Company of Heroes: What makes Panzer Elite great?

Hello gamers!

Last night at 3 a.m., I finally completed the Operation Market Garden Campaign – it took me nearly 3 hours. I really enjoyed it because Panzer Elite or PE happens to be my favorite faction in Company of Heroes. If you want to play CoH as the PE, I have three things to say as someone moderately familiar with the faction:

 

1. PE is highly mobile!

For CoH veterans, this should come as no surprise. PE units, especially vehicles tend to be lightly armored. Infantry Half-tracks, Scout Cars, Kettenkrads and Marder IIIs cannot survive long under heavy fire. However, they particularly excel at speed. These vehicles can travel very fast and rapidly reposition themselves. As a PE player, you need to use this aspect to your full advantage. Interestingly enough, the historical Blitzkrieg tactics of the German Wehrmacht heavily emphasized mobility as the key war winning ingredient. Here are highly mobile vehicles that I use quite extensively:

Sd.Kfz.250 Infantry Half-track

Half-Track
Ah Infantry Half-track… how could I ever live without you!

I consider this vehicle to be the bread-and-butter of most Panzer Elite strategies. They are not very well-armored but they are fast and can carry two Panzergrenadier squads (a total of 8 men with larger squad upgrades). Unlike the Wehrmacht Infantry Half-track, this one has a machine-gunner attached from the beginning, which is quite useful as you can use this vehicle alone to destroy pesky engineer squads trying to capture territory. The ability to transport Panzergrenadiers around the map with rapidity will be very useful as you can initiate assaults at lightning speeds.

Sd.Kfz.221 Scout Car

Scout Car
MG Turret turns 360 degrees!

This car cannot withstand a lot of fire but is an excellent support vehicle for your Panzergrenadiers. While Panzergrenadiers engage enemy infantry at a distance and pin them down, these Scout Cars can flank the enemy and mow them down with their MG 42. They are also useful for reconnaissance roles as they are very fast. Later in the game, when heavy tanks roam the battlefield, these vehicles cannot do much so it is much better to transform them into sector defense posts by purchasing the Logistics upgrade. In many ways, this vehicle has a high utility factor.

Sd.Kfz.222 Armored Car

Armored Car
20 mm gun is an effective anti-infantry solution!

While more durable than the Scout Car, you should still watch out for enemy fire and not leave it unattended for long. These vehicles fire the 20 mm auto-cannon and are devastating against light vehicles and infantry. However, do not engage light armor with the Armored Car as they won’t do much damage. They are excellent support vehicles that should be used to perform recon and anti-infantry support roles.

Sd.Kfz.250/10 Light AT Half-track

Light AT Half-track
Really innovative – mounting a 37 mm anti-tank gun on a half-track!

Equipped with the 37 mm PaK 36 anti-tank cannon, this vehicle is quite useful for engaging light to medium armor. You should use this vehicle in tandem with the Panzergrenadiers. While exercising great caution, you can still use this versatile vehicle to engage heavy tanks. This vehicle has an awesome ability called the Tread Breaker, which has 100% chance of breaking the tracks of an enemy tank. While the vehicle is immobile, you can send in your Panzerschreck-armed infantry to bust the heavy tank. Also, if possible, reposition this vehicle to hit the rear of enemy armor.

 

2. PE needs Panzergrenadiers!

When I first heard about the Panzer Elite, I expected the faction’s unit roster to be primarily composed of heavy armor and medium armor such as the infamous Königstiger, Tiger I, Panther, Panzer IV and Panzer III with little focus on infantry. Since the faction is “Elite”, I thought that these units would have incredible abilities and perform better than their Wehrmacht counterparts. Playing the game for a couple of hours made me realize how wrong I was. I came to a stark realization that the name “Elite” actually suggested that only the best players can use this faction properly. Now, don’t get me wrong, PE DOES have high quality tanks at its disposal. Panzer IV Infantry Support Tank (IST) and Panther are very capable vehicles (I didn’t include the Hetzer and the Jagdpanther because they are doctrine-specific units).

Sadly, these great vehicles are not readily available during early game. In the meantime, PE needs to rely on its elite infantry units: Panzergrenadiers. In my first point, you might have noticed that a lot of PE vehicles work well when working with the Panzergrenadiers. At first, I found these men to be relatively ineffective as each squad only has 3 men and cannot carry crowd-control weapons like the MG 42 via native upgrades. However, there are mainly two things about the Panzergrenadiers that make them a highly potent infantry force:

  • Fire & Maneuver (F&M) Tactics
  • Large number of available upgrades and abilities

Panzergrenadiers excel at F&M tactics. So what is F&M? A simple diagram will do:

Fire & Movement
Looks simple, no? But highly effective!

Interestingly enough, this tactic is so useful that it is still being used by today’s militaries and special forces around the world. The fact that Panzergrenadiers are organized into 3-man squads allows them to encircle the enemy, thereby negating their cover. It feels really good when your enemy gets caught in a zone of fire and they have no choice but to retreat or face certain death.

Incendiary grenades, anti-tank grenades, Panzerschreck, MP 44, G43 and booby traps are the weapons that can be used by Panzergrenadiers. You can create several specialized infantry teams and combine them to create a devastating force. Also, don’t forget that all Panzer Elite units can gain up to 3 levels of veterancy. Unique to Panzer Elite, you can customize the veterancy upgrade to either offensive or defensive. And that’s not all. With upgrades such as Veteran Sergeant, Field Craft and Group Zeal, they can become unstoppable. Oh, and don’t forget that Panzergrenadiers can build buildings and battlefield objects to allow even more strategies. The key is to endure long enough to reach this stage. With such highly capable multi-purpose infantry,  you can use your fragile light vehicles to their maximum potential until you get your Panzer IV ISTs and Panthers. Even when you manage to acquire 4 Panthers, it is still paramount to have Panzergrenadiers to support them against enemy infantry.

Fire & Movement
One squad fires while the other moves forward! The Jeep is forced to turn its sides and face two fronts simultaneously!

 

3. PE must be aggressive!

If you have read strategy guides concerning the Panzer Elite, you will probably know by now that constant aggression is the key to success. Unlike the British or the Wehrmacht, PE does not have many defensive emplacements or units that can lock down an area in a static fashion. Is aggressive style not your thing? Then I suggest you take a look at the British because they have a diverse set of defenses that can really help when stopping an attack. As for PE, constant attacks in small waves are important to keep the enemy in disarray. Confusion and frustration are key weapons of an experienced PE player. This tactic should throw the enemy off balance allowing your subsequent spearhead force to penetrate their defenses.

One of the things that I used to do poorly was map control. I often got so involved with controlling individual units that I forgot to keep capturing new territories. PE needs to deny resources to the enemy and discourage him from venturing into your own lands. This is really important because if you let the enemy have access to medium armor, heavy armor and long-range artillery, your forces will be hard-pressed to turn the tide of battle. I strongly recommend practicing multi-tasking with your units while playing with the AI.

Pgrens Weapons Diversity
How many infantry weapons can you spot in this image? MP 44, G43 and Panzerschreck are all present and accounted for!
Panzer Elite Aggression
These light vehicles wouldn’t have been able to defeat these MG Emplacements head on. So what do you do? Use your speed and go right past them!

 

So… that was a lot of writing! Now that I have finished the Operation Market Garden campaign, I am going to try the Falaise Pocket campaign, which I heard to be quite difficult. I’ll try to collect more in-game screenshots during gameplay. Till then, happy gaming guys!

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