In the right hands the Cruiser Mk.II (formerly A10 Cruiser Mk.II) is a devastating piece of hardware. While at first glance it is a rather unimpressive combination of sluggish handling, low horsepower to weight ratio, and mediocre armor for a Tier 3 tank, the weapon loadout makes up for it. The outstanding choice is the top tier weapon, the 3.7 inch Howitzer. It's been some time since this tank was introduced, yet it still seems to surprise people. Despite this weapons power there aren’t an unusual number of people playing it and there don’t seem to be complaints of it being overpowered. Like any tank the key is getting yourself into the best situation by being in the right place at the right time.
COMPARISON TO THE T82
Since the Pom Pom isn’t much different from running an Autocannon we’ll be focusing on the Howitzer. The closest weapon comparison in Tier 3 is actually the American T82. Both are capable of carrying Tier 5 Howitzers, and the T82s is even more damaging with a better accuracy, aim time, and penetration. Given the speed and maneuverability of the T82 most people just put a check box next to the Cruiser Mk.II as an inferior copy and move on. The T82 is fast, but it pays for that speed with paper thin armor and low HP. The armor on the Cruiser Mk.II isn’t amazing, but you are at least capable of bouncing some shells with it when properly angled. The Cruiser Mk.II also has 220 HP VS the T82s 160 and it even gives you a roof! The roof is more significant than it sounds, too. Open top tanks are famously vulnerable to artillery.
Many people will compare the Cruiser Mk.II to the KV-2 but tier discrepancies are more pronounced at the low end than anywhere else. The KV-2 is a Tier 6 Heavy with a Tier 6 Howitzer whereas the Cruiser Mk.II is a Tier 3 Light with a Tier 5 Howitzer. The contrast is stark, and facing a T1 Heavy with the Cruiser Mk.II is a lot different from facing a T32 with a KV-2. People have come to expect a certain play style from the KV-2, though due to the HE nerf some time back many KV-2 players are going with the 107mm ZiS-6 instead of the 152mm M-10.
Visually, the ZiS-6 and M-10 are a lot easier to tell apart than the 40mm Pom Pom and 3.7-inch Howitzer. Also, at the tiers you’ll be fighting not everyone even knows to look at the barrel to judge what kind of shells will be flying at them. Few people expect a weapon as powerful as the 3.7 inch Howitzer from the Cruiser Mk.II and this surprise should play to your advantage.
THE ARC OF TRIUMPH
One of the most complained about features of the 3.7 inch Howitzer is the comically low shell velocity. The modeling for the weapon appears to be based off the QF 3.7-inch mountain Howitzer and the only other tanks to use it are Tier 6 and 7. If the Wiki articles are to be believed WG.net may have taken some liberties in making these the same weapon, but the bottom line is it’s high powered for a Tier 3 tank.
The low shell velocity of near 300m/s is seen as a severe limitation by those who are used to aiming at a target, shooting it, and the shell flying fairly straight and true. These shells are only slightly slower than the T82s 105mm Howitzer mentioned above. At close ranges it won’t matter much but the farther away the target, the more pronounced that parabolic firing arc becomes. At the extreme there may be shots you wait three seconds for an impact on with this thing.
This screenshot helps to illustrate the comically high arc of the 3.7 inch Howitzer shell. This shell is actually on the way back down, and killed the target.
The bad news is if you’re trying to lead your target at more than about 100 meters you’re going to have a hard time. At long range it becomes very tricky to lead targets and gives the enemy far more time to move than other guns. These shells travel so slowly that an astute enemy actually does have time to intentionally dodge them. The good news is a little more complicated.
At long range your shells won’t be coming at your targets, they will be coming down on them. Sloped armor also suddenly becomes a liability, rather than a benefit. While a gun with a lower arc will connect with a slab of armor at a 45' slope close to that angle, the high trajectory of this tank's shell means you get close to a perpendicular hit, maximizing your odds of penetration.At long ranges sloped armor also becomes more a liability than a benefit since the shell will strike at much closer to a 45’ angle. If the target is more than 400 meters away you also stand a good chance of the blast ray penetrating the thinner top armor instead of the side. As the shooter, you can't control this. Your accuracy is poor, so you'll aim for center of mass and cross your fingers, but tank armor generally isn’t sloped to counter plunging fire. The more obscene the angle of impact, the better your weapon becomes.
Newer players don’t always know when to take cover and tend to sit still in the open to fire. Most of the time they will still be there when your shell arrives. Your shells high arc at long ranges will make it harder to pinpoint your hiding spot and if the enemy is watching a target in Tank Destroyer mode they may not see your shell coming at all. In addition there's always a chance your shell will impact the roof of the far side of their tank or the ground near them which will lead to misleading damage source direction information similar to an artillery near miss.
While you can’t do anything about people hiding behind big rocks, if they actually are sitting in a hull down position confident the terrain will protect them they are handing you the advantage on a silver platter. When you’re aiming at an enemy tank you get a lighted silhouette when you’re on target. Your crew is taking care of the gun elevation to hit the target at that range for you so there’s no guesswork involved. When a target is hull down they’re usually not going to dodge fire as they’re counting on it impacting the heavily armored turret. Most fire will hit the ground in front of them or sail right over completely missing them. Your shells with their highly parabolic arc won’t miss any more often than usual but should completely bypass the intervening terrain and will be flying at a stationary target.
Howitzers have never been the best weapons on an open map with rolling hills and plenty of places to dodge. Due to your low speed and high reload times you’ll be playing more like a Heavy Tank than a scout so sticking to cities with plenty of hard cover plays to your strengths. HE shells are quite good at blowing the tracks off people and if you’re sticking with friends you force the enemy to face one of you at a time with few routes of escape. In a city a high damage long reload weapon is preferable as the less frequently you pop out to fire the less often you face return fire. Just don’t come out when they’re aiming at you and you’ll be fine. Even if you and a KV-1 sit there staring at each other around a corner you’re tying up a Tier 5 Heavy with your Tier 3 Light. You’re winning that engagement every second they’re not charging you. If they do charge you, you’ll want to back up to another corner and snap off a shot at their tracks as they round the first corner. If you hit and destroy their tracks you’re forcing them to use a repair kit they won’t have for the rest of the match, or wait it out giving you more time to reload.
ACCESSORIES MAKE THE MAN
Your equipment variety isn’t fantastic at Tier 3 but the Enhanced Gun Laying Drive and Improved Ventilation are a good start. Anything you can do to improve your aim time and reload are welcome. The inability to mount a Tank Gun Rammer is about the most damning thing you’ll encounter. In the absence of that Gun Rammer option the third slot comes up for grabs with the Toolbox, Camouflage Net, and Spall Liner all being good options depending on how you play. I do not recommend Coated optics or Binocular Telescopes as you are not the tip of the spear, and do not have the view range to take full advantage of them.
As far as consumables go, I’ve always been a fan of a Small First Aid Kit in the number 4 slot, a Small Repair Kit in the number 5 slot (for a quick 5, 5 when tracked in the open), and a Manual Fire Extinguisher in the 6 slot. The Fire Extinguisher is a contentious item at low tiers where vehicular fires are more deadly. Should you decide against it, 100-Octane Gasoline is an expensive option to help your terrible power to weight ratio.
In terms of overall tactics the Cruiser Mk.II handles like a pocket Heavy Tank and benefits from gradually giving up ground in exchange for inflicting terrible casualties. Continuing to back up after firing will give you more time to reload while forcing your opponent to ignore or chase you, possibly leading them into an ambush.. Against high tier opponents you cannot be safely ignored, but watching their turret is vital as you do represent an easy kill. Against same tier opponents you are likely (though by no means guaranteed) to kill them with a single penetrating shot.
The Cruiser Mk.II is an inexpensive alternative to the KV-2 and will pit you against less experienced opponents who should fall easily if you don’t push your luck. Remember that part because at Tier 3 you’re also likely to be saddled with the most degenerate mouthbreathers available as backup, and taking your team seriously at that tier is likely to give you an aneurysm.