Hearts of Iron IV - 45th Development Diary - 19th of February 2016

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podcat

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Time for another friday diary! Today I'll be talking about one of the biggest changes in Hearts of Iron IV compared to the previous titles: Battle Plans.

P7utHCk.jpg


Design Goals
When I started looking at what direction to take HOI4 for unit control and provinces I first looked at HOI2 and HOI3 to see what worked well and what didn't.

HOI2
+ Fewer provinces making full manual control always possible
- Few provinces leads to a lot less cool encirclements and removes a lot of interesting tactical gameplay

HOI3
+ Lots of provinces allowing encirclements and interesting gameplay
+ HOI3 had a purely cosmetic battle plan drawing system, and still people used it - because drawing plans feels natural in a strategic wargame like this and it feels right to see and makes showing things to others in say AARs easier.
- Lots of provinces means manual control everywhere can be overwhelming, difficult to manage in multiplayer and annoying in areas where you "don't care so much".
- You could hand over control to HQ units run by AI for you and give them objectives. The problem was that effectively you had very little control, and features that play themselves are generally not a good idea. Giving up control also isn't something most players like to do.

For HOI4 we decided we wanted to attempt the best of both. Keep the high province count, always allow manual control override, enough tools to automate parts that didn't matter and control and feedback when managing lots of units at the same time so you would not be surprised by the system doing things you didn't tell it. The system is specifically not allowed to be clever, that is the player's job, so if you tell it to suicide into the maginot line it will say it thinks it's too risky, but do it anyway.

The battle plan system in HOI4 lets you draw plans on the map which are followed by assigned divisions, but at any point you can go in and reassign things or issue manual overrides. The player's role is then basically to draw up high level plans and to watch for opportunities and situations to take advantage of (such as small encirclements, or prioritizing fighting a certain enemy, or cutting off someone's retreat). Generally the strategic situation will change over time, so while you may have prepared a longer plan expect that you will need to improvise and adapt parts as you go or break off a group to manage some emergency, or particularly stubborn enemy section.


Controls
Battleplans are controlled for each Army and you have several tools for drawing them:
LxepM0b.jpg

Naval Invasion & Paratrooping:
Used for planning naval and paratrooper invasions. We will cover these in a diary in 2 weeks or so.

Assign Frontline:
Used to assign divisions in an army to a frontline. You can either assign to the whole frontline with a nation by clicking it, or click and drag to assign just a part of it. Having an assigned frontline is required for making offensive plans because you need to know where to attack from.

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Offensive Line:
This tells divisions assigned that you want them to advance along their axis of attack (represented by an arrow that you can bend and adjust as you want) from their assigned frontline to the offensive line. You can chain several of these together if you want as well.

Offensive lines and frontlines may also be overlapping. I prefer to assign a big front line of infantry to a frontline with a broad attack plan, and then manage my panzer divisions or other breakthrough units along smaller sections of that front and with a much narrower offensive line. In my barbarossa plan above Guderians panzer divisions are operating in this way together with von Rundstedt's infantry.

When you have drawn an offensive line you can hover mouse over its arrow and the game will show you a map highlighting step by step of how your units would move to take this area (the green strips in the picture below)
mOypbIK.jpg


Fallback Line:
This lets you paint a line useful both for say setting up a defensive position behind a river or other position (for example a coastline). They are very useful for falling back in a controlled manner as well by reassigning your attackers to it they will instantly rush back and hold that point instead (I do recommend leaving some defenders to slow the enemy during your retreat).
Bp5Iasc.jpg


Garrison Area:
For this order you give the army an area of responsibility instead of a frontline. Divisions will spread out to guard the most important provinces, keep resistance down, or take back provinces as long as it's pretty safe. So useful for home defense, or mop-up of areas.
aNiM2nk.jpg


Assign Divisions
Lets you quickly reassign divisions between frontlines, attack orders or command groups. Super useful and you'll be mostly accessing it by holding down the Control key.

Edit Mode
Lets you adjust any part of a plan by clicking this or holding down the Alt key. You can do things like changing the axis of attack, reshaping offensive or fallback lines.

Delete
You can of course delete whole plans (just right click), or parts of plans (click on the plan on the map).


Planning Bonuses
Battle plans are not just a way of controlling your units, they also come with advantages if you put the time in to prepare them. The longer you prepare a plan the more bonus is acquired up to a point that depends on your doctrine. For example Mobile Warfare Doctrine gives you faster planning but you can only plan to half the level of a player using Grand Battleplan (Even units given manual order as part of a plan will gain this bonus by the way). As you progress along the plan the bonus slowly goes away, so you may want to time it to coincide with a good defensive position for regrouping. There are also certain leader traits that improve planning and can create powerful combos with the right doctrine.


Next week we will take a deeper look at Britain.
 
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podcat

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Anyway within a battle plan to assign specific forces to an attack vector?

yes, you select them and click Assigment Mode (or hold down Control) and click on the arrow/frontline. So you can set up a forking path as I did in my barbarossa plan above and reassign how many goes with each fork at any moment.
 
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podcat

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When you make a multilayered battle plan will the troops stop at each successive front to gain back planning bonus or will they just push through to the end front with no regard for planning bonus attrition?

It depends how you set it up, you can activate the whole plan or just the first step.

Also with Grand battle plan getting twice the possible bonus will it make them almost unstoppable if you allow them time to get that planning bonus? Is the trick to picking the mobile doctrine constant attacks to keep the battleplan doctrine player off balance?
well, they get twice the bonus of the one with mobile warfare, but of course if the mobile warfare guys attack first with their speed to planning they will have the advantage at that point. Its also only one of many factors in combat.


Is there a graphical way to tell how far you can go before your planning bonus runs out, or do you just have to learn from experience?

No, it would be pretty hard to estimate since you dont really know how long each combat and such will take. The bonus is individual for divisions in the plan and how long they have individually been there preparing, and not for the plan as a whole. The bonus ticks down per hour, and not by distance.

What bonus do you get? What does "you can only plan to half the level of a player using Grand Battleplan" mean?

It's some kind of combat bonus - I assume a bonus to soft and hard attack.

"You can only plan to half the level of a player using Grand Battleplan" means an army using Mobile Warfare doctrine can only gain half the bonus from planning that an army using Grand Battleplan can. However, the Mobile Warfare player can plan faster, so you might get four German offensives with 50% planning bonuses for every one British offensive with a 100% planning bonus.

"No idea", Gort answered you already above.

To clarify, do you mean if you've had the plans and units assigned to them in place for several weeks-month then you'll gain a larger bonus than if you just made them the day(s) before?

yes.

Also, what happens if you slightly alter the plan, add or remove a unit, change a units path but the overall plan remains the same, do you lose all the bonus or just a percentage?

the bonus is per unit, so if you add a unit it wont be prepared, but it wont affect the rest.

Are you able to pause a battleplan? i.e. The offensive is not going as well as expected and losses are heavier than expected so the units need to stop and reinforce. Rather than deleting the plan and creating a new one after being reinforced; can the units pause, reinforce after a time, and then continue with the plan that was already in place.

yes you can pause a plan and resume later.

If you decide to manually control a unit assigned to attack an offensive line, will they be reassigned to their original plan once they complete your order?

For example, if I have a plan to attack into Poland and order it to commence, then I select a couple panzer divisions assigned to the offensive line and deviate them to perform an encirclement, will they continue the offense once they encircle and crush those stubborn defenders?

yes they go back to the plan afterwards, so its easy to go in, send some panzers to swat a pocket or do an encirclement and not have to babysit them while they do it as they head back automatically.
 
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podcat

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Thanks for the DD!

Does the AI develop battle plans? If so, can you see battle plans developed by AI allies? Will it be possible to coordinate your attack with that of an AI ally? For example, could a human-controlled UK coordinate D-Day with an AI-controlled USA?
yes Ai will make plans and you can see them if you toggle "show allied plans" next to mapmodes. There is no strict "cooperation" system (would love to make one for an expansion) but you can see when AI will launch it and such so you can coordinate yourself to that (we'll talk more about that in invasion diary).

I really do like this hybrid system and I greatly appreciate that microing is still a thing. Some questions, can you see the battle plans of your allies? Can you include your allies in your battle plans? Can you use spies to see the battle plans of your enemies?

Also super excited for the UK diary next week :).

spying on plans we had to cut because of lack of time and it not working well. it might make a comeback if we sort out the kinks. for cooperation see above answer.

I think the way it works is you set the plan in stone, and planning bonus accumulates. If you then modify the plan at all, it's effectively a new plan and you start from scratch.

No, you can modify quite a lot right now for no penalty. we are a bit too nice with it. might change towards release. the important thing is that units dont have to move to accommodate your plan changes if you dont want to lose the preparation.

How aggressive are units assigned to a fall-back line in maintaining that line? If the enemy breaches the line, are they going to counter-attack? In general if I assign units to an attack vector will they attack each province as fast as possible or make some kind of judgement that they need to recover ORG before proceeding?

if you draw a fallback plan (or defensive line as we used to call it also) they will actively try to take it back. as for org, yes they wait until they have a certaina mount or it would be wasteful and fail.

Other question please : What are all the triggers, parameters ? Can't I ask to a group to execute its battle plan orders only if weather is clement ? If terrain is not moody ? If air superiority isn't lost ? Etc, how all those important aspects are managed in this automatisation context ?

The system is not designed to automate in this way, its up to you as a player to make the decision and activate (or hold) things. Our initial version actually was more geared at this stuff but it just doesnt work and was too complex.

Do units consume more supply while preparing a battle plan, or only during the actual execution (combat)?

not when preparing, but attacking/moving with the plan yes.

Is there still the concept of plans potentially having multiple stages that you can trigger individually? I'm thinking about the need to keep groups at different parts of the front roughly coordinated. If one group completes their objectives faster than another it would be nice for them to wait at the "Stage 2" starting line until the flag goes up for that.

The first system i showed in Miami at the start of development was based around "Phases" as a thing to let you coordinate among several army groups. it turned out not to work so well so instead you as a player can pause/activate later sections now, but there is no automatic way to tie them together. If you look at my Barbarossa plan above its possible to only activate the first phase and then do the rest later when everythign is in phase (personally I usually activate all and pause the ones who have gotten far enough instead, but its a matter of taste)
 
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podcat

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Will it be possible to plan the war mobilization phase as well? I.e. planning the movement of the divisions from their barracks to the borders in the transition from peace to war./QUOTE]

Units in training can be told to deploy directly to a frontline part of a plan so you dont have to babysit your training/production if that is what you mean

Will it be possible to have several contingency plans and execute only one of them?

you could make separate plans, but there is no way to gain preparation for both
 
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Will there be historical plans to use already in-game?

Will there be a newbie-friendly tutorial on how to use each mechanic of these plans, including, the initial planning, fall back, splitting, encircling and so on?
- there wont be historical plans already made no.
- I HOPE so, we were just discussing it in fact. if all else fails I'll make some in my spare time and put on youtube.
 
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I still do not understand why you do not include an arrow that Divisions must follow through specific provinces.
we sort of do. thats what a manual order is.
 
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Looking at your plan, you didn't seem to care about rivers all that much. Does the AI automatically account for river crossings to some degree (say if your line of advance was parallel to a river), or did you just not care that much about the potential malus in this example?
in this example I basically assumed I would punch through the soviets fast and there wouldnt be a proper defense waiting for me at a river, its also a lot trickier to take the rivers into account without adding a lot more detail to the plan and you guys wanted a diary out today ;) I do tend to plan around them when appropriate. my top prio here was avoiding the marshlands.


What is the maximum time of bonus for planning? If with SU I plan the invasion of Germany in the 36 for the 41 I will get like 200% bonus?

the cap is 100% I think now. it depends on leaders assigned and doctrine choice.


If you could define a path for a Division within a Battle Plan it would make Battle Plans much more useful you may even be able to make a Battle Plan that would succeed because at present its certain you will need to take manual control almost from the first shot.


As far as I can tell you dont even know what Divisions will attack what enemy Province when you activate a Plan.

you are thinkign too low level and tactical now. That level is really below what the intent is for battleplans which are a bit more strategic. If you care about each individual province and not assume the divisions will attack one or the other in front of them (it depends a bit who gets assigned to go and who support attacks) you are probably the kind of player who will enjoy playing mostly manual. When I play I only really care about important provinces so I dont mind the plan pickign this for me in the majority of cases.
 
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I still don't understand, what "50 % preparation bonus" means? Is it a flat 50 % bonus to hard attack and soft attack? Is it a bonus to organisation? What does it influence and how?

yes, so its like all other combat bonuses.

Is it possible to make a fake frontline in your own territory?
For example I don't want to position my troops at the border and give away Intel on my panzers, but instead make a fake frontline one province line back and advance from there?
Granted the time moving one privince Will take its toll on the bonus, but coming as a surprise could prove beneficial.
a front line needs to be drawn only on the border of an enemy, so if you hold back troops as to hide them you cant get them the bonus. they need to be in position for it to start ticking up (and a good thing it is so you can get some heads up that a front is heating up)

Does the fall back line plan grant a bonus also?

fallback line doesnt give bonus, it needs to be an offensive plan. but there is also entrenchment giving you bonuses on defense to make up for it.
 
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