Helorushes are the only wargame tactic I consider illegitimate. Outside of ranked, the answer is easy – leave the game and find someone who actually wants to play. In ranked however you’ll want to try fighting the helorush if you value your points. Here I’ll explain the tactics involved.
There’s two dimensions to dealing with helorush. The meta level happens outside the match – if you know someone is a helorusher you can open with a massive point reserve and lots of AA on the field. The only trick I know here, courtesy of Dirty-D, is to add helorushers to your mute list. This way, even if they change nickname, you can keep track of them.
If you don’t know someone is a rusher, or if they alternate rushing with playing normally at a level where you can’t win if you open with 400pts in reserve, you’ll be forced to deal with the helo swarm with a normal force. One thing you can do is open with a plane that will be useful throughout the game, like a Puff or an ASF, and use it to get early warning if a rush is coming. The plane can then be used to snipe recon helos or suspected CV transports.
Another thing is to always start with 2 CVs – this is important not only to avoid falling behind in conquest points in case of a normal ground match, but also because if a rush comes, you can hide the second CV to buy yourself more time. You don’t want to spend any time with a single CV even in normal games, because losing your only CV to flanking forces or blind bombing automatically forfeits the match.
So, you’ve spotted a rush, either by plane or by contact with your ground force. One minute of ingame time has already passed, meaning you’ve earned 100 points that you hopefully haven’t spent. By the time the rush hits you, you’ll have another 50-100 points. What do you do?
You have three objectives:
- Ensuring your CV survives.
- Killing the enemy CV.
- Killing the helos.
Protecting the CV is where most people fail miserably. It is not possible to stop the helos before they reach your spawn. You must have a command unit hidden somewhere the helos won’t immediately find, to buy you time to counterattack or kill the swarm.
Fighting new opponents, you should send your second CV to cap a zone that is not directly between your spawn and the enemy one. If it turns out a helorush is coming and the swarm finds your extra CV while racing through the middle of the map toward your spawn, you’ve wasted it. In this case you’ll need to buy a third CV, ideally a heliborne infantry squad, and try to hide that in whatever time you have left. Doing this is more important than buying AA – again, even if you buy AA, it will not be possible to save your spawn CV, so you need a second CV hidden somewhere to avoid the automatic forfeit.
Once a helorush is confirmed, it’s wise to send your second CV to a deep forest the enemy is less likely to immediately search, or start inching it closer to the enemy spawn in preparation for a spawn swap. Avoid stopping in sectors – capping anything will tip your opponent off and get the CV killed.
None of this is isn’t particularly complicated, but it is very easy to get in the mindset of fortifying your spawn and holding your ground, and if you do that and forget to hide a CV, you’re dead.
You’ve spotted the rush, and you’ve ordered your second CV to hide, ideally before it has capped any zones to tip the enemy off. The next step is to order your ground army to either fastmove into the enemy spawn or return to yours. This only takes a second, which is why it’s done before you start managing base defenses.
Almost always fastmoving into the enemy spawn is better than returning to your own. Most helorushers are bad and will spend their income on planes to support the rush, making it possible to take their undefended spawn with just an autocannon unit or two. Once you have the spawn you can carefully make your way to it with your hidden CV, resulting in a base trade. Your first purchase from the new base must be..take a second to guess..a second CV. Forgetting this is a very dumb way to lose, because at this point the game is already 90% won.
If you bought any expensive AA units with your army, try to preserve them. Engaging the fresh helorush with an unsupported poorly positioned tunguska will only get it killed, whereas saving it to use once the helorush is depleted by your base defenses will give you more means of protecting your last CV and probably allow it to do a lot more damage as well.
After you’ve hidden your CV and sent the army to secure the enemy spawn, you need to start buying AA to weaken the rush with. Expensive standoff AA is bad here – you want defensive, cheap AA, that will cost-efficiently kill and ideally also meatshield.
Quantity matters far more than quality here. Example good responses are the american m163 CS and the soviet ZPTU-2. MANPADs are great if you can reach a town, but most decks don’t have them. Lacking either of these, your next option are 30-40pt AA pieces like the Wolverine or Rapier, as well as autocannon helos like the lynx/fennec 20mm and autocannon recon units like the lav-25. Antihelo planes, (most) AA helos, and expensive AA pieces are a waste of points. If the enemy will cap your spawn, buying and unloading some AT infantry at the spawn point makes for a nasty trap to any ground buys, but it’s usually a bad buy as it doesn’t contribute to the more immediate goal of thinning the swarm.
If you have the time, you should spread the AA around as much as possible. This makes them harder to panic and ensures the entire helo swarm will bleed equally. It’s also likely to stagger the swarm and make it hard for them to attack your entire AA collection. Even though you are spreading the units around, they should be bought in 4stacks and only split after they arrive, as this is faster than buying 1stacks.
To summarize: Every ranked game should start with at least two CVs. If a helorush is spotted, the second CV must immediately hide. The army should be sent to secure a spawn, friendly or enemy, and very cheap AA should be spammed in your home sector to weaken the rush. The final risk is moving the hidden CV to a secured spawn, at which point you can get one more CV and enough AA to finish off any remaining helos. Finally, add the rusher to your mute list so that you can recognize him in future games even if he changes his name.
Keep in mind that even with these methods, you’ll struggle to consistently deal with helorushes. I’ve been helorushed some 20-30 times in ranked, and if we exclude rushes that I knew were coming, I’ve probably won less than five. Unfortunately, the outcome of a competently executed helorush is set in stone unless you start with ridiculous (300pt+) amounts of AA. Fortunately, most helorushes are not competently executed, so often you have some chance of winning if you know how to respond.