Monday, 31 October 2011

Getting under the skin ... what's the appeal of World of Tanks

Many, many people play Multiplayer games.  I've never been a big fan, and I put this mainly down to my age.  PC games for me involved story and plot and stupid AI's and other such things.  I am a child of computer games PRE INTERNET, when the game was completely and utterly captivating.

Saying that, Fallout 3 and Bioshock 2 are two of the best games I've ever played, so I'm not alone in the desire for this type of game.

That's where (for me) most MMO action games don't appeal.  Even with modified and upgradable avatars, I'm still facing off against a 12 year old with a M16 machine gun, and at 33, that's only gonna roll one way - and I'm at the bottom of that hill.

MMORGHY-thingys like World of Warcraft don't have a appeal either ... well they DO have an appeal, but I have a job and work to do (occasionally) and my wife won't ever find that amusing.  Addictive personality steer clear.  That said, character upgrades and boosted units and X attacks Y attacks P attacks W, that's the basis of the best tabletop formats, and also the case of the best RTS and other games.

World of Tanks

So World of Tanks was a refreshing change.  Out go generic 'types' (engineer, sniper, scout, shotgunner, bazooka dude) and in come WW2 derived playable tanks.  There's hundreds of them, they all have different stats and playability.  They all have different guns and armours and speeds and profiles and jobs and (geeking out here...) treads!

But that's just part of the appeal, upgrading the tank is also just part of the appeal, training a crew is also just a bit of it.... so what's the appeal?  Well, I'd been struggling to formulate it until I watched a natural history program at the weekend, and something went 'lightbulb!'

Origin of the Species

You know that bit in say, Planet Dinosaur, when the medium sized Tyrannosaur (Rex is one of a whole host of them), is hunting Albertosaurus (I shit you not!)  but then gets taken out by some enormous uber-Crocodile the size of T-Rex.  THAT's what I'm talking about!

The joy of WoT's is that you're thrown pell-mell into a stinking jungle of tank warfare where your ability to know your adversary and pick your fights wisely is essential.  Learning the game mechanics is one things, but different types of tanks will play completely differently and need to fight different opponents very differently as well.  Nothing gets the old adrenaline going as being a T-28 (level 4, good gun, laughable armour) and taking on a Tiger II.  The odds are just stacked in his favour.  In the same way, ambush tanks and artillery tanks mean that heavies are often more vulnerable than mediums, as mediums can just 'walk away' from a fight they can't win and support another flank.

Nothing gets the fight or flight juices rolling like a blazing dogfight at point blank range, escaping from a storm of heavies and then skipping across half the battlefield to challenge the enemy on your home turf.  Brilliant.


So a touch of RPG, a nice MMO and full scale Darwinism... now that's a heady mix!

Retraction .... ouch!

And finally, a quick retraction.  The VK2801 is not the best scout tank in the game, after playing against and then finally buying a Russian T-50, I can say that this tank totally rocks and totally rules.  Here's why...

  • THIS IS A KINKY TANK! It's like the Luchs scout tank used to be +1.  It has some armour and a decent gun.  It can cause havoc in smaller games and havoc in bigger games - its kinda like that.  The key is its 'weaviness', it can turn on a sixpence.  Although it doesn't quite have the straight line speed of the VK2801, it compensate by having bouncy armour and being almost impossible to hit at range, thanks to its kinkiness.
  • IT GETS GOOD MATCH UPS!  It can cause terror, panic and mayhem in pretty much any game and completely outclasses the other scouts.  Any isolated tank should fear the T-50, because in the right hands it can weave around your turret traverses like a mother-flipper flipping burgers in your face.  In comparison the VK is often without a target or a clear role.  Its a good tank, stats-wise it wins hands down ... but:
  • IT ACTUALLY MAKES MONEY!  It costs about $4,000 to completely rebuild it if destroyed, but it makes between $6,000 and $15,000 credits a game.  The VK2801 costs $9-10,000 credits to repair and replace ... and so 50% of the time - it loses money.
  • IT'S BIBLICAL FUN!  It doesn't slow for hills, it weaves and bobs like a fly weight, it can outmanoeuvre pretty much any tank in the game.  It's waspish gun can leave a mark on most enemies and its an adrenaline thrill ride from game start to burning wreck!
And the T50-2 is probably better ... that said, it depends on the match ups.  A Tier 5 scout tank will play a lot of TOP TOP tier games the T-50 avoids.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Thoughts on (the speculated) new Tau codex

Hoedr at DeviantArt

This is the first bit of news to get me excited about 40k in ages.  The second is that my much loved Chaos Marines will also get a new codex has me quite cheerful about 40k in 2012.

I'm not alone in being disenfranchised from 40k.  Infinity has stolen my heart from a tabletop POV, while World of Tanks has stolen my time away from modelling.  Despite having some beautiful 40k (Abbaddon Finecast and Forgeworld Blackheart) to paint and some exquisite Infinity models ... I haven't picked up a paintbrush or played a game since BLOGWARS I (30th May 2011).

I've just lost heart with 40k and can't find anyone to play Infinity with.  All in all, less than satisfactory.

The models are all packed up and safe (despite the insurgencies of my 2 year old boy - resulting in some 'reorganised' Leman Russes) and I'm waiting for the 'frisson' to happen again.  It'll come - no worries.

The first spark came with rumours of the new Tau codex maybe bumping up in Q1 2012   The 40k codici have been a bit hit and miss lately (generally HIT for the Imperium - Guards, Smurfs, Wolves, Angels, Grey Knights and MISS for the others (Orks and Nids).  The Dark Eldar was the fly in the ointment, offering functional but fluffy units which could challenge the might of the STC Marines...

Realisation may have struck after the Nids codex release that getting it wrong could really really cost.  Maybe they went the other way - but that'll sell a lot of Tau!  Check out the model leaks for Necron and there's some real badass looking monkeys in there (with swords and shields) ... looks like Necrons are getting hardcore.  Which is good ... because Spezz Merins have been dominating 40k too long.

The only Imperial army I run is guard, and even then I run a fairly fluffy build using stuff other people wouldn't.  The introduction of a Tau army with real firepower would be a wonderful thing, the top five wish list though?  Hmm lets see:
  1. Close Combat punch: What HAVE those water caste been doing with their time?  Where's the close combat monsters ... even Dawn of War made hounds double hard, Krootox well a bit pointless and had the the T-Rex as backup.  Where are the close combat holding unit.  Plus I want a bonus for being a fecking carnivore, where's my legendary speed and feel no pain bonus eh?
  2. Anti-Terminator:  The plethora of Terminator wings must be making the Dark Angels feel old hat now.  Fighting 2+, 5++ (or even 3++) is boring unless you have the right tools for the job.  Outside of Tau, only the Guard could field that kind of firepower (oh and other Termie armies of course, hence DraigoWing becoming the tournament Gorgonzola of choice.  Like the Earth caste wouldn't mass produce Plasma Rifles like candy?!?
  3. Ordinance:  It's not pretty, but it is effective.  Earth Caste Siege Mortar, Kroot Catapult - I don't care.  Tau are all about direct fire, but with the cover rules as they are Ordinance rules (either fix 40k cover rules, or the other).
  4. Fix the SkyRay, make it cooler.
  5. Oh, and don't try to fix markerlights - just make the weapons that hang off them more varied and interesting.  For example - markerlight guided missile ordinance weaponry - now that's what I'm talking about.  Oh and pathfinders are either overpriced, or need Infiltrate.  One or the other.

Any thoughts?

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Best Blog Article I've EVER Read....

Sorry Admiral Drax, but the winner is...

The FRONTLINE GAMER with their biblical explosion on the demise of the Games Workshop beast and the remarkable similarity between the failing Imperium in their fluff and GW sad decline.

Best new idea: Sandwyrm and Eriochrome are instrumental in Devising the M42 Project.  This is a rewriting of the 40k ruleset with one eye on making a cooler game system for your plastic men.  What's nice is their open ideas programme and the way they encourage outside interaction and input.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Most Fun Tanks in World of tanks

VK2801 - a monster of a scout tank, here sporting the wrong gun!
Here's a quick breakdown of my favourite tanks in world of tanks.  I'm slightly biased, as I'm not a big fan of heavy tanks and have therefore focused on the Light, medium, tank hunters and Self propelled guns of all three nations.  I've been quite busy!

Best Scout tank - German VK2801

Without a doubt the best scout tank in the game is the VK2801.  This is an updated and just released version of the Leopard tank (the previous super scout).  Many argue that the T50 and T50-2 russian tanks are the finest scout tanks in the game as what they lack a little in speed they more than compensate for in jinking and maneurvability.  However, for fun factor its got to be the 2801, here's why.

Most of the best scout tanks, like the Luchs, Leopard, M5 Stuart, M24 Chaffee, A20, T50 and T50-2 all share similar traits.  The germans are generally a bit tougher, the yanks have kick ass acceleration and the russians have no armour but a weaviness (is this a word) to die for.  They all have speed, going 60-72kph.  To put this in context most tanks can do 30-45kph, so they are fast!  Their job is straightforward, to spot the enemy heavies and arty and survive long enough to let the arty and tank hunter in range rip them to pieces.  Some have more hitpoints, are harder to track etc etc ... but the VK2801 has one BIG benefit.

It has a shotgun.

Effectively, the VK2801 has comparable armour to many medium tanks of tier 5, and can drive twice as fast and can carry a gun which can one-shot all artillery pieces and most tank hunters below of tier 6 and below.  This makes it a singularly very very dangerous tank on the battlefield as it isn't limited to just spotting, it can go in and clear out the whole nest as well.

Direct comparison, the best gun on a Russian T50-2 does 112 penetration, but just 85 damage.  This is great, especially at 20-30 rounds a minute, but you have to stick around for that time (the Premier American Chaffee does 137 penetration and 115 damage, so better but still a chipper, not a stopper.)  The VK2801 weilds the terrifying 10.5cm KwK 42 L/28 which does only 64 penetration, but 350 damage.  It fires every 6 seconds, but kills an artillery piece per shot at point blank range and at high speed.

As your target is mostly Self propelled guns with sub-50 armour and the sides and rear of tank hunters with sub-60 armour - this gun is the perfect accompaniment to the blistering 72kph speed and toughness of this tank.  At high tier games you're starting off in anti-scout mode, tracking and tagging the enemy scouts and "booming them up" (as my 2-year-old puts it), after the enemy engage, you're looking for a break in the enemy lines to charge those Arty, in low tier games you are a very tough customer and can penetrate most enemy armour with direct or indirect shots and one-shot the majority of them.

Downside, well you are really dangerous and everyone will try to shoot you down as soon as see you, but you are fast, very tough with bouncy armour and good hitpoints.  And your upgrade path is fairly long.  If you have a Leopard already - get one of these and sell the Lep - it's totally redundant.  The VK2801 starts with the same engine and gun as the upgraded Lep, but with 30% more hit points and better armour.  Most fun Light-Scout Tank.

Best Medium Tanks review

The Medium tanks I have the most experience is with is the American ones.  the American medium tanks are unusual in their build and operation, but certain tanks can be devastating.  To understand how a tank in a lower tier can be more fun than a tank in a higher, it's important to get your head around the tiering system.  Effectively a tier three tank, like the M2 Medium below is unlikely to meet anything above the lethality of a KV (tier five).heavy tank.  While the KV can one-shot a M2 with it's tier 7 gun easily, one will only ever meet one or at worst two in the opposing side.  There will be plenty of other targets to punch at and the KV won't be worried about you.

Compare that to the M4, you're only Tier 5, but you will refrequently meet tier 6-8 tanks that you just cannot hurt and that can really hurt you.  Your options for damaging and killing opponent are seriously curtailed by your lack of comparative armour and hitpoints.  No dice.

Tier 3 - American M2 Medium Tank

M2MT - The M2 Medium Tank is all about its gun.  In a similar fashion to the VK2801, this tank rolls with a shotgun like cannon capable of causing annoying and crew injuring damage to larger tanks as well as crippling one-shot kills to tier 2-3 tanks.  I've notched up my most games and kills in this tank and I've kept it longer than any other.  Big, cumbersome, nippy and lethal.

Tier 4 - Russian T-28

I got this tank on the way to trying out the KV (yawnorama by the way) and went back to it after selling the KV.  Its a Tier 4 tank with laughable armour (20-30 armour is worse than the M2MT and means even the lowliest gun can pound you), its tall and as long as a KV with a third of its armour.  It's also a big platform with little armour, making you the enemy Self Propelled Guns (SPGs) best target.

Big as a barn and twice as soft?  How come you see so many about then?

But it has several positives.  Firstly it's quick off the mark and has a healthy top speed, it's weight to power ratio also means it barely slows for hills.  This combined with a 'high-top' mean that ducking and turning around hills are your natural territory.  In this arena it excels.  Secondly, you have one of the best guns in the game.  It's a Tier 6 gun on a tier 4 chassis, at 120 penetration and 160 damage you can reposition quickly and then blow holes in much larger tanks, or bully your way across the board with the smaller ones.  Even in Tier 6-7 games you have the option to snipe, making this tank very very usable and useful.  You never feel redundant.

Tier 5 - German PzKpfw 4

The Panzer 4 is a lush tank due to its solid german built armour, respectable stats for speed and movement and most of all the 7.5cm KWK 42, which gives you fantastic penetration and solid damage.  This tank CAN brawl on the frontline against lowert tier tanks, but has the speed to avoid the KVs and the gun to hurt them.  At this tier the 'money-making' balance starts to tip as the repair of the tank starts to lose more money than you make in a (bad) game.  The Panzer 4 is a game making sniper tank, tipping the balance towards your team by chipping away at the enemy from long range many thanks to the Germans key ability - accuracy

Tier 6-7 - German DB and Panther Variants

From playing against and alongside (in a team) with these tanks - they come with the best balance.  The American tanks at this level are low armoured and poorly armed, the VK's can put the hurt on most things and the Panther can mount the same guns as the Tiger Tank.  Enough said really.

Tier 8 - The M26 Pershing

You have to play it differently, but anyone who's owned a Sherman will know how to run this tank.  Great speed and superb movement, this tank has a solid gun and a can use its profile and speed to mess up heavies and mediums alike.  This is a pack hunter that runs best in a mixed group, adding its firepower and then relocating or exploiting an empty flank.  Well worth the learning curve, although arguably the Panther II has a better gun, better sloping - but lacks the movement of the Pershing.

Heavy Tank - The B2

Ever the misnamed tank, this is actually a french B1 - the B2 is a premium tank and the only one I own, it's also the only heavy tank I own which shows my contempt.  It's only Tier 4, and at Tier 4 heavies are very very rare.  As such, it's stock gun (although Tier 2) is enough to worry at most enemies and helps to ensure that 90% of the time the B2 is top of the game it's in.  This means that game for game, the B2 is always handy.  It's very slow, but surprisingly manuervable, meaning that street fighting is a natural habitat.

Frequently it can simply ignore everything beyond the M3 Lee, Tank hunters and SPGs in the game and gobble up those light tanks like butter.  It's nemesis is one of two, the Hetzer or the Leopard.  The more time spent fighting you is less time killing your SPGs or hurting your lower tiered buddies.  Play style wise, play this tank tactically and use it to block scouts after your arty ... your three chevron map icon will attract all the firepower, but unlike the KV (which is sooooo easy to hit with Arty), the B2 is painfully difficult to hit with Artillery and painfully difficult to stop.

For my money, the IS range are the best "heavy heavy" tanks in the upper tiers.

Tank Hunter - the Stug III

I've played mostly Russian tank hunters, but game for game I reckon the Tier 5 Stug is about the best tank for the XP going.  A great money earner and a solid opponent in every tier.  The American Wolverine and Slugger are interesting, but lack the stugs speed and low profile.  The Russian SU85 Boomgun tank hunters can do crazy damage, but lack the accuracy - and then you're too close and getting killed, and that's what the stugs all about.  I've been killed by sniping stugs more than any other tank - a real nemesis.

Self Propelled Guns - SU26

It's tier three, but here's the snag, you'll be shooting at tier 7-8 tanks as often as tier 4.  This has a tier reach which far exceeds its actual battlefield range.  This little tinpot tank looks like a toy, but the addition of a turret to an SPG means that it can hit any target within range in 6-7 seconds.  because it doesn't have to move it's hull, it can hide in a hedge brilliantly and ambush those cheeky scout tanks and the turret even allows you to win street fights.

I've got maybe three dozen close-combat kills with the SU26.  I don't seek them, but unlike the other artillery the SU26 is actually pretty handy in this arena.  It's turret means you can 'track' an enemy without being spotted and you don't have to face them either allowing you hilarious run and gun tactics in this tin-pot tank.  You get into fights because unlike most arty you haven't the range of the whole board and MUST move forward.  This makes the SU26 popular with other tanks as it's frequently acting as a very effective 'mortar team' just behind them. 

Close combat kills: Stug III, Panzer 3/4, Panzer 4, M2MT, Chaffee, Leopard, Luch, Tiger, SU85.

Most of all, it's rate of fire is great and you don't 'lose your focus' as you realign the gun because you don't have to move your chassis to do so.  That's why you see so many on the field.  Paint scratcher of the first degree!


I hope you've enjoyed my feedback on the tanks above, most of these tanks are good money earners (remember everything Tier7+ isn't anyhow, or the VK2801!) and have fantastic repeat play longevity.