Tank Grab

COMPANY OF HEROES 2—ARDENNES ASSAULT—TANK GRAB

 

I like Ardennes Assault. I think it’s a definite improvement over the earlier COH2 stuff, and deservedly is often referred to as COH3. But there are a few big things wrong with it, and one of those is the Tank Grab mission. It is misconceived and broken to an insulting degree.

Victory in “Tank Grab” comes not from holding territory or even from killing German units, but from the completely unreal achievement of killing German units with your vehicles only. You start with zero vehicles, of course, and almost no fuel. So it’s entirely a farce. I guess it’s the kind of thing you end up with if you decide to depart from simulating war and instead construct a highly artificial, rule-bound, sport-like contest suited for multiplayer competition.

“Tank Grab” also seems fundamentally broken in its failure to achieve a reasonable balance. You will be hectored almost constantly to race around the map after abandoned tanks, but on levels one or two those “tanks” (e.g., an M8 scout car) usually are not worth the effort/risk/fuel, whereas on higher levels, even though you do find better armored vehicles, they take forever to repair, and the German infantry can and will destroy them very quickly with panzerschrecks. On levels three and up you will also face the heaviest German armor, including Tiger Ausf. Bs and Sturmtigers, and the heavy armor may hit you in the first few minutes, long before—unless you are using Fox Co.—you can have any significant anti-vehicle ability.

“Medals will be awarded based on how quickly you win the mission” is the vague condition noted at the start, but it is untrue. You can win quickly, in fact most quickly, with a base-rush, but if you do that you’ll be penalized with a bronze medal. I have won gold using a vet-2 Baker Co., but it cost them a lot of casualties. Rangers are a natural choice for this but they seem to be nerfed in the scoring so that they cannot win gold on this mission, ever—a basically flawless mission for them will win only silver, and anything less than that will win bronze.

The mission also seems broken in the sense that, on the lower levels of difficulty—about the only levels most companies can handle—there may not be enough targets for your vehicles to drive down the German score within a reasonable playing time. Playing recently with Able Co. (airborne), on level 1 in Marche, I found that I could fairly easily wipe the German force from the town and then, after destroying some AA emplacements, invade the German base. The problem was, new German units came from off-map too infrequently, and in the meantime I had to dismount crews so that my captured Luchs, Panzer IV, Puma, and flak half-track would not auto-fire at the core German base building. In the end I gave up and killed the base building, accepting the penalty bronze.

One other small bug I noticed the last time I played: the German point total does not keep proper track of your vehicles’ killing sprees. For some of your vehicles, KIAs bring no change to the German point total.

Winning in the normal way is probably easiest on level 2 or 3 difficulty. Using Rangers to get silver, or one of the others to get gold, you start by capturing vehicles that are reasonably good at killing infantry (Panzer IV, Sherman, Luchs, Ostwind) but also reasonably well armored. You can find the vehicles easily, if you don’t have overflights (as Able Co. do), by pausing the mission the moment it starts, and then looking around the map for fading red notations saying “vehicle disabled.” When you have some strong anti-infantry capability plus at least one medium tank or stronger, gather your vehicles in a group, protected by your infantry, and bring them near an entrance of the German base where a lot of infantry and other targets will be close by. You want to use your vehicles, carefully, against non-AT-capable German infantry, soft vehicles including base command trucks, and structures such as ack-ack gun emplacements—you get points for hitting all such targets. Alternatively you can pull your vehicles away from the core German base truck when it is close to being destroyed. Let your infantry handle German infantry AT assets such as schreck-bearing squads, Paks, and raketenwerfers. You may not be able to avoid modest to high casualties. On higher difficulty levels you may not want to get too close to the German base unless you are very close to victory—you can lose many vehicles and squads in a few eyeblinks when the German schrecks, Paks, and heavy armor start shooting.

Because it is virtually impossible to get the gold medal on this mission, and the casualty count is often high due to strong German armor and elite infantry attacks, I generally prefer to just use Rangers (if they are one of my companies) and do a base rush asap and settle for bronze. At least that way I can keep the casualties down. Note that if one is not using Dog Co. or Baker Co., Rangers will be automatically assigned to the Elsenborn or Bastogne missions, and Able Co. may be auto-assigned to the third mission, in Marche, which is often Tank Grab at level one difficulty.

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