Gaming/WoT: Introspective September 2013

NB: Consider this post, if it ever gets published, a way of thinking aloud. There is much navel-gazing ahead. You have been warned.

So I am taking the opportunity of a near-fortnight break in World of Tanks to think about what I am doing, and what I want to achieve in the near, medium, and long-terms, in particular since one long objective for me has now been achieved (third crew skill for Marder II crew).

I am quite clear in my head that over the summer I haven’t really had that much of a plan, more like two or three objectives, and then just a morass of whatever. There are good reasons for that – not least amongst them a highly pressured situation at work. While that has eased off somewhat, there are plenty of changes afoot which is going to keep work being somewhat pressured for some time yet.

I think on the average weekday night (when I am not platooning with a friend) I can expect to play somewhere in the range of 6-12 matches. On the weekends I will often be able to play more. My gut feeling is that Saturdays and/or Sundays are the best candidate for high-volume tanking given, but that in most circumstances I would only devote one of those days to such high-volume tanking. Given that constraint it seems reasonable to try to get a list of what I would ideally like to achieve, and then work out how best to meet those objectives, prioritising as necessary.

Of course, there are also games other than World of Tanks I wish to explore, in particular right now Kerbal Space Program, Crusader Kings II, Skyrim, and Tropico 4. Now, I simply cannot do all of this at one time, so I am going to have to prioritise. In particular I think Tropico 4 just drops from the regular schedule for the moment, perhaps remaining in reserve for “light relief”. Kerbal Space Program offers gameplay totally different from anything else on offer, so I would like to muck around in that at least once a week. Skyrim/CK2 is an either/or sort of choice, and I think I choose Skyrim for the moment.  I am so far along, it seems silly not to keep on going through the various storylines to completion. World of Warplanes feels like it may become a regular feature with one friend of mine, and other occasional gameplay.Now, my brother has a saying that no plan survives first contact with the enemy, and it is certainly possible that first contact with reality will alter these intentions.

If that is the wider gaming context, now onto World of Tanks, which will remain my primary game. I currently have a garage chock-full of tanks. Fifty-three of them if memory serves, with two spare garage slots. These largely fall into four groups: keepers, premiums, being researched, and being parked. That last group covers several situations, from the Panzer V Panther which I got on special offer and just haven’t yet gotten around to playing, to the KV-4 which I was waiting to sell when I got the ST-I, to the SU-85B which I want to train the crew up a bit for when I slot it into the second Soviet TD line. I don’t have a particular problem with the fact that I do not play even half of my tanks any given month – I consider the great thing about having a garage like this is the flexibility it offers. Indeed, while I have been unable to take advantage of this recent offer’s discount on garage slots whilst I have been away, I do intend to expand my garage a bit further soon as I intend to get the Durchbruchswagen II and the second German TD line.

Also currently in World of Tanks I find I am rarely playing two whole groups of tanks: Tier IV+ scout lights and SPGs. This has to negatively impact my overall gameplay. In the most basic way – playing artillery is a great way to find those arty-safe and arty-safe-ish spots. Likewise I would expect greater experience with scout tanks to improve general map-knowledge and also positively reinforce some medium play. Being realistic I may not be able to do this all at the same time, but maybe this is something I could alternate. Anyway, it means I have my first item on my list.

1. Play more SPGs / scout tanks

Another goal I set myself quite a few months ago was to try to play through all the Tier III non-SPGs. The truth is that I haven’t gotten really all that far with this – I still have at least four Tier IIIs left to go. I also had the idea of doing the same with the Tier IV non-SPGs non-scouts (ie T-50), but have done even less with that. Now, when I play these lower tier tanks I try to play at least a minimum number of games with them – fifteen for a Tier III and twenty for a Tier IV. In reality usually I have the Tier III elited before I reach that number, and with Tier IVs sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t (largely dependent on what I have prior researched from other tanks).

Now generally I have given this a somewhat low priority as I have wanted to devote more time to higher-tier Tanks like with playing through both Tier VII Tigers. However, there are now certain things going on which make me want to re-assess. In particular I note that the Wrecking Steel missions both this special and last special were both concentrated on Tier V vehicles, and it feels like Tier V vehicles are the most regular entries in the various special offers, so it makes sense to have a large range of possibilities available.

Alongside side is the realisation that grinding out both the Tiger H and Tiger P at the same time was a massive higher-tier timesink which then impacted everything else I wanted to do. I do not want to entirely stop my higher tier battles, but for the time being I think I am going to have to be less ambitious. Now, I have generally tried to play one German tank, and then progress through the Soviet KV heavy tank line. The Tiger Project disrupted that, but I think I will move back to it. Also I think I should select my German tank with a view to being aware of monotony. I mean, a line-up of KV-4, KV-5, Tiger H and Tiger P is a lot of heavies in a row. Given in the latter part of October I do want to start finally on the ST-I this may mean postponing the Ferdinand for the time being in favour of something else.

2. Increase Priority of low-tier tanks
3. No more than 2 Tier 7+ projects active at any one time
4. Try to avoid monotony of tanks

One aspect of my current garage is a large-ish number of premiums (though with one exception all Tier V and lower). Now it took my a stupidly long time to realise how crew training in premiums worked, but since then I have successfully used this facility a few times. It is something I want to try to do more however – if only because I have spent real money on a lot of these vehicles so it just doesn’t make sense for them to be gathering dust in my garage. Now I cannot use them all of them at once, but I feel on a “good” day I should be able to use at least one to help train a crew along.

Crew training is a little quirky however, because unless I intend to retain the tank I do not see the point in over-training crews for Tier III or IV. Even at Tier V – unless I intend to retain the tank – it seems silly to go beyond getting the crew to 100% and maybe some “spare” experience for retraining onto the Tier VI vehicle. However, for other crews that I am already playing it seems logical to get the victory on the regular vehicle, and then go for a victory on an associate premium vehicle if available (ie, ST-I and KV-5). However, I would also want to keep the option open to train up a specific crew, either for a tank I intend to purchase, or in preparation to play that tank – like I have been doing with the Ram-II and the M4A3E2 crew.

Also when it comes to crew training, taking a serious look at my crew skills, I see one particular glaring weakness: a lack of crews with Sixth Sense trained. In most circumstances this is for a simple enough reason: I have lots of crews which do not yet have the first crew skill at 100%. However Sixth Sense appears to be such a powerful skill my lack of it is becoming painfully obvious. Time to right this weakness where practical.

5. Try to use premium tanks more often for crew training in conjunction with Tier VI+ regular play
6. Try to train more crews in Sixth Sense
7. Try to incorporate crew training projects to be in a better position when starting new Tier VI+ tanks

The other item I have in my garage are tanks I have retained because I want to keep on playing them. Chief amongst these of course is the Marder II, which is the tank that really is reasonable for the fact I am still playing World of Tanks after 18 months and that I am approaching six thousand battles. However, there are at least seven others (the precise status of the VK3001H and VK3002M being undecided). So I definitely want to keep on playing that. I also want to play around with the above two tanks to decide what I want to do with them longer-term.

Turning to the other vehicles I have retained they are the Panzer III, Hetzer, Cruiser Mk III, Leichttraktor, M4 Sherman, KV-1, and KV-2. I retained each of these for various different reasons: the Leichttraktor and Cruiser Mk III because I wanted a regular Tier I and II respectively, and Panzer III, Hetzer, and Sherman just because I had so much fun in each of them. The KV-2 because of the mighty derp. The KV-1 I kept because at that time it was my most played tank as I had grinded through the old KV pre-7.5 to benefit from the reworking of the Soviet heavy line. It has my third most skill crew (working on the second skill) but I must admit I rarely get it out now. With most of the rest I make an effort to get them out to benefit from any relevant special offer – but not really with the KV-1. Therefore I want to get some games in on the KV-1 to decide whether I do indeed want to keep it still, or whether to move on and use this crew elsewhere.

I also want to continue to “progress” on the other tanks here – which in reality means advancing their crews, some of which might happen “naturally” through special offer play, some of which might be deliberate as part of general crew training.

8. Continue playing Marder II
9. Work out what to do with VK3001H and VK3002M
10. Decide what to do with KV-1
11. Try to play more with the retained tanks

So that concludes looking at what sort of tanks I have available, and I have ended up with eleven goals. Next is to see what is achievable with those goals. I think the way to approach this is to budget my games. I said at the start on an ordinary weekday I would imagine I would be able to play 6-12 games most of the time. Sometimes to be sure I might be able to play more, and sometimes I might play less or not at all. Then for at least one day at the weekends I will play quite a bit more – maybe up to 20-30 games range. What these estimates do is give me a budget. Also it means there are some things I am just less likely to be able to do mid-week but which I might well be able to do at the weekend. So it is time to try to prioritise those goals.

Also I have something of an opportunity in that I do not intend to head back into full-time “regular” play until the latter part of October as I have another few days away in the middle of the month, meaning I can devote time to some of my other desires, such as getting some games in with the KV-1.Ignoring this time period for the moment, here is how I envisage my rotation working out from late October:

1+ games in Marder II
1-3 games with ST-I
1-3 games with Tier III/IV non-SPGs
1-3 games with German project
1-2 games with SPG/scout tank
1-2 games on training project

Generally I stop playing one tank after getting the first victory bonus. Now obviously if I only get in six games on a weekday evening it is very unlikely that I will carry out of all these aims. The idea will be to alternate playing SPGs/scouts most of the time. Generally I would not play a vehicle after a second defeat unless other items were already met. Also for the ST-I and German project it may also include a battle or two on a premium adding extra training to those crews – though I would likely play those games further down the list. The following gives some idea of how this might look in practice:

1-0 Marder II
1-1 ST-I
1-0 M8A1
1-0 Panzer V Panther
0-2 VK1602 Leopard
1-0 Ram-II (training M4A3E2 crew)
0-1 KV-5 (with ST-I crew)
1-0 T-25 (with Panther crew)
1-0 T-15 (with VK1602 crew)

So, what do we have here? Eleven matches playing scout tanks rather than SPGs. Eight of those matches take up covering the six areas, with the last three matches come from playing premiums with crews already used. In the above example I have given myself a 7-4 record, but if I had a losing record there would be fewer (if any) matches dedicated to crew training. I am fairly happy with this.

Of course, the overall plan may be adjusted to take advantage of various special offers or seek to pursue a particular mission. Also I think I might choose one “extra” research project for when I have extra time to do such things – right now that would most likely be the M6.

However, I will not put the above plan into action right away – in the next couple of weeks or so I envisage playing the Marder II, KV-1, VK3001H, VK3002M, and a selection of Tier III tanks, possibly with an odd match thrown in on the Tigers.

So, that feels like I have now managed to think through what I want to play. Now it is time to do something else: look at how I play. This shows looking at my weaknesses.

The first of these has to be being over-aggressive, with the associated lack of survival. As several different sources say, once you are dead you lose the ability to influence the battlefield. My survival is as of writing is about 29.7%. I have spoken before of the need to boost this. Of course the trick is increasing survival whilst not becoming passive – because if one is passive you get the same effect. Thinking about things, whilst I do hold my over-aggressiveness at times to be at fault, that is only part of the story. Twinned with this are two other causes: impatience and ‘just trying to get in one more shot’.

Being patient is not easy. It means waiting until you can make the most effective impact. In real-life combat it is not easy. One way that Wellington won several of his battles against the well-trained French armies was by being patient – getting his troops to wait until the French were close enough so that their volley had a lethally dramatic impact. Exploiting an enemy’s impatience – getting them to attack before they are ready – is another time-honoured tactic. Impatient foes are likely to make mistakes. That is certainly what happens to me at times – I make myself vulnerable for no good reason, trying to force something that is not perhaps there. Instead I should wait and let the enemy make those mistakes. Or something like that – this is far easier to write about that put into practice.

What makes it complicated is that there does come a time when breaking cover, charging across the valley of El Halluf (for example) is the right thing to do. What I really need to start thinking about is when I make such decisions.

On the other side of the coin is knowing when to stand back, knowing when to stop pushing one’s luck. There are more times than I care to remember when I have shot an enemy tank, and thought ‘I can get another shot in’. Oftentimes I am right – the thing is I have also just allowed them to get a shot in at me, and sometimes that shot is fatal. Essentially I need to learn to fall back behind cover more often.

A related point to both of these is knowing when to fall back entirely. When for whatever reason (lack of team mates for example) one is faced with a situation where you cannot hold a position. Now, in certain positions it will be a do or die situation, where there is no good route of retreat or retreat just means defeat by surrendering the base. In other situations though it should be possible to try to conduct some form of fighting retreat – and if it does look like one is about to die to try to make one’s death to be expensive and for one’s wreck to be as inconvenient as possible. I remember one match on Erlenberg Assault where a defending KV-4 basically won the match by making sure his wreck blocked the northern bridge.

While I may be too aggressive in general gameplay a lot of the time, there is one part of the game where I am far too timid. Since premium ammo for credits was introduced I think I have purposefully fired premium on only about a dozen or so occasions (as opposed to premium loading first when the battle starts, and me idiotically not realising this for a time). This no doubt impacts my win potential. I can quite easily think of a few matches were a well-placed premium round or two could have made all the difference.

Of course, premium rounds or not one has to know where to aim. My average tier is 4.6 or so, and I know most of the weak spots of the Tier VI tanks and below as one would hope from that. Tier VII and VIII tanks are somewhat less well-known, but still there is some familiarity. Far less so Tier IX, and especially Tier X tanks. Even on lower tier tanks however there are sometimes weak spots, or other tank characteristics it is useful to know of which I am ignorant. Essentially when it comes to tank knowledge I must admit to having been coasting somewhat. Time to hit youtube and start watching some videos, and maybe twitch to see some streams, to garner ideas of how to improve my play. In actual fact I have already started this, and picked up a number of useful hints which I hope to start deploying in the coming weeks. However, there is still much research to do.

It is important however not to try to do too much at a time – and not to overwhelm myself with details. If we distil the above discussion to a list we get the following:

1. Try to reduce recklessness
2. Try to increase patience
3. To fall back more often
4. To make each death more expensive for the enemy team in terms of damage and time
5. To make use of premium ammunition
6. To do more research

That seems like a reasonable list of things to be working on.

Of course, as I start to work on all of this I expect just one thing to happen – my win rate to reduce a bit and quite possibly the other stats as well. In particular playing more SPGs and scout tanks is likely to involve a period of adjustment – as is starting a new tank in the ST-I. That is alright so long as it does not last overlong and I can see signs of improvement in other areas.

There are certain things I am unable to do at the moment, seeing as I am on holiday and all and away from my home computer. Chiefly this is remember all the intricacies of my garage – ie the precise status of all my crews, especially for tanks I play less often. One of my tasks when I get home will be to take a census of my garage finding out that information for deciding future crew training schedules. I am thinking of putting some of that info into my monthly updates so I can regularly track it, though that would make those posts even more time-intensive. Something to think about for another day.

  1. Bernard said:

    I get to start over with Skyrim… again. Same for Tropico 4. And CK2… and Mass Effect 2…
    I’ll never finish a game ever again it seems 😦

      • Bernard said:

        some good news: seems I have not lost all my Skyrim saves.

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