World of Tanks Tank Destroyer Guide
Playing a Tank Destroyer, or TD, is as some have eloquently put it before me, not for the faint of heart. At lower tiers, it is a short life that is expected to have moments of abject terror, followed by a quick and usually fiery death. However, if you can stick with it for the long run, and work through the teething and growing pains you are expected to deal with, then a mediocre player can (with the right amount of practice) become one of the most feared guns on the battle field. However there are some things which you must keep in mind prior to taking this route. Chief among those being that people are, generally speaking, not going to like you. Many see the Tank Destroyer as a kind of over powered camper. While you hide, waiting to take the right shot at the right time, they complain that you’re not moving; or not contributing to the battle. However, it doesn’t take long to shut them up, and typically the moment you kill something several tiers above yourself; the complaints stop.
So, you’re probably wondering, after an opening like that, why would anyone want to play a TD? After all you’re not overly popular, you’re not liked by your own team half the time, and you don’t usually live long in the battle (at least at low tiers.) So why would you want to go that route? TD players, you will find, tend to have a different mindset than the average players. TD’s are content to hang back, hiding in bushes, behind rocks, or even right in among the burning hulks of other tanks. They may sit there all battle, waiting for one heavy, or one medium to blunder into their trap. One shot later, the enemy is left wondering what the hell hit them, where it came from, and why they suddenly are on fire, can’t move, or are dead. That is what the TD lives for, knowing that somewhere on the other side of the screen, another person is wondering what just happened, and cursing the TD’s name with every breath.
Positionally speaking, TD drivers serve as “support” and defense. Theory wise, you could argue that a good pair of TD’s can quickly bottle up a whole lot of enemy forces, making it easier on their team to flank or advance. (I will get to this later.) Gameplay wise, the TD is best at the back of the attack. Not in the front lines of the charge, but rather along well traveled routes or in nicely hid “blinds” waiting for the right time to pounce. Think of the TD as the tank world’s trap door spider, and you have the analogy right.
Real World History
Before you go bouncing out in a TD, it should help you to understand how various armies used Tank Destroyers during WW2. By knowing this, you can better understand some of the limitations of the TD, why they were put into practice; and most of all what is expected of you as a TD player.
Tank destroyers came about as an answer to a problem. When faced with the superior firepower of the German Tanks in the time leading up to the invasion of Poland (at that point the PZ1 and 2 were superior…if you can believe that) the Polish military took to converting a handful of their tankettes into dedicated Tank Destroyers. Equipped with 20mm and later 37mm guns, these tank destroyers actually didn’t fare that well in combat. Mind you it didn’t help that aerial bombardment made the tanks swiss (or polish I suppose) cheese, but that was really beside the point. Of those that did make it into battle, it was found that they were seriously under gunned. However, the Germans did learn from this tactic, and would develop a line of their own.
Prior to WW2, Germany had a number of light, towed anti tank guns of the “Pak” variant. These guns were quite effective and accurate at range, but suffered from a number of problems. Chief among these, was the fact that the towed guns could not be moved around quickly, and could be overrun if the enemy moved in close. It didn’t hurt that a grunt with a single grenade and a whole lot of luck, could put the crew out of action. Learning from the Polish, the German army would create what we know in the game as the PJ, or the PanzerJager. That roughly means “Tank Hunter.” The PJ was, by all intents and purposes, cobbled together from what the German army had on hand. A number of captured soviet weapons found their way into the design, but typically it was the old Pak towed guns mounted on the chassis of a PZ-I, with a thin three sided shield to protect the gun. The PJ preformed quite well, though its high silhouette made it vulnerable to being spotted. The open top didn’t improve much when it came to grenade attacks, but at least now it could move under its own power, so that helped some. In practice, crews would hide their PJ’s in burned out buildings or behind low walls and wait for the enemy to stumble into their line of fire. Rarely did the PJ “hunt” alone, with older PZ-1 and in later years PZ-2 tanks supporting their attack. The PJ would strike first, and the lighter tanks envelop the enemy while they were recovering from the attack.
As the war continued on, Germany would modify the design time and time again; adding heavier armor and armament to deal with increasing enemy sizes. The largest of these TD’s being built on King Tiger chassis, and called the “Jagd Tiger.” On 17 January 1945 two Jagdtigers used by XIV Corps engaged a bunker line in support of infantry near Auenheim. On 18 January they attacked four secure bunkers at 1,000 meters. The armored cupola of one bunker burned out after two shots. A Sherman attacking in a counterthrust was set afire by explosive shells. The total combat included 46 explosive shells and 10 anti-tank shells with no losses to the Jagdtigers. Believe it or not, there were only about 88 of the JT’s actually built, of which all were either knocked out of action by enemy fire, or abandoned and destroyed by their own crews.
The Soviets, after coming in contact with the later designs of the Marder II, and the Jagdpanzer 38(t) (Hetzer); were quick to develop their own tank destroyers. However, one could argue that the Soviets took things to the extreme, with the development of the massive IS series of Tank Destroyers. Equipped with no less than a foot of armor plate (322mm) on the Glacis (front of the tank) and a massive 152mm gun; there wasn’t a whole lot that could stand very long against the ISU. However, like all Tank Destroyers, the Soviets suffered from issues of weight and speed, and in many cases the Tank Destroyers would simply be bypassed by the Germans and dealt with later.
The US and Britain came into the idea of Tank Destroyers, late in the war; and interestingly they didn’t do to well of it for a while. In fact, it wasn’t until the design of the turreted M10, that the US could be said to have a dedicated Tank Destroyer. Prior to this, most designs relied on half tracks, or fully enclosed and fixed gun positions. However the M10 did away with all this, equipping a 75mm gun in an open top turret. This would be redesigned a number of times, with the M10 3″ gun (Wolverine) being the most common. Interestingly the M18, with its 76mm gun and high speed was nearly ideal for the job. At a glance, the M18 (hellcat) looked vaguely like a smaller version of the Pershing, and by all accounts lived up to its name. On September 19, 1944, in the Nancy Bridgehead near Arracourt, France, the 704th Tank Destroyer Battalion was attached to the 4th Armored Division. Lt. Edwin Leiper led one M18 platoon of C Company to Rechicourt-la-Petite, on the way to Moncourt. He saw a German tank gun muzzle appearing out of the fog 30 feet away, and deployed his platoon. In a five minute period, five German tanks of the 113 Panzer Brigade were knocked out for the loss of one M18. The platoon remained in their position and destroyed ten more German tanks, with the loss of another two M18s. One of the platoon’s M18s, commanded by Sgt Henry R. Hartman, knocked out six of these and lived to fight another day. Most of the German tanks were Panthers.
In Game Theory
Given the design of World of Tanks, the average Tank Destroyer player can not be expected to preform as the real world accounts above. Owing in part to the limited ability of the tank destroyers themselves, the nature of the game, and the chances of being overrrun and destroyed by lighter vehicles, the average TD should take a position as defense or at a choke point in the game. The player should be expected to “trade off” shots. Meaning that the tank destroyer manages at least one kill before it is destroyed itself. If at all possible, groups of Tank Destroyers should work in conjunction with each other to slow the enemy’s advance or to damage and or destroy larger attackers before their own defensive units can take up the fight. The Tank Destroyer is a support vehicle, and as such should never be at the head of a charge. There are a number of very effective tactics which you as a Tank Destroyer can use. Each one is best for a specific situation, though there is no one perfect end all be all tactic in every case. As such, it is up to the TD commander to know in advance what he will do, and how best to adapt to the situation as it unfolds before him.
Hunting In a Group
Group hunting is, by far, one of the most effective tactics; and it can be used to effectively bottle up a large portion of the enemy. This type of tactic works based on the idea that two are better than one, three better than two, and while the enemy may find one, the others will make up the difference. In the case of a group hunt, or a wolfpack as some call it, the best tactic is one of a loose organization. The Tank destroyers should be spread out in an area, no more than 30 meters (bout 90 feet) or so between them. Each should use his own cover, and their fields of fire should overlap slightly. In practice, it is best to have them staggered somewhat, with some slightly ahead of the others. This allows them to spot quickly, but also allows others to watch their comrades backs as it were. A good wolfpack is enough to slow a coordinated advance, and can in some cases break the enemy’s back entirely. As with all TD actions, care should be taken not to knock down trees or damage the environment; as well as waiting till the enemy is well within range before firing. If one of the pack is destroyed, the others can quickly avenge this. Rarely do the enemy expect there to be more than one TD hiding nearby, so this will often leave them vulnerable to your attack.
A common Tactic for Tank Destroyers is to hide in any and all available bushes. However, this isn’t always the best tactic, since the enemy have come to expect this. Further more it’s been done so many times on various maps, that an experienced player knows “all” the best hiding places and will avoid them like the plague. However the effective TD can counteract this by being a bit on the devious side. For example, in the battle of Malinovka, it is very common for tank destroyers to hide in the bushes on either side of the damaged buildings. To the point that artillery will usually target that area first, scoring hits and sometimes destroying TD’s before they have a chance to shoot. However, the experienced TD will hide behind that firing line, in the second line of bushes or in the clump far on the left side of the map. This last bit of bush places them in a perfect firing line right up the side where so many like to flank; and though out in the open, it is not as common a hiding place and thus rarely targeted. On the other side of the map, hiding in the small village near the hill, or in the trees along the east side road are also effective. In short, know the best hiding places, and avoid them. Pick the places they don’t expect you to be. If you know everyone hides in that bush beside the burning tank, then you shouldn’t hide there. Move to the bush behind it and shoot the idiot that comes charging into that first one expecting to find the tank destroyer.
The weakest link in the chain of an attack, is at all times your target. In the case of tanks, the weakest link is simply the tracks. Nothing quite takes the starch out of a Heavy Tank driver’s fight, like suddenly being stopped dead in their tracks unable to move. They know that before long Artillery will zone in on them, and unless they can get moving again; they’re screwed. What’s more, with the heavy out of action, it leaves the attack up to whoever is left…and if it’s only mediums and light tanks, it never ends well. Thus, the Weakest Link tactic is effective in situations where the TD does not expect to survive, or comes up against something larger than itself. By firing on the tracks of the heavy or larger tank, the TD knows that they are slowing the advance and possibly drawing the fire off of their heavier friendlies that can deal with the target. Rarely will the TD survive this, but your actions will not go unnoticed, and the attacks will garner you some respectable Xp for your damage. Plus, you’ll make a Heavy mad…and we all know that’s a good feeling. They need taken down a few pegs every now and again as it is.
Point defense is a tactic where the TD picks one point and defends it. Whether it’s a cross roads, or your base, or the enemy’s base, or even that small clump of trees on a tiny hill. You take that spot and hold it against all attackers. From a battle standpoint, this is the most frustrating tactic for the enemy. They know you’re over there, and they’d like to do something about it…but everyone they keep sending over dies. So now they have a decision to make. Do they ignore all incoming attacks and rush you, or do they bypass you and hope that they can deal with you later? It’s a difficult place you put them in, and can help turn the tide of a battle depending on how many you take out or how they opt to handle the situation. There has been times where I, as a lowly marder, drew enough enemy away from an attack to allow my own team to rush in and mop up, capturing the flag while the enemy base was undefended.
Shoot and Scoot
More common to SPG’s, Shoot and Scoot, or S&S, is a tactic which is very effective when dealing with an opposing force of medium and heavy vehicles. IN this tactic, the TD fires on an enemy, aiming for their most vulnerable position. Whether the shot hits or not, or the enemy is destroyed or not, the TD will then “Scoot” not long after its shot. Meaning that they will quickly reposition to a secondary hiding spot. Once there they will again attack, possibly striking the same target, before once more they move. This tactic is more advanced than the others, and best left to faster Tank Destroyers. However in practice it is the safest, since the enemy isn’t quite sure where you are at any given time. Furthermore, it’s plausible to envision a situation where the enemy thinks a larger force is there, forcing them to fall back and re-evaluate their attack plan.
When looking to pick a Tank Destroyer role, the question often arises, what made you pick that particular type of tank? Some would tell you they like a challenge, others may say that it suits them. There’s a number of reasons, and all of them are right. However when looking at all the Tank Destroyer players, you find that there is a single thing that defines them all. One thing that they all have, which while I’m not saying other players don’t have it, that the Tank Destroyer players must have in excess off. That one thing isn’t guts, though it does take guts to ride out an artillery barrage, to sit back and go toe to toe with a tiger. No, that one thing that they must have in excess, is patience. Without patience, the Tank Destroyer may make a mistake, and in their case a very fatal one. It takes patience to ride out a barrage, patience to sit and wait for the approaching heavy to get close enough, patience to let two mediums pass by unmolested, knowing a heavy is coming up behind them. Above all else, you must have patience.