Sunday, March 8, 2015

Company of Heroes Walkthrough - Invasion of Normandy - Mission 8 - St. Fromond (Expert)

Company of Heroes Walkthrough - Invasion of Normandy - Mission 8 - St. Fromond

Click here for the index of our Company of Heroes Mission Walkthrough Index and our gameplay paradigm.

St. Fromond is supposed to be a frantic artillery versus artillery battle (German Nebelwerfer 41's versus your Sherman Calliope) and it's frantic fun for 30 minutes, but if you want to do this mission the smart way -- and if you want the medal for destroying the enemy HQ -- instead of securing the town, go for the HQ first.
And realistically, why would you take the town and alert the enemy if you can box them in, take out their anti-aircraft armament, and safely bomb them?

The mission is won and over after a 30-minute defend-the-town-square win condition objective, which is triggered in the following ways:
  • Capturing the Strategic Point in the town square: This is the "normal" way and starts Nebelwerfer moving to points indicated during the objective briefing.
  • Capturing too many Strategic Points: If you capture all Strategic Points other than the three that are immediately adjacent to the SS HQ sector to the far north.
  • Getting too close to the SS HQ: If any unit enters any of the Strategic Points that are immediately adjacent to the SS HQ sector to the far north.
  • Destroying the SS Headquarters.
Destroying the SS Headquarters can take a long time on Expert Difficulty, not the least because the enemy has a lot of Pioneer squads that can repair stuff -- so any assault needs to be sustained to make steady progress.

It is possible to land paratroopers on the other side of the bridge without repairing it first, via the Air Drops side of the Airborne Company Command Tree, but without Triage facilities we would ultimately lose squads and that is not part of our playthrough paradigm -- we do not unnecessarily send units into suicidal conditions.

There are a lot of hedges in this map, but the shorter ones can be walked through:

Overall Strategy

Remember that an army is about projection of firepower. In this case, your infantry are scouting and taking ground to protect your armour, which is keeping assaults away from your mortars and Sherman Calliope, who are shelling the enemy base to take out their anti-aircraft guns so that planes can swoop by and bomb the enemy HQ.
In practice, the Calliope and it's free bombardments will be doing most of the work, but aerial reconnaissance has the most reach.
Because we wanted the medal for destroying the enemy HQ, we had to delay formally capturing the town or otherwise triggering the 30-minute defense mission.

Part 1 - Clear Waterfront, Prepare Units

Before you fully repair the bridge, complete all your construction and decide on your units. At a minimum get two Snipers and 3-4 Shermans. One Sherman Crocodile may be occasionally useful for removing your own tank traps but because of the Population Cap required to field a Crocodile, you may want to instead use Engineers for that.
For anti-infantry, because of the broad area and off-map reinforcements for the enemy, an M8 Greyhound is overall the best choice and you should have at least two to chase down infantry. If you can be careful, an M3 Halftrack with the Quad upgrade can work better but is less sturdy.

After clearing the opposite waterfront of anything that will shoot your Engineers, assemble a strong defense at the bridge to make sure nothing ever crosses to hit your production facilities. You don't need to a strong push into enemy territory yet so your tanks can sit on your side of the bridge.
In the picture below, you can see that in our playthrough we had a Sherman Crocodile. It was really not that useful and not recommended.

Part 2 - Ready Attack on SS Headquarters

When building and army composition are complete, repair the bridge. As with Cherbourg, send Snipers over first to reconnoitre first. The objectives in this phase are:
  • Capture Strategic Points to blind the enemy.
    • Some Strategic Points have mines, so be wary of securing them with your valuable snipers. Try Engineers with mine detectors, or Riflemen who grenade the area first.
  • Make a path for the Calliope to reach the graveyard.
  • Optional: Earn 6 Command Points to get the Bombing Run ability.
    • Although Bombing Runs are useful, they are also pricey in Munitions as planes cannot strafe or bomb into territory that is not fully revealed (e.g., by plane recon).
      • Enemy units briefly revealed by being hit by artillery or mortar fire do not count as revealing anything.
      • Also, getting too close to the HQ triggers the 30-minute objective, so you cannot really get units in to spot for you.
There is a lot of infantry for them to get kills for level 3 Veterancy when they can move around at full speed. Thereafter, just two Snipers can almost take all of the Strategic Points, though with a bit of running around as the enemy will start trying to take them back. You can even sneak in Riflemen to assist if you can keep them out of sight (see below, where they are "hiding" behind a building to spot for two snipers clearing patrols from the town square.

While you are doing reconnaissance, periodically, small teams of Panzerschreck-equipped infantry or Pioneers will try to make it across the bridge, so make sure that route is covered.

The best location for the Calliope (and a mortar team) to bombard the enemy is at the graveyard or slightly north of it (be careful not to get too close; see picture below).

This location is complicated by two Panzers on a patrol route that goes near it, and a Strategic Point that the enemy will try to retake (see below). It is also one of the Strategic Points that are mined and periodically a Pioneer may try to replace the mine, but not necessarily retake the Point.

Another good location for bombarding the eastern side of the SS compound is at the fork in the middle road (see below). There is a sniper here that might not be camouflaged and that you can kill with your own (see second picture below).


Part 3 - Attack SS Headquarters

Once a path is secured, think about your defensive lines. On Expert Difficulty you really need at least 2 tanks near your Calliope to keep it safe and respond to enemy medium tanks (Panzers). Even then they will need Engineer repair support.
Your bridge still needs to be defended but you may not have any Shermans to spare, so set up tank traps and have more Machine-Gun Emplacements. on your side of the bridge, but be careful not to block infantry retreat paths to the Triage Centre.
You can lay a long line of tank traps, but I'm pretty sure some light vehicles come from off-map, so you still need to be careful of lighter vehicles.

Your targets in the SS Headquarters, in order of priority are:
  • Anti-Aircraft Guns.
    • You can see these in the fog of war (but not whether they are crewed). While these are active, any of the planes called (even aerial reconnaissance) can instantly fail from the plane being shot down.
    • Two are on the south side and just within range of your mortars.
    • Another two are at the HQ itself (see below).
  • Panzer Command and Sturm Armory (they are very close together on the east side).
  • Krieg Barracks.
  • The three Panzer IV's in the garden in front of the HQ building IF you want to assault the compound later.
  • The SS HQ.
During these assaults you will probably destroy the Nebelwerfers as well through incidental fire.
Keep bombarding with the Calliope as often as possible to keep damage up. If you let up for too long, the numerous Pioneers will repair a building very quickly (see below). By keeping up the bombardment you will also be killing off Pioneers who are repairing the structure.

The bombardment objectives will take up a long time, and in the meantime you just need to hold your ground. In the worst case, retreat all the way back to the bridge, rebuild your army, and try again. Time is on your side.

Part 4 - Defend the Town Square

Once the SS Headquarters are destroyed, the 30-minute defense mission starts. Just fall back to the Town Square and hold because you don't have to charge up to the HQ anymore. Pioneers may start rebuilding the HQ (you do not have to re-destroy it) and production facilities, but at this point it is basically too late for the Germans to recover.
You will be automatically awarded capture of the Strategic Point at the town square, so your infantry can start running around putting Listening Posts on captured points and your Engineers can start placing Machine-Gun Nests.

If you have destroyed the troop-production facilities, enemies will probably only come from off-map and there is really nothing you can do to stop that. These will include trucks carrying what appear to look like barrels. When destroyed, they drop a Goliath Tracked Mine. To make the Goliath your unit, simply click on it -- you do not have to send a unit to pick it up. Shortly after, the Goliath changes colours from inert grey to blue. When they are detonated, you have lost that unit, so you may get an announcement that your forces are "taking casualties".

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