Not that long ago I wrote about a battle in my KV-5, where I took over 15000 potential damage. Rather amazingly I have just played a match in my KV-4 where I have crashed through that record by over 2000 potential damage, mostly courtesy of an enemy Jagdpanther II.
The map is Karelia Assault, a Tier VIII match, and I am on the defending team. There are three Tier VIII tanks each side (my KV-4, an 8.8cm Jagdtiger, and a T69 on my side; and a Tiger II, Caernarvon, and the aforementioned Jagdpanther II for the opposition), a single Tier V SPG on each side, five Tier VI vehicles, and the balance being made up of Tier VIIs. Seeing the other two Tier VIIIs on my team turn to defend the southern approach, and decide to take the northern defence. There is one early casualty as an enemy Comet sprints into the centre of the map, and is quickly dispatched. Then the match settles down as we wait for contact on the main flanks. Through the entirely of the battle I cannot see directly what is happening on the southern flank – outside of communication range.
There are roughly three general strategies to defend the northern approach, what I like to think of as back foot, front foot, and down the pitch (using terms from cricket). The last of these follows the philosophy that the best defence is a good offence, and essentially means attacking the enemy tanks on the plateau of land that is the northern team’s base on the Standard map version of Karelia. This strategy can be successful, but it requires the right tanks. You have to get tanks to that plateau in the first place, which means faster vehicles. We did not have the right selection of tanks for that tactic this evening, and thankfully no one seriously tried to push that far forward. Probably the chief reason why the northern defence fails on Karelia Assault are people not looking at what their team-mates have. A Type 59 or Cromwell can complain all he wants how he had no support but if their team-mates are fielding KV-4s or Churchill VIIs, for example, then frankly they should know they would have gotten stranded.
A Tiger in our team did start to advance up the slope to the plateau, but never went into full assault. Instead he adopted what I like to call the forward defence, which concentrates tanks around the top of that slope and its ledge. This is again a perfectly reasonable strategy, so long as the defenders realise their position can get flanked and one or two tanks seek to defend it or even. Attackers sometimes forget this as well, so sometimes leave themselves open to being flanked themselves. The weakness of this flank to both sides is that the ground there can be sniped from both offensive and defensive positions. An active defence in this spot can, however, stop an assault dead in its tracks – especially given the somewhat cautious nature of many World of Tanks players. The weakness is that too many tanks concentrated there have no defence in depth.
My personal favourite tactic, which is mostly what happened in this instance, plays much more to that defence in depth. The defence starts in more or less the same place, but rather than try to hold the slope itself one or two defending tanks make a fighting retreat down it. Meanwhile, set up in the rocks opposite the slope other defenders pour fire at the attackers as they reveal themselves to attack those forward defenders. The rocks should offer good cover from both artillery and attacking snipers, while the bulk of the enemy attacking tanks force themselves to become more exposed. If the enemy stick at being snipers then the defenders’ artillery should be able to make their lives miserable as there is relatively little cover at the top of the plateau. The best offensive counter to this strategy is probably to focus fire. Identify and kill one tank, and then the next, and then the next.
In this instance the Tiger mostly fought at the top of the slope, and acquitted himself very well, and in the process lit up the enemy attacking force to the benefit of our SU-8, and those of us defending the slope. I myself had positioned myself behind a rock towards the bottom of the slope, side-scraping so front was more or less entirely hidden by cover and mostly what could be hit was my side at a good angle. My intention was to be a target that would hopefully induce the enemy to stop and shoot me, so my team-mates and I could kill them. I was hoping with so few Tier VIIIs I would be able to bounce most shots, or let my tracks absorb the enemy fire. Ahead of me, initially in support of the Tiger was an M6. Once the Tiger had been destroyed – he was so far advanced those of us further back could offer relatively little assistance – I advised the M6 to fall back a bit. This was to draw the enemy further out so the rest of us could shoot at them – and he did! A rare moment of team-work.
Overall the strategy worked pretty well. Several enemy tanks died at the top of the slope as they unwisely stopped to shoot. The Caernarvon did try to push forward after he and his companions had killed the M6 and a M36 Jackson, but I am glad to say I took care of him. All the while he was wasting shells into my tracks, as was a T29, and eventually the Jagdpanther II. The SU-8 finished off the T29, and on the southern flank we appeared to be eventually victorious. Then for what seemed like forever – and probably was about 3½ minutes of a 10-minute match – the Jagdpanther II kept shooting me, and each shot tracked me. I essentially had no opportunity to move. Fortunately for almost the entire match I had been arty-safe, but clearly in these last stages the enemy M41 shifted location and I started to lose hp to him. However, he ran out of time before could kill me. Meanwhile I do have to wonder slightly at what the Jagdpanther II thought he was managing to do. I did not count, but I reckon he hit me between 15-20 times (in the after battle report he had a total of 30 shots, but some of those would have been against my team-mates) and all he was doing was breaking my tracks. The truth is that he appears to have been a fairly average player, and was just aiming for me rather than the most available weakspot. Admittedly he would have missed some of those shots, but over the length of time he shot at me I think he probably could have killed me – or at least inflicted significant damage.
I did earn the Steel Wall Medal as might be expected, and I was hit a total of 54 times (a few less than the previous time). I did a reasonable amount of damage to the enemy, just over 1800 spread over four vehicles with one destroyed. The record though is potential damage received, which was a whopping 17,940. Given my KV-4 has 1600 hitpoints that is equivalent to just over 11 KV-4s. Indeed I made a guestimate of the total hp of my team, and it seems this exceeds the total hp of my team – myself included – by several thousand. Overall I would have to say mission accomplished, even if the record is mostly because of one enemy tank plinking away long after the rest of his team was defeated. The Jagdpanther II ended up with the Sniper medal, unsurprisingly. Given he expended 30 shots in total I also wonder if he managed to make a profit – somehow I doubt it.