in Gaming, Hearts of Iron IV

At one point or another, you’re bound to come across puppet states in Hearts of Iron IV. Whether you’re playing Britain, with the Dominions starting out as puppets, or if you’ve just conquered Germany as the Soviet Union and you decided to turn them into a friendly satellite state, they will come up in your game. This short tutorial explains how to annex puppets, an often overlooked element of the puppet state feature.

Note: Some elements of this post, such as the puppets controlled by Britain and the start of the game, are dependent upon downloadable content. The key fundamentals of this post apply to all forms of puppet, however.

What are “Puppets”?

Puppets are, simply put, states that are controlled by other states. They are not independent, though they may have varying degrees of autonomy. Some countries start with puppets under their control, such as the United Kingdom or Japan. Others must gain them by conquering territories and releasing them as a puppet state. They both operate the same way.

You can see what puppets you have under your control through the “Political” panel by clicking the “Manage Subjects” button, shown below.

The "Manage Subjects" button

The “Manage Subjects” button

If you have puppets, or subjects, under your influence, clicking that button will reveal the “Subjects” pane.

The "Subjects" pane

The “Subjects” pane

Each of the puppet states in the list will have an autonomy progress bar flanked by two icons. These icons, and the information that appears when you hover over the bar, indicate the puppet’s current autonomy state. The progress bar indicates the current autonomy progress. Let’s discuss what all of these pictures mean, and what the autonomy system actually does.

The Autonomy System

Together for Victory Death or Dishonor
(Fascist)
Waking the Tiger
(Japan, Manchukuo)

Independent – No longer a puppet state

Dominion

Satellite

Imperial Subject

Colony

Reichsprotectorate

Imperial Associate

Puppet

Integrated Puppet

Reichskomissariat

Imperial Protectorate

Annexed – Absorbed into the Master country

A table showing the approximately equivalent autonomy levels, from most free to least free.

The autonomy system uses tiers of autonomy levels, listed in the table above. Each of these autonomy levels carries certain implications which you can read about in detail on the Hearts of Iron IV Wiki.

Puppets do not have free reign over their affairs, though what they can do – and what can be done to them – varies by autonomy level. Some levels of autonomy permit the master country to construct on puppet’s territory, or conscript the puppet’s forces into the master’s control. Others do not. Crucially, all puppets bar Imperial Subjects will join any war joined by the master, and cannot declare wars of their own.

Climbing up the autonomy system is the main path to independence and, conversely, suppressing the drive for independence is key to annexing puppet states.

Keeping up with the Autonomy Status

The actual process of annexing a puppet is easy, but it can take quite a bit of time. The important thing to keep an eye on is the autonomy progress bar.

The autonomy progress bar

The autonomy progress bar

The blue section denotes the puppet’s autonomy movement. The larger the blue section, the closer the puppet is to increasing its autonomy. The brown section denotes the master’s suppression. The larger the brown section, the closer the master is to downgrading the autonomy of the subject. The icon on the left flank indicates what autonomy state the puppet will be downgraded to should the master suppress it sufficiently. The icon on the right flank indicates what autonomy state the puppet will be upgraded to should it push for autonomy hard enough.

The puppet can work towards greater autonomy, and eventually independence, by contributing to the war score of an ongoing war, sending materiel to the master through lend-lease, or by having the master trade its goods. But we aren’t particularly concerned with that right now, we want to know the opposite; how do we decrease autonomy, and eventually annex the puppet state?

Annexing Puppets

There are three key ways to do this:

  1. Lend-lease to the puppet;
  2. Construct on the puppet’s territory;
  3. Use the “Suppress Subjects” national focus.

Lend-leasing

Lend-leasing to the puppet – which should always be accepted if it is not player controlled – will increase the suppression of the subject over time. It is the slowest way to decrease autonomy, but as you can lend-lease something of abundance, such as old firearms or convoy ships, it is also the easiest. Be careful not to overextend and lease vital goods to puppets that you need on your own front lines; annexing a puppet will be of little use if you lose it in a war!

Construction

Constructing on the puppet’s territory isn’t always possible; not all autonomy levels permit it. You cannot build on the territory of a subject that is of the Dominion or Satellite autonomy levels. If they are lower than these, or are Japanese or Manchu puppets, then you can. Constructing on a puppet’s territory is the fastest way to decrease autonomy, but doing so uses up vital civilian factories of your own. If you have no more factories or fortifications to build or repair at home, all of your available civilian factories should be used to build structures on your puppet’s territories.

Suppression Focus

Using the “Suppress Subjects” national focus requires no input on your part. It is, thus, the easiest way of decreasing your puppet’s autonomy. This focus applies a negative autonomy modifier to all of your puppets. There is a cost, however: you cannot pursue a national focus and use the “Suppress Subjects” continuous focus at the same time. If you have no further focuses to get at this time, it may be worth idling on this continuous focus instead of the other continuous focuses.

Using these methods will slowly but surely deprive your puppets of their autonomy, edging them closer and closer to their rightful master. That’s good and all, but that won’t stop independence completely. Preparations and obligations that you must fulfil may prevent you from carrying out these three tasks. Because of that, you may need to prevent independence the other way; by denying your puppet the chance to grow their autonomy level without suppressing them.

Preventing Independence: Easier Than We Think

If you can’t take any of the steps necessary to suppress your puppets, the least you can do is hamper their ability to increase their own autonomy. Several of the options they have depend upon the actions that you permit.

Firstly, do not trade with your puppet. Every day that you are accepting goods from your puppets is a day that you are contributing to their autonomy level. Trade with allies and neutral nations, and leave your puppets as a last resort.

Secondly, try to take opportunities to earn war score away from your puppet. If your puppet is on a front line that will see very little combat in a normal game, such as South Africa, use a division or two to push ahead in front of them so that their divisions do not accrue war score. If you absolutely cannot afford to spare a division to do this, then try to plan your strategies around depriving the front that your puppet must fight on of resources. This will not only bog down both sides due to resource deprivation, but it may lead your enemy to evacuate regions, reducing the casualties that your puppet can cause.

Thirdly, monitor what focuses your puppets are taking. Some puppets have focuses that will increase their autonomy score automatically and the AI of certain countries, such as South Africa, will take these by default. Take the time to counteract these focuses during peacetime or a lull in a conflict so that they do not build up over time. Decreasing 100 autonomy points now is quicker and easier than decreasing 1,000 later.

If you can stick by these points and implement them in practice, you should be able to delay the not-so-inevitable independence of your subjects.

The United Kingdom, with all subjects annexed.

“The sun never sets on the British Empire.”

Concluding How to Annex Puppets

Hopefully, after taking the time to absorb the information presented in this guide, you will know how to annex puppets in Hearts of Iron IV. You’ll be a master of seizing subjects in no time. If not, then at least you’ll know how to stave it off a little longer!

As always, if you ran into any issues working through this tutorial, or if you have any questions, drop a comment below, or ask me in the Rauchland Discord server or via Twitter.

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