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Monthly Archives: November 2012

The EU server special offer this weekend is based around the Relief of Tobruk, which took place in late November 1941. Somewhat unusually for these historically themed offers is that only tanks of one nation is included – Britain. Reading between the lines this may be a response to the hostility of the Operation Crusader special which did not include any actual British tanks. There are also, however, some other elements of the offer which will cater to all. The offer runs from Saturday morning to Tuesday morning.

So onto the British tanks involved – there is a 50% discount and doubled credit earnings for the Covenanter, the Valentine Mk III, and the regular Matilda. These are all Tier IV tanks, with the first two being light tanks and the Matilda being a medium tank. I will not be able to profit from this offer as I have not advanced beyond Tier II in the British tree and I do not believe I will be able to rush through one of the Tier IIIs this weekend. I do know that the Valentine LL and Matilda LL are really quite enjoyable tanks to play if one enjoys the “slower, heavily-armoured” playstyle, and while these regular counterparts will be not exact copies I am sure there is some similarity.

For everyone who gets the Top Gun Battle Honour there will also be a ten thousand credit bonus. This is quite a fun, quirky element to the offer and I hope other Battle Honours get similar bonuses in the future. In addition we get a 50% discount on garage slots, which will sell therefore for 150 gold as opposed to 300 gold. For those who wish to expend their garages this is therefore a good time. Myself I have no need to right now. There is also a 50% discount on credit consumables. I believe I am good for consumables right now, though I will double-check.

Finally the part of the offer that has me most excited: double crew experience for each battle. I will definitely get some battles in on my Marder II to take advantage of this – it will be a long-climb to progress their third skill so time to make a serious effort.

On balance this looks to be a very solid offer. While I am sure most people who have been interested in British tanks have probably already reached the Tier IV tanks (if not blown past them) the earnings bonus is good and should create some interest. The doubled crew experience will benefit everyone and will be particularly well received amongst more veteran players, and finally the discount on credit consumables and garage slots is another good universal offer.

NB: Some names in this post were amended to reflect the changed tank names in the 8.2 update

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We head to Eaworth – the chief settlement of the Entwash Vale – expecting trouble. Horn, one of our companions, is son to Reeve Ingbert. They did not part on friendly terms. We arrive in Eaworth to find it has seen better times – the fields outside its walls are blackened and burned and some houses within its pallisade have also been destroyed.

Eaworth is paralysed. Apparently King Theoden has decreed that the Riders should not go on the offensive against the orcs troubling their lands, and Reeve Ingbert through his loyalty to the King is obeying these orders. His other son, Ingmar, furiously disagrees with him. His daughter, Ingyth, was betrothed to Theodren whom fell on the Isen. Now Horn comes back, unlooked for, with a Dundlending woman and an elf – and me – and well, it is not the happiest of meetings. Looking on is Goda, matriarch, supporting the will of Theoden. A family drama worthy of any soap opera – and with the effect it leaves the folk of Eaworth leaderless.

Well, fortunately for the folk of Eaworth we have become very skilled at providing a bit of leadership. Undoubtedly my favourite of the Eaworth quests was helping a young girl stop a fight between two of her friends – a questline that ultimately has us slaying a load of drakes. Indeed there are two questlines – of which this is one – that lead into dungeons. Now, I have a slight bone to pick with the quest design because in both quests I stumbled into the dungeons before completing (what seemed to me) like a fairly arbitrary step of the questlines. This included (as I recall) a quest starting from a looted item. That does not so bad, but in these days where I tend to let loot build up “remotely” I did not trigger the quest until I had already been through the dungeon once. I will chalk this one up to “unintended consequences” of a new game mechanic, but it is not something I wish to see again in areas other than East Rohan. Annoying though this was, the dungeons were actually pretty good fun with neat little exploration deeds. Also I must praise the inclusion of open tapping which meant several times wholly ad hoc groups formed in particular places (no formal fellowships) with folks afterwards heartily cheering each other. Good to see. Barriers to grouping should be lowered – and open tapping is a great way to have done so.

At some point enough deeds have been done in Eaworth that Reeve Ingbert is forced to start taking us seriously. On the one hand this is good – on the other it involves counselling him between remaining loyal to Theoden’s order or taking a more active approach to the orcs. The way the story is written one’s choice is only a matter of roleplaying – though I do not know what consequences it may have down the road. In the event I advised him not to sit back and let the orcs run rampant, and that is first loyalty was to his people. This is the approach that Ingmar was arguing for all along, but impatient and brash he starts an attach on the orcish camp before all is prepared.

The ensuing battle is actually a lot of fun consisting of mounted and dismounted portions. The conclusion is that Ingmar is wounded, we are triumphant, but that a traitor is uncovered. This is sore news for the Reeve, but he is a man who has finally shown some back-bone and who is determined to stand up for his people. He is, dare I say it, a very good man. It is just a shame that his loyalty is misplaced.

Meanwhile in the epic questline Book 8 has reached its conclusion and Book 9 begins with a meeting with Eomer. He advises us to go north, to the site of his slaughter of some orcs. Meanwhile Reeve Ingbert too asks us to go north to find out what has happened to Thornhope, the other main settlement of the Vale. Aid was requested, and has not arrived.

What I particularly liked about my time in Eaworth was the reasoning given by the traitor. Theoden was a dotard, so at Grima Wormtongue’s urging submitting to Saruman seemed safer as Saruman offered to restore order. It is a seductive reasoning, and a good interpretation I feel to what Grima must have been doing to Rohan as the King became more debilitated.

We leave Eaworth in better state than we found it – but nevertheless it is still a troubled place. At least it has so far survived.

 

In a sense the Hotchkiss H35 is a tank I am already somewhat familiar with – this is because I have the Pz 38H 735f in my garage, based off the captured German version of this Tier II French light. Having faced it often enough on the battlefield I was expecting a generally slow moving tank, fairly well armoured, and with a reasonable (though not spectacular) weaponry.

More or less this is what I got. Certainly the Hotchkiss H35 is going to win no races, and for its tier it is also pretty well armoured. Especially against the non-TD opponents it can shrug off alot of shells. Against Tier III enemies and the tank-destroyers it requires more careful handling, as it is very easy to become stranded and destroyed. The damage is fairly anaemic – the only positive being the gun fires fast.

Ultimately this tank is too similar to the Pz 38H 735f for me to want to keep it – and indeed once I elited it after four battles I had absolutely no further desire to play. During that time I had two victories and two defeats, with four enemy kills. Three of those were in the final battle once I had upgraded everything – and I think this is one of those tanks which really does need to be upgraded to be appreciated. While I am not keeping it I could see this tank being a delight for someone in low Tier battles, presuming of course they enjoyed the slower, more heavily-armoured playstyle.

If there is a Tier II Tank Destoyer I hate facing more than any other – especially if I am in my Pz 38H 735f – it is the American T18. Its HE gun can ruin the match for any Tier II or III tank, while its frontal armour can be very difficult for other Tier II regular tanks to penetrate. To top it all off, it is fairly speedy and agile. Therefore I was looking forward to playing the T18 in my Tier II project, and I was not disappointed.

Actually I played a little with both top-tier guns. The AP gun has a very high rate of fire, reasonable penetration for its tier, though below average damage. The rate of fire though makes up for that. However, by forcing one to be exposed for longer I think this gun makes one more vulnerable. Far better to sneak out, unload a HE shell, and duck back behind cover.

The T18 does have very respectable frontal armour, which is able to bounce a lot of Tier II shots. The gun arc is also pretty reasonable which even allows one some slight angling. However, it is unwise to depend entirely on the front armour, and the and rear armour is nothing special. The trick is to use one’s speed and agility to try to keep all enemies forward, and blast them to smithereens.

I’ve ended up playing just five battles in the T18 – all of them victories, and destroyed 13 enemy tanks along the way. Not a bad taste of what this little monster is capable of. The point of the Tier II project is to find another Tier II tank for me to retain and play regularly, as well as just conducting a tour of the Tier II tanks. I have said I do not want to keep a tank destroyer, and I stick by that – but this tank has tempted me greatly. Instead I will sell it on to more fully explore the American TD line.

So Wargaming have announced they are delaying the advent of the Chinese tech tree from the 8.2 update to presumably the 8.3 update (probably in the new year). The stated reason is having analysed the statistical data they believe the tanks need more work than the timing for the 8.2 update allows. Gank also suggests it is because the tanks are not distinct enough so it almost entirely feels like playing Russian tanks (watch his video where he discusses this).

This certainly makes the 8.2 update feel a bit lighter. The new American line of tanks stays in, and four old maps get the new rendering, plus the usual load of bugfixes and performance enhancements. We also get three new premium tanks.

Generally speaking I applaud whenever a developer makes the decision to delay an update or an item of an update rather than release incomplete content. So bravo to Wargaming for doing that – also bravo to Turbine who have also had to announce a content delay. The Rohan instance cluster, the entirety of which they were going to release before Christmas, has been partially delayed.

Of course, the entire Rohan expansion was delayed for several weeks whilst they worked on getting mounted combat to a decent situation. No doubt this ultimately is responsible for the delay to the instance cluster. In Update 9, which should be before Christmas, we will get three 3-man instances with the rest (a 6-man and 3 12-man single bosses) coming sometime after Christmas.

Ultimately this does not impact me overmuch – although I have taken part in dungeon runs it is not my primary activity in LOTRO. Nevertheless I am glad to see Turbine not rushing out content in an un-releaseable state just because of a release date.

I have been playing World of Tanks now for over seven months. In that time I have played over 3300 matches – which sounds like a lot but in reality is not all that much. Certainly time to have an assessment of where I think I am as a player.

Overall I like to think of myself as “above average” though I am hesitant yet to use the term “good”. I still think I make too many silly mistakes, some of which I will talk about below. The metrics do give me some comfort – my win rate is around 54% and my efficiency is around 1170. My kills per battle are solidly over 1, which is quite satisfying. My damage/battle is around 470/battle is a little on the low side. One has to remember that a very large portion of my battles are in lower-tier tanks (my average tier being just over 4.1). If I score 470 damage in my Marder II over several shots that can easily equate to 2-4 kills, whereas on my KV-5 it might only be one or two shots and no kills.

I do not know how common my career path in World of Tanks is. I have the impression – no actual evidence – that most folks with a similar number of battles to me by now would have gotten into a Tier IX or X tank by now. Regardless it should be remembered I have only played around 150 battles with Tier VIII tanks – and most of those are in my KV-5 which has preferential matchmaking (no Tier X, and usually only 1-3 Tier IX). My exposure of the highest tiers is very limited therefore to a few games in my KV-2 and KV-3 before the matchmaking change, and now in the KV-4.

With that said, here are the aspects of my gameplay which I think need to be worked on.

1. Recklessness

Sometimes I get an urge to try to force something in a match. Now and then this works, if I can inspire a few team-mates to also make a decent attach. More often it means I die quicker to the detriment of my team. There is a fine line between being a camper who hangs back and is of no use whatsoever, and someone being patient waiting for the best moment. It is similar to the line between being aggressive and being reckless – all too often I find myself erring into recklessness to avoid being overly passive. One reason why I get along with the KV line of heavy tanks is, I think, because being slow it is not so easy to get oneself into a position to do something stupidly reckless (though not impossible).

2. Tunnel-vision

This is more of a problem on sniping tanks and occurs when I am zoomed-in on sniping mode and concentrating so much on one thing I do not notice that enemy tank in my rear-view mirror (as it were).  In this I am slightly battling against myself – I have a tendency to exclusively concentrate on one “thing” to the exclusion of all else.

3. Using the shift-key

This is a rider on the previous point. In artillery mode the shift-key switches between ordinary view and strategic view (to enable one to aim). In other tanks the shift-key switches between sniper (zoomed-in) mode and ordinary mode. Usually I zoom in and out using the mouse wheel, but if I could get the hang of using the shift-key it would save a vital second or so of scrolling.

4. Movement

A further corollary to point 2 (and also to point 1) is I need to get better at re-positioning myself after taking a shot or two. Too often I wait just too long to get off a second (or third) shot and then suffer from incoming fire, whereas if I had moved slightly – either moving behind cover when facing direct fire or just in a different place against artillery – I would stay alive longer. Of course sometimes one should accept the damage as a justified trade-off to destroying an enemy vehicle, but only sometimes. Again, I do this too often.

5. Higher-tier weak spots

On the whole I am still not familiar with them. I have a fair idea of most weak spots up to Tier VI. Not a perfect knowledge, but on the whole I am able to cause damage when the opportunity presents (if I hit). My knowledge with Tier VII and VIII tanks is not as good, but is “ok” most of the time – though Tier VIII is weaker than Tier VII. My knowledge of Tier IX and X tanks is seriously lacking. Mostly this is a result of the few games I have played facing higher tier tanks, but as I start to play more games regularly against the higher tiers this is clearly something I am going to have to work on if I wish to continue to be successful.

So overall there is certainly plenty of stuff to be working on.

In the southern portion of Norcrofts lies the settlement of Faldham. So far it has been untouched by war, but the young thane knows it is only a matter of time until the war comes to him. He is Elfmar, son of Elfhelm (whom we met on the Isen). Here we are presented with an image of a son of a great man, trying to act in a way that would make his father proud – and that gains him the respect of the veterans under his command. These veterans have refused to follow Reeve Athelward’s orders to gather in Cliving – and Elfmar understands that  Athelward only thinks of Cliving and not the rest of the realm.

The first thing we do is spar with some of Elfmar’s men. This is a rather fun little instance where some of the opponents give in very easily, and others not so easily at all. We also spar with Elfmar himself. Youthful he may be, but there is no doubt he takes his role as a military warlord seriously. In the next series of quests it becomes plain he takes his role as protector of his people very seriously too, as we help the folk of Faldham prepare themselves for the coming battle. Some of these tasks are fairly mundane – helping people board up their houses for example. Others are far more military, such as a pre-emptive strike against an orc-ish encampment and thereby hoping to disrupt the attack.

Overall there is a “calm before the storm” feel to Faldham, but not an ignorance. The people are serious minded going about their business as the children, more innocent of the world, run and play. The storm does eventually break however in an instance where we start off following Elfmar – and then others – in defending Faldham from assault. In what I felt was a rather nice touch, one of the Rohirrim warriors at some point says how useful it was to have disrupted the orc-ish encampment. This is a little thing, but it always heartening to see the developers try to give quests a sense of significance.

Faldham is defended, and both the epic storyline and ordinary quests now set us of to see the Reeve of Entwash Vale. Faldham has been far the most “hopeful” of all the settlements we have visited in eastern Rohan, with a capable and even optimistic Thane. We leave Faldham and Norcrofts behind on a high.