All tanks struggle when facing a vehicle two tiers above it. That is perfectly reasonable – they should! However, most tanks nevertheless have some trick or role they can play against the big boys. That trick might not always work, but usually it is there. The AMX 38 however does not appear to do so. A Tier V battle in this tank is an exercise in frustration – especially if there are only three or four Tier III and IV tanks on the field.
The one outstanding feature of the AMX 38 is the armour, which for Tier III is very good idea. Relatively thick, it is also almost entirely at angles increasing its effectiveness. Most Tier II and III autoloaders one encounters will be able to do little but scratch the paintwork. Along with the armour is a decent hp pool, allowing one to absorb a reasonable amount of damage. Of course tank destroyers are a threat, but not insurmountable.
There is a price paid for protection however. The AMX 38 is a slow tank. I would say it ambles along, but that feels too smooth a motion. Rather it lumbers and hauls itself from one part of the map to another, inching its way along. While technically a light tank, it is probably more accurate to call it a mobile pill-box.
As for armament, well, the upgraded gun is alright, but nothing to shout about. It is adequate against Tier III tanks, can be effective with care against most Tier IVs (though watch out for Valentine II or Matilda) and just about useless against most Tier Vs. It is pretty much useless even tracking one of the Tier V heavies.
These three characteristics mean you have a tank that can be supremely effective at Tier. In a Tier III match you can be a very effective soaking up the enemy damage output. I have even managed a Steel Wall – which considering that means 1000 potential damage is pretty difficult to manage at Tier III. While there are some vehicles out there can be troublesome (the frontal armour of a T18, for example) on the whole you should be able to reliably penetrate most of what you face. At this tier the slow speed also less of an issue. While it may put you out of position on a battlefield the real sprinters like the Panzer I Ausf. C find it difficult to take advantage of your relative immobility because their firepower struggles against the armour. In many ways it feels like playing a heavy tank.
Tier V matches could not be more different. You cannot damage the vast majority of Tier V tanks with any reliability – even the weakspots. Your slow speed means you cannot really scout – it just takes too long to get anywhere. If you are in a match with a handful of top-tier vehicles and a good mix of Tier III and IVs you still have a worthwhile role to play – helping defend against scouts or providing a roadblock on a weak flank. However in a top-heavy match you are almost always cannon fodder. At Tier V your armour is worthless.
A Tier IV match is not as frustrating. Although your armour becomes much less reliable it still provides a measure of protection (though not against tank destroyers), and there tend to still be plenty of Tier IIIs to match up against. Of course you still cannot scout, and the frontal armour of many tanks will prove troublesome but you can still provide some useful firepower support if you get into a flanking position.
I ended up playing 18 matches in the AMX 38, winning 11 with 15 enemy tanks destroyed. The Steel Wall mentioned above was my only Battle Honour. While I found the Tier III and IV gameplay to be an enjoyable challenge – at Tier V it was just boring. When you have neither armour, nor armament, nor agility one quickly gets a bad gaming experience. So it was. I definitely won’t be retaining this tank.