Review: COH “Strategy” Guide by Bradygames

May 31, 2008

Worst. Guide. Ever.

VERDICT: A piece of crap written by nincompoops who never played an online game ever.

I know, I know — the COH Strategy Guide by Bradygames came out long ago, right around the time COH was released, in September of 2006. That doesn’t change the fact that this “guide” is a mindblowing travesty, a 100-page volume of complete and utter nonsense that has nothing to do with playing this game. It’s so bad, so unbelievably wrong, incorrect, not close to being correct, and just plain terrible that it’s actually funny. And I’m serious on that point — I’ve included some word-for-word excerpts below.

Should Brian Shotton be shot?The emotions I found myself feeling upon reading this guide began with shocked incredulity and ended with rage. That’s right, rage — rage that some fool named Brian Shotton (the author) was actually paid by Bradygames, paid money that would’ve been a thousand times better spent on disaster relief, food charities, or inexpensive hookers. Certainly, Mr. Shotton did not deserve any money for his “strategies.” Indeed, the misstatements and outright errors he makes in the guide grow in size and wrongness with every page turned, so that by the end, each of his mistakes have become shooting offenses. Mr. Shotton should be shot. His body ought to be bullet-riddled by the time you reach the final page, where Shotton’s blighted name appears under the word “credits,” which appears to make no sense given the value of the guide.

I pray none of my fellow Romans have lost any money on this book (it cost $19.99 at the time of release; I was foolish enough to buy it without first skimming it, though mercifully I paid $14.99).

Still — I will proceed with a review of this guide, and I will include some hilarious highlights of Mr. Shotton’s writing. Take for example, this gem: “The Wolverine is a powerful anti-tank weapon, but its open turret makes it particularly susceptible to many enemy attacks such as flamethrowers, small arms fire, grenades, and even mortar attacks.

No wonder that level 1 player sent Flame Pioneers after my M10… But trust me, it gets BETTER. And by better I mean singularly retarded and wrong.

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Faction-specific: Reviewing USA’s 4ES strategy

May 30, 2008

Vetted Rangers with Thompsons beat vetted Knights Cross; Flamers + vanilla Rangers beat Knights Cross
An unconventional American strategy has been making the rounds on GR.org these last few days, which involves picking Infantry Company, building 4 Engineers and 2 Observation Posts right off the bat, followed by numerous Flamethrower upgrades and the liberal use of Mines.

Noobtastic, right? Not so, my fellow Romans. Marinez, the entrepreneurial individual who posted this strategy on GR.org, backs up this seemingly random unit mix with a slew of replays against top Axis players, Wehrmacht and Panzer Elite. It’s just crazy enough to work. NOTE: Screens from replays by Marinez.

Having attempted this strategy a few times and having watched Marinez’s replays, I will attempt an objective analysis of the strengths and weaknesses, as well as provide a decent guide for anyone wishing to try this strat. NOTE: Vitensby, of former Tales of Heroes fame, quickly tried to stake a claim on this strat, as if he had somehow copyrighted it and should be acknowledged for doing a 4-Engy start way back in the day. His claims may be safely ignored, for the 4ES strategy is both singularly distinctive and was made with considerable foresight.

Overview
In my opinion, this is best used as anti-PE strat, but more on that later. This strat relies on six absolutely critical elements. They are these: 

OPs on ammo points are hard for the enemy to destroy early on, prevent the point from being captured, and increase ammo output1.) Observation Posts or OPs, deployed immediately (literally within the first 60 seconds of the game) on the nearest +10 and +16 munitions points.
The early OPs serve two purposes, one they generate lots of XP, and building two OPs gives you half a CP instantly. Second and most obviously, they boost your munitions income by a lot, from the beginning of the match. This in turn will allow you to spam flamers and mines.

Several Flamers charging at once will usually force enemy squads to retreat2.) Flamethrowers on multiple Engineers, and quickly.
Multiple Flamers make it impossible for the enemy to focus fire and eliminate the threat of a single charging Flamer squad. Flamers make Engies extremely powerful vs. infantry, obviously, as they scattered squads and do extra damage to units in cover.

3.) The consistent use of well-placed mines throughout the match, with heavy emphasis on using Flamer Engies to lure enemy squads and vehicles into these mines early on.
Again, the purpose is twofold: building a mine gives you +2 XP, moving you closer to Rangers (see #6 below), and of course mines also kill enemy squads and restrict their movement. An enemy squad pursuing your Flame engy runs into a mine, gets suppressed/pinned, loses one or more members, then must immediately face your Flame Engy, which has turned on them after leading them into the mineKeep spamming mines, even in places where the enemy already hit a mine
Without an early Triage Center, your Engies won't last long enough for Rangers to arrive4.) An early Triage Center, which can be afforded easily since you will not build a Barracks or Weapon Support Center (WSC) right away.
It is possible for your Flame Engies to have low health, even when fully reinforced. This makes it likely they will die instantly under fire. The Triage Center heals your Engies, so you will never have useless low-health-but-fully-reinforced Flamers. It also provides XP for being built, and will be useful later on when you call in Rangers.
The Sniper is crucial to helping you gain the XP you need for Rangers5.) An early Sniper, who will provide you with much of the XP you need for Rangers by sniping high-value Axis infantry squad members such as Panzer Grenadiers.
The Sniper will be a constant thorn in your enemy’s side in this strat, because you will keep your Sniper positioned behind mines, causing pursuing troops to run into mines on the Sniper’s flank and in front of him. Your Flame Engies will also protect your Sniper.

6.) Early Rangers, whose arrival is hastened by the large amounts of XP that are guaranteed by building OPs, mines, Triage Center, WSC, Medic Tent and (possibly) Supply Depot, in this approximate order.
Relatively early Rangers are absolutely essential to this strategy. If you have done everything right, you will get your 3 CPs for Rangers and your first Rangers will arrive around the 8-9 minute mark, hopefully in time to head off lethal anti-infantry vehicles like the PE’s Armored Car or Wehrmacht’s Puma or Flammenwurfer Halftrack.Rangers arrive around the 9-minute mark

VIP Unit: Rangers. These “tough sumbitches” (to quote SayNotoStim’s excellent Tier 2 Terror Guide) are the single most important unit in this strategy, as every you do is intended to delay the enemy’s progress and expedite your CP growth so you can get Rangers. I said earlier this strategy was made with some foresight. Each structure helps your Engies last long enough to keep spamming mines and buying time needed for Rangers, the VIP unit.

A total of 180 XP is required to gain 3 CPs, which is the number you need to call in Rangers. Building 2 OPs, 1 WSC and 1 Triage Center will give you about 68 XP. It is entirely reasonable to assume you will also place at least 5 mines, for an additional 10 XP. Building a Medic Tent will net you another 12 XP. And if you get the fuel, building a Supply Depot will give you another 12 XP. You also earn XP for every point you hold. Each point gives you 0.01 XP per second, and VPs do not count. It is no longer possible to be mathematically precise, as we can only guess how much territory you will hold. But we can make a reasonable assumption: If you hold a mere 5 points for one minute, you get 3 XP. It will probably take between 6-8 minutes for the first lethal vehicles (PE’s AC on the low end, Puma/Flammenwurfer on the high end) to appear, so let’s say the average is about 20 XP, to give a figure on the low end. This results in a total of 122 XP, bringing you 2/3 of the way to Rangers, and this math so far assumes you have neither lost a single unit nor killed a single enemy unit, which will of course also give you XPs. So you won’t have to kill very many units at all to get enough CPs for Rangers.*

**NOTE: This thorough if tiresome mathematical analysis would not be possible without Sturmtruppen, the man who also brought you the old Stormtrooper spam + veterancy + Tigers strategy in vCOH. I tip my hat to Sturm, who is truly a bulwark of the COH community, bless his soul. All this data and my calculations are based on information from Sturm’s website, COH-Stats.
***Yojimbo252 from GR.org was good enough to point out that if you put your first CP in Rapid Deployment (the first ability on the left-hand Infantry Company tree), you will reset the CP requirement, meaning you need 180 XP for Rangers, not 200 XP as was previously stated. So REMEMBER TO PUT YOUR FIRST CP INTO RAPID RESPONSE ASAP!

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Faction-specific: How USA can win vs. Panzer Elite

May 28, 2008

In response to CorkscrewBlow’s post on the USA vs PE matchup, I decided to dispense some advice on how to play Americans in this matchup. I think a good place to start would be analyzing the early game advantages and disadvantages that you have, so to help form a general strategy.

Advantages:

1. Engineers – Almost all American players start with 2 engineers. This gives them the best early game capturing power in CoH. Engineers easily counter opposing pioneers or kettenrads, forcing the Axis player to divert combat troops to help. This makes for relatively easy capturing of important points on the map.

2. Rifles – Riflemen hit the field fast, and can overpower Panzer Grenadiers by charging them in most cases. This allows American players to either win the first fight (by finding the first PG squad and attacking it) or force the enemy to fall back and regroup with his second PG squad (meaning no help for his kettengrads against engineers).

Disadvantages:

1. Infantry Halftracks – In general Infantry Halftracks are difficult to deal with early on. They move around the field fast, carry PG squads, and can reinforce those PG squads. Because of their speed and power, they are ideal for escorting kettengrads to capture territory, or backing up a push by PGs. They are also repaired by the same units they carry, making repair easy and cheap.

2. Upgraded PGs – Panzer Grenadiers are easy to deal with when they first come out, but as the game progresses these units get much tougher. Upgrades like the G43, Defensive Operations, and 4 man squads can make PGs superior to riflemen.

The Overall Strategy

Now that we have analyzed the advantages and disadvantages of the early game matchup, its time for the overall strategy. Since it is clear that Americans have an advantage early on, they need to capitalize on it to minimize the amount of time spent in ‘late’ early game where the PE player can bring in his halftracks and upgraded PGs to ruin the American player’s riflemen. To quickly get the game out of Tier 1 (Barracks) the American player should use his early advantage to capture as much fuel as possible. After that, he will need to make sure that his opponent doesn’t have much fuel (to limit the amount of halftracks and upgrades he can purchase). After getting the game out of Tier 1, the American player begins to have an advantage. Good play with 57mm AT guns will shut down the PE player’s armor, and WSC units (mainly snipers and machine guns) backed by upgraded rifles will handle the infantry. In my opinion, playing USA vs PE is mainly a game of just trying to hold out until the American can get his sniper/AT gun/Upgrade rifle steamroller rolling. Once that is up, the PE player has few options that cannot be overcome by creative play. He cannot kill the snipers without the ATHT’s focus fire, but he can’t get that in range long enough with the AT guns covering the sniper. Without the sniper dead, his infantry will continue to take expensive losses (Everytime the sniper fires, he kills a PG worth 43 manpower!). Without the infantry, his tanks can’t take on the AT guns. His only option is left to artillery, of which the PE barely has any to speak of. The mortar halftrack sits only about 10m out of AT gun range, so if the AT gun moves just a little bit forward it can start hitting it. The hummel comes late, is doctrine specific, and dies to just about any light armor left unguarded. Remember: the PE vs American matchup is very heavy on fuel control, whoever is able to control it early on is likely to win the game.

Replay

Here is a replay vs planeswalker (6 on the PE ladder) where I beat his PE using the concepts in the article. He didn’t build infantry halftracks, but if he did he would have just been screwed more because he wouldn’t have had the fuel to research panzershrecks before my M8 won the game. Here is the link to the game (rapidshare was the only filehoster I could think of, if you don’t want to use it shoot me off an email at Steven.Uray@gmail.com and I’ll put the replay in the reply)

http://rapidshare.com/files/118215183/2p_angoville_farms.2008-05-27.22-30-16.rec.html


 


Cool Stuff: M4A1 Sherman miniature

May 27, 2008

72 scale Sherman tank from Unimax\'s Forces of Valor seriesThe Sherman tank was the workhorse of the U.S. Army in Europe, and it’s a damn fine tank in COH. Imagine my delight when I saw a beautifully detailed little miniature Sherman tank sitting in the toys section of my local Target store. I took this picture of the little Sherman, which is a 1:72 scale model, perched on a coatstand. You can clearly make out the open hatch and the commander sitting above it, binoculars in hand, one arm perched casually over the .50 caliber machine gun feared by Grenadiers everywhere. It came with a handful of little soldiers and tank traps, also to scale.

My fellow gamers, you may laugh if you wish. But you know that somewhere inside you is a little boy (or girl, to be politically correct) who thinks little toy tanks are cool. If you were holding this handsome Sherman tank in your hands, you may feel a sudden urge to drive it around with your finger, while a low, rumbling noise that sounds suspiciously like a tank engine begins to form in your throat. Admit it: it would be damned COOL to have a highly detailed, miniature Firefly or Tiger tank sitting on your desk to inspire your gameplay.

I did a little research online and it turns out that the company making these things has a serious eye for detail. The Sherman I bought for the low, low price of $14.99 is made from die-cast steel and is carefully proportioned based on schematics of the real Sherman.

The turrent rotates, the main gun elevates and the tracks — made from realistic-looking black vinyl — actually move! Everything about these models, from the detailed weathered paint jobs to the markings to the accompanying infantry (Riflemen, MG teams, Mortar teams, etc.) seems to parallel COH to an amazing degree. Just a testament to Relic’s attention to detail and this model company’s, as well.

The company’s name is Unimax, and its line of military models is called Forces of Valor. They’ve got tons of models, from World War II to the Gulf War. A large number of their models are “retired” meaning they aren’t sold anymore, which is too bad, since many are really cool — larger 1:32 scale King Tigers, Shermans, Panzer IVs, etc.

But they continue to issue new models every year. You can check out their website here. I’ve bought a few other Forces of Valor models and in the coming days I’ll do a few review-type posts on the ones I’ve got.


In-depth: The Panzer Elite/American matchup

May 25, 2008

Armored Car leaving no survivors...
As of the current patch, many excellent players believe COH: Opposing Fronts is as balanced as it’s ever been — except maybe compared to 1.71, the last version of COH before the Opposing Fronts expansion was released.

That being said, the Panzer Elite vs Americans strikes me as being particularly off.

I really can’t point to any one single thing that’s responsible. It’s a slew of issues, which are all individually quite small, but add up this: PE has an option for every conceivable U.S. strategy, and constantly has the initiative because the U.S. player must depend heavily on one unit: the M8.

You will need the M8 to handle what’s next — a fast Armored Car or Marder IIIs. The M8 is able to handle units like the Marder by circle-strafing and relying on the accuracy penalty it inflicts against attackers (moving M8s are harder to hit based on this statistic).

If you are the PE player, you KNOW that 90% of the time, you will face M8s, and you’ve literally got a ton of options — Teller mines, Marders, Tank Buster squads or shreck’d PGs, a Hetzer, etc.

But the U.S. has only the M8. It’s a dicey game for the Americans. If I might humbly recommend a balance change, it’s reducing the damage ACs do against Riflemen in green and yellow cover, and removing the 25% damage bonus that Marder IIIs have against all U.S. tanks.

This makes it just a little bit easier for the U.S. to rely on Paratroopers or Rangers for AT, while possibly skipping Motorpool for a tech straight to Tank Depot, whose units won’t be destroyed or crippled by multiple Marders far beyond their own range.

I’ll leave it to Surprise to fill in the gaps here, and hopefully put up a few replays of my own.


Basic Tip: Queuing points for capture

May 24, 2008

Strategic points can be captured much quickly than resource sectorsCapturing the right territory sectors in a rapid, efficient manner is very important in the early game. You can make your life much easier by using COH’s waypoint command. This is done (as is the convention in many RTS games) by holding SHIFT and left-clicking places for units to go, OR POINTS FOR THEM TO CAPTURE. Note that while you can issue waypoint commands to MOVE on the minimap, you can only que points for capture by clicking on the points themselves, in the game window. You’ll soon have 3-4 infantry squads capping points across the map, and you’ll soon face opportunities to disrupt enemy capping or have your own capping threatened. That’s why you should use a unit least likely to encounter resistance when queing capture points.

A standard American build order involves 2 Engineers before you start pumping out Riflemen. While your first Engineer builds a Barracks or WSC, your second Engineer can be given a waypoint order to cap 3-4 critical points. You don’t have to worry about what he’s doing for quite awhile, allowing you to focus on micromanaging units to win those crucial first infantry battles. After a battle, you’ll find your trusty Engineer has done a great job capping many points on his own.

Here’s an example of possible capture order and optional points to que for capture on Angoville, probably the preeminent 1v1 map:

Possible capture order on Angoville

You can see here that the 1st Engy (after building a Barracks) and 1st Rifle go immediately for the right-hand high fuel sector, with the Engy skipping the high munitions sector to give maximum time for the fuel.

The 2nd Engy (built from HQ) adopts a very conservative capture order. Rarely will players bother trying to recapture the tiny +5 fuel point when there are two +16 high fuel points to be contested. But the +5 can give you an edge when the race for fuel is very close (with both players constantly harrassing both high fuels).

In this example, the 2nd Engy will probably benefit best from queued capture commands, though the 1st Engy can also be given a que of captures to follow — he’s just likely to encounter the enemy, so you’ll want to manually issue orders if that happens.


D-Day!

May 23, 2008

It may not be June 6, 1944, but today, Rifles Ready! is officially open for business.

This blog is pretty much all about Company of Heroes and the personal journey of a player from noob to slightly less-noob status. COH is a great game and I’m fortunate enough to have played with and learned from some great players, like Surprise and Nystrom.

Surprise will hopefully be a frequent contributor and if you’re interested in writing, please contact me! You don’t have to be a top-ranked player or anything, you just have to be a decent writer who plays COH and has an interest in the last great war — my favorite term for World War II, probably the last grand-scale conflict in which U.S. involvement was purposeful and noble.

This blog will focus largely on improving your COH game, from assorted tips and tricks to lengthier strategy articles and even scribblings on the emotional and psychological aspects of COH.

But expect to see a lot of other WWII stuff, from my new hobby of collecting detailed die-cast miniatures of iconic COH tanks to reviews of RTS gaming hardware and even reviews of WWII movies and books!