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Friday, September 9, 2016

Team Yankee: Comparing the Main Battle Tanks

So who is number one?  A question that should be familiar to us here in the United States with college football season about to kick off. The answer to that question usually is “Depends on who you ask”.  However the question we are asking is not about football, but out of the 4 main battle tanks (MBTs) in Team Yankee which one is the best? Oddly the answer to this question is also “depends on who you ask” and since we do not have a playoff system like college football (which is flawed) I will try to tackle that question here. I wanted to find out a few things about the game, first of all is it well balanced and does it hold up to history.  I also want to see if some of the thoughts I had about the different forces in the game were true. I also looked at the match ups based on Red vs. Blue fights in order to look at the historical accuracy of the game.

With the upcoming release of Iron Maiden, we now have 4 MBTs that form the core units of the 4 nations represented in the game.  Each MBT has different abilities and attributes, however how do these effect gameplay?  I plan to analyze and compare these MBTs and try to see if we can determine which one is the best.  I will limit the discussion to only gameplay and not how these tanks performed in the real world.

That is a dangerous subject to get into here and with so many real-life tankers in the area (Joe M., John D. & Paul B.) I am sure to make many mistakes.

I plan to spit the attributes up into different topics and rank them 1 thru 4, and then see where that leaves us.

Offense and Defense

So like football we have two sides of the same team - one attacks and one prevents the opponent from scoring.  In TY, the offense is represented by the fire the tank can put out and the defense is naturally its armor.   Defensively  comparing the 4 MBT’s, the first thing you can notice is that the T-72 is hit on a 3+ while the others are hit 4+, so this places the T-72 at an immediate disadvantage.  This disparity is further exacerbated by the fact that the T-72 is not only getting hit more, but more of those shots can penetrate the front armor as well.  The NATO tanks seem to be around the same, so I will score the M1 and Leopard 2 as tied for first, second place will be the Chieftain and the T-72 comes in last. 

Switching over to offense, we can see the limitations of the 105mm vs. the 120mm gun.  So the M1’s is the least lethal here, but let’s look at the other factors. The single shot of the T-72 - whether halted or moving - is a disadvantage when the M-1 and Leopard 2 get two shots not matter if they move or not.  The Chieftain is the only one of the 4 that suffers a penalty for moving and gets one shot.   I also added the HMGs as a factor.  They have a 5+ firepower and an AT of 4, which will do damage on light vehicles.  Only the M1 and T-72 have this and I think it is plus for them.  So based on these factors I will score the Leopard 2 as number 1, the T-72 second for its main gun and HMG, then the M1 which drops because of its weaker gun and I will place the Chieftain last because if the RoF of 1 when moving and a lack of an HMG. I would have factored in range as well since 3 of the MBTs have a 40" range for their main guns and the T-72 only has a 32" range, however how many times in a game do we get to take such a long shot and the T-72 already comes in last in this category.

Speed is just as important to athletes as they are to MBTs. So how does the footwork of our tanks match up?

The M1 and Leopard 2 out class the other two tanks in tactical speed, however when looking at their dash speed, the Leopard 2 outclasses the M1.  The T-72 and the Chieftain have the same tactical speed, however when comparing the dash speed, the T-72 pulls away from its British counterpart.   The “Cross” rating is the same for each MBT (2+), however the Chieftain with Stillbrew armor is a 3+, which makes it not the best at going over terrain. At night you add a +1 to this score and that means the Chieftain Stillbrew will get stuck half the time when crossing bad terrain at night, which is not good. I think this one is easy to rate, Leopard 2 comes in first, followed by the M1, T-72 and the Chieftain is last.

Factoring the Crew
The next category has more to do with the crews manning the tanks as the tanks themselves, however this does factor in the game and they also represent safety features and if the tank is complex to operate. Proof of this is the remount rating of the M1, which is a 2+, shows the effect of all of the safety features built into the design of the tank.

The courage ratings for all of these tanks are equal, however the morale and remount numbers are different and when comparing those we can see some differences.  I do feel that the ability to remount is very important as compared to morale.  This places the M1 at the top of the list, with the T-72 and Leopard 2 tied for second and the British come in last.

As for crew skill, I will say this upfront, the Soviets suck.  I guess it was the lack of motivation of their conscript army that leads to this rating.   However the West Germans also had a conscript army and they have pretty good stats.  Both the British and West Germans share a 3+ skill rating, which probably is a result from how they educated their fighting force.  This makes me wonder why the skill rating for the M1 is a 4+.  As someone who served in the US military, I know we always emphasized training and I was confused why this was so low.  Perhaps with the M1 being new, and a vast difference from its predecessor the training curve to master these tanks was tougher?  The final rating to compare is the assault rating.  The British get a 3+, which makes using them to assault worthwhile.  Why the British get this rating, I do not know - it wasn’t like many tanks were used in the Falklands war or patrolled the streets of Northern Ireland to get combat experience. However it is this rating, that finally places the British on top, followed by the West Germans, then the US and the USSR last.

Both of the above two factors we just graded can be changed as other forces are added to this game who use the same type of MBTs.  Many nations used the Leopard and T-72, so how would a Canadian or Dutch Leopard 2 crew be rated using the same basic tank?  What would an East German T-72 have as a rating?

Special Abilities and Capabilities
So far we have we have just looked at the values of the MBTs ratings, now we move over to evaluating the special rules that each tank gets.  On offense, every tank in the game uses a laser rangefinder and some type of night vision (IR and Thermal, with Thermal being a bit better), and a stabilizer (regular and advanced, with advanced being better).  Defensively all of the tanks get some type of protection vs. HEAT weapons; Chobham Armor, BDD, or Bazooka Skirts that makes your side armor 16/13/10 respectively vs. a HEAT shot.

Brutal is nice for the big guns but it doesn’t seem to have a huge effect in the games I have played thus far.

That leaves mine plows which the Soviet tanks can equip for an extra point and Smoke which the British tanks can fire (Leopard 1’s also).  Smoke is nice and is such a crutch for a lot of Flames of War players that does not really factor in the TY game.  Same for the mine plows, mines are easy to remove with infantry in the game.

This is tough one to grade, but I think having the Chobham or BDD armor is most important followed by the Thermal Imaging and the Advanced Stabilizer.  So with this said I am ranking the M1 as first here, followed by the Leopard 2, with the T-72 and Chieftain tied for third.

Raw Score
So before we get to the cost of each tank, let’s look at how the score break down so far. The rating on the right is the average of each of the 6 categories we have evaluated so far and what it tells you should surprise no one.  The Leopard 2 is better than the M1, and the Chieftain and T-72 are tied behind the M1.

Now let’s look at two really huge factors, the cost per tank and how many you can field in a 100 point game.

The one thing you can tell right away is that based on the raw score above the tanks are priced very appropriately. The major difference is how many you can field and have a legal formation at 100 points, and the T-72 wins hands down.  For the same 99 points, you can get 9 Leopard 2s, or 21 T-72s; so if those two forces meet in the middle of the table and 50% of their shots kill, the Leopard’s would be wiped out and the Soviet player will still be left with 12 tanks since the Leopards have a RoF of 2. Even if the T-72’s scored 50% shot to kill ratio, and the Leopards shoot 100%, the Soviets would be left with 3 tanks and all the Soviet player would have to do is make sure that two of the remaining non company commander tanks were in the same platoon and they would win the game.  So the fight between the first and last place tank goes to the player with the MBT with the lower raw score from above.  You can run the results in your head in a fight between the T-72 vs the M1s.  In this case the US player can get up to 6 more shots than the German’s, but they have a less capable gun and would have to get much better shot to kill ratio than the Soviets to win that match up. In this case the US player does have 4 extra points to play with to get something to support the M1s.   How does the Chieftain fare here?  Not well because the largest amount of tanks you can get in a formation is 16, at a cost of 96 points or 14 Stillbrew for 98 points, however with the ability for the British to take some really good infantry with Milan missiles, why would you take the extra divisional platoon.

Final Scores
So based on the above here is how the final grade breaks down.

As you can see, the Leopard 2 still retains the top spot, followed by the M1 and then the T-72 with the Chieftain in last place. However the scores are only fractions from each other with just over a half a point difference between the first and last place tank. Like I stated upfront, which tank is the best will depend on who you ask.  Despite the T-72 being in third place, I feel the ability to take 21 of them makes them the best tank formation in the game.

So What Do the Numbers Mean?
With a deviation of only .62, the MBTs in the game are well balanced and that picking an all tank list favors the Soviet player a great deal, since no other force can go shot for shot with them.  So Luke’s suggestion of the 21 T-72 force is really a good option for the Soviets. In fact a Soviet player must use their biggest advantage in the game, which is to flood a smaller enemy with either tanks of BMPs.  What does this mean for the other nationalities?  It means that they should not take an all tank force and they have to really think about what they need to include in their force besides tanks to attrite a massive Soviet horde.  The US has great air and artillery assets, those Copperheads can really wear down a horde before your M1s engage.  The British will be able to take a lot of infantry that can fire missiles to even up the fight.  I have to tell you right now, you may see a mechanized infantry list played a lot and it won’t be Soviet, it will be British, and I wouldn’t want to face them.

So where do the West German’s end up with the best tank in the game?  I would say at a disadvantage for a lot of solid reasons.  They do not have great hard kill artillery, and only average air assets.  They can field some missile firing infantry, but it’s small. While they do have the Jaguars, the most they can take in any formation is 3 and it would be at the expense of taking Leopard 2s.  One idea is to take the 7 tank Panzer Company (77 points) and make up the difference with Aufklarungs Leopard 1s; however the most you can get is 6 with 3 points left over which has to go for some AAA. This still leaves you with 13 tanks and 4 Luchs, but remember that  your 6 Leopard 1s cannot take a tank or missile hit at all.

Going back to the sports analogy we started with above, we have to switch to baseball because we are now playing money ball.  Instead of buying runs, we have to buy shots to be effective in combat.  The more shots, the greater the chance of a kill, and the greater chance to wipe out the enemy.  While this previous statement is factual, it is not realistic.  Some other factors really play into TY is that players really have to consider the mission and terrain.  The trading shots scenario I used above never really happens because the mission and lay out of the table often prevents it. 

What Does All This Really Mean?
When I started doing my research for this article I didn’t know where it would take me.  I thought the West Germans were the best force in the game, and now while I think they are very good, it will still take a good player to use them in the right situation where they can win.  I also thought the Russian horde technique by using 48 BMPs was unbeatable, however since they die at a quicker rate than tanks it becomes something that can be beaten.  I now know that as a NATO player you have to pick good support options to beat a tank horde.  I also found interesting that one of the things that this article made clearer to me is how this game really represents a possible fight in Europe, where NATO forces have to use skill and a bit of luck to beat a Soviet horde.

Twitter: @MitchWWPD

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