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.
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:
1.) 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.
2.) 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 mine
4.) 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.
5.) 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.
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!
The early game
Flame Engies and mines must be used to delay your enemy’s tech as long as possible. A Sniper and an MG will help you as well. Use the MG to defend against vehicles and deny the enemy fuel for as long as possible. Mine areas the enemy will use to flank the MG.
The mid and late game
When the Rangers arrive, the midgame has begun, and the strat relies on three Ranger squads to act as AT and with Thompsons and Flamer support, anti-infantry as well. Because you have spent no fuel on Riflemen upgrades, you can use the extra breathing room from having Rangers to build a Motorpool (or even Tank Depot, if you also managed to OP a fuel point).
The combination of powerful SMG infantry, backed by a Sniper and Flamers, pretty much dominates the midgame. AT guns and your Rangers handle armor, with mine-spam continuing to slow down vehicles and infantry. The early ammo OPs will allow you to use Off-map Artillery to great effect, or to upgrade Thompsons on all your Rangers, if that’s your preference.
Your objective in the midgame is to now establish a dominant presence near two VPs, and pick away at the enemy using artillery and AT guns. Your enemy will have a hard time attacking head-on, and your artillery will limit his attempts to bombard your position.
In the late game, you will have AT guns, MGs (since you built the WSC) and vetted Rangers, while all your infantry has enjoyed having a Triage Center from the start. A single on-map Howitzer will provide devastating artillery support that will be extremely accurate, thanks to your triple-vet Sniper acting as spotter.
1.) Strong against Panzer Elite, as the PE has no direct counter to Snipers and have three-man squads, making them especially vulnerable to being sniped. Also, PE has no way to detect and remove mines (remember Kettens can spot mines, but that doesn’t mean the PE will see it and avoid them), while multiple Flamer Engies handily beat clumps of PGs, even ones with G43 upgrades. Four Engies early on also allow you to outcap the PE player, and constantly harrass his Kettenrad.
2.) Extremely strong against infantry in buildings; lethal to MGs once you flank them.
3.) Forces the enemy to react to you, as they will have to spend resources on mine detection or avoidance, and they will have to play very smart to avoid taking heavy losses from Flamers charging from multiple directions at once.
4.) Requires little fuel to be effective.
5.) Brings the toughest American infantry, Rangers, into the game fast.
6.) Keeps your upkeep low, so you have spare manpower for OPs and MP-heavy units like Snipers.
7.) Effective on most maps, as most 1v1 maps feature +10 or even +16 ammo points near your base that are perfect for OPs. Meanwhile, OPs are very hard to destroy in the early game, and can be repaired if damaged.
8.) High novelty factor, as most players will have no clue what you’re doing.
1.) Less effective against Wehrmacht, which can countersnipe your Sniper and can deploy Pioneers with Mine Detectors vs. your mines. Volksgrenadiers are also less vulnerable to being sniped by virtue of having five men per squad, and give less XP per kill than PGs. Wehrmacht MGs will limit your ability to harrass.
2.) Requires careful micro and very prompt retreats, as Engies die easily and Flame Engies are vulnerable to critical hits where the flamethrower gets hit and explodes, killing the whole squad instantly. Snipers are even more vulnerable, and you must take care not to allow an enemy vehicle to chase him down and kill him. It’s a good idea to deploy a defensive MG and to mine the front of your base, to prevent base rushes.
3.) Requires constant mine spam, and careful play that centers around luring enemy units into mines.
4.) Vulnerable to early vehicles that can kite Engies, like PE Infantry Halftrack and Wehr Motorcycle. Meanwhile, Flamers are not nearly as effective vs. vehicles as Riflemen.
5.) Very dicey early game, as you won’t be on solid footing until Rangers arrive. Potential to be “trapped” without a good way to get the CPs you need for Rangers. While your early Flamers and mines may give you an advantage at the very beginning, you are likely to become vulnerable to massed PE Infantry HTs before Rangers arrive.
The whole strategy revolves around Rangers, using Flamers and mines to delay the enemy from getting lethal units until then. Most people are caught off-guard by multiple Flamers, making them effective at throwing off the enemy. Lethal units in this case are Flammenwurfer HTs, Pumas and for the PE, their fast ACs. You absolutely must stop the other guy from getting these before you have Rangers. You won’t need much fuel, so focus on CUTTING OFF their fuel rather than capping fuel for yourself. Mine their fuel points and fuel-cutoff points.
One of your biggest threats comes from multiple PE Inf. HTs, which can suppress your Engies and are not particularly vulnerable to Flamers. You must rely on mines and keeping your Engies massed to survive against these units. It is also likely you’ll need an MG to fend off a base rush, as most opponents will focus their efforts on crippling you before your Rangers arrive. You can consider using large amounts of barbed wire early on to stall PGs, which can’t cut wire. A couple of tank traps in a key choke point (say one of the bridges near your enemy’s strategic point on Semois) can also be good, especially since you can build them quickly with multiple Engies.
If you are caught by units like a Puma or AC before you have Rangers, you better hope you were CLOSE to Rangers. If you are still more than half a CP away, you need to do a better job killing enemy units/planting mines next time, or use a different strategy. If heavy units like the Ostwind or Panzer IV Infantry Support Tank roll into your base, your only hope is to inflict enough damage on them with multiple Rangers to force a retreat while you frantically build a Motorpool for the AT guns.
A Motorpool should be your top priority after you get Rangers. I find you either get your Rangers early enough to be able to safely build a Motorpool, or you get them too late, and lose. You can do nothing but sacrifice Engy squads for XP to get Rangers if a Puma or AC hits your base before you have 3 CPs. This strategy is not for the faint of heart.