Tank Killer: Big Game Hunting in Steel Division 2

By Charles Ellis 02 Mar 2020 3

We’ve all been there in Steel Division 2: The enemy has a big scary tank. Everything it sees it kills. Everything shot at it is useless. By the end of the game you’re fuming. That tank just rolled up your lines and there was nothing you could do.

First things first, these things are relative. The advice below applies as much to 40mm AT guns engaging T-34s as it does to 17 pdrs engaging King Tigers. What we’re dealing with is a situation where your AT weapons can’t normally destroy the thing you need dead. That’s where this guide comes in.

Inevitably, this guide leans toward bigger team games. What can I say? In my time zone, they’re usually the only game in town. What’s more – it’s reasonable for new players to lean toward these bigger games more, their inexperience matters less there. So – there’s a scary tank in front of you. Before you have a crack at it, let’s ask ourselves some questions about what’s going on around it..

The Situation

1. Is this beast actually a threat?

No – really. If your opponent is timid, they’ll probably hide their shiny new tank from the fighting, lest its paint get scratched. If you’re facing the AI this won’t be as much of an issue, as the AI can usually be relied upon to fight, but humans have a habit of jumping at shadows, so if someone is borderline timid, it’ll only take a sneaky ambush of low value units to push them right over the edge into complete atrophy.

dead TD

This player spent a mountain of cash on an expensive tank destroyer; lightly armoured, but capable of dominating the battlefield with its monstrous gun.

steel division 2 dead td 2

It was destroyed in the first minute of the game. Notice now how cautious the player is with their second (!) tank destroyer.

2. Can it see you?

Remember that the line of sight tool exists (C is the default hotkey). You’ll be surprised at how much might be obscured. A tank hanging around outside those woods there doesn’t mean it can see in very far at all. Have an image of the sightlines in your mind. You can get quite a lot done if you keep your limits in mind.

3. Where will it attack?

One of the strengths of Steel Division 2 is that you’re fighting over specific positions on the map rather than simply having 52% of the frontline. Depending on the situation, you can often afford to give a little ground – so long as you’re bringing the enemy into a position where their units are increasingly exposed and extended.

4. What concealment do you have?

The most important element of taking on big tanks with inferior weapons is concealment. More than anything else, it allows you to pick and choose your engagement. With it, one man with an AT grenade can knock out the strongest targets, without it, you can’t even hope to get close. Work out where you can easily conceal your units, ideally without the enemy even knowing that you’ve put units in there. An 88 or 57mm AT gun shooting from a location the enemy doesn’t expect can shut down an advance in a moment. Mark areas of concealment well, defend them, and put them to work for you.

Tools of the Trade

1. “Hold Fire”

Hold fire is critical to fighting big tanks head on. By clicking it, you’ll get a neat little icon, and your unit will aim at a unit, but not fire unless it is fired upon (and it probably should at that point since it’s probably been spotted). Hold Fire gives you the ability to pick your shots.

steel division 2 town overwatch

Straight from a drill book – infantry and AT guns watch over a town.

2. APCR vs AP rounds

Many (but not all!) AT weapons in Steel Division 2 have two kinds of anti-tank rounds; AP and APCR. Be aware of which do and don’t have them, it does make a difference. APCR rounds have high penetration, but their strengths decline at longer range and they do less damage – i.e. there is less chance that they will kill a tank outright with each shot.

On the other hand, AP rounds have less penetration, but lose less penetrative power over long range – and have a higher chance of destroying a tank, thanks to their greater damage. At extremely close range, it’s often worth saving your APCR rounds – simply put, if you’re guaranteed to penetrate, it’s better to kill in one shot with AP, rather than shoot shot after shot with APCR. The chances are high that APCR will do lots of critical damage, but still leave a fixable tank at the end of it.

Weakening Your Prey

So – now that you’ve thought about what the situation is, let’s make that enemy tank’s life difficult. We’re interested in things that place stress on the unit itself (making it less likely to shoot first and hit first), as well as upon your opponent – who, for obvious reasons, won’t like their prize unit being under constant threat of RNG landing a shell right on top of the tank and eliminating it there and then. These suggestions are highly unlikely, if at all, to hurt the tank, what matters is that you’re forcing your opponent to make decisions they’d rather not have to deal with.

1. Smoke it

No, really. Smoke is always under-utilised in these games; and carries with it headspace that a new player might not be able to handle. The advantage is that, when you do use it, you feel like a master tactician.

Most of the time, smoke guarantees that a tank will be out of a fight. The lightest mortar can do the job. Even smoke which leaves gaps can cause problems – as supporting units might not be able to fire and the enemy tanks can fire at some units but not others. Smoke can force an opponent’s hand if they feel rushed for time or can cause them to fall back, fearing whatever might be hidden to them. What matters is that they’re off balance.

Once you’re comfortable with smoke, you can begin to use it creatively. A good trick, if fighting tanks in two directions, is to block off one group while using overwhelming force on the other.

steel division 2 smoke tactics 1

The situation: Two groups of angry Tigers with one group of strong IS-2s in the middle. The IS-2s can kill anything; but will be easily beaten if flanked.

steel division 2 smoke tactics 2

The solution: drop smoke in front of one group, go for the other.

2. Bombard it

This one’s a bit more obvious. The chances are slim, even with the heaviest guns, of destroying enemy tanks outright. Don’t bombard enemy heavies expecting that. Large calibre guns, 120mm and upward, have an at least decent chance of doing damage, but don’t count on it. What you’re looking for with bombardments is to separate the enemy’s support units from their heavy units. Not everything has 200mm of front armour. They will be very unhappy if 76, 105 or even 150mm shells start falling around them. Even if they aren’t panicked, they’ll still be less efficient and the tank will run the risk of being isolated.

Don’t just bombard the enemy’s main body. Aim for any spotted AA batteries as well.

steel division 2 shelling AA

Enemy heavies mightn’t mind a few explosions, but their AA defences are not happy about 280mm shells falling around them.

They will make a difference now that we’ve reached section three:

The Kill

So – the enemy tank is right before you. It needs to die. It may or may not be in a disadvantageous position, but the critical moment is now. All of the above ideas may or may not have worked depending on the situation; yours and your opponent's. Now – you just want to kill that tank. The more of these you use, in concert, in a very short space of time, the higher your chances of success.

1. Bombard it (again)

Do say I say, not as I... say? What I mean is to bombard it with specific weapons. Rocket artillery is the favourite. Somewhat slow to aim, they’re guaranteed to put a large amount of high explosives in a specific area in a very small amount of time. It’s a coin toss whether the enemy’s tanks will be destroyed or not. What does matter is you’re guaranteed to have every single unit in the target area extremely unhappy. They will all be retreating, and you can put your other toys to use. Heavy artillery can also do a decent job, but their slow rate of fire and sluggish aim time mean that the heavies have probably moved away by the time the bombardment would begin to matter. Stationary heavies under continued bombardment however can often end up having a bad day.

steel division 2 panicked tanks

Unhappy tanks are no use to anyone.

2. Bomb/rocket it

This should be avoided unless you’ve put progressive amounts of pain down upon the enemy’s AA screen. If they’re all panicked by option 1, so much the better. If they’re not scared now, they will be soon as you carpet bomb every unit in the area. Rocket attacks, especially with armour-piercing rockets, have a high chance of success. Bombing runs with armour-piercing bomblets are almost guaranteed kills, although the aircraft themselves are often extremely vulnerable on their bomb run.

3. Shoot it

The above two options can often be done with minimal risk. We’re now approaching suicide mission territory, where if the first shot or two doesn’t work, the chances of your units’ survival go to zero rapidly.

AT gun ambushes require careful preparation, forward thinking and judgement. Thanks to concealment, you have a good chance of surprising the enemy and immediately having control of the engagement, it is far too easy, however, to lose it. All of the questions you asked yourself above about concealment, where the enemy will attack, etc, etc, will now become critical. If you have artillery and aircraft to support, then the AT guns will have a high chance of success, without them, things get very tense.

First things first, spread out your AT guns. Don’t put them into a single forest if you can possibly avoid it. Don’t ever pack them side by side so that when one gets hit they both get panicked. More than any other unit, AT guns live and die by their morale. If you have spare commanders to give them veterancy, don’t even think about it – just give them commanders.

steel division 2 tank hunting

Me ignoring my own advice – but the target’s just too juicy.

You want an even spread of AT weaponry, so that if one is hit by artillery it isn’t the end of the world, as well as giving the most opportunity for flanking fire. Make sure your AT weapons are on hold fire, you don’t want to use them until they’re going to kill something. If they’re spotted, fall them back, find somewhere else, being spotted before they fire is death to an AT gun.

steel division 2 ambush

From the same battle – 45mm guns would have a hard time knocking out StuG IIIs from the front, but in a crossfire at this close range… that doesn’t matter.

Be patient, let the enemy get close. Use smoke and bombardments as covered above to reel the enemy into your kill zone. With an AT gun selected, make sure to mouse over the enemy to see what your chances are to hit and penetrate. Be mindful if you have AP or APCR selected. Use things other than AT guns to ward off enemy infantry. If the heavy tank kills an infantry section or two, that’s okay. Better them than an AT gun.

Now – when you’re confident that the enemy will die in the first shots, let ‘em rip. If you have weaker AT guns than others, fire with the weak ones first. They might do the trick themselves, and they’ll draw the enemy’s fire onto them. As the enemy aims – shoot with the big guns. You can use this to force the enemy to face their strongest armour a certain way. Their tanks will always face toward the strongest AT weaponry they have seen. It’s too bad for them if the strongest AT weapon they can see is a puny 45mm, when 57mm are lurking on their flank.

steel division 2 smoke tactics 3

With woods, these tricks work just as well. From the smoke example above – with IS-2s can engage the Tigers safely. However, the enemy doesn’t know there are M4 Shermans on his flank. They’d be useless in a head-to-head fight. On the flank however…

Once you’ve done your work - expect enemy retribution to be swift. You can hang about to kill off any weaker vehicles, but don’t wait too long. The enemy is guaranteed to be raging and will unleash all their artillery and airpower on that little patch of forest your AT gun fired from. So much the smugger you’ll be if your AT guns are already somewhere else.

The same principle applies with tanks in light woods. Wait for the enemy to approach and choose the moment to engage wisely. The only difference is that tanks, being less easy to conceal, I prefer to keep well back in light woods and then advance forward using the “hunt” order, so that as soon as they see the enemy they open fire. Coupled with AT guns, this method can be very effective.

The Last Resort

This final strategy works only in heavy cover of some description and when the enemy is thick. Simply put – advancing your heaviest units into towns or near heavy forest is a recipe for disaster. Infantry support tanks and anything with a .50 cal machine gun are great, a heavy tank with monstrous armour isn’t worth the points. If your enemy does use their heaviest tanks to advance into woods or towns, rub your hands together with glee – it didn’t work at Stalingrad and it shan’t work here!

First – let the enemy get close. If you have tanks of your own around, make sure they’re stationary and you know their sightlines. If the enemy tank advances blind into one of your own tanks, you’ll get the first shot and at 100-200m they’ll likely be very unhappy. Keep infantry stationary and keep a strong reserve.

steel division 2 infantry ambush

The ruins of a town provides ideal cover for ambushes.

If enemy infantry is pushing forward too, make sure that they’re engaged. Let the tank advance forward. If it stops to engage something, get your reserve forward and charge. The enemy might get a shot off. It won’t matter. One or two AT grenades or panzerfausts are going to hit. If the tank isn’t destroyed, it’ll be panicked. If there’s no enemy command nearby, it might well surrender. If not – well, it’s very unhappy – and the chances are the enemy will revert to option 1 above – going completely passive with their precious heavies – at that point it’s as good as dead.

Ruined towns provide an extra twist. Destroyed buildings block lines of sight. A concealed unit with an AT grenade can often assault a heavy tank by itself, even if the frontline has passed by them. Bonus points if they run back and conceal themselves again with the enemy left impotent.

In Summary

This has been a long guide. It has to be. The fact is that in taking down a far more powerful unit with weaker ones requires far more game knowledge than simply driving it forward and eliminating one unit after another. Don’t be the guy whose units are run over because they open fire at 2000 metres and bounce every shot. The tools exist to defeat these weapons. There is nothing more satisfying than taking the wind out of the sails of someone who, with their precious IS-2 or King Tiger now believes that they’ve won the game. They’re wrong.



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