I noticed that the class names of the British BCs from the previous campaign aligned with the real ones, do NPC nations design ships based on their historical development or are they also organically developing ships?
Yes and no. National ship designs do contain some obvious influences. German battlecruisers that skimped on guns for better armor are more likely than that combination in any other nation; Japanese ships copying Settsu
with an eight-gun broadside through a fore and aft centerline and four wing turrets are a stage ususally, French tumblehome-hulled predreads and armored cruisers. You can also spot historical resemblences in general. However the game generates a research tree and everyone proceeds along it at their own pace, designing their own ships from scratch. You'll also find hideously under-armored German BCs and Japanese ships with triple turrets before the '30s. It's just more likely that certain historical traits will appear, not certain.
At least with one exception. The UK has "hidden flaws" as an acknowledged
ingame trait, making their turrets much more likely to flash-fire and blow up the ship when hit and penetrated.
Some wars are slow and grinding as submarines and cruiser actions wear down the enemy. Some wars are sharp as both sides trade battlecruiser or predread kills back and forth. Some wars are cluster****s where you lose a dozen small battles only to redeem them in a big one or you keep trading two of your ships for two slightly large ships of theirs. And some are over on the second action when two of your battlecruiser divisions go visit Wilhemshaven and sink everything
and USS Intrepid
are 35k-ton triple turret 9-gun 28-knot battlecruisers, built in 1919/1918. For this trip I have them and three destroyers. Another three destroyers and the 30k-ton 27-knot 1913 little brothers (they have 14" guns and somewhat less armor) USS United States
and USS Independence
are to the north of Helgoland, but I can't control them playing on Rear Admiral's mode. They're there, they're semi-marked on the map (it's more of a suggestion of where they are), and I can link up with them by going over to them and do cooperative engagement by dragging targets that way, but I can't make them do anything on their own. They're close enough on their sweep they'll probably contribute, though.
I start to the south of Helgoland and immediately run into a couple of German BCs and their escorts. SMS Hansa
and SMS Mackensen
aren't as cool as their namesakes. Mackensen
is a 29k-ton 10-gun ABQY 3223 14" ship from 1916. It has only 9" of belt armor and a top speed of 26 knots. Hansa
is a 32k-ton 8-gun ABVY 14" ship with 13" belt armor and a 27-knot top speed; a classical heavily armored German battlecruiser trading gunpower for protection.
I should explain what those random letters I used to describe turret layouts mean.
A ship's primary weapons are laid out according to scheme devised by the Royal Navy but used by most people. Positions are lettered or numbered, usually lettered. There are quite a few of them describing pretty much every possible position, but the most commonly used ones are A, B, X, Y, V, and Q. Behold the magic of MSPaint!
Via total lack of skill I have illustrated these turret positions for you, with A being at the front. There are some nuances to all this. A proper B or X turret is able to fire over top of its associated A or Y turret. A V turret might
be able to do that, assuming there's not an X turret or some deck structure in the way; this design can be seen on designs like HMS Tiger
or the Japanese Kongo
. Nobody ever designed a battleship (though there were some cruisers, see USS Atlanta
or HMS Dido
) with three turrets stacked front or back and each one able to fire over the one in front of it. It turns out putting a thousand tons of turret that high up on your ship is dumb. If I say "3223" it means that the turrets don't have all the same number of guns; "ABQY 3223" means A turret is a triple, B is a double, Q is a double, and Y is a triple.
There are other positions on the centerline and "wing" positions in pairs to either side of the ship together or staggered, but we'll demo that bridge when we come to it.
In reality, there was a strong trend towards ABXY and ultimately ABY configurations. There are good reasons for this. Wing turrets are heavy, and either you can't use both of them on the same target if they're paired, or if they're staggered you could if you left a clear space to fire cross-deck but at the cost of a tiny arc for a full broadside and probably screwing up your own ship from blast overpressure as you fire across it. Turrets in the Q and V positions tend to interfere with important stuff like the powerplant and engines, forcing design compromises, and also put big piles of explosive powder and shells very close to the location at the center of the ship that will generally be the enemy's aiming point (as the Royal Navy discovered from the numerous hits on Q turrets at Jutland). Further, turrets are just heavy. The primary weight isn't the guns either, but the armor and turret structure around them and supporting them. This means that a triple turret doesn't weigh one and a half times as much as a dual turret with the same armoring (or that a quad doesn't weigh twice a dual), nor does it take up one and a half times the space. A nine-gun three-triple-turret arrangement will be a bit lighter than an eight-gun four-dual-turret arrangement. (An eight-gun dual-quad arrangement will also be lighter than the eight-gun four-dual, but the real
improvement is when you have twelve guns in quads vs. twelve in duals or triples.)
Me, I like ABY gun setups. It's the iconic modern American battleship, from North Carolina
. It's weight-cheap and lets you armor better compared to a 4-turret setup. It also gives you six guns to play with when you're chasing something down. And you will be chasing things a lot in RTW one way or another.
The AI does not care for these niceties, working to simulate historical development rather than what those of us born after the dreadnought ended know. It builds six-turret Settsu
-style ships with A, Y, and two pair of wing mounts. It emulates HMS Dreadnought
with AQY and a pair of wings, or HMS Neptune
with AXY and staggered wings, or the Imperial Russian Gangut-class ships with four "axial" turrets in AQQY. It also emulates ships that never existed, such as ABXY 3223 design of the Mackensen
-class battlecruisers that Germany never built, and even special madnesses all its own. The only thing it doesn't do, to my knowledge, is leap off the high board screaming "SPEED IS ARMOR" and try to emulate the real-life HMS Agincourt
, which had seven
centerline dual turrets for a 14-gun broadside. If that sounds terrifying, it only indicates you are still sane.
Anyways, back to the Germans.
I've already fought SMS Von Der Tann
, when she tried to raid Colon, the Caribbean side of the Panama canal. I wasn't particularly impressed. Von Der Tann
was 1911, AY with a pair of midships wing turrets, 8 12" guns. She faced off with a pair of my new Fredrick-class CAs, ABY, 9 10" guns. Von Der Tann
ran like the hounds of hell were chasing her after ten minutes of exchanging salvos. But these ships are made of sterner stuff. They spend about thirty minutes exchanging salvos with Congress
. Congress takes a hit that floods her bow peak, dropping her speed to 25 knots, and Intrepid
has her B turret out of action briefly twice after shell hits; not knocked out, just jammed. Hansa
take no obvious
damage, but your ability to estimate the effects of shellfire on enemy ships is relatively limited. You can tell if their main battery turrets are jammed or destroyed, more on this later, and you can can estimate their speed to within five knots, give or take. The game will also tell you, if you mouse over them, a rough estimate of damage (light, medium, heavy) that's somewhat unreliable and tends to bounce around, and whether they're on fire or not.
What I do know is after 30 minutes, Hansa
, known to me at the moment as "Graf Spee-class" and "Mackensen-class" turn and head straight for Helgoland Island, into the suspected minefield around it where I can't follow. This kind of breakaway maneuver usually indicates that an enemy ship is damaged and losing the fight. The usual answer is to pursue. However we've been having this whole fight in a relatively small area between Wilhemshaven and Helgoland, and they've been hugging the border of the minefield the whole time. I can't catch them, particularly if they decide to go to ground by hiding in port at Helgoland. In frustration I turn south and go bombard some coastal batteries on the islands near the Jade and the entrance to Wilhemshaven harbor.
Then another battlecruiser turns up. SMS Seydlitz
, of the class of the same name. However, unlike her namesake she isn't fit to keep company with a ship called the Iron Dog. Compared to her namesake's 13" belt she has only 9". Five turrets, all centerline, 14" twins ABQVY. 26 knots. I turn Congress
to engage, moving between the Kiel peninsula and Helgoland's minefield.
The first salvo thunders out and makes a right mess of things. Intrepid
puts four hits on target, Congress
's B turret just blows up, and her Q goes out of action, jammed. Her speed drops from "25 knots" to "20 knots". I swing Congress
on a closing course that doesn't mask their after turrets. A few salvos later Congress
takes a waterline hit against her belt extension that admits several hundred tons of seawater. She detaches and turns off, still under control, and I drop her speed to 10 knots for damage-control. But she's still in range and still shooting. Seydlitz
is down to 15 knots and limping into the minefield around Helgoland. She swings out to bring more guns to bear for a salvo at Congress
, and Intrepid
blows up Seydlitz
's rear turret before she can fire. Seydlitz
turns back, and directly into several shell from Congress
that drop speed to ten knots. My escorting destroyers to close for a torpedo attack but are foiled by the minefield, and McCall
takes a hit from Seydlitz's 6" secondaries that forces her to turn away. Seydlitz
limps a little further under fire towards Helgoland before Intrepid
lands six more hits; jammed the V turret, killed the A turret, and dropped Seydlitz
's speed to five knots. Take a look.
You'll notice its maximum listed speed is still intact, though. The holy grail is when a ship's speed is listed as three knots. That means its powerplant is gone; flooded or destroyed. A ship in that condition will sink without further effort on your part. That took a few more salvos.
It's at this point I notice a bunch of notifications indicating the Constellation-class ships are engaged as well. Congress
' damage-control has isolated the flooded compartments and she rejoins Intrepid
, pushing up to 25 knots for a run north past some floating patches of debris that indicate where the Constellations and their escorts attacked some merchies and minesweepers.
I never did figure out what happened to SMS Mackensen
, honestly. My best guess is she took serious damage dueling the Connies and limped into the minefield, then sank from progressive flooding or fire. The Graf Spee-class SMS Hansa
is a few kilometers outside the north end of the minefield, bow pointed west-south-west, limping at 5 knots. USS United States
, herself only capable of 19 knots and with her A turret knocked out, is limping in the direction of the entrance to the Baltic, her after turret still lofting shells at Hansa
. USS Independence
, still doing 24 knots, is circling the crippled German battlecruiser like a shark, but appears to have expended all her main battery ammunition. Also present is a German minesweeper, not moving but still floating. As Independence
makes her loops around the Hansa
, she periodically fights both broadsides of her secondaries, but mostly she just showers Hansa
in 5" shells trying to make it stop.
I'm not entirely surprised. I'm down to only a few salvos myself after the first tangle with Hansa
, screwing Seydlitz
over, and bombarding shore batteries. I have Intrepid
hold fire and approach, then slow to 10 knots and present broadsides at five thousand yards for the execution. The first salvo knocks Hansa
cold, and then Sterett
deliver a half-dozen torpedoes as well. A few moments later I get the "Intrepid has expended all main battery ammo!" followed by the same message for Congress
's already dead though, it's just taking time to settle. Take a look.
I have to admit that's a first. It's also annoying, because poor McCall
is trapped, limping along the coast towards home, and there's a 4" shore battery blocking her way. I finish the battle by steaming over and having Intrepid
destroy the shore battery with their secondary guns.
I honestly don't know if Germany will recover from this one. It's not quite like they lost the war in a day, but they just gave away 21k VP to only 3k for them. That's a big deficit to try and catch up, and I'd need to have an outright disaster for Germany to recover the initiative. I'm already getting messages about them having food shortages and unrest tanks to my sixty-odd submarines raiding along their coasts too.
They didn't, either. It took me five months to drive the German government into collapse. I even got a nifty war prize out of it. Meet USS Oklahoma
, formerly SMS Wurttemburg
. She's a little slow and her turret layout isn't optimized, but she's got thick armor and I'm overall happy with her as a war prize; she's not as powerful and two knots slower than my Arizona-class with 12 16" guns, but the Arizonas are eight thousand tons heavier, and she has similar armor to them.
Now it's 1925, and war just broke out with France while I was trying to get new battleships and battlecruiser into service. I see how it is, game.