Hearts of Iron 4 (HOI4) – What Is the Hardest Country to Play?

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Hearts of Iron 4 is a very fun WW2 simulation game where you get to guide any country in the world through one of the worst events in the history of humanity.

And yet, it seems like most players get bored easily with the great powers such as Germany, the UK, and the USA. Unless you find a real challenge, you are very likely to stop playing such an easy game.

Recommended Read: Does Using Lend Lease Help in Hearts of Iron 4?

Luckily, there are 83 starting countries in the 1936 start of HOI4, which gives you ample opportunities to find a new challenge.

In this guide, we will give you a list of some of the hardest countries you can play as in HOI4, ranging from major powers to one-province minor nations.

Table of Contents

Hardest Major Country to Play in HOI4

When you choose to start playing a new game of HOI4, you are met with 7 major nations at the top and 30 minor nations at the bottom, only shown as flags.

Before we get to the hardest country to play in HOI4 in general, let’s first see which major nation is the hardest to play.

France is by far the hardest major country you can play as in HOI4 if you follow the historic path. Though you can force an early war with Germany to stop the remilitarization of the Rhineland, you are likely to be alone in that war.

France has a horrible situation politically in 1936 that is hard to fix until the start of the war in 1939.

Communism is on the rise, and War Support is at the lowest point possible. Due to this horrible situation, France tends to instantly capitulate the moment Germany takes Paris.

If Italy also joins the war from the start, there is almost no way you can survive as France.

Your best bet is to either turn Communist or force the early war with Germany before they have time to build their army.

Either way, you can try to dominate Europe before WW2 or you can get ready to fight Italy in Africa for the rest of the game, now that your government has been exiled from the mainland.

In terms of difficulty, here is a list of all the major powers in HOI4, ordered from the easiest to the hardest:

  1. USA
  2. Germany
  3. United Kingdom
  4. Japan
  5. Soviet Union
  6. Italy
  7. France

Hardest Minor Countries to Play in HOI4

When we talk about minor powers in HOI4 in this guide, we refer to the list of countries that appear when you want to start a new game under all the major countries.

All of these countries have a special focus tree, which makes them much more fun to play than some of the other choices.

The hardest minor countries with a special national focus tree you can play as in HOI4 are:

  • Netherlands
  • Poland
  • Romania

The Netherlands

The Netherlands might be the hardest out of these three, as it has almost no Manpower, no industry, and it will be destroyed by Germany the moment WW2 starts.

Generally, you can actually become very strong as the Netherlands if you flip Communist or Fascist and conquer the Benelux.

This will give you cores on Belgium and Luxembourg, doubling your available Manpower.

If you also went Communist, you can increase your weekly Manpower gain by 500 with a special Spirit of the Army.

The Netherlands is not necessarily an impossible challenge, but it can be very hard if you go down the Democratic route and try to keep the Germans at the border.

Still, a good defensive template and forts along the border should fix the problem.

You also have the territories in Indonesia that will be extremely useful, considering that you are the largest supplier of Rubber in the world.

Players can also easily annex them since they are only 500 Autonomy points away at the start.

But first, make sure to make them pump out as many troops as humanly possible since your job will only be producing the equipment for the divisions.

Manpower shouldn’t be a problem if you properly use the Dutch East Indies.


Poland is in a horrible situation at the start of HOI4. Surrounded by Germany and the Soviet Union, there is almost no way you can win this two-front war.

Usually, the best choice is to give up Danzig and only fight the USSR since it is generally too hard to try to fight the historic war.

You can also try to fight the Germans and maybe reach some sort of alliance with the Russians, but that path of the focus tree is very embarrassing, as you have to become their puppet.

Still, Poland is not an impossible challenge if you play around with it for a bit and realize what paths you can take to actually resist the upcoming two-way war with the strongest powers of the decade.

Going down the Regency Council path can be very overpowered, as you can quickly conquer all the countries around you and also gain cores on them.

The only disadvantage is that you have to choose whom you prefer to unite with: Romania, the Baltic States, or Czechoslovakia.

Whatever your choice, there will be a lot of power that only Poland can get in HOI4 and that only players that like experimenting can discover.


Romania finds itself in a similar situation to Poland in HOI4, as both Germany and the USSR will have constant territorial demands from it.

You will have to give up Transylvania to Hungary, Dobrudja to Bulgaria, and Bessarabia to Russia.

If you want to oppose all of these horrible demands, you will have to go into an all out war with the most powerful factions in the game.

Trying to keep all your territories can be a very hard challenge as Romania if you don’t just give in to the demands.

There is also an interesting path where you can conquer most of the Balkans before the Soviets make demands from you, which will allow you to fight an amazing battle with them, where you can actually stand a chance.

The worst part of the Romanian playthrough is the rule of King Carol II, as he will constantly destroy your economy and make you lose Political Power for no reason other than debauchery.

It will be very important to get rid of his horrible debuff as fast as possible.

Hardest Insignificant Countries to Play in HOI4

At this part of the list we have only countries that have absolutely no special focus tree and that have absolutely no chance to be an easy experience for most HOI4 players.

The hardest countries to play in HOI4 are:

These 4 countries are all predestined to be annexed by one of the greater powers next to them, have no Manpower, no industry, and no chance for a good game of HOI4.

There is no harder challenge than any one of these 4 countries.


Albania has to face Italy in the first 2 years of HOI4. This is an almost impossible challenge, as you have to defend 5 coastline provinces and also survive the constant bombing of the superior Italian air force.

In theory, defending the coastline shouldn’t be as hard as it sounds, however, you only have 5k Manpower to use at the start of the game in 1936.

Your best bet would be going Communist as fast as possible to get the Spirit of the Army that gives you weekly Manpower.

As opposed to some of the other countries on this list, Albania can’t form any interesting new country.

This means that they will be stuck with their less-than-a-million population for Manpower from core states the whole game.

Albania might be the hardest country in HOI4 even compared to some of the other countries that we’ve listed here at the end, as there is almost no sign of a good potential direction to go.

Your best bet would be an alliance with one of the major faction leaders.


Luxembourg is the first country that will fall to the rise of Germany. It has absolutely no Manpower, so you will need to turn Communist for that 500 weekly Manpower bonus.

Your only chance to increase the Manpower pool properly is to conquer Belgium and the Netherlands before the war.

However, there is almost no chance you will do that since the old-school strategy to paradrop onto their capital is a bit too hard.

You will have to form a Collaboration Government using spies and then Paradrop on top of some of their most important cities.

But before you can do that, you will need to build Civilian Factories since you have absolutely nothing at the start. Everything about this challenge is hard, and there is almost no way to cheese your way to a victory.

The easiest way to survive is to turn Fascist and join Germany in the conquest of Europe, hoping you can eat the scraps in the Benelux and form a new country with higher Manpower.

Still, most players should avoid playing as Luxembourg if they don’t like restarting the game a thousand times each time something in their plan goes wrong.


The worse puppet of Japan, Mengkukuo starts halfway to annexation, with 65% of its military industry going to its overlord.

This nation might be the only one in the game that has 0 Military Factories at the start of the game due to the puppet penalty.

Another huge problem that Mengkukuo has is that they will be part of the war with China, even if they want to or not, and, if Japan loses, they get annexed by China.

So, at the end of the day, Mengkukuo has two possible outcomes: get annexed by Japan or China.

The main strategy with Mengkukuo would be to try to conquer territory for yourself in the war with China and use that extra industry to try to increase your Autonomy.

If you can manage to get independence by the end of the war, you could even conquer a large part of China in the peace deal.

Even if you were to play without historical AI on, the other paths for Japan will lead Mengkukuo to become an Integrated Puppet of Manchukuo.

In all scenarios, it seems like Mengkukuo is meant to end up someone’s underling.

Tannu Tuva

Tannu Tuva might be the most boring choice out of the bunch, but it is certainly one of the hardest countries to play as in HOI4. It starts in the Comintern, allied to Mongolia and the Soviet Union.

However, at some point in their focus tree, Russia will annex Tanny Tuva. Considering that this country has only two neighbors, the USSR and Mongolia, there aren’t really a lot of directions to expand.

This is why Tannu Tuva is an incredibly hard country to play in HOI4. There just aren’t many options to fix the inevitable demise of this country.

However, they do have some interesting decisions to form two huge countries that will give it a lot of Manpower.

The best way to play as Tannu Tuva and actually do something is to cheese a war with the Soviet Union. This is considered cheating by many players, but, unfortunately, it is the only way to win.

To conquer the Soviet Union and get the Siberian Tiger achievement, you will have to build a Collaboration Government of at least 75% with the Soviets and leave their faction but get military access.

Close to 1940, you should declare war on Mongolia while garrisoning around 120 2 width Cavalry units on the whole territory of the Soviet Union and wait for them to join the war.

This should result in them capitulating, allowing you to win the war against the Comintern and uniting the Siberian State and the Turkish people.

Though this strategy is quite underhanded, there is no other way to defeat the Russians as Tannu Tuva in HOI4.

That’s everything you need to know about the hardest country to play 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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