Hearts of Iron Guide: The Four Phases of Play

Date: Jun 19 2011 05:32:24 Source: Views:
KeyWord: Hearts of Iron, Doctrine, Troops, Strategy, Combat
Hearts of Iron

Gameplay in Hearts of Iron is divided into four phases: repair, draw, arm, and attack. The game begins in the “Draw” phase, but your hand is already set, so you can just press the “play” button to advance the game (or just wait for the timer to tick down).

Later, the “Draw” phase may prove to have some strategic interest, so we’ll come back to this. For now, let’s just continue to the arming phase.


Here you can spend Infrastructure points to build factories, and spend resource points to deploy units to the field.

Use the mouse to drag your factories into the factory area of the screen. Factories replenish your resources each turn.

Resources are used to deploy units to the field, and repair them after battle.

Hearts of Iron

Hearts of Iron

Deploy your units to the field by dragging them into the area above your factories.

If a card is greyed-out, this means that you do not have the resources necessary to deploy the card.

Your available resources are indicated by the top number beside each factory. These are replenished each turn.

If you do not have enough resources of the kind required by your unit, then you can borrow resources from other factories, but doing so will cost one additional resource point.


Once you have the right troops deployed to the field, you can launch an attack. What troops you need depends on your doctrine. If you do not have the troops necessary to launch an attack, this phase of your turn is skipped. Deploy more units to the field next turn, and soon you have enough to attack.

If you have deployed the right kinds of units for one of your active Doctrine cards, then
you can play the Doctrine card and commence battle preparations.

Hearts of Iron

To do this, drag a Doctrine card to the field. Then, select which units you will send into combat by dragging them into the center of the field.

Remember, your Doctrine card determines what kinds of units you can bring to the battle. When you are finished, click the Play button to challenge your opponent to combat. Your opponent can then chose to defend, or allow the attack to go undefended.

If your opponent chooses to defend, then he or she must bring units to the battle that match the unit types specified by the Doctrine card, and combat commences. If the attack goes undefended, then the Effect of the Doctrine card activates. An undefended attack is the only way to score Victory Points, of which you need 7 to win the game.

Notes on Strategy

If your opponent lacks sufficient troops to defend, then they have no choice but allow the attack to pass undefended. However, your opponent may also choose to let the attack go undefended, in order to reserve their troops for launching a counter-attack, or if their expected losses are greater than the threatened Effect.

Although it is always nice to score Victory Points, there are many other benefits to launching an attack. If your opponent defends the attack, then any units used in defense must be re-armed before engaging in battle; thus they are temporarily disabled and cannot be used to counter-attack. Also, any used or damaged units must be rearmed or repaired, which costs your opponent valuable resource points at the beginning of their next turn.

For similar reasons, you might decline an opportunity to attack, if, for example, your opponent appears capable of inflicting greater damage in the battle, or if attacking could compromise your ability to defend against your opponent’s forthcoming counter-attack. Consider the probable outcome before attacking.


There are three phases of combat: first, the long-range Artillery phase is carried out by artillery and certain airplanes, along with other specialized units; then comes the Battle phase, which generally carried out by tanks and certain middle-range troops; and finally the Close-Combat phase, where infrantry units typically act.

Unit cards show what the unit can do in each of the three phases. The Panzergrenadier, for example, cannot attack in the Artillery phase, can damage enemy units in the Battle phase, and can Kill enemy units in the Close-Combat phase.

Hearts of Iron

Send your units to the field by clicking and dragging the card into the play area on the left.

Alternatively, some units can be swapped for other units. The special rules that govern certain cards, such as swapping, are explained in the card’s description.

Combat proceeds through the three phases of combat.

The current phaseof combat is indicated at the top of the window.

Once a unit has engaged in combat, it will need to be rearmed before it can be used again. This is indicated by a “pin” icon. If a unit is damaged, it will need to be repaired, as indicated by a “cross” icon. Be warned that if a unit is damaged twice (two cross signs), that unit is destroyed!

Some unit attacks pin other units, while other attacks cause damage or even destroy enemy units entirely.

Assigning Damage

Unlike most games, the defending player generally determines which of his or her units receives damage from an attack. Drag a damage icon onto a card to assign damage. Some cards, however, allow the attacker to choose which card is damaged. (In this case the damage icon is white instead of black.) In other cases, damage is limited to certain unit types, which restricts the defending player’s range of choice for assigning damage.

Reserve Troops

On many Doctrine cards there is a list of units which must be brought to battle, followed by a “+” symbol, and another unit or two which can optionally join the battle.

Indeed you can just use this as an opportunity to bring additional troops into battle, but you can alternatively bring reserve troops. This means playing troops directly from your hand (that is, directly from the back row), which saves you the resources required to deploy the troops.

To do this, complete your initial combat deployment and hit the “Play” button. If you have troops in your hand to fill the extra unit slot, then you will immediately have an opportunity to play a unit directly from your hand!

This is a great way to save on resources -- not to mention, a fine surprise your opponent!

Note that reserve units which survive combat undamaged are reshuffled into your deck, while damaged reserves are counted as destroyed, and go directly into the discard slot.

Combat Strategy

All other things being equal, it is better to use your troops early so you can strike first. Units which are damaged cannot counter-attack, so striking first means you can use a unit before it is damaged, and you can damage an opponent’s unit, making it unable to damage you in return.

However, sometimes you will want to delay your strike until a later round, for example where you can destroy rather than damage an enemy unit, or target a specific kind of enemy unit. Consider the capabilities of your units in each phase of combat, and consider your opponent’s options as well.

Remember that the purpose of combat is to do as much damage as possible, while minimizing the amount of damage that your own troops sustain. It is a fight to see how many units can be destroyed or damaged, that is, a contest for who will lose the most resource points.


Hearts of Iron

After engaging in combat you will have to rearm and repair your units. You can manually choose which resources to invest in a unit’s repair and rearmament, or just click the “Auto” button.

Rearming any unit requires one resource point, and repairing a damaged unit requires its full deployment cost.

Ammunition factories can only be used to rearm (un-pin) units, but a single ammunition resource can be used to rearm two units.

Infrastructure and resources

Managing your infrastructure and resources is essential to victory. This includes drawing cards, building factories, and deploying units to the field. One excellent play strategy is simply to attack your opponent so much that they always have to spend their resources rearming their units, and therefore lack the additional resources necessary to deploy their troops.

One rule that was not covered yet: sacrificing. You can in fact sacrifice some of your resource points to gain one additional infrastructure point. If you have one airplane factory, one tank factory, and one weapons factory, you can sacrifice them all for one additional infrastructure point. When this becomes an option, the bricks beside your infrastructure point will turn red. You can then click on these bricks to make the sacrifice.

Another strategic point on resource management: if given a choice, it is better to build factories for the unit types that are in your hand. This can save you resource points in deploying them, and later in repairing them.

Finally, keep in mind that you do not necessarily have to draw as many cards as possible during the draw phase; you can save those precious infrastructure points to build any factories that are already in your hand, and draw those additional cards next turn.

On the other hand, you might really want a certain card that is in your deck, and may choose to discard unwanted cards (by dragging them to the slot), to maximize the number of cards you can draw.



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