The Hearts of Iron board game announced at PDXCON this weekend is the most raw of the four board game adaptations announced. Crusader Kings was the most put together, while Cities: Skylines was relatively set in terms of its rules and function. Even the massive Europa Universalis prototype was somewhat playable. HOI though, was just a game board with some box art.
The game is being developed by Eagle-Gryphon Games with Glenn Drover and Xander Ex taking the lead. Drover's name should make most board game fanatics feel pretty confident about the game, as Ex is something of an unkown. Drover wasn't available at PDXCON, though Ex was on hand to answer questions. So far, the game is pretty much an idea with some assets to prop it up at trade shows, with very little actually set.
It seems like the ideas for HOI are still very, very broad. The game is ideally being designed to be playable in 2-3 hours for 2-4 players. The game will run for five rounds of 20 turns to allow for the five years of in-game time. For those not familiar with Hearts of Iron, the game takes place during the early days of WWII. Specifically, the game is set in the Western Theater from the German invasion of Poland in 1938 through 1942. Which is quite a lot of game to try and cram into 2-3 hours.
The plan is to release the base Hearts of Iron board game, alongside two expansions. Each expansion will come with a new piece of the board, and should be solo playable. The first expansion is designed to open up Russia and Turkey as playable countries and increase the player range to 2-6 players. It will be focused on WWII from 1942 through the German surrender to the Allied forces in 1945. The second expansion will open up the Pacific Theater, and might be solo playable. The second expansion will change the game timeline to start from 1936 with the Japanese invasion of China and go forward.
Naturally, the United States will only be a playable country with the second expansion. For the other two editions of Hearts of Iron – The Board Game, the US will only be controlled by the deck and visible on a world map board.
Much of the game will be worker management, but one of the main cores of the gameplay will also be the combat. For now, Eagle-Gryphon is looking into non-dice based combat, possibly with combat boards, possibly with event cards to change the battles. The idea is to keep the math down and keep the board free of massive army minis. But the actual solution to this problem is still up in the air.
As for the national focus, trees from the game which allow players to control the flow of their country (and totally alter history), they will each be set as different decks, with cards for each year. Players will select a few national focus cards and drop them into the control deck. The control deck will also control the unplayed nations — which means there are going to be a ton of cards in this game.
As you probably guessed, alternative history is a huge part of the game, though Ex was quick to say that he wants the game balanced so that you can play things out exactly as they did during WWII. That should prove rather interesting, as far as game balance goes.
The plan right now is for the game to release as a Kickstarter project in time for GenCon 2019. However, to meet that timeline, Drover and Ex have a ton of development work still to do. If any of the Paradox board games gets delayed past the tentative 2019 release, Hearts of Iron is the obvious candidate.