I would highly recommend Crusader Kings/HOI jewel case buy over HOI 2. Crusader Kings is by far the best of the entire series. Medieval times, better than MTW or M2TW in realism and fun value. You build a dynasty and have to deal with your court as well as try to conquer the map. The Horde invasion is something to live for and behold. Just when you think you've got them licked another horde appears on the map. Not just one like the Total War series. Plus you can play as a count, duke or king to start out.
As far as the HOI's go. I much prefer the origional, though I don't have a great love for Paradox initial releases. You've waited long enough though if you get HOI 2 at least you're getting a complete and finished product, not the mess that it was and especially HOI was when released. The origional HOI allows you to do more ahistorically. HOI 2 does as well, but, the origional just allows for more like taking Brazil and getting into the fray of things if you govern them well and fast enough. Before the final patching of the HOI's i could take Brazil and conquer Spain, Italy, N. Africa, liberate France and take parts of Germany. That's pretty fun even if it is ahistorical.
As far as depth yes they all have depth, but, not really in great quantities. It's pretty simple to figure out how to play, it's another thing figuring out what you should play or when to play it. It takes some time and several games to get use to the civilization type of research, what is important, what's a waste of time. Playing the political game can be fun, but, what gets most annoying is the popups of all the events going on. Of course you can turn much of this off, but, several are pretty important and you'll want to leave those on and they can still get pretty annoying even after turning many of them off.
Battles are pretty abstract as well. You send in your army to a province and you pretty much have to rely on size and quality and terrain vs the same from the other side. You don't get any hands'on play from the engine. You pretty much just watch and bite your nails and hope you win. All their games are like this when it comes to battle. Fortunately they did add a "very slow" speed setting to the game, so, you can take your time pretty much in your decisions, just don't take all day. If you really need a lot of thinking time (as I do) then you can totally pause the game and turn it back on after you have given your orders for the day.
They can be found for under $10 at Amazon.com nowadays. I would link it, but, that's a bit unfair to Matrixgames I think. ;)
It's gone up some since I got it for $4.99 awhile back. Still under $10 bucks though, both of them. Get both and you'll have many hours of play ahead of you. ;)
< Message edited by ravinhood -- 7/17/2007 11:58:52 AM >