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Green Level Tactic Guide #1: Armor Facing

The strategy series intends to help tankers build a comprehensive mechanical, tactical and strategic background. As opposed to a few large articles the focus will be on a series of smaller guides covering individual aspects of gameplay. Divided into three primary levels, the series articles will be tailored to players of varying skill to allow a smooth progression into the upper echelons of player ability. This is a green level guide intended for newer players who are not yet familiar with intermediate level play, or as a refresher for “greens” who feel that they are relatively weak in the area covered. The subject of this tactic guide is Armor Facing.

Front First

At a basic level, Armor Facing refers to directing relatively strong armor towards incoming enemy fire. For most vehicles, this is the front hull armor and/or the frontal turret. Correctly forcing shots into these areas will tend significantly reduce the damage you take from enemy fire. As an initial example, let’s take a look at the iconic King Tiger, the most powerful German Tank produced during the Second World War. The KT was known for having strong frontal armor. In-Game, it is capable of protecting against most guns with less than 200mm of penetration. Even guns with as much as 240mm of penetration will fail to penetrate often enough to be noticeable. From the front, the King Tiger:

picture01

Not too Shabby!

 

As you can see, tanks with less than 200mm of penetration need to hit the lower plate, commanders hatch or flat turret face to have a decent shot of penetrating. Shots to the turret face or hatch will often hit the sharply sloped areas which will ricochet most shells harmlessly away. Shots aimed at the lower plate may go high and hit the stronger upper plate, or miss low and pass under the tank. From the front, the King Tiger is a relatively tough nut to crack. However, from the side:

 picture02

There goes the ammo rack…

 

As you can see, you are vulnerable to basically anything if you show them your side. This applies to most vehicles, not just the King Tiger. Even vehicles which have insufficient frontal armor to stop AP shells are still generally better protected on the front. Tanks like the AMX-50-100 may not stop AP, but their front can prevent HE from dealing full damage. As a general rule, you need to endeavor to face your front towards enemy tanks. This includes your front turret – side turret shots often expose your ammunition rack (risk of instant death and a flying turret) and generally much thinner armor. If you only show your strongest armor, the enemy will be forced to take the time to aim more carefully, you will have more time to react, and there is a good chance that their shell will deflect harmlessly away.

An Introduction to Angling

Simply facing the enemy is not always enough. There are many ways to increase your effective armor above what you would expect to face head on. The foremost of these is angling – the practice of turning your tank slightly away from enemy fire. It seems counterintuitive at first – why would you point away from the enemy when your strongest armor is on the front of your tank? As an introduction, I will briefly explain the concept of effective armor and how it applies to a tank.

When a shell hits a tank, it immediately tries to penetrate whatever armor it encountered. In the case of the King Tiger’s Upper Front, this is a plate 150mm thick. Therefore, you would expect that a 122mm shell from the IS (175mm of Penetration) will easily get through, barring a very low penetration roll. However, this is not the case. In fact, even the 203mm penetration shell from the KT’s own 88mm gun has trouble penetrating this 150mm thick plate. Why? – the answer lies in the realm of angles and trigonometry. A brief pictorial explanation follows courtesy of the paint experts at Wargaming:

picture13

As you can see, trying to pass straight on through an angled plate requires a shell to penetrate more armor. In this case, the plate is sloped back at 60 degrees resulting in a doubling of the effective thickness. The KT only has 50 degree of sloping, and AP shells negate 5 degrees of slope due to the developers coding it into the game. Therefore, a shell hitting the King Tiger’s front must penetrate a 150mm plate sloped back at 45 degrees. Trigonometry states that the actual distance travelled equals 150/cos(45), or ~212mm of effective armor. This is why a 200 penetration shell fails to reliably penetrate 150mm of armor.

This applies to any tank, even those with flat armor (Hello Tiger H). Shells can hit from any direction, therefore there is almost always some degree of angle which changes the effective armor a shell encounters. This leads to the most common method to increasing your tanks effective armor – angling.

A Diamond in the Rough

Imagine you are back in your trusty King Tiger, crushing enemies with under 200 pen by using what you have learned about always facing the enemy. However, you get your ass handed you by another King Tiger. You are both using the top gun with 225mm of penetration, firing AP shells. However, he is shooting through your front plate with alarming regularity, while you are having trouble penetrating his. You notice something funny about him – he seems to be facing somewhat to your left. You are roughly at his 11 o’clock. Why does this make a difference? The answer lies in the same math which gives your front 210mm of protection from 150mm of armor.

This is what your “hacking” enemy sees shooting you:

 picture03

Who wants Swiss Cheese?

 

The exact effective armor depends on where exactly you are hit, and how far away the enemy is. As the KT is a tall tank, you are shooting down slightly. This reduces the armor you need to penetrate to 205mm instead of 212mm. However, it increases how much armor you need to penetrate if you hit the lower plate. Usually this is not significant unless you are at very close range.

In this case, your 150mm plate has 48 degrees of slope. The shells fired by the enemy need to overcome this angle to penetrate. Lets examine what happens when you turn your tank somewhat to the side like your enemy did.

 picture04

Dings and Dents, but no air holes

 

As you can see, shooting nearly the exact same spot now encounters 230mm of armor. This is because your shell now needs to overcome both a front and a side angle in order to penetrate. You don’t need to know the exact equation behind this – just that in these cases, the bonus from each angle multiplies together! This means that your 150mm plate sloped 50 degrees back and 20 degrees to the side behaves the same as a 212mm flat plate sloped 20 degrees back, or even a 150mm plate sloped 20 degrees back and 50 degrees to the side. It doesn’t matter which way the plate is pointing – only the overall angle the shell runs into. In this example, the actual angle is roughly 54 degrees. Angling slightly to the side is the equivalent of giving your front plate 5-6 degrees of extre slope. As you can see, it takes you from 20mm under your enemy’s 225mm of penetration (which means at least 7 of 10 shots will penetrate) to 5mm above (more like 2 of 5 now). He pens 7 of his 10, you pen 4. You can see why you might think he is using some sort of armor hack. In desperation, you try for his exposed side.

 picture05

Whew…

 

That one ricocheted! At under 20 degrees of side angle, you can not penetrate the side armor. AP will never penetrate a plate with more than 70 degrees of effective slope except for a few rare circumstances (covered in a later article). Merely turning your tank 20 degrees to the side added 25mm of extra frontal protection without exposing ANY vulnerable areas! However, you must be careful when angling. Angle a little too much, and the following happens:

 picture06

There goes our deposit…

 

Penetration! Since your side is now at less than 70 degrees of slope, any AP shell with enough penetration will cut through. As the KT’s side armor is only 80mm thick, even at nearly 70 degrees the effective armor is only 185mm. You can not afford to over-angle. The first place which becomes vulnerable is just inside your front track – there is a small area where the side armor can be hit. You can’t afford to angle 20 degrees from the corner of your upper hull at close range, as enemy tanks will be able to penetrate you there. You must be careful, and ensure that your inner track edge is where you measure your angle. As a rule of thumb: if you must use the corner of your upper hull, angle only 1 degrees, or halfway between 12 and 1o’clock. Your gun should be just inside your tracks when viewed from above. Some tanks have thick enough sides for you to angle more (KV-4 comes to mind), however starting out assume you can’t get away with it. Those tanks are the exception rather than the rule.

If you are not yet confortable with judging the angle of your tank, it is better to simply face straight forward. Exposing too much side can lead to the dreaded full damage track shot, where the enemy shoots through your front track, both damaging and immobilizing you. When in doubt, face dead on. In fact, for a certain type of tank it is necessary to face the enemy dead on. Not all tanks are “fascist box tanks!”

twofrone

Hackusations Ensue                                                                                                    Too Much! Abort! Abort!

 

The Pike Nose

So after learning how to angle your King Tiger, you decide to try one of those Russian Tanks out. You select the IS-3, seeking to play the tank designed to kill the King Tiger. You hit battle, load in, and start driving (hopefully forwards). Soon enough, you encounter an IS-2. You carefully ensure your front is facing him, angle so your gun is just inside your tracks, aim in…

Shit

And end up back in garage. What happened? The answer lies again in angles. Tanks such as the IS-3, IS-8 and IS-7 are called “Pike Nose” tanks. This means that their front is (when viewed from above) is shaped like a V.

picture09

Dat V…

 

Essentially, pike nose tanks have the side angle already built in. When faced directly from the front, an incoming shell has to overcome both a front and a side angle in order to penetrate. Even though the IS-3 only has 110mm on the front, when faced dead on even 175 penetration shells can have trouble penetrating. However, if you try to angle it like a King Tiger…

picture10

Umm…Dat Askew V?

 

You end up adding to half the hull (as expected) but turn the facing plate (in this case the left half) into a nice, flat piece of cardboard for that IS. This applies to any tank with a V or upside-down U shaped hull. Angling the tank no longer uniformly increases armor protection, and creates a large weakspot which happens to be the easiest part of your tank for the enemy to hit. To make it worse, the IS-3 and IS-7 have ammunition stored in the front part of the side hull, which is exposed behind this new, flat weakspot. Notice that Destroyed IS-3? No turret. That will happen to you if you try and angle. In Pike Nose tanks, always face the enemy dead on. If you have something to hide your flat plate behind you might be able to get away with angling. However, in most cases you won’t. While you are learning, it is best to focus on maintaining that direct frontal profile until it becomes second nature. In case you need further numerical convincing (my form of mind control):

picture11

Pretty Decent



picture12

Not so much…

Instead of adding 25mm to your front hull, you subtract 25mm. Angle like that, and everything except for scouts will penetrate you. Convinced? Yes you are. In conclusion, do not angle pike nose tanks.

Summary and Conclusion

In short, Armor Facing involves:

  • Always face your front to whatever is shooting you

  • This also applies to your turret

  • If your tank is shaped like a box, angle a little to the side

  • Your gun should stay inside your tracks, if not you have angled too much

  • If your tank has a pointed nose, do not angle at all

  • If you angle a pike nose tank, you will get ammo racked

  • This is not World of Battleships – broadside combat is not how its done.

Situations such as corner brawls, hill fights and moving targets in general will make it more difficult to maintain armor facing. For now, don’t worry about it. Once you are comfortable with armor facing in simple situations, extension to more complex engagements will be less difficult than it currently seems. I will in fact cover such situations in later guides – learn to walk before you run or you will look like QWOP and fall flat on your face.

In conclusion, armor facing is a deceptively complex series of tactics. However, it is highly rewarding even in the most basic application. In almost any vehicle forcing shells into your strongest armor will drastically improve survivability. You will last longer, hit harder and win more games. Knowing how to get the most out of your vehicle’s armor requires research and experience. The general principles covered apply in most situations, and form a strong base to build on as you develop as a player.

This concludes Strategy Series article #1: Armor Facing. This guide is not meant to stand purely on its own – when I tried that I ended up writing novellas, not guides. I intend to fill out an entire catalog of guides which taken together cover the majority of skills, tactics and strategies which form the basis of strong tanking. Come back soon for a guide on target selection – which tank to hit, and why.

Writing these guides takes time and effort. If you feel like I deserve it, I would greatly appreciate your patronage. Your support will help me write more and higher quality guides, improve my twitch livestream and generally expand the array of services I can contribute. Either way, thanks for reading and good luck on the battlefield!

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