If you’re new to World of Tanks (WoT) or even an old hand who’s struggling to get ahead, then this short guide should get you well on your way to Top Gun and beyond. The fundamentals of WoT are relatively simple, but most players ignore many of them and suffer the consequences.
Two common complaints are heard on the Wargaming.net forums: “arty is overpowered” and “[insert tank here] is a pile of crap.” Both are wrong.
SPGs have a lot of damage potential and can generally shoot all the way across the map to deal that damage (with the exception of lower tiers), but arty can only shoot at what teammates are “lighting up” for them – which means someone is there to “see” the enemy and has a radio good enough to send that information back to the artillery player. Arty also has a very slow rate of fire and is extremely vulnerable – usually a one- or two-shot for most tanks of medium or heavier size.
No tank in WoT is a complete pile of crap in comparison to other tanks in its tier. Some are much harder to play than others, such as the M3 Lee with its tank destroyer-like fixed gun and relatively weak armor for a medium of that tier. Yet, the Lee can be used effectively if you learn to maximize its strengths (that fixed gun packs a huge punch) and minimize its weaknesses (the thickest armor is around the gun, which also has a high deflection value, so angle the tank to take advantage of that).
Every tank in the game has its good and bad points and players who learn to capitalize on both – offensively and defensively – will become a great player. Other fundamentals are true for every tank in the game, be it light, medium, or heavy.
“Cover” are objects and items that can stop enemy rounds from hitting you. Buildings, dead tanks, live tanks, rocks, etc. are all cover items. An incoming round will usually hit and, at worst, splatter some of the object onto you to do small amounts of damage.
Concealment, on the other hand, are things that hide your tank from view, but don’t provide cover. Trees, bushes, ditches, large bomb craters, etc. are concealment. So long as you sit quietly and don’t move or fire, you are likely to stay hidden. Some tanks, of course, have zero camouflage ability (many heavies, for example) and so no amount of concealment will do you much good.
Every map has a lot of objects that are potential cover. Use them. Constantly. Your advance towards the enemy base, enemy positions, etc. should be done by jumping from one cover item to the next. You never know who’s hiding or lying in wait for you, so always have cover or be headed towards it.
Some cover will completely protect your tank. Most of the time, though, this cover will also prevent you from shooting around it as well. So you’ll have to expose yourself in order to fire, but you can use the cover in “fire and cover” moves. Poke your head around just long enough to aim and pull the trigger, then retreat behind cover again.
Word of caution: Fire and Cover works awesome, but make sure you don’t do it with any kind of rhythm or predictability. Others will notice this and enemy tanks or artillery will be waiting for the next time you stick your head out like a curious gopher and try to chop it off.
For heavy tanks, cover from arty is the most important part of gameplay. The SPG driver’s job is to take out or soften up as many of the enemy’s heavy tanks as possible. It’s the primary concern of the good arty player. So as a heavy driver, you need to pay a lot of attention to how exposed you might be to the SPG’s indirect fire. Overhead cover (usually provided by tall buildings, by being very close to rocks, or by being on an angle on a steep hill) is the thing you should be most concerned with. Learn to use it.
Of all the aspects of game play, utilizing cover is probably the most-often ignored by tankers.
No matter what you’re doing, if you’re going to pull the trigger to fire at someone, you need to stop your tank to do it. Firing while moving reduces your accuracy to the point that you’ll only rarely hit and even then will do minimal damage.
The next time you’re playing, point your reticule at something (the round aim circle) and watch it. You’ll see it shrink, either quickly or slowly depending on your gun and the skill of your gunner. If you’re moving, it doesn’t shrink and stays at its largest. The smaller that reticule is, the more accurate your shot will be. You can only aim if you’re stopped.
So the best way to shoot is to stop moving, let the aim go down as much as you can (circumstances will decide how long you should be stopped, obviously), then pull the trigger and hit the gas. Don’t sit and wait for the result of your shot, move immediately. Your gunner and spotter (usually the commander) will let you know how your shot did.
Every tank in the game should be moving all of the time unless aiming or hiding. Once you shoot, though, you should move. This includes SPGs. The biggest mistake an artillery player can make is to stay in one spot after shooting. Not only are any nearby enemy tanks going to be looking for you, but enemy artillery will be watching for your tracers to pinpoint your hide. We’ll talk about this more later.
If you want to minimize your damage, use auto-aim. Otherwise, aim manually. There are situations where auto-aim is useful, such as if you’re a light tanker and just shooting as a bonus while you zip around scouting and spotting. In that case, since shooting targets isn’t your primary role, there’s nothing wrong with using auto-aim so you can concentrate on driving.
Every tank has soft spots. Generally speaking, on any tank, the rear, flanks, and bottom of the tank are most vulnerable (have the thinnest armor). Tracks are also a good aim point, as disabling the tank can make it easier to circle and kill it. Especially light tanks, as their primary defense is fast maneuvering.
Some tanks are soft right around the barrel, some are soft on top, etc. Know your enemy and you’ll know where to aim.
Working together as a team is the surest way to victory in World of Tanks. Tankers should communicate as much as they can. Arty usually knows what’s generally going on around the map and can point others to positions where enemies are suspected to be hiding. Tank destroyers can come out of hiding to make big damage, then retreat to draw the enemy towards waiting mediums and heavies. Medium tanks can “wolf pack” in threes and fours to encircle, confuse, and batter enemy tanks into scrap. Light tanks can quickly find, avoid, and keep enemy tanks “lit up” so artillery can pound them and other tanks can move to good positions to take them down.
Every tank in the game has a role and every player should know that role.
In boxing, the term “stick and move” is used to denote a usually weaker or faster boxer’s ability to hit and then move away before the opponent can counter-attack. Every great boxer in history was familiar with this and utilized it to their advantage (either by using it or countering it). Hit, move, hit, move.
Many TD drivers act like they’re in a tank. Most TDs make bad tanks. The role of the TD is to sneak up on enemies, hide in wait for them, or come in with heavies and act as support. A good TD driver will find a good spot at an intersection where players tend to often drive through, and then hit enemies hard as soon as they appear, moving away quickly to avoid counter-attack.
When bunching with your own team, stay with the heavy tanks and use them as portable cover so you can load, peak around to fire, then reload in relative safety as the column moves forward.
The number one skill an arty player should have is patience. Every shot counts because every shot likely costs you a small fortune and it takes a long time for the next shot to be loaded and to take aim. So shoot only when you know you can hit or have an affect.
Arty players often use their cannons as bullet hoses, firing as fast as they’ll reload. Good SPG players often don’t fire more than 6 or 8 times per game, but will heavily change the game’s dynamic despite their low volume of fire.
An artillery round can be used to do one of three things or combinations: to hit and do big amounts of damage, to “splash” and strike fear in enemies, or to take down obstacles so friendlies can get to the newly-exposed enemies.
The first one is obvious. The second is mostly about psychology. When the enemy sees the big splash, hears the heavy thunder, or watches trees or chunks of buildings obliterate, they often retreat or move, potentially exposing themselves. The third role is also obvious – some buildings can be demolished with a shot and someone hiding behind it might not know that.
Finally, artillery can also watch the map from their special overhead view and know, tactically, what is happening and direct teammates to problem spots or weaknesses in the line. They can also watch for the tracers most of the tanks in the game (including SPGs) leave behind for a few moments after each shot. These can pinpoint enemy locations and even give arty targets to try to take out.
While most of these tactics are probably common sense obvious, it’s amazing to watch how often they’re ignored in-game. The tanker who utilizes them, though, will find him or herself advancing through the tiers and ranking high with lots of award medals. Those who ignore this information will do the opposite.