Follow TV Tropes


Epic Tank-on-Tank Action

Go To
Drawn and Quartered, Tank Style.

In media, what can possibly be better then the heroes having a Tank show up to help them out? How about the villains showing their savvyness, and throwing their OWN tanks into the fight? Since World War II, tank-on-tank fights have been glorified in media, although not always for the correct reasons. Tanks are basically the modern day equivalent of knights on horseback, and the epic struggles of their crews are the subject of many stories of heroism.

Regardless of whether or not it's a battle between Real Life tanks, as long as both sides break out the heavy armor to counter one another, it counts. After all, this is basically a case of when both sides utilize Tank Goodness.

Compare Hot Sub-on-Sub Action for the submarine equivalent, Epic Ship-on-Ship Action for the surface ship equivalent, and Old-School Dogfighting for the airborne equivalent. Desert Warfare favors tank-on-tank engagements thanks to the flat terrain for miles on end, and fast movements between locations favored.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Girls und Panzer basically runs on this trope, with several of the battles putting the viewer on the edge of their seats the whole time.
  • While they may still be Giant Robot Mecha, Zoids also runs on this. With Zoids: New Century Zero taking it to competition levels.

    Fan Works 
  • Tiberium Wars features Nod Scorpion Light Tanks, GDI Predator MBTs, Nod Laser Cannons retooled into a tank destroyer-style weapon, and that's before we go to the setting's iconic Mammoth-27 superheavy tank. Granted, the Mammoth's counterpart with Nod forces is a Humongous Mecha and anything smaller is reduced to slag with a single railgun slug, but there's still enough tread-on-tread action, and Nod Avatars still act as heavy armour.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Battle of the Bulge: The American commander knows the German forces are low on fuel, so he sends a group of American tanks on a suicide mission to attack the Panzer spearhead and "run them out of gas".
  • A Bridge Too Far has a few tank engagements as the various Allied units attempt to relieve the paratroopers holding the signature bridges. The Germans respond with their own tanks, which manage to slow the advance.
  • Courage Under Fire opens with a tank battle set in the Gulf War between American M1 Abrams tanks and Iraqi tanks and IFVs of assorted models.
  • Fury was well sold on one of its signature scenes: Four Shermans vs a single Tiger... which is a real Tiger tank, the only operational one in the world, instead of a 3D model or mockup.
  • Kelly's Heroes has an interesting tank battle towards the end, with a single Sherman going up against three Tigers in a city. Oddball manages to take out two of the Tigers before his Sherman breaks down, but they're able to talk the Tiger crew into helping them open the door to the bank they were hoping to steal gold from by offering them a cut.
  • The Chinese action movie Operation Red Sea has a major tank battle between members of the Jiaolong special forces unit and the Zakkar terrorists using hijacked tanks from the local government's army.
  • At least two such fights occur during the course of Red Dawn. One is off screen, in which the US Forces get stomped by the Soviet Airborne troops and tanks, while later on a lone M1 Abrams engages two Soviet tanks with the protagonists caught in the crossfire. In that latter case the Epic nature is downplayed for realism, as the battle is taking place at long range. One character performs a Heroic Sacrifice to set off a smoke grenade, exposing the tank's position to the enemy.
  • Obviously, the film Patton, being about the titular tank commander, is full of tank-on-tank porn.

    Live-Action TV 

  • The Ultramarines novel Courage and Honour features an enormous urban tank battle between the Imperium of Man and the Tau Empire as one of its pivotal action sequences.
  • In Mailed Fist, British tank commander John Foley relates his account of the British armoured advance across Northern Europe between landing in Normandy - in his case on June 7th 1944 - right to the end of the war on 7th May 1945. He relates episodes describing the different combat uses of tanks; his fighting war began badly when his was one of the British tanks that encountered Wittman's Tigers in France. Foley describes being in the vanguard of the armoured offensive that Wittman disrupted and blunted, and of the tension and action of his undergunned British tank trying to stalk a Tiger to get a telling hit on it, only for the inevitable to happen and his own Churchill becoming a blazing dead wreck. note .

    Tabletop Games 
  • This sort of game has been around for over 40 years. The first actual individual tank-on-tank game was SPI's Tank! back in the early 1970s, closely followed by Avalon Hill's Tobruk. The latter is based on miniatures wargaming rules, which are even older. At the platoon/company level, Panzerblitz (SPI and then Avalon Hill, 1970) is one of the seminal games of tabletop wargaming, spawning several series of games at that level. Also, there have been games covering all the major tank battles of history, such as those described below.
  • Tanks is based around this trope. In a typical game, 2-4 Allied tanks and/or assault guns meet a similar number of German tanks and engage in a brief but brutal tank-on-tank battle. The battle usually takes place in a small village or a wooded area so lines-of-sight are limited and the tanks have to maneuver around buildings and/or trees to get a shot on an opposing tank, hopefully hitting it in its weaker side or rear armor. The battles are assumed to be skirmishes-of-opportunity rather than planned attacks so there is no nearby infantry or artillery that can provide support fast enough to affect the outcome.
  • Warhammer 40,000: The Battle of Tallarn during the Horus Heresy was a tank battle across an entire planet. Once a verdant agri-world, Tallarn was targeted by virus bombs and biological agents and reduced to desert, and most of the population were killed within an hour. The only survivors were those who made their way to underground eco-shelters. Because of the lingering effects of the virus bombing, infantry warfare became impossible, so the planet became the scene of massive clashes between armoured units and Titans. After the victory of the loyalist forces, the Tallarn were some of the greatest tank units of the entire Imperium.
  • Gale Force 9 created the Spiritual Successor of Tanks in the form of the World of Tanks Miniatures Game, based on the video game of the same name. The key difference is that the players can create platoons without regard to faction if they wish, and focus far more on upgrade, equipment, and crew cards as well as vehicle class based abilities. Light tanks grant a Firepower bonus to the player's tank platoon when within close range of the target enemy tank. Mediums get a free re-roll on a miss when attacking. Heavies get to re-roll a failed defense roll. Tank Destroyers get enhanced defense in cover. And Artillery get to ignore some Line of Sight restrictions

    Video Games 
  • Armored Warfare promises both PVP and PVE battles for all manner of armor units from the 1950s to present day. This means that a squad of five can go up against more than three times their number in opponents and still win. It is undeniably awesome to team up with a few of your fellow mercenaries and reduce an entire enemy tank company to impromptu chaff by yourselves.
  • Certainly possible on some maps and in certain game modes of Battlefield 3, where both teams have almost enough tanks for every player in the fight.
  • Command & Conquer:
    • Command & Conquer: Tiberian Dawn's Expansion Pack, Covert Ops. had a planned track called "Tank Battle" meant to exemplify this trope in musical form. It was originally cut due to being out-of-place in the expansion's atmospheric soundtrack but was brought back in the Remastered Collection.
    • Command & Conquer: Renegade becomes this in multiplayer before long, as infantry are simply too fragile to keep a fight going, even en masse. As a result, many games end up turning into tank rushes and pitched tank battles with the only infantry in play being the Engineer characters with repair guns to keep said tanks going. Given its source material, though, this is no surprise.
    • Command & Conquer: Generals: The very first American mission has a bunch of US tanks lining up against their GLA counterparts and shooting them all without a single loss.
  • A 1993 Namco arcade title, Cyber Sled, features futuristic tanks fighting each other in 1-on-1 gladiatorial battles. Notable for having six different characters with varying stats and not actually having much in the way of turrets, turning most of the fights into something more akin to tank destroyer battles.
  • Flashpoint Campaigns has frequent tank engagements in the scenarios. Protracted tank vs. tank battles are usually hazardous for NATO troops, unless they can engage from good defensive positions with frequent scooting.
  • Fuga: Melodies of Steel is built on this, as the main characters pilot a giant super-weapon tank known as the Taranis blowing up Berman tanks left and right to stop a hostile invasion. Taken even further with the Big Bad revealing he has his own Evil Knockoff super-weapon tank called the Tarascus, allowing for a Mirror Boss with two overpowered tanks.
  • Frequently occurs in the Halo series. Whenever the Master Chief happens to find a Scorpion, there will often be plenty of Covenant Wraiths in his way to blow up.
  • Hell Let Loose: Given the large size of each map, and the fact that tanks are available for both sides from the beginning of the match, tank-on-tank engagements, especially for control of an objective, aren't uncommon.
  • While tanks have traditionally been useless cannonfodder in the MechWarrior series, Mechwarrior Living Legends introduces a dozen powerful tanks in a wide assortment of flavors. In the early game, it's not uncommon to see HoverTanks like the Harasser and Hephaestus chasing each other and ramming each other in a bid to flip the other and expose their juicy inner bits. The ultimate counter to swarms of angry battlearmor is the Huitzilopochtli Prime, an Anti-Air vehicle with twelve rapid-fire autocannons. The ultimate counter to a Huit is the Demolisher, a siege tank that can tank as much damage as an assault mech while outrunning them.
  • Mercenaries allows the player to take over armored vehicles, including tanks, and then go on and engage other armored vehicles that stand in the way.
  • Panther, the second tank game after Tank, and the first to use a first-person perspective.
  • The PlayStation-1 game Panzerfront features numerous American, German, Soviet, and British WW2 era tank models, including a couple of experimental concept designs, and the modern American M1 Abrams, and the Russian T-72.
  • Some of the larger maps in Project Reality are suited for this, with up to 64 players between both teams and plenty of tanks and APC's on both sides to go around.
  • Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad has several large maps which allow both sides to bring tanks into battle, where they can consequently duel one another in the ruins in and around the city of Stalingrad.
  • Tank and its update Combat for the Atari 2600 are likely the original tank battle video games. Two players driving small pixelated tanks through a maze trying to blow each other up.
  • Tanki Online is a multiplayer Allegedly Free Game that throws a random group of players into various deathmatches, with each player able to purchase and upgrade tank parts that give different abilities.
  • Tank Universal is a futuristic-tank game available on PC, with copious amounts of neon and Tron Lines everywhere. In many ways its gameplay ends up giving it a feel something akin to a modern cousin of Battlezone. In spite of playing from a first person perspective, it's not so much a simulator as it is an arcade-action game, encouraging fast gameplay against hordes of enemies using all sorts of neat power ups.
  • An old arcade title from 1996 is Tokyo Wars by Namco, which uses a set of four sit-down consoles to allow players to play team based tank battles, ranging from 10-v-10 to 32-v-32. It uses a somewhat low-powered graphics engine, but makes up for it with extremely smooth gameplay and the ability to track and render up to eight constantly moving vehicles and their in-world projectiles, no minor thing in 1996.
  • Spiritual Successor Tokyo Warfare is a goofy little arcade game very much in the vein of the original Tokyo Wars, albeit with a wider variety of tank options.
  • Usually averted by Wargame: European Escalation and its sequels. Yes, there are tanks, and potentially lots of them, but tanks running about unsupported are likely to be rapidly demolished by infantry and anti-tank missiles without ever seeing an enemy tank.
  • War Thunder Ground Forces has 16 players vs 16 players, with each player capable of commanding up to three tanks a piece. That's a total of 96 tanks per match (though of course each player can only have 1 tanks active at a time, and many other vehicle times can fill some of those 96 slots).
  • This is very possible in World in Conflict. Especially if all 16 players in a match decide to play as "Armor". It doesn't take very long for the wrecks to pile up.
  • This is the trope that World of Tanks just flat out runs on. 15 vs 15 tank battles? Oh hell yes.

    Real Life 
  • The very first time this happened was during the Second Battle of Villers-Bretonneux on the 24th of April, 1918. During the battle, a group of British Mk. IV tanks came across a group of the new German A7V Tanks.
  • While the Polish may not have had many tanks when World War II kicked off, the Germans did face them. However, once the Blitz descended on France, this trope came into effect as Germany's Panzerkamphwagen III and IV tanks went up against tanks like the French Char B1, and British Matilda tanks.
  • North Africa was a whole series of these. But Operation Crusader between Auchenlick/Cunningham and Rommel was one of the most spectacular.
  • The Battle of Kursk in July 1943 is often cited as the largest tank battle in World War II, though this really depends how you define it. Mark Healy gives what's on the high end of secondary source estimates, which is that the entire Battle of Kursk involved at most 3,489 Soviet tanks and assault guns against at most 2,654 German tanks and assault guns. However, what is called "The Battle of Kursk" actually consisted of two German pincers attacking the northern and southern faces of the Kursk salient, respectively, and over the multiple days of the battle there were separate fights in different places at different times. Prokhorovka on the Southern Face of the salient was where the largest number of tanks and assault guns fought each other in the same place at the same time, 306 German AFVs against 850 Soviet AFVs according to Healy. If you look at the overall numbers for the battle of Kursk then it was the biggest, but if you compare the battle of Prokhorovka to the biggest engagement during the battle of Dubno in 1941, then Dubno is the actual winner. Nevertheless, since Kursk involved more impressive tank models and lends itself to being called a "turning point" in the war, it is highly famous while hardly anything has been written about the battle of Dubno. The Battle of Kursk was also host to mass dogfighting between the Luftwaffe and the Soviet Air Force.
  • Speaking of the 1941 Battle of Dubno, which took place within a triangle formed by the towns of Dubno, Lutsk, and Brody, David Glantz estimates there were roughly 800 German and 3,800 Soviet AFVs respectively. Accoding to Glantz, "the counterstroke north and south of Dubno [that] began on 26, June [produced] a tank battle of unprecedented proportions (over 2,000 tanks fought along a 70 km (42-mile) front)." Again, if you compare over 2,000 tanks at once at Dubno with 1,156 tanks at once at Prokhorovka, then if the numbers are correct it means Dubno was the biggest single tank engagement of World War II.
  • The Six Day War was simply put six days of the IDF Curb Stomping the Egyptian, Syrian, Jordanian, Iraqi, and Lebanese armies. The western designed M60, M48, Centurian, and "Super Sherman" tanks were more than a match for the Eastern-designed tanks the Arab armies used. And on the Seventh Day they rested...
    • Later on, during the Yom Kippur War, the IDF managed to pull a You Shall Not Pass! with their Centurion tanks meeting a vastly numerically superior force (180 and 600 respectively) of Syrian tanks at the Golan Heights. When the smoke cleared, and the IDF reinforcements arrived, the Syrian offensive was smashed.
  • Reversed during the Battle of Asal Uttar during the 1965 India-Pakistan war, a clash of armor on the same scale as Kursk or the Six-Day War. The Indian army, using a mixture of Vijayantas(license-built Vickers MB Ts) and Soviet T-54 and PT-76 tanks was able to utterly wreck the Pakistani army using a mixture of M47 and M48 Patton tanks. Over 150 Pattons were knocked out or simply abandoned by their crews, and the vehicle pool for all the abandoned and wrecked tanks landed up being called Patton Nagar ("Patton town").
  • The Battle of 73 Easting became this during the Gulf War. The American M1 Abrams was easily superior to Iraq's Soviet-supplied T-55s and indigenous T-72 knock-offs.
  • The Battle of Arracourt combines this trope and Curb-Stomp Battle (the Germans, despite having Bigger Stick tanks like the Panther and Tiger amongst their forces, were the ones curb-stomped), being the largest tank battle on the Western Front during World War II.
  • When Operation Overlord was looking like the Allies would penetrate the beaches and be getting armor in play, General Erwin Rommel immediately moved what Panzer units he could to Normandy as quickly as possible. Unfortunately for him, this took time, and when the Panzer units finally arrived to meet the Allied forces in the Hedgerows, the battle turned into this pretty quickly... at spitting distances.
  • German tank ace Michael Wittmann blunted an entire British offensive at Villers-Bocage on 13th June, 1944. Leading a handful of Tiger tanks and choosing a good position to fight from, he personally knocked out at least ten Cromwell tanks, thirteen infantry carriers, and quite a few unarmored vehicles. British tank officer John Foley ruefully described his baptism of fire in tank combat: while he was not one of Wittmann's kills, it may be the case he came up against one of the other Tigers supporting Wittmann. In his autobiography Mailed Fist, he recalls getting three hits on a Tiger in a street fight at point-blank range. None of them penetrated. The Tiger's return shot destroyed his tank and killed one crew member with contemptuous ease. While the Tiger itself was ridiculously finicky and suffered from rampant breakdowns, its gun was immensely powerful.
  • Wittmann met his own death against the Sherman Firefly, a British tank that finally had the firepower to take on German "big cats". Joe Ekins of the Northamptonshire Yeomanry, gunner of the Velikiye Luki, took out three Tigers, including Wittmann's, in his first ever action. With typically British reserve, his unit recorded his feat as "Three Tigers in twelve minutes is not bad business."
  • This actually occurred during the liberation of Paris in 1944: A French tank, turning onto the Champs Elysees, spotted a German tank at the other end. The German fired first, the shell going under the Arc de Triomphe and nearly killing some French officers who had stopped during the battle to pay their respects at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The French gunner, correcting the range because he knew the exact length of the Champs Elysses, scored a hit on the German tank, which withdrew. (The German tank was soon disabled and its crew captured.) The incident is described in Is Paris Burning.


Video Example(s):


Sherman vs Tiger

In this iconic scene, "Fury", the sole survivor of a platoon of Sherman tanks, engages and ultimately destroys its much heavier foe, a German Tiger I Heavy tank.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (10 votes)

Example of:

Main / EpicTankOnTankAction

Media sources: