Sometimes playable and winnable, but essentially unwinnable on many SP playthroughs due to bad coding of the CPU ally.
Theater of War Mission Pack: The Southern Fronts
Mission: Kharkov Divide
Difficulty Level: General
Commander: Any will do. But note that if your playthrough is winnable, it is winnable without a commander. You also won’t have a lot of munitions or population points for buying special abilities. Armor call-ins are entirely disabled since you cannot install the necessary tank tech. Mortar halftracks, stormtroopers, Osttruppen and/or tank-trap abilities are all potentially useful.
WARNING: This mission is often unplayable/unwinnable when in single player mode with a CPU ally.
This is a 2v2 mission on a pretty map depicting the “Ukrainian” countryside near “Kharkov.” It could be fun because you start with a Tiger, but unfortunately it is heavily unbalanced against Germany, and basically broken if you are playing with a CPU ally. The CPU ally almost always loses his Tiger in the first several minutes—the tank (like all other CPU ally units) moves forward without adequate support and makes no attempt to escape when surrounded by Russian tanks or AT guns. The earlier in the game this happens, the harder it will be for you to survive. When the CPU-ally loses its Tiger, it will quickly fold, since it lacks any real strategy for using its remaining units. You will notice suddenly that every point on the map, other than what your forces hold, has gone red, and maybe one and a half surviving yellow units are in the ally’s base. You will then be surrounded, wherever you are, and blasted by a coordinated, all-directions assault from both Russian armies. The Russians are overpowered anyway with armor, armor, armor—including two free additions of two IS2s during the mission—and limitless Zis guns and mortars, so when you are on your own like this, you won’t really have a chance. You cannot build tanks, you are starved for munitions, and your infantry squads are very weak and fragile. As if all that were not bad enough, the Russians also have extremely powerful call-in abilities, including (sometimes) the “propaganda artillery” ability that forces your affected units to rout (including AT guns which otherwise cannot rout), thus effortlessly thwarting any assault you might make, or knocking a hole in your defenses.
You can still win much of the time. But the mission is likely to last more than 35 minutes, and because it’s so extended, with so many chances for things to go badly wrong, it’s hard to describe a detailed strategy for victory. What often works for me, whichever base I’m playing from, is to start by taking the territory points, short of the VPs, on my side of the map. When the CPU-ally makes a run for the central VP, I follow with my entire force (usually by then the starting two grens, a pio upgraded with flamethrower, an HMG, and a mortar team, plus the Tiger). After taking the central VP, defeating any immediate counter-attack, and supporting the CPU-ally’s Tiger, my forces charge the left VP or the right VP and try to defeat the defenders and cap it. It is never easy—early-game, the side VPs usually have two vetted Zis guns and two vetted penals with PTRSs guarding them, plus armor and M5 reinforcements that will rush in. Especially in the early-game you have nothing that kills Russian units quickly, and they can seriously damage your Tiger. Do your best and then set up defenses with bunkers and AT guns, and keep poking towards the central VP (with your Tiger and supporting infantry) to keep it too under German control. Your CPU-ally will almost certainly lose its Tiger by 10 minutes, and shortly thereafter start to collapse, but the later this happens, the quicker it will recover, and usually by 25 minutes or so you and your CPU ally can start moving beyond two VPs to grab the third and also extend towards the Russian base.
A few other notes:
- You don’t need to bring in Paks. Even early-game there will be opportunities for capturing Russian 76mm Zis guns, and by late-game there will be literally dozens of them lying around the map. Always have a 251 or command bunker around for reinforcing pios or Osttruppen that have grabbed abandoned weapons.
- Especially considering that the Tiger takes up around 20 population points, you are always going to be desperately short of units. Use bunker-HMGs to augment your force. Bunkers also are useful for luring Russian armor towards your AT guns or Tiger.
- The Russians will have many Zis guns but also M5s with .50s, many Su-76s, many Su-85s, the two aforementioned sets of IS-2s, T-70s, and occasional T-34s, KV-1s, and KV-8s.
- Among the usual AI cheats in this mission is the imposition of severely restricted visibility on your units. Even your snipers won’t be able to see more than 20 meters or so on this sunny day. This allows, among other things, Su-76s and Zis guns to bombard you suddenly (with very high accuracy and firing rate) from unseen positions, and Russian tanks to run straight at your AT guns and get behind them before they can fire a single shot.
- Do not base-rush the Russians. If you do, they will get masses of free armor and infantry—all three-star vetted.
- Mid-to-late-game when you’ve reached your pop-cap you can start putting munitions caches on territory points to supply any munitions-hungry abilities such as Zis gun bombardments.
- Once the second set of IS-2s comes out (they will be vet-2) and you have destroyed them, you should be holding all three VPs if you don’t already.
[updated 1 Dec 2020]