There are currently three Tier VI German medium tanks. The VK3001P has a generally poor reputation. The VK3601H (which at some point is going to be re-classified as a heavy) has a generally good reputation. The third one, the VK3001H, sometimes appers to be a little bit forgotten, but when remembered is often remembered as the one in the middle in terms of effectiveness. This has puzzled me, because of all three, I have found the VK3001H to be the best medium tank of the lot. The VK3001P is more of a sniper tank, with limited abilities in other roles. The VK3601H plays a bit more like a heavy – it has the front armour to be something of a brawler. The VK3001H however has both speed and offensive power enabling it to aggressively flank enemy positions, whilst also being able to withdraw and redeploy if the situation warrants it.
The experience one has when climbing into the VK3001H very much depends on what else one has done with its Tier VI counterparts. In my case I started playing the VK3001H after I completed the VK3001P, and before the VK3601H. This meant I had unlocked the armament and radios, but not the tracks, turret, or top engine. During the early grind the inability to use either top gun means one is strictly in a support role. Especially if one gets put into a lot of Tier VIII battles, expect a quiet start.
Once the turret is upgraded there are two possible top-guns. The first is 7.5cm KwK 42 L/70 – a gun with reasonably high penetration, rate of fire, and accuracy but low alpha damage. This is the first gun to be unlocked if not already researched. The second is the 8.8cm KwK 36 L/56. This has slightly slower accuracy and penetration, much slower rate of fire, but also substantially more alpha damage. Which gun you will choose will, to some extent, determine how you play this tank.
The VK3001H has fairly poor hull armour, to a maximum of 50mm. This means that every tank it comes across on the battlefield, from the Tier IV tanks upward, can damage this tank with some easy. The stock turret has the same lack of armour, but the upgraded turret has a more respectable 120mm of armour to the front. Superficially the combination of strong turret armour and weak hull armour makes this tank makes this tank appear similar to an American medium, but there is a crucial difference – gun depression. This tank only has a moderate amount of depression which means any hull-down tactics generally requires using an obstruction to protect the hull rather than the lie of the land. This extra turret armour also comes at a cost: it has a much slower traverse speed and overall slows the tank down somewhat. However, as it is required for the top two guns it is not really avoidable.
This tank is not a particularly slow tank even with the earlier engines, but once you have the top engines it becomes quite possible to be regularly zipping along at 50 km/h. In particular it is not the top speed, but relative acceleration and ability to maintain speed up some slopes that I really noticed – making it quite unlike many other German mediums I have so far played. With the upgraded tracks it has a some manoeuvrability too – though not as much as some mediums of other nations.
When decided how to play this tank, I think it comes down to a pair of questions. Firstly, which gun to use. Secondly, which advantage to make use of – speed or turret armour. Actually I think the question is really the other way around. If one wishes to make best use of the turret armour, and minimise the weakness of the slow turret traverse, one should strongly consider a role as a sniper – and that means using the 7.7cm gun due to its better accuracy and higher penetration. By sitting at a distance it should generally be easier to find spots that offer some protection to one’s hull. This is not to say you cannot use the 8.8cm gun in this role – its higher alpha is attractive and it is has only slightly worse accuracy (0.38 compared to 0.35), but at higher distances the reduced penetration will start to make itself felt. You can use speed to relocate as required.
The second role is the reverse – use the tank’s speed as a weapon in and of itself. You can use your speed to locate the enemy so the heavier-hitters can do their work. You can use your speed to seize a critical area of the battlefield and thereby deny it to the enemy, or at least contest it with them for a time, allowing slower vehicles time to get there. If it looks like one is going to be over-run you can use your speed to get out of the way and be able to fight in another part of the battlefield. Where a fight is already taking place you can use your speed to put shots into the sides and rear of those enemy heavies. If the enemy leave a flank open you can use your speed to get into their rear areas and take apart their artillery. Indeed, you can use your speed to create a distraction that wins your team some time to get their jobs done – though try not to suicide otherwise it becomes self-defeating. In other words this methodology allows one to be a true force multiplier. As to which gun is best – well there is a strong argument for the 7.5cm – its high rate of fire would be excellent for circle-strafing enemy heavies. Unfortunately the relatively slow turret traverse means this is not the easiest tank to carry out that tactic. I prefer the 8.8cm because of its higher alpha – I figure to be getting less shots off anyway so I want them to hurt when I do hit (and at close ranges penetration is less of an issue).
As you might be able to tell I eventually opted for the second role for this tank – using its speed. I just found it a lot more fun. I sniped for a while, and I do like sniping, but I think this tank is so much more than a sniper. In my reading I get the impression the sniper role is more popular for this tank, and it is certainly a very valid one – and also probably an easier one. There is no doubt that making aggressive use of this tank’s speed does expose it to greater dangers – and it does not have the hull armour to go head-to-head with just about anything. It also means that one’s primary use on the battlefield is not about kills – it is about making the other tanks on your team more effective.
As of now I have the tank fully upgraded and I have unlocked the VK3002DB. I am now concentrating on the VK3601H so will be resting it a bit before working to unlock the Panther. My record currently stands at 62 matches played with 32 victories (about a 52% win rate) and 43 destroyed enemy tanks. That puts my kills/match at a relatively low 0.69 – though this is currently rising as I have settled more into the role. I have managed 4 Sniper medals, and also my first ever Pascucci’s Medal (for taking down three enemy artillery). All in all I very much recommend this tank. It is a blast.