Hearts of Iron 4 (HOI4) – France Strategy Guide

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Many years after the end of World War 2, people still remember the disgraceful performance of France, as their immediate surrender is one of the most popular references regarding the war.

Still, France was considered one of the greatest powers of that time, and it can be shocking to see how easily they lost against Germany. Paradox Interactive has tried to make the experience similar for players by adding extremely harsh debuffs.

Recommended Read: Hearts of Iron 4 – Germany Guide

The easiest way to get rid of them is to turn communist. However, the historical path is also quite interesting if you have the patience to control a decadent country.

In this guide we will give you a viable strategy to use as France in Hearts of Iron 4 that should allow you to win World War 2 relatively easily and bring peace to Europe.

Table of Contents

General Strategy for France in HOI4

There are three interesting paths that France can take: historical, communist, or Napoleonic.

The communist path brings stability the fastest and can allow players access to probably one of the most overpowered sources of Manpower, the Invite Anti-Fascist Immigrants focus, which gives you 1k Manpower per week.

Considering you could combine this with the spirit that gives another 500 per week, you’d be gaining 6k Manpower per month, basically for free.

The Napoleonic path is also fun since you get annex war goals on all of Europe and can get to roleplay all your French Empire fantasies.

It is also probably the fastest way to get rid of the Disjointed Government debuff, allowing you to get there in less than 2 years.

But, historical is the way most will play, so that is the strategy we will give advice for. Some of the advice we’ll give here will be useful for all of them since the economy and military will work almost the same way.

Defending in HOI4 is extremely easy if you have some decent templates and forts.

By building a new set of forts next to Belgium and Italy, France can easily hold their ground while also finally getting rid of all of their negative modifiers.

Our goal will be to stand our ground while fixing the political and economic situation of the country and start pushing once we’re at full power.

By rushing the right focuses, we should be able to get rid of most of the negative modifiers by 1939 and also mobilize an army as big as Germany.

How to Start as France in HOI4

France starts with an incredibly powerful Civilian economy and a huge army but one of the worst Military industries possible. This means that they can’t really build planes or make versatile, diversified divisions.

They also have some of the worst negative modifiers possible at the start that can only be removed after at least 2 years in game have passed.

The Disjointed Government debuff will stop you from getting any real Political Power and also make you incredibly easy to capitulate.

Victors of the Great War is also a horrible debuff that can only be removed after getting rid of the Disjointed Government national spirit.

It will increase the cost of all doctrines to 150 experience, lower recruitable Manpower, and bring down War Support.

The main goal will be getting rid of these national spirits while also building up the Forts along the borders and working on fully equipping the army to fight the Germans.

National Focuses

We are going to ignore most of the focus tree and try to rush the focus that gets rid of the Disjointed Government modifier as fast as possible. Unfortunately, getting there will take more than 2 years.

To remove that negative national spirit, we will need to get the Defensive Stratagems focus. However, you can’t pick that focus if you reach it until 365 days have passed since the completion of the Strengthen Government focus.

The Army Reform focus will also be very important since it will lower the cost of doctrines by 50% and give us access to much-needed Manpower.

The only problem is that you can’t use the focus until Disjointed Government has been removed.

So, we’re stuck chasing focuses to remove negative modifiers in time to actually fight Germany and not instantly surrender if they somehow manage to push through the Maginot.

Here are the focuses you will need to complete to win the game as France:

  1. Revive the National Bloc
  2. Laissez-Faire
  3. Protect the Rights of Man
  4. Review Foreign Policy
  5. Buy Time
  6. Strengthen Government
  7. Begin Rearmament
  8. Defensive Focus
  9. Methodical Battle
  10. Fortification Focus
  11. Alpine Forts (wait 15 days for the Strengthen Government Support modifier to run its course)
  12. Defensive Stratagems
  13. Extend the Maginot Line
  14. Army Reform


Due to their victory in the First World War, France has one of the weirdest industries in HOI4. With a very big Civilian economy, France only starts the game with 8 Military Factories. Romania and Spain start with 7.

Since the country also has big debuffs due to the Inefficient Economy national spirit, France is stuck in a weird situation where they can build a lot but can’t really get their country fixed by the time WW2 starts.


France has one of the most bountiful countries in the game when it comes to resources. We’ll rely on this to get a lot of extra Civilian Factories from all the other countries in the world.

We’ll start by improving Infrastructure in a few provinces, followed by building a few extra Civilian Factories. Around 17 should be more than enough to have build a lot of things fast.

After that, we’ll mostly construct only Military Factories and add Forts to the borders with Belgium and Italy.

It will also be vital to build a Supply Hub south of Annecy, on the Railway, right next to the border with Italy.

If you don’t want to do this, then don’t build anything in the states close to the border and place the troops back in Rhone and Languedoc.

So, here’s how your Construction menu should look at the start of the playthrough:

  • Languedoc +2 Infrastructure
  • Languedoc +2 Civilian Factories
  • Bouches-du-Rhone +2 Infrastructure
  • Bouches-du-Rhone +2 Civilian Factories
  • Alpes +3 Infrastructure
  • Alpes +4 Civilian Factories
  • Rhone +1 Infrastructure
  • Rhone +3 Civilian Factories
  • Nord-Pas-de-Calais +1 Infrastructure
  • Nord-Pas-de-Calais +5 Civilian Factories


Though France is supposed to be a superpower, they only start with 8 Military Factories. This is incredibly bad and won’t allow you to produce a diversified portfolio of equipment.

Since we’re so limited, all of the divisions we’ll use will be Infantry with Artillery battalions and Support Companies.

So, remove the Tank and Truck production, since we don’t need it, and replace it with Anti-Air. Then, add the extra 2 factories on Infantry Equipment.

Here’s how you should set up the Production lines:

  • Infantry Equipment: 4 Military Factories
  • Support Equipment: 1 Military Factory
  • Towed Artillery: 1 Military Factory
  • Towed Anti-Air: 1 Military Factory
  • Truck: 1 Military Factory

When you start to build more and more factories, you should start investing more in everything besides Trucks. You should also add a line for Trains, with only one factory.

When it comes to Naval Dockyards, just fill up the slots for all the ships that are in the queue right now and change production amount to 1.

Once they are all built, you can just produce a lot of Convoys and sell them on the market to speed up the construction of your Mils.

The navy France starts with is more than enough to defeat the German navy with the help of the UK. For Italy, you can just generally avoid their navy and fight for supremacy without any real confrontation.

If you do want to create more ships, just go for Destroyers with above average stats to make sure they defend your main navy in battles and sacrifice themselves for the sake of the fleet.


France starts the game with 74 divisions. Select them all and add them to a single army. Instantly change them all into the basic Infantry division. Sell all your Tanks on the market since you don’t really need them.

You’ll need one 24 division army for Italy, another one for the Belgian border, and a smaller 14 division army on the Maginot line.

Make one smaller army, made out of 12 divisions for Africa, on the Libyan border. We are going to completely ignore the Ethiopian border and the one next to Siam.

If you want, you can also place 1 division from Africa in Corsica.

Once we have enough equipment for all the starting divisions, we can get to work on training new ones to hopefully get a full army group of 5 24-division armies.

Intelligence Agency

The Intelligence Agency will be very important to keep track of what Germany and Italy are doing.

The only upgrades you’ll really need are:

  • Army Department
  • Naval Department
  • Airforce Department
  • Pills
  • Localized training centers
  • Cryptology Department
  • Radio Interception Group x2

Get German and Italian nationals as spies and always have a network in their territories.

Don’t use your spies until you have at least 2, since you won’t be able to save them otherwise, and you’ll be stuck with a spy slot that is just waiting in prison.

How to Win WW2

Building Up the Maginot

One of the first things that will happen at the start of the playthrough will be the remilitarization of the Rhineland.

If you want to have an extremely short game where you easily defeat Germany and stop the Second World War from happening, decline them.

The United Kingdom won’t help you but, with 74 divisions, you have more than enough power to push into Germany. The Rhineland will also be free of units.

If you really want to go down this path, keep your Tank divisions and quickly push with them into Germany. 

With your huge number of divisions, it will be relatively easy to win it all.

Anyway, back to the real playthrough. Allow Germany to remilitarize the Rhineland.

Close to the end of April, you will get an event that will allow you to get Early Mobilization. Take it. There’s absolutely no downside to this decision and it’s not really clear what’s the point of the second choice.

When the Spanish Civil War starts, do not help them. We don’t want Communism to increase and we need the Political Power.

When Turkey asks for Hatay, decline. They don’t need it.

If Yugoslavia asks for help with their planes, help them out. We aren’t producing any planes and we’ll get a big Consumer Goods boost from it.

At some point, Japan will attack China, and this will be your opportunity to gain a lot of Army Xp fast. Improve relations and attempt to get an attache in there.

Once your Civilian economy gains more traction from trade and construction, start building a Supply Hub in Savoy right next to the border with Italy and a Naval Base in Africa, again, right next to the Italian border.

You can also start building level 3 Forts next to Italy and Belgium since they will then upgrade to level 5 once the focuses are complete. You don’t need a higher level than that to defend against the Axis.

Make sure to also upgrade the Infantry division by adding Anti-Air as a support company. You can also build some Anti-Air in Northern France if you want to make sure that the German CAS won’t destroy your troops.

Now, once the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact happens, guarantee the independence of Poland and wait for things to start.

It would be a complete waste of time to do the focus that allows you to join the Allies since you can bypass it doing this for just 10 Political Power.

Start of the War

Germany will never be able to push through Alsace-Lorraine. If they do, it means you’ve done something extremely wrong.

Either your Intelligence Agency didn’t do a proper job spying on the Germans. Your AA isn’t up to par to combat their CAS, or your divisions are underequipped.

The Belgians will fall quickly and you’ll find yourself looking at an extremely long frontline with Germany. However, it should generally be able to hold perfectly with level 5 Forts.

The Italians might be a bit more problematic. They will concentrate all their power on you, and the Savoy front can be very annoying to hold. As long as you have Supply and a general with the Mountaineer trait, you’ll be good.

The African front is usually extremely easy to push. Italy will put most of the weaker divisions there and Germany won’t have time yet to send anything there. So, test the waters a bit and make sure you can actually gain territory if you’re going to push.

Supply there will be horrible, so building ports whenever possible will be a big bonus.

To make sure you won’t randomly get naval invaded by Italy, set up all your fleet in the Mediterranean on Strike Force, just to make sure you have that Naval Supremacy going.

You don’t really want to face them in battle. You just want to keep your shores safe.

For most of the early war, you should just let Germany and Italy lose their offensive battles against you in Europe while you concentrate on kicking Italy out of Africa.

This way, you’ll have a really easy potential Naval Invasion opportunity on Italy at any point.

Winning the War

Do not start pushing until Germany starts fighting the USSR. You are just going to lose troops for no reason and will end up being weaker for no reason. This means you will spend around 3 years just staring at the Germans at the French border.

Once the Axis-Comintern war starts, start pushing into Italy. It would also be a good idea to start a naval invasion into Sicily just to get the Civil War started there and destabilize them.

To defeat Germany, you will have to push from the south through Italy. The normal border with them will be too hard to push through since they also have Forts on their side.

Italy should be relatively easy to push through considering Germany will have half of its units on your border and the other next to the Soviet Union. Italy is incompetent, so their armies should be total pushovers.

Once you manage to defeat Italy, pushing Germany from the south should be relatively easy. In the worst case scenario, you can advance to the east to meet up with the Soviet army and start pushing from all sides.

At this point, the war is over. Germany has no way of defeating a powerful France, UK, and USSR, and the Americans won’t even have a reason to join in anymore.

What To Do Next

After you’ve defeated Germany and partitioned it with the Soviet Union, you’ll just end up waiting, staring at the screen.

Only two interesting things can happen, and that is either Japan attacking your colonies in Indochina or the Soviet Union attacking an innocent country around them.

Japan will likely be inevitable if they haven’t already attacked you, so move your troops to Vietnam.

If you ever get the notification that they are justifying on you during the war with Germany, make sure to move a 24-division army there in time to hold your ground.

The combined navy of the Allies should be more than enough to launch an invasion into Japan. You can first get rid of Siam and fight a bit in China to make sure all of their troops are there and take over Taiwan in the meantime.

From Taiwan you only have the East China Sea to use to get to mainland Japan. Just place your navy there on Naval Invasion Support and wait for the AI to do something stupid, allowing you to launch the invasion.

If, for some reason, they’re actually smart, you can paradrop your way into their territory.

Pushing into China will make sure that most of their air force is there to try to stop you, so launching a surprise paradrop into the mainland will most likely work.

For the Soviet Union, if you somehow end up fighting each other, you’ll need the atomic bomb. There’s no other way to push them back this late in the game, considering how powerful they’ve probably become.

That’s everything you need to know about how to win WW2 as France in Hearts of Iron 4!

Have any input or suggestions for this guide? Let us know in the comment section below.

Adrian Oprea

Based in London, United Kingdom, Adrian Oprea is a Guides Writer. As a professional single-player RPG player, Adrian has often been stigmatized. He has decided to pour his frustration into writing guides!

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