Another Russians-are-supermen mission, definitely not to be confused with the real-life first battle of Kharkov
Theater of War Mission Pack: Operation Barbarossa
Mission: First Kharkov
Difficulty Level: General
Commander: I’ve had my best results with none, but any with mortar halftracks is useful.
There was a real-life first battle of Kharkov in October 1941, in which the advancing Germans had the advantage in numbers and everything else, the Russians were desperately trying to get their valuable factory stuff out, and it was all over pretty quickly. The “First Kharkov” mission in COH2 ToW has no resemblance to that real-life event—apart from the fact that it depicts soldiers fighting and dying. It’s yet another mission that the devs have grossly slanted against the German side.
You can win this one almost every time, but your options for winning are narrow, and when you do win, it probably won’t feel like winning—the Russians even if they lose 500 to 0 will often be on the verge of overwhelming you when their point counter hits zero. As in many other missions, your CPU-allies run around more or less aimlessly and don’t help much.
Anyway if you want to tick this mission off your list, here’s what you need to do—it should work nearly every time, especially if you save frequently and reload as needed.
- Use no commander at first,
- Send your starting pio to take the right VP,
- Bring in an HMG (no delay!) and send it to cover the right VP from below the sandbags nearby (HMGs are your best early-game counter to Russian penal spam),
- Bring in another HMG (no delay!) and send it to cover the right fuel point,
- Send your pio squad, when it has taken the right VP, to take the right fuel point, or if opposed, into the building just to the N of the fuel point.
- Bring in a third HMG (no delay!) and have it cap the middle VP (if not already held by Germany) and cover the VP from just below, next to the fence. It is very important that you cap and hold the middle VP from early on, without any delay and with minimal interruption until the mission ends. Your first-arriving HMG crew may have to wait for Russian squads to depart (or may have to fire at them from the street) before they enter the middle VP area.
- Bring in an HMG for the left VP, another for the middle VP, and keep going till you have two at the left VP, two at the middle VP, and 4 or 5 at the right VP and fuel point.
- Around the right VP and fuel point, put your HMGs in buildings to cover these points, where possible. Try to put a unit or two in the large building next to the territory point just N of the right fuel point—this moves the Russian focus away from the VP/FP for a while, buying you some time.
- Bring in mortar halftracks or foot-mortar teams to cover the three VP areas.
- Further units are optional (you will probably never get to 100 pop cap) but if you do bring some in, focus on anti-infantry power (e.g., flamer 251s). Don’t build Paks or tanks.
- Do your best to lock down the three VPs and two fuel points.
- When you are holding three VPs the Russian points will tick down at the rate of about 200 points every 5 minutes. When you have them under 100 points and hold three VPs the fuel points won’t matter so much.
The basic idea is to get the Russians down to zero points before they can swarm you with tanks and Katyushas—which they will do if you let the mission run past 19-20 minutes. You can’t win much faster than 16 minutes and even in that best-case-scenario you’ll face T-70s and KV-1s for the last few minutes, but your CPU-allies normally will have tanks and Paks by then to distract the Russian armor, so you won’t need your own AT support. Your allies will always be weaker than the Russians they’re facing, but most of the time, if you secure the right side of the map pretty well and also secure the middle and left VPs for them, they won’t fold completely.
Note that there are many CPU cheats in full force on this mission, including Russian units’ ability to cap points under HMG fire (which is nonsensical if you think about it—in what sense can you “possess” a point while pinned by gunfire?), invulnerability of Russian Zis field guns to non-nuclear weapons, near-complete immunity of Russian penals and GRIs to flamethrowers and incendiary mortars, Russian advantages in infantry speed, gun crew setup speed, point de-capping speed, etc.
Note also that if the mission does extend past 20 minutes, the 20-30 minute period will be hell for you as the Russians swarm the map, but things may get much easier after 30 mins.
Can you win with the same strategy while playing from the middle or left base? I don’t think so. The Russian forces are “asymmetric,” so that nailing down the right VP and fuel point immediately, which you cannot do from the left base, seems to be vital to success.
[updated 14 Feb 2021]