World of Tanks Progression

Progression in World of Tanks gets a lot slower as you buy more tanks, as you spread your playtime across multiple vehicles. As the tiers go up, the amount of XP also greatly increases to the point where several hundred battles are required to unlock the next design.  Even though I am only concentrating on one tech tree (Russia) the grind through Tiers VIII and IX has become very slow.  Its also painful when a tech tree branches into multiple tanks, and you have to keep playing until both are researched.  I am still enjoying play of the H-35, UE-57, KV-1, KV-2 and KV-5 (my favourite tank for ramming), and playing one game on each of those is usually an hour of good times.

Object 704

This is the tier IX Russian Tank Destroyer (TD).  Sadly after 100 battles I am only averaging a 47% win ratio, and looking at all my tier IX tanks the victory rations are all sub-50%.  So while on paper its a decent vehicle, its often running into Tier X vehicles with players who know a TD’s weaknesses. I have a lot of days where I wish I was back in the ISU-152.  The 704 is fairly educational around why turretless tanks largely vanish from the OB post-WWII, anything that is fast and gets close will flank me, track me, and laugh at me.  One of the biggest issues I run into in high tier public matches, is a refusal to scout.  If no one spots for the team, I’m useless.  If the enemy team has a competent scout, once I’m spotted my survival time is about 5-10 seconds – unless the enemy shells bounce off my gun plate the TDs HP get stripped fast. In this Pearl River battle I was the brave one to be first around the corner that an M40/41 SPG was hiding behind (with a loaded round), and got the last kill needed for the Expert USA badge.shot_017


This is the tier VIII Russian SPG Artillery, and like most high tier vehicles, its not a lot of fun to play.  While it can fire about every 45 seconds, and it does a lot of damage when it hits, its a big if around the hitting.  I can fire 12 shells in a long battle and miss every time.  I’ll have to wait for the Tier X SPG before I get significant improvement in the accuracy.  Even more so than the TD the SPG is utterly reliant on a team that can spot, block scouts, and not manage to lose an entire flank in the first three minutes.  Its not without reason that the player most likely to bitch about “noob teams” is in a SPG along the back line. I’m not sure how my team won this match, because they let the enemy scouts crawl all over the cap, which made it a short match for me.shot_018


This is the tier IX tank in one of the Russian heavy tank trees, and progression leads to the IS-4, which is not as popular a Tier-X tank as the IS-7.  Once fully researched, its a lot of fun, reasonably fast on the flat (but not uphill) it has a decent gun and armour.  Like a lot of Russian tanks, its good for fast moving brawls.  Of all the tier VIII+ tanks I am progressing, its the most fun.  I did well in this Himmelsdorf map, climbing the hill, flanking the enemy behind the Castle, and then hunting a medium down in the south town, before the enemy arty killed me coming around a corner (the T-44 right behind me then hunted the arty down after a long game of at and mouse on the train tracks).shot_019


This Tier-VIII Tank Destroyer is a piece of shit.  While it is fast and can redeploy quickly, both its armour and gun are crap.  The crap gun is really noticeable when you draw Tier X opponents. I only play this if I am feeling masochistic, as if I am going to have to grind TD pain, I’d rather do it on the 704 and get a bit closer to the Object 268 Tier X TD.  Just to remind myself what it was like I took it out for a spin.  Got Mines map and 350 ms latency, which is awful, but as it was a Tier VI-VIII battle I was able to penetrate and do a bit of damage.  A chunk of my XP came from spotting damage when I did a favour for the other TDs on my team by sprinting over to the shadow of a ridge line for proximity spotting.  One hit from an IS took away half my HP which just reinforced its vulnerability.



This is a Russian Tier VIII medium tank … and the research grind is long. As well as tracks and turret, there are three engines and five guns to research.  The default Tier VII gun is underwhelming for a tank that will face Tier X monsters on the field.  I’m suffering through progression so that one day I can wolfpack at tier X.  In play its a hybrid, not fast enough to be a light, not grunty enough to be a heavy.  While a medium should be trying to flank and disrupt, the basic T-44 is just too slow and too puny to be scary. It pains me to say this, but I just keep playing and hoping for a decent team to carry me to the double XP win of the day, then I swap the crew to the Matilda Tier V premium for some crew training.  On the outing pictured below, sadly the latency hit me and I drove into the water and drowned.shot_024

Clan Wars

I have done about 20 Clan War battles with PANZR (Panzac Raiders) and it has been a lot of fun.  The IS-7 is much more fun in a team unit than in solo play.  The new rules for locking tanks out of Clan Wars, however, means I will only get to play Clanwars about three times every two weeks (if you click on the picture below you should get a clear view of the hour countdown in the tank strip at the bottom of the image).  As much as the company may talk about strategy, it looks pretty clear to me that this is intended as huge silver sink (about 6,000,000 a pop, or a couple of months grinding on a premium account) as people buy additional tier Xs to support their clan.  It is a lot of work, 15 minutes prep for each battle, and many battles are uneven fights, no shows, or ten minute sitzkriegs. Still, its a good feeling to have a competent company commander, be given clear orders, and just do my best to execute them.  In my last battle I sacrificed my tank by turning 90 degrees away from the enemy, allowing the rest of my team to take cover behind me as they converted the cap for the win.


Too Many Maps?

Every patch another new map.  There are new maps that I have played once or twice since the last patch, which is really not enough to have a good chance of learning the map for different types of tank.  So its nice to see new skins of old maps (with snow or fire added).

World of Tanks: Soviet Rejig

Patch 7.3 introduced a few changes to the USSR tech tree, mainly to the heavy tanks.  This post is where I forever leave behind my self-image of not being the kind of gamer who talks about gun barrel diameters…

Prior to the patch I had researched:

  • Tier V: KV
  • Tier VI: KV-3 and KV-1S
  • Tier VII: IS

After the patch there were now two full streams of heavy tanks, I think one line is emphasising armour, the other speed.

  •  Tier V: KV-1 and KV-2
  • Tier VI: T-150 and KV-1S
  • Tier VII: KV-3 and IS

The KV-3 now leads to the KV-4, and the IS leads to the IS-3.

The T-150 was a surprise to me, but it came with a free garage slot, hull and 100% trained crew.  It was only partially researched (lacking gun, turret and engine upgrades) but still had the upgrade tank researched.  My first few matches with it were pretty disappointing, leading me to wonder if it should be classed as puppy chow or dog meat.  A few comments in game chat supported the idea that the only good thing about the T-150 was selling it for credits.  As far as I know the T-150 was a planned KV-1 upgrade, with only one prototype being completed before production/testing was interrupted by the German invasion in 1941.  Eventually it was redesigned to become the KV-3.

Ruinberg – Invader Achievement Day!

Prior to 7.3 I had been playing the peek-a-boo game with the KV equipped with a 152mm howitzer (a variant nicknamed the Dreadnought by original Soviet crews if Wikipedia is right).  Because this weapon has a 45 second reload time, compared to the 12 seconds or so for most high-end weapons on similar tier tanks, you have to be quite careful in its use.  Tactically, you run towards a cluster of buildings and hide behind them, peeking out to fire a shot, then rapidly reversing before someone knocks your tracks off.  The worst that can happen when tracked, is having the front part of the vehicle exposed, but the gun unable to align on a target due to the corner of the building.

The distinctive “stub” of the 152mm strikes fear into the hearts of all enemies.

So now there was a KV-1 and a KV-2.  First thing I noticed was that only the KV-2 had the big cube turret, second thing I noticed was that the KV-1 no longer had the 152mm available to it.  Then I noticed that the crew had decided to stay with the KV-1, so the Dreadnought crew were back to zero training for their skills.  I could have swapped the crews around, but its not a big deal.  As I only tend to play each tank until I get a x2 experience victory with it each day, the grind to 100% skill is a very long one.  The KV-2 feels a bit harder to play, as its a tier higher than the old KV it runs into much more heavily armoured/gunned tanks that it struggles to hurt.  I have also just had a long stretch of bad RNG, with the 152mm once bouncing three times in a row off another tank in a Siegfried Lines match.  I also need to keep playing the KV-2 to finish researching the S-51 artillery SPG.  The KV-1 has also been made easier because its match-making range has been compressed one tier down from the top (i.e. its much less likely to run into some of the big nasty late-war/fantasy blueprint tanks).

My team complained that I was hanging back. So I went and got 4 kills.

In theory with the KV-2 and T-150 I should be using the 107mm Zis-6, which is their overall best gun in terms of penetration and damage.  I have, however, been having a lot of fun with the 57mm on both the T-150 and KV-1, primarily because it can fire 26 rounds a minute and the penetration is reasonable.  This leads to quite a different play style to the 152mm, much closer to that of a medium tank than a heavy, which I have mentally dubbed ‘cavalry’.  With 170+ rounds of ammo, you can feel free to take long range pot shots at scouts, to fire when on the move and accuracy is low, or to lay down suppressing fire in gaps.  What I have been trying to do, is to move forward with the goal of either running into a group of medium/light tanks, or rapidly flanking a heavy tank – the goal being to get behind it and pump a round every 2.2 seconds into its engine compartment.

I was not playing the Tier VI KV-3 much before the patch, concentrating on the Tier VII IS, but now the KV-3 is Tier-VII and needs to be played to reach the KV-4 Tier VIII tank.  Oddly enough, while it was not a favourite, it still had a personal best of 8 kills (in an Arctic match my team lost). It has been rebalanced for Tier VIII, so its weapons do a lot more damage to the high tier tanks than I remember.  Because I have tended to win my first match of the day with it since patch 7.3, I have no reason to mess with the “zombie” tactic of simply heading towards where I know I will run into enemy heavy tanks. I had an odd match this evening, facing off against three AMX scout tanks, where they hid behind buildings and acted like heavies rather than flanking me and using their six round rapid fire guns, so I slowly picked them off one by one.

Ready to roll in the Mountain Pass.

Prior to patch 7.3, the IS (Iosif Stalin, named after “Uncle Joe”) was my highest tier tank in play.  I was not enjoying it very much, rarely getting more than one kill even in winning matches.  Compared to the Tier VII German Tiger its gun was less accurate/damaging and compared to the US T-29 its armour was underwhelming.  What it does have is a slight edge in speed, making it good in urban brawls. The trick is to not go head to head with the enemy, but to back off and head down a side street – hopefully while your team mates keep its attention fixed.  Since the patch I seem to have been doing a bit better with the IS, but I’m not thinking of keeping it once I research the Tier VIII IS-3, as that tank will do what the IS does, only better.

Yes, its a Russian tank in the desert.

Now I am wondering if I should give the KV-1S a go, as it is a faster, less armoured version of the KV.  While I researched it months ago, I never bothered to get the hull.  Given how much fun I have with charging in with the 57mm doing it on a faster tank has some appeal.  I don’t see the KV-1S all that often in matches though, which suggests its not a player favourite in World of Tanks. Looking at its weapon options though, there is nothing quie as quick firing as the 57mm, although quite a few options in the once every 5-6 seconds band.

I might post something about Tank Destroyers next.

Traps, Tanks, and some other Things

Well, I’m still waiting for my copy of Skyrim to arrive, so I have some time to write about other things.

I am still having fun playing World of Tanks.  After researching all the upgrades for the KV I decided to muck around with Tank Destroyers and Self-Propelled Guns (artillery) for a while.  This was fun and educational, seeing the artillery interface made it clear why I had died easily in certain places on the map, and I gained a new appreciation for large rock outcroppings.  Actually playing artillery can be super-frustrating, you may be stone to the heavy tank scissors, but light tanks are paper to your stone.  The light tanks move too fast for you to hit, and the slow heavy tanks have too much armour for you to damage (I cheered when a shell hit a Tiger II and managed to inflict 2% damage) so you end up hoping wistfully for a medium tank to decide to park itself out in the open for the time it takes you to set up the shot.

Tank destroyers are a bit less frustrating in play.  Their low profile makes you hard to spot, so they are excellent if you have the patience to sit in an ambush position, or know where to go for a long-range sniping shot.  A Hetzer with a 10.5cm cannon satisfyingly one-shots many light/medium tanks and its the only tank where I have ever managed ‘top gun’ with seven kills out of 15 of the opposing team of players.  Without a turret though, its vulnerable to being flanked.

Still, when my dreams were filled with green targeting recticules, I decided I needed to wind back how much I was playing this little game.


The players in my tabletop game will be off doing a tomb crawling expedition soon.  So, naturally, there will be traps.  And undead monsters.  But its traps I have been thinking about.  There is one rogue in the party, who has invested heavily in trap detection and removal masteries, allowing him rerolls if he fails a spot/disarm check.  So having traps present is a payoff for how he has built his character, helps the team, and makes up for not being as good in combat as the combat focused characters.

I do wonder though, if the process of traps is too predictable.

Most of the time, in every new shift in the game environment, he announces he is looking for traps.  If he finds one, he tries to disarm it.  Trap disarmed, party moves on, rinse and repeat.  Partly I think its dull, because its action by just one player, while everyone else waits.  Without an external factor, such as pursuing guards, its not terribly exciting.  Low damage traps are also pretty much a waste of time in Dragon Age, as the party can just stop, take a breather, and regain 1d6+Constitution+Level Health Points, so with level 6 characters, traps doing less than 10 damage are just wet bus tickets.

So I thought a bit more about what traps are, and what else you might tie into their key purpose – defending a location.  As well as doing some sub-lethal damage (because, to be blunt, save or Die traps will just make my players cry) traps can also:

  1. Block movement in a particular direction.
  2. Channel movement towards a different direction.
  3. Split the party into two or more groups.
  4. Sound an alarm.  Could be silent, could be noisy, maybe the entire dungeon just starts quietly vibrating.
  5. Summon/teleport guardians to the location (Release the hounds!).
  6. Physically trap/pin/cage the intruders in that location (Sharks optional).
  7. Mark the intruders, like paint/dye/glowing goo.
  8. Attach a locator beacon to the intruders.
  9. Communicate information to the intruders (Achtung Minen!).
  10. Trigger a time delayed device (This dungeon will self-destruct in six cycles)
  11. Apply a debuff to the players (poison, disease, exhaustion, fear, etc) rather than just a few HP.

What I’ll try and do this weekend, is have some traps that require more than just one person playing with their lockpicks, the environment setting and situation should require another pair of hands or eyes I think.  Perhaps a slowly flooding dungeon, where once you choose to fall back, you know you’ll never get to the last chamber in the tomb.

Traveller World Gen

Thinking back to the random craziness of Traveller worlds, I begin to think that worlds might have fit better together if they had been designed in clusters, rather than just retro-fitted the explanations.

Terror Australis

I also mused briefly today about what an Australian themed expansion for World of Warcraft might look like:

  • A continent full of critters that are Level 100 Elite Mobs!
  • New Wombat Race!
  • Ford Falcon mount for engineers!
  • A rejigged economy where you sell minerals to the Chinese gold farmers!
  • New Class: Tasmanian Mutant!
  • Every monster has a poison attack!
  • Forests teeming with Drop Bears!
  • Legendary pavlova recipe!
  • Ozzie rules PvP, where damage can only be inflicted while jumping!

Grand Strategy Game at Buckets of Dice 2012

I emailed the pitch in for this today.  Not too far removed from earlier discussion here, but the next big chunk of design work will be in mid-February, after Canterbury Faire is finished.

I am in one of my phases where I write up some game mechanics, then delete them for being too derivative.  So while I am doing work on the “Xmas Game” I do not know if I will actually get one finished.  In the mean time, some notes on games I have been playing and games I am looking forward to playing.

Star Wars the Old Republic Beta

Not much I can say here due to the NDA. Bioware did a short beta test just for testing the Oceanic connections and I was lucky enough to get an invite.  I am not regretting my pre-order from Amazon.

Lord of the Rings Online

Over the last year I have slowly levelled up a level 30-ish Guardian character in LOTRO.  Its a free-to-play game, but I did spend some cash on a mount and opening some questing zones.  While the Lord of the Rings lore is good, its very, very grindy.  Two points stand out here: advanced combat abilities that are only learned after you have used a basic combat ability a few hundred/thousand times, and the crafting system, where you effectively have to relearn prior tiers of skill in order to master each new tier.  Tactically, the levelling game is more interesting the World of Warcraft, as failure is quite possible if you attack on elite mob or pull too many trash mobs.  I only tried an instance once, and the combination of inability to generate multi-target threat combined with rapid mob respawns turned me off trying again.  After playing the SWTOR Beta, I don’t think I’ll be spending more time in LOTRO.

Dragon Age (tabletop)

My once a fortnight tabletop campaign continues, with the players having reached Level Six.  In the last session, they ran into an interesting moral challenge and my amoral mage jumped a different way from that which I was expecting (he refused to take the Red Book of Monsters from the time-shifted Ebon Tower after a fragment of a God told the party the book could be used to summon monsters that could sunder the world).

Some quirks in the game engine are now becoming apparent.  By Level 10 a character will have at least doubled their health from Level 1, if not tripled it, as well as improving the ability to avoid being hit and to mitigate incoming damage … but their outgoing damage will only have increased by about 1d6 per round.  So against a similar group of “heroes” the chances are that a combat would take an entire game session to resolve.

The Rogue class is annoying, as in each and every combat round they have to make an opposed bluff check in order to gain an attack bonus and 1d6 damage.  Without the bonus damage the Rogue is not competitive in damage dealing.  The extra die roll each round is time consuming.

Mages are annoying, definitely glass cannons, which makes them either overpowered or vulnerable.  If an NPC mage uses a crowd control spell, they can eliminate a player character from an entire combat (which means a bored player), but in return solo enemy mages are not viable as foes – they simply cannot survive without a small horde of minions to intercept/disrupt the players.

My rough rule of thumb now, is that for an enemy to concern my players, it needs to do a minimum of 6d6 damage per combat round (after accounting for missed attacks and armour absorption), otherwise the fact that the party mages can pump out 6d6 healing per round means most combats end with the players on full health.  While I have given out the odd health/mana potion, I don’t think anyone has ever had to use one of them.

Still, the core engine still appeals to me and I am tinkering with reworking it into a SF setting – I am mucking around with ideas for Sidhe, Fomorians and Stargate style Egyptian monsters all turning Earth into a post-apocalyptic setting, with some bright ultra-tech human colonies out in space.

World of Tanks

This is an online “lobby” game, consisting of 15 minute player versus player matches in which each of the 30 players controls one World War II era tank.  Between matches you repair and research.  The tank capabilities and vulnerabilities seem faithful to history, although there are a few fantasy tanks in play which never got off the design board and onto the historical battle fields.  At the moment tanks are limited to US, Russian, and German designs, although I expect we will eventually see British and French designs as well.  The game has been sufficiently successful that we can expect to see World of Planes and World of Ships in a couple of years.

I chose to play Russian tanks, and have slowly worked my way up to my first heavy tank, the KV.  Unlike my previous tanks, its slow, really slow, and the turret is also a slow traverser.  Historically, it was a killer when it ran into German Panzer IIs and IIIs, but in WoT I am as likely to run into Tiger IIs and IS-4s, which I can’t really damage and which can one shot me in return.  Tactically, rather than moving constantly at max speed as you do with light tanks, the KV needs to work in formation with other tanks to avoid being flanked and also needs to skulk from bit of cover to bit of cover.  Out in the open its easily spotted and immobilised by artillery.

Overall, I find WoT to be a really good way to spend 30-60 minutes of spare time.  It also goes well with listening to some heavy metal music.

World of Warcraft – Firelands

My guild has lost two DPS players (rogue/hunter) but continues to raid.  We managed 6/7 boss kills before the content was nerfed, then 7/7 shortly afterwards and are now 1/7 for hard modes.  I’m not sure the content nerf was good for us.  We do not have the throughput in DPS/HPS for many of the hard mode fights, but now the normal mode fights are so trivial as to be boring.

What we tend to do now, is spend two hours wiping on hard modes on Thursday night, then clear up to 5/7.  On Monday we go back and kill the last two, and as we get better at killing Ragnaros we use our remaining time on Tier 11 hard modes.  On Sundays I lead a casual raid, but it is struggling as several of the players there simply cannot meet the DPS requirements – we need 15k DPS and they do 10k – the fights take too long and our healers run out of mana, or the time delay makes the wheels fall off and the fight becomes a train wreck.

I am happy with my Holy Paladin healing, I managed to rank sixth in class in World of Logs for healing the fat fire spider Beth’tilac in the second week of Firelands.  Considering how Paladins 1-6 were all in Tier 11 Hard Mode gear I was pretty chuffed with the accomplishment.  My Retibution Paladin DPS though … it sucks, hovering around 12k for most fights, although on a static tank and spank it can reach 18k.  Part of the reason the DPs is low is that because I do not enjoy it, I don’t practice it.  I’m not sure why I don’t enjoy it but there are two bits of the play style I struggle with: use of cooldowns and proc dependence.

It’s hard for me not to agree with Gevlon over at the Greedy Goblin, that the sheer complexity of the “Boss Dance” in fights is making raiding less fun.  This is especially the case for melee damage dealers in any fight with significant movement, as the loss of contact time on the boss reduces DPS.  It is a never-ending race, in which Blizzard alternates between buffing classes with new abilities, then upping the difficulty of new fights.  In patch 4.3 we are being promised a buff to melee DPS … but I have to say as a raid leader, I have no desire to recruit more melee DPS into the raid group because unless their player skill is exceptional.

Over at Blessing of Kings, a comparison of a Wrath era fight and a Cataclysm era was posted to illustrate this point:(


  • One mob
  • Tanks stack on each other to split damage
  • Avoid fire
  • Dodge bonestorm
  • Kill bonespikes


  • Three mobs
  • Dodge traps
  • Burst one add with large spells
  • Heal one random target who takes high damage
  • Trap and kite one add until a stacking debuff wears off, failing this increases tank damage
  • Avoid aoe spear damage
  • Damage increases significantly as fight progresses

What I would prefer, is a few more fights that stretch my ability to play my class well, as opposed to how well I have memorised the exact dance steps for the special mechanics on a boss fight.  My own feedback on class design for the next expansion was “less is more”.

On the whole though, I think Blizzard made a serious mistake in Cataclysm by making two of the tier end bosses be recycled bosses from Vanilla WoW (Nefarian & Onyxia, and Ragnaros).  Yes, the fight mechanics are different … but it still felt like a failure of imagination to me by the Blizzard design team.

Upcoming Games

Games I am looking forward to include: Star Wars the Old Republic (December), Guild Wars 2 (2012), Elder Scrolls: Skyrim (11 November), and the Mists of Pandaria expansion for World of Warcraft (2012).

For information on SWTOR I recommend the fan site.  My Sith PvE guild is now part of the Oceanic “daisychain”, a collaborative effort to ensure as many ANZAC players as possible all end up on the same starting server.

Guild Wars 2 is attempting to eliminate the holy trinity, so all characters will have heal/dps options.  Defences will include active dodging by the players, and if you “die” you actually get a different set of combat options while knocked down.  Could be a quality of life improvement, but it might be a much stronger evolution of the genre than SWTOR is shaping up to be (several press reviews describe SWTOR as WoW with lightsabres).

I preordered Skyrim after watching some gameplay videos, especially of combat versus dragons.  It looks like combat is very sandbox, many different ways to solve each tactical problem.  I enjoyed the other Elder Scrolls games, so this will fill the gap until SWTOR is released.

Mists of Pandaria will be an oriental themed expansion for WoW.  I know a few people have gone “WTF! Panda!”  but last time I looked WoW had already jumped the shark (the Goblin starter area has a quest involving sharks with laser beams mounted on them).  I’ll be happy with MOP if I can dress my virtual dolls in Samurai armour.

Probably the most significant announcement was a complete rebuild of the talent system, rather than spending points every few levels to boost power and access new abilities, many abilities will be granted with class spec, and talents will be a choice of one of three options every 15 levels.  When you hit 30, you can’t go back and choose a second Level 15 option, as each set of options will compare like with like, you are unlikely to be forced to choose between utility or survival or throughput.  I like the sound of this new system … fits with my “less is more” preference.

Wowhead already has a talent calculator preview available at: