Welcome to the latest 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. This week I’ll be looking at Romania.
After WW1, Romania received the territories of Transylvania (1920), Bukovina (1919), and Bessarabia (1920), doubling its size. Transylvania in particular was a bone of contention between Hungary and Romania. Prior to joining Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union, Romania lost territory to Hungary, Bulgaria, and the Soviet Union through German arbitration. Romania contributed over 1.2 million men to Operation Barbarossa, but switched sides in 1944 and joined the Allies. It became a Soviet puppet after the war. Can you steer Romania toward a different fate?
Romania begins the game in 1936 as a non-aligned democracy led by Armand Calinescu. It has the national spirit Neutral Foreign Policy, which inflicts the following penalties: Join faction tension limit: +100%, Send volunteers tension limit: +20%, Guarantee tension limit: +100%, AI Modifier: Threat receptivity: +1%, AI Modifier: Desire to be in or expand a faction: −100. It has a volunteer army, export trade focus, and civilian economy.
The next election will be held in December 1937. The fascist party, led by Ion Antonescu, has 18% popularity, the democratic party, led by Armand Calinescu, has 20%, the communist party, led by Constantin Ion Parhon, has 2% support, and the nonaligned party, led by Gheorghe Tatarescu, has 60% support.
Romania starts 1936 with only 3 research slots. In terms of armed forces, Romania is strong on land but weak on the seas. It starts 1936 with 22 infantry, 4 mountain, 4 cavalry, and 1 light tank division, plus 4 destroyers and 72 interwar fighters. Its limited manpower means focusing on special forces. Mountain troops are essential for fighting in the Balkans, and airborne troops will help you quickly conquer smaller countries like Greece and Bulgaria.
There are two generals initially available to command your troops. Field Marshall Petre Dumitrescu, skill level 4, is a logistics wizard and adheres to an offensive doctrine, granting troops under his command -20% supply consumption and -10% combat width. General Ioan Mihail Racovita, skill level 3, is a hills fighter, granting +5% movement and +10% attack and defense in hilly terrain.
Romania has a fairly balanced economy, with 70 oil, 4 steel, 6 aluminum, 7 military factories, 2 naval dockyards, 13 civilian factories, and 4 free slots. Unfortunately, it does not have any economic-oriented ministers to help boost production. Its limited free slots means you must research industrial techs or focus on the industrial effort National Focus tree to build up your industrial base.
Strategic Advantages: Romania has the largest oil reserves in Europe outside the Soviet Union. It has plenty of room for potential expansion in the Balkans and is neighbored by only one major power–the Soviet Union. Its mountainous terrain and large rivers offer good defensive positions.
Strategic Disadvantages: Romania shares a border with the Soviet Union. This puts the player in an unenviable position of potentially fighting a major power with a virtually inexhaustible pool of manpower. On the other hand, a communist Romania would have a powerful ally. Romania stands to lose a lot of territory through National Focuses–Bessarabia to the Soviet Union, Transylvania to Hungary, and Southern Dobrudja to Bulgaria (which Romania took in the 1913 Second Balkan War). Refusing any of these demands risks war with a major alliance. Romania also has a narrow coastline and a tiny Black Sea fleet.
Terrain: Romania has diverse terrain. Its western half is dominated by hills, mountains, and forests. Its eastern half, in a moon or crescent shape, is primarily plains interrupted by rivers. Plains offer no combat penalties or movement restrictions. In mountains, units suffer +40% attrition, +100% movement cost, -60% attack penalty, and -10% penalty to enemy air superiority. Mountaineers are best for fighting in hills and mountains. They have a +10% movement, +20% attack, and +5% defense bonus in hills and +20% movement, +30% attack, and +10% defense bonus in mountains.
In forest terrain, units suffer a +50% movement cost, -20% attack penalty, and -10% penalty to enemy air superiority. Basic leg infantry (including special forces like mountaineers, marines, and airborne) are best for fighting in forests because they incur no negative effects beyond the base terrain penalty. An engineer company boosts defense in forests by +25% and movement by +5%.
Bucharest and Brăila’s urban terrain inflicts a +20% movement cost, -30% attack penalty, and -50% penalty to enemy air superiority. Additionally, the Danube River inflicts a -60% penalty to attack and -50% to movement. Marines grant a +40% attack bonus across large rivers.
Unfortunately, much of Romania’s more defensible terrain will be ceded to Hungary in the Second Vienna Award.
General Strategies: Hungary is Romania’s biggest rival in Eastern Europe. Deal with them early, before they ally with Germany or grab your territory through national events. If you go to war with Hungary, friendly countries will send you volunteers. The Hungarian army is no pushover, but once you puncture its front lines with light tank divisions, capturing the capital should be easy. This will add 6 military factories, 10 civilian factories, 1 oil, 194 aluminum, and 4 steel to your industrial base. Taking Bulgaria is not a desirable alternative because they have a meager 2 aluminum and present less of a threat to your territorial integrity.
Democratic Romania. Democratic Romania is between a rock and a hard place. You might be able to hold off the Red Army if you refuse to cede Bessarabia, but can you also hold off the Axis powers if you refuse to cede Transylvania to Hungary, or fight on three fronts if Bulgaria joins the fray? The alternative is to see your country reduced to a rump state.
A defensive strategy requires following the neutrality path in the National Focus tree, to receive +20% construction bonuses for land forts. I chose to build a line of forts behind the Tyrka River (along the Soviet-Romanian border) and another behind the Prut River to the southwest. That way, if I chose to give up Bessarabia, or the military situation deteriorated there, I would have something to fall back on. I also constructed forts along the Hungarian border.
Another element to my strategy was to concentrate on researching infantry and mechanized equipment. Mechanized units have increased hardness, armor, and speed, but cost oil to produce, something most minor powers need to conserve (but not Romania). Mobile Warfare Doctrine grants large bonuses for mechanized and motorized units.
The Soviet Union began justifying war goals against Romania in late September 1939, shortly after Poland capitulated. This triggered the event “Soviet Union Demands Bessarabia.” I refused to give up any territory, and they declared war on October 29, 1939. Romania had 26 infantry, 11 mountain, and 5 armored divisions to confront the Soviets. Unfortunately, they broke through along the Black Sea and quickly got behind my lines. Romania surrendered on December 18th and became a Soviet puppet.
In my next play through, I decided to give up Bessarabia and Bucovina. This is a painful decision because Romania can lose up to 10 factories. Before surrendering those territories, however, I destroyed all the factories so they wouldn’t fall into Soviet hands.
Hungary joined the Axis in June 1939, raising world tension to 100%, which allowed me to join the Allies. I waited to enter the war until the Soviet Union occupied eastern Poland, securing my northern flank. I quickly invaded Hungary, and they capitulated on October 10, 1939. Germany declared war on Yugoslavia in February 1940, which complicated the situation by opening a new front to the southwest. Yugoslavia put up more of a fight than I thought, but capitulated in late October.
Germany declared war on the Soviet Union in December 1940. I hoped this would relieve some pressure on my front, but it only made the enemy more aggressive. My front line collapsed under relentless attacks and Romania surrendered on December 17. I was only able to deploy one mechanized infantry unit, due to lack of production. A democratic Romania seems to be in an untenable position.
Romanian People’s Republic. Because Romania is a democracy, you cannot transition to a communist government trough the National Focus tree. Instead, you either have to appoint Minister Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, communist revolutionary, and wait for the communist party to gain majority support, or wait until after the Soviet Union annexes Bessarabia. That triggers an event inviting you to choose sides with the Axis or Comintern.
In this play through, Germany still had not conquered Poland by mid-April 1940, so the event for Hungary claiming Transylvania triggered before the Soviet Union demanded Bessarabia. I refused to surrender Transylvania, giving Germany a pretext to declare war on Romania. The United Kingdom and France guaranteed Romania’s independence, and an option to join the Allies opened up. Germany declared war on April 29, 1940. My goal was to join the Comintern, however, so I declined an invitation to join the Allies.
As I hurriedly sent an army to reinforce the Hungarian-Romanian border, the communist party finally seized power, and the Romanian People’s Republic was born on May 18, 1940. Hungary surrendered on April 5, 1941, but a large German army broke through and captured most of Bessarabia (Soviet Union still hadn’t demanded it). After a few months, Italy had fallen and a large percentage of Germany was under Allied occupation.
I pushed the German army out of Bessarabia and took Slovakia, while the Allies swept through central Europe. Germany capitulated on September 30, 1942. In a historic twist, the Soviet Union declared war on Poland, putting it into direct conflict with the Allies. As they and the Soviet Union slugged it out in Ukraine, I overthrew the government of Greece and created a faction called Red October.
In July 1949, The Soviet Union surrendered and became the democratic Russian Federation. By 1952, the war still dragged on because the Allies refused to invade the Japanese mainland. I was trapped in Eastern Europe because I couldn’t move troops through the Bosphorus Straight, which was controlled by a neutral Turkey. I managed to start a civil war in Japan, but because my expeditionary forces were unable to travel there, Japan easily crushed the rebellion. The war settled into a stalemate, with no one coming out the victor.
Legionary Romania. Using minister Mihail Sturdza, I successfully transitioned Romania to fascism by June 1937 and immediately began justifying war against Hungary. The war began on March 19, 1938. Hungary surrendered on May 28, shortly after I captured Budapest. By concentrating on the Army Effort focus tree, researching land doctrines, and deploying several new armored divisions, I was able to inflict twice as many casualties on the enemy. I then opted to join the Axis.
World War 2 came early. Germany declared war on Poland in June 1939. I sent my armies into southeastern Poland to help out and ended up conquering all of eastern Poland. France surrendered on October 23, 1939, so I turned my attention to conquering my Balkan neighbors.
Bulgaria surrendered in less than two weeks. I chose to give up Bessarabia to the Soviet Union, since I was busily at war with Yugoslavia and didn’t want to be dragged into a two front war. I could reclaim it later when Germany inevitably declared war on the Soviet Union. Yugoslavia capitulated on May 19, 1940. Germany declared war on the Soviet Union in April 1941, breaking the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact.
War against the Soviet Union was a long, slow slog. Turkey joined the fight, but capitulated to the Soviet Union in February 1942. I’m not sure why the Turkish AI continually allies with the Axis, only to be defeated every time. Historically, Turkey remained neutral until the waning days of the war, trading with Germany but not allowing military access. In a historic scenario, it makes no sense for Turkey to side with Germany against the Allies or Comintern. Soviet occupation of Turkey forced me to reroute mountain divisions from defense of the Mediterranean coastline. This allowed the Allies to land several divisions and brush aside the garrison troops I had stationed there.
It was clear I had not adequately prepared for war with the Soviet Union. The vast, open plains of Ukraine (where most Romanian troops fought) requires much more armored and motorized divisions than I mustered. I also did not have enough units to respond to threats on two fronts. Thankfully, German forces picked up the slack. They may have stalemated Allied troops along the Mediterranean coast, but at least they staved off disaster.
The only hope was to knock the Soviet Union out of the war as quickly as possible, then turn around and defeat the Allies. Unfortunately, by April 1944, despite significant progress on the eastern front, Allied divisions made it to the Romanian border, and I had nothing but a few scattered divisions to confront them. I began withdrawing my armies from the Soviet Union on May 4. Somehow my infantry made it back before the armored units, but it was in just the nick of time!
Just as the Soviet Union was about the fall, and I began to make significant progress retaking the southern Balkans from the Allies, Germany capitulated. The Allies quickly filled the skies over Romania with thousands of bombers and devastated my industry. There was no way to withstand the combined might of the Allied war machine.
What did I learn from playing as fascist Romania? For one, gaining resources from territory in the Soviet Union is nice, but if you don’t have the manpower to garrison and suppress partisans in all those provinces, you will waste all your civilian factories repairing sabotaged industry. Additionally, 100% resistance in a state gives a penalty of −50% local supplies, +100% intel to enemies, +75% chance to sabotage constructions, and +25% attrition.
Second, the AI has a tendency to ally with or declare war on just about everyone, regardless of the situation. Sometimes, in the case of Italy and Turkey, this is just not a good idea. As an Axis member, you will devote a majority of your time and resources to defending and retaking territory for your allies, especially along coastal areas. Don’t expect Germany to help out.