Basic Tip: Panzer Elite unit preservation

June 30, 2008

Ouch!This is a simple enough piece of advice, one that you could say applies to all factions in this game. But the Panzer Elite suffers particularly from unit losses because of their 3-man squads and extremely high reinforcement cost. Compare their basic infantry, Panzer Grenadiers, which cost 45 MP to reinforce, to Riflemen (27 MP) and British Tommies (35 MP). Low-health squads with as few men as Panzer Grenadiers have are particularly susceptible to focus fire, area-of-effect weapons and flame attacks. And of course, as you all know, grenades REALLY hurt. A single grenade can kill a moving (gets negative cover penalty) 4-man Fallschirmjager squad with 75% or higher health. I’ve had it happen to me and it’s absolutely demoralizing.

So what can you do? Well, the G43 upgrade is pretty devastating against Riflemen. You can pretty much counter Rifles throughout the game by utilizing massed G43 PGs. Their long range allows them to find green cover and stay in it, while Rifles must close to at least medium range to be effective. This gives you plenty of time to retreat, which means longer lifespans for your squads, which means more vetted squads in the late game. You can also consider sticking near-dead squads into your Infantry Halftrack, which makes them impervious to ordinary fire. Remember units in your HT remain highly vulnerable to area-of-effect weapons like grenades and flamers. Snipers can also shoot men inside the HT.

If you’re facing American snipers or if you must use aggressive units like the MP44-toting Assault Grenadiers, you’d better get Increased Squad Sizes pretty quick or you’ll lose too many battles (which means losing too much territory).  Grenades are fairly clutch weapons if you and your opponent are equally good, but one grenade can end your game. They always do more damage than the maximum health of your squad members, so one grenade can be fatal to an entire squad, as I said earlier. Early on, a lack of BARs means you need to watch out for grenades. The first grenade, the one that’s thrown before you’re aware he got grenades, is almost always the deadliest.

Once you know grenades are in play, you should lodge that piece of information in your brain and watch for the tell-tale Rifle squad closing in, running out of cover — he’s going for a grenade. Of course there’s also the obvious wind-up animation, but this is often difficult to see in a pitched fight with a ton of units. Suddenly there’s that deadly red 0.6 seconds timer floating over a ton of your dudes and you just know you’re screwed. In this case it’s best to retreat, as trying to move your men will simply apply a moving negative cover penalty to them. At least retreating gives you a 25% damage reduction, which means you’ve got a good chance of saving at least one member of all your squads.

I can’t overstate the impact of losing a battle with the Panzer Elite vs. the Americans. They’ll outcap all your shit, and you’ll take forever to recap it, by which time their waves of infantry will have regrouped. To add insult to injury, a Jeep will easily own a Kettenrad into infinity because of the weird pathfinding issue that continues to cause Kettenrad drivers to always give Jeeps the right of way, despite the dinky little machine gun blazing away at them.

For the record, I feel the balance between PE and Americans is quite good right now. Maybe the extra veterancy can be toned down a little bit, especially the amount given by researching grenades, stickies and BARs. Other than that (and it’s a minor point anyway), I feel the matchup is very fair — as a longtime American player and novice PE player.


Site Update: OMG Diablo III!!!

June 29, 2008

It\'s like third coming of Diablo!!!Sorry for the lack of updates this weekend, but there’s this little thing called Diablo III that was just announced by the Apple/Microsoft (take your pick) of video games, Blizzard Entertainment. Having long been a fan, my attention was sapped by this announcement and what it bodes for Earthlings everywhere. I mean, this is what I want in a sequel. Enough innovation so it seems fresh, but don’t for God’s sake mess with why I liked the game in the first place. Diablo III will remain isometric (even though it’s fully 3D) and that says a lot about how smart Blizzard is compared to Bethesda Softworks, which is making Fallout 3 something akin to a shooter and/or Fallout mod for Oblivion. Now if you have no clue what I’m talking about, and you’re wondering WTF is this guy doing writing about RPGs on an RTS blog, you are absolutely right and I am moving on.

Diablo III isn’t my only excuse. I have also been slaving away at creating the Rifles Ready! Store, which will be the platform through which you can buy COH-inspired models from military model-maker Unimax (parent of Forces of Valor). The store site is very feeble at the moment, as my HTML skills are quite poor without WordPress doing the hard work, but I hope to have it up and running very soon.

If you want to check it out now, I’d rather you didn’t. But if you really must, you can do some creative Googling to find the site. It’s live, just not pretty right now.


Surprise! Surprise is touring Europe

June 27, 2008

Surprise!Several folks have sent me emails asking about Surprise’s whereabouts. This is good, I’m starting to enjoy the fan mail, even if it’s for Surprise and not me. Anyway, if you must know, Steven “Surprise” Uray has been away overseas. Surprise — regarded by some as the brains behind Rifles Ready! — is currently in Europe, no doubt touring old World War II memorials and battlefields, soaking in the real-life history.

Upon his return to the United States, Surprise will briefly visit family in New Jersey before returning to his ancestral home in New Mexico (if I recall right), the site of his unprecedented climb to COH championship.

So if you were wondering where this guy is and why he isn’t posting on this blog, you’ve got your answer. He’s busy seeing the world. No precise ETA on when he gets back, but it ought to be by mid-July.

He may finish off a few posts before he returns, but don’t get your hopes up as his access to the Internet will reportedly be intermittent. I’ve peaked in our drafts folder and let me tell you, has this kid got some good stuff for our loyal readers.

I’m talkin’ a list of new COH players he feels are up-and-comers, I’m talkin’ more U.S. vs. Panzer Elite strategy, I’m talking mind games, the meaning of life, and so forth. In the meantime my own humble services will be at your disposal.


Skill is relative

June 26, 2008

Skill is relative

After reading my fellow author CorkScrewBlow delivering the most polite harangue yesterday, I’ve decided to chip in my two cents.

Skill is relative. I believe how good you think you are has to be measured against a benchmark of similar skill. Taking myself for example, it would do me no good if I were to compare myself against Surprise as until recently, I’ve always been a 2v2 player.

To truly gauge my skill level (and to improve), I need to play against and with players who’re moderately better than I am, but not to a point where I get my ass whipped and not learn anything out of the defeat. The best defeats are from games where the random skirmishes and strategic/VP fights were very close. You learn from that.

Read the rest of this entry »


Is CorkscrewBlow any good at the game?

June 25, 2008

This guy is no true Dudley. Those gloves have never seen a corkscrewblow.I am pleased to say I’ve run into a number of players, usually in beta automatch, who tell me they’ve read Rifles Ready! and really love it. This is really encouraging and it really makes all of us here — myself, Surprise and Adrock, feel very warm, fuzzy etc. inside. Recently however, I ran into several players who have read the blog, then “confront” me with comments like: “man your record in betta sux!!” and “ur like a terrible player, less than average who do u think u are giving advice and acting like ur better than seph and stuff.” Note I have faithfully reproduced the spelling and grammatical errors in these statements for comedic effect.

Indeed, I admit found these players’ remarks mildly amusing. Firstly, my beta record is immaterial, as numerous games consist of me trying out a slew of different random strats (going down right side of Luftwaffe, trying Scout Car spam again, trying 4ES, doing mass Jeeps + Raid, etc.). In any case, let me remind you all that it’s THE BETA. Why there is this fascination with records in the beta, I just don’t know.

My record in the retail game is 51 and 8, and I’m level 8 with U.S. and PE. Back in the vCOH days, I hit level 11 with U.S., which is my highest level to date. Should you suspect me to be a treacherous, deceptive liar, you are free to look up my record in the current retail game — my account name for 1v1s is “Jianshu” which is a Chinese phrase meaning swordplay.

That being said, I freely admit I’m no “pro” — which I guess we can define as perhaps level 11 or higher with a win ratio of say 70% or higher. I’m merely a working reporter trying to get better at COH, making a serious effort at it, and documenting everything I learn. The advice and knowledge of Surprise is an added bonus to this blog.

If you’re concerned that I’m not good enough to offer good advice, please point to something on this blog that turns out to be completely wrong, bad advice, etc. and write a comment or email me. We’re all very open to constructive criticism.

Once more for the record, I certainly don’t think I’m all that good, and I don’t think I’ve ever claimed to be as good or better than Sepha or Surprise or anyone else. Now, I firmly believe great players ought to be treated with respect and admiration (it’s really hard and time-consuming to get good at COH or any serious RTS, and if you have a full-time job, harder still).

But I can’t stress enough how dangerous it is and how self-destructive it is for a game’s community to become obsessed with “skill” as defined by somebody’s record. This is how the pressure for a good win/loss ratio is born, which contributes to the birth of drophackers. It also alienates many new or novice players, who get fed up with being treated habitually as a n00bz0rXxx!11!! and so they simply lose interest and leave.

This ain’t good for obvious reasons, as it will eventually thin out the community and with it, the likelihood of continued support from Relic and COH’s chances to become a more visible competitive RTS in the vein of Starcraft.

I want to stress one final point, that I don’t condone poor players acting all uppity. Everyone has a right to not be insulted, and to speak their piece, but if you have a record that’s like 300 to 299, your comments critiquing game balance or the gameplay of someone like ZeroCrack or Aniketos should probably be taken with a shitload of salt.


Miscellaneous: Relic’s secret beta award

June 24, 2008

Relic. God over all things COH.I know I’m late posting this, but Relic has unveiled a special and mysterious incentive for those plucky souls who spend the most amount of time playing the current COH balance playtest beta. Essentially, if you play the balance playtest a lot, you’ll have a good chance of being selected to receive a beta key for some undisclosed Relic product that is currently in beta.

Most people on GR.org, judging from the flurry of posts following the announcement, believe this secret beta is for Dawn of War II. I remain hopeful it will be for a second COH expansion, which is hopefully very far along, but still has many months to go for balance testing.

Company of Heroes: The Eastern Campaign, anyone?

Mukkel made the announcement on GR.org, the full text of which follows:

“Hi everyone,

Relic is proud to announce eligibility to an upcoming currently unannounced Relic Beta for qualified participants in the Company of Heroes – Balance Playtest! We will be capturing metrics (accumulated time in-game, number of games, etc…) to decide our winners. The winners will be notified at the conclusion of the Playtest. The Playtest does not currently have an end-date, however one will be given approximately two weeks prior.

The top 100 participants will receive the aforementioned beta key!

You can download the Company of Heroes – Balance Playtest installer at the following address:

Download Installer Here

NOTE: The installer will not modify your existing game files. You will need 8gb of hard drive space free in order to install the Playtest. Feel free to use your usual username/password to log in. Please make sure the email address associated with your account is correct!

The Relic Team”


In-depth: Love your 2v2 partner

June 24, 2008

Captain America and Bucky
Love is in the air. This season, 2v2 lovers should all proudly display their affection for each other by giving each other a big XOXO.

While many players love the Russian Roulette-style of 2v2 and plunge headlong into the game relying solely on Luck to get them through, a growing number (a large figure, but small compared to the majority) of players are developing ‘online relationships’ that grow with each passing game.

I liken the development of a 2v2 team to the Russian Army fighting the war on the Eastern Front against the all-conquering Germans in WW2. At the start of the theater of war in 1941, the Red Army had troops with little or no combat experience and were given primitive weapons and little training. Yet by 1943, the army had learnt how to deal with the tactics employed by the Germans and were backed up with an almost inexhaustible amount of manpower and industrial strength.

Likewise, no great team starts out with telepathic understanding of each other’s movements and unit selection. When a new team forms, players tend to build units that they’re comfortable with. Most likely they’ll start with a set strategy in mind eg. Player A focuses on anti-tank and Player B focuses on anti-infantry.

Their strategy fails. Somewhere along the lines, as manpower shortage catches up on them and concentration begins to waver, they scrap their strategy and begin to play the game on their own.

This carries on for a few more games, and they suffer more unexpected losses. Blaming each other, the team is disbanded and each go about their separate ways, looking for a ‘better’ partner.

Lots of ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’, but heaping blame on each other surely isn’t the way to go. Read the rest of this entry »