This post has been last updated on July 14th 2011. The section “Doing it the pro way” as been added as a result of increased experience with the game.
In the grand tradition of the Lotro Wednesdays I do for Lord of the rings online, the idea of doing the same for World of Tanks, the MMO/FPS hybrid where you play a tank, has crossed my mind. Pick a day of the week to talk about the game, my recent adventures and just give out useful info. So the day in question shall be Fridays! And to start off this new series, let’s talk about a topic that most new players will run into sooner or later, whether to use AP (armor-piercing) or HE (High explosive) shells with their tanks.
How damage work in WoT (basic)
As with normal RPGs, WoT uses a classic Hit points and Damage system to represent how much damage your tank can withstand. The damage comes from the value of the cannon and shell used wich is then subtracted from the total health of the tank. When HP reaches zero, you’re dead. Of course it’s not that simple and the game adds armor value to the tanks to reduce the damage and penetration value to the guns and shells to allow to penetrate armor. Finaly, to make things even more complicated, this is all affected by the actual shot taken. Tanks have different parts wich are harder or easier to penetrate and the angle of the shot can increases the chances of deflection. Where and how you shoot at an enemy matters.
Let’s put some of this into equations to make it a bit clearer. This is not the actual math behind the game but rather a representation of how things work. Until the devs release the formulas we are left with educated guesses. Finaly, this is based on my own research and observations so it might deviate from other number crunchers. In fact, I was not especially interested in exact numbers as I more interested in getting the general “how things works” side of things.
The penetration equation
(Gun penetration + Ammo penetration) – (Armor x angle of the shot) = ?
If greater than 0 the shot penetrates
If lower than 0 but within a close enough range, the damage is applied against the armor
If greatly lower than 0, the shot bounces off
The damage equation if armor is not penetrated
(Gun damage + Ammo damage) – (Armor x angle of the shot) = Damage done to HP of the tank
The damage equation if armor is penetrated
(Gun damage + Ammo damage) = Damage done to HP of the tank
These two equations are how things work in general, of course, AP and HE shells have their own particularities as well.
The types of shells and type of cannons
A quick tour of the type of shells and cannons in the game. The cannons names are non official but the types do exist in-game even if they are not named.
Armor piercing,shell (AP): These shells have high penetration but average damage. The idea is that since they penetrate and ignore armor, damage is applied directly to the enemy HP and in the end make up for their lower damage. AP rounds though have a much higher chance to bounce off a well armored target so care must be taken in aiming well to make sure the shot does make it through. AP rounds stopped by armor often do no damage.
High explosive,shell (HE): Low penetration but high damage. Here the goal is to overcome the enemy armor by doing so much damage that the armor won’t matter much. Also, HE rounds then to explode on impact wich makes it rare for them to bounce off the target.
Gold ammo,shell (HEAT, Apcr, etc…): Every tank has a type of ammo that can be bought with gold instead of normal credits. These are “super-shells” that combine both type of shells into a single one. The downside is that they don’t guarantee a hit and the normal rules still apply meaning they can be stopped and deflected normally even if their base stats are much better.
All purpose cannon (long but wide barrel): All purpose cannons are the most common type found in the game. They have average penetration and damage for their type but they allow the player to switch easily between ammo types during a game depending on what they are facing. They also have good reload types.
Penetration cannon (long and narrow barrel): These cannons are made to penetrate enemy armor and are most often found on tank destroyers. They are also quite precise most of the time. They benefit, of course, more from AP shells but against weaker armor they can be used with HE shell for devastating effect. The cannon takes care of penetration and the enemy gets the full damage of a HE shell without the armor to protect him.
Howitzer (Short and wide canon): Artillery guns mounted on tanks, most often Heavy tanks or Tank destroyers. These guns have poor penetration, poor precision and crazy long reload times. The benefit? Incredible damage made even more incredible with HE shells. These bad boys can literally one shot tanks of higher tiers than themselves despite their armor and only heavy tanks stand a chance to survive. But they take a lot of strategy because when you fire twice a minute… you need to make the shot count.
So…. what shell do I use?
By now you should have an idea of what to use but here’s the general idea.
-If the cannon has low penetration, HE shells all the time
-If the cannon can penetrate the enemy tank all by itself, HE shells
-If your cannon + penetration is still not enough to penetrate the enemy, HE shells. Hope that the damage will overcome the armor and bleed through to your target
-If cannon + penetration can penetrate the enemy of similar or higher tier. AP shells. In this case the HE shell damage will be too low when it overcomes the enemy armor. Since AP shells penetrate they will yield higher damage than a bleedthrough effect.
There’s a lot of different situations that might call for a type of shell or another. For example if you want to take out tracks HE shells are always better since you want to do splash damage against a weak part of the tank (tracks). Or it might be slopped armor wich makes deflection likely for AP shell from your position so you switch to HE for less deflection.
Doing it the pro way
Despite what I just wrote about most experienced players use another system. It boils down to AP shell all the time with the following exceptions:
-If facing a very high tier tank and you can’t possibly damage it, HE shells
-If you want to damage secondary systems first or hit the tracks, HE shells
-If your using a howitzer (Derp gun), HE shells.
So why use AP shells the rest of the time even in situations where damaging the other tank is unlikely? Because you start aiming at tank subsection! Tanks feature different armor at different locations and good tankist learn to hit those for maximum damage. Viewports, hatchs, and other weakspots are targeted with regularity. Sure it’s harder and require more skill as well as knowledge of said weakspot but it’s more than worth it.
So I hope that helped you a bit and see you next time!