Welcome to my first in a series of posts looking at minor countries in the game Hearts of Iron IV by Paradox Entertainment. Hearts of Iron IV is an epic historical simulator that allows you to experience the events of the Second World War as any country, and perhaps, change history. I have been a fan of this game since the original Hearts of Iron came out in 2002. While the latest version sacrifices historical detail for game play, I’ve been addicted since its release this summer. It’s simply visually stunning.
What I would like to discuss here is not the graphics but the alternative history. What if Germany reverted to democracy? What if France fell to communism? What if the United Kingdom became fascist? Or, what if one of the dozens of minor powers were more aggressive in pursuing their own ambitions? That is what these articles are about–examining, in detail, the benefits and drawbacks of playing as any of dozens of minor countries in HOI IV. In this article, I’ll be looking at Austria.
BLUF: Austria is a small, landlocked country destined to be absorbed into Germany in the 1938 Anschluss. Refusing to submit means fighting an unwinnable war. However, there are tricks you can use to survive and go on to fight World War 2 as an independent country. Can you restore Austria to its former glory?
Austria starts the game in 1936 as a nonaligned autocracy led by Kurt Schuschnigg. The ruling party, Vaterlandische Front, has 48% popularity. The democratic party, led by Karl Renner, and communist party, led by Alfred Klahr, both have 1% popularity, and the fascist party, led by Arthur Seuss-Inquart, has 50%. Austria has a volunteer army, export trade focus, and a civilian economy. Austria is divided into three states: Lower Austria, Upper Austria, and Tyrol. It has 50% national unity. Appointing Leopold Figl, a popular figurehead, as a political adviser will boost national unity by 15%.
Austria has a small economy, with 9 civilian and 3 military factories, 2 oil, 1 aluminum, 22 tungsten, and 18 steel. Most resources are concentrated in Upper Austria. It initially has 6 free slots in which to build factories. To boost construction, you can appoint Julius Raab, a captain of industry, as a political advisor. He grants +10% to civilian factory, infrastructure, and refinery construction speeds.
Austria starts the game with only three technology research slots. It has discovered Weapons I, Mountain Infantry I, engineer and recon companies, and interwar fighter planes. As a landlocked country, it has no naval technology. In order to build a better army, you need to focus on developing your industrial production. In order to stand up to Germany, however, you need better military technology. Either goal can be achieved through the national focus tree, but not both in time for war.
Austria has a land-based military, with 4 infantry, 4 mountain, and 1 cavalry divisions, and 42 interwar fighters. Initially, it has 30,370 free manpower for new units. Only one general is available to command your troops–Karl Eglseer, a mountaineer (+5% movement, +10% attack and defense in mountains) and trickster (recon +25%) with a skill level of 3. Hiring new commanders costs 5 political power and increases with each new commander. New infantry and mountain divisions have engineer companies attached, which gives nice defensive bonuses.
Strategic Advantages: Austria is predominantly mountainous terrain, which provides good defensive bonuses. It is also the gateway to eastern Europe. If you can survive war with Germany, there is plenty of room for expansion at the expense of other minor nations.
Strategic Disadvantages: Austria is sandwiched between the two strongest fascist countries, Italy and Germany, and Germany aggressively wants to claim your land. While most other countries have until 1939 or 1940 to prepare for war, Austria only has until March or April 1938, putting its already meager capabilities at a distinct disadvantage.
Republic of Austria. I decided to play Austria as a democracy and see what would happen if it ended up fighting with the Allies. That meant choosing the liberty ethos national focus and appointing Adolf Scharf as a political advisor. It took until February 1938 to peacefully transition to democracy. By the Anschluss in April, I managed to increase my army to 6 infantry, 10 mountain, and 1 cavalry divisions, and 70 interwar fighters. Germany arrayed 24 divisions along our border, including 6 armored. They declared war on May 15, 1938.
At war, Great Britain would not accept my request to join the Allies. I held out until December 27, when Germany annexed my entire country in the Treaty of Vienna. In retrospect, I should have focused on developing more military techs instead of industry, but that was probably just prolonging the inevitable.
Deutschsozialen Austria. Making Austria a fascist county is relatively easy, since the fascist party is already in the majority. Fascist national focuses grant big manpower bonuses, and I hoped to use that to avoid another embarrassing defeat against Germany. Alas, this seemed to make no difference, as my army collapsed even more rapidly. Joining the Axis didn’t help–Germany kicks you out if you refuse Anschluss. There seems to be no way for Austria to survive a war with Germany.
I got creative in my next play through. I joined the Axis in 1937, then declared war on Hungary. Germany kicks you out of the Axis when you refuse Anschluss, but since you’re in a war together, it invites you back in. After defeating Hungary and taking Transdanubia, I stayed in the Axis but declined a call to arms when Germany invaded Poland and went to war with the Allies. By 1940, Germany’s claim on Austria apparently expired, so I left its faction without consequence.
In September 1941, I created a new faction with Legionnaires Bulgaria (fascist Bulgaria) called the Central Powers and set about building my military and industry. Yugoslavia is a tempting target for expansion, but the Allies guarantee its independence. So I began boosting the popularity of the fascist party in Yugoslavia with the end goal of eventually overthrowing the government there.
Unfortunately, in 1942 Legionnaires Bulgaria declared war on Greece, threatening to drag me into a war with the Allies. I ignored this conflict. Instead, I declared war on Italy in June 1943 over Austria’s claim on South Tyrol. This immediately cut off my supply of steel, as I found myself isolated from countries with which to trade. I quickly gained new sources in conquered territories. In July 1943, an Allied coup overthrew the fascist government of Bulgaria and it left the Central Powers. Seeing the writing on the wall, I dismantled my faction and joined the Allies.
Germany capitulated on April 23, 1944. Now it was just a matter of waiting for the Allies to finish off Japan. The AI putzed around for five years before Japan finally surrendered on May 17, 1950. I had to drop five or six nuclear bombs to speed things along. At the peace table, I grabbed as much of the former Austria-Hungarian Empire as I could, plus most of Bavaria. In the end, I survived World War 2, maintained Austria’s independence, and greatly increased its landmass. Over all, a success!