Playthrough: Heavy Tank Spam

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    • Playthrough: Heavy Tank Spam

      Heavy tanks are generally regarded as terrible units, and for good reason: they take a long time to research and produce, they require a lot of resources, and once produced they're incredibly slow-moving. Perhaps most important, though, and what differentiates them from another slow-moving resource-hogging unit, the railroad gun, heavy tanks require melee combat, meaning they take return damage every time they deliver damage and are vulnerable to ranged attacks.

      Naturally, I decided to test out just how unwieldy they are by dedicating an entire round to heavy tank spam.

      Unfortunately (spoiler alert), it is looking like this round isn't going to be nearly as active as I had hoped, so I don't think there's going to be much PVP heavy tank action. Regardless, I've been jotting down notes for a few days and I don't want that to go to waste, so I'll still post it as a playthrough and go over my thought process at different points in this game. I don't think anything in here is going to be new to players that have played for a while, but maybe it'll at least be entertaining.

      The post was edited 1 time, last by jubjub bird ().

    • First, some analysis.

      The choice of doctrine came down to two options: Axis or Comintern. As a doctrine, Axis gets +15% damage and +15% HP, and on top of that Axis heavies get +10% damage vs all unit types and are available 2 days sooner than normal, so an individual Axis heavy is the best heavy, period. The drawback is the +10% unit cost, which we'll see the effects of a bit later. Comintern heavies, meanwhile, do 10% less damage as a doctrine but are 15% cheaper and are similarly available 2 days sooner than normal. Their heavies get a 15% boost against heavy armor and a 10% hitpoint boost, though this still leaves them short of Axis heavies' hitpoints.

      I chose Axis, and the rest of this analysis will use Axis data values.
    • A brief economic analysis:
      Everyone knows heavy tanks are crazy expensive, especially as Axis, which will limit the available resources I have for other units. An individual L1 heavy tank costs:
      2540 $
      2040 Steel
      2040 Oil
      1010 Rares
      1910 Manpower
      Each tank takes, at minimum, 8hr45min to produce (in an L3 tank plant). Breaking these costs down by hour, if I want to have a single tank plant producing heavy tanks around the clock I'll need resource generation rates of at least:
      290 $/hr
      233 steel/hr
      233 oil/hr
      115 rares/hr
      218 mp/hr
      But this assumes one tank plant, which means only three heavy tanks per day--hardly enough to be called spam! Let's assume a minimum of two tank plants churning out HTs around the clock, which means my economy just to produce six heavy tanks per day needs to be at least:
      581 $/hr
      466 steel/hr
      466 oil/hr
      231 rares/hr
      437 mp/hr

      Oof, that's sucking up a lot of our early-game economy and we haven't gotten to support units yet. Perhaps we can work around those steel and oil requirements, but that manpower number is pretty big. Looks like we're gonna need a lot of Recruiting Centers.
    • Speaking of support units...

      Stack composition, part 1
      Alright, since we're spamming heavy tanks, let's assume each stack contains 10 heavy tanks. What else?

      (A quick note: heavy tanks have an attack-to-defense ratio of 1.0, making them equally strong as attackers and defenders. This differs from other members of the tank branch: armored cars and tank destroyers are defensive units, with 1:1.5 ratios; light and medium tanks are offensive units, with 1.5:1 ratios. The nice thing about heavies' 1:1 ratio is that it makes our analysis a little easier, though for the most part I think it's safe to assume we'll be attacking.)

      To truly dedicate myself to heavy tanks as damage-dealers, I'm giving myself an artificial restriction this round of zero ranged units. In a serious game I would never actually limit myself like this, but it does make our analysis here a little easier.

      Main stats: Level 1 Axis heavies have 75hp and deal 6.9 damage to unarmored, 12.5 to light armor, 10.0 to heavy armor, and return 2.5 damage to planes (this is where that 1.0 ratio helps a little--Axis mediums only return 0.6 damage to planes). Seems like we've got armored units covered, but might want to shore up the other two areas.

      Vs. Unarmored

      At first glance, that 6.9 damage to unarmored looks like a weakness when compared to the high damage output against armored units. However, unarmored units tend to have less HP than armored units, so our damage as a percentage of the enemy's health is much better than the raw value implies. (As an example, not that I would ever recommend running your heavy tanks into anti-tanks because of the differing resource costs, but the calculator shows that 5 L1 Axis heavies can actually defeat a stack of 10 Axis anti-tanks on neutral ground.) Still, maybe we can shore up this area with additional units, which I've ranked worst-to-best:
      • Regular infantry. Even at L3, infantry only do 6.3 offensive damage to unarmored. No thanks.
      • Armored cars. Even at L3, ACs only do 7.5 offensive damage to unarmored. Slightly better than HTs, but not enough to justify mass-producing ACs (though we may use them as scouts), especially because they compete with heavies for production facilities.
      • Mechanized infantry. L1 does 9.8 vs unarmored and L2 (available day 6) does 13.2. Now we're starting to see a difference. However, recall our economic analysis: mechanized infantry will compete with heavy tanks for steel and oil
      • Motorized infantry. L3 (available day 6) does 14.3, even better than Mech Inf while not requiring any steel. This seems like the best pairing for a ground unit, only overlapping slightly in resources (oil)
      That said, I have a personal dislike of mot inf as a unit because of its low HP and its armor class. They're incredibly fragile because the types of units they're strong against (unarmored) are also often strong in return against unarmored units. Anyone who has used mot inf in early game has probably experience this, where mot inf look great but are quickly in the red after running into stack after stack of infantry. So, even if they're the best pairing for heavy tanks, I decide not to use them in this game, instead choosing:
      • Tactical bombers
      Yea, maybe this is cheating, but I think I'm going to embrace my heavy tanks' damage output against unarmored units and use tacs as my emergency anti-tank killer, if needed. I also like that this makes my stacks leaner--because of their high mobility I can build fewer tacs than I would have to build mot infs, reducing the additional manpower required to build out my stacks. This mobility will also help cover the speed weakness of heavy tanks.
    • z00mz00m wrote:

      I admire your commitment to science. Can't wait to see how you take out cities.
      Are you allowing yourself to use your starting infantry for city fighting?
      Or is this really going to be heavy tanks everywhere, all the time?
      I'm kinda making it up as I go, but there's no way I could wait until my heavy tanks come online to start capturing territory so I will definitely be using starting units (and other units) for the first few days. After that, probably not.
    • Stack composition, part 2

      Vs Aircraft

      Now we need to shore up our weakness vs planes with anti air. This is a simpler analysis, since there are only two land units to choose from: regular AA and self-propelled AA.

      To put one difference aside, I am assuming that these units will be traveling with my tanks, so I'd get zero benefit from the extra speed of SPAA. One point to regular AA.

      Axis L3 AA and L2 SPAA research is available starting at Day 6, so we'll use those as our comparison points. Statwise, they're basically equal in their main task of defending our heavy tanks against planes: 14.4 for regular and 15.0 for SP, just a 4% difference. There's an additional difference between the two in their secondary roles: regular AA (especially Axis) defend quite well vs heavy armor, while SPAA defend better against light armor. Neither of these talents will matter when paired with heavy tanks, though, which dominate both AA types in damage against armor.

      Since speed doesn't matter and the only stat we care about is basically equal, all that's left is cost--and that's where we see a huge difference.

      L3 Axis AA costs: 960 $, 540 food, 1200 goods, 150 steel, and 940 mp
      L2 Axis SPAA costs, approx: 1500 $, 1700 goods, 730 steel, 550 oil, and 1200 mp
      In total resources, SPAA are approximately 50% more expensive! Making matters worse, they're competing with our heavy tanks for steel and oil, while regular AA requires negligible amounts. Case closed, we're pairing our heavy tanks with regular AA.

      With 10 heavies and some amount (maybe 10, maybe fewer if my opponents aren't using planes) of AA in each stack, all I need is a scout to increase my view range and keep an eye out for anti-tanks. I'll probably use ACs for this, taking their increased durability over mot inf's additional damage against unarmored.
    • Back to the economic analysis, just to see what it would be like if we had two tank plants constantly producing heavies (production time: 8:45 each), one ordnance factory constantly producing L3 AA (production time: 4 hours), and one aircraft factory constantly producing L3 tacs (production time: 6:30), we'd need an economy that looked like this:
      1159 $/hr
      135 food/hr
      449 goods/hr
      504 steel/hr
      616 oil/hr
      523 rares/hr
      902 mp/hr
      That manpower number is still the scary one. A nice thing about our build being light on food and goods is that we have more available to build Recruiting Centers--we'll definitely need them.
    • Upgrading strategy
      There's something else I wanted to mention that adds to the awkwardness of using heavy tanks: their research schedule.

      For Axis and Comintern, L1 HT research is available Day 4. Level 2 research is available Day 8. Level 3 research is available... Day 14, a 6-day gap from the previous level. Level 4 (Elite) is available on Day 20, another 6-day gap.

      I typically time my upgrades to jump levels; in basically every game, I upgrade my core units from Level 1 to Level 3 directly, which usually gets me to mid-game, and I try to time additional upgrades to get the benefit of a jump if needed (e.g. 3 to 5).

      With heavy tanks, jumping from level 1 to level 3 would mean using our base tanks all the way until days 15-16, well into mid-game and around the time when superior units are available:
      • Level 4 ATs are available starting day 10, and the Axis version does 17 defensive damage to heavy armor
      • Allies get SP Arty L3 at day 10, which do 9.8 damage to heavy armor from range
      • Allies get TD L4 at day 12, which do 17.3 defensive damage to heavy armor
      • Axis Attack Bombers are available starting day 8 and do 15.6 damage to heavy armor
      All in all, those great stats we were looking at before for L1 Axis heavies, doing an average of 9.8 damage against land units, don't look so hot anymore. Days 10-15 look like a pretty dangerous time to just be a Level 1 heavy tank. Thankfully, since heavies only have four levels they get a decent jump each time, going up ~36% in damage from L1 to L2. That means we'll be preparing to upgrade our existing heavies as soon as L2 comes available.
    • Tactical bombers could make your heavy tanks irrelevant.

      Bombers are fast, they have better A/D ratios, and they specialize in destroying infantry and militia (the most common units on any map).

      Your heavy tanks might be relegated to clearing lone units scattered around the provinces. And taking territory, at a maddeningly slow pace. Unless you end up using AC for that purpose. Then the heavies will be completely useless.
    • One last post before I get to the playthrough itself, which will probably be less interesting than these posts tbh.

      This strategy still has major, obvious weaknesses, and so I want to make sure it's clear that I'm doing this for fun and not because I recommend it as a genuine approach to the game.

      From a unit perspective, my tank stacks should be able to handle basically any enemy ground stack with reasonable success. They might have a little trouble if we encounter huge stacks of anti-tanks but otherwise we should be fine. That doesn't mean that they are the most efficient way of clearing out these ground stacks--they probably aren't, unless my opponents really love medium tanks.

      HTs are incredibly weak to ranged attacks, unfortunately, because their slow speed makes it hard (or impossible, if our opponent is clever) to close the gap. As an example, an Axis RRG has a range of 110km. Depending on terrain and friend/foe status, even if that RRG stands still it might take our heavy tanks 2+ hours to close that gap. In the meantime we'd eat 5 shots with each shot doing 10.4 damage per RRG. An active player can move that RRG away after each shot, giving that RRG an even longer window to fire without taking return damage. It wouldn't take much shoot-and-scoot for an active player with a RRG to take out an active player's heavy tank without taking any damage in the process. (This is why well-played RRG stacks can basically only be beaten by other well-played RRG stacks.)

      Unlike these RRGs, heavy tanks take damage every single time they deliver damage. Even if we don't run into any players with anti-tanks and we somehow stumble on the only map in existence where no one used ranged units, we still run the risk of losing heavy tanks just due to accumulation of damage.

      With that in mind, it's pretty easy to see why RRGs are used often by good players while heavy tanks aren't.
    • z00mz00m wrote:

      Tactical bombers could make your heavy tanks irrelevant.

      Bombers are fast, they have better A/D ratios, and they specialize in destroying infantry and militia (the most common units on any map).

      Your heavy tanks might be relegated to clearing lone units scattered around the provinces. And taking territory, at a maddeningly slow pace. Unless you end up using AC for that purpose. Then the heavies will be completely useless.
      Yea all fair points, so I'm just going to try to be disciplined and keep my tacs on the sidelines for most battles.
    • Yea that's more or less what I'm doing. My target stacks are 10 HTs, 1 AC, and some number of AA dependent on how worried I am about planes. Heavy tanks may kinda suck but I'm going to see how many I can spit out if I dedicate myself to using them, which is hopefully enough to just overwhelm anyone else on the map.
    • DxC wrote:

      I don't know how far along you are, but, since you said there aren't any experienced players, it might be fun to just use HTs + one other like (AA, inf, mil, ... anything that wouldn't compete with HT resource needs too much)

      The only plausible strategy that I've heard of involving HT is one where they are paired with artillery.
      Complementary speed, check.
      Complementary resource usage, check.
      Ability to wear down well defended cities, check.
      You could make stacks of HT+Arty, enable offensive fire control, and mow down anything in their path.
      Is this "spam"? Maybe not, but it's a plausible strategy.
      If you really want to do "spam", then you can't use bombers.
      Maybe interceptors for defense against enemy air and for scouting?
      That would also remove the temptation to grab territory with AC.
    • Yes, they are an overly expensive support unit, that's the reality of the situation LOL

      OK how about interceptors? You get the scouting, you get the air defense, and you don't have the temptation of AC to grab land or TB to reduce well defended cities.
    • 6thDragon wrote:

      This is an interesting thread. While I admire sticking to the theme, you may want to consider breaking up your target stack of 10 HTs. 3 or 4 would probably kill about anything they encounter and building a stack of 10 would be so resource intensive to be impractical.
      This is a great point. Reminds me of building Axis MT and leveling them from 1 directly to 3 or 4. There's nothing out there deserving the attention of 10 leveled up Axis MT. Unless it's an AvA game ;)