Hearts of Iron, Observations of Matchsticks

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series Hearts of Iron

For the last decade, I’ve been a fan of Paradox Development Studio’s Hearts of Iron grand strategy games. HOI players control all aspects of their chosen nation during World War II: army, navy, and air force; diplomacy, espionage, scientific research, industrial output, and domestic politics. This can be as overwhelming as it sounds, and it’s interesting, and a little instructive, to compare the approaches taken by different games in the series.


The original Hearts of Iron (2002) was an unwieldy monstrosity, its vast scope at odds with its obsessive granularity. To build tanks, you had to separately research a tank chassis, and tank suspension, and tank propulsion, and choose a calibre for the gun, and repeat this for each model of tank… and yet, at the time, I loved it to bits. Hearts of Iron II (2005) was far more polished, with a far keener sense of what was genuine depth and what was just bloat, and I loved it too. Hearts of Iron III (2009) was poorly received at launch, but several expansions left it in much better shape. And lastly, Paradox eventually licensed HOI2 to several fan groups, which produced their own spin-offs; I tried two and enjoyed one, Darkest Hour (2011) (1).

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Musical Monday: “Adagio from Concierto de Aranjuez” (Hearts of Iron), composed by Joaquin Rodrigo

Since the release of World War 2 grand strategy game Hearts of Iron II, almost a decade ago, Paradox Development Studio has always set its games to original music by Andreas Waldetoft. But the original Hearts of Iron relied on pre-existing music — for instance, Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries”, Mussorgsky’s “The Great Gate of Kiev”, and this week’s theme, Rodrigo’s “Adagio”. While lovely, “Adagio” is neither heroic, nor bold, nor martial at all. It is melancholy and regretful (according to Wikipedia, one of Rodrigo’s inspirations was grief at his wife’s miscarriage), and perhaps that makes it appropriate for accompanying a game about World War 2. Worth thinking about while you listen to the song.

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