New Patch Day

By "Brithound"

It was New Patch day on the wide World of Tanks, and waiting in the garage all the armoured vehicles were talking in hushed tones about what might be waiting for them. New friends and enemies, and a chance to play on new maps or see how old ones had been upgraded – it was their favourite day of the month, but one that sometimes had unpleasant surprises.

"I'm sure they're going to make life difficult for us poor arty – again." Stumpy the Sturmpanzer II shook his trunnions sadly. True, he had woken up one New Patch day to find his meagre supply of shells had miraculously doubled – for which he had sent many prayers of gratitude to the mythical Developers in the East – but after that amazing treat, he was sure there was nothing good left in the bag. "Probably give us a shell supply where half of them don't go off – except for one in a hundred that go off prematurely in my poor barrel."

"Serves you right," Mark Seven Tetrarch sniffed, the little lend-lease light tank looking at him in disdain. "All Arty is ridiculously overpowered. Everyone says so. It's why you're all so unpopular."

"Oh? As if you were Mister Popularity, since the loyalist British tanks arrived?" Stumpy cast a headlight beam towards him. "I've heard some crew get wound medals – but I've never seen a tank medal like yours. The Vlassov Star – for the vehicle most often shot by his own team. That's impressive."

"At least I know there'll be something in the patch for me. I've got my Lucky Red Star badge. Works miracles." Tetrarch looked over to the new arrival in the next bay. "Careful you don't wake the medium up. What a noob! M4A1 Sherman. He's stock, you know."

"We were all new once. He'll earn his medals, like we all did." Stumpy looked at the rather fragile Medium sympathetically. "Though… he might not be out of the garage for long, the first few games."

"Thinking of that, GW-Panther's been out a long time. The full fifteen minutes." Grille glanced up at the clock. "Maybe she's hiding in a bush in the corner of the map, last survivor again."

Just then GW-Panther reappeared, reincarnating without a scratch on her. She cast an aura of satisfaction that lit up the otherwise gloomy garage.

"Good trip?" Stumpy asked hopefully. "What's the new patch like? Anything much changed?"

GW-Panther would have grinned if there was anything in her blueprint she could have used for the job. "Oh, yes. A whole new vehicle class. Wait till you get a look at your first VVS."

Stumpy dipped his headlights in concentration. "That sounds Russian. Something like a KV?"

"Oh, no. It's a separate vehicle class, like TD as in Tank Destroyer. I only met one – but I won't spoil your fun telling you. When you see one, you'll know. Used every shell I had, and they all hit! I've never seen so many Experience Points in my existence!" With that, she busied herself with resupplying, and ordering expensive chocolate consumables all round as a treat for her grateful crew.

"I hope I do as well. I think I can, I think I can…" Stumpy almost bounced up and down on his suspension like a (highly anachronistic) hip-hop street car in excitement.

Just to his regret, Shermy the Sherman was the next out of the garage. Two minutes later he was back.

"Good game? Anything changed?" Stumpy asked hopefully.

Shermy shook his trunnions. "Wasn't there long enough to see. Got one-shotted by a 1920's Ltractor. My crew left the driver's hatch open."

"Oh. Better luck next time." Stumpy said. Unfortunately, the next five games were all Shermy's as well, and all of them ended rapidly and unhappily:

(Reincarnate)

"An IS-3 pushed me off the dock at Fisherman's Bay and I drowned! Nobody told me they could DO that!" Shermy moaned. Fishy-smelling water still poured out of all his hatches.

(Reincarnate)

"I went up onto the bridge on Westfield to get a good look and that IS-3 pushed me off again! Ten storeys straight down and I landed on my turret." His rather dazed crew got busy with panel-beating tools.

(Reincarnate)

"Some Level Two French thing hiding in a bush hit me for one percent damage…. I caught fire and in two minutes burned down to zero while both teams laughed!" Evidently Shermy's crew had thought the fire extinguisher a good place to store their black-market bourbon.

(Reincarnate)

"I ran into a tree – it survived, I didn't." Shermy scuffed a track in embarrassment. "I saw something new, though. It was an octagon symbol on the mini map – hidden behind Dragon Ridge. Must be one of those new VVs things."

(reincarnate)

"I went down the steep hill at Westfield… and I don't know what happened. My fuel tank just – exploded. Nobody even fired my direction." Shermy sank in the garage slot, a smouldering heap of dejection.

"Ah. I can tell you that one," GW-Panther sympathised. "You know all those American car-chase films? You're built by the same company that'll make those cars someday. You've watched when a stunt car goes over a cliff? It doesn't even wait to hit the bottom before exploding. Goes past thirty degrees mid-air and… boom!"

"Since patch 8.0 you can go down hills that steep. Or in your case – better not." Stumpy nodded.

"Well – I saw a VVS again on the threat board. It must have been a bug. It was only a Tier One, but it was put as top tank in the MatchMaker. Like it cost more than the rest of the team put together." Shermy looked puzzled. "How would a Tier One get all the way up there?"

Just then Stumpy felt that familiar sensation as he was selected for the next match. "Wish me luck! Anywhere but Himmelsdorf – or Ensk." Both densely-built urban maps were hellish for artillery, who had the consolation of rarely surviving to suffer very long before some light tank found a backstreet route to sneak up on them, probably quite ignoring all one-way systems.

"Ensk! Arty hell!" He heard a fellow arty moan, as they incarnated in the clearing at the South end of the map with the open railway yard on their right.

"Cheer up! We've got a new patch to explore!" The little Sturmpanzer counted down the seconds, quickly scanning the board. "Hello… what's that?" Even before his team's scouts began to move, a glowing red octagon appeared at the far end of the map on the railway sidings. "This patch really must be buggy – nobody can see a tank that far away!"

With cries of "Siema!" "Follow me!" and "Everyone rush!" two-thirds of Stumpy's team plunged into the urban jungle at top speed, leaving him and the little Lorraine 39 all on their own on the flank. As usual. He sighed, and starred looking for a bush to hide behind.

Two minutes later his team had met the opposition in the town centre following the identical bone-headed tactics, and when the dust had settled there was just him and the Lorraine surviving – plus the strange enigmatic "K-Wil-Ge" sitting in the enemy corner not moving.

"I'm hitting it... I'm hitting it..." Lorraine yelled excitedly, "It's just sitting there soaking it up. But I can't quite make it out. It's in a big building on the train tracks. That didn't use to be there."

"Must be a revised map. I'll go and take a closer look. I can't hit it from here anyway." Stumpy's crew folded up the camouflage netting and he rolled along he tracks, full of curiosity and 150 mm rounds. The skyline certainly had changed. At the far end he caught sight of what looked like a damaged factory with a huge chimney almost collapsed, angled up twenty degrees.

"Maybe he's hiding in that new building. Should be right about… here." Stumpy edged round the corner – and looked up. The contents of his oil sump splashed on the ground in terror as he saw what was sitting on the rail lines.

It wasn't a tank hiding in the building. It was the building. What he thought was a factory chimney was the gun barrel. Stumpy looked up at the Tier One of the new VVS class, the Kaiser Wilhelm Geschutz, or "Paris Cannon" whose thirty-strong crew were too frantically busy with repair and first aid kits as the distant Lorraine showered them with shells every fifteen seconds, to try and load their own ammunition. It would have taken them four matches to have one ready for firing anyway, plus another match while the immensely long barrel stopped vibrating.

"Oh. Right. That explains it." Stumpy's heartfelt prayer thanked the Developers for their new gift to artillery, as his loaders and gunners prepared to get extremely busy and profitable. The new gold-only premium vehicles had already made the Developers rich enough to buy Byelorussia outright and put an offer in for the Baltic States plus Kalingrad. "So – THAT's what the VVS stands for!" *

*(Editor's note: VVS= Very, Very, Silly.)