Category Archives: world of tanks

The sun is the same in a relative way but you’re older

One of the joys of gaming is the scope, from immersing yourself deeply in a virtual world or taking centre stage in an epic story to blowing stuff up and giggling. With generally smaller chunks of available time recently I’ve been erring towards the latter rather than the former, as MMOGs do tend to need a good hour or three to get anywhere, especially if coordinating with others. Just firing up Age of Conan, the launcher seemed to spend an interminable time on some internal check before it even gave the option of a “Start” button to load the game. It’s one of those relative things, almost certainly seconds rather than minutes (I never thought to get a stopwatch on it), hardly an issue like reaching level three of Operation Wolf on the Amstrad CPC464 when the joy of beating that git boss in the jungle was tempered by the knowledge you had to press “Play” and wait another few minutes for the next level to load, die in 30 seconds and have to rewind for level one again, but when you want to get on and play something then the fewer barriers the better. The prosecution presents Borderlands, m’lud, which decides you need to sit through three or four short videos of company logos with no way of skipping them until you either make an arcane tweak in some .ini file to disable them, or smash your PC with a massive hammer screaming “I THINK YOU’LL FIND *THIS* IS THE WAY IT’S MEANT TO BE PLAYED”. I like to think of it as recognition of time as a commodity that seemed endless as a child but becomes more precious with each passing year, but maybe it’s just a symptom of the ever-declining attention span of the human race as we desperately paw at flashing screens for constant stimulation, ideally involving cats and pianos

For rapid action I’ve tended to opt for a quick mission or two in Just Cause 2, or more often a few battles in World of Tanks. Both start up and get you into some action with minimal faff; with about three clicks from the desktop World of Tanks will get you into a fight; an inconsequential fight in the grand scheme of things, unless you’re engaging in the clan warfare system that involves controlling territory (I’m not, sounds a bit like hard work really), but immediately absorbing. If anything I wouldn’t mind it taking ever so slightly longer over the matchmaking; the current system seems a touch broad, especially in the latter tiers. It’s probably selective memory, like the other queue at the supermarket always moving quicker, but I seem to end up on the bottom of a three or four tier spread of tanks more often than the top. Sometimes you also end up with a tank you just don’t get on with; I thought I’d work towards the Panther, being such an iconic tank and all, and recently bought a VK3001(P) German tier VI medium tank to find it starts out with a distinctly underwhelming gun that barely damages stuff in its own tier, let alone tier VIII Super Beasts of Doom. Course I can’t upgrade it straight away, better guns need a new turret that costs a stack of experience, which will no doubt need the tracks to be upgraded as well… That said I have killed one Tiger I with it, but only because it was hiding behind a giant rock with two of our team on the other side; as it started edging one way around to confront my comrade I nipped around the other and shot it at point blank range in the weak rear armour for about 10% damage, while the other friendly tank reversed to keep out of the way of the main gun, causing the Tiger to advance further while I kept behind it getting another shot or two off; he then started turning his turret (fortunately quite slowly) so I reversed out of the way and the other friendly tank advanced to get a couple of shots as we coordinated tactics like the military wing of the Chuckle Brothers; “to me, to you”…

Teams as a whole tend to balance out though, like Tobold and Warsyde I’m finding the overall results are ending up near 50/50. I suspect you could boost your chances by playing with friends in a platoons, though not massively as platoons are limited to three members in 15-a-side battles. I’ve managed to team up a few times rather splendidly with fellow bloggers & commenters, though the chat system is a bit low-key, starting a new minimised window at the bottom of the screen that I’ve completely missed several times when jumping straight from battle to battle. Still, I’ve found the general players in random matches pretty decent on the whole, only once in hundreds of battles have team-mates really got on my wick when I managed a dazzling flanking manoeuvre, took out a couple of SPGs in the base before being finished off by a tank destroyer, and the two heavy tanks who could’ve swept in and easily destroyed the last couple of enemy units were bickering in chat about who’d got in whose way and alt-tabbing to post on the forums about the heinous slight. Course there’s always a few people who get frustrated and helpfully let everyone know their death was entirely the fault of their LOL NOOB IDIOT TEAM, often directing their wrath at those most foul cowards the “campers” (more irregular verbs: I painstakingly select an optimal tactical position for a masterful ambush, you hang around at the back and snipe, he is a camping lamer). They probably intend it as a mortal insult, but being a child of the 80s I can’t help but associate “campers” with Ruth Madoc and a chime bar and have to suppress the urge to reply “ho-de-ho!”

I’d still like to get over to Evendim in LotRO, and shift a load of structures around to set up a large shipyard in PotBS, and possibly even log in to Star Trek Online that I couldn’t help but pick up in the recent Steam sale, but first just a couple more matches on the long road to getting an 88mm gun on that VK3001(P)…

Starting out in World of Tanks, Part III

If you’ve followed Part I and Part II, you should by now have a couple of heavily customised tanks with improved suspension, better engine, bigger gun, alloy wheels, under-tank LED lighting and massive woofers to pump out phat bass from banging choons rewind boom innit. I’ve no idea what half of those words mean, but our marketing department have demanded we increase our appeal to the urban demographic so I’ve been listening to Tim Westwood a lot.

Are you experienced?

As you’ve probably noticed, the experience you earn goes into two buckets: most of it is specific to the tank in which you earned the XP, but 5% goes into a “Free Experience” pot you can spend on any tank. It’s worth saving up the free experience for later tiers, when it can take a lot of XP to make early upgrades that can really help a tank’s performance. When you’ve researched all the possible upgrades of a tank it achieves “Elite Status”. This gives you two possibilities for the experience you earn in future battles: either it stays in the XP bucket for the specific tank, which can later be converted into free experience by spending gold, or if you tick the “Accelerate crew training” box you don’t earn tank experience but the crew train faster (the training figure is the percentage next to each crew member; training improves performance so a highly trained loader loads the gun faster etc.) If you’re definitely not going to spend any cash on in-game gold, or you’re planning on sticking with a tank for a while, you might as well train the crew.

Thorin sits down and starts singing about gold

Talking of gold, World of Tanks has a dual currency system: gold that you buy with real cash, and credits that you earn in game. The good news, if you don’t want to spend any real money, is that there isn’t much that can only be purchased with gold. There are some premium gold-only tanks (the Germans get captured French tanks, the Russians have British lend-lease vehicles), but they’re not uber-tanks that destroy everything in their tier, they range from “not too bad, I guess” to “pretty decent”. There is also premium ammunition, generally slightly more exotic variants that do the same damage as regular armour-piercing but with greater armour penetration. Unless you’re fabulously wealthy I wouldn’t worry too much about these as (personally, at least) I find it hard to get past the idea that you’re firing actual money. “Enemy tank in view, line up for a shot, and… hang on, this shell cost 3p, what if I miss? That would be money down the drain… And it’s only a light tank, I don’t really need the additional penetration of this premium ammo, I’ll just load a normal shell… oh, I got shot.” There are also some premium consumables that improve your performance for a single battle, but again it’s going to get pretty expensive if you’re playing a lot and using them all the time. If someone desperately wants an edge in a fight then yes, they can chuck money at the game, but it’s not an overwhelming advantage; teamwork and player skill more than trump premium ammunition and consumables.

On the subject of teamwork, if you want to group up with friends in game at least one of you will need to upgrade to a Premium Account to create a platoon (a World of Tanks team). You can buy a Premium Account for gold for 1, 3, 7 or 30 days at a time; as well as the ability to form teams you get a 50% bonus to both experience and credits after each match, so it’s quite worthwhile if you’re playing a lot.

Other than that, gold is mostly a trade-off of money for time. Crews can instantly be trained up to 100% with gold (or to 75% with credits), or gold can be converted directly into credits as a quicker way of earning enough to purchase upgrades, equipment or tanks.

Anyway, back to the tank upgrades. Looking back to the Russian MS-1 tree, having researched various track, engine, turret and gun upgrades you have three potential avenues for advancement into Tier 2: artillery (the SU-18 self-propelled gun), tank destroyers (the AT-1) and light tanks (the BT-2 and T-26), which in later tiers lead to medium or heavy tanks. To see longer-term upgrade paths click the “Tech Tree” button. If you follow the BT-2 line down it unlocks the BT-7, then A-20, then the T-34 medium tank; the T-26 unlocks the T-46, T-28 then the KV heavy tank. Which to try first?

To thine own self-propelled gun be true

Artillery is one of the biggest differences between Tier 1 and the higher tiers. A self-propelled gun (SPG) has a large calibre long range gun (or howitzer, or gun-howitzer, depending on your preferred terminology) that can fire indirectly, and not very much armour. Think of it as the proverbial “glass cannon”, only made out of steel instead of glass, and a gun-howitzer rather than a cannon. The range, damage and indirect fire of artillery can come as a very nasty shock when you move from Tier 1 to Tier 2; you can be sitting in your nice little ambush spot, confident you’re safe, when there’s a whistling sound and a shell arcs its way over a nearby hill to destroy your tank with one shot. Clearly a ludicrously overpowered unit that can one-hit you when you can’t even see it, right? Well, sometimes…

As artillery, you can have a different view of the map; press shift and you move out of third-person to an overhead view, able to range over the entire battlefield. You can also ctrl-right click on the map to instantly switch your view. A green line extends from your tank to this point if you can shoot there, the line turns red if it hits an obstacle you can’t fire over. As with other tanks you get the green circle representing the possible area your shot will fall that gradually, slowly, shrinks as you hold your target steady, and rapidly expands as you move it.

When facing artillery, just to prove the old proverb wrong you have two choices: you can run, or you *can* hide. Running is pretty straightforward, it’s very difficult to hit a moving target with artillery, so keep on the move and you’re usually safe (until someone knocks your track off). Hiding is just a case of finding a tall enough obstacle (generally a house, large wall or mountain) to block the arc of an incoming shell, though always bear in mind (both as artillery and when trying to hide from it) that some scenery can be destroyed.

I can’t comment authoritatively on artillery as I haven’t played SPGs very much. They’re a very team-dependant unit; if you’re protected and have some decent scouting, you can be devastating. If the enemy don’t stay still long enough to conveniently be shot, and the rest of your team sod off while you’re busy looking on the map for targets, you’re vulnerable to just about anything else especially fast light tanks that can literally drive circles around you as you try and get a shot at them. It’s certainly worth trying out as it’s quite a different playing style to other tanks, but I’d get a bit more experience with other vehicles before giving it a go.

[A couple more splendid SPG tips from Papa Smurf in the comments:
– When using artillery/SPGs in the overhead view, where the targeting line turns from green to grey is the limit of your range
– When any tank fires it shows a tracer shot briefly, so after playing with arty for a while you’ll get an idea of the best places for arty to hide on a given map, if you watch those areas you can (if lucky) see the tracer from a specific bush (for example) revealing where the enemy arty is, simply target the bush and BOOM! blind kill ]

George Thorogood and the Tank Destroyers

Tank destroyers (at least the German and Russian models in the game at the moment) sacrifice the flexibility of a turret in order to mount a larger gun, fixed to fire forwards. Protection varies, early TDs are painfully vulnerable but later models get better armour, especially on the front.

“He waits, that’s what he does” could be the motto of the tank destroyer, if Guinness hadn’t used it for surfers; you want to get in a good position with a TD (helped by the fact that their low profile makes them especially difficult to spot in cover, so stay behind bushes) and wait for the enemy to come to you if at all possible. If there’s artillery on the map remember to “shoot and scoot”, take a shot (or two, if you have a fairly quick reload), then move off to another firing position before the artillery can zero in on you. Try and be aware of where friendly artillery is as well, it’s often a prime target for opposition raids, potentially giving you a good ambush opportunity.

Tank destroyers are a good choice if you’re calculating and patient. If you can’t last a minute in a MMOG without jumping a lot and shouting “GOGOGOGOGO”, you should probably look at something else…

The unbearable light tankness of being

For your very first vehicle upgrade I’d suggest buying one of the Tier 2 light tanks. One of their biggest advantages is that you’ve got a good chance of being placed into a battle with only Tier 1 and Tier 2 light tanks; over on Overlord’s blog there’s a match-making chart if you’re interested in the technicalities, essentially as a Tier 2 light tank you’ll be up against Tier 3 tanks at worst, whereas tank destroyers and SPGs get chucked into a wider variety of matches with higher tiers always involved.

If you end up in a Tier 1/2 fight everything’s peachy. Just do the same stuff you did in your Tier 1 tank, but with the advantage of at least one of a bigger gun, better armour or superior performance (or all three, after sufficient upgrades). Once you get into battles with different types of opponent (you can tell from the team list at the beginning of the round even if you haven’t memorised every armoured fighting vehicle from 1932-1945; tank destroyers have a darker gray icon, self-propelled guns have a red icon) you need to be a bit more careful, especially of artillery – don’t stick around for too long if you get spotted or you might get nuked from orbit. Or shelled by artillery, at least, they haven’t implemented tactical nuclear weapons in World of Tanks. Yet. I reckon that’d have to be premium ammunition.

Light tanks can have a tough time in later tiers as medium and heavy opposition start appearing; there’s no point taking on much tougher opponents head-to-head, but you can still play a vital role by scouting. Depending on the map, your tank, and personal preference, there are two main avenues: stealth and speed. Stealth is a case of getting into a decent hiding place in advance of your lines, and waiting for the enemy to come into your field of view. If you have a spare 100,000 credits you can improve your survival chances by buying a camouflage net, but it’s pretty unlikely you’ll have that sort of spare cash unless you buy some gold and convert it (in which case: equipment is the three slots between the tank components and ammunition in the garage). Don’t worry about shooting, unless you’re pretty confident of actually doing some damage, as you’ll give your position away; your main role is to let your teams big guns hit ’em from the other side of the map. If you do get spotted you can try and get out of range then work into another spotting position, though the main giveaway that you have been spotted tends to be when your tank is obliterated, which makes repositioning a bit tricky.

Speed is my preferred scouting technique, especially as a quick tank like the BT-7 with a fully upgraded engine. Heading straight down the middle of the map is one option, and you’ll probably discover the enemy team before very long, but your life expectancy will be somewhat shorter than that of a spoonful of custard in a cage of rabid hamsters. Who really like custard. Better choices are usually the extreme left or right flanks of the map, though of course sometimes the other team think the same way and half their team goes each way, in which case a sprint down the middle can catch them by surprise. Either way, with a combination of judgement, skill and a dollop of luck you might make it to the far side of the map, at which point you can curve around and start hunting for tucked away artillery or tank destroyers. If you find one and can get behind them you should be able to get a few shots in as they frantically try and turn around, though if there are several units and some of them are pointing guns your way keep moving as fast as possible with a bit of zig-zagging to try and throw their aim off and fire off a few random shots off as you go. If fate is smiling, you might even make it past everyone into some cover while their turrets are still traversing, although I wouldn’t bank on it.

Stuck in the middle with an M2

The name “Medium Tank” was ingeniously adopted after the original designation, “Lighter Than A Heavy Tank But Heavier Than A Light Tank Tank”, proved slightly unwieldy. In earlier tiers, medium tanks tend to be stepping-stones on the way to heavy tanks; in the latter tiers they replace light tanks, retaining reasonable mobility but with a gun that can actually damage targets. With their flexibility their role generally depends on team composition, a lower tier medium tank on a team packed with heavies and artillery would be most useful as a scout, a higher tier medium with more light tanks on the team can spearhead an attack.

He ain’t heavy, he’s a KV-1

Heavy tanks are tanks that are heavy. Heavy armour, heavy guns, heavy metal, they’re, like, a heavy scene, man. They’re big buggers, and unless you’re in a heavier tank you really don’t want to get in a one-on-one scrap with them. Thanks to the vagaries of the matchmaking system you can be up against Tier 5 heavy tanks when you’re in a Tier 3 light tank with its starter gun, which is about as effective as a water pistol. Actually probably slightly less so, with a water pistol you might cause some nasty rusting after long enough… Heavy tanks are fearsome foes as you scrap through the tiers until you finally earn one yourself, at which point you cackle maniacally at the thought of crushing lesser tanks under your mighty tracks, and the first battle you get stuck in is against even heavier Tier 7 opponents who can still one-shot you from across the map. Eventually, though, you find yourself in a fight against opponents of your tier and lower, mostly light and medium tanks, so you dust off the maniacal cackle again, set off to capture the enemy base single-handed, and find it takes you a week to make it halfway across the map and you’re not so invulnerable after all when three or four tanks are all shooting you, knocking out bits of equipment, then breaking a track leaving you a sitting duck for artillery. Heavy tanks can be great, but they’re not the solo battle winners they can seem when you’re on the wrong end of them.

The weakness of heavies tends to be their speed, which with the starter engine is often “arthritic snail”, but can be increased to the heady levels of “sloth (with a limp)” after upgrading a couple of times, you might want to concentrate on light and medium tanks if whizzing across the map is important to you.

So that’s a whistle-stop run through World of Tanks, for the first few tiers at least. Give it a shot! Try not to get too hung up about moving through the tiers, though; as an MMO player it’s easy to focus on “levelling up” but really, World of Tanks is the battles. It can be frustrating being thrown in to fights against considerably tougher opposition (especially when the match-making seems to to have a personal vendetta against you and does it several times in a row), but getting a better tank yourself makes you eligible for battles with even stronger opponents, so if you find a vehicle you really like it can be better to focus on fully upgrading it, training the crew and adding equipment.

Anyway, it’s free, and the SOE games still aren’t available…

(Observation correct at the time of writing; the status of SOE servers can be up as well as down)

Starting out in World of Tanks, Part II

Back in Part I, we covered the fundamentals of tank combat: colliding with people on your own team, pointing a gun vaguely in the direction of the enemy and exploding. This should get you through your first few matches, and if you’re really lucky you might even hit a couple of enemy tanks or survive a battle. This will earn the respect of your peers, and more importantly Experience and Credits.

The main source of Experience is causing damage to enemy tanks; there’s a bonus for actually getting the kill, but don’t worry if you do 99% of the damage to an opponent and someone else comes along and flicks them with a wet towel for the final 1%, you’ll still get most of the credit. You also get experience for spotting an enemy tank before anyone else to reward scouting, and for helping to capture the enemy base if your team win that way instead of total annihilation. And what does Experience make? Prizes! Or upgrades, at least.

To spend that hard-won Experience, click the “Research” button in the top right corner of the screen. Just researching something doesn’t automatically upgrade the tank, though; after you research a new upgrade you need to click the appropriate gun/turret/engine/track/radio icon underneath the tank in the garage, and purchase the new item for Credits (if you’ve earned enough). As an example of the sort of shiny things you can upgrade your tank with, lets have a look at upgrades for the the Russian Tier 1 tank, the MS-1:

Upgrade tree for the MS1

Tracks of my Tiers

Starting on the left, we have the T-18 tracks/suspension. Tracks are pretty boring. They might let you turn a bit quicker, but otherwise, y’know, they’re tracks. Unfortunately the tracks govern the load capacity of your tank; I can’t remember if it’s an issue in Tier 1, but in subsequent tiers you can slog away for battle after battle, finally earn enough experience for a massive cannon with which to pummel your foes (if you know what I mean), then you try and fit it to your tank and it tells you you don’t have sufficient load capacity and you have to grind away for better tracks. Very annoying, so tracks are often a good place to start with the upgrades.

Get Your Motor Running

Next, engines, the GAZ-M1 and AMO-3. Better engines have more horsepower, so if you feel the need, the need for speed, you should probably play Shift 2: Unleashed or something. Upgraded engines are always handy, though, if for nothing else than colliding with the rest of your team more quickly at the start of a round. If there are two upgrades for a component like this, if it doesn’t take too much Experience to research them both you might as well wait until the second is unlocked and purchase the better item for your tank, rather than spending Credits on the first upgrade then spending more on the second.

Radio GaGa

There’s a radio upgrade, the 71-TK-1, and as you can see from the starting equipment at the top of the screen this replaces “Signal Flags”. Yes, when radios were rare and exotic technology, flags were the only mechanism for communicating between vehicles. Unfortunately World of Tanks isn’t a finely detailed highly accurate simulation, so before you upgrade to a radio you still have instant communication with the rest of your team instead of having to wave your arms around in front of a webcam to pass messages. Radios are important for scouting, as you need to be within radio range of team-mates to see them on the mini-map, and more importantly to see the enemy tanks they spot (and relay the position of tanks you spot to them).

Guns & Ammo

Then there’s the good stuff, guns, and you’ve got two initial options: the 37mm B-3 or the 20mm TNSh. Bigger is normally better but size isn’t everything, a high rate of fire can have you banging away while the other guy is still struggling to get a shell in the breach, and muzzle velocity is absolutely vital for penetration.

(This completely serious discussion of tank armament is sponsored by Double Entendre Monthly – satisfaction guaranteed when it comes through your letterbox)

The 37mm gun does more damage and can penetrate more armour, but the 20mm has a very high rate of fire. The 20mm fires in bursts of three shots, something quite common in the small calibre guns in the early tiers but much more unusual after that; if you equip one of these the barrel climbs with each shot, so when you shoot you’ll ideally need to counteract that by moving the mouse down to compensate, or you’ll only ever hit with the first of the burst. Both types of gun can be very effective, when you’ve banked enough experience I’d suggest equipping your MS-1 with the 45mm gun and your Leichtraktor with the 2cm Breda, and see which suits your style more.

While on the subject of guns, there’s also ammunition to consider. You generally have three choices, Armour Piercing (AP), High Explosive (HE), and The One You Need To Pay Real Money For (TWYNTPRMF) that we’ll ignore for now. As you can probably tell from the names, AP punches through armour, HE explodes; HE can be useful when you’re facing giant behemoths and have no chance of penetrating the armour, as the explosion at least causes a bit more damage than bouncing an AP shot off them. The penetrating power of AP falls off with range as well, so HE can be preferable for long-range sniping. At Tier 1, though, I wouldn’t worry too much, especially as small calibre shells can’t pack in much explosives, just load up with AP; HE is more worthwhile for the bigger guns later, generally 75mm and up.

If you have different types of shell available, you can load them by pressing 1 (AP), 2 (TWYNTPRMF) and 3 (HE). A single press queues that type of shell to be loaded after you fire the current round, press the number again to unload the current round and immediately load the new ammunition. Once you start to get a bit of a feel for the different types of tank, you can make an assessment at the start of a battle based on the list of what you’re up against; mostly bigger stuff from higher tiers, probably load up HE to start; lots of tanks of your tier or lower, stick with AP. You can always switch on a per-target basis, if you remember while frantically manoeuvring and aiming; as an added clue the little chevron in the middle of your gunsight turns red, amber or green depending on your chance of penetrating the enemy armour.

Turret’s Syndrome

The final upgrade option is the MS-1 modernized turret, between the 37mm and 45mm gun upgrades. As is probably obvious from the position, turrets tend to be pre-requisites for fitting certain guns. They may also offer other benefits, such as thicker armour, and increased spotting range. Speaking of spotting range…

How Not to Be Seen

If you’ve played a few battles you’ve probably experienced being shot, and quite possibly killed, by an invisible enemy tank. This is not due to EVIL RUSSIAN HACKERS, regardless of what furious typing you may have seen on the chat channels, but patience, careful positioning and a shrubbery. Hopefully you’re familiar with this short informational film, and it transfers quite well to World of Tanks: hide in a bush, and don’t stand up if anyone asks. The full mechanics of scouting and spotting are fairly involved (and explained, along with other mechanics, over on the official wiki), basically moving and shooting make you more likely to get spotted, staying very still and hiding in foliage gives you a better chance of jumping out and shouting “boo!” to surprise an enemy tank. And then blowing them up.

The ideal situation is that you find yourself a nice position, behind some shrubs, overlooking a likely avenue of enemy advance, then stay completely still (including the turret; hold down the right mouse button to look around without moving the turret) until an unsuspecting opponent comes in to view. If the opposition are being equally circumspect, someone may have to go and find them; if nobody else goes and you feel brave try and keep moving, ideally not straight towards where the enemy probably are but zig-zagging a bit. This can expose your weaker side armour, but a moving target is much harder to hit, especially for a gunner suffering with a bit of lag. Once a scout spots a target, so long as his comrades are within radio range they can see it too. If you see a lone tank be a little careful, if you get too preoccupied focusing on it you could be a sitting duck for his four hidden friends (or artillery, but we’ll cover that more next time). If shells are whizzing past uncomfortably close and you can’t see who’s shooting, it’s usually best to reverse out of trouble; if you were spotted by a tank which is then blown up, you stay spotted for a few seconds but then fade off your opponent’s screen & mini-map. It’s not necessary to see an opponent to damage or kill them, though; if you had a target lined up spotted by a comrade who then explodes so your target vanishes, if they’re daft enough not to move you can keep pinging shells into the general area where they were and hope for the best. If you get to know maps really well, you might even send a few speculative shots into particularly good camping spots, even if you don’t hit someone you might scare them into moving and becoming visible; the flipside is that shooting draws attention to yourself as well, so you might just give away your own position.

I’ve Got a Brand New Panzerfeldhaubitze 18M auf Geschützwagen III/IV (Sf) Hummel, Sd.Kfz. 165 (And I’ll Give You The Key)

You’ve doubtless noticed that each upgrade path culminates in an exciting and exotic new Tier 2 vehicle: the SU-18 self-propelled gun, BT-2 light tank,T-26 light tank and AT-2 tank destroyer. After researching one of these, you can buy yourself a whole new tank. But which one? Find out in the final exciting instalment of “Getting Started in World of Tanks, coming soon to a blog near you!

Starting out in World of Tanks

Tempted by World of Tanks, but don’t know where to start? Going to the website and downloading and installing the client is probably a good first step, after setting up an account of course. Assuming you’ve got a PC, that is. And an internet connection. And some biscuits. The biscuits aren’t essential, but you might get peckish; digestives are good, though difficult to dunk in a cup of tea unless you’ve got an especially large mug. Hang on, this has gone slightly off track, let’s assume you’ve managed to sort out an account, got the game installed, and you’ve started it up and logged in. And have some biscuits. Digestives or otherwise.

So, you start off with three Tier 1 tanks in your garage, one from each country currently represented in the game. I say “tanks”, that’s stretching it a bit; they’re more the inter-war experiments that generally pottered up and down in front of generals before slowly toppling over or sliding into a ditch while the generals tutted about them never replacing horses and swigged gin. Imagine a Morris Minor wrapped in aluminium foil for protection with a bloke leaning out of the window with a spud gun, that would be the sort of terrifying death machine you run away from in a Tier 1 tank.

Still, faint heart never won a 15 vs 15 arena-based armoured vehicle death match so pick a tank, hit the “Start Battle” button and get in there. It doesn’t really matter which nationality you choose, World of Tanks exists in a parallel dimension where German, Russian and US tanks band together to fight their common enemy: different German, Russian and US tanks. You should only get shoved into battle against other Tier 1 or Tier 2 light tanks, so at least everyone’s in the same boat. Or tank, as the case may be. Though everyone’s in a different tank, 30 people in the same tank wouldn’t work at all.

At the start of the battle there’s a 30 second countdown to allow the participants to prepare, discuss complex strategy and catch up on Twitter, when the timer reaches zero UNLEASH HELL! Or at least rev the engine a bit, drive forwards a few yards, stall, then drive into another tank, apologise, reverse into somebody else, apologise again, and then get into action. Actually you can’t stall, don’t worry about that, but it’s not a bad idea to wait a few moments for other people to move away. 15 tanks in close proximity all wanting to go in different directions often end up resembling Parisian traffic, with a similar level of collisions, gesticulation and shouts of “priorité à droite!”

While waiting for the chaos to subside, you can press F1 for a full list of controls. The important stuff is WASD for moving, mouse to turn the turret, mouse wheel to zoom in and out, left click to fire. Your team show up as green dots on the mini-map, the enemy (when discovered) are red dots; convenient red or green diamonds float over the top of tanks to make spotting them a bit easier, and if you have line-of-sight to a tank and move your cursor over it the outline glows red or green. Remember: green stuff is on your side (DON’T SHOOT IT!), red stuff is the enemy (SHOOT IT! LOTS!), if you’re red/green colour blind then things might be a bit trickier (though a game mod may help).

There are two ways to win a battle: destroy all the enemy tanks, or capture the enemy base. Bases are the big flags marked “I” and “II” on the map, if you park within the white circle that surrounds the enemy flag then a counter starts ticking up, if it reaches 100 you win. Charging headlong towards the enemy base usually isn’t the best plan, though, your opponents tend to unsportingly shoot you a lot, so better to focus on shooting them instead. This is where cohesive teamwork can really come into play, though in random pick-up matches there’s not too much chance of that; apart from anything else on the European servers you might be on a team with a mix of people who are fluent in only one of French, Polish, English or LOLSPEAK, so trying to give orders would take as long as getting the scores in the Eurovision song contest (“Attaque sur la droite! Atak na prawo! Attack on the right! LOL ATAK RITE LOLOL! Luxembourg, nul points!”) Probably the best thing for the first few matches while you get used to the maps is to try and follow two or three other tanks at a slight distance (so they get shot at first), and take random potshots at any enemy tanks that show up.

There’s a green circle in the middle of the screen around your gun sight, this is the shot dispersion circle. Your shot may end up anywhere in this circle, and friendly fire is possible, so be particularly careful if someone on your side is anywhere near the line of fire. You probably noticed the circle gets really big when you drive around, making it incredibly difficult to hit anything past point blank range; ideally you want to stop and let the circle get as small as possible before firing for the best chance of a hit, but bear in mind that being stationary also makes you an excellent target. After you fire the circle turns red and starts ticking around, once complete it turns green again and the gun is reloaded for another shot. The good news about the starting popgun is that it reloads quickly so you can blaze away, the bad news is you’re unlikely to do much damage, much like the German anti-tank gun “derisively dubbed the “Door Knocker” (“Heeresanklopfgerät”, literally “army door knocking device”) for its inability to do anything other than advertise its presence to a T-34 by futilely bouncing rounds off its armor”, but you might get a lucky shot, and it’s not like you’ve got anything much else to be doing.

Around this point some rotten bounders on the other side will probably be shooting at you as well, quite possibly leading to your unfortunate demise. After exploding you can keep watching if you like, but you don’t need to wait for the fight to end; hit Esc and leave the battle, you’ll still qualify for any rewards you earned, but you can pick one of your other terrifying armoured death leviathans and launch straight into another battle. The results of any previous fights will show up in the bottom right corner of your garage once the battle ends, so you can see later if your heroic sacrifice spurred your team on to glorious victory, and more importantly how much experience and cash you came out of the battle with. As you accumulate experience you can research upgrades for your tank, and as you earn cash you can buy and fit them; more on upgrades, tech trees, different tank types and advanced tactics (like “hiding in bushes”) in the next exciting instalment.