Article by : Kenneth Tan
On paper, Main Battle Tanks concentrate the best equipment and stats that an army can offer, but at an unusually high cost. This can make many players baulk when it comes to including them, especially in smaller games.
MBTs have their place however, though it does not always seem obvious. To my mind, a single platoon of MBTs is almost always worth having, as they represent a flexible reserve that can adapt to nearly any emergent situation.
I think we can all agree that forces solely around MBTs lack defensive holding power – they simply cost too much, for too few hulls. Many formations however, allow you to integrate a single platoon of MBTs, and this can be a decisive unit with a wealth of unique tactical options for both attack and defense.
Firepower on the Move
The main advantage of most MBTs is their ability to move relatively quickly and still fire to good effect. This means they make decent quick response units, able to swing round to bolster a faltering flank.
On the table, if I have a single MBT platoon, I tend to deploy them centrally, so they can respond to an emergent threat. On the attack, deployment in the centre means they are not telegraphing your route of advance quite so clearly to your opponent.
With their long range and high AT, MBTs are masters of the long range flank shot. During deployment, look for long fire corridors to threaten advancing enemy units, then position yourself just out of sight. When your enemy makes his move, move into position and let them have it.
Do ensure you have the shots for the job though. MBTs pay a premium for their range and stopping power, and have few shots for their points as a result. Consider the return fire you may receive, and decide if the shots are worth it.
Backing Up the Boys
All MBTs pack a hefty complement of machine guns, and this can mean life or death for infantry on the verge of being assaulted. When push comes to shove, MBTs can provide the defensive fire needed to ward off an assault, forcing the enemy to stay at arm’s reach, and rely on shooting to kill infantry, where they have their 3+ saves. Usually transports would fulfil this role, being cheap and capable while retaining the option of transportation. But when you really need to deny an assault, MBTs may well be all that stands between your boys and the bayonets of the enemy.
Manning Sniper’s Alley
At extreme range, MBTs are at their most resilient. Thanks to laser rangefinders and exceptionally long-ranged guns, most MBTs are capable of contributing some high AT shots while staying out of reach of all but the longest ranged ATGMs and equivalent tank guns. For added defence, deploy hull down, or within a treeline.
This allows MBTs to become the lynchpin of a defence, albeit a costly one. Be wary of enemy smoke preventing shots, though in theory repositioning may be possible to keep the big guns blazing.
All of the reasons that drive up the cost of MBT make them ideal units as Reserves. High mobility allows them to get to where they are needed, while the ability to put out at least a few shots on the move allows them to contribute immediately.
The Big Push
When it comes time to contest or claim objectives, somebody’s going to have to get up close and personal with the enemy, and MBTs retain the most survivability when right in front of the enemy. At point blank range, ATGMs lose their sting and it’s down to RPGs, recoilless rifles and flank shots.
This is an interesting opportunity to reflect on objective placement at the start of the game. If you suspect it may come to parking your MBTs on the objective, it helps to place them by a building, or in a wood, where the enemy would struggle to bring high AT guns to bear.
In the hands of a careful tactician, MBTs are worth every point. It would be a shame to let these iconic beasts of the Cold War fall by the wayside just because their costs seem prohibitive. Try these out for yourself!