Command organization strategy

From Hearts of Iron 3 Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search


This guide provides strategy tips for how to best organize a military command structure. Visit the Reference guides for details on how the command structure works, and how leader traits are applicable. These guides show how important the command structure is for game mechanics, bonuses, etc. This guide will show the importance of the command structure for a player's strategy.

Establishing a command framework

Creating a logical command structure is critically important. The command structure will allow a player to manage the military and effectively control units during war.

  1. A simple structure limits the amount of time needed to assess what forces are available
  2. Allows a player to react more quickly to changing circumstances
  3. Maximizes use of quality generals
  4. Reduces the cost in manpower, IC, and supplies as these are all used by HQ units.

Naming conventions

There are several naming conventions a player can follow. How much renaming a player does is discretionary, the built-in names are certainly usable. The idea of any naming convention is to make the overall command structure intelligible to the player.

A very simple structure primarily using numerals:

  • Theatre: Regional name: Eastern theater
  • Army Group: Direction within region: Army Group North
  • Army: Numerals: 1. Army
  • Corps: Numerals: 1. Corps

The naming conventions of the US Army offers a simple framework and has much to recommend it:

  • Theatre - Area Description - European Theatre of Operations
  • Army Group - Spelled Number - First United States Army Group
  • Army - Spelled Number - U.S. Third Army
  • Corps - Roman Numerals - I Corps
  • Division - Ordinal Numbers - 2nd Infantry Division

To save time, players may wish to abbreviate the type of division e.g. INF for Infantry division, CAV for a Cavalry Division; or they may simply adopt the given name at divisional level. Armoured and specialist formations may need to be highlighted to help locate them e.g. VII Armoured Corps or 5th Garrison Division. Key command levels can be more readily identified on the 'outliner' if they are capitalised - but this needs to be used sparingly.

Historical naming conventions: Germany OOB

Leader assignment

There is no "correct" answer for where the highest skilled leaders should be placed within the command structure, as it depends on a player's strategy, talent pool, etc. That said, several things should be considered:

  • Warning: Changing a divisional leader reduces a unit’s organisation to half, even if it initially didn't have a leader.
  • The best HQ leaders have good quality leader traits (e.g. offensive, defensive, panzer leader, etc.).
  • Leaders with large growth potential (e.g. low skilled leaders) are best as Corps or Division commanders in order to gain experience (and ultimately higher skill) more quickly
  • Theater commanders are not as important as their post might imply: the trait bonus is very limited, and the skill bonus provides only minor assistance to stacking penalties.
  • If supply consumption is a major concern, Army Groups commanders should be high skill.
  • If combat effectiveness is essential, Army and Divisional commanders should be high skill.


  • Creation: Theaters should be created for regional areas of combat. For example, Germany should have no less than a Western European Theater and an Eastern European Theater. This helps manage forces and provides a coherent scope of work for AI control should the player decide to let the AI take control for a time.
  • Command: Primarily, only Army Groups should be attached to Theaters. On occasion it may make sense to attach individual units to a theater. This makes sense where radio range is an issue, for example with Garrison forces in the South Pacific.
  • Leaders: Theater commanders will never gain meaningful experience. Therefore, old guard trait commanders are fine choices, as are higher level commanders in general who are slower to advance in skill due to their high skill level. It is generally not wise for a theater commander to have many traits, since the trait bonus is extremely small in practice (93% of the effect of the trait in question is lost).

Army Group

The Army Group is probably the most important aspect of a command hierarchy: it is a powerful and flexible command level to which forces of all types can be attached.

  • Creation: An Army Group is best used to command a particular 'front' within a Theatre of operations. During Barbarossa, for example, Germany had Northern (Nord), Center (Mitte), and Southern (Süd) army groups. This is particularly important for AI control, as the AI tends to prefer short to medium length fronts.
  • Command: This is the place in the command hierarchy where naval and air units should attach. Land armies also should attach at this level.
  • Leaders: Large Army Groups are best served with highly skilled commanders, since these commanders increase the efficiency of supply by 5% per skill level. As a general rule, the highest skilled commanders in an army should go to the Army Group level. Traits are not a priority at this level, for example the Offensive Doctrine trait would provide divisions with a relatively minor 1.25% offensive bonus. The Logistics Wizard trait has some value: while providing only a 3% reduction in division supply consumption, this could apply to a very large number of armies and therefore may be worthwhile. Note, however, that a higher skilled leader is always better than a lower skilled leader with the Logistics Wizard trait due to the 5% bonus per leader skill level.


  • Creation: An Army is best used as a combined arms force with a particular purpose. A typical Army Group will have Armies for exploitation and others for maintaining a front line.
  • Command: Armies typically have corps attached (2 - 5), but in places where radio range could be an issue, divisions may be attached directly to an Army thereby eliminating the Corps command all together.
  • Leaders: While traits at the Army level only have 25% of the effect, because this can be distributed over several corps, it is typically a good choice. The organization benefit from skill level is valuable here, so mid-skill level leaders are good choices here.


  • Creation: Corps form the simplest form of organization for divisions. In the European theater, corps typically will operate within a single province: on occasion divisions may spread out a bit, but in general corps are tight formations. Assigning resources to specialty corps may be useful: Marine Corps can have their own transport flotilla, while Paratroopers can have a transport plane assigned.
  • Command: Corps are composed of divisions (see the division building guide), and the key question is combat width. For Corps that will generally be used on a single axis of attack, a corps made up of 4 infantry divisions, each with 3x infantry brigades and 1x artillery can be used. If a Corps has 5 divisions and will generally operate on a single axis of attack, then each division should have only 2 front line brigades, as the popular 2x infantry brigades and 2x artillery brigades produces.
  • Leaders: Corps leaders do not gain skill as fast as divisional leaders, and the bonus of reinforcement provided by skill level is arguably of minor benefit depending on a player's game play (e.g. the need for reserve divisions can be quite limited depending on how combat is handled). Traits however are quite useful here: while the effect is cut by 50%, this applies to all divisions under command. Thus, as long as two or more divisions are being commanded, leader traits have a significant effect here.

Developing Leaders

The best way to grow the leadership talent of the officer corps is by appointing low skilled leaders (preferably those with traits) to divisions that see heavy combat. Low skilled leaders advance faster than any others, and their potential is measured by their "maximum skill" trait which can be identified on the various Military leaders by country pages. For example, a leader with a starting skill of 1 with a maximum skill of 7 has excellent growth potential and will rise quickly through the ranks if managed well.

There is no penalty for changing higher leaders, moving brigades between units, or moving units between higher level HQs. To avoid the penalty for changing divisional leaders either (a) do it when the unit has 0% organisation or (b) Before changing a Division leader, move all except two of a division's brigades out of the unit. Move them back again after changing the leader and the brigades that moved won't suffer the 50% organisational reduction.

For naval forces, an excellent way to develop leadership is through submarine convoy raiding.


Airforces can be simply organised in separate squadrons of 1 or 2 in a wing according to the type of plane and then attached as necessary to different formations for their (usually time-limited) missions. Some squadrons may be tasked with semi-permanent missions e.g. where there is a need to provide ongoing air interception over a particular area.

Key roles include:

  • Air defence - Defending friendly air space (INT)
  • Air superiority - establishing dominance over enemy air space (FTR with STR and TAC to destroy enemy airbases)
  • Combat air support - providing mobile direct support of attacking land forces (CAS)
  • Interdiction - reducing the ability of enemy forces to conduct operations (TAC)
  • Strategic bombing - reducing the economies of opposing countries to rubble (STR)
  • Naval aviation - offensive action against enemy shipping (CAG)

There are no limits on the number of aircraft that can be attached to an HQ but there are practical reasons (particularly stacking penalties for missions within an individual province) why no more than 5 are advisable. Similarly an airbase is only limited in its ability to service aircraft, so while any number can be based at an airbase, in practice care needs to be taken not to exhaust the available capacity. a fully built airbase (max 10) can hold 10 units. So having more than 10 air units at a maxed out based means that only 10 units can be repaired simultaneously. The Civil Defense Tech on the Theory tab in the Tech screen helps increase repair rate.

Separate air HQ are generally unnecessary except in the case of larger air forces. And where numbers justify it, Tactical Air Corps can be helpful to help manage the Tactical Bombers providing direct support to an attacking formation.

Logistical traits are key to any air or naval HQ and can save substantially on supplies and fuel. Air forces should always be attached at Army Group or below to take advantage of the substantial savings in supplies and fuel that a commander at that level offers.

Naval forces

HoI3 does not assign different HQ to land, sea and air forces but particularly when playing countries with larger navies (USA, UK, Japan), the player may find it useful to create specific Fleet (Army) HQ for each of the different roles needed in a Theatre and attach to these to an Navy (Army) Group.

Roles might include:

  • Transport
  • Commerce Protection
  • Commerce Raiding
  • Power Projection/Command of the sea

The limited radio/command radius at Corps level makes Army HQ the lowest sensible command unit for Navies.No bonus outside of range. The best level to attach ships is at Army Group (with a high skill leader, preferably a LogWiz). This will drasticallyreduce supply/fuel drain in port and during close (600 km) operations. If you can be bothered, reassign the navy to Theatre when you're farther away. In the rare situations where naval stacking plays a role, the theatre commander will reduce the stacking penalty. For the prewar periods, attach all naval and air assets to a corps level hq, with a log wizard, and all the way up to theatre, this reduces supply requirements drastically.

For amphibious landings, it is important to attach the whole invasion force (army and navy) to an Army HQ or Army Group HQ in the preferred Theatre when taking on a new land mass as this may determine its allocation to the Theatre. If the player is using the AI for invasions then they will probably need to detach the Army Group or Army HQ controlling the invasion from the Theatre/Chain of Command to get the landing to go as planned.

It is often more useful to attach Naval Bombers to the Naval Command structure rather than the Air Command Structure.

How to reorganise your forces

HOI III TFH OOB re-organiser/viewer, note arrow button in top-right corner of left window
Click on left of to the unit window to see OOB window, then click on the top right corner of OOB window to see second (drag and drop) OOB window
  • With TFH, you can use the screen at right to drag and drop units between commands. To see it, Click on a unit, then click on the extreme left of the screen where you see the arrows. Click on the arrow button in the top right-corner to get the second, identical pop-up screen.
  • To select an HQ and all its sub-units, click on the green bar circled in red in the picture at right.
  • To choose the units and commanders you want, use the statistics screen. Click on the statistics button on the top-right corner of the information bar. Choose Military. You can sort by unit, unit type, commander, or commander's skill. You can also find the unit/commander's location this way.

A complete reorganisation can be done quickly through the outliner and it shouldn't take more than a few months of game time. If the player starts at war, reorganisation should be minimal but following the same basic approach - renaming for ease of reference and tidying up formations to enhance the players effectiveness (individual units can be cycled out of combat when convenient to complete the exercise).

  • Take one arm of the forces at a time.
  • Take a look at the number of brigades of each type and work out your basic organisational model e.g. standard infantry corps with a combat frontage of 12 (4 x 3 brigade divisions), standard armies with 3 infantry corps, standard army group with 3 armies, add initial support brigades to specialist divisions or corps outside this framework and place all armoured brigade in specialist mobile divisions and corps, likewise for all cavalry and garrison brigades.
  • Click and drag all units on zoomed out view together and get them to move closer to each other and towards where you'd want the bulk to end up (Destination X).
  • Rename all the theatre, group, army and corps HQ from the top of the outliner to the bottom in a consistent pattern that suits your framework (at the same time, you can remove all the generals AND and attach the theatres, groups and armies in a near sensible initial chain of command).
  • Then, starting at the top put your first, second, third and fourth infantry divisions into 1st HQ Corps etc. detaching any units that don't fit readily into your framework - leaving them to end up at Destination X.
  • Make sure you rename the armoured, cavalry and garrison corps/armies as you go along.
  • When you run out of standard units to add to your framework, disband all the excess HQ units that are left (excepting a few Corps and any Army Group HQ, if any, and a couple of Army HQ for the Garrison and Cavalry units).
  • Then go back to each HQ starting at the top of the outliner, press the plain green bar above the units attached (to select the whole formation) and then send the neatly reorganised corps, armies or army groups to the specific spot you want them.
  • Then wait till the remaining units arrive at Destination X and use the transfer between units function to make them into the tidy crew you want and then send them to where you want them.
  • Then as they are travelling, take a look at your best generals decide what you want them to command and attach them starting with your Theatres (low skill logistics), Group (high skill logistics), Armies (high skill logistics and/or offensive/defensive), Corps (high skill offensive/defensive/panzer) and Divisions.
  • Repeat the process for air and naval forces.

Once the basic framework has been established new units can be built and individual commands attached and detached as necessary to best suit their ground and tasks.

Note: Expeditionary forces can be allocated to different HQs but can't be re-organised at the brigade level. So if an expeditionary force includes a division that is composed of a motorised infantry brigade and an infantry brigade, this can't be changed. Expeditionary Air and naval forces also can't be changed.

Command Organization How-to

The player is not obliged to follow the chain of command. Divisions can be detached entirely, or can be put in any position within the chain. The AI will not change the disposition of land units in the structure of command, it will however attach and unattach navies and air wings as it sees fit.

To create a new HQ, either choose a new division or detach a division or an HQ from the it's higher HQ. Then use the XXX icon to create a new HQ. The XXX icon will add an additional X for each higher level HQ. Then add the HQ into the HQ hierarchy.

Each HQ unit can command 5 subordinate units maximum except the Theater HQ which can control an unlimited amount of divisions. Air and naval units can be attached to any HQ and do not count against the limit of 5; the main benefit of this is to reduce supply consumption.

To use units through the HQ system, select the HQ unit. Then click the Green bar above the brigades which will select all units subordinated to the HQ. Alternatively, ctrl+leftclick on any unit on map to select all units below it. In this way, entire Armies or Corps can be ordered in one stroke.

Minimum amount of brigades for a division is two. Minimum amount of men is 5,000. In order to break down a division to brigade level: Remove the leader first, then break down into brigades.

You can create a new Theatre by selecting an Army Group HQ and clicking the +xxxxxx button. Then, you will have to assign the area of operations for that theatre, which is exclusive. So, first you should make sure the area you intend to select isn't already given to another Theatre, if it is, press Edit Theatre button and unselect those provinces. Then, select your new Theatre, press Edit Theatre button again, and select the provinces. you cannot include allied/puppet territory in your Theatre, sadly.

How to add a brigade to the HQ unit You can add a brigade directly to an HQ unit. This is done so it becomes an extra division for a corps and using it in battle increases the corps commander's skill. So a five division corps becomes in effect a six division corps with troops attached directly to the HQ. To do this, just select the HQ and the brigade while they are in the same stack and press "r" or the Reorganise button. Brigades deployed to HQs will be attached in this way, not as separate units. This allows you to use your HQs, which normally can't win a fight, as second line/rear area mop-up or anti-partisan troops, or to attach a special corps unit (e.g. a Tank Destroyer) that is moved into combat when needed.

How to reorganise moving units The Reorganise and Create New Unit buttons won't work if the unit is moving or fighting. However you can still move/attach brigades in such circumstances by pressing the "r" key.

How to Remove a brigade from a two-brigade division

   1. Select the division containing the excess brigade.
   2. Select the leader’s name box.  This brings up a selection screen showing the leader pool.  
   3. Select the “No Leader” box at the bottom left of the leader pool screen.  
      This removes the leader from the division, and prepares that unit for brigade detachment.
   4. Press the “r” key on the keyboard.  This brings up the “Reorganize Unit” screen.
   5. Select the arrow by either of the two units listed in the “Reorganize Unit” screen.  
      This changes the two brigades into independent organizations.
   6. Select the “Close” box at the bottom of the “Reorganize Unit” screen.

Army Restructuring Tool (ART) for Hearts of Iron 3

There is a superb Army Restructuring Tool available for Hearts of Iron III and its expansions here:

Further reading

See the division composition article for suggestions on building divisions