As difficult as ever, but still do-able.
Theater of War Mission Pack: Case Blue
Mission: Kharkov Pursuit
Difficulty Level: General
Commander: I like one that provides call-in mortar halftracks, but you don’t really need any commander here.
“Kharkov Pursuit” is challenging even for an experienced player, and there are all the usual AI cheats, plus one or two annoying bugs, but it’s definitely winnable and it doesn’t require cheating or even fancy-schmancy commanders/units/tactics. It’s a good illustration of the principle that for some tasks, going from abject failure to straightforward success is just a matter of doing one or two little things right.
In this case, what you need to do is:
- Bring in six or seven HMGs without any delay and put them in the buildings around and in between the middle VP and the upper fuel point. This is the most effective way to stop the Russians from charging your base, which they otherwise will do when they get tanks. It also prevents them from spawning partisans from these buildings, which they otherwise will do starting a couple of minutes into the mission.
- Use your initial pios to cap points between those buildings and your base, with priority: upper fuel point, point just north of middle VP, point between base and upper fuel point, middle VP, any remaining territory point between the middle VP or lower VP and your base, and lower VP. Ignore, for now, the munitions point between the middle VP and the upper fuel point because the Russians will take it almost immediately and will defend it fiercely—you cannot afford to lose squads at this stage.
- Your object in phase 1 of the mission, roughly the first 10 minutes, is to hold that line of buildings between or just behind the two top VPs. You also want to kill a lot of Russian infantry and, more importantly, some of their T-70s and .50-cal M5 halftracks. You can kill T-70s and M5s using HMGs that are at least vet-1 and can fire incendiary rounds. The HMGs will need lots of micro. At times you will have to retreat them and send reinforcements. You will sometimes need to use the incendiary/AP HMG rounds against Russian infantry blobs that are not stopped by ordinary HMG fire.
- When you’re around 7 minutes into the mission, retreat your pios to base and tech up for tanks. No need for T2 (251s, scout cars, Paks) at this point—go straight for T3 and get a StuG-III-G. You should get that StuG 11 to 12 minutes into the mission. The G model penetrates Russian tanks very well—much better than the very-nerfed, very-expensive Panzer IV—and it’s the only kind of armor you need here.
- If you get to 12 minutes and you have your first StuG arriving onto the map, and your HMG crews are mostly still alive and holding the line, you can relax—you should win. It’s when your HMGs have been mostly killed or retreated to your base, and you have no tank yet, that you should worry.
- Once your pios have built the tank building, they should go wherever any Russian Zis gun has been attacking, to try to decrew/recrew it.
- Once you have your StuG, bring it up (with support as available) to the middle VP area and try to secure that area. Don’t go looking for trouble. Focus on holding at least two VPs, and asap three VPs, to get the Russian points ticking down. Keep your StuG healthy!
- Rinse and repeat for the upper and lower VPs, and meanwhile keep getting StuGs until you have three.
- Reinforce your positions at the VPs with bunker-HMGs and bring in one or two mortar teams or mortar halftracks, and at least one 251. Build command bunkers for reinforcement and HMG bunkers where you can.
- Save the game frequently as there are bugs, e.g., if you try to man a Russian HMG your crew might become immobile.
- Unless you have an efficient way to wipe out large blobs of PTRS-equipped Russian infantry, don’t base-rush, because if you do the Russians will spam guards rifle infantry. These units if unhindered (and StuGs can do nothing to them) will “button” your tanks and kill them all very quickly.
- When one of your tanks can be spared, use it to demolish any unneeded building behind your lines—partisans will spawn out of any unoccupied building.
If you keep your armor and HMGs in decent shape, you should keep hold of those 3 VPs most of the time and that should bring victory by 25-40 minutes.