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HOI4 (Hearts of Iron IV): Italy Guide – How to Overpower Europe

HOI4 (Hearts of Iron IV) Italy Guide - How to Overpower Europe

Hearts of Iron IV (HOI4), developed and released by Paradox Interactive in 2016, is an immersive grand strategy masterpiece set amidst the tumultuous tapestry of the Second World War. Casting players into the pivotal role of a nation’s leader, HOI4 unfurls a canvas of historical possibilities, allowing for faithful adherence to the past and audacious divergence into alternative timelines. Italy, a central player in the prelude to the global conflict, takes center stage, amplified by its prominent role in the recent HOI4 DLC, “By Blood Alone.” This article delves deep into the initial position of Italy, unveils its optimal path to conquest, and meticulously outlines the strategic blueprints essential to resurrecting the grandeur of the Roman Empire, or even crafting a new global dominion in HOI4.

Italy Starting Position in HOI4

Badly shaken by the losses in the Great War, Italy has never forgiven the Entente for denying its claims on the Adriatic that it believed it so rightfully deserved following the millions of dead Italians on the Isonzo River. The belief in Italian Irredentism was subsequently taken up by many Italians, including the Irredentists, Monarchists, and Militarists.

After years of instability, Benito Mussolini, the leader of the Italian Fascist Party, finally took power following the March on Rome. Now, after consolidating power and eliminating all opposition, Mussolini, titled the Il Duce, is ready to make good on his ambitions of recreating the Mare Nostrum and the Roman Empire once again.

Initial Economic Position

The Italian economic position starts off well with 11 free civilian factories, 20 military factories, and 15 naval dockyards. Resource-wise, Italy has a deficit in rubber and chromium but has an excess of aluminum (67 units) and steel (19 units) in HOI4.

Regarding laws, Italy starts with Limited Exports and Partial Mobilization for its trade and economy laws in HOI4, respectively. The latter is great since it removes the need to upgrade the economy in the early game and already provides us with additional civilian factories.

Possessing the Ricostruzione Industriale national spirit also gives us a bonus to civilian construction speed and a cost reduction for all designer companies.

However, the Military Industry national spirit is a great detriment to the economy as it reduces factory output, production efficiency cap, production efficiency growth speed, and production efficiency base.

Initial Political Position

With most Italians bitter at the losses suffered at the Great War, this has manifested itself in the Vittoria Mutilata (or Mutilated Victory) national spirit which gives a reduction to war justification time and heavily favors a Fascist government over a Democratic or Communist one.

Vittoria Emmanuele III, the King of Italy, is both the nation’s Monarch and a national spirit that grants +5% in stability in HOI4. The London Naval Treaty Signatory national spirit, however, will limit the capabilities of our navy unless we leave the treaty (which might incur a backlash and possible British retaliation)

Benito Mussolini is the leader of Italy for both the 1936 and 1939 HOI4 start dates and possesses the trait Il Duce which grants +10% in political power gain and a 15% reduction in costs for changing the economy, trade, and conscription laws at the expense of a lower maximum command power limit.

Note that some HOI4 national spirits may change or be removed should Italy no longer be a monarchy.

Blessed with an abundance of political advisors for every political ideology, Italy is a great place to experiment as regardless of the path taken, capable political advisors will be there to aid your conquest in HOI4.

Italy starts off in HOI4 at war with Ethiopia but unless the player willingly chooses to lose the war to open the alternative paths, the war should be done and dusted soon.

Initial Military Position

The Italian Armed Forces, while consisting of brave soldiers, are behind its European neighbors in both technology and command. The army desperately needs modernization and rehabilitation as the Regio Esercito national spirit lowers division speed by 10%, division organization by 10%, and increases the organization loss when moving by 15%, and the cost of selecting a land doctrine by 10%.

The only positive aspect of this national spirit is the increase to max entrenchment by 10%, which only works if we plan to recreate the Great War warfare.

Likewise, the Navy and the Air Force are hampered by a lack of modernization with the Regia Marina and Regia Aeronautica, which like the Regio Esercito, provides only a few bonuses at the expense of many other statistics.

While the Regia Marina is the most numerous fleet in the Mediterranean, it is woefully unprepared for any significant actions against the Royal Navy with the Pride of the Fleet being a Battleship I vessel. It’s clear that should any engagements occur with the British Mediterranean Command, the British will easily wipe the floor with the Regia Marina.

Italy starts off however with a decent manpower pool of 700k men in HOI4, allowing us to prepare the armed forces needed to implement total war. This can be further increased as the current conscription law of Limited Conscription can be increased to the Expanded Conscription (thanks to Italy being a Fascist nation) with just 127 political power.

For the Regio Esercito, 25 of its 46 divisions are in Ethiopia while the rest are taking positions in the Italian mainland or the colony of Libya. Most of the Regia Marina and Regia Aeronautica, are also located in the European continent.

Italian Command

Badly needing new blood, the Italian Army Command mainly consists of veterans of the Great War like Pietro Badoglio (Army Morale), Ugo Cavallero (Army Organization), and Emilio de Bono (Army Defense). The best General available is Giovanni Messe (level 4) but due to him already being assigned a theorist, he is unable to be selected for High Command.

The remaining Generals only consist of two level 2 Generals and nineteen level 1 Generals, necessitating a trial by fire for most of them.

However, some great Military Command appointees such as Alfredo Guzzoni (Infantry), Mario Roatta (Army Regrouping), and Ugo Cavallero (Army Organization) can be appointed to both High Command and an actual army to bring their level up and thereby increase their effects.

The Navy and the Air Force do not have such as problem and can be relied upon with effective military leaders and appointees.

The Roman Empire Route for Italy in HOI4

This path will see Italy remain under Il Duce’s leadership in HOI4 as it looks to rebuild the Roman Empire and subsequently conquer much of the known world. Due to this path, Italy will remain separate from the Axis powers and won’t be tied down by the Germans. We’ll also set the game to historical mode so that we can better predict the moves of all nations.

Opening Military Moves

Since Italy starts off at war with Ethiopia in HOI4, build two armies (one 24 division strong and another 22 division strong) in both the Northern and Southern fronts of Ethiopia. Don’t be afraid to bring in your troops from Europe as there is no immediate threat to our mainland but be sure to keep the armored units there in the Southern front as the mountainous terrain over there won’t hamper them.

Assign Giovanni Messe and Ugo Cavallero as the two generals respectively while Rodolfo Graziana should be assigned as the Field Marshal. Feel free to bring in the remaining air force by assigning them to an army so that we may gain some air XP. Have all naval vessels consolidate at Puglia and set them on exercising to generate some free naval XP.

Train some (around 10-20 divisions) of Divisione di Fanteria but allow reinforcements to have high priority since, for the most part, our 46-division strong army should be capable of handling most of our weaker neighbors.

For military factories, start by allocating the following:

  • 5 military factories for infantry equipment
  • 3 military factories for support equipment
  • 4 military factories for trucks
  • 4 military factories for artillery
  • 1 military factory for trains, basic close air support, and basic medium airframe each
  • 1 military factory for inter-war small airframe

For naval dockyards, complete all existing ships and assign them to join the combined fleet. Then start building about two groups of 16 destroyers (either the 1936 model or the early destroyer model) to serve as our eyes and ears in the Mediterranean.

After this, focus on switching the ships in the combined task force for the latest models (aim for at least 80 ships since they are our primary combat fleet).

Opening Economic Moves

Start by building around 2-4 civilian factories in Lazio and Toscana as their infrastructure level is already at level 4, which increases the building speed.

Since we’re lacking resources in rubber, tungsten, and chromium, import those from other nations though be sure to stop importing chromium once the battleships have all been built.

For research, complete the basics: Basic Machine ToolsConstruction IElectronic Mechanical Engineering, and Support Weapons I.

Opening Political Moves

To start, take the Italian Highways national focus to fully max out our infrastructure in both Lazio and Toscana. After this, take the Ethiopia War Logistics to get the Ministry of Italian Africa national focus.

Be sure to take the offensive quickly against the Ethiopians in less than 60 days (once the remaining of your army and air force have arrived in Ethiopia) so that Haile Selassie will not be able to take the Board the Train national focus.

Once we have enough political power, appoint Adelchi Serena (Silent Workhorse) for the additional political power. 

Assuming that Ethiopia has been taken before Haile Sellassie has the chance to escape the nation, annexing the country (and the Sultanate of Aussa beside it) should be our demand. Since the Emperor could not escape, we should be able to manage resistance in the area. 

The Aftermath of the Ethiopian War

Once the war ends, we start by sending our forces back to the European continent (one against Yugoslavia and one against France). Be sure to set the garrison law in the Empire to Local Police Force since we want to foster quicker compliance while keeping the resistance in Ethiopia low.

Take the Servizio Informazioni Militare and Triumph in Africa national focus to unlock the Balance of Power mechanics finally.

At this point, the Ministry of Italian Africa national focus should be taken to unlock the colonial management of our newly conquered territories. Create an aircraft variant using the Basic Small Airframe with both the 2x machine gun and small bomb bay as its armaments to serve as a makeshift fighter-CAS hybrid in the meantime.

Since forming Rome requires us to hold all coastal provinces in the Mediterranean, we will need to start building up our forces for such a goal.

First off on the list is to eliminate some notable Balkan nations: Yugoslavia, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, and Albania all have to go once they are not in an alliance with any of the majors or being guaranteed by a major.

Yugoslavia is the first target although we need the French and Czechs to get rid of their guarantees before we can start invading.

Once you’re done researching the basics, dedicate a single research slot to research naval support technologies continuously and eventually the main navy tree itself. We need to beef seriously up our navy if we want to have a chance to stand toe to toe with the Royal Navy and land on the British Isles.

Continuing the Buildup

When the focus Ministry of Italian Africa is completed, you’ll get an event to either Recruit the locals or We have other plans.

Pick the latter since it’ll unlock Colonial Police. Change the garrison laws in Ethiopia to Colonial Police to get rid of the resistance but keep an eye out on this as the daily compliance decrease is not to our benefit so once resistance starts dying down, ease your way slowly back to Local Police Force then Civilian Oversight.

With the Intelligence Department formed, start by upgrading Form Department so that we can start decrypting the ciphers of other nations. At this point, you should have enough political power to make another appointment so go for Ugo Cavallero (Army Organization) as your Chief of Army to get the bonus army XP daily.

When enough XP is available, take the Professional Officer Corps as the Spirit of the Army to get more XP as well. When the chance is available, switch from the Grand Battleplan land doctrine to Superior Firepower because the latter is much stronger than the former.

At this point, Nationalist Spain should be at war with Republican Spain. Offer volunteers for the former but be sure to include your air force as well since the lack of any enemy air in the region makes them an easy target for our own forces (allowing them to gain both experience and XP at a fast rate).

Take Army Primacy and Fiocchi Munizoni national focuses to build up the military industry and assign those military factories to which production line requires it the most.

Getting Ready for the Balkans

For the Balance of Power, since we’re favoring Mussolini, it’s best to keep things in his favor around the 30-60% mark so that we’re getting extra political power. Any higher than this, we start incurring penalties on our daily army, navy, and air force XP gain, which is never ideal.

If you have enough political power to appoint another leader or change the economy type, choose to do the latter first and bring the economy to a war economy. If it’s the former you prefer, appoint Alberto Beneduce (Captain of Industry) to help us jumpstart the economy even further.

Start justifications on Bulgaria on any single province. The plan here is to declare war against Bulgaria immediately and conquer them when we start fighting against the Yugoslavs and the Romanians.

To this end, take the Foreign Affairs national focus to begin our conquests in the Balkans finally. Be sure to have your entire army (minus the irregulars since they’re not useful for actual combat – just set them on garrison duties in coastal areas) arranged along the Yugoslav border in Istria and Zara.

Get the Balkan Ambitions national focus. At this point, France should have dropped their guarantees on Yugoslavia but not the Czechs. That’s alright, the Czechs will drop theirs eventually.

Go for the Albanian Occupation national focus and once they are forced to accept, move your second army to the area to launch a three-prong assault on Yugoslavia once the time is right.

The Balkan War

When you get the event where Yugoslavia refuses our demands, immediately pause the game. Then select the first option to give us a war goal and immediately after, launch an invasion (it’s highly likely the Czechs would have dropped their guarantee at this point).

If you unpause before declaring war, Yugoslavia may receive additional guarantees, making this whole plan for Italy in HOI4 either unfeasible or extremely difficult.

Now the war starts. Push offensively against all the three Balkan nations as they should not pose any threat to our forces. Be sure to have your Divisione di Fanteria with the best starting template of 6 infantry battalions, 2 artillery battalions, 1 support artillery, 1 support company, and (optional) 1 recon company. 

Once the war ends, annex the territories of all three Balkan nations. After this, take both the Devaluate the Lira and Topple Amhara Rulers to boost our civilian industry and further pacify Ethiopia.

Then take the Culto del Duce national focus to lock us in the Mussolini path fully. Then choose the Develop Ethiopia national focus to add more compliance in Ethiopia. When the event chains for the Topple Amhara Rulers take place, opt for the higher compliance option. 

The timer on the Pacify Ethiopia mission should be ticking closer to its deadline but if you have changed the Colonial Police to a Local Police Force or Civilian Oversight ahead when resistance dropped noticeably, it should be doable to finish this mission.

As always, with enough political power, start filling up positions of need such as the Chief of NavyChief of Air ForceShip DesignerAircraft DesignerMateriel Designer, and Industrial Designer. These positions will be vital for the wars to come.

Preparing for the Global Conflict

At this point, we should be preparing for war with the Allies and the Greeks. If needing to choose between joining the Axis powers or taking the Italy First HOI4 national focus, the former is an easy choice so we’ll go with that.

Assign an army to Greece, another to France, another to French Africa, another to British Egypt, and another against the French in Corsica.

Before joining the Second World War, be sure to at least have taken the Preserve Army TraditionsExpand Naval Traditions, and Citta dell’Aria national focuses so that once at war, we can directly upgrade all our military national spirits to something better.

Release Italian East Africa and whatever you do, do not call them into the war. We want them there taking British troops but not actually contributing to the war.

Be sure to have at least 100-150 ships at this point with your main fleet as they will be our strike force against the British and will act as the naval invasion support for the inevitable invasion of the British Isles.

Likewise, have enough (around 200-300 fighter/CAS planes and bombers) to act as support on the French front while the rest will be dispersed between the other armies.

Keep training divisions until you are confident that all fronts can be handled easily. Be sure only to invade after Germany has started the war and France has taken much of their troops away from Savoy. This will give us a good window of opportunity to burst in through Southern France and attempt to prevent the Germans from establishing Vichy France.

The War with the Allies

Now, we can declare war once all measures have been taken. It should be easy for most Italy players to eliminate Greece provided all battle plans have been taken. If difficulty occurs, start micromanaging the forces there and try to isolate some Greek forces in Thrace and Central Macedonia.

Don’t forget to start justifications on both Spain and Turkey since we need those coastal areas to rebuild the Roman Empire. Bear in mind that the Mare Nostrum national focus is needed so while the war is raging, best make this your objective so that once all is conquered, the Roman Empire can be declared once more.

Be sure to set up your old destroyers on patrol duties for the naval scene to flush out the British Mediterranean Command. Set your main strike force on strike force duty in all naval zones within the Mediterranean. Once located, let the battle commence; if all goes well, we should have mastery of the seas in the Mediterranean.

On the French front, Nice would be a great target to push through due to it not being a mountainous terrain. Keep pushing until the French forces are forced to retreat. Once past the initial terrain in Savoy, reorganize your forces and make another concentrated push towards Paris (your troops from Greece, if available, can help out here).

Once France falls (and hopefully Vichy France doesn’t form), use the naval base in Dunkirk to launch a naval invasion and use our navy to support it. Our target should be Sussex and East Anglia due to the distance needed to cover them.

As soon as our troops land, it should be easy to overwhelm the British. The Colonial Armies of both Britain and France should be easily handled or contained.

Final Piece of the Puzzle

At the peace conference with the allies, focus your attention on grabbing all coastal areas in the Mediterranean. This means you require Egypt, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Turkey, Greece, and (hopefully) Southern France. Always contest the Germans on this front since these are vital for our Roman Empire.

If the Germans manage to form Vichy France, leave them be but be sure to take the navy of the United Kingdom if possible since they will be a nice addition to the Regia Marina.

After this, declare war on Spain and Vichy France (if they exist) to take all their territories. If the latter exists in HOI4, Germany will just let you conquer them due to both Germany and Italy being Allies.

Once done, proclaim the Roman Empire once again and you’ve unlocked a new path to go with.

Pax Romanica

After declaring the Roman Empire, we will have broken off the Axis alliance and this is fine. It’s not a big damage.

Start by taking the decision to reintegrate old territories into the Empire to bring our manpower higher. At this point, we should have a strong military-industry complex and an army to enforce our will.

From here out, the choice is the players. Germany is a great target to conquer and reintegrating the lands along the Rhine would be a great roleplay scenario in avenging Teutoberg Forest.

After this, the Soviet Union is the next target as Crimea can once again become a Roman Client State.

So as long as the basic tenets are fulfilled and new technological upgrades are being made always, there is no limit to the ambitions of the new Augustus.


And that is all you need to know about how to overpower the world as Italy 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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