Infantry may be a force to reckon with on the battle field, but Armor is King, at least, so say most tank crewmen. Most of us grunts looking down the Long 88 barrel of a King Tiger would agree. Most of the major armies have tanks, but only two armies really have the best: The Germans (of course) and the Russians. The Allies are in the second category, with everyone else falling behind them. Tanks come in a number of different configurations to numerous to detail here. For the moment, lets just categorize them according to their mission. The hard part is figuring out just which tank is the right tank for the right job. In most cases, the tanks we will be using are armed and armored with what they actually had in the real war. The General Staffs could get just as confused about what role a particular AFV was to play as you will be. Things such as armor ratings and penetration values can be found at the WWIIOL sites catering to weapons and vehicles. "Tech Pubs" being one.
One helpful item of historical and military knowledge which may help you in this task is knowing what things like 75L31 and 88L51 mean. Most players are aware that the first set of numbers refer to the diameter of the gun tube, and that the second number generally stands for the length of the tube. The "L" number stands for caliber's. The figure after the L is determined (by engineers and designers and so forth) by dividing the total length of the barrel by the diameter of the tube. So a 75L31 means that it is a 75mm gun, which is the length of 31 diameters of that tube. Generally speaking, any gun in which the caliber's are at least one-half of the diameter will have excellent muzzle velocity and penetration values. Note the difference between the German 50L42, and the 50L60. Same diameter, better penetration. Even more enlightening, the German 20L55, versus the Soviet 152L32. The Soviet gun is over 7 times the diameter of the small 20mm, but it's poor length to diameter ratio means that it cannot reliably penetrate much more than a reconnaissance vehicle, while the 20mm can penetrate even medium-class tanks on a daily basis! Caliber's do not explain everything, like they cannot account for special rounds (like tungsten-carbide cores), the general efficiency of the crews, or blind luck, but it is at least one way to determine the tank's role.
The number one role of the tank is to kill other tanks, but some types of weapons mixes are better than others. If a tank has a large gun with AP rounds, that's a tank-killer. If a tank has a large gun with both AP and HE rounds, that's more of a multipurpose tank. If a tank has a gun with only HE rounds, that's a support tank. If a tank has very heavy armor, it will be able to stand up to other tanks better, making it more on the order of a tank-killer. Thinner armor means it might be better suited to infantry support or reconnaissance roles. It's really a matter of judgment. Be guided by but not ruled by what the armies of the day called their tanks. Sometimes the Combat Support tanks (so-called) were the only thing that could really stand up to enemy tank forces! Check out how much firepower the tank can throw at enemy infantry, too. Some tanks are very light in this category, some have no anti-infantry capability at all!
Also to, make sure to keep your tank facing towards your enemy as the frontal armor is best suited to take the impact from shells. I've seen the percentage chance to hit rise significantly after I've done this but before firing my first round. That's because most computer WW2 games calculates the basic percentage to hit based on the likelihood that a hit will be obtained if all weapons capable of firing and hitting the target actually fire (e.g. you have 2 guns firing as opposed to 1, you percent chance to hit will rise accordingly).
These same issues apply to Assault Guns. This species of the Armored Fighting Vehicle is basically a tank with no turret, with the gun mounted in the hull. Usually, these guns had the capability to traverse several degrees in either direction so that the hull didn't always have to point directly at the enemy to get off a shot, and some target-tracking could be done. Some assault guns are excellent tank killers, such as the JagdPanther and JagdTiger, while some are relegated to infantry support such as the Brumbar. The advantage of assault guns is that they are harder to hit, do to low profiles and have excellent armor. The negative is that they had low rates of fire (less times to shoot) and were vulnerable to losing the main gun to a non-penetrating enemy hit on the front hull. For assaults, assault guns are the right choice. They will be fairly cheap (as they are in all WW2 games) and have good armor, and can withstand a fair number of hits without shirking. They are ideal for leading other troops into the teeth of heavy resistance, because of their relatively cheap expense combined with good armor and relatively good firepower. Don't expect them to stand up to a strong tank force, however.
Whatever type of tank force we have at the time, a prime method of increasing it's effectiveness is to shoot at the enemy from higher elevations. This is because, if the firing tank is at a higher elevation than the target tank, there is a chance that the round will hit the top of the turret or hull area, resulting in what is called a "top hit". Top hits are much more likely to penetrate and kill the target. Even the heaviest tanks in the game, like the Tiger or the Panther, will be vulnerable to destruction via top hit. This is one reason why elevations are so critical. If you find yourself at a disadvantageous elevation, try to prioritize those enemy units at the higher elevations which might be able to get a top hit against you, unless you could easily kill off the lower creatures and cause some morale effects among the enemy commands.
There are some mistakes that players can make in both their play and conceptualization of battle with respect to tanks and their weaponry. One is believing that, since your tank has the best gun and the best armor on the map that you are basically invulnerable. No tank, no matter how well armed and armored, can traverse the battleground like a King. On the one hand, every tank is vulnerable to infantry assaults, its almost impossible to see all infantry threats from inside a tank. Even infantry units walk into ambushes all the time in the real world, and sometimes they still can't figure out where the enemy is even after they've been shot at for several minutes. A tank crew has only about 1/10th the degree of visibility that regular ground soldiers have. On the other hand, even if the enemy's guns can't even theoretically penetrate your rear armor, in the real world tanks are full of weaknesses and flaws that even small guns can exploit. Don't be surprised if some lowly 37mm was able to hit your Tiger tank and immobilize or even kill it. It's very unlikely, but in the real world as well as WWIIOL, it will happen.
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