Fuel! Civil wars! Naval Overhaul! Hearts of Iron 4‘s new expansion, Man the Guns, is finally dropping on February 28th. It feels like this latest add-on has been in the works forever, but considering it was officially announced on May 19th last year nearly ten months ago that feeling isn’t so far off the mark.
To make sure everyone has their sea legs, here’s a reminder of some of the biggest changes coming in the new expansion as well as the accompanying patch. Please note we haven’t tagged features as being ‘premium’ or ‘free’, so this is a collective overview of the whole package.
An Army marches on its gas tanks
Man the Guns is giving the logistical side of fighting a world war much more depth. Now, rather than oil just being used as an abstract construction material for various vehicles, it’s also now used to generate fuel. This was a feature in Hearts of Iron 3 and has been one of the most requested new additions to the fourth game.
Excess oil not being used by a state’s production lines or being traded off for extra civilian factories will now be converted into fuel, which practically every aspect of the military requires. Trucks, halftracks, tanks, ships of all flavors, and of course aircraft, all guzzle down an amount of fuel each day. To keep the war machine rolling, oil-starved states like Japan can build a stockpile of oil by building up silos for the precious black gold. However, like all other buildings in HOI4, they can be bombed or captured by the enemy. This could see bold offensives like the late 1944 Ardennes plausible within the game, with desperate thrusts for much needed supplies now being modeled into the game. Oil is a much more crucial resource in Man the Guns, and if you can’t produce it or trade for it, you’ll have to take it from someone.
Alternate Alternate Histories
Man the Guns is bringing broad changes to the focus trees of the US, Great Britain, the Netherlands, and Mexico. Specifically, there’s a focus on offering more options for further alternate history paths, enhancing the current options the US and Great Britain have. In the case of the US, new paths to the Left and Right alike appear. The former branch involves the administration pushing desegregation, with stiff resistance from many southern states. If the US continues down this road, it will lead to a new civil war, whether the US decides to go fully Communist or not. The latter branch sees the US embracing the sweeping nationalism that is working so well for the Germans, in a “flirtation with Fascism”. As the government installs more controlling legislation, such as the Voter Registration Act, the people of the United States will eventually revolt against the government. Either extreme option allows for the US to fully embrace Communism or Fascism, but it does not force it, potentially leading to a desegregated, Democratic US by 1942. The US may not be as large a factor in World War 2 proper when going down these paths, and the Axis will have more time before the US can fully bring its resources to bear against them.
The new British alternate branches explore a more aggressive leadership, with options to get rid of appeasement earlier, and appoint Winston Churchill as PM. This path gives the British more time to mobilize their military for the incoming German threat, but leads to ultimately lower returns, as the British people are very unsupportive of yet another war. For those who love royal weddings, there is a whole new event chain surrounding the marriage of King Edward VIII to Wallis Simpson. This event chain can lead to surprisingly large consequences depending on the actions taken, including the various Dominions leaving the British Empire, or a new unaligned British government led by the King. Much like the American tree, there are options to turn Communist or Fascist, both having chances to trigger a civil war and join with like-minded states, or to set out on your own. Notably, the Dominions will leave the Empire as a whole if either path is taken, so a Communist or Fascist Great Britain may have to fight on their own.
However, there are new options for fully annexing the Dominions and forming the “Commonwealth of Nations” to stand against the Axis, so even alone, the British can rule half of the world.
Next, we have the Dutch, who previously had a generic focus tree. Now, we can see a tree packed with new options for the Dutch, half of which expect them to lose. Yes, one of the main Dutch branches involves focusing on annexing Batavia, which can become the new capital if/when (read: it’s probably when) the German war machine decides that the Netherlands have had it too good for too long. But, if the Netherlands feel particularly confident, there are new focuses that specifically center around making the Netherlands one large fort. Defenses will be built up on the border with Germany, and ? of the country can be flooded, which confers a massive speed penalty but grants a large bonus to defense. It’s very possible that a particularly stubborn Netherlands might never get completely overrun by the Germans. But before the Dutch can make the decision on whether to abandon their homeland or make a stand, they have several focuses meant to deal with the very rough start they have in 1936. The Dutch were still operating under the Gold Standard at this time, when many states had begun to recover from the Great Depression. After the Dutch drop the Gold Standard, they can start working on the various negative modifiers they are suffering under. And of course, there are options to turn Communist, Fascist, or to fully restore the monarchy. Siding with the Communists may see the Dutch alone in Europe, while cozying up to the Germans may trigger a British invasion, but the Netherlands remaining an unaligned neutral state will allow for conquest focuses on Belgium and Luxembourg. In any case, the Netherlands must be prepared for a tough fight.
The last major focus rework is for Mexico, which was also using the generic focus tree prior to Man the Guns. Mexico is coming out of a long period of turmoil, with several civil wars and rebellions leaving the government of Mexico shaky. The 1936 start sees a politicized Mexican army, with various divisions and generals having strong political ideologies. Mexico may opt to depoliticize the army, or it can use one of the factions as a tool to quickly shift alignments to a Fascist radical anti-clerical regime. Mexico may also, of course, opt to support the Communists, which can see Trotsky leading Mexico, if he was invited to join the government. Outside of triggering an ideological civil war, focus options for Mexico include supporting the oppressed Mexican priests and Catholics, and finding ways to regain control of Mexico’s vast natural resources. One of the new features in Man the Guns is the ability of a state to provide concessions of natural resources to other states. Mexico begins with much of its oil being given away in concessions to foreign entities, and Mexico can either nationalize the oil or encourage the concessions to increase relations with their trading partners. Mexico also has plenty of opportunities to expand, with war goals being granted against other Central American states. There’s even an option to ignite a border conflict against the US for control of the Panama Canal. The new Mexico is an aggressive Mexico, and World War 2 (and 3) in Man the Guns could frequently see a South American theatre.
From a Pond to an Ocean
The most transformative changes in Man the Guns come from the rework of the naval arm of the game. The way naval combat works have been changed at the strategic level, with fleets now being divided into smaller task forces. An admiral still commands the fleet as a whole, but the task forces can be given different missions. For example, a fleet can send a small task force on a scouting mission and leave the main bulk of the fleet on a strike mission, which means that as the scouts find the enemy fleet, the strike force will arrive to engage. This change will allow for more flexibility with fleets, rather than just telling the whole fleet to patrol a certain area. There are several new missions that task forces can take, including mining missions that can make those raiding navies a force to be reckoned with. Additionally, the new system accounts for the addition of the fuel mechanic. Ships guzzle down fuel incredibly quickly, so having the larger, less fuel-efficient ships in harbor while the smaller ships scout is a great way to manage fuel consumption. Coupled with the addition of different naval terrains conferring modifiers to combat and scouting, naval warfare is becoming much deeper.
The new combat system is also supplemented by the new ship designer system. Ship research and design is now based around hulls rather than classes. Each hull has certain stats and characteristics attached to it, and it also has space for “modules.” These modules cover everything to main guns to radar, depth charges, extra anti-aircraft capability, and so on. The ship designer also covers refitting, so older ships that are now obsolete can have their tops shaved off and replaced with a flight deck, or have their big guns unscrewed from the deck and replaced with even bigger guns. It should also be noted that the major powers in 1936 are still held to the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922 and the newer London Naval Treaty of 1930 that placed tonnage restrictions on new ships. The game models these treaties by only allowing a certain “cost” of ships before the treaties are torn up when the war begins. Players can expect to have to get creative with their pre-war ship designs, because a state like Germany will not have even half as much “cost” as the British get for their ships.
Man the Changelogs
Hearts of Iron IV: Man the Guns has such a large amount of content changes that it would be a very long read to go in-depth on everything else to come, so here’s what else you can expect. There have been map changes in several areas, notably Central Asia and Africa, with many of the post-colonial states being added as entities that can be formed. There are also new custom game rules which function similarly to the game setup of Crusader Kings 2. You can now allow for unlimited intervention, releasing of nations, sending volunteers, etc. Focus tree paths can also be chosen for the AI, so you can see what a guaranteed American Civil War looks like from the safety of Mexico. Governments in exile now have some power other than just using their few remaining divisions to help the British. Exiled governments can offer political support to their host states, and the hosts can now build unit templates from their guests, as well as use the guest government’s generals.
Certainly, Paradox are giving players much more to do in the game rather than to let the naval combat automate while they focus on the war on land, or to remove small states from the game entirely after 1940. Man the Guns looks to really let players stick their hands into every aspect of the war, and I am excited to get my hands dirty.