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Some tank duel tests (CMBN)


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I don't seek out armor duels because they are a bit like tossing a coin, but they come up again and again. So I was interested to learn what I can do to maximize the chances for my tank in a duel if it gets into one.

So I put two identical Pz IVH (late) tanks with regular crews, no modifiers, against each other at 600 m range. I called one "Attacker" and the other "Defender", although it does not mean anything. I put both on a mild slope (partial hull down) and varied different conditions. Crew hatches open/closed, vehicle movement, terrain type, crew experience. I ran each case at least 1000 times and recorded the percentage of wins by each side. A 'win' means that the other vehicle was destroyed or the crew bailed out. If both vehicles were alive after 5 minutes, neither side won - usually one vehicle got hit and retreated back down the slope. If neither vehicle survived, both sides got a win.

The tables show the win rate on each side. The statistics were not perfect even with 1000 duels per case. Results of repeat runs could vary by up to +/- 3%. Notably I did not get a perfectly symmetric results even for reference cases R1 and R4 where the vehicles had identical conditions on both sides. So, don't take the numbers as the absolutely accurate truth. They just show what works.

Pz IVH was a good tank for this purpose because it can easily kill itself - powerful gun and vs weak armor. Therefore, the duels were mainly about who is able to spot first and land the first round accurately on target.

I did not find anything revolutionary - mostly stuff people already know and do - but it was still interesting to see the numbers. Here it is:

1. Keep your crew hatches open when expecting to fight an enemy AFV. If you can, force the enemy to close theirs.

Table 1. Effect of crew hatches open/closed. Both AFVs are stationary on Grass.

Attacker

Defender

Closed

49%

49%

Closed

Open [R1]

48%

50%

[R1] Open

Open

76%

21%

Closed

2. Minimize movement when within enemy LOS. Stop as soon as your vehicle can see the place where the enemy is (represented with the "Hull Down" command in the table below, which gives additional advantage of being harder to see and hit due to being hull down; this is not to say that the Hull Down command is always useable, but it worked here well because the Attacker was going up the slope). Movement makes you more visible - and it does not appear to matter what kind of movement command you use - in fact the faster movement commands seem to work a bit better.

Table 2. Effect of vehicle movement. Attacker starts out of LOS and moves in towards the Defender using different movement commands. Both AFVs are on Grass and the crew hatches are open.

Attacker

Defender

Hunt [R2]

41%

57%

[R2] Stationary

Slow

35%

63%

Stationary

Move

39%

59%

Stationary

Quick

42%

56%

Stationary

Fast

41%

57%

Stationary

Hull Down

61%

29%

Stationary

Quick: Minimizes the time interval when the Attacker is moving within the Defender’s FOV. Therefore, Quick works well as it gets the attacker into position quickly, whereas Slow works poorly.

Hull Down: Better cover than the Defender and minimizes time when the Attacker is moving within the Defender’s FOV. Also: Easier to disengage when damaged – probably for both sides. High percentage of duels with no winner.

3. If you have to Hunt, point 1. about crew hatches still applies and can reverse the odds in your favor.

Table 3. Effect of crew hatches open/closed while the Attacker is moving. Attacker starts out of LOS and moves in towards the Defender using Hunt. The Defender is stationary. Both AFVs are on Grass and the crew hatches are open.

Attacker

Defender

Closed

37%

60%

Closed

Open [R2]

41%

57%

[R2] Open

Open

64%

34%

Closed

Closed

14%

82%

Open

4. Target arc can serve various purposes but does not help with seeing or hitting the enemy. TRP helps, likely by increasing the chances of a first hit.

Table 4. Effect of using Target Armor Arc and Target Reference Point (TRP). Both AFVs are stationary on Grass and the crew hatches are open.

Attacker

Defender

No arc [R1]

48%

50%

[R1] No arc

Target Armor Arc

50%

49%

No arc

TRP on Defender

72%

28%

No TRP

Note: Target Arc can still help by pointing the gun and the Commander’s attention to the right direction if the vehicle is not moving directly towards the defender. Also, it prevents distraction of the Attacker by other, low-priority targets.

5. Ground type can provide some help by concealment. Tall types of grass (T and TY), Weeds, Brush, Lt Forest (without trees) and Crop 1 give a small advantage over hard or bare surfaces. Very tall types of crops (2-6) and Grass XT give significant advantage. There is no disadvantage in being on road or pavement compared to grass, but sand, mud and cobblestone seem to hurt a little, possibly because they lower the chances of disengaging when retreating in damaged condition.

Trees are complicated and depend on type. Type A trees are somewhat helpful if there are 2 or 3 on the tile. Type B trees are not helpful at all. Type C trees seem to be best, especially if there are 2 or 3. Type D trees are somewhat helpful independently on their number. Type E are like Type A. Bush does not make much of a change.

Stone and brick walls and low bocage give some advantage - can be concealment as well as cover. But bocage is the big one. A tank behind bocage almost always wins against a tank in open ground.

Table 5a. Effect of Defender ground type – bare surfaces, hard surfaces and roads. Attacker on Grass. Both AFVs are stationary and the crew hatches are open.

Attacker

Defender

Grass

45%

51%

Dirt

Grass

47%

50%

Dirt Red

Grass

49%

48%

Hard

Grass

50%

48%

Rocky

Grass

49%

49%

Rocky Red

Grass

52%

47%

Sand

Grass

52%

47%

Mud

Grass

50%

49%

Pavement 1

Grass

50%

50%

Pavement 2

Grass

52%

47%

Cobblestone

Grass

47%

51%

Gravel

Grass

46%

49%

Dirt Lot

Grass

49%

48%

Dirt Road

Grass

47%

50%

Gravel Road

Grass

51%

48%

Paved 1

Grass

48%

51%

Paved 2

Grass

47%

49%

Foot Path

Sand, Mud, Cobblestone (?): Can impair movement, possibly making retreat of a damaged vehicle slower and less likely to succeed before the Attacker fires another accurate shot.

Table 5b. Effect of Defender ground type – low vegetation and cultivated fields. Attacker on Grass. Both AFVs are stationary and the crew hatches are open.

Attacker

Defender

Grass [R1]

48%

50%

[R1] Grass

Grass

50%

47%

Grass Y

Grass

50%

48%

Clover

Grass

50%

48%

Flowers

Grass

49%

50%

Plow NS

Grass

50%

50%

Plow EW

Grass

43%

57%

Grass T

Grass

43%

55%

Grass TY

Grass

44%

54%

Weeds

Grass

44%

55%

Grass + Brush

Grass [R3]

46%

54%

[R3] Lt Forest

Grass

42%

57%

Crop 1

Grass

39%

60%

Crop 2

Grass

39%

60%

Crop 3

Grass

39%

60%

Crop 4

Grass

40%

58%

Crop 5

Grass

39%

59%

Crop 6

Grass

38%

60%

Grass XT

Table 5c. Effect of Defender ground type – foliage. Attacker on Grass. Both AFVs are stationary and the crew hatches are open.

Attacker

Defender

Grass [R1]

48%

50%

[R1] Grass, no foliage

Grass

50%

46%

Grass + 1x Type A Tree

Grass

44%

51%

Grass + 2x Type A Tree

Grass

42%

54%

Grass + 3x Type A Tree

Grass

49%

49%

Grass + 1x Type B Tree

Grass

51%

46%

Grass + 2x Type B Tree

Grass

51%

47%

Grass + 3x Type B Tree

Grass

43%

52%

Grass + 1x Type C Tree

Grass

33%

62%

Grass + 2x Type C Tree

Grass

32%

62%

Grass + 3x Type C Tree

Grass

44%

52%

Grass + 1x Type D Tree

Grass

44%

51%

Grass + 2x Type D Tree

Grass

40%

55%

Grass + 3x Type D Tree

Grass

50%

47%

Grass + 1x Type E Tree

Grass

42%

55%

Grass + 2x Type E Tree

Grass

41%

55%

Grass + 3x Type E Tree

Grass

49%

49%

Grass + 1x Type A Bush

Grass

52%

47%

Grass + 2x Type A Bush

Grass

50%

46%

Grass + 3x Type A Bush

Grass [R3]

46%

54%

 [R3] Lt Forest, no foliage

Grass

44%

54%

Lt Forest + 1x Type A Tree

Grass

39%

57%

Lt Forest + 2x Type A Tree

Grass

37%

59%

Lt Forest + 3x Type A Tree

1x Tree: Can be detrimental because it does not provide enough concealment and can trigger APHE shells passing high, wounding the exposed Commander.

Table 5d. Effect of Defender ground type – walls and fences. Attacker on Grass. Both AFVs are stationary and the crew hatches are open.

Attacker

Defender

Grass [R4]

48%

51%

[R4] Grass

Grass

46%

54%

Grass + Stone

Grass

47%

52%

Grass + Brick

Grass

 

 

Grass + Rural Stone

Grass

43%

55%

Grass + Low Bocage

Grass

7%

89%

Grass + Bocage

6. Crew experience - there is a big change from Green to Regular to Veteran, but Crack gives little advantage over Veteran.

Table 6. Effect of crew Experience. Both AFVs are stationary on Grass and the crew hatches are open.

Attacker

Defender

Green

33%

66%

Regular

Regular

36%

61%

Veteran

Veteran

44%

57%

Crack

Green

20%

78%

Veteran

Regular

32%

67%

Crack

Green

18%

82%

Crack

Edited by Drifter Man
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Considering that the tests were done using the same tank on both sides, are they really of any significance when using different tanks? Or are maybe each tank in the games basically made the same, although the ability to shoot and hit from longer/shorter distances can be different, so they still have a great value?

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13 minutes ago, BornGinger said:

Considering that the tests were done using the same tank on both sides, are they really of any significance when using different tanks? Or are maybe each tank in the games basically made the same, although the ability to shoot and hit from longer/shorter distances can be different, so they still have a great value?

The right answer would be "I don't know" because I would have to test every tank against every tank to be sure.

But I assume that qualitatively the system works the same for any AFV. Some will benefit more from having crew hatches open and some will benefit less, or maybe the effect of concealment will be less important for a big tank than for a small one. But it is always better to be in tall grass than on bare ground. It is always better to be stationary than to be moving when the enemy is watching. As I said, the tests did not reveal anything revolutionary, but they confirmed some common pieces of CM wisdom about using tanks.

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53 minutes ago, Drifter Man said:

Right - PhD in Combat Mission studies...

Excellent research Dr Drifter Man.

Did you notice any evidence of the oft-quoted 'I can make my tank invulnerable behind a single tree' phenomenon?  If I'm looking at the figures correctly I don't think so?

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Thanks a lot for testing this out and sharing the results.

Some surprises for me:

  • Bushes don't give advantage, and in fact they give a disadvantage.
  • Trees give very little advantage - I was sure they'd offer a lot of protection. I've often seen shells burst harmlessly against trees in front of tanks. And while it doesn't happen every time, I was sure 1000 tests would show it happen many times.
  • Crops offer surprisingly good concealment. This is probably also the reason why you couldn't spot the "invisible Marder" in our recent game. Long range, hull down, in a wheat field.
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One thing I would have loved to see in this test is the effect of one tank having an enemy armour contact marker.

Both testing the effect of having the marker on the actual position of the enemy tank, and having a marker for the tank but at a different location from where the tank actually is.

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11 hours ago, Drifter Man said:

So I put two identical Pz IVH (late) tanks with regular crews, no modifiers, against each other at 600 m range.  The statistics were not perfect even with 1000 duels per case.

1. Keep your crew hatches open when expecting to fight an enemy AFV. If you can, force the enemy to close theirs.

2. Minimize movement when within enemy LOS. Stop as soon as your vehicle can see the place where the enemy is.  Movement makes you more visible - and it does not appear to matter what kind of movement command you use - in fact the faster movement commands seem to work a bit better.

3. If you have to Hunt, point 1. about crew hatches still applies and can reverse the odds in your favor.

4. Target arc can serve various purposes but does not help with seeing or hitting the enemy. TRP helps, likely by increasing the chances of a first hit.

5. Ground type can provide some help by concealment. Tall types of grass (T and TY), Weeds, Brush, Lt Forest (without trees) and Crop 1 give a small advantage over hard or bare surfaces. Very tall types of crops (2-6) and Grass XT give significant advantage. There is no disadvantage in being on road or pavement compared to grass, but sand, mud and cobblestone seem to hurt a little, possibly because they lower the chances of disengaging when retreating in damaged condition.

Trees are complicated and depend on type. Type A trees are somewhat helpful if there are 2 or 3 on the tile. Type B trees are not helpful at all. Type C trees seem to be best, especially if there are 2 or 3. Type D trees are somewhat helpful independently on their number. Type E are like Type A. Bush does not make much of a change.

Stone and brick walls and low bocage give some advantage - can be concealment as well as cover. But bocage is the big one. A tank behind bocage almost always wins against a tank in open ground.

6. Crew experience - there is a big change from Green to Regular to Veteran, but Crack gives little advantage over Veteran.

+1.  Thank you for taking the time to put this together and share.  Interesting information.  

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Reality is (reflected by this experiment) that tanks of peer tonnage and armament are likely to get lots of kills on each-other and it's going to be bloody. Even crew quality might much be softer than usual, someone's going to get lucky eventually and put a 75mm round into your tank somehow. 

In just about any example one could pull, Villers-Bocage, Prokhorovka, El Alamein, etc tank losses on both sides were usually heavy as long as both sides applied tanks. With the defender typically coming off worse in terms of permanent losses or losses overall. Tanks are not very efficient for defensive work, but they're usually the only way to stop another Tank Army. This is a big reason why the Panzer Divisions were constantly under-strength, because the Red Army wouldn't pause very long between offensives and just kept forcing German Commanders to commit them in order to save the Infantry Divisions and stop whole Armies from getting rolled up. The other reason was the frustratingly slow adoption of the Panther, on the other hand having one of the Division's tank regiments away from the war's biggest battles might also save a Panzer Division from total annihilation, and there was no hope of expanding the total number of tank Divisions after 1942 anyway. 

Nice job on the research Drifter. 

Edited by SimpleSimon
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14 hours ago, Vacilllator said:

Excellent research Dr Drifter Man.

Did you notice any evidence of the oft-quoted 'I can make my tank invulnerable behind a single tree' phenomenon?  If I'm looking at the figures correctly I don't think so?

No, but I tried to make sure the trees did not stand in the way of the incoming fire. If they did, the results could vary depending on how the trees are positioned in front of the vehicle. This should also answer @Bulletpoint's note on shells hitting trees.

Now I would like to test this idea, but I could use some advice with the mission editor. How do I place a tree in a specific position? There is an option when placing trees that is marked with tree icon on a grid. I interpret this as an option to move the tree where I want in the 3D editor, but I can't seem to find anything about it in the manual. The commands used for flavor objects do not work here.

For this test I would prefer moving trees to moving the vehicle. Moving the vehicle could change the geometry of the duel.

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11 hours ago, Bulletpoint said:

One thing I would have loved to see in this test is the effect of one tank having an enemy armour contact marker.

Both testing the effect of having the marker on the actual position of the enemy tank, and having a marker for the tank but at a different location from where the tank actually is.

More help needed with the editor :) How do I place a contact marker? I can't find anything called a contact marker in the manuals.

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I should add one more point:

7. You can do everything right and still lose.

Thanks everyone for reading and for the appreciation of the work - I plan to do more of this stuff. As @Falaise pointed out, the inner workings of CM are still unclear. Rule No. 7. notwithstanding, I have more confidence now what is likely to help me and what is likely to hurt me when I have to fight tank against tank.

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12 minutes ago, Drifter Man said:

Now I would like to test this idea, but I could use some advice with the mission editor. How do I place a tree in a specific position? There is an option when placing trees that is marked with tree icon on a grid. I interpret this as an option to move the tree where I want in the 3D editor, but I can't seem to find anything about it in the manual.

The tree on the grid makes the tree stand in the exact centre of the square. It's used for making orchards. When using the regular trees, they semi-randomly get distributed.

10 minutes ago, Drifter Man said:

More help needed with the editor :) How do I place a contact marker? I can't find anything called a contact marker in the manuals.

I just meant the contact marker your unit gets when spotting an enemy, and which can be shared through the C2 network.. You can't get those in the editor - but you can make a hidden infantry unit spot the enemy tank and then send the spotting info to the tank.

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1 hour ago, Bulletpoint said:

You can't get those in the editor

Yes you can.....If you want one tank to know where the other is in advance for your tests, simply go into 'Mission' and then 'Data' in the scenario editor and set the 'Intel Strength' to 100% for the side you want to have the advantage.

Edited by Sgt.Squarehead
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7 minutes ago, Sgt.Squarehead said:

Yes you can.....If you want one tank to know where the other is in advance for your tests, simply go into 'Mission' and then 'Data' in the editor and set the Intel Strength to 100% for the side you want to have the advantage.

You're right, thanks.

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3 hours ago, Drifter Man said:

I should add one more point:

7. You can do everything right and still lose.

Thanks everyone for reading and for the appreciation of the work - I plan to do more of this stuff. As @Falaise pointed out, the inner workings of CM are still unclear. Rule No. 7. notwithstanding, I have more confidence now what is likely to help me and what is likely to hurt me when I have to fight tank against tank.

Hope you don't adopt the tactic of firing at the glacis of an enemy tank even when you think you have a superior tank. Engage when it is likely that the engagement will be as honest and as fair as a bullfight in Spain.

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4 hours ago, chuckdyke said:

 

Hope you don't adopt the tactic of firing at the glacis of an enemy tank even when you think you have a superior tank. Engage when it is likely that the engagement will be as honest and as fair as a bullfight in Spain.

Of course, I only engage in honest and equitable duels. I never fire at the enemy if I think I have a superior tank.

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