This is the fifteenth in a series of reviews of Paradox’s empire management games. See the earlier reviews here:
Europa Universalis II: A Tale of Two Europas
Hearts of Iron: Europa of Iron
Victoria: Nineteenth Century Essay
Crusader Kings: A Dynastic Adventure
Hearts of Iron II: Return Engagement
Europa Universalis III: A Whole New World
Europa Universalis: Rome: Make a Desert and Call it a Game
Hearts of Iron III: One Plus Two Equals Three
EU III: Heir to the Throne: Not Done Yet
Victoria II: Same But Different
EU III: Divine Wind: Winds of Change
Sengoku: Shogun: Only War
V II: A House Divided: Limited Expansion
Crusader Kings II: The Second Crusade

A year after the previous expansion, Paradox announced a third expansion for their WWII grand-strategy game, HoI III. As usual, it targeted a few particular subjects, and Their Finest Hour came out in September 2012 for PC, with a Mac release following two months later. Since the Collection was for the previous release, and there no further expansions, it was never included in a collection of its own.

Doing it Your Way

While HoI III starts in 1936, the main event usually doesn’t get going for at least three years. There are options to begin at that point, but one reason for the 1936 start is to work on production, politics, and research how you want them, rather than what happened historically. So Paradox added the ‘Custom Game Mode’ which allows some reworking of all of that, starting with a particular scenario as a base.

It’s an interesting idea, if not one that I’ve done much with, though I’ve seen it noted that its especially handy for a multi-player game, so you can start with the action about to get underway, and still have things set up as you want, as if you’ve played from 1936.

Combined Arms

Generally speaking, at any point in history, armies have been aided by having different elements which synergize with each other. This especially true in WWII, and was well recognized at the time, as well as in a variety of different games on the subject, all the way down to Panzer General’s rock-paper-scissors model of combat that made it such an effective game in a very simple format.

HoI III tried modeling that by each type of brigade have being ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ depending on its type, and then granting a bonus to a division that had a mid-range ‘softness’ rating, even if the elements of that division didn’t add up to anything special.

With TFH, they’ve gotten rid of this arbitrary rating, and now look for a combination of infantry and the other arms. Everything’s color-coded on the production screen, and there is a bonus to a division that contains armor, artillery, ‘direct fire’ (AT and AA assets), and engineers. This much more like how some operational-level wargames look at the problem, and an easier to understand answer to the problem.

Landing Craft

Amphibious invasions came in for a round of extra detail. Now, invading forces must disembark from their transport craft, and in addition to the normal amphibious invasion penalties, they suffer a reduction to damage dealt and taken while they unload (granting extra time for a naval battle to disrupt everything). Unloading progresses through several hours until the troops are fully unloaded and operating normally (as normally as possible during an invasion combat).

In addition to this, two new unit types were added to the game. You can still invade using normal transports, but can now research landing craft, which are much more effective, and also lead to research to reduce the amount of time a landing takes, and the defensiveness of all transport-type units.

The landing craft are really transports with associated landing craft, as they can do everything the transports can, including shift units across an ocean. They’re better than the base transports in every way, including speed, defense and carrying capacity. Researching the improvements to invasions mentioned above then allows research of assault ships, which act the same as landing craft, but with better defense, and some bonuses for armor unloading from them.

This is one of the more visible changes to the game (as long as you’re not playing a fairly land-locked game like Russia). And it is a nice bit of extra detail that helps make amphibious operations flow a bit better.

Special Units

The main seven nations also came in for special treatment by getting new unique units. These are all slightly better versions of regular units, and can only be built in fairly limited quantities (no more than 4% of all infantry brigades). Three of them are better mountain brigades than normal (though the British Gurkhas can also airdrop), two are improved infantry, and US Rangers are a paratroop brigade, and the German SS units are improved motorized infantry (which, despite the reputation, is not appropriate for SS units as a whole… the number of well-equipped and trained SS units is about right for the number that you can build).

They’re a neat idea, and well into the ‘why not?’, range of things. Though there might be something to be said for being able to just spend a bit more on a unit to make it better trained/competent in general. Though that is pretty much what the division composition, and the flags for ‘prioritize upgrades and reinforcements’ already does.


TFH would be the last expansion for HoI III, and certainly the game had come far from it’s initial extremely buggy release. It’s a fairly decent package of changes, and seems to have sold well, and certainly gets recommendations from fans of the game.

Certainly, if you like HoI III, it’s worth getting, as everything it does is an improvement, and there are no backward steps. Furthermore, if you’re just getting the game (or rather the Collection, which has the previous two expansions), and you can get this in a package deal, get it. It does not make the game any more complicated or harder for a new player; it just reworks a few things that needed it. At the same time, it’s not going to change your mind about it either; it took a while for me to start noticing what had changed at all.