The midgame between Americans and Panzer Elite becomes significantly more complicated, as the PE gains access to extremely powerful units that significantly increases the already impressive amount of damage they can concentrate on a single point.
Particularly vicious will be massed G43 fire combined with either FG42-toting Fallschirmjagers or the still-fearsome Armored Car. You may also find yourself on the receiving end of mortar fire from the extremely mobile, long-range PE Mortar Halftrack.
In the beta’s current state, you’ve pretty much got two routes to transition from the American early game to the midgame.
This doctrine stands apart from all others in that it doesn’t require a Motorpool to counter PE vehicles. Paratroopers with their Recoilless Rifles can do that quite nicely, so you can use your fuel early in the game, getting early grenades, stickies, BARs or some combination thereof. An early Triage Center is also strongly advised as it will reduce your overall casualty rate by allowing you to always send fully-healed reinforced squads back into battle. Remember the new Rifleman veterancy bonus from researching Barracks upgrades will really help you in the long run. There is now a strong incentive to research at least ONE of the Barracks upgrades, even if you plan to tech straight to the Motorpool and M8.
Without 2-CP Paratroopers, you are pretty much guaranteed to need some tried-and-true favorites. Two units are as American as the Fourth of July: the M8 and the 57mm AT Gun. The M8 is your answer to all PE light vehicles except the Light AT Halftrack (you’ll need to be much more conservative with your M8 when you see one of these puppies). The 57mm AT Gun is a wonderful weapon that is practically guaranteed to snipe several PE halftracks through the course of a match. So if you aren’t Airborne, you should be conserving your fuel so you get the Motorpool ASAP.
What about Rangers?
I know what some of you are thinking. Can’t you use Rangers as you would Paratroopers? That way you can skip Motorpool when you pick Infantry Company as well, right? Well, Rangers aren’t quite as good as the Paratroopers for a couple of reasons. First, they come at 3 CPs while Paratroopers arrive at 2 CPs. Second, bazookas aren’t quite as good as Recoilless Rifles. Finally, and possibly the most important reason, Airborne Company offers you air-dropped AT Guns at 4 CPs while Infantry Company will still need a Motorpool to get AT Guns. Don’t get me wrong, Rangers are really strong and totally own Panzer Grenadiers at closer ranges with their Thompsons, I just think you can’t afford to skip the Motorpool. Remember many PE players will tech to the Panzer IV Infantry Support Tank to counter large numbers of Rifles and Rangers, and you CANNOT effectively counter PG-supported Panzer IVs without an AT Gun.
These are all big-picture ideas so far, but you really must be thinking of these (and how they fit into the resource control of your current game) to win. Moving on…
Dealing with Armored Cars
Even if you went straight to Motorpool for the M8 and skipped all Rifle upgrades, odds are a competent opponent will produce an AC a good minute or two before your M8 hits the field. Back in the day, or in the present retail game, this would be a pretty big problem because the AC would slaughter Rifles by the bushel and your opponent could use his window of 1-2 minutes to cut off your strategic points, stopping your fuel income just in time to make the M8 many minutes away (remember you always get +5 fuel from your HQ).
But in the beta, Riflemen in cover do fairly well against the AC, particularly if they’re packing BARs and focusing their fire. A Jeep can also come in very handy, utilizing its speed to get behind an AC and block its retreat route so your Riflemen can move in for the kill. Simply charging many Rifles at an AC is still not advised, as the AC will do the same damage it’s always done to moving Riflemen.
Remember a smart PE player will try to flank your Rifles and any AT guns you have using the speed of the AC. An AC firing behind your men can be quite devastating in very short order. If you see this happening, it’s a perfect opportunity for a Sticky Bomb, which will actually kill any AC at 60% health or below. An M8 can also be used to stop a flanking AC.
Dealing with elite infantry
I’ve been seeing a lot of this lately, namely multiple Fallschirmjagers combined with Increased Squad Sizes and MP44-toting PGs/Assault Grenadiers. Often a single Light AT Halftrack is built to counter your M8; there’s usually also a Panzershreck squad or two.
This is pretty painful as Rifles, even with BARs, can’t stand up too well against elite infantry. You do have three major cards up your sleeve: 1.) Grenades, which are devastating to small squads, one grenade can kill even a four-man Fallschirmjager or PG squad if they’re moving and suffering a negative cover penalty; 2.) Suppressing Fire from BARs will stop charging infantry and allow you the few extra seconds you need to refocus fire on individual squads; 3.) Stand and deliver with your own elite squads — remember that triple-vetted Rifles gain staggeringly good bonuses. A Rifle squad with three chevrons gains a 45% increase to accuracy, a 50% increase to damage, longer Sticky Bomb range, and is 20% harder to hit, 25% harder to suppress, fires 25% faster and takes 15% less damage across the board. That’s enough to make a BAR-equipped Rifle squad competitive with any kind of elite infantry the Panzer Elite can throw at you.
Snipers are of course, an excellent option, though their power becomes diluted with 4-man squads. You can still snipe one man and focus all fire on that wounded squad to great effect in the mid and late-game, however. Remember American Mortar teams do significantly more damage to PE infantry now as well. An MG squad is recommended anytime you sense VPs will be a major factor in the game; one MG can defend a VP for a very long time and will typically cause your opponent to prefer going for the other VPs on the map.
Dealing with the Marder III defensive push
This is a somewhat conservative strategy that rarely seen in the beta (Marder lock-down bonuses heavily nerfed), but I have faced this twice, one against Luftwaffe and once against Scorched Earth doctrine. Basically it’s the same PE crap (G43s, Infantry HTs, ACs) until the midgame, where a couple of Marders are fielded, supported and used to push on your position. A Mortar HT bombards your AT guns, sometimes with the aid of a cloaked Luftwaffe Ketten. The Ketten line-of-sight also is used to allow the Marders to lock down and fire on your AT guns, with the aim of destroying them so PE ACs and Infantry HTs can close in on your Rifles.
Eventually the idea is to lock you in your base, capping sectors you need to break out and defending those sectors with either Butterfly Bombs or Sector Artillery and Booby Traps. It’s annoying, it’s slow, it’s campy and it often allows the PE player time to research the Panther Battlegroup and just accumulate a shitload of vehicles and armor.
This is a great time to use Rangers and Paratroopers against vehicles and Marders; it’s somewhat dangerous to use Armor Company because Calliopes (the perfect answer) arrive too late. You’ll have to constantly displace your AT guns to avoid mortar fire. The opportunity you’re looking for is a single push with Rifles and AT guns from several directions, combined with help from either Off-map Artillery (Infantry Company) or a well-aimed Strafing Run to thin PG escort (Airborne).
More than anything this type of midgame is unnerving and wears you down, as you tend to get panicky while the PE player’s entire strategy revolves around him carefully placing units and minimizing his losses. You’ll have to force yourself into the same mindset and look for opportunities to time your multi-pronged attack. All it takes is a single good one to reverse the tide.