REPLAY: Calneon (Armor) vs. Sjceran (Tank Busters) RETAIL 2.301
At long last, a Battle Report! I am so very sorry for the recent, unexpectedly long hiatus on Rifles Ready!, but being a first-time homeowner is remarkably time-consuming. The irony is, my video card got fried but that’s actually not slowing me down much. It’ll prevent me from watching any replays or playing COH till my RMA is processed and a replacement card sent, but I’ll be able to keep posting via my laptop.
Anyway, to the match. This is a very textbook match between two outstanding players, Calneon and Sjceran, who show off the textbook tactics dominating the current retail version of Opposing Fronts. From the former, we have an excellent Rifle opening followed by a fast M8 and AT guns from the Motorpool. From the latter, we have Panzer Grenadiers and G43s en masse, followed by the Light Anti-tank Halftrack, Teller Mines, Panzer IV support tanks and Hetzers.
You’ll see counter after counter-counter and very strong unit movement and placing. It’s a shame that the US-PE matchup has devolved into games that practically force the use of the fast M8 and fast-M8-counter strategies, but this replay shows exactly why this works and how to do it well.
Calneon starts the game off with Engineers going for both sides of Langres, which is quite important given that key +10 fuels are very evenly distributed across the map. You really can’t just ignore one side because of the even fuel distribution. The first skirmish appears to put Calneon in a terrible position, his first Rifle is caught out of cover by a PG squad that is very comfortably entrenched in green cover.
He suffers bad luck, losing two squad members because the Riflemen fidget without clustering behind the hay bale. A lesser player might lose his nerve, but Calneon has a reason to keep his men in a losing fight…
…the second Rifle appears in time to force the PG to retreat, buying Calneon precious time in the early game to use his Rifle’s fast 1.25 capping speed to cap the important ammo sector near his base.
You know you want to find out what happens next…
Sjceran does something unique here, he starts building Scout Cars because he went with a Logistik Kompanie start instead of the more standard Kampfgruppe Kompanie with its powerful Infantry Halftracks and on-field reinforcement. Unfortunately Scout Cars are a liability in many combat situations, particularly when Rifles enter buildings.
Scout Cars are great at chasing away Engies and capping territory; they offset the PE’s capping weakness. The lack of reinforcement from Infantry HTs is sort of compensated for because Increased Squad Sizes can be had from the Logistik building — you frequently encounter full-size PG squads early on against a PE player using a Logistik start. Scout Cars can of course act as the PE’s Observation Posts or OPs once they are locked down. It’s really annoying when a Scout Car locks down a large sector — you suddenly find yourself unable to cap that territory because there’s a Scout Car somewhere on the very edge of it, locking it down.
I digress, because Sjceran doesn’t really bother with those advanced features of the Scout Car. He realizes the strength of his superior G43 infantry has been blunted by Calneon outcapping him and keeping his vanilla Rifles close together and in cover. Because he went for Logistik, he has no access to Panzershrecks and techs right for the Light AT Halftrack and its deadly Treadbreaker ability. Good thing too, because Calneon is en route to a lightning fast M8, with his Motorpool going up a mere 5 minutes into the match.
Calneon also takes this time to put up a Medic tent in the preferred nook on Langres (at least if the US player starts at the top). Because of its proximity to the top player’s crucial strategic point, a lot of fighting takes place within range of this location, meaning lots of injured make it back here. The tent itself is practically impervious to frontal attack because of the hedgerow.
Sjceran is very aware of his situation, and knows the lack of Rifle upgrades means that an M8 is coming. He is more than ready and pops out his Light AT HT to counter the anticipated M8. He is so ready that the M8 is barely out of its base before getting hit by a Treadbreaker. The M8 is immobilized, but this is pointless because it’s trailed by two of Calneon’s Engies.
They quickly repair the damage. Engies counter the Treadbreaker, essentially countering a PE counter-unit. More of this countering follows; Sjceran moves to target the Engies with his G43 PGs. Infantry that are repairing objects take greatly increased damage and are easier to hit; here Calneon’s targeted Engy squad moves away to avoid dying even though the PGs are very far away. The increased accuracy and damage penalty is THAT nasty. Meanwhile Calneon builds his first 57mm AT gun, an absolutely crucial unit when you are facing PE players. 57mms decimate all halftracks and are the best early counter to the fearsome Panzer IV infantry support tank, which is Sjceran’s next move.
Before we get to that, I’d like to point out something very fundamental about Calneon’s tried-and-true Motorpool strategy. We are still relatively early in the game, about 10 minutes or so, but Calneon has an M8, multiple Rifles and a 57mm AT gun all very well placed. Rifles on point, M8 in close support, Engies ready to counter Treadbreaker, AT gun in the rear to kill PE light armor. It’s a unit mix that counters just about everything the PE can throw at the US, even Mortar HTs are not really the answer. You just have to be attentive and shift your infantry and AT guns to avoid the mortar. This powerful unit mix allows you the chance to size the Victory Point advantage and hold it while slowly upgrading your Rifles and getting Supply Depot upgrades.
Sjceran has two Light AT HTs and lots of 4-man PG squads packing G43s; nevertheless he is pushed back primarily because of the damage inflicted by Calneon’s 57mm. He takes heavy damage to his HTs thanks to small arms fire from pursuing Riflemen; however Calneon makes a major avoidable mistake by letting his pursuit squad target a full-health Scout Car instead of an almost-dead Light AT HT. Nevertheless he emerges with a clear advantage.
He also builds a second M8, which I personally feel is somewhat unnecessary, however Sjceran does have two Light AT HTs, which essentially means two Treadbreaking shots. Unfortunately he keeps both M8s together when crossing a main road and one M8 is cripped by a Teller mine. It’s now clear to Calneon that he can expect more Kraut armor down the road — first Hetzers and ultimately the Jagdpanther. Sjceran brings up his first Panzer IV to finish off the crippled M8; en route he catches a random Rifle squad in mid-movement and kills it with a single shot, which is just fucking outrageous if you ask me. It’s one of those situations where neither player was really controlling the units involved; it just happened, pretty much automatically.
After getting in range of the M8, the Panzer IV fires at it; simultaneously Calneon’s 57mm fires from long range at the Panzer. It’s not clear whether the Panzer IV or the 57mm round hits the M8, but the M8 explodes a second after the two rounds both appear to hit it. I suppose I could rewatch the replay to find out what happened exactly, but it makes little difference.
The big point is, Sjceran now has the advantage because his Panzer IV outguns the entire US army and is threatened only by a single AT gun, which can be flanked easily, though the Panzer is guaranteed to take a hit. Sjceran knows he has a short window of opportunity during which Calneon doesn’t have enough AT guns to deter a flanking charge by his armor. And so the Panzer IV advances.
Because the Panzer IV advances alone, without any other PE armor, it takes several hits and is nearly dead by the time it outflanks Calneon’s AT gun. The AT gun crew is killed, but advancing US Rifles force the PGs to retreat. The first Panzer IV is eventually hunted down and destroyed by the surviving M8. It should be noted that M8s can do decent damage against Panzer IVs but ONLY from hitting it with rear shots. Still, it’s a sweet kill for Calneon and swings the overall battle back into his favor. He knows he’ll face more Panzer IVs, followed by Hetzers and a Jagd, so he starts building more AT guns.
Sjceran knows this is bad; Calneon essentially managed to win the second major test, being ready for the Panzer IV. It’s really a mistake by Sjceran, he needed his infantry and halftracks to draw fire from the AT gun while flanking with the Panzer IV from a less obvious direction.
Without the Panzer IV on point, a general advance by Riflemen and the surviving M8 costs Sjceran his Mortar HT and a Light AT HT.
The game has been very even up until this point, but the loss of the Panzer and two halftracks throws it clearly into Calneon’s court. He consolidates his lead by using extra resources to tech to a Tank Depot. By now Sjceran has Hetzers and sends a Hetzer and a second Panzer IV to attack from the top left, a direction that he thinks is undefended. But Calneon has built up a critical mass of 3 AT guns and happens to have one of them watching that flank. Sjceran makes another mistake, which is to engage the AT gun head-on. This isn’t necessarily a bad idea, in retail AT guns get blown up by tanks very fast. But unfortunately, right after the AT gun dies, an M10 tank destroyer emerges from Calneon’s base, killing the Panzer IV.
The Hetzer attacks the M10 head-on and Calneon tries to circle-strafe it. I would say the M10 has the advantage one-on-one thanks to its turret and the Hetzer’s lack of a turret, but Sjceran backs his Hetzer against the edge of the map. This is a very clever move and prevents the Hetzer from being circled. TIP: You can use a hedgerow or a building to achieve the same effect if your Hetzer (or Stug for that matter) isn’t near the edge of the map. The Hetzer does a lot of damage to the M10 and eventually kills it in Calneon’s base.
Calneon retreats a couple of Riflemen to throw Stickies on the Hetzer, which is trying to kill an almost-dead M8 that’s also in Calneon’s base. Meanwhile, as this drama ensues, Sjceran sees an opportunity to make a major push from the south against Calneon’s main force. This time, Sjceran supports his armor with four fully-reinforced PG squads, a good move because Calneon just retreated most of his Rifles to handle the Hetzer. This is an example of drawing the enemy’s attention and dividing his forces so your main assault will have an advantage.
Sjceran makes another mistake here by locking down his Panzer IV to eliminate the AT gun, he really should’ve kept the Panzer back until his deadly four-man PG squads killed the AT gun. That said, the AT gun is eliminated, but Calneon picks this moment to place his command points and deploy a Calliope tank. The ensuing fire support forces the PGs to retreat before they can overrun Calneon’s position.
Meanwhile, back in Calneon’s base, the badly damaged M8 uses the Tank Depot as cover from the Hetzer, which has been rendered nearly immobile by Sticky Bombs.
The 1% bug is on full display here, as the near-dead Hetzer absorbs Sticky after Sticky. It finally goes down to a fourth (I believe it was number 4) Sticky.
Sjceran keeps the armor coming; this is possible largely due to the fact that PE armies suffer less upkeep penalty compared to US armies. Four Rifle squads drops manpower flow from 270+ to around 245, which is a huge hit. In the late game, PE armies still get around 255-260, without requiring a Supply Depot or any associated upgrades. And so the armor keeps flowing.
Sjceran launches another frontal attack with a Hetzer and Panzer IV, this time it’s slightly more effective and the AT gun is destroyed rapidly by the locked-down Panzer IV. Again, in my opinion PGs should’ve been sent to eliminate the AT guns first, or at least simultaneously. There is just no point in losing armor to AT guns head-on.
The Hetzer is engaged by a second M10 and the Calliope gets in close, unleashing a concentrated barrage that actually destroys the locked-down Panzer.
This is pretty much GG for Sjceran; he’s lost too much armor while inflicting far too little damage in return. To add insult to injury, his Bergetiger is destroyed in retreat by the M10, which hits triple chevron elite status. This was evidently the result of the Bergetiger being rallied to a forward position and Sjceran being too busy microing his real armor to reposition the Bergetiger.
I should note, it is very tough for an M10 to survive long enough to earn three chevrons. If you can get actually get an M10 to elite status, you’ve got yourself the lean, mobile AT machine the US really needs against Axis heavy armor. It gains a 25% speed boost, a 50% penetration bonus and a 25% damage bonus. Nasty!
Alas, the elite M10 gets hit by a Treadbreaker at range and then finds itself facing a shiny new Jagdpanther, Sjceran’s Hail Mary pass in a final bid to wrest map control away from his opponent. The M10 can’t do diddly against a Jagdpanther without its mobility, and is destroyed in short order. Remember: All cannon penetration against armored targets is reduced at medium and long range. It’s really unusual for a PE player to be in such a lower hand that even a Jagdpanther can’t swing the momentum back; but Sjceran’s lost armor also means lost manpower and less infantry support. Had he been doing better, he could’ve leveraged his Jagdpanther and PGs much better, killing AT guns, the PGs with Advanced Repair healing the Jag, which does its part hunting down the Calliope and assaulting Calneon’s base.
Sadly, the VPs have ticked down to tremendously low levels because of Calneon’s persistent map control. He sends a Rifle squad down deep and briefly steals Sjceran’s closest VP; while Sjceran is fully aware of how important VPs are at this point, his infantry is just too far out of position. Ironically, they are out of position because they were supporting his armor, a tactic that would’ve served him better during the earlier, decisive set-piece battles. It’s really really close, with just a barely visible hair of time remaining on the decapture bar when the VP counter ticks down to zero. GG indeed, and a very illustrative game as I mentioned in the introduction.
– Superb capping in the early game
– Extremely fast tech to Motorpool, M8 and 57mm AT gun
– Solid army positioning, good displacement of AT guns and infantry to minimize losses from enemy mortar attack
– Covered flanks very well with AT guns
– Great overall game plan, to seize fuel early on to hit crucial tech, then hunkering down and using map control to bleed VPs and stock up on ammo
– Relatively poor Rifle survivability, it was very clear Calneon’s emphasis was on Motorpool units and not his Riflemen
– In conjunction with the above point, practically no Rifle veterancy was gained and Rifle upgrades were delayed till late in the game; Rifles were deliberately used as meatshields and capping units, this is not necessarily a con, but a better PE player would’ve made this strategy painful particularly in the early game
– Read his opponent and situation well, ready with counter units every time
– Good tech to Panzer IVs, fast despite very fast enemy M8s
– Good positioning of Teller Mines
– Relatively good PG survivability
– Lack of coordination between PGs and armor, leading to heavy damage sustained by head-on assaults against AT guns
– Scout Cars were not used to lock down sectors, nor were they used to flush out Rifles and support PG pushes, really the Scout Car opening was wasted
– Not restate the first point, but very poor armor survivability, you can afford to throw lots of armor as PE Tank Hunters, but you must make the enemy pay for it, Sjceran gave up too much for little in return
– Never really tried to win the capping game and permitted Calneon to hang on to VPs and map control, no harrassing with Kettens or roving PG squads