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Monthly Archives: January 2013

The story of Hytbold is simple enough – it is a town ravaged by the war in Rohan which Eomer asks us to help rebuild. Rebuilding a town takes a lot of work – and LOTRO certainly manages to make it feel like it! Gameplay wise this is meant to be the solo-endgame content of the Riders of Rohan expansion – a nice time-consuming project which gives one a real sense of achievement.

Game mechanics-wise each day you can do give quests which fall under the heading of “Aiding the Eastemnet”. In each of Harwick, Cliving, Eaworth, and Snowbourn there are three quest-givers which give out four quests between them. They each have a selection of different quests which they cycle through. Each quests give reputation of the faction to that area of Rohan, and also 5 tokens of Hytbold. Back in Hytbold itself there are a number of people who have quests to rebuild this or that area of the town, and each of those quests costs a number of Hytbold tokens. Some quests are reputation locked to being Ally or Kindred with the four factions of the Eastemnent.

Given one is limited to 5 quests a day, or to 25 tokens a day, that means a lot of grinding. Actually though it is not quite that bad, so long as one does not regard the quests as an obligation. I have been dawdling along with the quests. Hytbold is far from rebuilt, but two or three times a week I usually go through them. It provides a very nice bite-sized chunk of playtime with a definite goal.

Nevertheless when one is playing a bit more casually, as I am, there is no doubt this is going to take some time. It makes me feel that, after the next expansion, Hytbold is something that is likely to be missed for most characters and will become another piece of endgame littering the landscape after a rise in levelcap.

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Today I played my  4000th battle in World of Tanks. I made sure to do it in my Marder II, and came out victorious. Rather neatly of those 4000 battles 2200 have been victories – exactly 55%.

Four thousand battles sounds like a lot, but in reality there are plenty of players with several times more battles than me. Also, only 315 of my battles have been in Tier VIII tanks – so my top-tier experience is profoundly limited. If there is something I hope to change in the next 1000 battles or so it is to get better at facing the higher tier tanks. There are still plenty of weakspots I know nothing about.

At my current rate of play I would expect to get to 5000 battles in 3-4 months’ time.

The other interesting thing I have realised in the last few months is that, putting aside my specific lack of top-tier exposure, I have begun the transition to being a more experienced player. The maps are increasingly known and the flow of a match has increasingly has a familiar rhythm. One cannot claim to be a newbie forever. Fortunately, I am not yet a bitter-vet 😀

Here is looking forward to one-year anniversary in March!

Last time I spoke about the arty nerf in the 8.3 update I had only actually played the SU-18, which is perhaps not the best tank to judge the effect of the nerf on artillery, being only Tier II. I have now managed a few matches on my Hummel, which I feel gives me a better grounding.

My thoughts before the nerf was that the drop in hp and generally reduced mobility would make counter-battery easier, and that overall a good player would still be able to be successful. I was also somewhat negative about the way it was handled, as I felt it was a poor solution to a problem. There was also one aspect of the nerf I did not write about, which was not in the patch notes, but which was acknowledged by Wargaming – most arties, especially further up the tier, had their blast radius reduced.

My conclusions after a few matches in my Hummel. Well, the reduced blast radius basically negates my fear about counter-battery as the smaller radius of the explosion means one does not have to move as far. It also expands arty-safe locations and makes arty somewhat more at the mercy of the random number generator. That said, a careful arty player will probably not notice it all that much as careful aiming can reduce its impact. The impact on TD mode I think was over-estimated.

According to Wargaming (from Silentstalker’s Q&A thread) the nerf has so far been successful in reducing the number of arty. I myself have not acquired all that much hate yet – but Gank has put together a very nice little youtube video of some of the mayhem he has managed to cause.

Overall I am not as unhappy with the nerf as I had expected, and I certainly look forward to (eventually) climbing into a GW Panther and causing some Tier VI SPG mayhem of my own 😀

What to do with the Panzer IV? This has been a very long drawn-out decision for me. I know many people decided to sell their Panzer IV after it was rebalanced (nerfed quite hard) in the 8.0 update. The reason for the nerf was the 7.5 update when the matchmaker was changed to make the battle tiers narrower – suddenly the top gun of the Panzer IV was very overpowered. In the “rebalance” they took away the previous top turret (which was, I believe, an unbuilt variant) along with the top-gun, adding in a more realistic variant instead. They also took away the top-tier gun, but at the same time a series of German guns got a buff including the new top-tier gun for the Panzer IV. A case perhaps of three steps back and one step forwards.

In fact under the current gameplay – in other words with premium rounds for credits – many now also play the Panzer IV using a HE derp gun with premium HEAT shells.

I gave the new version of the Panzer IV quite a few battles over the last few months, using both the AP gun and the HE gun (both with and without HEAT). Two things became clear to me. The first was that I found the new turret to be ugly to look at. The second is that the role of this tank had changed dramatically, and didn’t really offer me something I could not play elsewhere.

Matters of aesthetics do not always factor into decisions about whether or not to keep one particular tank or not. The old Panzer IV was quite average looking, I thought. However, the change from average to ugly (I hate those silly flap-things) I found and continue to find very jarring.

As to the role of the tank – the old Panzer IV was a sniper. Its gun was accurate from long ranges. That was pretty much it. The new tank Panzer IV with its weakened armament is just unable to pull off the same trick. Instead with the AP gun I have found it become more of a sort of flanker – gameplay much more like that of the VK3001P or the VK3001H.

Alternatively with the HE gun it more often becomes, by necessity since HE guns are not too accurate, something of a brawler – only the Panzer IV really does not have either the agility or armour to be a brawler. No doubt, with HEAT especially, it can hit hard – but frankly the Somua SAu-40, Hetzer, and KV-2 feel more natural with the derp for me than the Panzer IV. I cannot help but think the tank is trying to be something it is not. Most of my games therefore have not been using the derp.

Now, some might say I am silly to get rid of a tank that is generally quite effective with HEAT ammo, but I play the Panzer IV for two things – to enjoy and to earn credits. I do not enjoy the HE/HEAT gameplay with the Panzer IV, and with HEAT I do not really earn as well as I can with the AP gun. Others may vary, but a large part of me objects to going flavour of the month if I just do not find it fun.

In many respects I find myself comparing the Panzer IV to the M4 Sherman. They have a very similar choice in weapons. In the M4 Sherman, just as with the Panzer IV, there is a viable HE gun option, which others find very effective but which I struggle with. The faster-firing AP gun though I find quite natural to use, and with which I have found success. The Sherman though has one major advantage over the Panzer IV – its gun depression. Given that I am going to be keeping the Sherman for some time (until the crew have Brothers in Arms at 100% at least) I find it easier to let go of the Panzer IV.

The tank is sold then, after 160 battles. In that time I have 104 victories, with 175 destroyed enemy tanks. I have a series of battle honours, but in reality these are split across two different tanks. I will remember the old Panzer IV fondly. The new Panzer IV, rightly or wrongly, was spoilt for me by what went before. The crew I will send to the VK3601H I have sitting in my garage.

 

The 8.0 update introduced new physics into World of Tanks, meaning amongst other things one could fall off cliffs, go flying over bumps, and other such fun and games. However, while I have partaken of the some of the flexibility of this new change, the fact is until recently I have not played many tanks with the zip to fully appreciate some of the changes, most of my tanking hitherto having been done in larger and/or slower vehicles. The M3 Stuart was the first light, fast tank I had played since the A-20 (which I stopped playing just before the 8.0 update went live).

The result has been quite a few broken tracks and my only death to falling damage. Along the way I have had a great deal of fun.

The M3 Stuart is a good all-around light tank. In Tiers I-II whether a tank is “light” or “medium” does not really have all that much relevance, and even at Tier III the line can be somewhat blurred. The M3 Stuart however is most definitely a pure light tank, both in terms of actual weight (12 tons) and size. For that it can, when upgraded, go along a decent clip (I found myself hitting 50-60km/hr without even really being aware of it). Its top-gun is a bit on the low-side for damage, but I have had no problems with penetration on same-tier opponents. Higher tier opponents require more careful aiming, and Tier V’s generally one is being a pest tracking whilst waiting for other vehicles on the team to do the heavy-lifting. The rate of fire is perfectly respectable, meaning despite the low alpha damage it is quite possible to get the kills. Armour, of course, is on the low side. All in all though it supports a style of gameplay, in Tier IV and V matches, that is quite effective at preparing somewhat for a Tier IV scout tank. In as much as any of the initial low-tier gameplay in World of Tanks can prepare a new player for the scout-tank role.

The combination and high-speed and light weight has, however, caused me more than once to race over a bump in the ground that I barely notice in my heavier tanks which sends me up in the air and results in a broken track. I am getting better at it – but it has been quite an adjustment to make in my playing.

The high speed does mean this tank has one effective, if dangerous, tactic available to it: ramming. Now, because this tank is quite light if you ram something else at full speed you will take damage. Especially if you are damaged yourself it is possible to be destroyed. Why then do I suggest it? Partly because it is very useful way to reset a capping circle. Also because it can be a useful way to taking out a critical enemy tank. Most definitely however because it is a lot of fun.

The vast majority of my battles in the M3 Stuart have been played platooned with a friend who is also in a M3 Stuart. This has been quite an interesting experiment at showing how effective platooning can be. My friend and I do not go on voice coms so out co-ordination can be a limited. Even so, just a few lines right at the start of a battle setting out an initial strategy can be pivotal. In those matches were there is a lull in the fighting which allow us a little more co-ordination the results can be dramatic.

Two Tier III battles in particular come to mind. The first was Mines, and we were on the southern starting position. We had gone around to the town in the east (because no one else had). The battle was in the late stage – about half the tanks of each side had died, and everyone was defending. So we decided to do a charge to flank some defenders, hoping that if we did it at the same time it would cause the defenders on the ridge to pause a moment or two before deciding which of us to shoot. It worked perfectly and within a minute the match was ours. The second battle was Province, eastern side start. Once again the battle had paused after 8-9 tanks on each side had been destroyed. We had just defeated an enemy assault on the southern end of the hill. We talked about it, shifted to the north and raced across the valley. I climbed the hill whilst the defenders took pot shots at him in the valley. Once I had safely gotten up the hill basically it was all over bar the shouting (though most of the rest of our team did diddly-squat the entire time and camped at the monastery). It was here I actually died whilst falling down a slope trying to flank a D2.

My stats in the M3 Stuart currently are twenty matches with thirteen victories and twenty-nine tanks destroyed. Along the way I also won two Confederate medals and so far have a 1st class tanker medal.

There is no doubt that the M3 Stuart is a very strong candidate to keep around as the added speed offers different gameplay from my other low-tier tanks, and it will provide extra experience in a scout-tank sort of role. Of course, the same can also be said of the Panzer II Luchs

This weekend’s special on the EU server is tied to the anniversary of the fall of Tripoli to the troops of the Eighth Army seventy years ago. Like most EU server offers it runs from Saturday morning to Tuesday morning.

To begin with there is a 15,000 credit bonus for each time you earn the Invader medal. The size of the bonus no doubt reflects the relative difficulty of winning the medal – as you need to earn 80 of the 100 capture points it is very easy to miss out by relatively few points. Given the way I generally play I seriously doubt that I will be benefiting from this.

Next we have six tanks (two each British, American, and German) which are on a 50% discount to buy, and with a 70% earnings bonus. They are Panzer VI Tiger, Panzer III, M4 Sherman, M3 Lee, Matilda, and Crusader. The Panzer III, M4 Sherman, and M3 Lee I can all recommend as being thoroughly enjoyable (though treat the M3 Lee more like a TD than a regular medium otherwise one can be disappointed). I have found the lend-lease version of the Matilda, the Matilda IV, to be very enjoyable too but I cannot actually speak to the Tier IV British version. Also I have no experience with the iconic Tiger.

There is also a 50% discount on the cosmetic inscriptions one can place on your tanks. This applies to both credits and gold. Myself I have never seen the need to bother, but your mileage may vary. If it is something you would like to try, now is a good time.

More usefully there is a 50% discount on all regular and premium consumables. I think I am fairly well covered, but if not this is an excellent time to stock up.

Finally the first victory in every tank has a triple experience bonus (instead of the usual double), which is always a nice little feature.

Overall I would rate this as another strong offer, with a good clear historical theme. The only potential fly in the ointment is no TDs or SPGs included in the offer, but even so it is difficult to complain. Even for those playing Soviet and French tanks mostly the consumable discount and x3 bonus means there is something for everyone.

B+

One of the most frustrating things in World of Tanks is when you are left to hold an entire flank or area mostly or entirely unsupported. Very often, such a situation does not end well – at best one can hope to delay the enemy long enough that the rest of the team will steamroller elsewhere. However, there is always a point to holding that flank – because poor teams sometimes works both ways, and in those circumstances everything changes.

The map is Ruinberg on a standard Tier IV battle, and I am in my Marder II on the southern start position. The vast majority of my team start to head into the town itself, a couple of other light tanks start camping right at the southern edge of the map. No one goes up to the line of houses on the east-side that runs part-way to the centre of the map, roughly half-way up. Reluctantly – because the Marder II is not the best tank for this – I start to head in that direction (on the far east side) because ceding control of that line of houses is usually a good way to ensure the team in the city gets flanked. To top it off, by the time I have reached the houses we are 0-4 in tanks down. Things looked pretty bleak.

Not entirely though – because as I crossed the road it became clear the enemy team had forsaken the line of houses too. I got into a good firing position slotted at an angle between two buildings that offered a fair bit of cover. Enemy tanks that were “defending” the base started to be revealed, and I started to shoot away. At one point a Type 2597 Chi-Ha tried to charge me, but rather than coming around the side of me he did show straight across the field and died. An M5A3 Stuart tried to plink away at me all the way from the base circle, but only managed one hit. A Bison tried to get me – but the buildings basically protected me and in revealing himself he quickly died.

In what seemed very short order the two light tanks who had been camping far at my rear had decided to actually join me and the entire eastern-flank of the enemy had been turned. The right in the town also turned – I like to think in part because I actually attracted the attention of about half the enemy team over the course of the entire battle. The battle score was now 11-8, but it was not that close, and in short order the rest of the enemy tanks were destroyed.

My final tally was a Top Gun with six kills – five of which were in that critical mid-portion of the battle where I was blasting away on my lonesome. A single enemy could have raced around to flank me and probably succeeded.

Sometimes – quite often actually – success is not playing brilliantly oneself. It is taking advantage of mistakes others make, and this match was a classic case. Also a good example of how picking a good spot can be vital, because from where I was and because of how I was angled I was able to keep almost all the enemy in the Marder’s wide gun-arc. Of course, in a different battle it would have been a poor spot, but in this one it worked.

All in all a very good game to take advantage of the double crew experience of the special offer at the time.