A collection of tips to increase our tank commanders’ survival chances.
Beginners Guide to Survive
The purpose of this guide is to share the strategies I have learned to rely on to survive in Armoured Commander 2. The introduction of a more aggressive AI in 5.0 initally made me feel very uncomfortable as I kept losing tanks and crew to enemy fire. But then I started playing more carefully, adapting and refining my playstyle. I still lose tanks from time to time, but I have managed to decrease the number of casualties significantly.
I still feel insecure about some of my tactics and I am very interested in the tips you may want to share. This guide is a work-in-progress rather than a “walkthrough”, if you will. Consider it an invitation to discuss combat tactics, more than anything else. Nevertheless, I hope that my guide will be helpful to beginners or perhaps even more experienced players.
I am writing this guide from the perspective of someone who wants to play ArmCom2 “realistically”, i.e. with “Player Commander”, but without “Fate Points”. I enjoy this game the most when I know that every mistake I make can be my last, and that every success I have accomplished required me to risk something.
A common theme of this guide will be the question of risk versus reward. Theoretically, the fastest way to gain victory points would be to advance as fast as possible, without using recon, without requesting support, and engaging all enemy units you run into, no matter how dangerous it is. In practice, your tank commander won’t survive very long if you play as recklessly as this. This guide will assume, though, that the player intends to gain as many victory points as possible while trying to avoid unreasonable risks.
The most important advice I can think of is never to underestimate the enemy. Sometimes, when facing a group of enemies, you may think that the choice you have is to retreat like a coward or to fight (and defeat) them like a hero. But the only choice you may really have – without realising it – is the choice between survival and death (or losing your tank, at least). I have failed to realise this and made the wrong choice many times.
This is the structure of the guide: Chapter 2 will discuss general survival strategies that are useful on the terrain overview map. Chapter 3 will present some general advice on combat. The other chapters will focus on specific types of threats you will encounter and discuss useful tactics against them.
Risk vs. Reward – Moving on the terrain overview map
Preparing your advance and dealing with enemy resistance
Before you advance into enemy territory, always use recon to get a report of expected enemy resistance (which is only an estimate). The enemy resistance level can vary between 1 and 10. It indicates how likely it is that you will be attacked and how many units you may have to face. Again, never underestimate the enemy. You may get lucky and just run into some trucks or relatively harmless infantry squads, but any enemy unit may turn out to be a heavy tank (destroyer), an anti-tank gun or an infantry unit armed with anti-tank weapons.
When advancing into enemy zones, there are a few things you should keep in mind. It is a good idea to switch the hatch status of at least one crewman to “CE” because it makes an ambush less likely to occur. Make sure your ready rack is full and check your ammunition. If you are running low on shells of a certain type, you may want to request a resupply before advancing any further.
You can increase your odds to survive an encounter by using advancing fire or by requesting air/artillery support before you advance. Advancing fire expends a few HE shells every time you use it, but it leads to chance of pinning down enemy units at the start of the encounter, significantly reducing their aim and mobility. It does not slow you down. Air and artillery support may even weaken or destroy enemy units at the beginning of the fight, but requesting it takes some time. The chance to receive air and artillery support depends on the campaign, side and period of time. Sometimes, you will have plenty of support, sometimes you will not be this lucky.
This is a recommendation of how to deal with different levels of enemy resistance:
- 1-2: Relatively harmless. Just advance into the zone.
- 3: Could be dangerous. Use advancing fire. If you are running low on HE shells, request a resupply first or request air/artillery support instead.
- 4-5: Fairly dangerous. Use advancing fire and request either artillery or air support (or both). Avoid these zones if possible.
- 6-10: Extremely dangerous. Do not attack unless you have a very good reason to do so (e.g. a mission objective requiring you to capture the zone, or a bridge across a river that can only be reached from here). If you absolutely must attack, use advancing fire and request all available support. And pray to the RNG gods.
Each combat day you will be faced with a specific mission type and a randomly generated map with some mission objectives placed inside it. In order to gain victory points, you can destroy enemy units, take enemy-controlled hexes and complete mission objectives.
Pay attention to the mission type when planning your approach. In a spearhead mission the number of victory points you can earn increases the further you move up the map. Because of this, the best approach is to keep moving forward and to travel through terrain that doesn’t slow you down. Follow a road if you can. Otherwise, advance over flat terrain and avoid areas like forests, especially. However, be ready to take a detour if your recon teams report strong enemy resistance in front of you.
Advance missions work differently: You get a certain amount of victory points for taking an enemy-controlled hex which depends on the area type. For example, conquering a village yields more points than taking control over a field. Unlike in a spearhead mission, an advance mission does not offer a reward for advancing deep into enemy territory. Just attack whichever zones are available next to you and focus your attacks on lightly defended areas.
A battle is similar to an advance mission, but hostile resistance will be stronger and enemy troops are more likely to attack allied-controlled zones. Attack lightly defended zones, but be ready to move within friendly territory or hold your position if enemy resistance around you is too strong. Also, be aware that enemy counterattacks may cut you off if you advance too recklessly, making it impossible to request a resupply or return to base until you reestablish contact with your forces or enter a new map area.
In a counterattack mission the enemy forces are very likely to push back your allies across the map, but you may get a chance to take back hostile zones if they are only lightly defended. If you encounter too much enemy resistance, don’t hesitate to fall back to avoid getting cut off. You can also choose to wait in your zone to try and defend it from attacks. However, if the enemy attack is too strong, you may want to retreat.
The last mission type is a fighting withdrawal. Expect the enemy to push back your forces very quickly and do your best to avoid getting surrounded. Fall back if necessary, hold your position and fight back as long as you still have some friendly-controlled zones you can retreat into. Don’t try to push into enemy territory as you are almost guaranteed to end up surrounded. However, you can try to take back a lightly defended enemy zone if it “sticks out”, i.e. is not surrounded by other hostile zones yet.
If there are landmines in some hexes (marked by red dots), any fight in these zones involves a risk of any unit hitting a mine whenever it moves. Avoid these areas if you can, especially if the weapons of your tank are not very good at long range, forcing you to maneuver a lot to use them effectively. If you have to fight in a minefield, only move your tank if it is absolutely necessary.
General advice on combat
Take a close look at your tank
In order the figure out the best general approach to combat, familarise yourself with the strengths and weaknesses of your tank:
- Does it have particularly strong armour? Or does it lack armour protection?
- Does it have a short- or long-barreled cannon? Several cannons? Or perhaps no cannon at all?
- What calibre does the cannon have? Is it connected to a rotatable turret?
- How many machine guns can be fired at the same time?
- Is it a heavy or light tank? Can you expect it to move quickly if necessary?
- Which weapons can (no longer) be fired when the tank is hull down?
The answers to these questions will determine which tactics are worthwhile or not. For example, with very strong front armour, your chance to survive will be fairly good as long as you keep facing dangerous enemies and pivot the tank if need be. Without strong armour, it will be more important to use cover and smoke grenades. If your cannon is weak or inaccurate, you may have to engage enemy tanks at close range. If it is a large calibre, long-barreled cannon, your best bet is to fire at targets from as far away as you can. A tank with weak armour but good speed will be most effective if it keeps moving. A heavy, slow tank may be better off holding its position.
If your tank has a cannon, you should try to find out its base penetration score to determine how well it does against armoured targets. Take note of this score the first time you hit a target with an AP shell. It’s also useful to be able to memorise the base penetration scores of cannons used by enemy units as it will help you estimate whether your armour will be able to protect you from a certain kind of weapon or not. In the chapter focussing on fighting tanks and armoured cars you can find an explanation of how to calculate the chance of an AP shell to penetrate armour.
Be ready to retreat
Keep in mind that you do not have to win every fight in this game. You can give your driver the order to withdraw (which may only work if all enemies are on the edge of the map) if you consider a situation too dangerous. You may think that retreating will cost you precious victory points. However, losing your tank is even worse because it may be the end of your campaign or, at the very least, the premature end of your combat day.
Since the combat encounters in this game rely on procedural generation, you may easily get into an unfavourable situation, e.g. an encounter with several AT guns or heavy tanks. In these situations, retreat is always a viable option.
Avoid combat if the odds are against you
If your tank squad takes casualties or the guns of your tank break down, you may want to stay out of trouble for the rest of the combat day. You can end it immediately by returning to base (as long as you have not been cut off) but lose half your victory points earned on this combat day in doing so. However, you can also keep travelling between friendly zones to avoid combat until the end of the day to avoid losing points.
It may feel wrong to stay out of combat, but sometimes being a survivalist means being a coward. Your sense of pride may urge you to keep fighting no matter what, but it will not protect you from an AP shell flying towards your tank.
Identify targets before engaging them
When you encounter resistance, the first thing you want to do is spot and identify your enemies. Keep in mind that each question mark on the combat map may be an AT gun or a tank getting ready to fire at you. Do not blindly approach unspotted targets – you might regret it. Use the spot command and put your crew on CE if necessary until all enemy units are identified. Once you know what exactly you are dealing with, you can decide how to attack or whether you prefer to retreat because the situation is too dangerous.
Button up to protect your crew
Once all targets have been spotted, close all hatches to protect your crew from bullets and collateral damage. Any crewman who is CE may get hit by machine gun fire, for example. In addition to this, there is always a risk of an (invisible) enemy sniper targeting any exposed crewmen.
In some cases you may want your commander to open his hatch to increase the effect of “direct fire” or “direct movement”. This is not generally a bad idea, but only do it if you consider it necessary and have your commander button up again as soon as possible.
Reposition to use the terrain and establish line of sight
When your driver is moving the tank, you can tell him to reposition the tank by pressing “R”. Repositioning keeps your tank within the same hex, but it has a chance to establish (or lose) line of sight on enemy units. Every time you reposition, you can try to move into a specific terrain type. Choose a terrain type with good cover to improve your odds against enemy tanks or AT guns (hills, buildings, woods…) or choose a more open terrain type if you want to be able to move on quickly (open ground, fields…). Terrain with good cover not only decreases the risk of getting hit but also improves your chance to find a hull down position.
Only fire at an enemy unit if you feel confident you can defeat it
Enemies are much more likely to start attacking you if you shoot at them first. Because of this, taking a low hit chance shot on a dangerous enemy unit is a pretty bad idea. Before you open fire on a target, you may want to move or pivot your tank towards it, move away from it, or take cover. Once you start shooting at something that can (and will) return fire on you, you need to commit yourself: Keep attacking the target until it is destroyed.
Use the abilities of your crew as efficiently as possible
When you give orders to your crew, always try to think of a way to make everyone do something useful. If you do not want to fire your main gun, have your loader manage the ready rack. Tell your gunner to operate the gun (or MG) even if you do not want him to shoot, so he can still rotate the turret towards a dangerous target. Your commander can use the “direct fire” or “direct movement” actions to support the gunner or driver, or throw a smoke grenade while the driver is trying to move the tank out of harm’s way.
Try not to get surrounded, fight one target at a time
Being under fire from multiple targets in different directions is one of the worst situations you can find yourself in. The main problem about it is that you can only point your front armour towards one of the threats, the other one(s) will have a chance to hit your side or rear armour. In a situation like this you may want to move your tank away until all enemies are in front of you on the combat map.
If possible, it is a good idea to isolate an enemy unit. For example, if there are several enemy tanks with short-barreled cannons or infantry units that can only attack you at close range, pick one of them and attack only that target until it is destroyed, while staying out of range of the other units. After that, select your next target and keep doing this until you have destroyed them all.
How to fight infantry units and anti-tank guns
Types of infantry
Most infantry units you will encounter in ArmCom2 are riflemen. These soldiers are equipped with rifles and grenades and can only use these weapons at close range. Other infantry units can be more dangerous than riflemen, especially if they are equipped with anti-tank weapons like Panzerschrecks or AT rifles. Out of all types of infantry, machine gun teams are arguably the least dangerous, but even they may be able to penetrate light armour at close range, so be careful.
Generally speaking, the best advice regarding infantry is to keep your distance whenever you can. Grenades, flamethrowers and the most dangerous anti-tank weapons can only be used at close range. AT rifles are an exception as they can hit you from medium range, as well. However, they are much less likely to penetrate your armour at that distance. The best distance to engage infantry is medium range: It allows you to attack with most machine guns, gives your HE cannon shells a fairly good chance to hit, but renders most infantry units harmless. When fighting AT rifle teams at medium range, it is important to face them with your strongest armour (usually the front armour). In all other cases, your facing does not matter as long as you can rotate your turret towards the infantry you wish to attack. When an infantry unit comes closer to your tank, just drive away from it to keep it at medium range.
AT guns might be the most dangerous enemies in ArmCom2. When you spot them, you should pay attention to their calibre, facing and terrain / cover. Small calibre AT guns may only have a low chance to penetrate your armour from far away. AT guns that are facing away from you are less of a threat than an AT gun which could start shooting at your tank any second. AT guns in rough terrain (woods, for example) or prepared cover (dug-in, entrenched, fortified) may be very difficult to take out. As always, consider all your options, including retreat.
AT guns – like infantry – need to be destroyed by applying firepower to them with MG fire and HE hits. Because of this, it can be quite difficult to destroy them with a single attack, so prepare yourself for a prolonged shootout. Reposition your tank to find some cover if necessary. Go hull down if you can. Face the AT gun with your front armour. Only start firing at it once you have a good chance to hit.
MG fire or HE shells?
When fighting infantry and anti-tank guns (or trucks) sometimes machine gun fire is more effective, sometimes HE shells can inflict more damage. This depends on several factors:
- The calibre of your main gun: HE shells will cause a lot more damage when fired with a 76mm cannon rather than a 37mm cannon, for example.
- Movement: If your target is moving, machine gun fire will usually be more accurate than a cannon shot; the same is true if you are trying to shoot at a target while your tank is driving. Moving infantry can even be hit more easily with a machine gun.
- Cover: If the target is in cover (e.g. dug-in, entrenched or fortified), machine gun fire becomes dramatically less effective while HE shells may still be able to cause a fair amount of damage. HE shells also have a chance to destroy fortifications, generating a huge firepower bonus that will most likely destroy the target instantly.
- Weather and visibility: Certain weather conditions like heavy rain or blizzards make it very difficult to line up a cannon shot at medium range while your machine guns may still be relatively accurate in a situation like that.
MG fire can be quite effective against AT guns as long as they are facing away from you. Once they are facing you, the gun shield of the AT gun will provide additional protection against MG fire. In this case, you may want to fire HE shells instead (depending on the strength of your cannon). With a bit of luck, you will be able to pin down the AT gun crew to reduce their chance to hit you significantly.
However, be extremely careful when facing entrenched or fortified AT guns. They will be very hard to destroy before they decide to return fire. You may want to consider retreat in a situation like this.
When (not) to use overrun
If an enemy infantry unit (or AT gun) is in the hex right in front of your tank, you can order your driver to initiate an overrun attack. This allows your tank squad to attack your enemies directly, rendering their cover pretty much useless and giving all machine guns a strongly increased chance to hit. However, this is a double-edged sword – overrun gives the attacked unit(s) an extra chance to attack you or one of your allied tanks, and because of the extremely close distance this attack may be even more dangerous than it usually is. If your tank has at least a few points of front armour, you can safely use overrun on machine gun teams, but even against riflemen it may turn out to be a bad idea because of their grenades, which can always hit your side or rear armour no matter which way your tank is facing.
You may also want to use overrun on an AT gun, but only if it is facing away from you! Otherwise, it could easily shoot and destroy your tank from point blank range.
How to fight tanks, armoured vehicles and armed trucks
How to calculate the chance to penetrate armour
In order to destroy a tank or amoured vehicle, you will need to penetrate its armour with an AP shell. In order to calculate the penetration chance of an AP shell, the game relies on a point system involving two six-sided dice. Two dice can roll numbers ranging from 2 to 12, but they will most likely roll a number in the middle (for example, there are six ways to roll a “7”, but there is only one way to roll a “2” or “12”). In total, two dice can roll 36 possible results.
The number you see under the list of modifiers is the maximum number that needs to be rolled with the two dice for the check to succeed. The armour of the target will reduce the penetration score by its number. Close range shots will get a bonus of +1 or +2, medium range shots will have a penalty of -1, long range shots of -1 or even -2, depending on the cannon. This is a list of penetration chances sorted by score:
- 1 or lower = 0% (0/36)
- 2 = 2.8% (1/36)
- 3 = 8.3% (3/36)
- 4 = 16.7% (6/36)
- 5 = 27.8% (10/36)
- 6 = 41.7% (15/36)
- 7 = 58.3% (21/36)
- 8 = 72.2% (26/36)
- 9 = 83.3% (30/36)
- 10 = 91.7% (33/36)
- 11 = 97.2% (35/36)
- 12 or higher = 100% (36/36)
You can use this information to make an educated guess whether an AP shell will be able to destroy an enemy tank. The 76mm cannon of an advanced American Sherman tank (not the Canadian Firefly) has a base chance of 17 to penetrate, which is pretty good. However, if you shoot at the front armour of a Jagdpanzer (14 points) at close range (which gives the 76mm cannon a modifier of +1), the final number will be 18-14 = 4. That’s only a chance of 16.7% (because there are only ten ways to roll a number of 5 or lower). The lesson of this calculation is that it’s a pretty bad idea to fire at the front armour of a Jagdpanzer, even at close range.
You can improve your chance to penetrate the armour of an enemy tank or armoured car by moving closer to it, and sometimes this may be your only chance to win such an encounter. Also keep in mind that the armour of most tanks is weaker on their side or rear and take advantage of this whenever you can. If you take 0 degrees as the front and 180 degrees as the back of the vehicle, any hit within 330 to 30 degrees is counted as a frontal hit and any shot within 150 to 210 degrees is counted as a rear hit, respectively. Everything else is a side hit.
When pointing your cursor at a tank, you will see an “H” with an arrow right next to it. This marker shows you the direction in which the hull of the tank is facing. Sometimes the turret may be facing you, but you may still be able to hit the side or rear of the hull armour.
Unless the target is hull down, of course.
How to deal with tanks and armoured vehicles that are hull down
To find out if enemy vehicles (or the tanks in your own group) are hull down, point the cursor at them and look for the letters “HD”. If these letters show up, an arrow right next to them will show the direction from which the vehicle is protected (within an angle of 60 degrees to both sides). “Hull down” means that there is a solid object blocking the lower part of the vehicle, making a hull hit very unlikely (but not impossible). However, the target may still receive a turret or upper hull hit.
Enemy tanks with hull down status can pose a very dangerous threat. While they may have a clear shot at you, you will have a very hard time hitting them because of their superior cover.
In a situation like this, you may want to avoid engaging the tank initially and look for some hull down cover yourself. You can also try to flank the enemy up to the point where the hull down bonus no longer applies. Alternatively, you can fire a smoke shell at the target (if available) to decrease the enemy gunner’s aim by 50 points. Smoke shells ignore the hull down effect and may force the enemy tank to move out of cover. Finally, do consider retreat if the enemy tanks are in a superior position and will most likely inflict casualties on your tank squad before you can maneuver into a spot which would allow you to take them out reliably.
Some more advice on fighting tanks and armoured vehicles
Compare your tank with an enemy tank or vehicle to figure out the best combat approach. For example, if your opponent has a short-barreled cannon and your cannon is long-barreled, try to engage the target from far away to capitalise on your accuracy advantage. If you are the one with the short barrel, close in on your enemies to take away their accuracy advantage. If your opponent has very strong front but weak side and rear armour, try to flank it.
Do not underestimate armoured vehicles. Some of them are armed with cannons that are capable of destroying your tank, especially if you give them a chance to flank you. You also want to pay attention to armed trucks for the same reason. Some of them even carry large calibre cannons which effectively turn them into driving AT guns. However, trucks are unarmoured and can easily be destroyed with an HE hit or some machine gun fire. If you encounter a heavily armed, potentially dangerous truck, take it out as quickly as possible.
How to deal with unarmed trucks
Unarmed trucks are the least dangerous enemies you will have to deal with, but even they can pose a threat to you. Sometimes they transport infantry units – they might even have an infantry squad armed with anti-tank weapons. If this is the case, the trucks will usually try to move into close range and then unload their infantry teams. Try to destroy them before they can do that. If you are successful, you will take out the truck and its infantry team with a single attack.
However, if there are more dangerous targets such as tanks or AT guns around you, you should definitely prioritise them – you can still take out the trucks after dealing with the other enemy units in the combat area.