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The Game Plan: TCSG’s Guide to Influence

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Welcome to The Game Plan! In today’s feature, Haku from The Coalition – Singapore discusses a concept which is seldom easy to quantify or even describe, but can often be a major factor in turning the tides of war and achieving victory – a player’s influence on the battlefield. What exactly is it, and how can one acquire and learn to apply it? Read on to find out more!

In this article, I would like to touch on what it is that sets the ones who win more often than they lose apart from the ones who do not – influence: How, when and where to wield it to give you the victory in a game.

What is this influence that I am talking about? It is, basically, the ability to control a game, dictating the tempo and thus giving your team (and you) the victory. The strategy of such a philosophy is to get the match to a stage that favours your team, and keep it there until a decisive advantage can be exploited, giving you the victory. This means getting your team to timings where they can win, and keeping your enemy away from timings where they can win. Examples include getting your opponents to fight when they don't want to, slowing down their advance by forcing them to take the long way around, applying your firepower at a vulnerable position in the enemy’s line, and so on. World of Warships and World of Tanks, perhaps due to their core nature of being team games, are to a surprising degree games about timings. Every tank has an ability to shape the tempo of the match, although not every tank can affect every part of the game equally.

It is convenient, even simplistic, to think of just damage being what this influence is. This is understandable; after all, if your team can destroy the enemy team faster than they can, you curtail the enemy’s ability to influence the game and win, thus increasing your own chances to win. However, such slogging matches rarely end up being decisive victories. Set-piece battles require superior tactics to succeed, something that is generally up to the individual player instead of the team as a whole in random battles, and are not necessarily the best and most efficient way to win a game.

What most people do not realise, however, is that damage is not the be-all-and-end-all. Just because you dealt half the enemy team’s hit points in damage to the enemy does not mean that you will win. What matters more, in my opinion, is movement and decisiveness. The ability to identify and strike at the critical point in the battlefield is indispensable. Sometimes, this requires you to not do damage and instead requires you to move, stealthily, to a flanking position for you to pump shells into the sides of the enemy. This means, perhaps, stealth-capturing the enemy’s base. The list goes on.

Most players do not realise the intrinsic value that they can have on the battle; most miss their timing and never have the effect on the game that they could have had. Games where, had the player just done X instead of Y, or if the player had not missed that one shot, the outcome would have been different. Good players making good decisions come out on the right side of those situations more often than bad players making bad ones. The very best players are able to take this and transmute it into an art; players like Trumz on World of Tanks, who are able to read the game effortlessly and know when and where to apply themselves to win them the game to such a high level that it is breathtaking to watch them in action. Players who are able to see the situation, determine where the enemy is weakest, get themselves there and smash the critical point in the enemy's line.

As a guideline, heavy tanks have the armour and firepower to spearhead attacks; medium tanks offer a balanced package of firepower and mobility to get to where they are needed to inflict damage as quickly as possible; light tanks are unrivalled in mobility and concealment, allowing them to obtain vital intelligence for their team; tank destroyers trade mobility for firepower (and sometimes, armour); self-propelled guns are fragile, but they are able to offer indirect fire support. Note, though, that this is not a rule: There are players out there who are equally adept at reading the game and applying themselves at each stage in the game, and as such transcend such guidelines, be it defensive or offensive, regardless of the tank class that they are playing, just as there are players who do not have the insight to see this.

How do you gain insight to recognise and wield your influence?

A good first step is to get to know your tank; there are many guides offered on the various World of Tanks forums on each server (Asia, NA, EU, and so on), detailing the strengths and weaknesses of any tank in the game, and it is a good idea to read those guides first to get acquainted with the tank’s features. For instance, in TCSG’s latest episode of “The Meta Report”, we touched on an impressive play in a recent tournament game where an Ru 251, although outgunned and unable to do a lot of damage, was able to exert a massive influence on his team’s victory simply by distracting the enemy team enough for his own team to take advantage of favourable trades (04:45).

The way to victory is not all glamour and blitzkrieg, though – sometimes just solid grinding through the enemy team in tactical battles of attrition is the way to go. In this video of an Object 140 on Stalingrad, the player, crazib, demonstrates that by simply being patient and smart, peeking out to deal damage to the enemy, making full use of his tank’s high rate of fire, as well as utilising some tricks to face off and defeat a Maus, he carried the team to victory. Note that he is doing all this in a medium tank; grinding out results is not the medium tank’s specialty, and yet he managed to adapt.

A good example of a light tank replay is this, also by crazib, demonstrating great versatility in his light tank as he switches roles almost effortlessly, from scouting out enemy positions, to providing a distraction for the enemy, to re-joining the main group, to flanking and attacking the enemy from the rear. Further examples of this working are also evident in this Bat-Chat replay, where the player places himself in a very advanced outpost in front of the enemy’s forces. It may seem like a blunder, but watch the replay, and you will see that the enemy became overeager in their attempt to kill his tank off, allowing his own team to take advantage of the situation.

You can also find out what the meta is for each map – where the tanks normally go, what they normally do, and so on. Good map knowledge will allow you to position your tank in the right place at the right time to win the battle. Again, guides for each map are readily available online, along with comprehensive discussions about them.

Another tip is to be aware of the enemy team’s line-up at the start of matches. The enemy has more medium tanks than normal? Do not place your tank in positions in advanced positions, away from your team’s support fire, where it can be easily surrounded and killed, instead sitting a little deeper. If the enemy has more tank destroyers, be careful around common firing lanes where tank destroyers are likely to camp. In practice, it is not so cut-and-dried; often the best choice for you is not immediately clear. There is no instant solution to this problem; unless you are the second coming of Hannibal, the intuition and game sense required to dissect matches and know what to do will come with time and experience.

I would like to end the article with this: dictating the tempo is something that is open to manipulation. The various timings at play in a particular game is an extremely rich framework with which to understand what is going on, or why one team is winning and the other losing, and how likely (or unlikely) it is that this will change. Keen players will probably have an easier time of understanding what to do. However, newbies, do not despair – game sense can be taught so that it can be manipulated and wielded to a competent degree. What is for certain, though, is that the player who unloaded the most, who dealt the most damage, who got the most kills is not necessarily going to emerge victorious.

It is also worth noting that luck is also very important. Skill with your tank is necessary, but luck gives you that little bit extra toward achieving victory. Join me in my next article, where I delve in-depth into luck and how important it is to us, the players.