This guide is written from a mix of playstyles -- competitive, platooning, and solopub. Discussion is welcome, your mileage may vary.
The Scout with Teeth -- AMX 13 90, Batchat 25t
A french scout has the following primary roles:
1. Provide tactical information on hostile tank movements.
2. Light targets for allies to destroy.
3. Harass flanks, eliminate weak tanks, counter hostile scouts.
Provide tactical information on hostile tank movements
There are three primary doctrines in WOT. First, the german doctrine. Germans sit back and snipe, relying on spotters and long range firepower (including arty and snipers) to soften targets and win a war of attrition. This dominated the megagame on the US server for the first year of WOT. Second, soviet doctrine. Soviets leave a token stalling force at base, then mass tanks and zerg one path. The emphasis is on quickly overrunning defenders in a brawling offensive. This doctrine dominates the RU server, and has been common here as well. The third doctrine is new, and based on US tank destroyer doctrine in WW2. In this doctrine, front line units try to locate hostile units, then a main force flexes in to counter attack any pushes, fall back and mass when needed, overwhelm lone snipers, and generally react to the field. The focus is on mobility and responsiveness to changing situations. This third doctrine, the flex strategy, has become the metagame in the last several patches. As mobility and firepower have increased, tanks rely more than ever on the ability to react to changing situations -- both to respond to heavy pushes with a counterattack, find undefended areas, exploit terrain, and dig out camping snipers.
But the critical element in flexing is good information. This is where the batchat/13 90 is so critical. Because of its high speed, agility, camo, and HP pool it is able to scout effectively, revealing enemy movement and dispositions so the blob can react. Observe in my replays -- my opening move is almost always a quick dash to common path(s) people like to push. I do this even though almost always, my team will not be able to fire on my targets yet. This is because my first priority is to identify where the enemy is likely to be, and what they are likely to do.
For example, if I am playing campinova, I may do a quick dash across the field. This will light their team, giving us a few shots, but also show me what they plan (based on the way they are turning, I can guess where they will go). Suppose I next take the ridge, and light multiple heavies headed to the church. This once again provides shots, and gives the team information (ie, many heavies headed hill, we need to react accordingly).
How they use this information is a guide unto itself, but for purposes of this guide the goal of the scout is to provide this key information to a team. Organized teams will react as a group (it is hoped :/ ), but even pubs will respond to quality scouting feeding them free shots and information. Generally, these free shots and information on hostile movements is VASTLY more important to a teams success than anything else you will do, including the actual lights or damage you do. In general, any pubby can and will snipe/flex, but you are the one who gives the team the ability to dominate the game by doing so.
Light targets for allies to destroy
Often overlapping the first point, the second goal of the scout is simply to light targets for friendlies to destroy. Others have written about this a good bit, so I won't spend too much time on this. In the case of the french scouts, you can do each of these as well as any tank. Only the T-50-2 can rival you, yet because of its low HP total and ineffective firepower, you are significantly better. But in general:
- Don't sit in the obvious bushes in organized matches. Arty will blind fire them, but this is typically very easy to avoid.
- Don't risk yourself pointlessly -- if no one has a shot and/or arty isn't reloaded (and your team doesn't need the tactical data), don't expose yourself.
- Minimize risk when possible, but understand your job requires great risk. Correctly asses the risk/reward, and then go for it. Don't be one of those worthless scouts who gets nothing done because of fear of death.
- Use ridges, bushes, rocks, wrecks, anything you can to conceal and protect at all times. Speed is your last hope, but its not enough to survive for long. Don't rely on it.
- I find passive scouting works great at finding general movements, but active scouting is often needed to light and eliminate specific targets.
- Be familiar with bush/vision mechanics. VERY familiar.
- 6th sense is essential, both to avoid damage and to provide intel on where hostiles are (narrowing down where they are hiding based on when you are lit).
- Hold your fire. I admit, I'm bad at this. You can often see me fire and give away position, but in general its better to hold fire as long as possible.
- STAY ALIVE. Almost always a scout is worth more than a vanilla damage dealer late game. The longer you stay alive, the better scouting you can do and free up your gun for later use.
Harass flanks, eliminate weak tanks, counter hostile scouts
Last, the teeth. In addition to very strong scouting, both tanks can be extremely deadly to a wide variety of targets.
One primary task of the french scouts is to eliminate or deter other scouts. In organized play, this often means fighting your clone or running down a T-50-2. This is part of the reason why each of my scouts has maximum DPS and aiming mods where I can fit them in -- in that head to head scrap, I want to be sure I always reload first. In pubs, this can be anything from a suiscouting heavy to another light. In almost all situations, you have a major advantage in damage compression and quickness, although you typically need to be very close range to fire accurately. I won't go into detail on dogfighting skills, but in general, play conservatively. Its better to keep yourself alive and able to move freely than kill a hostile scout and get crippled almost always.
Another frequent job is eliminating arty. Arty can be massively threatening due to the risk of oneshot, yet your speed and clip are likewise lethal to them. And as always, lighting them for others to kill is vastly safer most of the time. I personally take special joy in killing arty -- when possible, I like to make them suffer before I end their worthless lives.
Lastly, flanking. I've written a great deal on this, and its generally useful. Much of the focus of this guide has been providing tactical information and lights for others to use. But the truth is other tanks sometimes can't or simply don't use that information well. In most scouts, you are left to rage impotently as you sit uselessly. But in a french scout, you can directly intervene. With your clip, penetration, and quickness you can tip fights. Timely reinforcements, flank attacks, finishing weakened targets, providing positional pressure, and more are open to you. This is one of my specialties, more so than most dedicated scouts -- I thrive on the chance to leverage my firepower by being in the right place at the right time. (If you'd like a good comparison of playstyles, compare me to RedParadise, often in my platoon/company in the same tank. But where Red focuses on scouting almost 100%, I am much more aggressive on personal attacks and damage. We both get great results and compliment each other, but the style difference is notable).
Gear, Crew, and Skills:
Up to this point, I have spoken about generalities, but here are a few specifics:
AMX 13 90:
BIA/vents is very good on french tanks due to their smaller crew (less opportunity cost than say, a patton). I also am a huge fan of the overall blend of performance. 6th sense and camo are essential on a scout, and repair skills are a good, generic choice (primarily for track repair time). Note that binocs and optics DO NOT stack; however, they each provide a boost to view range in different circumstances. Because I spend a lot of time doing both, I opted to max out my view range. The only other options worth considering are camo net (not really needed on a tank so small, plus view range helps more) or GLD (faster aiming time would be very nice, but I decided scouting effectiveness was more important than aim time).
Most is similar to the 13 90, but I vertical stabilizers were too useful not to have. I've used both binocs and optics, and frankly am torn but as of the time of this screen, I'm using optics. Instead of repair time, I elected for better aim time and better movement on bad terrain. This is because in tier 10 battles, if I get tracked and can't repair, chances are I die regardless and the offensive boost helps. Its an experiment, so to speak. Note that the batchat gold ammo has some significant changes from regular APCR. It has a much lower shell velocity, meaning it drops much more at range, flies slower (and is different to lead), and penetrates differently. This can cause problems on throwing off your timing and aim, so be cautious if you don't use gold much.
AMX 13 90:
For more examples, updates, or other tanks, see my replay page: