Hearts of Iron 4 (HOI4) – Italy Strategy Guide

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In Hearts of Iron 4, players will mainly choose one of the great powers of the Second World War and try to guide that country through the ordeal, trying to end up on top.

Italy is one of the countries that managed to disappoint absolutely everyone during the war, and players will realize that playing as Germany’s little brother is a lot harder than you would expect.

Recommended Read: How to Give Land to Puppets in HOI4

Tasked with the mission to stop the United Kingdom and the Allies from coming in through Africa and the Mediterranean, Italy has one of the most important jobs in weakening the grip of Germany’s enemies in Europe and Northern Africa.

In this guide, we will show you how to play as Italy in Hearts of Iron 4, giving you a detailed explanation of how to win it all, either with or without Mussolini ruling the country.

Table of Contents

General Strategy for Italy

Usually, the start of Italy’s playthrough decides how everything is going to look for the rest of the game. The war with Ethiopia is going to be very important in deciding how powerful your country is going to be when WW2 starts.

Generally, it’s a good idea to keep Mussolini in power since there are a lot of bonuses you can get, and everything just flows better.

However, you can change who’s in power even if you win in Ethiopia, though losing usually makes the process faster.

For this guide, we are going to go for the classic win in Ethiopia, followed by an invasion of the Balkans, and then the complete dominance of Northern Africa and the Mediterranean.

In Ethiopia we are going to want to quickly win everything and start building an incredibly powerful army, navy, and air force for the coming war.

Though you could farm the war for Experience, there are many more advantages to winning before they get an illegitimate government running in other countries.

Though Italy has some of the worst generals at the start of the game, you still have time to train them into better leaders in the Spanish Civil war while your country is stable, with a puppet government in Ethiopia.

How to Start as Italy in HOI4

All of the starting moves for Italy will be tied to the war in Ethiopia. Though there are things that we will do to prepare for WW2, everything now will mainly focus on finishing this war as quickly as possible.

National Focuses

Italy has a lot of good national focuses to pick from but not enough time to profit off of them.

Some of the most important things that players will need to chase are the Ministry of Italian Africa, Balkan Ambitions, and Expand National Universities.

The first one will help you with never thinking about Ethiopia after the first year of the game, Balkan Ambitions is extremely important for the expansion of the country, and the universities focus will be important for an extra research slot.

Once you’ve gotten these, the game will generally become much easier to maneuver.

Here are the focuses to pick as Italy in the first years:

  1. Army Primacy
  2. Naval Power Projection
  3. Servizio Informazioni Militare
  4. Triumph in Africa
  5. The New Emperor of Ethiopia
  6. Italian Highways
  7. Ministry of Italian Africa
  8. Devaluate the Lire
  9. Foreign Affairs
  10. Balkan Ambitions
  11. Railway Innovations
  12. Investments in Edison
  13. Expand National Universities


Italy starts HOI4 off with 20 Military Factories, 21 Civilian Factories, and 15 Naval Dockyards. These are decent numbers for one of the most powerful countries of the time and more than enough to jumpstart a world conquest.


Since Italy starts with a really low count of Civilian Factories, we are first going to start off by building between 10 to 15 of them. Maxing out Lazio, Toscana, and Emilia Romagna with Civs would be a good move at the start.

After that, you can start building Military Factories all over the mainland. Make sure to build most of the stuff in northern Italy, just in case you aren’t confident in your ability to protect Sicily from Naval Invasions.


Remove all the boats in Production that haven’t reached at least 50% of their needed Naval Dockyard contributions. Also, get rid of the planes at the end and the Light Tank production line.

Now, here is how to set up your Military Factories:

  • x14 Infantry Equipment
  • x1 Support Equipment
  • x2 Truck
  • x1 Civilian Train
  • x2 Towed Artillery

And, for now, set up all your future Mils to assign themselves into the Infantry Equipment production line since Italy starts in a relatively big deficit, which needs to be fixed to actually fight any of the great powers (and Ethiopia).

Otherwise, everything there is exactly what you would get for most countries since Support, Artillery, Trucks, and Trains are a must throughout the whole game.

When it comes to the Navy, you can just build optimized Destroyers the whole game, since most of the Navy you already have is more than enough to protect the Mediterranean.


We will first start off with the Air Force since we need some Bombers ASAP in Ethiopia. Press F3 to open the Air map and select the Bombers from the top right.

There will be 8 Bomber Air Wings. Group them up and send them all over to Africa to destroy all of Danakil, to help push the front, alongside the single CAS Air Wing.

All of the Fighters can head back to Italy and wait for a war with someone who actually has planes to fight back.

Italy starts with 25 divisions in Africa surrounding Ethiopia, 2 in Libya, and 19 in mainland Italy.

Don’t send any extra troops to the front since the 25 are more than enough. Set up an army group for all of them, with an army for the 18 in Eritrea and another one for the 7 in Somalia.

Set up Rodolfo Graziani as the Field Marshal, with Giovanni Messe as the General in the North and Ettore Baldassarre in the South.

If you want to instantly fix the equipment problem on the front, you can delete all 10 Infantry divisions back in Italy since they aren’t useful right now. Also, set up your Garrison law to Local Police Force since you need the extra Manpower.

For the Navy, just make a huge one with all of the boats you have since you will mainly need Naval Supremacy for Naval Invasions until the war with the Allies.

Balance of Power

For most of the game, the player will have a special menu that they can access where they will see the balance of power between Mussolini and the Grand Council of Fascism.

The best place to keep the power balance is between 30% and 60% on Mussolini’s side, in the Consolidated Power of the Duce space, since this is the only area where Italy doesn’t get any debuffs.

Going over 60% will lose the country Experience, which is probably one of the worst debuffs any country could get in HOI4.

How to Beat Ethiopia Every Time

On the Home Front

During the short Ethiopian war, there are some things players will need to take care of at home. One of them will be to set up the huge fleet to train since we need some extra Navy Experience before the upcoming World War.

Otherwise, you can just keep your eyes on the front the whole time.

Winning the War

You have until 16 May to push both the northern and southern fronts. If you don’t complete the Duce’s missions by that date, you can just restart since the war will stall, and you will get unnecessary debuffs.

Set up two frontlines with the armies present around Ethiopia and give them two offensive lines into the country. Set them both to aggressively execute the battle plan since winning as fast as possible will be extremely important.

All Bombers should be set to bomb Danakil, and the CAS should be there as well to help.

The worst part of the fighting will be in the mountains from Eritrea to the capital. This is why it would be an amazing idea to manually send most of the troops to conquer these provinces in this exact order:

  1. Adwa
  2. Aksum
  3. Macalle
  4. Dessie

Likely after conquering Adwa and Aksum, the player will get the End of the Christmas Offensive event around 15 January, where the best choice would be “By any means necessary”.

This will get you a big Attack advantage for 180 days, allowing you to finish the war in that time.

The main strategy in the north will be pushing to get the cities with the main bulk of the army while keeping Ethiopia’s troops stuck in the other provinces by constantly pinning.

The southern front will be relatively easy to push, but it has horrible supply. You can generally just leave the whole front to the AI.

Around 7 February, players will get the Aussa event, where they should always choose to subjugate them. With historical AI on, they will almost always accept. Prepare to quickly move your troops to occupy their old borders.

Uniting the Fronts

Even if you haven’t reached Dessie yet, the Bombers aren’t needed anymore in that Air space. Move them to help the southern front and work on going around the capital to unite the two fronts.

Once you’ve managed to unite the fronts, first take care of the remaining armies on the western part of Ethiopia since they will be out of supply and easy to defeat.

Addis Ababa should also fall around the same time since it will be completely isolated and relatively easy to destroy.

Generally, you should be able to end the war around April, without the Ethiopians managing to send their government into exile. This will allow you to keep Resistance down and Compliance up without a lot of effort.

If you want to grind and get a lot of Army Experience, just make sure to complete the missions from the Duce to conquer 2 out of the 3 provinces on both the northern and southern front and drag the war out as long as possible.

How to Win WW2 as Italy

The Spanish Civil War

The next step in the conquest of the world will be turning the Italian provinces in East Africa into a puppet and helping Fascist Spain out.

Before we get started, make sure to change all the weird divisions that Italy has into the normal Infantry divisions. All the ones with weird icons aren’t something you’ll want to micromanage.

Also, send out the Agent you will get right back into Ethiopia to Root Out Resistance.

The Spanish Civil War will start soon, and players will mainly want to concentrate on grinding some Air Experience with Air Volunteers.

Unfortunately, you won’t be able to send a lot of land troops to help out, but send some anyway and leave them to get constantly attacked and get some extra Army Experience.

Around September or October, the player should have researched enough to start building decent Naval Bombers, so make sure to design a good one and set up a Production line with 2 Mils.

Around the same time, the Ministry of Italian Africa’s focus should be complete, allowing the player to make East Africa a puppet.

Without direct control of the region, the Italian player won’t have to actually call them into the war or pay any attention to the region in general.

There will be some management events, and you can help them take care of the region, but the best plan is to just ignore the region completely and take care of more important parts of the world.

Conquering the Balkans

After completing the Balkan Ambitions focus, players will have the ability to send an ultimatum to Yugoslavia. This can go two ways: either they accept and become your puppet, or they refuse, and you have to go to war.

Now, before sending the ultimatum, the smarter idea would be to Demand Dalmatia since the conquest will be much easier this way.

Generally, Yugoslavia will always accept the demand for Dalmatia since there’s a 90% chance they will say yes.

The actual ultimatum for them to become a puppet doesn’t have an extremely high chance, but many players will likely see them accept it.

Either way, postpone pressing the Ultimatum decision button until France loses its guarantee of the country. It might even be a smart idea to keep an eye on their troops to see if they are training.

They will have around 14 days to respond, which is not enough time to recover from training. This will usually be an extremely easy war, even if Romania joins in to protect them.

As opposed to real Italy, it would be a smart idea to either conquer Greece before the war or not at all.

If the war with the Allies has started, avoid Greece at all costs since they would just be a great point for the Allies to land and push into the Balkans, killing your equipment and Manpower.

War with the Allies

Set your giant Navy on Strike Force in the Western Mediterranean Sea, Tyrrhenian Sea, Central Mediterranean Sea, and Eastern Mediterranean Sea to make sure the Allies never have Naval Supremacy.

Prepare 2 Naval Invasions, one for Malta and one for Cyprus, preferably with the maximum number of divisions, which should be 10 Marine divisions.

Make sure to also defend Rhodes since the Allies will instantly Naval Invade it.

Set a big chunk of your army on the border with France in Europe and prepare to push the British front in Libya.

Also, set up some divisions in Sardinia since the French will push you out of Sardinia in seconds.

Join the Axis as soon as possible and start justifying against France around June 1939, to make sure that you can join the war even if Germany doesn’t accept your request to join the war early.

The reason we concentrated on building Naval Bombers is to slowly destroy the whole Allied Navy using attrition.

A huge naval battle between the large Navies would result in a huge loss for Italy, so destroying their fleet with planes is the way to go.

The French European front will be really slow, so players will mainly just stand there, taking troops off the German border, allowing them to capture Paris faster than normal.

To actually get through the African front against the British, you will need 2 or 3 Medium or Heavy Tank divisions. Otherwise, it will be impossible to push all the way to the Suez.

Winning the War

To completely win the war against the Allies, Italy’s job is to control the Suez and Gibraltar.

If they manage to do this, there’s no more threat of the Allies launching Naval Invasions in the Mediterranean, which means they can start sending troops wherever they want.

At this point, you can either start working on conquering Greece and Turkey, work on helping Germany beat the USSR, or even conquer the whole of Africa.

That’s everything you need to know about how to play as Italy 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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