In its element, the Char B1 is not a bad tank.
The B1 is a tier IV heavy tank, a tier that is otherwise bereft of tanks in that class. The only exception is the captured German version of the tank, which got yanked back when the French line was introduced.
In a match where tier IV is the top, the B1 can truly fill the heavy tank role. It has enough armor and hit points to press forward in the vanguard. While not speedy it can move. Its best gun can damage anything it can hit, is reasonably accurate, and fires quickly. And the turret rotation speed and gun depression make it a very versatile gun platform. You can track anybody and peek over terrain to take shots at people quite well.
Potshot and I rolled out in our twin B1s quite a few times over the weekend and did very well.
As long as we were in a tier IV.
Tier V matches, on the other hand, were not so pleasant. Once you get to tier V then suddenly a lot of people have a heavy tank to toss into the match. You have the T1, the T14, the Churchill I, the Churchill III, and the KV-1.
Well, actually, none of those are insurmountable. None but the KV-1 that is.
I keep 20 rounds of premium APCR ammo in the B1 for those matches. At 800 credits a shot, expensive for tier IV, I use them sparingly. But I am happy enough to pump them into an unwitting Churchill or T14. It can be the difference between victory and destruction. That does, on occasion, put me at a credit deficit at the end of the match, but generally I want experience, which you get for damage done, more than credits.
The only heavy I do not bother throwing expensive ammo at any more is the KV-1. Unless I get very lucky, every shot is a bounce. If I am going to just harass a KV-1, I might as well do it with cheap ammo. And some times I can get a track shot so the KV-1 will be still while I pound fruitlessly on his armor.
Potshot and I ran a series of matches with the B1 because we were looking to get into the next French heavy tank, the BDR G1B.
Getting to that, we felt, would help us contend with those tier V heavies.
And after an evening of matches, we had the experience and the credits to make the leap to the next tier. We trained up, bought the tanks, outfitted them, and rolled out for our first battle.
And, of course, we were slaughtered.
The BDR G1B does not have a reputation as a great tier V heavy tank.
Certainly in stock BDRs out in a field of tier V and tier VI tanks, this piece of French craftsmanship seems to be more of a moving target than a threat. Even Wargaming.net has its doubts about the tank. It lists out its drawbacks:
- Poor armor
- Slow rate of fire
- Sluggish speed
- Depressing gun depression
And the damn thing is so under powered stock that a camo net is too heavy to equip. Sorry, if I put this pile of cloth on your tank, it will cease to move!
When driving this tank, your team mates either pity you or completely fail to understand your actions. I had one light tank driver raging at me for being a heavy tank and not charging ahead. The nicest thing he called me was a “camper.” (And why is that an insult? There are any number of vehicles in the game that are best used from cover, though you wouldn’t know it from the way some people blather on.)
Of course, just a bit later a KV-1S that I had been playing hide and seek with got a clear aim at me and blew me up in one shot. I had previously avoided being damaged, which illustrates why I wasn’t out in front leading the charge. The BDR is more of an upgunned medium tank without the mobility.
I am told that the BDR gets better once you get the 90mm gun. I have a ways to go on that. But even when I get there, the BDR will still not be a tank for the front of the charge. It will have to hold back and take shots of opportunity.
The BDR has its place and its play style.
Its main problem is what Potshot called “The KV-1 index” of capabilities.
The KV-1 was my first heavy tank. It may be one of my favorite tanks in the game. I still play mine regularly. It behaves exactly as you would expect a heavy tank should. It is slow, heavily armored, and can carry a big enough gun to damage everything it faces. And because of this, it is very popular. You run into a lot of them in matches.
I see more KV-1 heavy matches than I ever saw Type 59s at the height of their dominance. That makes it the yardstick by which every other tier V heavy tank is measured.
And if you count derivatives of the KV-1, the KV-2, the KV-1S, and the T-150, it starts to look like a Russian dominated world out there in tier V and VI heavy tanks.
Which is kind of the way of things. The Soviet Union clearly went to heavy tanks earlier and better than any other tank producing nation. The French were there first with the B1, but the KV-1 owns that. Later the Germans showed up with the Tiger and the British with the Churchill line. But the early KV-1 had everything you expected in about the right measure. I would cackle with glee when my KV-1 came across some non-Soviet heavy tank. They were generally meat.
Which is why I cringe when the BDR gets dropped into a match with a pile of KV-1 heavies. I am now the meat.
But still I persist.
Our clan is Les Chars de Combustion (which Wargaming.net corrected for us, free of charge!). Our goal is to explore the French tank tree. The burning tank is our logo and our motto is “La Lutte Continue!” The struggle continues indeed!
Soon though, I will have the 90mm gun in the BDR. Then I hope to be able to fend off the rampaging hoard of KV-1 heavies. And then it will be on to the ARL-44, and everything will be great!