These days you can pretty much expect a Wehrmacht player to go tier 2, unless it’s the beta and they can field phase-shifting Pumas (there’s a bug that gives them a 60% or higher chance to dodge incoming fire). But seeing as how pretty much no one is playing the beta in its current craptacular state (can you tell I’m bitter? Does it show?), you are probably playing retail COH, which means your Americans are getting constantly jacked up by long-range mortars, tons of Grenadiers and MG42 bunkers pinning you down everywhere you move. What’s a guy to do? Your options are pretty much these: Rifle upgrades + WSC, or tech to Motorpool. But the truth is more brutally simple. You’ve got to get that WSC up and use your own mortar/MG/Sniper to keep map control so you can survive to get proper counters — Tank Depot or doctrine-specific abilities like Off-map Artillery/Howitzer or Strafing Run or the Calliope. It’s tough, and it’s really frustrating to fight a good Wehrmacht player who’s laying barbed wire, building multiple bunkers and doing all kinds of other really annoying stuff.
But hang tough, soldier: you can seize the initiative and turn the reliable, methodical nature of all tier 2 Wehrmacht strategies against the player employing them.
The dangers of Wehrmacht’s tier 2 are all accentuated by the strategy’s emphasis on map control. Crisscrossing MG42s will slow you down and delay or deny your access to fuel points. The fuel goes towards upgrading their infantry veterancy while your Rifles must bleed for veterancy. The objective is to keep you under the Nazi jackboot all game, while your opponent buys time and space to lay mines, sandbags (with barbed wire facing your men) and even tank traps. It gives the Wehrmacht the extra time needed to tech to very nasty tier 4 units like Knight’s Cross Holders and Panzer IVs.
A straight tech from Riflespam to a Motorpool shock unit like the Quad or M8 is not going to be effective against a good tier 2 Wehr player. Grenadiers packing panzershrecks and backed by an invisible Pak 38 can kill your precious high-tech shock unit in seconds. The Quad and M8 are lazy, easy ways to eliminate MG42-defended positions. They’re also extremely high-risk against Wehr’s tier 2 unit mix.
Nope, your best bet is this little building right here. The Weapons Support Center can be had quicker than Wehr’s Kriegs Barracks, right after your second or third Rifle squad. The unit you want out first depends a lot on your situation. If you are betting early on that your opponent is going for tier 2, my vote is for an MG. Get an MG into a key building and you’ve got yourself a terrific base of fire that will cover your Riflemen. It’s even better if your MG starts dueling an MG42 in an opposing building — free opportunity for your Rifles to close and flank, or for you to send a flame Engineer around back. A Mortar Team is your next safest bet, because it can safely eliminate MG42s from afar and will guarantee your Rifles a major edge against massed Volks in a ranged firefight — the Volks can’t stay in cover or they’ll eat mortar rounds. The drawback is that Mortar Teams are defenseless and can take a long time to kill an MG. They are also outranged by the Wehrmacht’s mortar, which does more damage as well. Their only advantage is that you can get them out before your opponent. Lastly, the Sniper is a great WSC unit, but a very risky choice for obvious reasons. Suicidal motorbikes. Countersnipes. Getting rushed by a random enemy squad while your attention and Riflemen are elsewhere. But the Sniper can reliably eliminate MG42s (make sure the Sniper has line of sight to MG42 squad members through windows, otherwise he will move for a shot on his own).
Regardless of which WSC unit you elect to train first, you’ll need to rely on all three, working in conjunction with your Riflemen, to hold your own in terms of map and resource control.
Maintain VP parity
Just about every game against a determined tier 2 Wehrmacht player is going to result in a long, hard-fought match defined by attrition over time. Any attempt at a decisive assault on your part is likely to result in failure and subsequent loss of territory. Therefore, it will be crucial for you to keep a constant eye on the victory points. Maintaining VP parity is essential. I hate losing because my VPs ticked out so it’s really important to keep things even, from the very beginning. You should pay special attention to building a VP advantage because it’s easier for Wehrmacht to push and hold than it is for you. Your mortar is outranged and outpowered. Your Riflemen can’t stand up to Grenadiers packing LMGs and free veterancy. This type of game denies your Rifles the opportunities to soak up veterancy, while the tier 2 Wehr player is assured of veterancy by consolidating his fuel and manpower.
Breaking the stalemate
As I said earlier, the Rifles/WSC unit mix is intended to fight off your opponent long enough for you to reach a tiebreaking unit or ability. At best, your unit mix can only stalemate tier 2 Wehr, and will eventually be worn down by their superior mortar and army-wide veterancy. The best tiebreaker is Off-map Artillery, which can be activated with your Sniper acting as spotter. Strafing Runs are decent as well, but ineffective against MG42s and bunkers. They also don’t do too much to vetted Grenadiers, and they don’t do much to anyone in the current beta patch. Your other options include the trusty Sherman, which comes pretty darn late depending on the map, and of course the Armor Company’s contribution, the Calliope. Nothing kills a tier 2 defensive line better than a purifying rain of Calliope rocket fire, but that you’ll feel awfully naked until that Pershing rolls out.
Off-map arty is great because it does a lot of damage to bunkers and has a tendency to splash around a bit, which can be deadly to any nearby squads or mortars or Paks, especially if your opponent is late to notice smoke. Frequently you can get off “stealth” off-map arty barrages by using your Sniper to spot. Your opponent won’t see any of your units on his screen, there’ll just be a puff of dark red smoke. You can play mind games by attacking some random unit of his across the map to draw his attention, then instantly drop the off-map arty on his defensive line while he’s busy checking out what got attacked.
Preparing for the endgame
Pop quiz: depending on which doctrine your opponent selected, what should you expect from the Wehrmacht’s endgame? The answer is heavy armor. You can expect heavy-ass armor, in the form of a King Tiger or Blitz Tiger, or multiple Panzer IVs (depending again on how fuel-heavy the map is). In my opinion, the endgame can’t be won (assuming it’s been a pretty even match, and most tier 2 Wehr games wind up being pretty even if you use your unit mix well) without 57mm AT guns.
Shermans are not going to cut it. They should be thought of largely as bunker-clearing, Grenadier-kiting medium armor, unsuited for duels with Wehrmacht heavy armor backed by panzershrecks and Paks. Nope, your best option are 57mms backed by vetted Rifles who can throw long-range Sticky Bombs. Theoretically M10s would be effective in complementing your AT guns, but in practice they pretty much get owned silly by tanks, shrecks, Paks, just about anything German that ends with the letter “k.”
To sum it up, you’ll need to play a well-paced game and you’ll need a mixed army to handle tier 2 and the inevitable tier 4 elite infantry and heavy armor that will follow.