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Getting really sick of those tanks...


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I don't think that 'flaw' is as real as you think. The TacAI and StratAI (the latter being the one the AI opponent uses to manuever his troops) are entirely separate. The StratAI has the same options available to it as the player. Plus, as the TacAI is worked out on a statistically varied basis after both sides have given orders. The StratAI can no more predict it than a human player can.

Basically, the computer has no more control over its troops than you do and can't adapt to the terrain or tactical roles as well as a human can.

The statistical variation is often referred to as 'Fuzzy Logic'. Basically, without changing any settings, a turn will almost never turn out the same way twice. However, due to the vast number of variables involved, it will rarely differ too greatly.

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Originally posted by John_d:

Oh, I have just watched a PzIIIJ wipe out an entire platoon of T-34s, all with frontal penetrations. Most of the shots fired by my T-34s missed, apart from a few that hit and bounced off, despite the 76.2mm caliber. Also, the Panzer was about to get ambushed, but conveniently turned around at the last moment, despite being out of LOS to my tanks. It took less than 40 seconds for the Panzer to kill all 3 T-34s. In addition, as soon as the crew started to bail out, the Panzer switched targets. According to the kill timer, this shouldn't happen as he should know that the tank has been destroyed.

This may be the final straw that makes me abandon CMBB altogther

What were the experience level of the tank crews? What were the ranges?

PzIIIJ's can kill T34's so no surprises there. If it kills three well then you were unlucky.

And if one tank faces three others it will stop firing at a tank once it "thinks" it killed it, and starts firing at the others. Even though it doesn't have confirmation of the kill.

And then there's ammo quality, which is poor for the russians.

There are many variables involved and sometimes the odds are just against you.

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I find the AI pretty clueless with all units. But armor is more forgiving to clueless orders, and because of it the AI fights somewhat better when it has lots of tanks, than when it needs to get mileage out of its infantry or still worse, its artillery.

It isn't doing anything brilliant with the tanks. It is just that path finding, pile-up along one route behavior (the AI's default tendency) results in messy kill sacks for infantry, but tends to keep full tank platoons together. Those can also turn into messy kill sacks, particularly if the human has even 1 superior AFV (meaning, front armor not penetrable at range by the AI tanks' guns).

The AI is most competent when it has numerous superior AFVs - e.g. a platoon of Tigers, say - and the human has to take them out with limited AT assets. That isn't because it is magically better with tanks. That is just a hard thing to do at all times, that remains pretty hard even when the AI is commanding the other side. Whereas e.g. holding off a full battalion of AI infantry can get easy if you have 5 strands of wire and one 150mm sIG.

Tanks don't rally when they are hit, even human vs. human, making armor fights knife edge affairs that can rapidly and permanently break your way or his. That's just variance, not bias. Sure it can be frustrating. And control of variance is something strategy gamers are congenitally interested in, especially careful or gradualist types. So in addition to a skill relative to the AI issue, there is probably a temperment and style of command issue, for John-D.

There are ways to control armor war variance. One is to lean more heavily on tank killing assets besides your own tanks. Instead of the dice roll duel, you try to whittle them down with AT guns and infantry ambushes, AT mines, air, or artillery. They may not get all of them but they can get half.

Another way is to consistently pick upgunned shooters at the force selection stage. You don't need invulnerable ubertanks. If you avoid e.g. the plain 75 Shermans and T-34s, or the 50mm Pz IIIs, instead going for more "eggshells with hammers", your own shots when you get them are likely to do damage. You can still have a run of bad luck, but the truly catastrophic armor losses only really happen when the enemy isolates a bunch of dominated AFVs with a superior one. And you can prevent that by just not having flocks of the readily dominated types.

Russians can take SU-152s and Valentine IXs or T-34/57s in 1943, for example. Americans in 1944 can take more M-10s or 76mm Shermans. Brits in North Africa can use more Valentines and fewer Crusaders and Stuarts. Etc.

I think it is also good practice to try defending against AI attacks in which it has a lot more armor. Give it a platoon or more, while only having 1-2 good AT shooters yourself, plus ATGs and the rest. You learn how to stalk individual targets, how to make the most of a single well armed AFV. Don't take a thick armor front type, that makes it too easy and gives bad habits. E.g. a Russian defense against Pz IVs or StuGs that has to rely on ZIS-3s plus 1-2 Valentine IXs. Or a US defense against Panthers that has to rely on flanking shots by bazookas and 57mm towed, supplimented by 1-2 M-10s.

The first few times you are likely to lose those. S'ok, you won't feel too bad about it when the AI has superior force, not equal force. And if you play a half dozen of them you will start winning a few - maybe at first by using the ATGs well. Once you are more confident about single AT shooter stalking tactics, a fight with even numbers of tanks looks a lot more forgiving.

FWIW.

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As Jason says...

Practise playing eggshells with hammers vs AI.

Practise playing eggshells with popguns vs AI.

I'd suggest using eggshells with low command delay in the beginning (ie Germans in early war vs T34s or Shermans vs Tigers/Panthers). Timing is easier. Green Soviets in '42 vs Tigers is for the veteran player.

You can even create scens where the enemy is set up in a killsack to get the feeling of how you have to set up a killsack.

Tips:

Use your inf to scout. Intel pays. I like to have an LMG team on one of my tanks if they operate too far from the inf. The LMG team scouts for good LOS positions. Simulates the TC leaving the tank.

Maneuver with the AFVs.

Patience!

Timing. Park your tanks turret down. When you want to strike, move them into LOS with fast and hunt plus pauses (or additional waypoints for fine tuning comman ddelays) so they all arrive at the same time.

Odds win. Fight isolated enemy units with quantity if you don't have quality. Try to avoid quantity if you have quality.

You don't need to concentrate your tanks in one place. Concentrate your fire!

Switching to a nearby target keeps the bonus for range finding in the to-hit-percentage. So space out your tanks.

Coordinate all your weapons. Inf shuts hatches or close assaults while ATGs or tanks fire from a distance.

Attack from different sides simultaneously. Or pop up a bait on one side, wait till the enemy turns, close the enemies hatches then show your killers on the other side. Works great vs Stug or slow turrets.

Coordination was the advantage of the Germans in early war. It works in CM, too.

You'll learn quite a lot playing with eggshells. Playing Tigers vs T34s is more fun with the Tigers, but you'll learn more playing the T34s.

Gruß

Joachim

[ February 06, 2006, 03:51 PM: Message edited by: Joachim ]

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While I agree with Joachim that you will learn more driving inferior tanks, it is not what I would prescribe for someone suffering from tank frustration, to the degree the original poster described.

I recommend taking a type that can reliably penetrate the enemy type faced, but then not taking all that many of them. This separates frustration issues due to poor penetration or poor behind armor effect even when you drive well, from poor armor tactics.

Compared hunting Tigers with T-34s - where you can do literally everything right and still lose 3-4 tanks without KOing one Tiger - to say hunting StuGs with SU-152s, or Pz IVs with M-10s. Yes they can hit you first. But if you drive well, you are likely to win.

In other words, start with "hammers", but not invulnerable armor. Move up to harder tasks after you have gained confidence that you are driving well. Otherwise you can easily confuse the general difficulty of the task, for poor skills on your own part.

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The humbling experience that I have accepted now is that it takes a lot to be good at this game.

You learn this when you play other players instead of the AI, because there is no "computer" to blame.

Trust me: here is what will happen.

1) You take my advice, and play other people to see if it's really "the computer" beating you, not the AI.

2) You will get whipped. If you want to know who to play to experience this, I can suggest some great guys who are fun to play and will whip you at the same time.

3) You will stop complaining about tanks (because the other guy has them) and about "being beaten by the computer" and you will start complaining about unbalanced scenarios/QBs. You will think that there is NO WAY you could have been beaten so badly if the scenario was balanced.

4) You will swap sides in a scenario where you got whipped and you said it was unbalanced and you will get whipped again from the other side. Even though you now know what the opponent has.

You will hardly be able to believe it.

This was my experience.

If you are still going at this point, you might finally realise what I realise: it takes a _lot_ to be good at this game. It is amazingly deep. It's not like an FPS where once you master a few things, read a few tips & tricks, and get dextrous you should be able to win.

As an example, it's not enough to read a thread and figure out that "these" kind of tanks should try to flank "those" kind of tanks. You're barely at first base when you have that understanding. To get good, you need to know what battles to pick, how not to get into a fight you're not going to win, and under what circumstances "these" tanks should even try to flank "those" tanks. And if you're not in those circumstances, what to do about it...

I am now at the stage where I can play a newbie and recognise the silly mistakes they are making, and generally whip them. And yet my usual opponents consistently beat me so badly I can't imagine how I could ever have won, and feel like I know nothing!

My suggestion is don't complain about the game, the tanks or the AI. Go find a real opponent and learn learn learn.

Or, if you're playing the AI, accept the fact that if YOU were better YOU WOULD WIN. It's not the tanks, or the AI or anything else. It down to skill and experience.

GaJ

[ February 08, 2006, 03:42 PM: Message edited by: GreenAsJade ]

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I just made two nearly identical training scenarios. Both feature a single AFV plt vs 2 companies of tanks that most would class as superior.

http://www.the-proving-grounds.com/scenario_details.html?command=search&db=scenarios.db&eqskudatarq=1032

and

http://www.the-proving-grounds.com/scenario_details.html?command=search&db=scenarios.db&eqskudatarq=1034

They are rather simple and only to teach some of the lessons mentioned in this thread:

- Many on few (local odds)

- surprise

- keyholing

- blinding the enemy before moving in with tanks

- offering baits to the enemy (a tank already engaging a target seems more focussed on that target and sometimes ignores newly appearing threats)

- gather intel by inf so you know the targets.

They exploit some TacAI weaknesses - but who cares.

The tank battle happens so your tanks are in rather barren country, with just a few hills. Tanks will be spotted quickly in this terrain, especially when atop hills.

Hints:

The IG is well protected in its trench. It can occupy the T34s - and close their hatches with close hits. Show it to the enemy just before your tanks strike. Then hide it with a blue covered arc.

The AI will advance along the road (towards the nearest flag). Use it to your advantage. If you target the rear of the column, less tanks will come to help during a turn. When they come, they are often in reverse and don't stop. If you target the lead tank, others will hunt forward to help him out.

Look at the terrain - there are small ondulations in the crests that allow for keyholing.

The LMGs and sniper can close hatches before you strike and act as lookouts.

Remember that AFS are taller than inf. When inf has LOS, an AFV is already hull up. o if the inf has LOS, you don't want to move a tank on the exact point where the inf is. A good location might be further back.

Smoke might blind the tanks, a barrage might close some hatches

Conserve ammo.

The scenarios are rather short as you only move a few units each turn. But each of these units count!

If you get disastrous results in one turn, reload. Either re-run the turn with the same commands a few times to see if it was bad luck - or you really screwed.

If it was bad luck, think about what you did, why it failed and try something different. This is a training scen. Reloading ain't cheating here.

Results with the Marder varian:

Trial 1:

One Marder got hit and exploded, the blast got the next Marder abandoned and another one immo'd. Keep a little distance between your tanks. Yet bunching up often helps getting local odds.

Trial 2:

20:0. One T34 was killed by a HE round.

Comments welcome

Gruß

Joachim

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Basic rule that I found out the hardway is that tanks are like little babies that need protecting at all time and treated with kid gloves. Always face head on towards the enemy and never leave your flanks open. For example, have infantry "discover" what is near the tank before it gets to that location. The more I play the game the more I realize that tanks are really prima donnas that can really do lots of damage but need to ber.

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Hey Joachim,

I downloaded and played your scenarios. Enjoyed them both. "Eggshells" has proven to be a challenge for me as I tend to get my Marders killed quickly. But in "Popguns" I had better luck. I ended up with a Total Victory destroying 12 of his tanks. He the AI did not knock out any of my tanks per se but both tanks on the west side (I did not move the tanks in set up phase) were hit causing gun damage.

Observations:

1) Shoot and Scoot does not work well except at closer ranges (say 300-400 meters). Most of the time my tanks would race up to the position aim and fire and miss then quickly withdraw. Understood that this is the command given but they tend not to hit the target on the first shot. However if used as a distraction it does help, as long as your tank is not killed.

2) All of my tanks took hits to the front turret and were deflected. This ability to take at least a hit while exposed made me more comfortable to use them. This is my problem with "Eggshells" as Marders stop little more than snowballs.

3) Placing my tanks at certain positions to keyhole worked much better than Shoot and Scoot. Often it would cause a group of tanks to pull back into cover reguardless of the fact if they were being targeted or not.

Of course this is probably old hat to most but I figured I would post it in the hopes that some one would get something out of it.....

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The PzIIIs with 70mm front have good armor and can kill the T34s at the given ranges with their 50L60 gun. Especially if you coordinate both flanks to achieve a crossfire on a small portion of the enemy so one side always gets flank shots. That's why I spread the plt. It is probably the easier scenario of the two. Its existence is partly due to Jason's comment above "I recommend taking a type that can reliably penetrate the enemy type faced, but then not taking all that many of them. This separates frustration issues due to poor penetration or poor behind armor effect even when you drive well, from poor armor tactics."

If you are able to concentrate your fire from both flanks on one area while still being keyholed, you should have learnt something very important (and did something I still try to master smile.gif ). On tactics and on reading the terrain. You can read about tactics, but getting the right feeling for the terrain is experience.

The Marder scen is much tougher, but is is not about winning. It is training. If you can do it with Marders, you can do it with almost anything. I use Tigers as if they were Marders.

IMHO Shoot&scoot is crap. Even hunting tanks often don't find the perfect place, especially when buttoned. I seldom manage to find the perfect spot for the command. You risk that the enemy gets off the first round and gets off another one while you reverse. If you face odds, having two tanks firing at you means receiving 4 while you shoot 1. The 2nd shot of the enemy gets a bonus for rangefinding (the 3rd gets another one, then it stays at this level). So if you and the enemy have the same hit percentage for the first shot, the probability that a single enemy tank hits you is about 2.5 higher than your chance to hit him.

My trick is to guestimate a good position, then hunt and plan that all of my shooters appear roughly the same time. Of course all with the guns pointing towards the enemy. Then I duel for a few shots. While the Marders are eggshells and hits will stun or kill them, they have hammers that can do the same to the T34s - from almost any angle. With this approach I calculate much better chances than with shoot&scoot. Empirical evidence favors this approach, too. Vs AI and vs human players.

Odds, surprise and blinding the T34s before are key. The MG in the church spent most of its ammo on closing hatches. Same with the lIG. The Marders need any help they can get. They are combined arms weapons. Combined arms is not about the tanks winning the armor war and then helping the inf to finish off the enemy's inf.

Maybe the Marder scen is more for the regular player trying to improve his skills. Even a vet won't win it every time. It was pretty good training for me, too.

Gruß

Joachim

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John D, I'd be happy to do some CMAK armor PBEMs with you. I also have noticed the AI has an advantage in handling its tanks tactically, but I think that only makes up for its inability to plan anything. So you rarely get a really balanced game: in a QB, you can meet, get beat up by, outflank, and finally destroy enemy tanks and then after the AAR find several more wandering around in a corner of the map you never went into. AI tanks get bunched up, they expose their sides, they do all sorts of dumb stuff that you need to to take advantage of to defeat them. In exchange, they get a better sense of terrain and LOS than you do. At times it seems almost creepy.

But one thing about their behavior you should watch and study is the way they overwatch for each other. Rarely does 1 tank point one way or advance without another one nearby pointing 90 degrees from it, toward a good spot for firing on the 1st one.

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  • 2 months later...

i had a quick battle last night, my german mechinized against the soviets. i let the computer buy my stuff just for fun, and added challenge. the puter bought me 9 psw 222's, a platoon of panzer II's, some pz III L's, and 4 pz IV E's. the terrain was spotted with dense woods, and had a few roads leading to to the soviet held town. i broke my armor into two groups, and attempted to pincer the defenders. by the fifth turn, all my armor was burning, and abandoned. i walked away in disgust, with a nasty feeling in the pit of my stomach, for letting so many brave soldiers meet their doom. the soviets were able to do this with a pillboxed AT gun, and a seemingly endless amount of light tanks.

i replayed the same scenario this morning, but this time i bought my own forces. a platoon of tigers, and a platoon of pzIV's. the tigers dove in head first, taking the heat, while the pz IV's flanked the defenders and killed many russians. my infantry support company came up the middle, through tree cover, and mopped up the remaining reds with ease.

the lesson to learn here is, never use tanks to fight other tanks. unless yours are vastly superior. the tank was designed to support infantry. AT guns are for killing tanks. if you find you are in a position where you have no choice but to use armor against armor, you have made a mistake. especially if you are on the attack.

end comment.

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Originally posted by pzr_leader:

the lesson to learn here is, never use tanks to fight other tanks. unless yours are vastly superior. the tank was designed to support infantry. AT guns are for killing tanks. if you find you are in a position where you have no choice but to use armor against armor, you have made a mistake. especially if you are on the attack.

Uhm, what if you are attacking and the enemy has Tigers and all you have is Sherman’s (75mm), are you just going to hide your armor and hope for the best from your infantry?

I've surprised many opponents that have superior armor than I. In fact I find it easier to attack an enemy who has a superior tank than defend with an inferior tank force. Reason being; in an attack you can maneuver your weaker tanks into good flanking positions for a nice flank shot. Where as if you’re defending it’s hard to move your armor around with out the fear of giving away a flanking shot.

Just my opinion.

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Guest Mike

On attack tanks are better due to mobility - you can't attack very well by standing still!

So let's not be too anal about it - the usefulness of AT guns is something often overlooked by beginners and he's made a major leap forward with this reasoning!

If you have a choice then AT guns are the way to go - Sherman 75s are a last option vs Tigers - behind Bazooka's!!

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  • 5 years later...

you can use smoke to blind the enemy tank,a disposabile decoy eg half a platoon to draw tanks atentson or a fast small vechile,position tank so its at an angle to enemy incressing the deflective varabile to the in coming fire.get your spotter to proved heaps of smoke then rush your fast turet tants in close and try your luck.

best of all is to try drawing out the enemytanks,do much of this in one move to overwhelm the enemy with multipile problems.make your tank comanders open up if you think its worth the risk, and you can try hiding them in scaterd trees back a bit from the front edge.

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  • 6 months later...

John_d,

Part of your problem is that you haven't understood the mobility differentials between your Panzer IIIs and the AI's T-34s. The T-34 has a very high power to weight ratio and wide tracks. Consequently, it's fast and can easily traverse terrain where your narrow, higher ground pressure, tracks could and did get you into trouble. If firing from the halt, an early war T-34 can kill a short 5 cm Panzer III at 1200 meters. Read all about it in Macksey's excellent TANK WARFARE.

Early war T-34s have one radio equipped tank per company, and after that, it's visual command only. In practice, signal flags and flares were used, both with main hatch closed, using a special signal port. CMBB doesn't model this, which forces the tanks to unbutton in order to communicate. Never mind that this violates doctrine, which required closed hatches even before actually entering combat. If they're unbuttoned, you can hit the TCs. If closed, they can't fight in any coordinated manner. Exploit this.

Isolate part of the force from the rest (smoke's but one method), kill it, then have another bite. Choose your approach routes carefully! Russian tank companies fought as a unit, not by platoons, and this was true even during the Cold War. If memory serves, your Panzer IIIs have power traverse, while the T-34s have only manual, so if you get in close and envelop the AI force, you'll get many shot opportunities the T-34s won't, for you'll be firing shot after shot while they're still trying to get those turrets around. ROF on the Panzer III is high enough that you stand a good chance of doing real damage, such as the dreaded "Gun Hit," before taking fire yourself. Remember, too, that the more rounds you fire, the greater your chances of results like "Weak Armor Spot" penetrations, "Armor Spall" and "Turret Jammed", too.

The name of the game is creating firing opportunities for yourself, and you get those by milking the terrain for all it's worth. Russian tankers are taught this from day one. Flow like water, which means drive in the low spots so as to avoid being seen. Their gun trumps yours by nearly a factor of two in range, and you need to close to engage effectively, which is why you must use covered approach routes or create the same effect with smoke. Learn to use the Cover Armor Arc well. In the CMBB Beta Test session, I tore the Russians a new one with a pair of Panzer diamonds in which each tank covered its quadrant and a bit more, providing complete coverage from any angle against an armor threat, and the AI happily machine gunned anything less bothersome. If an ATG spoke, the formation halted, and multiple rounds blasted the ATG almost instantly, whereupon the formation drove on. This was Panzer III Js which first smashed through the ATR and ATG defensive belt, dealt with a bunch of T-34s, and finally stalked and killed two KV-1s. So, I know it can be done, but it must be done with care and forethought. As I recall, I lost one tank to an ATR track hit (crew stayed and fought) and had another killed while wiping out the KV-1s. Michael Emrys may be able to supply additional details, for he was there.

Later, with the shoe on the other foot, and despite having Green and Conscript troops, I led my T-34 spearheaded force to a crushing victory over German infantry on the defense in an early war scenario. It was a first class demonstration of "tank terror" as infantry was overrun and ATGs ground under my T-34s' treads.

You have to learn to work within the limitations of what you have, just as the Flying Tigers did in China. The P-40s were no match for the Japanese fighters in a turning dogfight, so the rule for the heavy, sturdy P-40s was one fast diving pass and gone. You have to figure out something similar when outmatched by the foe. Distraction is very good against a tank which can't rapidly traverse, so get the foe looking one way, preferably by repeatedly backing an element of your force in and out of cover, then slam the foe from the other side. Weight of fire counts! Do NOT play the enemy's game; make him play yours. Exploit every advantage you have, while simultaneously minimizing his. Mass strength against weakness. The LAST thing you want is a fair fight.

I hope this helps you understand some key concepts in using tanks and tank like AFVs. Will things go wrong? Absolutely, at the worst possible time and with your best tank or AFV. Expect it, stay flexible and win anyway!

Regards,

John Kettler

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  • 1 year later...

I've read and learnt different to Kettler about the T34 signalling, in that the initial 1940 T34s (and possibly some or all those built in 1941?) did NOT have a dedicated signal/flare port but just had a singal heavy main hatch.

http://www.militaryfactory.com/armor/detail.asp?armor_id=38

And that this meant signalling with flags in battle were indeed deadly for the commander, as he'd have to pop up (or rather, sit on the turret roof) and wave his arms and signal flags about. And so rather than do this under fire, they tended to play a simple follow-the-leader, like ducklings, without any formations or fancy tactics (according to german tankers who faced them). And so the game's in-communication hatch-open modelling is not as bad as you think.

The signal/flare port might have appeared as early as late 1941 but I'm guessing it didn't appear until the 1942-built models. And even then, apparently only a few had them:

http://www.wwiivehicles.com/ussr/tanks-medium/t-34-76-1942.asp

Which you can see on the diagram here, as indicated feature number 8:

http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=a-QlhQlYZXQC&pg=PA28&lpg=PA28&dq=t34+signal/flare+hatch&source=bl&ots=wNqeEmFbeR&sig=IZCxRUzRHq3z8K3I2WjIzufj7MA&hl=en&sa=X&ei=eNcIUrm1OKf17AaA1oG4Aw&ved=0CC0Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=t34%20signal%2Fflare%20hatch&f=false

Maybe the idea for a signal/flare port came after feed-back from those 1941 battles, or maybe in response to the loss of radio production whilst factories moved east. Or maybe in response to feed-back that the initial radios (that only the command tanks had anyway) were pretty useless. Or maybe all these reasons.

But by 1943-onwards, I'd read that most T34s had radios anyway, and better ones at that, and that many of the 1942-added ports (signal/flare, pistol ports etc) were done away with for simplicity, so maybe the signal/flare hatch was maybe only a rare creature tried in anger in mid-late 1942? Can't imagine flags poking out the hole would be all that visible/practical anyway, in the smoke and heat of battle, and flares would maybe give away position...

Maybe I should repost this in CMBB section??

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