Weird but winnable.
Theater of War Mission Pack: Victory at Stalingrad
Mission: Winter Storm
Difficulty Level: General
Commander: Having no commander works just fine. 120mm commanders are good though. Avoid commanders with KV-1 call-in, as this “ability” will put KV-1 in the advanced tank tech building that is not even buildable on this mission.
“Winter Storm” is tough. At two points in the match, the first one in the initial 5-10 minute period and the second one in the 20-30 minute period or when the Germans go under 100 points or so, the Germans get 4 or 5 freebie Panzer IVs and StuGs, often accompanied by a Tiger and lots of mortar halftracks. You may think you can fight off all that armor with the 76mm Zis guns you have accumulated by then, but then you’ll notice that two or three mortar halftracks have surrounded you—and a few eye-blinks later you’ll have no more crews for any of your crewed weapons, and a blob of vet-3 panzergrens will be approaching rapidly, ready to grenade whatever remains of your force. This is certainly one of the most unbalanced missions (favoring the AI) where you play as Russia.
Here’s a strategy that works most of the time, though: Crew your two starting Zis guns and set them across the street from the middle VP, between the two buildings, and bring another Zis gun asap, then an HMG, then another Zis gun, then another HMG, and an M5 for reinforcement. The Zis guns go in between those buildings. The HMGs go in the buildings. Your engineers (with flamethrowers) and conscripts take the middle VP and cap other points as they can. You’ll want to bring in one or two mortar teams after your base force is established, and a .50-equipped M5 or two, and maybe a T-70 or KV-1 though both are expensive and very weak/fragile on this map.
Your basic game-plan is to hold the middle VP, and as often as possible poke to the right and left VPs to cap them. You might even want to dedicate an HMG and a Zis gun to the right VP if you can defend them, although the Germans are not as persistent as they could be in retaking those VPs once you hold them.
It’s a difficult mission, occasionally unwinnable, but if you focus on holding 2 or 3 VPs as early and as often as possible, and be ready for the big onslaughts, you should win most of the time, usually in 15-30 minutes.
- You can win without crewing the 45mm guns. They are weak against vehicles and their “canister” anti-infantry ability seems not to work at all.
- You don’t have to build the tech building for penals, which are weak on this map.
- Watch out for German mortar halftracks against which you have no good defense.
- Call-in 120mm mortars are good but expensive in mp (340) and pop points (10), and German units are ridiculously resistant to mortar fire.
- A T-70 is useful for killing mortar halftracks, scout cars and 251s, though, like the M5, it can be killed quickly by virtually any German unit.
- Remember that the AI will often use mortar halftracks to lure your tanks, which it will then ambush with Paks or Panzers.
- You will need to do lots of micro to keep your AT gun crews from being wiped and your tanks and other vehicles from being killed.
- Note that on this mission you cannot build beyond the tech building for M5s, KV-1s and T-70s. In other words no T-34s, no Shermans, no Katyushas.
- There is heavy snow on most of the map, and your infantry usually will move verrrry slowly which makes them extremely vulnerable to vehicles and mortar fire.
- You don’t need a KV-1—your Zis guns are far better at killing German armor—so you can just go with infantry and light vehicles, but that is a decision you should make early.
- The center VP area should be your main focus; if it isn’t, the Germans will camp on the street below the VP and from that vantage point use mortar halftracks to destroy your base buildings.
- Once the Germans down to around 100 points they get lots of extra units including two vet-3 “Tiger Aces” and lots of mortar halftracks. The latter probably will do more damage than the Tigers, so have a plan for taking them out. Anyway you must be ready for this surge—if you are not, your force will be wiped from the map in short order, and you will have no chance of recovering.
- German strength goes way above what your army can reach, and in other ways the AI cheats heavily on this map, e.g., your visibility is reduced to a few meters, your AT guns and HMGs have stupidly short ranges, and when you are assaulting one of the side VPs and your assaulting units are relatively vulnerable the Germans always seem to produce just the countering unit they need from out of the fog of war.
- Be tenacious in capping and holding points. The Germans can reverse your winning momentum and destroy you at any time, even if they have just 10 points left.
- Some have said the mission is winnable with an early base rush, i.e., at the left side of the German base. It may have been true that with access to earlier-version commanders with call-in armor you could win that way sometimes, but based on my two attempts to try it, it is not a strategy that has much chance of success. Getting your units through deep snow and multiple skirmishes all the way around the map takes a long, long time, and as you approach the German base the German AI will simply bring in whatever units it needs to wipe out your attack force, focusing especially on your Zis guns, without which you can’t really harm the base. The essential problem is that you do not have the time or the pop cap to build a force capable of extending that distance and reliably defeating all the units the Germans can throw against you—when you try that you are playing to German strengths, not to their weakness. When they get low on points or their base is attacked they get endless, free, often vet-3 units, including Tigers. It’s better to be on defense in a secure base and with time on your side when that is happening, not on offense, without tanks, with your points ticking rapidly to zero, and stranded in deep snow miles from your base.