest Hour, with far more moving parts to worry yourself about while playing. In this chapter, we’re going to discuss some opening moves for Germany, up to the invasion of Poland in 1939.

First of all, make sure you select your victory conditions before you start the game!

Jiops20.png


I’ve gone for a European-only set of victory conditions, because I don’t want any part of the dumpster fire that is the Japanese AI versus the USA. We will eventually need to support the Italians in North Africa to seize Suez and Baghdad, but the best way to do that is to take mainland Britain and starve the British troops in Africa of supplies by seizing Gibraltar and Malta.

Now, let’s go through all the opening screens before we unpause…

Intelligence

eRjRUwy.png


Intelligence became much more useful and intuitive in HoI3, but it can still be a bit scattergun; you can issue orders and make plans, but there’s no guarantee that they’ll come off! The traditional strategy is to put USA at the top of your priorities as ‘Promote Our Party’. The key idea here is that in the 1940 elections, the German-American Bund will hopefully win, and this would help them drift away from the Allies, though I’ve never yet seen an Axis America.

We also send agents to perform Tech Espionage in Britain, to steal as much technology as we can, and Military Espionage in the Soviet Union, so we can get an idea of what sort of force levels the Soviets are working with. I have some spare spies so I also set up a Tech Espionage mission in France, but I don’t expect to get much from them. We also use Promote Our Party in Austria, to help trigger the Anschluss early. The Anschluss is based either on the popularity of the Nazi Party in Austria, or the date (March 1st, 1938). The earlier we can fire, the better!

Diplomacy

08F1OcK.png


Diplomacy in HoI3 is also a lot more intuitive, because as far as I can tell there are no pre-existing numbers behind how likely a nation is to join your faction, unlike in Darkest Hour where you can have 200 relations and still have an alliance chance of zero. We influence the USA to counter British influence, and Yugoslavia to try and get them into the Axis.

Because annexation and Government in Exile change the way conquests work in this version of the game, it’s much harder to follow my plan from Darkest Hour of releasing large vassals like Scandinavia. Instead, I’m going to attempt to get everyone I can into an alliance through diplomatic means, and only go to war as a last resort.

Production

DjAwIWn.png

2mdFYz7.png

DyRk7Uh.png

IjLAtCq.png



My plan follows mostly the same track as Darkest Hour – I will split my production between industrial capacity to steadily grow my ability to manufacture toasters, Volkswagens and the occasional war machine, submarines to sink enemy shipping and keep the waterways clear for Seelowe, and airplanes to allow me to dominate the skies.

The purpose of the mountain brigades is just to fill out the small mountain division you start with as Germany – I’m a little bit fussy when it comes to very small details like that in this game. I will eventually build out an entire mountain corps so that if we need to engage in mountainous terrain I can have an elite formation to manage it.

I’ve also ordered lots of Interceptors and Tactical Bombers – I like having stacks of eight of any planes that I have, so the first order is to get everything up to those numbers. After that, I’ll move away from Interceptors to Multi-Role Fighters for the improved range.

I’m also building (in no particular order, as tech becomes available) paratrooper divisions, radar stations, infantry and panzer divisions.

My infantry divisions contain 2 INF brigades, 1 AT brigade and 1 ART brigade. Each corps contains 4 of these divisions.
My panzer divisions contain 1 ARM brigade, 2 MOT brigades and one MOT-AA brigade. Each Panzerkorps contains 4 of these divisions.

In both of these division designs, we get a bonus to combat effectiveness from combined arms – the idea is that a division of mobile infantry and tanks is more effective than a pure tank division, and adding artillery and mobile AA will make that division even more effective. The maximum combined arms bonus is 25%, which would require an infantry brigade, an armoured brigade, a direct-fire brigade like AT, a support-fire brigade like ART, and a specialist brigade like Engineers. I don’t think it’s worth sapping the direct strength of my divisions to add too many of these in, so I don’t bother with engineers.

One really important note! 'Practicals' are a concept introduced in HoI3, which represent that as nations produce more tanks, rifles, and toasters, they tend to get better at them. As a result, every time you build a given object, you gain a small amount of 'practical' in that field. The more 'practical' you have in an area, the faster and cheaper future builds are! By 1939, Industrial Capacity costs only 3.11 IC and takes just under eight months to build, so it's really worth ratcheting up the serial lines as you go; if you build lots of one or two divisions, they'll become very cheap and quick by the end of the game. If you spread yourself thin, however, you'll lose out on this efficiency bonus!

Practicals can spread in groups, so when you build a panzer division, you'll get 'mechanical' practical. This doesn't just speed up production of future panzers, but also anything motorised or mechanised! You can perform research to reduce the rate at which you lose practicals, but I don't think they're really worth it when there's so much else to choose from.

Technology

Research in Hearts of Iron 3 is much more involved than in Darkest Hour; instead of having a certain number of slots based on your IC, you instead get Leadership points from your provinces. You then divide these points between recruiting officers, to make your forces more efficient in combat, spies, diplomatic influence points, for influencing other countries and inviting them to your faction, and technology research.

The number of technologies is WAY bigger in HoI3, so I prefer to set up my research at the start of the game and just leave the game to it. I’m focusing on Infantry technologies because these will form the bulk of my army, and they lead to marine and paratrooper divisions, artillery and anti-air technologies because of the supporting role they play in my divisions, and armour because Germany, that’s why. We also work on airforce technologies and doctrines, but I don’t place too much value on air doctrines above land doctrines or the other tech groups. Finally, we allocate some research to improving our U-boots, but I don’t expect that we’re going to be hugely ahead of the curve in that field.

Any country should also be working on Nuclear technology, industry, education, and resource production. Education allows us to get more leadership points, which means more research, and so on. Nuclear technology means that if we do somehow get into a protracted war, we can have access to the ultimate Wunderwaffe (provided I remember to build a strategic airforce to deliver it!) while Industry and Resource are self-explanatory; the more IC I have, the better. The more IC efficiency I have, the cheaper everything is. The cheaper supplies are, the more IC I have to spare on building toasters and tanks!

My advice for any new players is to read through the tech tree and try to decide in advance what sort of force composition you want.

Politics

Much like in Darkest Hour, Hjalmar Schacht is your friend – he’s a straight +10% IC, and that’s simply too good to turn down – and unlike Darkest Hour, there’s no dissent hit! You do get a small increase in dissent accumulation because of ‘Fractured Government’ when there are too many parties or ideologies in your cabinet, but that’s easy enough to deal with by increasing consumer goods production – and we more than cover our costs with that bonus IC!

I also recruit the odious Jeff Gobbles as ‘Man of the People’ which provides a +5% leadership bonus. As we discussed earlier, Leadership is a really valuable resource, so we want to maximise it in every way we can.

One neat little aside before we move on – Adolf Hitler is available as a Head of Army minister; apparently, he is a ‘Decisive Battle’ kind of chap. I think we’ll give him a miss, thank you very much…

I’ll come back here as good ministers arrive, but I’m not sure when the best ones emerge, so please do let me know if there are any really good ones that I might miss!

Status Pre-Fall Over

At the start of January 12th, 1939, I have thirteen Infantry Corps available to me, three Panzerkorps, and the supporting troops of the Hungarian and Slovakian armies. We have sixteen TAC divisions, four FTR divisions, and eight INT divisions guarding the skies above north germany. The TAC divisions will run ground attacks in Poland in the encircled regions cut off by the Panzer advances, while the infantry corps slowly advance in the wake of the panzers. I anticipate we can have this war finished within twenty days, fingers crossed.

NKTMUSP.png


It is vital in HoI3 that Germany moves quickly – countries around you will be very quick to join the Allies, and if your forces are still in Poland when Belgium decides to join up you’ll find your industrial heartlands overrun by a combined Allied offensive before you can say “Bringen sie mir Fegelein!”

There are five corps guarding the west border, plus my elite mountaineers on the hills facing France. Everything else, including my entire tank force, is tasked with the destruction of Poland. We wait a few more days for everyone to reach their staging positions, and then press the button.

Next time: Poland? More like My-land!
 

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Your stacks of aircraft are going to be suffering from severe overstacking penalties. At five/six units you get the maximum before drop off of return comes in. It's why I've trended towards wings (Fliegerkorps) that are built around two of whatever type (aside from transports. Those I order about independently).

I also have to say that is a absolute pile of (what I assume to be) starting uboats... Type IIBs, ew. Granted, more of a uBoat gets upgraded, and so it's not odd to see what was once called a "Type IIA" or "Type IIB" as a Type IXD :eek: through upgrades.
 

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Will be interesting to see how HoI3 reacts to your efforts.
 

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I've had a bit of a surprise, and I'd like to find out - would the audience like to see every attempt at this game, or only the successful ones? I don't wan't to spoil things, but for reasons which may become clear this might take more than one swing at it!
 

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Speaking generally, the AARland here understands some "playtesting" for various things, but recommends that the narrative be kept singular (to avoid confusion). Might play how you want to play, and if it results in disaster, well, that can be fun too!
 

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Speaking generally, the AARland here understands some "playtesting" for various things, but recommends that the narrative be kept singular (to avoid confusion). Might play how you want to play, and if it results in disaster, well, that can be fun too!
Actually I disagree with this. I have seen plenty of AARs where people have detailed failed runs, ending in a successful one.

Personally I also find the failures sometimes more interesting than the successes
 

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That's why I put that last bit in!
 

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Hmm I can see one phail, the U-boots will all be model 1 as later tech won't upgrade in production when you research it.
 

nuclearslurpee

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I've had a bit of a surprise, and I'd like to find out - would the audience like to see every attempt at this game, or only the successful ones? I don't wan't to spoil things, but for reasons which may become clear this might take more than one swing at it!

I've seen people be successful with multiple-take AARs before, but usually these are cases where people are trying innovative or unique gameplay strategies, more than trying to present a tutorial approach.

SInce you're playing as Germany the game is already fairly trivial to win by an experienced player. Of course, I don't know what your own experience level with HoI3 is, so it may not be so trivial in practice. I only mention this, though, as a means of saying that the follow-on from a critical failure might offer a more interesting (or at least, a less well-trod) narrative compared to "just another Germany WC AAR". Of course, Germany winning can be quite exciting as well, if the writer is skilled or the strategy is interesting. You can really go in any direction you like!

That said, in the interest of my own personal amusement and/or sense of schadenfreude, I vote for a single-take AAR with abundant failures! :p :D
 

James Beil

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Part Two: My First Mistake, or ‘Crikey, you didn’t waste any time!’

I did a bit of research, and it turns out that the Danzig or War event in HoI3 doesn’t occur until a few months after the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact is signed, meaning that the clock is already running on our non-aggression agreement.

We declare war on the 5th May, 1939. The infantry will form the first attack wave, smashing the enemy ORG so that when the Panzers arrive a few hours later the Polish will not be able to offer any serious resistance. Just like in Darkest Hour, we pre-order the attacks using Shift+Click so that we don’t have to wait for the combat timer to tick down. 3rd Panzerkorps meets with 1st Panzerkorps south of Warsaw and joins in the attack on the city, and by the 17th May the Polish have surrendered, meaning the whole campaign took slightly less than two weeks.

w3QkBfq.png


lZ3ckD0.png


We then have two weeks to reorganise and redeploy, before the Dutch join the Allies.

With all our troops directly on their borders. And no land connection to the rest of the Allies because Belgium hasn’t joined yet.

Smart move.

IRmr7s8.png

Look at me. I AM THE NETHERLANDS NOW.

Before we invade Belgium, we place almost our entire armoured strength on the Eupen-Aachen line, where we plan to drive straight through the south of Belgium towards Dunkirk, thereby isolating the Franco-Belgian forces.

021hjzy.png


The drive on Dunkirk failed, but the French left a weakened force around Arlons, so we redirected our advance south to threaten the encirclement of the Maginot line. In response the French were forced to re-deploy troops away from western Belgium to make up the difference, and when they moved we were able to reach the English Channel.

dzK7L4j.png


dzK7L4j.png


Progress through Belgium, or ‘Mein Urlaub nach Vlaandern, im Foto.’

A month later, we’ve surrounded Paris. There’s little to do now…

PvOEEgN.png

I think someone at French High Command has gone “Mes seigneurs, je avez un cunning plan…”

Except let the AI make more mistakes. By leaving Mulhouse (surely Muelhausen?) the French have given up a victory point, and surely the war is now lost. Victory points are provinces which have value for the national owner. Paris has 10 victory points, meaning it is very valuable. The Maginot provinces each have 2 victory points. When the percentage of your mainland victory points lost (not colonies, I believe) is greater than your National Unity, you are forced to surrender, and either become annexed or form a Government-in-Exile. Governments in exile can help recover lost territory by funding spy efforts, building partisan movements, and generally being a pain for their conquerors.

KT7cMsP.png


This screen shot shows the last day before the French surrender; their armies are totally beaten, and now there is nothing left but to prepare for Seelowe. I send about half of my forces, including the newly-finished Paratroopers, to Rotterdam and Dordrecht, where they can prepare for transport onto the British Isles.

V6VemFP.png


We’ve successfully landed with our paratroopers, and our suicide subs are drawing the Royal Navy away long enough for my transport fleet to get through with the supporting Panzers. There are some minor supply problems which I will solve by manually deactivating any convoys that aren’t taking supplies to Britain, and…

Zc3uoA9.png


Oh fahrvergnugen.

I redeploy almost everything I can spare over to the Ostfront, and begin consulting my bible study guide for prayers to use when being stabbed in the back by a giant bear…

Review

So, what worked? The focus on armour made France mostly a cakewalk – they simply can’t hold back concerted Panzerkorps, but keeping the Korps HQs and infantry up with the spearheads did present a challenge.

The airforce was a good investment – after the first few days of the war the British no longer were able to bomb Germany, and the tactical bombing runs over Belgium and France reduced our casualties. In preparation for Sealion, we starting some Runway Cratering missions in the south of England, and while I don’t have any statistics I can tell you that we have air superiority over England.

The submarines weren’t as good. As some of my more astute readAARs have mentioned, the production lines we set up were for tech 1 subs, which aren’t very good. In fact, we’ve not sunk a single vessel. I cancelled the production lines in September, they were performing so badly. So were they a failure?

I’d say no. They distracted enemy naval assets as we shipped our troops over to English Channel to Lowestoft, and that was really all they needed to do; once we are properly supplied we will be able to smash what is left of the British Army, and then what good is their navy? Remember, we will have those practicals if we ever want to build more submarines with more advanced technology, meaning they will be slightly cheaper and faster than if we had never build any at all!

Obviously, the Soviet DoW is a problem. However, it’s not all doom and gloom – at this stage of the game the Soviet officer ratio is very poor, as a result of the Great Purges, and because they tend to produce huge numbers of divisions their ratio will remain poor. I will leave one infantry corps in the occupied western territories, dedicated two panzerkorps and two infantry corps to the success of Sealion, and the rest of the Wehrmacht will be shipped to western Poland, where we will draw up our defensive lines and attempt to stall the Soviets outside of Germany proper.

To avoid this happening in future, you have to make sure that the Soviets do not have more than double your troops on your common border by placing stacks on the border. Obviously, this takes away forces for Sealion. We’ll see in the next few posts whether it is possible to successfully prosecute Sealion and keep the Soviets at bay in the east!
 

Wraith11B

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IIRC, there's a tripwire in the AI files for the Soviets that if you take too much of the United Kingdom's core territories, they would break the NAP (subject to those rules, I believe). People used to say if the Germans take London, the Bear comes; I don't think that's the actual case, because I went mumblemumblemumble *cough* read my AAR even though it's awhile till I get there *cough* ahem, I've seen it happen without London being taken. To be fair as well, you don't need massive amounts of troops for Britain early; they tend not to have a very large ground force in 1939/40, so save those troops for the East!
 

James Beil

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Part Three: Failure #1 and Review

(Since the last post, one of the saves has failed, so I’ve had to revert to a previous savestate. This is only off by a few days, since I saved before Sealion, so I’m going to play through the same sort of moves, but the landing is delayed by weather and enemy activity.)

7yyVJvc.png


sHc2VaE.png



These screenshots show the progress of my troops in England – we land at Norwich, seizing the fuel and supplies stationed in the airport where we capture and destroy the enemy airforces. Hearts of Iron III doesn’t have popups to tell you when a unit is destroyed or captured, which is less helpful than Darkest Hour, so we can’t see exactly what we killed.


I managed two landings before the Royal Navy destroyed most of my transport fleet, making reinforcements impossible.


We also launched a later airdrop at Dover, which the enemy had left undefended, capturing an airforce there, but we were unable to link up with the east Anglian force. A British counter-attack quickly annihilated the corps. In east Anglia, for some reason supplies just aren’t reaching the troops, despite constant air supply missions (and I can’t work out what’s going on in the supply screen, they won’t even let me allocate convoys to transport supplies from Rotterdam to Lowestoft). With two Panzerkorps, and a paratrooper corps trapped in East Anglia without supplies, we’ve taken a fatal blow. Sealion will be quickly wrapped up, and whichever fool told me this was a good idea will be sent to the Eastern Front!

6GXOHyA.png


On the Ostfront, I’ve tried to buy time for the troops to form up behind the Vistula(?) river in Poland by attempting an encirclement in central Poland and near Koenigsberg. The Koenigsberg pocket worked well, trapping and destroying four divisions, but the southern pocket totally failed, and was surrounded and eliminated with the loss of a full Panzerkorps. I could play this out and while the UK will never be able to invade because of my strong position on the French coast and the technological and numerical superiority of the Wehrmacht, we’re doomed in the East. With three panzerkorps lost since October, I’m going to call this try a failure.

So, what went wrong?

Obviously, the Soviets declaring war wasn’t helpful, but there were a number of strategic mistakes which really cost me here.

1. Supply and Sealion. For whatever reason, my troops could not get any supplies through during Sealion, despite having plenty of convoys available. I wasn’t receiving any messages about sunk vessels, and the supply screen shows that a convoy was going through delivering 1 boat load of supplies and fuel every day. I’m not an expert on the mechanics of naval supply in HoI3, so the only thing I think I can do differently is to add some convoys to my build queue in 1936.

2. Naval concerns. Clearly, submarines aren’t working – but when I brought the Schlachtflotte out from Kiel, we started scoring a few minor kills. I’ve also done some research, and people seem to also be big on naval bombers for doing port strikes. Therefore, in the next run I will construct a fleet containing Carriers, Battlecruisers, and Light Cruisers.

3. Securing the Border. The soviet Border has to be guarded, or else the Bolsheviks will stab me in the back. It might even be worth waiting until the Winter War, and then declaring against the Soviets to take advantage of their distraction up north.

4. Danzig or War! Do not fire the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact until you get Danzig or War as an event – this will allow you more time to deal with France while the unbreakable Non-Aggression Pact ticks down.

So, what to do differently?

Build more boats.

Guard the border.

Delay Sealion until the Soviet border is secure. Instead of an early Sealion, we can spend the time puppeting Yugoslavia and conquering Scandinavia. Next time, you’ll rejoin us in 1939 as we attempt to do it all again, and I’ll summarise what we have to work with!
 

Wraith11B

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1. On the supply side, you can hover over the port and see how much supply the port is pulling, how much it can transmit, etc. I'm fairly certain that the United Kingdom has loads of level ten ports, which maxes the base amount of supplies you can receive, but you need the techs to get a) more or b) better efficiency. Those techs in this case: Basing (Naval Doctrine), which increases port efficiency; Supply Transportation and Supply Organization (both in the Theory tab, bottom left) which increase the amount of supplies transported and how well they get through it.

2. Port strikes are big, but you definitely need air superiority, and a lot of bombers. My recommendation would be to lure the RN and MN into the Kattegat with some good ships and loads of MR and NAV (4+2 or 3+3). The MR will shred the enemy CAGs at which point its open season on those vessels. Make sure to have fast vessels because those will catch up to those CV/CVLs. It could be worthwhile to have a separate group (to keep the fleet average high) of light cruisers or destroyers which can fly against the enemy.

3. Pay attention to the terrain types: Marsh is one of the harshest places to fight aside from Jungle in this game, and the center of your line with the Soviets is the Pripyet marshes... You can usually envelop significant enemy forces there so that they're fighting at a disadvantage (surrounded, with no supply, no reinforcements, etc) which makes it easier to destroy.
 

stnylan

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Always nice to see an analysis of a failed run. They are reported on far too rarely imo.
 

Surt

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Some times air supply missions wont fly for fear of enemy intercepters (or other things?) set the mission to defensive or aggressive if you have loads of fighter escort.
You find few convoys in the North Sea, the subs must hunt in an arc west around the UK/France, around Gibraltar or off the coast of Brasil to get max effect. Too close to UK/Gibraltar/Suez/Panama will be painful for your subs.
Bordeaux is the base to use, Brest is too close to the UK.
 

James Beil

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I wish I had more time, I'd like to play through the first failed attempt and see if it's really possible to recover - in 1940 I suspect the Soviet army is weak enough that it could be beaten, but I'm already burning university time as it is.

One of the takeaways from this play is that subs are not good ship-hunters as they are in Darkest Hour; they're for sinking convoys and not much else.
 

nuclearslurpee

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1. Supply and Sealion. For whatever reason, my troops could not get any supplies through during Sealion, despite having plenty of convoys available. I wasn’t receiving any messages about sunk vessels, and the supply screen shows that a convoy was going through delivering 1 boat load of supplies and fuel every day. I’m not an expert on the mechanics of naval supply in HoI3, so the only thing I think I can do differently is to add some convoys to my build queue in 1936.

I'm almost certain that your primary issue was that you couldn't pump enough supplies for all of your troops through the port in Lowestoft. If I recall correctly, it's only a level 1 port. Techs would help, but really to support more than a couple of divisions you need a level 10 port (or, at least level 5, 6, thereabouts).

If I'm wrong about the port size of Lowestoft, disregard this of course.
 

markkur

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I'm almost certain that your primary issue was that you couldn't pump enough supplies for all of your troops through the port in Lowestoft. If I recall correctly, it's only a level 1 port. Techs would help, but really to support more than a couple of divisions you need a level 10 port (or, at least level 5, 6, thereabouts).

If I'm wrong about the port size of Lowestoft, disregard this of course.
To support your comments...<imo> Invasions require Fronts, Trying to begin with one port can be a difficult restraint because if you fight...you destroy the infrastructure. I've taken level 1 & 2 ports and found I had no facilities after landing; I doubt it is easy to do a very slow build-up when invading British soil because all infrastructure around your forces are getting blasted. Want to go 1 port and fan-out? Better go 10 because a 10 will not be a 10 long.:)

I would add:
a. Make sure you have significant air power over the Front including the "visible' supply-route in the Supply tab.
b. I have had times when this next idea was not necessary but other times where it was...idk why. I would create a full blown OOB at the main-port next time, meaning with a separate A.G. w/ the best Skill you have.
c. Set-up the Front using Infantry (you have the best at this time) before bringing in Arm.