My impression of the Cruiser Mk II before I acquired it was distinctly average. It was not that the tank was especially bad, but nothing really seemed to impress. Then I played it, and my eyes were opened. This tank can be a very powerful beast, but it is not easy to get out its full potential. Also to flourish it has to have the support of other tanks. I guess – and it is a guess – that as it is a low-tier tanks too often I have encountered it at the hands of players who hare off unsupported or poorly supported, and thus become easy prey, and also players less experienced in the game mechanics and thus less able to get the most out of the top gun.
Just looking at the rest of the vehicle first – this is a Tier III light tank, but it is not a fast tank. Not that it is a very slow tank, but the speed tops out at 40km/h. The armour is about what one would expect – nothing special. Basically it can be penetrated by pretty much anything, but at its own tier the front will bounce a few things due to good fortune or good angling – just never depend on it. Assume you are going to be penetrated, especially when facing higher tier tanks. The view range is solid but not spectacular. There really is not all that much to say.
The stock gun is a fairly average Tier III gun, able to damage most things its own tier fairly reliably, but useless against most Tier Vs and some Tier IVs. The situation does not improve with the second gun – indeed my personal preference would be to keep with the stock gun. The second gun fires two shots at the same time, and the second shot often seems to miss due to the recoil of the first shot. In theory it can pump out more damage but in practice I found the stock gun does better. With both these guns, in a Tier III battle, this tank plays more like a slower medium. In Tier IV or V battles it is a different story, where it really struggles to find a role, other than to be support to other tanks around it.
Put on the HE gun, and everything changes.
The first thing to note is the 3.7″ howitzer does an average of 370 points of HE damage, which for Tier III is huge. Most tanks on this Tier only have around 200hp, tank destroyers often a bit less. The average penetration for the HE round is in the high-40s, not all that impressive – except this means it will actually penetrate most tanks of tier as well This fairly massive power does come with two significant drawbacks. The first is that the gun is very inaccurate, and the second is a very long reload time – with a 100% crew it becomes 12 seconds. Otherwise it is longer. That can feel like an eternity, and compared to the reload speeds of most other guns at Tier III it is an eternity, and you cannot equip a rammer to make things faster. This means this tank cannot just charge off unsupported, because if it misses its shot, it is most likely dead.
The final facet of the gun is the one I found took most getting used to. If you have played another HE-gun the inaccuracy and long reloads are actually things you get used to. In terms of comparative damage, reload, and accuracy this almost feels like the KV-2. Where this tank differs is the shell velocity. Now all derp guns tend to have a slow-ish shell velocity, but compared to this gun they are positively speedy. Very often you think you have missed your target it is just that the shell takes some moments to actually arrive at the target. This does make shooting at a moving target at range almost impossible – the lead time you have to factor is so huge and the inaccuracy of the gun makes such things the pottiest of pot-shots. Shooting stationary targets is not so ridiculous, and indeed there is one particular advantage this gun has. The extremely slow velocity means the shell travels in a very high arc – often coming down onto opposing tanks not on their side/front armour, but more from above. This means it can, to some extent, fire over obstructions. It also means that the shell often comes down on some of the weakest armoured areas of the tank – the top. This makes Tier IV tanks especially almost as vulnerable as the Tier IIIs. Even Tier V tanks can find themselves vulnerable to a well placed HEAT shell – or even just a regular HE shell.
Ultimately I think there are two ways to play the Cruiser Mk II with the mortar. The first is a sort of direct-line of sight artillery, though be prepared for the odd game where the random number generator curses you and means you cannot hit anything. The second is as a close-in tank-buster. In both cases you need support! I had a spell of a few games where I forgot this, and quickly ended up dead in all cases. With support though you become deadly, crippling or destroying opposing tanks. Ideally you should be able to switch between both roles as and when the need demands it.
My overall figures are 15 matches played, with 10 victories and 23 destroyed enemy tanks. It can be deadly. As a prospective tank to keep, well, it is admittedly tempting. Nothing else quite plays like this at Tier III. One I shall keep under consideration.