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Basic Strategies -- Initiative: Surviving a Showdown

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Kong_Ming #1 Posted Feb 19 2013 - 04:01


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One of the simplest yet most-overlooked ideas in WoT for beginners and even many intermediate players is the concept of initiative. Many new players will approach WoT similarly to an FPS game in how they choose to engage the enemy. In an FPS many of the ideas we will examine happen so quickly that they rarely benefit any but the most advanced players. In WoT, the entire pace of combat is slowed to such a degree that these ideas will often mean the difference between death and victory. What am I talking about? A lot of things, but first lets look at an example of what exactly I mean when I use the term “initiative”.
Many players will think of the larger strategic connotations of initiative, i.e. which flank is exposed, where is the scout providing info, which direction did their heavies go? The initiative I’m talking about is much simpler. It almost always occurs in 1v1 situations, usually at closer ranges though not necessarily.

Here’s our example: You’re on a city map (Himmelsdorf, Ruinberg, Ensk, etc.), driving along in your KV-1. As you round a corner you spot an enemy KV-1 down the street, and he spots you. You each fire a shot, maybe hit, maybe not, and then both retreat behind buildings on opposite sides of the street to reload and decide what to do next. You know right where he is, he knows right where you are, and for the moment, it’s just you versus him. Sound familiar? Even if you don’t own a KV, it’s inevitable that you’ll find yourself in a showdown against another tank. Whether it’s around the corner of a building 20m apart or hiding behind sniper rocks on opposite hilltops 400m away, you both know the other player is there, and for the moment, no one else is interfering. This is the common scenario in which initiative reigns supreme. The player that can utilize it most effectively is almost certain to win. The question for each player now is, “How do I hit him without getting hit myself?” It breaks down into a handful of simple concepts that determine who has the initiative and who doesn’t. Trying to attack without the initiative will usually get you killed, and hiding when you do have it will waste a valuable opportunity. How do you know? Let’s look at some of the main reasons we gain or lose initiative in a fire-fight.

1. Reload:

This is the one idea that translates best from FPS’s, and consequently the most generally recognized of the ideas we will examine. Of course an enemy is vulnerable while reloading. Seems obvious. And yet many tankers fail to take full advantage of this fact. In WoT, players need to reload after every single shot (generally). For some guns the reload time is negligible, but for the big “steel wall” tanks that tend to single-handedly stop an entire offensive in its tracks, reloads are generally quite long (8-15 seconds). More nimble tanks and even other heavies, need to capitalize on the initiative they gain after one of these slow-reloading opponents fires. Naturally, they’ll usually pull back behind cover to reload like any sensible tanker, but opportunities will often present themselves to the tanker who’s paying attention to reloads. For the truly dedicated, a little research into the most effective guns of the larger tanks will give you an idea of how much time you have to take advantage of between their shots. Experience is also a great teacher in this respect. The bottom line is, if you’re reloading, you don’t have the initiative, and they probably know it. Protect yourself. If they’re reloading, put the pressure on them.

2. Aimtime/Turret Position:

A similar idea relates not to whether or not you can fire, but whether or not you should. The guns in WoT (again, especially the big boys) take some time to narrow their aim and fire accurately. Again, perhaps obvious, but what does this mean for initiative? It’s pretty simple really. If they’re already aiming at the spot where you need to be in order to shoot at them, you don’t have the initiative. Their gunner has had the time he needs to plant a shot directly into you. He’s just waiting for you to give him a target. Resist the urge to do it. Many newer players (and yes even older players) will be aware of this on some level, feel that it’s probably a bad idea to try and take a shot, and then do it anyway. They line their gun up, hit the gas, pull around the corner, and before they can even pull the trigger, “Kaboom!” They’ve become a flaming heap of steel. Why did they even try? Human beings are pretty impatient under pressure. If they know the enemy is waiting for them they’ll say to themselves, “What else can I do? Sitting here isn’t getting me anywhere. It’s deadlocked and I have to do something!” and without really thinking about their situation, they’ll decide their only option is to attack anyway. It takes a slightly deeper analysis of the battlefield to consider whether slowing down the enemy on this front is in fact helpful while your teammates attack elsewhere, whether your arty might be able to help if you ask them nicely, or whether a withdrawal altogether might actually provide the initiative a little farther back down the road. Enemies love pursuing a retreating opponent, and are much more likely to surrender the initiative to you when they chase you to the next building corner where you’re ready and waiting for them.

To take full advantage of this initiative idea remember, the position of their turret tells you exactly where they are aiming, and that (unlike most FPS’s) it takes a significant time to change targets. Always keep track of where their turret is directed. Zoom your camera out, watch him carefully. If it ain’t pointed at you, you probably have the initiative. This becomes paramount when you have a buddy flanking them. Take turns picking him apart while he’s worried about the other guy. If he’s focusing on you, keep your head down and let your teammate do his job. If not, toss a shell into the side of his turret and get his attention. And just because it bears saying, if you’re staring straight down the barrel of his gun, it’s probably not worth waiting that last second or two until you can fire, just hide. Your moment will come. On the flip-side, if you get aimed before he does, congratulations, you have him right where you want him. As long as he doesn’t take advantage of idea #3, wait for him to give you a target. What’s idea #3? Read on.

3. Spotting:

Clearly, if the enemy doesn’t know where you are, you have the initiative. Assuming you know where they are. In some situations, you could pop out from behind your cover in multiple places. It typically takes about 3-5 seconds for you to drop off radar if no one can see you. After that you can change your position freely without revealing your plan to the enemy (As long as you stay hidden of course). If they’re waiting for you to return to the same spot you were before, why not show up somewhere else? Even a location 10m away from your last spot will be enough to throw them off target long enough for you to get a shot in. Most of the time. This idea is of the greatest importance to scouts and other lighter tanks going up against the heavies. Never show up where they expect you. If they’ve figured you out, run away. Too many smaller tanks will pop out to try and get that second shot, without waiting the necessary time to go invisible again. When you’re off their radar, your biggest advantage is back on your side. The real trick is balancing this idea with the reload time idea discussed above.


As you find yourself in showdowns, try to think about the game from the idea of initiative. Break each moment down into the simple question, “Do I have the initiative right now?” If the answer is “yes,” make your move; if it’s “no,” play it safe. You’ll find that you live much longer and I promise you’ll enjoy being able to identify the precise moment when the other player yields the initiative to you as you punch a hole in their armor and get away with it unharmed. Patience is the key. Add to this the idea of angling your hull and other concepts related to armor penetration (of which there are many guides floating around) and you’ll be on your way to becoming a formidable tank duelist.


Advanced players will scold me if I don’t take a moment to say that these are not hard and fast rules. There will always be times when you need to charge even without the initiative (to get an offensive moving again) and there are times when having the initiative doesn’t mean you should stick your neck out (passive scouting comes to mind). Experience will tell you when those instances occur. Info about the whole battlefield is important in every moment. Make sure you put yourself where you’re most useful and that you’re doing the job your team needs you to the most. Kills aren’t always the most important. Sometimes scouting, capping, or stalling your opponent will be critical for your team even if (and often especially if) it isn’t your typical job. If XP and credits are what you’re after, remember that winning the match is way more valuable than 1 more kill. Even when it’s a Top Gun. Plus your teammates will like you more. Whatever the case, in all of your encounters use initiative to your advantage. Good luck out there!

  -Kong Ming

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