Welcome to the third 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 Second World War as any country, and perhaps, change history. These articles examine the benefits and drawbacks of playing as any of dozens of minor countries in HOI IV. In this article, I’ll be looking at Czechoslovakia. Historically, Germany swallowed up Czechoslovakia without a fight in 1939, but what if the Czechs fought back? Could they hold out long enough to contribute to Germany’s defeat?
Czechoslovakia starts the game in 1936 as a liberal democratic state with 70% national unity. It has a volunteer army, export trade focus, and civilian economy. The fascist party, led by Jaroslav Krejci, has 25% popularity, the democratic party, led by Edvard Benes, has 65%, the communist party, led by Klement Gottwald, has 10% support, and the nonaligned party has zero support. The next election will be held in May 1940 (assuming you make it that far).
Czechoslovakia is divided into nine states, with predominantly mountain, hill, and forest terrain. Its resources are located in Moravia, Western Slovakia, and Southern Slovakia. In terms of industry, it has 7 military and 14 civilian factories, plus 15 additional open slots, 2 tungsten and 28 steel. Its lack of strategic resources means you will have to trade a lot of civilian factories for resources if you want to build up your military.
As a landlocked country, Czechoslovakia has a land-based military. It has 16 infantry, 2 mountain, and 4 cavalry divisions, and 144 interwar fighter planes, 72 tactical bombers, and 48 close air support planes. It has 43,220 manpower initially available for new units, and one general available to command your troops. Field Marshal Vojtech Luza has a skill level of 3 and is a defensive expert, granting troops under his command a +30% max entrenchment bonus.
Czechoslovakia starts 1936 with only 3 research slots, so you want to get the 2 bonus slots through national focuses as quickly as you can. It has researched Infantry Weapons I, Recon Company I, 1934 Artillery, 1936 Anti-Air Artillery, 1936 Light Tank, Interwar Fighter, Interwar Tactical Bomber, and Close Air Support I. You don’t have access to motorized units in 1936, which I find pretty unrealistic.
Strategic Advantages: For a minor power, Czechoslovakia starts the game in 1936 with a strong army and large air force. Its mountainous terrain offers good defensive positions, and level 6 forts have already been built in some Sudetenland districts. It also has the potential to enter into an alliance with France in ahistorical mode. For more aggressive players, there are several opportunities to expand at the expense of weaker neighbors in southeastern Europe.
Strategic Disadvantages: Unfortunately, like Austria, Germany gobbles up Czechoslovakia prior to World War 2. Refusal to give up land means war with Germany, and at that point you are practically surrounded. Players only have until September 1938 to prepare for this inevitability. Giving up the Sudetenland to buy time only weakens your overall defensive position by removing forts and mountainous terrain from around the capitol.
Army Composition: Czechoslovakia has precious few men and material with which to fight. After several play throughs, I decided to tinker with my division templates. I replaced two infantry battalions with two artillery battalions in the Pesi Divize. This returned a total of 16,000 men to my manpower pool, and most importantly, 3,200 infantry equipment. That is enough for two new divisions. It also increased the combat width to 20, the most efficient width. I also updated my mountain divisions to a similar configuration. Later, I added recon, engineer, and field hospital companies.
Democratic Czechoslovakia: In my first play through, I spent the first two and a half years preparing for war. By the Munich Diktat on September 7, 1938, I managed to fortify the entire border with Germany, and increase Czechoslovakia’s army and air force to 10 infantry, 17 mountain, and 3 armored divisions, and 160 interwar fighter planes, 80 tactical bombers, and 100 close air support planes, with over 160 planes in reserve. My strategy was to hold the armored divisions in reserve and use them to counter any German breakthroughs. Germany declared war on September 20. It carved the country into separate pockets and crushed them one by one. In a valiant effort, I held out until February 8, 1939.
In my next play through, I decided to concentrate on building up land defenses and fighter planes before I strengthened my economy. To aid in that effort, I took the Neutrality Focus in the Liberty Ethos National Focus Tree in order to gain the +20% construction speed bonus to land forts, anti air, and military factories from Deterrence. This time, I confronted Germany with 16 infantry and 21 mountain divisions, and 275 Fighter I planes, 25 interwar fighter planes, 72 tactical bombers, and 48 close air support planes.
Germany declared war on September 29. I narrowed the front line by aggressively moving into Oberschlesien, which also netted me aluminum and steel resources. This tactic seemed to paralyze the German Army for a few months. I managed to capture Vienna in March 1939, but I was starting to run out of supplies.
In a stroke of luck, Germany prematurely declared war on Poland in April 1939. Poland joined the Allies and France and Great Britain declared war on Germany. Just as I thought the war was going well, Poland collapsed and capitulated in December. I hurriedly invited the Netherlands to form an alliance called the Triple Entente, but the Netherlands put up marginal resistance. I held my own against Germany and Italy until October 1940, when Hungary joined the Axis. Surrounded, I thought it was only a matter of time, but I managed to hold them off. Unfortunately, France finally surrendered in March 1941 and Great Britain capitulated two years later.
The war settled into a siege I thought would drag on forever, with Czech manpower slowly draining away. Then, something incredible happened. I marshaled every available division and attacked into the German heartland. The German army, already drained from fighting on multiple fronts, collapsed. Germany unexpectedly surrendered on July 11, 1944. From there, it didn’t take long to liberate the rest of Europe. Czechoslovakia quickly became the dominant power in Central Europe. Not bad for this tiny democracy!
Communist Czechoslovakia. What if Czechoslovakia had a big brother when it stood up to Germany? I decided to find out, and took Czechoslovakia down the path to communism. It took until July 1937 to adopt that ideology, and Klement Gottwald became head of state. I intended to declare war on Austria as soon as possible, but the war justification takes 320 days. By then, Germany would have annexed Austria.
I joined the Comintern in June 1938 and marshaled 24 infantry, 18 mountain, and 4 cavalry divisions, and 129 Fighter I planes, 15 interwar fighter planes, 72 tactical bombers, and 48 close air support planes. The Munich Conference happened on schedule, but Germany didn’t declare war until October 31, no doubt contemplating an early war against the Soviet Union. I thought Germany would quickly lose, caught in a war on all sides, but that was not the case.
The game didn’t end when Czechoslovakia capitulated. I got to observe the war from the sidelines as a government in exile, adding my diminished Air Force to the Soviet Union’s arsenal. I watched in disbelief as Germany swept into the Soviet Union, crushing all resistance. When they surrendered, all hope of a comeback was lost.
Bohemian Empire. The fascist party is more popular than the communist party in Czechoslovakia, so I thought I would have more time to take Austria out of the equation. Unfortunately, it took the same amount of time to transition to fascism as it did communism, so I couldn’t justify war in time.
Undeterred, I declared war on Hungary on May 26, 1938 and quickly overwhelmed their defenses. After they surrendered, I joined the Axis. I refused to relinquish the Sudetenland, but unlike Austria upon refusing Anschluss, Germany did not expel me from the alliance. “The Fate of Czechoslovakia” still triggers around January 1939, but nothing consequential happens when you decline.
WW2 began in June 1939. By September, France, Poland, Belgium, and the Netherlands had all surrendered. Germany declared war on the Soviet Union in September 1940. Based on my last play through, I expected a swift victory, but that was not the case. The Soviet Union slowly pushed west while the Allies overwhelmed Italy. Despite my success, I didn’t have a large enough army to defend every front and it was only a matter of time before the Bohemian Empire ran out of men and material for the war effort.
After Action Report. Czechoslovakia is in a pretty precarious position. Through proper resource and army management, it’s possible to stand up to one major power, but not two. Giving up land to decrease the number of provinces you have to defend goes a long way toward helping long term survival. Learning when and where to counterattack is essential. Utilizing terrain and fortifications, you can slowly bleed your enemy dry. I was able to inflict three to four times higher casualties than I received.