HOI is an excellent WWII simulation for those who wish to understand what decisions were made leading up to and during WWII, why they were made, and if it was possible to make better decisions.
This game is of particular relevance to MIM because it allows the player to play a large selection of countries, from fascist Italy or Germany to "democratic" America and Britain to the socialist USSR. [The world is divided into three main blocs: Communist, Democratic, and Fascist. Each government type has strengths and weaknesses.
There are 9 additional sub-categories [thanks to the "Road to War" website for this bit on information]:
- Stalinist (ST) Communist
[The game incorrectly assumes there is a significant policy difference between Lenin and Stalin]
- Reformed Socialist (RS) Democrat
- Paternal Autocrat (PA) Fascist
The player can choose to start the game in 1936, or later in the timeline. Events proceed as they did historically, except for the potential changes that you are responsible for. Starting as the Soviet Union in 1936 is a challenge because you start with a very low IC [Industrial Capacity.] The game has several measures of your economic/military capability such as Industrial Capacity, Coal, Steel, Rubber, Oil, Manpower, and Diplomatic Points (a score-like representation of your diplomatic leverage.)
The USSR starts off (in 1936) with low IC among other shortages. In the field of Technology, which needs to be researched, the USSR is also behind. This accurately demonstrates the need for rapid industrialization and technological development above all else at that time in history.
Players must carefully allocate their industrial capability. How much goes to consumer goods, supply production, technological research, and military production? Consumer goods are necessary to satisfy the populace and therefore stave off rebellion. Fortunately, in HOI, communist societies require only half the amount of consumer goods that other countries do. This industrial allocation simulation is a small represenation of a command economy.
Technological research is obviously important, and the player will have to choose research paths. Are you aiming for nuclear weapons by 1941 or heavy tanks by 1940? Or do you concentrate on ways to synthesize strategic materials and accelerate production. It is a balancing act, especially because technological research is just one area to allocate resources to.
If you play as Stalin/USSR, you will be presented with several unique problems/choices. For example, the game asks you if you would prefer to support the Spanish revolution with some of your valuable and scarce material supplies (as the USSR did historically) or let the "revisionists" (as the game puts it!) hang in the wind. Additionally, the game periodically asks you if you want to purge officers. If you do, you lose the services of valuable officers (following the typical bourgeois line) but if you don't conduct purges, the "dissent" in the country rises! (Dissent leads to revolt) This is accurate since Stalin was trying to purge traitors, fear-mongers, and rabble-rousers in order to prevent large internal strife in the USSR. You can choose to accept or refuse the Stalin/Hitler pact. Accepting it is advantageous because of the relatively easy territorial gains it allows. Being ideologically/morally "pure" will hurt you materially.
Besides use of the military to conquer countries (this aspect of the game resembles a 'triphibious' version of Risk and you can assign leaders such as Zhukov to particular units), there is a wide variety of diplomatic methods that the player can use to take over countries. The player can stage a coup to replace a hostile government with a friendly government, you can ask for military access, you can install puppet governments, make alliances, and perform other such actions. Besides international politics, the player will have to deal with all sorts of shadow cabinets and political opposition. Altogether, these features interestingly portray the backroom political and diplomatic maneuvers that can be as deadly and effective as a military conquest.
This game is potentially a tool for combatting idealism or stupid views regarding the history of the USSR in the WWII period. It shows the difficult decisions that the Soviet Union had to make. Perhaps the player would like to not conduct purges and forego the rapid industrialization. Then she could fight Hitler's mechanized divisions with calvary units while Trots stir up trouble behind the lines. (At 60% dissent, the government can be overthrown and replaced with a new type.)
Unfortunately, this reviewer had a buggy version of the game and no ability to patch it. I have only been able to explore some of the complexities of the game and there are probably more interesting finds inside. Anyone interested in this game should pick up a copy and add to what I've learned from the game.
Known inaccuracies in game mechanics:
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