Back in 2006, Company of Heroes took the RTS world by storm. Arriving at an age where the genre hadn’t yet been snubbed for the inferior MOBA model, the game’s World War II setting and strong Saving Private Ryan/Band of Brothers vibe was extremely well received.
Relic followed that critical acclaim with 2013’s Company of Heroes 2, and despite its early flaws is bigger, newer, and more intricate than its predecessor. Nearly 10,000 people still play it every day, according to Steam Charts. I jumped back into the game over the holiday period after a friend got the franchise on the Steam Winter Sale, so three of us have been running games almost every day.
However, the game’s limitations and slightly predatory microtransactions quickly took its toll, so we started to look into the Steam Workshop for mods that could reignite our interest in the matches.
Enter 170 Units mod, a giant game restructure that is much deeper and cooler than it sounds. This is not a balance mod — the game’s unit stats such as health and damage remain untouched. Instead, this amazing fanwork takes every single unit in the game — including those locked behind pay-to-win Commanders — and makes them all available at the same time. Gone are the times where you were prevented from using airdrops or artillery because you choose an infantry or armour command — this mod turns every single battle in Company of Heroes 2 into a full-form, gigantic combined arms assault.
The vanilla game gives you a choice of commander which unlocks a mix of active and passive abilities and unique units. In most cases, those units and abilities are unobtainable any other way, and you can’t change your mind part-way through a match. This means that US forces may not be able to build something as simple as sandbags, or the Soviets get exactly zero heavy tanks, unless you choose a specific commander. But 170 Units flips that in its head and opens up the whole roster. It turns out having all the options makes for a much deeper and more interesting player experience than being arbitrarily restricted in player choices.
Instead of resorting to the tank rush meta of the vanilla game, for example, and barely using munitions unless you were playing an ability focused Commander tree, now you are always encouraged to unlock and use every single aspect and mechanic of the game. Do you want a heavy tank as the Soviets? Unlock the Mechanized Armour Kampaneya. Do you want paratroopers and howitzers to support your Ranger infantry assault? Build an airborne forward command. Do you like air support? Get an airborne officer who has ALL the bombing runs. There’s nothing you can’t do with proper resource management, prioritisation, and enough time.
More importantly, the mod also introduces a healthy and extremely necessary dose of common sense into Company of Heroes 2, allowing every faction to build most defensive emplacements and equip different weapons on their troops on the go, as well as bringing missing units like the US Forces snipers and transport trucks into the game to create a much more well-rounded force. By ignoring Relic’s original PvP design choices, the mod actually turns CoH2 into a better and more competitive game than it’s ever been.
As you have several types of units (mechanised, artillery, infantry, specialised, airplanes) duking out, the end result is a vastly more dynamic warfare, where infantry and tank pushes are constantly accompanied by recon runs for intel and artillery barrages to soften the target, bombing runs to destroy reinforcements, and behind the line insertions of paratroopers and commands to cut off the enemy’s supply line.
Besides adding the eponymous 170 units — either by relocating vanilla units to be always available or straight up repurposing them into new units — the mod also adds vehicle crew and weapon racks for all factions, makes vehicle critical hits directional (you won’t shoot out a tank’s engine by hitting it head on anymore), and removes the limit of one heavy tank per faction in the map at a time.
It also expands on the roster of all factions, including a US Airborne Support Centre and OKW Fallschirmtruppe HQ with eight and six types of paradrops, respectively, and a Partisan HQ for the Soviets with 8 unique Partisan troops — including LMG and CQB variants that were missing from the vanilla game. The mod even brings back COH1 favourites such as the Wehrmacht Recovery Truck, the Medic Station and Bunkers, and the British 25-pounder artillery emplacement, allowing players to turtle if they want before doing a coordinated push across the map to seize victory.
As a result, matches flow in a completely unexpected direction every time, as the enemy has several more options than ‘infantry or tanks’. The expansion in the roster of howitzers, heavy tanks, paradrops, infiltration units, and more — all in line with the game’s original balance — creates a deep, extremely broad, and surprisingly even experience that could rival even the heights of Men of War.
The best feature, however, might just be the expansion of the officers into bonafide support units. While vanilla CoH2 mainly had things like the US Forces’ Major which can call recon runs and bombing strikes and act as a retreat point, the mod adds three new officers per faction that are not meant as effective combat units, but as force multipliers. The artillery, airborne, and forward support commanders, respectively, can call in dozens of different bombardments, air strikes/recon flights, and paradrops, allowing you to use operational and strategic assets regardless of what point in the game you are or which Commander tree you choose.
However, that doesn’t mean the Commander trees are useless — instead, the mod places focus on the trees that give you abilities you don’t normally get, such as the Soviet’s spy networks, the British map-wide artillery barrages, or the USF/OKW ability to drop paratroopers across the entire map with zero restriction on range. Some trees are also reworked to make up for the fact their previous unlock (e.g. a transport truck, heavy tank, or self-propelled artillery) is now available in the game’s base.
For those that dislike PvP and prefer co-op skirmishes against the AI (like me), they’ll be happy to know the AI somehow knows how to make full use of the mod. The computer places bunkers and pillboxes in random locations to stop your infantry pushes, builds forward paradrop bases to support their attack, and has zero qualms using late game or completely new units in their army compositions. In fact, the amount of variety present in the experience compared to the vanilla version feels very much like what some feel a Company of Heroes 3 should be.
If you’re looking for a revamp of your CoH2 experience, definitely give 170 Units mod a shot. The amount and (more importantly) the quality of the additions in this mod coupled with its unchanged units stats and respect for the game’s balance feels more like an expansion of the Company of Heroes we know rather than a player attempting to arbitrarily rebalance things.
I was never a fan of rebalance mods in general as I don’t trust a player’s judgement over a team of developers who created the game, but in this case, I dare say they made a better design decision than Relic. If you ever wanted CoH2 to be just a bit more broader and strategic and a bit less APM spammy, this is the mod for you.