Monthly Archives: October 2013

So the 8.9 update is launched, much as expected. Of particular and immediate note for me, of course, was getting into the “rebalanced” Marder II, and alas it is no longer the vehicle I loved.

Through all the other nerfs that have hit the Marder II three things remained the same: its penetration, its damage, and its gun arc. Many other things got worse: accuracy, dispersion on the move and after firing, and reload timer, but none of them seemed to change the essential character of the vehicle. Perhaps it fired a little slower, or a little less surely, but it could still park in a bush and command a battlefield thanks to its wide arc of fire and the ability to penetrate anything it would face.

No more. In 8.9 however each of these three features had a hatchet taken to them.

I will be selling it on, and I think moving the crew up into the new German TD line that has arrived with 8.9. Except, of course, I am not selling the tank that first got me hooked on World of Tanks, I am ridding myself of an imposter.

I did, on Tuesday night, have one last great battle, a swansong before she was consigned to history. I won’t recount it at length, but in a Tier V match I did 1600 damage, 5 kills, 1132 base experience, and earned a Halonen. A good way to say goodbye to an old companion.

I have to say that it has been a very long time since I have played a tank as frustrating as the D2. If it is one overwhelming flaw it is its speed. It just takes so long at times to get to the action often there seems little for one to do.

The slow speed comes about, in part at least, because the tank is well armoured for a Tier III vehicle – and against Tier III vehicles that armour can be effective. Not so much against the tank destroyers of course, but against the regular tanks of that tier. At Tier IV however the armour loses its efficacy. It will still bounce some shots, especially from un-upgraded weaponry, but pretty much everything should be able to puncture through reliably, the odd bad shot aside. Once you reach Tier V the armour is, more or less, meaningless.

If the armour is fairly good for a Tier III, the firepower is horrible. The top gun will suffice at Tier III, but low penetration rolls will bounce, and effective angling can create problems. At Tier IV the effectiveness of the gun without premium becomes very situation dependent. Trying to pierce a Matilda, for example, will be an exercise in frustration. Once again however the real weakness is at Tier V. The regular ammo has an average penetration of 66mm, which will have some success on the right targets, but far from reliably. The premium ammo has an average penetration of 98mm. This will have more success, but will still be unreliable against the heavies.

Of course, the gun weakness is a problem many Tier III tanks have at Tier V, but most of them have more mobility. The horsepower/ton is only just above 9, and the acceleration is poor. The track traverse is average, but nothing special. The turret traverse is poor. Apart from taking a long time to get anywhere, this means the tank can be easily outmanoeuvred, and once it gets into trouble it usually dies. To some degree though this weakness is both expected and something one can plan for. Ultimately the biggest weakness at all remains how long it can take to get to the action.

My own record in the D2 is fairly successful – 19 matches, 11 matches, and 19 kills, and a 1st Class Tanker medal. I played a few more games than I otherwise might have trying to get the Ace, but I think I am going to forget about that. Slow speed makes one much less able to adapt to the randomness of teams. Sometimes slow speed can come with other compensations, such as firepower, but there is no sufficient compensation in the D2.

Well, that is the intention, hopefully it will become the reality.

I have been putting off dealing with my weight for a long time. However, I had decided at the end of the summer that after our holiday in Cornwall would have to be the time.

The history of my weight is mixed up heavily with my period of illness. Before I started my descent I was overweight – no doubt about that – but not grossly so. My weight fluctuated up and down a bit as well with the seasons, going up in winter and down in summer. However as my descent began I started to do a lot of comfort eating. Some people feast on chocolate, or sweets, or chips (fries to the yanks), or something similar. My weakness however has always been for crisps. One bag of crisps always comes in a 12-bag multipack, or something similar.

Then I had my period of breakdown, and I stopped leaving the house. I didn’t stop eating – if anything I ate even more, at times furiously. It doesn’t take much imagination to work out the combination of an almost total loss of exercise combined with a massive eating of crisps, bacon sandwiches, and other such things will do to a waistline. Then my medication changed – successfully – at the price of slowing my metabolism and therefore making me more susceptible to weight gain. Over the course of the next year I expanded in physical mass by at least 50%.

While I obviously regret putting on so much weight, I should say I do not view this as entirely negatively. There are many possibilities for substance abuse when one is utterly depressed and with nothing to do (and nothing to hope for). With plentiful alcohol and tobacco (ignoring for the moment illegal thrills) to sample, I choose food, which is probably the most forgiving of all.

Of course, losing weight is easier to say than done. My first attempt was a complete failure. I waited another year, and the second attempt worked. My weight dropped over the course of a year by about 6 stone. Things looked good, but then I got a jolt from the blue which totally overthrew my equilibrium. I fell in love.

My wife and I have both put on quite a bit of weight since we first met. In particular after she moved over here we just proved incapable of keeping up with the rigors of a diet initially. We were so happy at finally being together, each and every day, we just had a very long celebration. Then we were married, and learned we were to become parents, and then started to learn all about being parents … well, to be frank we kept putting it off.

This summer though we have been talking about it more. There will be a cost of all this extra mass, and we both want to have as long and healthy a life as we can manage. After all, we want to see as much of Melian’s life as we can. It didn’t seem entirely wise to start losing weight just before two holidays though, so we put the date as last week.

I must say it was with some trepidation I got on the scales that first time – with some justification. For those who like old-fashioned money, as it were, I came in at 3lbs and 3cwt – or 24 stone 3 pounds (1 stone = 14 lbs). However, it could have been worse. I am, I think, no heavier at least than I was at my worst in the year or so following my illness – and since I am more active I actually feel much healthier than I did back then.

The first week has gone reasonably well. The scales regarded a very flattering 8 pounds lost, which is real enough but something of a mirage. Every time I have started to lose weight the first week or two has a big drop as my body re-adjusts water content and the like.

The important thing though is that we are really trying hard to avoid the concept of diet. This has to be for the long haul – for a lifetime. This is more lifestyle change than diet. I think in the long run this may mean slower weight loss. Hopefully it will also mean more permanent weight loss. The one exception has to be crisps. Time has proven that I just cannot control having crisps now and then, or one bag at a time. It is all or nothing, so it has to be nothing.

I hope it is not too forward of me, but wish me luck.

The week away in Cornwall was very nice, and I have managed to for a fair bit of tanking this last week, and I have also managed to get some things done in Kerbal Space Program. Unfortunately both the teams I was rooting for in the LCS lost – typical. Looking forward I am hoping to be able to do some restart tanking both with a friend of mine, and I have also a tentative arrangement with my brother too.

World of Tanks

Very shortly after writing the last weekly round-up post, I finally got my Ace Tanker medal in my Panzer VI Tiger. The battle itself was a defeat, but as I got a Sniper medal I benefited from the new “Courageous Resistance” rules, and still got the +50% experience and credit bonus, and netted the award.

Since I have gotten back from holiday however I have had the distinct impression of wrestling World of Tanks to an all-score draw. My daily win-loss totals are 9-9, 6-7, 11-10, 6-1, 4-4, 7-6, and 8-6. Take out the 6-1 day and I have a 46-42 record, which accounts for it. Not really having much success in boosting my survival.

There is no doubt that most of my losses are attributable to just one vehicle – the Hummel, where I have gone 3-9 over the course of the week. Part of that I think is just bad luck, but no doubt part of it is having to adjust to playing artillery again, and finding the good and bad spots to position myself, and figuring out the best way to operate with the new arty aiming rules.

Otherwise I have now elited the M8A1, which I have had a great time playing. I have also been taking the KV-5 out regularly to boost my credit earnings as I am working to get the ST-I. I did have 3.6 million credits in the bank, but with buying the Panzer IV and getting both that and the Matilda ready for action this weekend I am once more below three million. My other main “job” this week has been training the crew of the SU-85B. I have it now nearly at 100%, and after I do I will overtrain a bit before retraining into the SU-100.

In the coming week I still intend to play on the Hummel and Panzer I Ausf. C to continue to try and improve on both those vehicles. I am also going to continue playing the VK3001H and VK3002M, though I think this will be the last week of regular play for them as I slowly get into the saddle of my intended tanking. I have chosen, however, to keep both vehicles – at least for the time being. When 8.9 hits I will probably also play a few extra games on my Marder II to try to work out whether or not I will stick with it has this latest “rebalance”.

Kerbal Space Program

On my new game in the new career mode I have mucked about enough to research the first few technologies, and in terms of actual achievement I have managed a couple of suborbital flights. I will not be spending overly much time here, however, as I want to wait until the economy is implemented before committing to a career mode game.

In my sandbox game I have a new success – a Chad Kerman has walked on Minmus! Though given the low gravity of Kerbin’s second moon perhaps that should be glided on Minmus. A much easier landing than my landing on the Mun. Either I am getting better at it, or I was just lucky. I would like to think the former, but somehow I suspect the latter. I have given myself a slightly trickier job of re-docking the lander to the orbiting spacecraft – because the orbiting craft is in a polar orbit. It should be alright though.

The one weakness of the sandbox mode is that science just does not really do anything – it is essentially locked down so makes it tricky to test. I am otherwise undecided about my test task in the sandbox game – to try and manage an interplanetary probe, build a small space station in Kerbin orbit, or try to get a rover of some sort on the Mun or Minmus.

The first two tanks in the British medium tank line – the Medium Mk I and Medium Mk II – never really seemed to deserve that classification. Not only were they very slow, but their armour was practically non-existent, though their weaponry was alright. This last lead me to label them both more like tank destroyers, albeit with a dangerously large silhouette. With the Medium Mk III however we finally get to a vehicle which I feel can make an argument for living up to the label of a medium tank, more or less.

The armour is still pathetically thin – 14mm on the turret and the front of the hull, and 9mm elsewhere. Weak as that is however it is the first tank in this line that has a decent chance of bouncing some autocannon shots. To be sure, the Panzer I Ausf. C can still do considerable damage if it empties an entire clip, but that will not be the certain death it is as with the Mk II.

In terms of speed and engine power there is also an improvement – incremental but it seems to make a difference. Using rough calculations the hp/ton goes up a bit from 11.3 to 11.9 (with upgrade modules, but no equipment); and the top speed goes up from 40km/h to 48km/h. The impression of increase agility is also aided by having an increased traverse speed (comparing upgraded tracks, 32 d/s to 28). Again, another incremental improvement that just tips the scales to make the Mark III feel like something other than a boxy tank destroyer.

There are two quite legitimate guns to choose from on the Mk III, after the stock one. There is the QF 2-pdr Mk IX, with has the greatest penetration, accuracy and rate of fire – but low damage. Then there is QF 6-pdr 8cwt Mk I, which has slightly less average penetration (57 to 64), but considerably more average damage (70 to 45), somewhat worse accuracy (0.41 to 0.36), and a worse – though still good – rate of fire (20 to 28.57 rpm). The aiming time on both guns is the same, at 1.9 seconds.

I ended up going for the second of the two, preferring its larger alpha. However, now I take a slightly more in depth look I see the first gun has one really quite pronounced advantage of the second: premium ammo penetration. On the 6-pdr that I used my penetration with premium ammo boosted from the regular 57mm to 72mm. In other words, even with premium ammo I cannot penetration with any reliability a Matilda (except to the rear) or the front of a Hetzer, and that is before one thinks about Tier V vehicles. In comparison the 2-pdr premium ammo boosts the penetration from 64mm to 121mm, which is enough to frontally penetrate the KV-1. At just 1200 credits a pop the shells do not appear too expensive – but given the high rate of fire one is likely to chew through the credits. On the other hand, if one kept a good store of shells available for the Tier IV and V situations where it would be handy (say 40 out of the 130 ammo capacity) there would be the potential to rather surprise some Tier V tank drivers – and the rate of fire does make up a little for the low alpha.

Of course, irritating a Tier V tank on the Medium Mk III is a good way to end up dead – remember that thin armour. To help improve its survivability however the tank can, surprisingly, take some advantage of hull-down tactics to reduce its otherwise massive profile. The 8 degrees of depression is not brilliant, but does allow for some peeking. The 280hp (with the upgraded turret) also allows one to take a certain amount of punishment, though is mostly good for facing up against same-tier enemies.

The most dangerous opponents for the Mk III are the howitzer/HE equipped opponents such as the T82 and Hetzer. Those tanks have the raw damage to be able to one-shot you if their HE shell penetrates, and give the still-poor armour the HE shells certainly can.

My own time in the Medium Mk III has amounted to 16 battles, including 10 victories and 11 enemy tanks destroyed. Along the way I did get the Ace Tanker medal, but I did struggle when I was put into a higher tier battle. I do wish I had paid closer attention to the differences between the two guns now. Even so I had an easier time playing it than I feared, and now will be selling it on and starting the Matilda.

The special offer this weekend is a homage to the start of the Second Battle of El Alamein. It feels like it has been a while since the last strict-historical themed offer, and this one is limited as they often are. This does make the offer a little light.

Firstly there is a 50% discount and 50% earnings bonus on the Panzer IV, Panzer III, Matilda, and Crusader. I already own two of these tanks, and just yesterday I was talking about re-acquiring the Panzer IV so this appears to be a good time to get it. The Matilda is still uncrewed, and I must admit I am unsure whether I will transfer the crew to it this weekend. However I think I will make good use of the offer with the other two.

One reason to do so is that there is also double crew experience this weekend, which will help the Panzer IV crew climb out of the 75% doldrums fairly swiftly with a bit of luck.

There is one mission this special. Called “Sand Beneath my Treads” it gives a 20% experience bonus for each victory on a desert map. Given there are only 3 desert maps it would be quite possible playing the entire special and not come across one, but hopefully no one who plays even a moderate number of games will be that unlucky.

Finally the two long-term premium account options – 180 days and 160 days – are available for a 10% discount. For what is worth I cannot ever recall seeing them on for a larger discount.

And that is that. A modest offer, though one I intend to personally benefit from. Given its limited nature I would rate it a B-, and that just because of the premium discount.

Something has been niggling away at me in World of Tanks for some time. I thought about it some whilst I was away in Denmark, but didn’t write anything about it in my introspection post because it was really an aside to what I was mostly saying there, and I hadn’t made my mind up. Now I have though. I want more tanks.

Well, I have lots of tanks. More accurately, I want to retain more tanks. I have had this idea of progressing up various lines, and along the way sold off some tanks I rather enjoyed – 75% crews and all. The more I think about it this seems silly. I also realised this was something I had already subconsciously realised back when I decided to retain the M4 Sherman and T-34.

Most of the tanks I feel sorry to have sold on are Tier V and VI vehicles, and also I was not looking forward to getting rid of the KV-4. I may or may not move on their crews onto the next tank in the line, and then retrain another crew, but that is the situation.

The limiting factor in all of this is garage slots. As of writing I have just one free garage slot. Of course I have already bought the T-150 and re-acquired the Stug III, partially following this new philosophy. Given that I am now going to keep the KV-4 that remaining slot belongs to the ST-I, whenever I can afford it. However, I also have three slots currently occupied by Tier III vehicles where I have already bought the next Tier IV tank, so they will come free in the near future. I can almost certainly also free up another 2-3 slots if needed by various tricks, and by making somewhat greater use of my barracks. I intend to hopefully acquire 1-2 more garage slots in the next sale.

This gives me some flexibility to re-acquire tanks I miss, but I cannot quite go to town just yet. There is going to have to be a distinct pecking order of which tanks get priority. Top dog in this regard will be the S-35 CA. I am also inclined to get back the Panzer IV, partly because it is such an iconic tank, and partly because now perhaps time has dimmed the memory of the old pre-7.5 era vehicle and will allow me to appreciate the modern vehicle for what it is. Also, the Somua SAu-40, because with the derp gun that tank can be wonderfully mean to its opponents. Possibly the M3 Lee and Jagdpanzer IV one day as well. One will notice a definite theme of TDs or TD-like vehicles 🙂 . To begin with though I am likely to just look out for the S-35 CA and the Panzer IV.

One consequence I anticipate of this policy is having more vehicles able to take advantage of the various earnings’ bonuses of the special offers. This extra earning power will both help to feed increased use of premium ammunition (and possibly one day consumables) and also mean less time waiting around for new higher-tier tanks. Another likely consequence is giving me much more flexibility should I ever wish to get involved with more team-play, such as joining a Clan and/or getting involved in TCs or similar.

Anyway, in the new year probably I will see if I can take advantage of a garage slot sale to dramatically increase my garage size, which will then let me properly indulge.

The Type 2597 Chi-Ha is the third tank in the Chinese Tier, and though it is classified as a light in reality it was a captured Japanese tank that will be entering the game as a medium. Which is perhaps a good way of reminding us all that the tank classifications of World of Tanks are somewhat artificial. What you have with the Chi-Ha is a vehicle that can act as a medium in certain circumstances, but in others is more or less forced into the role of a light, or perhaps even a TD.

From the look of the tank, however, it is easy to see why it is probably more medium than anything else. Simply it is large for a light tank. This can make it a relatively easy target, but it is not so large as something like the British Medium Mk III. Size does not equate to particularly strong armour – though the 25mm hull armour is somewhat more effective than it looks due to some sloping. Do not, however, count over-much upon it – when you get a bounce it is a blessing, not a certainty.

The Chi-Ha is also not a particularly speedy tank, but neither is it a lumbering whale like the AMX 38. It will be left behind by the more genuine light tanks, but still has the ability to move handsomely around the battlefield as needed.

The tank’s best attribute is undoubtedly its top gun. The first two guns are, in order, subpar and average. The top gun – a 47mm – gets an average penetration of 81mm with regular ammo. With care this is enough to penetrate the weakspots of even the Tier V heavies, though do expect to get some bounces as the accuracy is fairly poor so you will not always hit. Premium ammo gives an average penetration of 130mm, which would be sufficient against the Tier Vs with a little care and attention for when the situation requires it. The average damage is only 70 – but the rate of fire with a full crew is 20 rounds/minute, which means despite the average alpha you can put out a quite respectable amount of damage.

The view range with the upgraded turret is alright for Tier III, if nothing particularly special. The radio range, when upgraded, is excellent. With binoculars boosting the view range this means the Chi-Ha can be something of a scout. It has two drawbacks in this role, however. Firstly its relatively large size makes it easier to spot than many true lights, though because it is classed as a light it gets the same camo rules as a light tank. Secondly in most match-ups there will always be plenty of other potential scouts who are much better in that role.

Leaving the light scout role aside, I think the way to play this is highly situational on the match one is in. In a Tier III match one can very much assume the role of a medium tank. Everything is vulnerable and most tanks should be toast in two or three shots, and the tank does have a respectable 240 hitpoints with the upgraded turret which makes one fairly durable for the Tier. However, in a match with a preponderance of Tier IV and V tanks one becomes acutely vulnerable. However, that gun still remains effective. However, by adopting a position in the backfield, hiding in a bush or behind a rock, and waiting for your moment, that gun can still inflict considerable damage. In other words, playing the Chi-Ha more like a lower-tier TD in a higher-tier battle.

My own record in the Chi-Ha has been 18 matches with 12 victories and 24 vehicles destroyed. Along the way I earned a Confederate medal, the Ace Tanker award, and a Cool-Headed and Spartan commemorative award. I do not feel any desire to keep it however, and will be moving onto the M5A1 Stuart whenever it is next on discount.

Another of the things that happened whilst I was away on holiday was that the 0.22 update was released for Kerbal Space Program. The chief feature of this update was the release of the R&D system for the game, and with it the launch of the Career mode. So naturally I immediately started up a new game in the Career mode, and I am loving it so far.

The basic operation behind the new game mode is easy enough: you start off with an extremely limited set of parts to build you spaceship. As you launch missions you can conduct experiments and the like which earn you Science points, which you use to research new technologies, which unlock new parts. There is still no in-game economy, so you can just go ahead and do whatever with the parts you have, but never the less a very exciting first step in this new mode.

I do not think I am going to abandon my Sandbox game yet however. Firstly, the career mode still is incomplete. I do not think I will play “seriously” at it until some form of economy is up and running. However I will tinker around, trying stuff out, getting ready for when I do give it a thorough go.

Just before I went away on holiday the 8.9 public test went live with accompanying patch notes, and indeed since then the second version of the public test has also been announced. There is quite a bit I am interested in, but I must admit that one line in particular drew my attention, about the Marder II being rebalanced – or nerfed as we like to say in clearer language. I think this will be the third major nerf of my favourite tank, but I will mostly talk about it elsewhere.

The main item of the 8.9 update is however the introduction of the second German tank destroyer line, starting from the Marder II going all the way to Tier X, built around the concept of the glass cannon. Vehicles with little or insignificant armour but equipped with formidable weaponry. I am certainly looking forward to them.

Also several mid-tier SPGs are being buffed slightly, which I think speaks perhaps of how dramatic the SPG nerf was a few updates back.

We are getting a new map called North-West and an Encounter mapmode to Erlenberg. I have also heard that the Encounter mode on Mountain Pass is being withdrawn, and I can understand why. The way that one team was split into half made it quite a tricky map in random battles where team-work is often sadly lacking. The Pearl River map is also being slightly rebalanced.

There is also going to be an adjustment to Wargamings Personal Rating system, which is hardly surprising given the flaws of the current version. Whilst the changes, in particular reducing the effect of number of battles played, do seem to make it a better rating than it was before I still thing Efficiency and WN will remain very much in use for the time being.

There also appears to be two small adjustment to the rules for HEAT shells which, if I have read them correctly, count as a slight nerf to HEAT, but I really do not know enough to properly assess those changes.

All in all though, the proposed changes to the Marder II have rather concentrated my mind, and I will likely write about them once the update is live and the changes are set in stone. However, one of two things will happen: either I will continue to play the Marder II just I have always done, finding ways to make this “rebalance” work for me, or I will have three very experienced crewmembers to move into another tank 🙂 .