The first match between blast-from-the-past legend Nystrom and current pro SayNotoStim wasn’t quite the thrilling slugfest everyone expected. Nystrom teched to tanks, but too slowly to have any real effect. To quote Nystrom himself, “I was a noob with my tanks.” Yes, you were, my friend. But all that is past and gone, for these two champs slug it away a second time on Angoville.
It’s a better match this time, more evenly rounded in the early game, but it’s like an arm wrestling match that lasts a long time: one guy is clearly winning, but his opponent puts up a meteoric effort, lasting a long time but never able to reverse the tide.
Nystrom opens with a little wire and swings right; Stim goes left and builds a sandbag or two near the high fuel to give his Pioneers an edge over any Engineers. This is quite common in maps where the first thing you do is go for a valuable resource point in an open area. Early fights are often very important, particularly in high-level play, where few mistakes are made, meaning each small mistake puts a player behind for a long time, because it will take a long time for a good opponent to slip up and make things even. Having a sandbag also means you can cap while benefitting from green cover, which somewhat offsets the extra damage your squad takes while capping. This is great for stalling just long enough to cap that high resource point, meaning that even though you’re forced to retreat, your opponent must first decap it and is delayed.
Moments later there’s a very instructive early fight at the top left high ammo point, just at the mouth of Nystrom’s base. Stim has a Volk squad, a bike and a Pioneer. Nystrom has one Rifle squad and one Engineer. He is outgunned. Both players target their opponent’s weakest unit, the unit most likely to die quickly to massed fire before it can be retreated: the Pioneer/Engineer. This is a great way to reduce early game capping power, plus it prevents synergy from happening because a dead Pio or Engy can’t repair bikes or Jeeps. Unfortunately, Volks and a bike do a ton of damage when focused on a single target, and Nystrom’s Engy takes extra damage while it tries to charge closer to Stim’s Pio. This quickly causes Engineer squad members to drop, and Nystrom is forced to retreat. Both armies here have equal yellow cover, and with his Engy gone, Nystrom knows his single squad won’t last long under that combined fire. But this is a pro we’re talking about here. He wouldn’t leave a squad fighting a fight it can’t win for no good reason.
His refusal to retreat the first Rifle becomes obvious: Rifle squad number two approaches from the rear and now Stim is solidly outgunned. The good thing about yellow cover from bushes is that it’s omni-directional. Terrain elements like walls, fences or vehicle carcasses only protect your men if your men are BEHIND them. But if your squad is in the middle of bushes and foliage, they’re considered in cover regardless of the direction of attack. But of course this small advantage isn’t enough for Stim to win; he retreats. This tiny little skirmish illustrates a lot of concepts crucial to COH (or any RTS, really): 1.) focus-firing the right target at the right time, 2.) retreating a wounded unit at the right time, and 3.) equalizing a fight however you can, so you don’t give up territory needlessly.
Stim finally whips out his MG42, the Wehrmacht’s signature unit, and boy does he know how to use it well. A key element of good MG use is shifting its firing arc. You force a Rifle to retreat, your opponent remembers where your MG was pointing and the next time he anticipates, flanking your position and inflicting heavy damage. You must therefore anticipate HIS movements and shift your MG in the direction of likely flanking movements. Great stuff that really captures real-life concepts, or at least the essence of them.
Nystrom tries to repeatedly outflank MGs and is mildly successful, however Stim knows every trick there is about MGs, it appears. He uses the edge of the map to set up an almost unflankable position with a single MG; because the MG can’t be flanked from behind, a Rifle must approach at an extreme, near 180-degree angle to avoid getting hit. Even worse, if you DO get hit, any other squads will get hit as they try to move past the first squad to attack the MG from the other side.
Stim uses downtime — gained whenever Nystrom is forced to temporarily yield the field and reinforce — to set up his bunker. This is pretty much impossible to prevent against a good Wehrmacht player. You might get lucky and rush him once or twice while he’s trying to get the bunker up, but he’ll eventually get it up. Depending on your map control, consider getting a WSC and mortar. In this case, Nystrom sees the whole thing happening because his flamer squad is behind the hedgerow. He gets very tempted to rush the flamer in there, because Pios take extra damage while building and incomplete structures take huge damage from ordinary small arms fire.
Stim’s ready, however; his MG is deployed to cover the entire gap between the hedgerow and a fair chunk of the map to the north of the gap. The flamer is quickly suppressed and retreated…
…But not before the Pioneer squad is brutally dispatched, with one poor Kraut running and screaming to a fiery death.
It’s little things like that flaming death animation that make COH so wonderful. Anyway, the overall attack is a debacle for Nystrom, because he inflicted no damage to the bunker itself and his men are suppressed silly while Stim brings up another Pioneer to finish the job.
What he really needed was a deeper flanking movement, with the bulk of his men hitting the position from behind the MG. Of course, it’s easy to say this when you’re watching the replay; in the heat of the moment, your vision hampered by the fog of war, it’s very tough to plan a really good flank.
This time around, Nystrom’s overall strategy eschews tanks altogether. He spends his fuel on grenades and BARs. Early BARs make a huge difference for the Americans. Effective Rifle play with BARs can bring a Wehrmacht player to his knees, because you can get BARs well before he gets hard counters like Pumas or level 2 veterancy. You must therefore capitalize as much as you can on your brief window of Rifle superiority over all Wehrmacht infantry. It’s a great time to try and earn veterancy for your Riflemen. Remember: Vetted Rifles (particularly level 2 and 3) are very fearsome yet most Axis players aren’t aware of this, and are surprised when their elite infantry get raped by vetted Rifles. It can’t be overstated — keep your Riflemen alive and constantly fighting! They’re well worth the effort.
Anyway, Nystrom back techs to a WSC for the mortar to counter the bunker, but he makes little headway and Stim is able to reach tier 4 and pump out a Panzer IV. Nystrom sees this coming and has an air-dropped 57mm waiting, to his credit. He also gets Sticky Bombs, but makes a conscious choice NOT to get Paratroopers with Recoilless Rifles, which is a mistake in my opinion. AT guns are easily lost or destroyed. In my opinion, you really need Paras AND AT guns against heavy Axis armor. Paratroopers, with their Fire-up ability, can catch nearly-dead tanks trying to slip away and kill them with their high-penetration weapons.
A little later, another terribly annoying trait of AT guns is demonstrated — AT gun on AT gun violence. They just don’t miss each other in retail, which is immensely frustrating. You might argue it sort of evens out in terms of balance, because both American and Wehrmact AT guns have equal accuracy against one another, but 57mms almost always lose because they can’t respond quickly to cloaked Paks. The Pak, with its sick first-strike damage bonus, just about always melts the 57mm while taking at most one shot in return.
This right here is an excellent reason to keep your AT guns repaired whenever possible. Think of them as you would any other vehicle. They are the finest American AT weapon and a crucial part of your army. Remember: AT guns earn veterancy quickly and their veterancy bonuses are OFF THE CHARTS. A 15% accuracy bonus at level 1, a 50% penetration bonus at level 2, and a 25% damage bonus at level 3. American veterancy is hard-earned, literally, but the bonuses are really, really good.
At this point Nystrom really needs something to equalize the match and he gets it; an opportunity to land a solid Strafing Run, which he does, eliminating an MG and a Grenadier squad, killing nine men in all.
Unfortunately Stim is very close to his King Tiger, and he soon gets it. Throughout this time, Nystrom has been repeatedly dropping his 350 manpower AT guns, which seems pricey, but the extra manpower costs of a Supply Depot and Motorpool is about the same as paying an extra 70 manpower for air-dropped AT guns instead of the 280 manpower ones that roll out of the Motorpool.
One interesting tidbit to note, Stim uses Propaganda War on a pack of Rifles, and while two squads retreat, another squad, with level 2 veterancy, stays put. Weird, huh? In this shot you can clearly see where the little propaganda leaflets landed, yet the Riflemen patriotically ignore it and slap that Sticky on the King Tiger.
Throughout this game Nystrom has suffered heavy manpower upkeep from all his Rifle squads; he doesn’t build a Supply Depot, so he just has to suck up his poor manpower rate. This was another mistake, in my opinion, particularly given the heavy Rifleman losses American players always sustain. It’s a disadvantage that really hurts the Americans, and I’ve never been able to justify this design decision. Manpower was something the Allies had a ton of, it was their key advantage over the Axis historically. I know that has no bearing on the game, but the inferiority of Riflemen and the fact they have to be babied to preserve veterancy, plus the inferiority of American armor and overall late-game inferiority, could’ve been remedied by NOT penalizing the manpower upkeep. Ah, just a thought.
The remainder of the game consists of a standoff between Nystrom’s AT guns and Riflemen and Stim’s heavy armor and Grenadiers. The American strategy here is of course the AT creep, wherein you slowly advance your AT guns, staggering them to prevent a tank from flanking them, and keeping your Rifles close by in support.
Unfortunately, the Wehmacht have a ready answer in the Walking Stuka. Don’t get me started on how annoying they are in retail with the absurd dodge bonus from vehicle veterancy.
The best you can do as an American player to counter the massive 60mm rockets they launch is…
…Keep moving your AT guns to avoid being hit. Lame counter, but there it is. As you can imagine, this doesn’t exactly even things out. Nystrom needs to eliminate that Stuka, just like he needs to eliminate all of Stim’s armor, but AT guns are tough to use in assault, particularly without Paratroopers and one or two Shermans in support, and a Bombing Run to soften up the enemy.
Anyway, that’s a wrap for Nystrom. Afterwards the two engage in some classy conversation, wherein Nystrom concludes that he lost too many early game battles. That’s true in a nutshell, but there’s some specifics that ought to be mentioned.
– Good use of flanking maneuvers
– Good use of mortar team, getting numerous kills
– Well-aimed Strafing Run
– Good unit preservation
– Needed Paratroopers and Recoilless Rifles; earlier they could’ve used a Satchel Charge against the Bunker
– Lost too much manpower, didn’t have enough to tech to Supply Depot and upgrades, which made manpower shortage even worse
– Lost too much territory and kept getting forced off the field by MGs
SayNotoStim (aka CherrySlurpee)
– Great unit positioning and unit combos
– Excellent MG placement, almost every Rifle attack was met with suppressing MG42 fire
– Excellent use of focused fire to eliminate biggest threats
– Good use of resources to tech and buy infantry/tank veterancy
– Multiple Knights Cross would’ve been preferable to continued Panzer IV spam, given heavy AT gun opposition
– Repair bunker would’ve helped