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Dragontamer's France playthrough of HOI3

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In case people aren't aware, Hearts of Iron 3 (HOI3 for short) is a Paradox Interactive games. And much like all other Paradox games, its absurdly detailed, to the point of a fault. That being said: for the gamers who are willing to put forth the huge amount of effort into learning the game, Hearts of Iron 3 is very rewarding (and cheap, as its nearly 10 years old at this point). The game itself is quite buggy and crashes often, but as a "pausable" real-time strategy game, that actually isn't too big of a deal. Ultimately, it does lead to very in-depth thinking, and really makes me feel like I'm understanding the WW2 period much better as I play more and more.

The game starts in 1936, giving you 2.75 years to prepare before Germany attacks Poland and WW2 begins. There's some action around the world beforehand, in particular: Japan vs China, Italy vs Ethiopia, and the Spanish Civil War. But France doesn't have the resources to care about those world events.

In my 1st playthrough, I discovered that France has not only inferior factories compared to Germany, but also "inferior laws" (Democracy / Open Society means that the few factories I do have are largely civilian. In contrast, Germany's factories are almost all allowed to be used for military purposes at the beginning of the game). I spent 2 years building up France's awful "National Unity" score, which finally allowed me to unlock the 2nd best laws for Conscription (3-year draft) and industry (War Economy). Still inferior to Germany's "totolitarian" laws, at least I'm not so far behind anymore.

I have spent significant amounts of resources into influencing Netherlands, Luxemburg, and Belgium. The Dutch were the most amicable, joining the Allies in February 1939. However, I'm still in the middle of influencing Luxemburg / Belgium when suddenly...

1635025651939.png


Germany invades Poland. It is September 1939 (1 month later than the historical start of WW2). I have mobilized France's armies on time... but my army is out-of-date still (not enough factories to upgrade all the equipment). I've spent the entirety of 1936 through 1938 building enough units to battle Germany. Apparently 1939 wasn't enough time to upgrade equipment, even with 100% of my factories going on upgrades.

1635026130078.png


To the left are my French forces (Blue). Germany is the grey forces. Poland has joined the Allies. We can see that for now, the majority of German Forces are performing the Blitzkreig into Poland.

Meanwhile... on the Maginot line...

1635026489414.png


I have 100,000 troops, consisting of 20,000 tanks and 80,000 infantry, waiting to invade Germany across the Maginot / Sigfried line. IMO, one of the biggest shames of WW2 was that the Maginot line went untested. Here, I'm going to make the biggest change in history. I'll lead 100,000 troops to attack from the Maginot line, knowing full well that these troops have a "safe home" to retreat to if things get too hairy.

Germany is at its weakest right now: when most of its Army is in Poland instead of France. Its now or never time. I don't know how long Poland will be able to hold off Germany, but it seems prudent to invade Germany now, while its army is split into two fronts.

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My immediate goals are:

1. The protection of the lowlands (Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxemburg). The Maginot line does not extend that far north, but these countries have their own armies. If I can "keep them in the game", and furthermore, on the "allies side", then that would serve as France's major Northern defense force.

2. Deal as much damage to Germany during the Blitzkreig into Poland -- I have no expectation of being able to "stay in Germany" while they have superior numbers. But by dealing as much damage to Germany as early as possible, maybe I can have France fight a bit longer than historical.

--------

EDIT: And ya know what? It looks like the Maginot line is working.

1635027600934.png


How about them defensive fortifications? Muahahahahaha.
 
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Okay, I played a month or two from that position, and Germany horrifying after Poland is conquered.

I have maybe a month to muck around on Germany's western front. I need to make the "biggest move", to minimize the damage come October / November. I've come up with the following plan, which I call the "Defensive Encirclement".

Notes: Luxembourg and Belgium is not an Ally yet, but still would serve as a basis for encirclement as German troops are not allowed into those countries.

1635133457695.png


Each of those grey "X" sprites is 9000 infantry. If I can accomplish this encirclement BEFORE Germany conquers Poland, then that's 80,000 troops that are negated before the post-Poland offensive.

Stuttgart is a major German city with 5 Victory points (!!), and a major amount of factories . A small "distraction force" of 2-Corps (100,000 troops) will capture the city and force Germany to divert troops towards the Maginot line. Its highly defensible should I reach the actual city. With most of German's troops in Poland, I think it'd be possible.

The main issue is after Poland is conquered: German tanks rush to the Netherlands (who has joined the Allies) and push extremely hard into the Northern front. The French Navy is very superior over the German Navy however, and +25% shore-bombardment penalties will suffice. However, German commanders are more skilled: offering anywhere from +30% to +60% bonuses on attack, more than negating the shore-bombardment bonus. This is due to the German special ability "Blitzkreig", which offers a major bonus to German troops for the first year of the war. Yeah, its going to be hard to hold them off, but with 80,000 fewer troops, maybe it'd be possible?

French troops are given a reasonable +10% to +25% off of training, experience, and commander skills. But these numbers do not compare against the German numbers, especially after German +Blitzkreig bonuses applied.

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The biggest problem is that I only have 110 Manpower at the start of defenses (roughly corresponding to 110,000 remaining "fresh, untrained" soldiers). With +16 Manpower/month, I can scarcely afford casualties. In my first playthrough of the position, I fought off the Germans with a 2-to-1 victory at almost every battle. But that simply wasn't enough to slow down Germany's charge: I ran out of Manpower in just two months.

An encirclement is very dangerous. But it'd be a far more devastating trade than just 2-to-1 if manage to capture 80,000 German troops. If I spend 50,000 troops on this offensive, with 100,000 German casualties (2-to-1 trade every battle) plus an additional 80,000 prisoners, then I'd be in a much stronger position.
 
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Making me want to fire up HOI3, it feels like much more of a wargame than 4.
 
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1635214308004.png


As of Mid-October, the encirclement is complete... but I need to deliver the final blow before German reinforcements pierce my line. Poland fell before September ended, and now a significant amount of German armor is beginning to batter my lines. Most of that armor is north, in the Netherlands. Here in the south, my "distraction force" at Heilbronn of 135,000 troops (20,000 tanks, 80,000 infantry, 36,000 mountain commandos) have been "distracting" a significant number of German troops.

I simply cannot hold Heilbronn, even with 135,000 troops here. I've begun the retreat back into the Maginot line, but every week I "distract" the German forces here is one more week I have elsewhere. Switching perspectives to the North...

1635214400292.png


I initially thought 50,000 troops could hold the north passage around Afsluitdijk, but was mistaken. The level 4 fort (-36% penalties to attack) was captured by an incredible German onslaught even with 50,000 troops defending + a 25% additional penalty from Battleship shore bombardments. That alone was a force maybe 100,000+ German troops strong that displaced those troops, and even more are coming.

Additional intelligence is tight: any airplane I fly over the German line gets hit by 800+ Interceptors. I can get the information, but only at severe costs to my air-force. The fog-of-war is incredibly scary: I really don't know if the Germans will attack from the North or from the East. Hopefully the Netherland's forces can hold long enough for me to reposition appropriately.

We here hold a river-advantage (-40% to attackers) and the shore-bombardment (-25% from Battleships) applies to a few locations. With dig-in bonus (2% per day, 20% after 10 days), this is where I make my last stand as France. Yes, here in Netherlands. Rivers are incredible defensive bonuses, and France's rivers are just not setup in any way that defends Paris in a manner like they defend Amsterdam here.

My mid-term plan is to finish executing the encirclement ASAP, and rush my troops from Heilbronn in the South and everyone else to Netherlands ASAP. Maybe I leave a few troops just in case the Germans test the Maginot line, it would be devestating if the Germans actually penetrated that area, but the bulk will go to Netherlands soon.

Making me want to fire up HOI3, it feels like much more of a wargame than 4.

Hmm, HOI3 is my first game in the Paradox series. I got it cause it was cheapest, lol.

What were the problems with 4?
 
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What were the problems with 4?

No problems per say, with the DLC's and patches it's overall superior to HOI3. I just always enjoyed the OOB system they had in 3, it's dumbed down in 4 (probably for the benefit of most players)
 
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Okay, I finished the playthrough, but I don't have screenshots of everything.

1. I finished the encirclement, roughly 80,000 German troops were captured at only a loss of maybe ~10,000 French Troops. Pushing into the Forest was extremely difficult, and the German tanks were ferociously attacking. I barely had enough time to complete the encirclement before GTFOing, retreating to my designated "river defense" spots long planned ago in Netherlands + the Maginot line.

1637907244700.jpeg


The defensive line after I retreated out of Germany (after capturing 80,000 German troops). I did try to hold onto the German-forts instead, but those forts were only -9% against attackers. The river tiles are -40% vs infantry and -80% vs tanks. The -9% fort just wasn't cutting it.

2. Germany held the key defensive territory of Afsluitdijk, but that "territory" (really, a giant bridge) was easily attacked by my French Navy. The British Navy did the heavy lifting: the German Bismark was unable to breakthrough the British Navy and reach my (inferior) ships, and thus I was able to slowly push out and recapture Netherlands with minimal losses.

The biggest losses were in fact: Naval. Despite having significant Naval advantages, the German Luftwaffe was constantly bombing by ships. While they never destroyed any ships, it meant that I could only push sometimes. (Basically, I'd start a naval campaign, but after 1 or 2 bombing runs, I was forced to retreat before the ships would get overly damaged). Furthermore: German Heavy Tanks (Tigers) were holding that line, and... well, all over the lines. These heavy tanks couldn't cross rivers easily however, so as long as I defended, I held a distinct defensive advantage.

1637907385358.png


Lining up my (WW1-era) Battleship group +72,000 Infantry (24-stacks) + a ton of other stuff for the big push. 113 manpower == 113,000 recruits still available.

3. Once the northern Netherlands was liberated from Nazi rule, there was a 2-year long stalemate, where both Germany and France knew that the attacker would lose. Germany's Luftwaffe caused the most casualties at this time: France simply was unable to find many opportunities to equalize the kill-death ratio. I spent the remainder of my Manpower building up AA-gun troops and distributed them across the front. The Luftwaffe was undeterred, and France suffered its greatest losses (relative to Germany) during this time. Roughly 8000-men died per month to Luftwaffe attacks. Still, I knew I had to hold the important river-tiles to prevent the German Tiger-tanks from pushing in any further.

1637907546171.png


Those are dug-in (+20% defense) Heavy Tanks sitting across a river (-40% attacking penalty for infantry, -80% penalty for tanks). Ermmmm... yeah. I'm not attacking into that meat grinder, especially as I'm running out of men. (Notice my manpower? Its literally 0, and its been 0 for months at this point. I literally cannot replenish my lost troops anymore.

4. Around this time, I noticed an odd game mechanic. As long as tanks were in allied territory, they were using fuel every day (even if they were still). France has no oil production at all, aside from Coal Liquefaction (non-historical but... hey, at least I have a minor source of fuel). But France also doesn't have many coal mines. I was forced to pull my tanks out of Netherlands to save on oil.

5. However, the Netherlands troop count continued to grow larger and larger. Their army easily dwarfed my own (!!!!). Confused, I zoomed in, and I saw British, Australian, South African flags all over the "Dutch" army. The allies have chosen the Netherlands as the supreme commander and were sending all their troops there. (Uggggh). Meanwhile, France hasn't had enough men for reinforcements for about a year now, I was completely unable to push with the allied forces, and was forced to sit behind the Maginot line, waiting for recruits.

1637907672992.png


Idiotic AI makes a push across multiple-river crossings for Berlin, despite us having no air-support... despite us having fewer tanks, despite us having Germans breathing down our necks in the Netherlands. This push fails of course. That 15,000 manpower wasn't enough to actually replenish my broken/beaten army, defending the rivers was the only thing I felt I could do.

Oh right, and that's 11 barrels of fuel and 0 barrels of oil. The French infantry walked up to the rivers, but my tanks are pretty much only being used as defensive fortifications at this point. Not enough fuel to attack with advanced weaponry (planes, tanks, navy) of any kind.

6. The Dutch Army (AI-controlled) makes a completely idiotic push for Berlin. We didn't have the troop count to take it, but what could I do but watch the AI completely mess up the battle strategy. They push deep into German territory despite the Germans having significantly higher tank-counts, and are wrecked. The allied army is forced to retreat to the rivers (thankfully held by my French forces), where I stop the German counter-offensive for another year of stalemate.

7. It is at this time, after the allied forces have been "spent", that Russia declares war on Germany. Russia's attack was swift: in a single attack, they raced for Berlin and conquered Germany. The allies tried to race towards Berlin first but we really just didn't have the strength to push anywhere close to as hard as the Russians did.

8. USA was... odd. Japan declares on USA through a Pearl Harbor attack. Immediately, USA cancels all trade agreements (ugggghhhh) to gear up its war machine. Fortunately, USA becomes flush with oil somehow, I was able to re-establish oil agreements and start using my airplanes / tanks / Navy again, but there was a few month period where I literally had to just defend with only infantry (fully out of oil, all advance war machines became useless). That USA changing up their economy / trade agreements really hurt me.

The USA conquered Japan, but refused to move on Italy or Germany. (Japan declared war on USA, but Germany never declared vs USA). Italy was in fact neutral and never attacked the allies at all. Unfortunately, the Russians continued to sweep over the Axis powers and conquered their entire sphere.

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Ultimately, I'd have to call USSR the winner of this match. The Axis was turned completely communist by 1946, and there was nothing that I could have done. Maybe if the supreme command of the Allies was given to me instead of to Netherlands (stupid AI...), I could have played this out better. But France ran out of men in 1944 was was effectively sidelined. The Luftwaffe were killing more men than I could recruit (!!!), even with significant investments into AA guns across the front. It wasn't until 1946, well after the fall of Germany, did my army even have a chance to think about fighting Russia.

But by that point, Russia was an incredible superpower: with all the resources of Germany, Italy, Russia (which never was invaded by Germany...) combined, the cold-war of this alternative timeline would have made the allies incredibly nervous.

Still, running out of men and keeping the Nazis out of France was probably way better than the historical path for France. Out of oil, out of men, and an incredibly stupid AI for our supreme commander... and with a savvy / opportunistic full-powered USSR to boot (again, Germany never had the opportunity to ever attack Russia), I pretty much was dealt all sorts of bad hands in this game.

1637907821104.png


Its really not so much a "Allied victory" as it was a Soviet Union / communist victory, as you can see in the map... Finland? Germany? Romania? Naaahhhh man, its all Soviet. WTF is this map? I did all the hard work here, Russians barely suffered any casualties at all.

Strangely enough, both Communist China and Nationalist China are both allies (!!!), USA is well into influencing East Asia, setting up for a very odd alternative cold-war scenario. Unfortunately, the stalemate continued like this, with Russia refusing to attack the allies, and me refusing to attack Russia (I'm... not strong enough to take that on. If the allies don't declare together, there's no point). As such, I let the clock run out here and declare the game over.

1637908251277.png


USA really got Asia, but USSR got a significantly larger portion of Europe than historically. USSR wins as far as victory-conditions are concerned, but Allies do control more "victory points", because UK did some crazy diplomacy (look at all those countries in the Allies!).
 
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