Beginner's guide to army management

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Beginner's guide to army management

Overview

Don't panic! HoI2 is a complex game but it follows quite simple rules which can be learned in quite a short time. That being said, even veterans will eventually find something they didn't know about yet, which makes HoI2 such a great game! This guide has been written for HoI2 Doomsday: Armageddon version 1.3(beta) but it should in essence be valid for all game versions. Where obvious changes have occurred, there will be a short note referring to what has changed.

If you feel something has been left out, feel free to edit this page and add it (if you know the game).

Unit organization

When examining your troops, you will notice that your army consists of a number of divisions which are organized into "groups" (which will be called formations from here). Each formation has a leader, is located in one province and can perform one mission.

Setting up formations

In HoI2 each formation acts as a monolithic structure in that it shares the same leader and will perform each mission as a single unit. Since "movement" is also considered a mission, the entire formation will move at the speed of the slowest division in it. That means that you should not mix totally different unit types (like tanks and foot infantry) within the same formation.

As a general rule of thumb, each formation should consist of divisions of the same type, like all foot infantry or all mountaineers. Some brigades (artillery, anti-tank, anti-aircraft, heavy armor, super-heavy armor) will slow your units down by a large percentage and should not be used in formations which also include faster units. On the other hand, engineer brigade increase the maximum movement speed of (most) divisions, but will only result in a real speed increase if all of the "slowest" divisions in the same formation are equipped with them.

Splitting, merging and moving divisions between formations

If you have a lot of small formations in the same province, it can be easier to just merge them and then reorganize that large formation into several smaller ones than going through all the existing formations individually. To merge two or more formations which are located in the same province, select them and then click the merge button in the unit info panel.

If you want to select only some of the formations located in a province, first select them all (by holding down the left mouse button and then moving the mouse diagonally, thus drawing a selection box; when you release the mouse button, all formations within the selection box will be selected). Then hold down the SHIFT key and left-click all formations you don't want to have selected. Those will be removed from the selection.

In order to throw unwanted divisions out of your formation, just select the formation and then click the reorganize button in the unit info panel. This will create a new formation which you can then assign all the unwanted divisions from your original formation by clicking the "+" and "-" buttons in the window popping up.

Rommel has slow foot infantry in his formation which needs to be thrown out. Click the reorganize button.
Click the plus and minus icons to transfer units between two formations.

Now if you want to move divisions between two formations which already exist, just select both formations at once and click the reorganize button. This will bring up the same window as above but won't create a new formation, instead using the two existing ones.

Deploying troops from the redeployment pool

When you have finished the production of a new unit, bought one via diplomacy or messed up with strategic redeployment, those divisions will be placed in the redeployment pool (the right-most button at the top left screen). Since it is bad for your transport capacity to leave them there, you should deploy them as soon as feasible on the map.

If you click a division in the redeployment pool, a list of all reachable formations will appear at the left side of the screen and the map will show valid deployment locations in green. Units can only be deployed to provinces in the same "theatre", for the lack of a better word. Since the exact logics of the theatre definition are too complicated to be explained in a beginner's guide, a general rule of thumb will have to do: All owned (not merely controlled) provinces which can trace a direct land connection to your capital are valid deployment locations.

If you chose a formation on the list and confirm the selection via the button at the bottom of that list, the division will be added to the specified formation. Beware of command limits, though (see leader section below)! Should you instead click on one of the provinces shown in green, a new formation will be created in the specified province and the division will be added as that formation's first division. Thus it is sometimes a good idea to deploy the first of a row of new units directly on the map (creating a new formation) and then adding the subsequent units to that formation using the formation list at the left side.

Advice on formation setup

Most players go with formations of three divisions for the bulk of their army, while keeping specialist unit types (garrisons, paratroopers, maybe even marines, mountaineers and armored divisions) in small formations of just one division. This has two major advantages:

  • You will have many more leaders involved in combat compared to large formations of 9 or 12 divisions, all of them gaining experience and thus increasing in skill.
  • You can easily assign different missions to the units in the same province, like pre-planning advance several provinces deep with some of your units securing the conquered territory on their way. If you had only a few large formations, you would need to wait for the formation to arrive at the first province, wait until the attack delay wears off, then create a new formation using some divisions of the large one, assign a leader, possibly rename it and only then you could advance one province further with the large stack.
  • Also having all standard formations at size three and all special formations at a different size, you can quickly see what is what and are less likely to issue wrong orders to the wrong formations in the heat of battle.

Since there is a bonus for mixing hard and soft units within one formation, and since only motorized infantry operate at a similar speed as the armored divisions do, it is a common practise to set up combined arms formations of 1 Arm and 2 Mot or vice versa.

Commando units (mountaineers, paratroopers and marines) are used differently than infantry or tanks, so they should be kept in separate formations for each type, preferably commanded by a commando trait leader.

Headquarters (HQ) play an important role in command limits on attack, so it's important to have some near the active front lines. You can either keep them in small (single division) formations behind the front or you can create large "armies" by adding several other divisions to the HQ. The latter method has the advantage that the HQ's leader (who should always be a general or field marshal) can be used in the combat directly without fearing to leave the HQ exposed, which is especially useful for the major countries which have several highly-skilled top-rank leaders. In order to recognize those important assets quickly (and for them to be pleasant to the eye) it is a common method to set up "armies" of 1 HQ and 5 Infantry divisions (or even 1 HQ, 2 armored and 2 motorized divisions as fast combined arms armies). When using only six divisions, all of them are shown at the same time in the formation info section at the left side of the screen (no ugly scrollbar), plus it fits nicely into the "dividable by three"-scheme which is important for avoiding command limit penalties (see section about leaders below).

Naming your units

When having a lot of formations, it can be confusing to have them called "XIV. Armeekorps" or something similar. In order to rename a formation (or division, or ship, or air wing), just select it and then left-click on its name in the unit info panel on the left side. A cursor will appear and you can type a new name. Be warned, though, using characters like "-" or "+" won't work as those are keys which have a hardcoded meaning for the game (like zooming the map).

It is recommended to use names which allow you to recognize the units quickly, for example "Panzergruppe Rommel" for an armored formation led by Rommel or "Inf (AT) / Hodges" for a formation consisting of Infantry with anti-tank-brigades led by Hodges. Since garrisons cannot move or attack, they should always be deployed in separate formations named something like "GAR / [province name]" or even just "GAR", so you can de-select them easily when issuing orders to multiple formations at once.

Choosing brigades

In HoI2 and its expansions, a brigade is an optional attachment to a regular division (or air wing, or ship) which offers an additional boost in some unit stats. It is common knowledge that - strictly mathematically spoken - it is always more efficient to invest in more divisions instead of brigades for existing divisions. This is because of the game's combat system, which essentially operates at the formula "total org * total attack value = combat power". A standard division adds about 50 org and 10+ attack, while no mix of brigades (at that very same cost) can compete with that.

Yet, it can be beneficial to boost some of your divisions with brigades in certain circumstances:

  • Special Forces, like marines or paratroopers, are usually operating in small numbers, so they will appreciate any additional "bang". Since both of these units are not supposed to travel longer distances over land (and thus they are not that dependant on high speed), it is usually advised to equip them with artillery brigades.
  • Expensive divisions, like armored or mechanized, are also good candidates for brigades. They form the centre of your spearhead attacks and will thus be able to make good use of additional firepower. Also, as they are so expensive, the brigades appear much more efficient in comparison. Last (but certainly not least), both division types have a very low softness rating to start with. Lower softness means less vulnerability to soft attack, which is the most abundant attack type in the (early) game. Further reducing that low softness by 6 points, as the self-propelled artillery brigade does, is - percentage wise - offering a much larger advantage here (30->24 equals a reduction of 20%) compared to the same point reduction on infantry divisions (100->94 equals a reduction of only 6%).
  • Vulnerable divisions, like motorized infantry, absolutely need brigades in order to keep up with the advance of the sturdier tanks. For motorized divisions it is advised to use either armored car brigades (as those provide org, which is depleted quickly in movement-combat-movement situations) or self-propelled artillery (for its better attack and hardness).

A few notes on popular "newbie"-mistakes regarding brigades:

  • Engineers increase the maximum speed of the division, but not its speed cap. Some divisions (like Mountaineers starting from the '39 model and all cavalry and HQ divisions) already are at their speed cap and will thus NOT get additional speed from Engineer brigades. Also, each division in the formation needs to have the engineer brigade in order to increase ACTUAL speed.
  • Defensiveness and toughness are surprisingly unimportant stats (one of the weaknesses of the combat system), so choosing brigades solely for the increase in those stats is a poor choice from a gameplay point of view.
  • Against the computer-controlled countries, you will never face a lot of "hard" divisions. Since hard attack is only used when enemy softness is quite low, the anti-tank and tank-destroyer brigades are considered utterly inefficient investments. Get artillery or self-propelled artillery instead. Those also offer some hard attack but, more importantly, they increase the much more widely used soft attack stat.

For further information, see the brigade strategy guide.

Leader management

Leader command limits

The most devastating newbie-mistake (yet very common on the forums) is to not understand leader management. If you look at the tooltips in combat, you will notice that attacker and defender use a certain percentage rating which is applied on their raw stats. Ingenious commanders can give a bonus of 10% if they are commanding units according to their personal specialities, and envelopment manoeuvers can invoke another bonus of 10% upwards. Now I tell you that units over the command limit of their leader will receive a penalty of -75% on that very same percentage, plus they lose the positive effects of the commander. Maybe you will now realize that understanding command limits is quite important - I'd even call it essential - to waging war successfully.

Ranks and command limits

Each leader has a rank which determines his (or her, in rare cases) command capacity, i.e. the number of divisions he (or she) can command directly without penalties. The ranks and their capacities can be seen in game by reading the mouse-over-tooltip of the leader picture:

  • Mj.Gen.: can command 1 division
  • Lt.Gen.: can command 3 divisions
  • General: can command 9 divisions
  • Field Marshal: can command 12 divisions

You must always respect those command limits, or else all divisions in that formation will lose the leader's bonuses plus the divisions above the leader's command limit will additionally suffer from the OCL (over command limit) penalty of -75%.

Note that you can promote leaders at will. They will increase in rank by one level, while they will lose one skill point plus all experience they have accumulated. To do this, click on the leader picture and then click the button promote. By turning on auto-promotion, some of your leaders will be promoted without the skill/experience loss when the algorithm finds that you have too few leaders of sufficient rank for the number of divisions you possess.

Click on Rommel's picture to promote (or replace) him.
Click the promote button to increase Rommel's rank to Field Marshal. also note the Auto-promote leaders checkbox at the bottom.

Command capacity in attacks

When on the defence, it is sufficient to have all of your formations led by leaders of the appropriate rank. When on the offence, however, there is another concept concerning leadership which you need to understand.

Imagine you have 24 infantry divisions ready to attack. Those divisions are organized neatly into 8 formations consisting of three divisions each. If all of them were located in the same province and ordered to attack the same enemy province, you would get a huge penalty on at least half of your divisions (provided there was no HQ nearby)!!! Did you know that? The reason for that is simple in concept yet difficult to see in the game: For each battle, all divisions attacking from the same province are considered to be led by the highest ranking commander in that province (who is participating in that combat). That commander, however, still has the standard command capacity explained above. So the highest possible rank is the Field Marshal, but even he has a command capacity of 12 which would be vastly exceeded by the 24 divisions in our example. A more thorough discussion on that subject can be found in the article about command penalty, which is also highlighting the usefulness of HQ divisions in regard to this issue, which will be explained in the paragraph below.

This is where three important lessons are to be learned:

  • Always attack from more than one province if possible. This will not only help avoiding the OCL penalty mentioned here, but it will also invoke the envelopement penalty for the enemy if you attack from three or more provinces.
  • Always have at least one high-ranking leader in each province. Also, that high-ranking leader should ideally not lead the maximum allowed number of divisions directly, so that he can safely assume command of the whole province's contingent in case of an attack.
  • Always have a properly manned headquarter around. This is explained below.

Use of headquarters

The headquarter unit itself is useless, apart from the later models' high speed and its near invulnerability in ground combat. As soon as it is being assigned to a General or Field Marshal, however, that very same headquarter will instantly become a battlefield magician! It miraculously doubles the command limit of all adjacent leaders on the offense! In the example given in the paragraph above, a single HQ division nearby led by a General or Field Marshal would have increased the command limit of the Field Marshal (who is commanding the entire stack of the province) to 24, enough to lead all of the infantry divisions without penalty. Assuming that you were also attacking from two other provinces (all of them also adjacent to the HQ) with the same number of divisions and all featuring a field marshal to lead the stacks, you would now be able to field a staggering 72 divisions against the enemy without invoking any penalties. Isn't that great?

See HQ units in action for a picture-rich illustration of the usage of HQ.

Choosing the right traits

The wiki page on leader traits will provide a detailed overview over the exact benefits of all the different specialities your leaders can feature. Here you will be given a short, neat rule of thumb as a starting point:

As long as you're at peace, your units will not need to fight and thus it is a good idea to assign them leaders with the logistics wizard trait. This will reduce their supply and oil consumption and will thus free some industrial capacity for more pressing matters (like building more industrial capacity, or more supply and oil hungry troops).

When the time for war approaches, you should assign leaders who match both the unit type and the intended role of the formations, as each "match" will yield a 10% bonus in combat. In general, leaders with offensive doctrine or defensive doctrine are always good to have, while old guard traits will only provide a penalty (slower experience gain for the leader) and is thus considered useless (if not harmful).

Much more important, however, is the unit type speciality: Mountaineers, marines and paratroopers a considered elite units and will thus need special leadership which can only be provided by leaders with the commando trait. Those leaders, however, will provide a penalty to each unit which is no elite unit under their command, that's why you should always keep them separate from your standard infantry.

Hard units, which are only light armored, armored, and mechanized divisions, will require leaders with the panzer leader trait in order to get a bonus. Panzer leaders will however not penalize non-hard units, which is why the combined arms corps mentioned a few paragraphs above are very effective.

Finally, when you think you'll fight in cold weather, a winter specialist is also great to have. The fortress buster and engineer traits have only very limited uses and should thus be considered a bonus to other traits instead of being valuable assets themselves.

Missions

Although this guide is not meant to be a combat guide, a few hints at mission assignment shall be given nonetheless, as knowing about those concepts is very important for a proper setup of your forces.

While you will probably know that there are the movement and attack missions which will transport your divisions to another provinces (either friendly or not), there is also the all important support attack order (and a few more). You will come to love that one in particular, as it allows you to multiply the number of troops involved in battles without risking to create a gap in your defensive lines.

Support Attack

Formations ordered to support the attack into one specific province will automatically join any battle of friendly troops against enemy forces in that said province. They will participate just like the original attacker, but when the battle is won, they will simply stay where they are, thus not creating a gap in your defenses. This has the huge advantage of allowing many more troops to break the defenders than the number of units actually advancing towards the enemy. You can thus open additional vectors of attack without moving your troops, which will in turn provide a penalty to the defender for being enveloped.

There are two disadvantages, however: First, your supporting units will have to wait the 24 hours before they can receive new orders (although support attack missions can be ordered anyway at any time), plus they will lose the dug in bonus, if they had any. Also, Since they took part in a battle, it is possible that they have suffered org or even strength damage. Still, since support attack allows you to bring a huge number of troops into battle, you will shorten the duration of the battle and thus the damage received a lot by it. Use it as often as you can!

Synchronize Arrival

In order to prevent your formations from arriving peacemeal at their destination, being torn apart by the viciously counter-attacking enemy, always synchronize the arrival of your forces if you can! Select all troops you want to arrive at the same time (by using the method described in Splitting, merging and moving divisions between formations), hold CTRL and right-click the enemy province. Then check the synchronize arrival checkbox. Be warned though that this checkbox prevents the choice of the starting time of the attack, so it can only be used directly prior to the assault.

Support Defence / Reserves

Support Defence is an order given to a unit which will allow it to support the defence of a named directly connecting province. When a neighbouring province is attacked, or under attack, the unit performing the support defence mission will immediately move at triple speed to the attacked province, often arriving just in time to prevent the battle being lost.

Reserves is a similar command but applies to any adjacent province but the speed boost is only doubled.

Anti-Partisan Duty

All units that are in a province will naturally suppress partisans to their suppression statistic. Units specifically marked as being on Anti-Partisan Duty do so at double effectiveness. Additionally, they will also engage partisans who happen to spring up in a neighbouring province and (if they are capable of movement) will after defeating them, move into that province to recapture it, before moving back again.

Strategic Redeployment

Other concepts

Now that your army is prepared for war, you should learn how to use your assets in order to win battles, and how to use battles in order to win the war. For that, have a look at the following guides and reference articles:

  • Land Combat Efficiency - A very in-depth explanation of what effects combat performance and how the exact numbers are derived.
  • Transport Capacity and Supply Efficiency FAQ - A very good source of information about these important concepts. Especially the smaller countries have to watch out for TC, although it can also be a problem for Germany during Barbarossa.
  • Country Guides - A huge list of country-specific strategy guides. Not all of them are up to date, but for beginners they will still provide useful orientation.
  • Conducting Blitzkrieg Offensives - A good article about Blitzkrieg warfare in the game, although it is a bit biased towards pure armored corps.