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HOI4 (Hearts of Iron IV): France Guide – How to Dominate

HOI4 (Hearts of Iron IV) France Guide - How to Dominate

Hearts of Iron IV (HOI4) is an immersive grand strategy game developed by Paradox Interactive for PC, transporting players into the heart of the tumultuous era of World War II. As a critical player in the First World War, France once again finds itself confronting a rising German threat on its borders. However, the French people remain divided amidst the turmoil, relying on the fortified Maginot Line for protection. In this comprehensive guide, our focus will be on France, a nation of immense potential and strategic importance. We will delve into crucial decision-making, effective planning, and optimal positioning, aiming to guide France back to its rightful place atop the mountain of power and influence in HOI4.

France Starting Position in HOI4

France is in a shaky position to start in HOI4 despite emerging as a victor following the First World War. The French government is disunited and has many debuffs attached to it.

The military is overly reliant on the Maginot Line and is slow to adapt to the new form of warfare being introduced by Germany. The economy is highly inefficient and continues to drain the military of manpower.

Despite boasting a strong military, which includes the La Royale being a match for either the Kriegsmarine or the Regina Marina, the French military as a whole is in dire need of modernization.

The army, despite boasting some mechanized and armored brigades, is mostly filled with troops better suited for colonial garrison purposes than the defense of the homeland.

The economy is fine but is far from being the military industrial complex that France needs to properly resist the Axis forces. With this in mind, let us begin our path to restoring France to the top of global hegemony in HOI4.

The European Union Path for France in HOI4

This path will see France emerge as the victor in HOI4 against the Germans and Italians. As part of the endgame, we will be forming the European Union intending to bring much of the world under our leadership.

Opening Moves

To start, we need to keep the game paused, as there are tons of decisions to make to begin reforming France in HOI4.

Take the Revive the National BlocUtilize the LeaguesCouncil of Rambouillet, and Revise the Constitution focuses to get rid of the Disjointed Government focus (as letting this remain longer will heavily hamper our political power and make us surrender easily). You won’t be able to repeal the law of exiles so far, but you will be able to do so once a year passes by.

Next, go for Laissez-Faire to get rid of the awful economic debuffs. In terms of construction, it’s highly unprofitable to build civilian industries, as they take a while to really show their potential. In France’s case, we need more military factories as soon as possible, so keep building military factories.

For production, France has only eight military factories to spread around in HOI4, so we’ll keep it limited to only a few production lines. Ideally, it should look like this:

  • 2 military factories (infantry equipment)
  • 1 military factory (support equipment)
  • 2 military factories (towed artillery)
  • 1 military factory (civilian trains)
  • 1 military factory (truck)
  • 1 military factory (anti-air guns)

Navy-wise, complete the building of every ship on the list before transitioning to convoys. At least 500 convoys will do, and then you are free to produce anything you wish in terms of ships.

Don’t forget to start training more troops, as we will need every hand we can get.

Preparing for Intervention

Out of the 74 divisions in the army, assign 5 of your best divisions (the Division d’Infantrie most likely) to a separate unit under either General Juin or de Tassigny. Since they are our best commanders, we will need to build up their experience to let them command our main armies against Germany.

Next, change the 69 remaining divisions to the Division Coloniale template and assign them garrison duties along the French coast so as not to overburden a single province with too many demands and thereby increase the attrition rate of our troops and equipment.

After which, start training them and don’t stop training them. We need to generate as much army XP as possible to make it easier to unlock doctrines once we rectify the Victors of the Great War doctrine.

Keep your research focused on both military and industrial, but if you had to choose an early game, focus on the latter since we need equipment to allow the men to fight longer.

Build a spy agency and get it set on upgrading its cryptology skills and passive counterintelligence. Once the former already has a department, start decrypting the ciphers of Germany and Italy. This will give us a few more bonuses when confronting the Germans in a fight.

Reposition at least 90 bombers, or a mix of bombers and fighters, near the Spanish border. Likewise, do the same for your entire navy (have them all in a single fleet) and have them stationed in Toulon. The idea here is to use the air force for your upcoming intervention in Spain and your navy to counter the Italians.

Have your navy start exercising; once the main ships reach regular experience status, have only the submarines continue the exercise and let your battleships rest and be repaired.

Setting the Stage for War

If you have completed the aforementioned focus (save for Repeal the Law of Exiles), take the French army route and go along the defensive side, preferably to the methodical battle, so it saves you the effort of having more forts along the border ready.

With this, you should be able to appoint Maxime Weygand as your Chief of Army, something you should do once you acquire enough PP and CP.

Next, take Gaston Henry-Haye as your political advisor so that he can generate more PP for you and your government. Once he’s appointed, your next focus will be mobilizing the economy, which will necessitate changing to Early and Partial Mobilization as soon as possible.

Once you finish revising the Constitution, take the Intervention in Spain focus to unlock decisions that will allow you to intervene in the civil war down south at the cost of your stability.

The trick here is to click on the intervention decision, sending the five elite divisions and the available air force down to the south to take on the Fascists. Once you send your proposal, take back your declaration of intervention before unpausing, and the stability drop won’t hit your country.

With your elite divisions in Spain, you should be able to push back the Fascists and ensure that your southern border will remain, at the very least, neutral to you, allowing you to allocate more troops to your war efforts with Germany and Italy. It does not matter who holds Spain, as long as it is not the Nationalists.

Production Ramps Up

While our troops in Spain are dealing with the Civil War, we return to the focus of managing the economy and our research tree. Some of the key technologies to have researched before the German attack are:

  • The Latest Infantry Equipment
  • Artillery and Anti-Air
  • Railway Guns
  • Engineering and Logistics Company
  • Industrial focuses

Ideally, once we have a strong economy, we should be giving focus to railway guns, as their strong firepower will help us beat back the Germans (be sure to keep them along the Belgian and German lines, as fighting there will be the fiercest). Likewise, keep a sufficient supply of trucks, artillery, anti-aircraft, and infantry equipment to help plug in the reserves.

As soon as we complete the final military tree and remove the Victors of the Great War debuff, it’s finally time to reform the army. Take the Professional Army Corps as the Spirit of the Army and hire Henri Giraud as your theorist to give us enough discounts to catch up with the doctrines of other armies.

A good suggestion to take is the Mass Mobilization doctrine, though you can keep going along with the Grand Battleplan or Superior Firepower doctrines.

Start changing your army forces to the Division d’Infantrie template and adding a logistics and anti-air company to every division.

It’s time to set up the armies. Have at least the number of troops here to hold the lines:

  • 24 divisions along the Maginot line and bordering Germany
  • 24+ divisions to help Belgium and Luxembourg
  • 6 divisions along Sardinia
  • 20–24 divisions along Italian Libya
  • 2-4 divisions near the Belgian Congo to immediately take its port city and cut the Germans off should they manage to make Belgium capitulate.

If you have enough troops to place in Djibouti, that would be nice, but it’s generally understandable to let the British take the lead in Ethiopia.

War Looms

At this point, the war in Spain should be over, and Juin/de Tassigny can be assigned as leader of the forces facing the Germans along the low countries. Be sure that all ships are repaired at this point and that they are located in Toulon.

To join the war, you can let the Germans attack or guarantee the independence of a nation likely to be attacked by Germany, like Czechoslovakia, Poland, and others. The latter is better because it allows you to dictate when to join the fight.

Additionally, you should reject all efforts to join the Allies, as France needs to conquer some of their territory to build the European Union in HOI4.

Set most of your fleets (barring the submarines) to strike force duty on both the Western Mediterranean Sea and the Tyrrhenian Sea, and the submarines to convoy raiding duties in multiple groups. The idea here is that once the enemy fleet is spotted or engaged with your submarines, we can move in for the kill with our strike force.

Prepare two subsequent naval invasions into Sardinia from Corsica with at least 1–2 divisions each. The goal here is that once naval supremacy has been established, we will encircle the forces here and prepare for an assault on Sicily.

War Begins

Once the war with Germany starts, you can leave your troops along the German and Belgian borders alone to handle the fighting, though keep an eye out on this, as if this line breaks, it will be hard to stop the Germans then. Our first line of defense is our best line of defense in this situation.

If need be, add more units to join the fighting along the Maginot and Low Countries, though be careful of needlessly exposing the lines to any German breakthroughs. Once you feel that Germany will not be able to break through your troops, it’s time to focus on the Italians.

With your troops bordering Libya, set them loose against the Italians there. You should be able to make quick work of their forces. Likewise, the Sardinia campaign should go smoothly, as the Italians won’t usually make much of an effort to defend it.

The Alpines should be safe as it’s a mountainous area, and coupled with your forts, it makes your foothold there nearly unbreakable.

After taking both Libya and Sardinia, it’s time to take on Sicily. At this point, the Mediterranean Sea should be ours, as with our combined strike force, the Regina Marina should be lying at the bottom of the seabed.

Once again, follow the same steps as the Sardinia campaign and try to seize control of the island as quickly as possible.

If the Italians have too few troops defending the straits of Messina, make a run for southern Italy to push to Napoli and Taranto. If this is not the case, entrench the troops and focus on stabilizing the front.

On the Offensive

With the Italians nearly broken, our push or planned naval invasions (do this if you’re unable to break the Italians along the straits of Messina or if they manage to stop you in the mountains of Calabria) into Calabria, Campania, and Puglia should trigger the Italian surrender and force them to become a puppet of yours.

Now it’s a race to the Alps. With your Army of the Alps and the Army of Sicily, race immediately to the Austrian border.

At this point, you should be using the armies along the Belgian and German lines (with a planning bonus, of course) to launch attacks on the Germans and keep them from reinforcing their own exposed flank.

Set at least one army to focus on isolating the Germans along the west bank of the Rhine, and the other army to take Berlin. At this point, the Germans should also be exhausted from constantly throwing themselves at your entrenched men and will be easy to defeat.

Once the Germans surrender, we take all possible territory, and then we pick our next path.

The Union or the Empire?

There are now two choices to make: forming the Union (which requires integrating Italy and conquering any other prerequisite territories if they haven’t been annexed yet) or letting a Monarchy rule once more.

Taking the former will unlock tons of potential, as the European Union can rival any superpower in terms of both military and economic might.

The latter offers great roleplaying potential, especially with the Bonapartes, and allows for a march into Russia (the Bonapartists), unification with Spain (the Legitimists and only if the Carlists win the Spanish Civil War), or an Orleanist Restoration (no country to form as we’ve already beaten both Italy and Germany by the time of this writing).

Quick Notes

  • Be wary of any communist uprisings and look to suppress them immediately. They usually rise when your stability is low, so be mindful of this.
  • The reason for not going with the Popular Front is due to the longer time it requires to fix the disjointed government and get the economy back on track. You are still able to do this, but be aware that this will likely result in a much more difficult game for you.
  • If you wish to form the union with Spain, you can get more cores by going non-historical and waiting until the Spanish form the Iberian Union with Portugal. This requires a lot of save scumming and might cause potential headaches, but if done right, you can end up with cores in Portugal, Spain, and Brazil, boosting your manpower even more.
    • For this to occur, you need the following to take place:
      1. The Carlists win the Spanish Civil War.
      2. Portugal is going for the Estado Novo focus.
      3. The Portuguese monarchists win the Portuguese Civil War and the subsequent Brazilian Civil War.
    • Do note that Spain needs to be independent and not a puppet, since if they are a puppet under you, then Portugal cannot be ruled.

And that is all you need to know about how to dominate as France in HOI4. Check out other interesting HOI4 guides and articles:

Based in Santa Rosa, Philippines, Jonathan Ledesma is a Freelance Writer for Raider King.
Jonathan Ledesma
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