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World of Tanks Primer - Welcome to WWII 101!

Updated Tue, Mar 15, 2011 by Stow

Cover is extremely important. The enemy could be anywhere in my view, lining up a perfect shot even, but I would be none the wiser without eyes of my own out there.

So you want to be a tank driver in the World of Tanks, but are a little afraid of what you’re getting into?  Don’t worry.  Your MMO experience will come in handy as this game has a lot of trade-offs to weigh as you compare ammo, turrets, armor thickness, and more.  You may start driving little more than a tin can on treads, but eventually you’ll make your way to the Sherman medium tanks, and eventually the heavies such as the legendary King Tiger and Maus.  But you probably have questions about the game before you dive into a multi-GB download and a potential grind, and that’s what we’re here to clear up!

World of Tanks is a semi-realistic shooter.    You’ll be piloting a variety of Soviet, American and German vehicles with one simple goal—devastate the enemy team.  But unlike most first person shooters, there are many ways to go about any given map, many ways to protect yourself, and twitch reactions won’t get you very far.  You’ll be spending no time on foot.  You’ll spend a lot of time in the menus comparing stats and verifying what tanks is strong with, and weak to, but over time you’ll spend all of your time on the battlefield.

Know Your Role

You start off as a lowly light tank with a pathetic top speed, durability and gun.  Fear not.  You aren’t going to be matched against the titans of the war; you’ll be pitted against mostly the same kind of players with maybe one upgrade on you or two.  The matchmaking for this game is fairly good about giving everyone a fair shake in a given game, and groups the teams by their general tank level or tier as the players will typically refer to it as.  Once you get a few games under your belt, you’ll accumulate the resources needed to make the next step into perhaps a different type of death machine.  There are three main types of vehicles in World of Tanks

Tanks

It wouldn’t be World of Tanks without Tanks, now would it?  Tanks are characterized by high maneuverability, and the ability to fire one direction while moving another.  This makes them excellent defensive specialists behind cover, and offensive for keeping mobile and not getting locked on by the other two classes of units.  Life as a Tank varies depending on the branch of tank you go with, but generally you’ll play defensive initially, but lead the surge forward when the time comes.

Backup is extremely important.  Beating the odds is rare in a game of equal firepower.

Tank Destroyers

The big assholes of the game, the Tank Destroyers are masters of area denial.  They love to park in shrubbery, point their massive guns at a pass, and wait for some poor sap to enter their crosshairs.  Tank Destroyers have better range and accuracy than Tanks, but at one major downside—no turret.  In order for the Tank Destroyer to fight, it must turn the whole vehicle to face the target.  As such, a flanked Tank Destroyer is quickly annihilated, and if your treads get blown off in combat, pray that someone is still in front of you to aim at while your team repairs!  Tank destroyers have respectable HP and frontal Armor compared to tanks, but extremely vulnerable sides and rear.

Artillery or Self-Propelled Guns

The class that requires the most patience, but also instigates the greatest rage for both you and your opponents, SPGs have an incredible firing distance.  Typically this is about ¾ of the map in distance, but it’s highly inaccurate and highly affected by terrain.  Since the shot is arced, anything whatsoever in the path will deny your shot.  You’re still welcome to try if there is a faint chance of getting it over and into the steel of an enemy tank, but don’t try this at home kiddies.  Much of your time is spend staring at the map in a Birds Eye perspective, and you have the hardest prediction of all in your shots due to the time they take to reach their targets.

Imbalance is rare, because the matchmaker creates even teams of each type and tier of tank in general.  Now skill-based imbalance.... that it can't account for.

Pace of Battle and Victory… or Death

The biggest problem for most new players of this is that they drive straight to the front lines, get shot at from all sides and blown to hell before they even locate the opponents that killed them.  Passive play is smart play in World of Tanks.  That’s not to say camping is the only strategy to win, quite the contrary.  But rushing headlong into enemy Tank Destroyers is a good way to accumulate repair bills that outweigh your income.  Move slowly forward and if you see an enemy, use cover or elevation to protect yourself while you wait for backup, artillery, or an opportunistic shot. 

Victory is achieved after a 15 minute time victory, the obvious massacre of the opposition, or capturing of their home base.  Capturing is no easy feat.  Even the slightest damage will set your capture back 30 seconds, so it’s impossible to ninja the objectives out from underneath your opponents.  But what if you don’t make it to that point of victory?  Perhaps one of the greatest features of World of Tanks presents itself—you don’t have to sit and wait.  There is no respawn in these missions, but you can repair your tank between missions.  The tank is unavailable until the mission is finished for all players, and you can leave early if you are killed!  You can even queue up for another game so long as you have another tank that is not currently locked in combat.  You receive full rewards whether you stuck around or not once the game completes.

R&D and Progression

To progress in this game only requires time and money.  Fortunately, I’m not talking about your checkbook; I’m talking about credits earned in game.  Experience points are earned every battle and can be spent on upgrading your current vehicle, or researching another one.  Once researched, you purchase the tank with Credits earned from each battle.  Note that you don’t want to always progress directly in power—you might find you like a tier 4 Medium Tank for the Germans, so you might research down to that level for the Soviets and Allies to see if their tank offers any subtle differences—which it does!

Just realize you’ll have to pay for repairs and ammunition as you go, and the bigger the vehicle, the more it costs to fire and fix it!

What next?

With so many tanks that have different playstyles and strengths, the game almost has a Pokemon-esque gotta-catch-em-all feel to it.  The playstyles of Tier 2, 5, and 10 tank battles are almost completely different from each other, so there are incentives to play less powerful tanks for more entertainment and variety.  There are also 15 man clan tank wars, where the ultimate in communication and tactics are needed to press on and beat a similarly coordinated group.

Besides, do you need a reason to keep logging in and punching giant holes in Nazi tanks?  I didn’t think so!


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