The Heavy Machine Gun team is an iconic unit in Company of Heroes 2 that breaks the conventions of what you’d expect from other strategy games. It is not simply an effective unit against enemy infantry because it does increased damage: its main purpose is suppression and pinning, allowing it to bring multiple infantry units to a standstill as they’re forced to drop to the ground seeking cover. Heavy Machine Guns must set up before firing and can only fire in a limited arc, meaning that positioning is central to this unit’s power and vulnerability.
Heavy Machine Guns (HMGs) are not highly mobile units, they cannot shoot while moving, and they cannot vault over fences. Therefore, if you avoid moving your infantry into areas that you know are defended by HMGs, the HMGs will be forced to move or serve no purpose. HMGs are most vulnerable when they’re moving, and you ought to attack them while they’re in the process of repositioning. Avoidance allows you to control the movement of enemy units – it’s not just a way to keep your own units safe.
HMGs have a limited firing arc, so if you can approach one form an unexpected direction, it will have to redeploy before it can fire. Infantry units that take a flanking approach can usually close ground fast enough to avoid being caught by an HMG that is attempting to redeploy, but the safest method is attacking with two or more infantry squads from two or more directions. If you click on the enemy HMG that you wish to attack while you’re scouting out its position, its firing arc will be revealed to you. Consider vaulting over a fence to surprise an HMG from a direction that your opponent thought was safe. Once you close distance with an HMG, you’ll need to actually kill it. Grenades speed up this process considerably, and because HMGs are difficult to move around it’s unlikely that a grenade will miss.
The Mortar has a much longer range than the HMG, and its barrage ability can be targeted at an area where you know an HMG is located. So long as you scout out the HMG’s position initially, you can continuously use indirect fire from the Mortar in complete safety. Apart from the barrage ability, you can use the Attack Ground command to order your Mortar to fire at a specific location if you know where the HMG is but can see it. The Mortar can also use its Smoke Barrage ability to obscure an HMG’s line of sight through to the TrueSight system. Firing a Smoke Barrage directly in front of an HMG will allow your infantry to advance straight toward it without being seen or fired upon.
The Sniper has a very long range, cloaks while in cover between shots, and instantly kills a man with each hit. So long as you keep your Sniper at maximum range and in cover, it can deplete an HMG’s crew in no time. Be careful when attacking if those conditions aren’t met: a Sniper out in the open, in an HMG’s firing arc and within range, will be rapidly cut to shreds.
HMGs cannot suppress or pin vehicles, and they cannot damage heavier vehicles like tanks at all. With a light vehicle like a Scout Car, drive straight toward the HMG and around its firing arc so that it cannot fire at you. If you have a Half-track, place one or two infantry units inside of it and ferry them through the HMG’s line of fire. The best vehicle counters to HMGs involve flamethrowers: the Soviet M3A1 Scout Car carrying a Combat Engineer squad upgraded with a Flamethrower is a strong early counter to German HMGs, and the German Half-track with Flame Projectors is similarly powerful against Soviet HMGs. Tanks of all types can attack HMGs with impunity, but be sure that there are no nearby anti-tank guns before moving in to attack. Also, artillery units like the Katyusha and Panzerwerfer do considerable damage at long range to stationary units like the HMG, so these are a great option for late in a game when these units become available.
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