Victoria 3 - Dev Diary #24 - Navies and Admirals


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Happy Thursday and welcome back to our series of development diaries on warfare in Victoria 3! Today we talk about navies, and how we intend to make them as strategically important to winning wars as they were in history. This diary builds on the warfare vision presented in The Concept of War and many of the core mechanics presented in Fronts and Generals, so ensure those are fresh in your mind before reading on!

Your ability to sustain an empire depends, to a large extent, on how well you can compete on the high seas. This is the era of truly global trade, which also meant countries were highly susceptible to disruption of that trade - and the higher they climb, the harder they may fall. In Victoria 3, maintaining a powerful blue-water navy is a large but necessary expense if you wish to ensure the integrity of your markets, overseas colonies, and trade routes during war. And even while at peace, a magnificent fleet can provide your nation with substantial Prestige!

Our design intent for naval gameplay in Victoria 3 is that it should serve as a strategic precision instrument in conflicts between seafaring nations. The sea is not another “front” in a war. The province-based moving Front system works well to represent conflicts over territory but would be nonsensical at sea, where no nation can be said to meaningfully “control” an enormous stretch of ocean. Instead, Admirals and their Flotillas are deployed to meet specific strategic objectives to disrupt the enemy’s military operations or economy, or defend against such attempts by the enemy. A powerful navy can never win you the war on its own, but if deployed correctly under the right circumstances it can be the “ace in the hole” that lets you outsmart even a foe that’s superior on paper.

A clipper departing Luanda in the Portuguese colonial state of North Angola, representing the colony’s connection to the Market Capital in Lisbon.
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As with land warfare and Generals, you control your navy through your Admirals. Generals and Admirals share many similarities. Both are provided with military resources originating from buildings in the Strategic Region they call home. The amount of resources they get depend on their Rank, which you can grant via promotions to reward your favorite commanders. Their Rank also lends Political Strength / Clout to the character’s favored Interest Group. Furthermore, both Generals and Admirals get Traits that affect both themselves and those Officers and Servicemen serving underneath them.

Most importantly, just like Generals are your interface to command your armies, Admirals are the interface to your navies. Admirals are given Orders, which they attempt to carry out to the best of their ability using the Flotillas they have been assigned. These Orders consist of:

Intercept any hostile navies around a certain Strategic Region’s friendly coastlines while keeping your fleets stationed close to shore
Patrol any shipping lanes between the Admiral’s home region and a remote region, intercepting any hostile navies encountered
Convoy Raid at a particular point at sea to damage enemy shipping lanes
Naval Invasion to establish a beachhead and a frontline on enemy soil, by escorting and protecting a General’s land forces in a joint operation

While it has not yet made its way into the game, we also want to add a fifth Order - Blockade - to disable enemy ports and prevent hostile forces from crossing straits.

An artistic mockup of an Admiral in the Navy panel. Admiral Ruiz and his 10 Flotillas are currently on Interception duty in the Iberia HQ, ensuring no Naval Invasions or Blockades endanger the Spanish home front.
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Convoy Raid and Naval Invasion are aggressive orders intended to hurt the enemy in different ways, while Intercept and Patrol are defensive orders that counter the other two. But to really understand how these work we have to start by talking about Shipping Lanes and the Supply Network.

Shipping Lanes are facilitated by vessels called Convoys, which are an output of Port buildings. These are created automatically whenever it’s necessary to move goods and/or people overseas. The three main reasons this happens are due to naval Trade Routes between non-adjacent markets, remote States connecting to their Market through a Port, and Battalions sent to frontlines that can only be supplied by ship. When a player is about to take an action that establishes such a shipping lane they are warned of how many new Convoys would be required for this action, which is based on the size of the route or the army supplied.

Shipping Lanes are always established via the shortest possible path, as defined by the number of nodes in the naval network it passes through.

A zoomed-out view of the North Angolan shoreline above, showing the main route ships travel off the coast of southwest Africa. The yellow pin indicates this path is part of Portugal’s Supply Network.
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The sum total of a country’s Shipping Lanes determine the extent of its Supply Network, and the total cost in Convoys of that network compared to the Convoy output by Ports determine the overall strength of that network. That is to say, if the total Shipping Lane cost is 500 Convoys but Ports provide only 400, the Supply Network as a whole will operate at only 80% efficiency. This impacts all Shipping Lanes, causing less trade to flow between the markets than would be optimal and impacting the supply and morale of overseas troops.

Admirals assigned to Convoy Raid a given sea node will surreptitiously try to sink any enemy transports that pass through. In effect this will do damage over time to the affected Shipping Lanes, causing both an overall drop in efficiency of the affected countries’ Supply Networks but also a larger, local drop in efficiency of the damaged Shipping Lanes. As a result, by parking your fleet in a highly trafficked part of the ocean you could do a lot of damage to your enemy’s trade or even directly impact the amount of military supplies they’re able to send to their frontlines.

A very visually un-polished view of part of Portugal’s supply network, stretching from the Azores around the African continent all the way to Portuguese Bombay. In the lower-right corner we see an additional tendril going east, which is a trade route importing Porcelain from China.
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Admirals assigned to Patrol a certain stretch of their Supply Network will eventually be able to detect and engage the raiding navy, causing a naval battle to ensue which will not only sink ships but also send the losing side back to base for repairs for some time. Admirals assigned to Intercept all nodes along a coastline are able to do the same to any raiders along the coast. Convoy Raiding right outside a major entry/exit port, such as in the English Channel, therefore has the chance to seriously disrupt a large number of shipping lanes but also put you at greater risk of detection and interception than if you’re raiding transatlantic shipping lanes on the deep seas. The composition of your navy can also greatly impact how this plays out: a fleet with an accompaniment of Submarines can deal more damage before being intercepted, while a fleet of Monitors has an easier time intercepting raiders but may be more easily sunk if faced down by a more powerful navy.

Because the distance Admirals must patrol plays a difference, there is an inherent asymmetry to Convoy Raiding and Patrol orders. Since a chain is only as strong as its weakest link the damage done to a shipping lane by raiders is the same whether it stretches across 1 node or 10, whereas 10x as many Flotillas are needed to protect the longer route as effectively as the shorter.

Extremely unfinished breakdown of what is currently happening in the Macaronesian Sea. Look at all those juicy raiding targets!
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Naval Invasion is an Order you give to provide naval support for a General’s landing on an enemy coastline. The size of the fleet determines two things: one, how great is the chance that you’ll be able to defeat an opponent’s intercepting fleet, and two, how many Battalions will you be able to successfully land. Even if the enemy has no defensive fleet at all, a naval invasion with a very small fleet might land too weak of an initial force to withstand the enemy’s counter-offense before the rest of the army can arrive. Since Naval Invasion is a one-time Order, once it has been completed it automatically turns into a Patrol Order to protect the shipping lane supplying the new Front.

Concept art of early Ship-of-the-Line and late-game Dreadnought class vessels
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Navies are made up of Flotillas, which are constructed and maintained by Naval Bases. Naturally these can only be built on coastlines, where they consume military vessels such as Man-o-Wars or Ironclads constructed in Shipyards. Like Barracks they also employ Servicemen and Officers Pop, and depending on your navy configuration may need to consume other military goods as well (such as Ammunition and Radios) in order to keep in fighting condition. Flotillas differ from Battalions in how long it takes to create and upgrade them; constructing a competitive navy is not something you can begin considering when your rival has already started saber-rattling.

Another difference between Battalions and Flotillas is that your country’s navy is always considered to be in fully active service. In peacetime Generals can keep their troops on low alert, limiting their consumption and expenses. Once war breaks out, Generals can be selectively mobilized to only deploy the troops necessary. Admirals on the other hand have exorbitant needs and expenses even while at peace, so sizing and tech’ing your navy appropriately is an important consideration for imperialists on a tight budget.

On the other hand, navies provide you with considerable Power Projection which confers substantial Prestige onto your country. Having a world-class navy is not strictly a requirement to be a Great Power, particularly if you’re a large self-sustaining terrestrial empire, but it definitely helps you both gain and hold onto the title.

Artistic mockup of the Navy panel with Flotillas expanded. Admiral Alvarez de Toledo commands 20 Flotillas of Man-o-Wars on a Patrol mission to secure an important Spanish shipping lane.
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Before we wrap up for this week, I want to say a few words about the lack of an order to just “seek out and destroy enemy forces”. In Victoria 3, your commanders - Generals as well as Admirals - are given strategic objectives which they use their manpower and resources to carry out as best they can. If in the process they get into conflict with the enemy’s forces (as they almost certainly will at some point) a battle will ensue. The outcome of that battle determines which direction the war proceeds in. The intent of this is to remove the need to babysit your commanders.

To illustrate this, assume we did have an order to seek and destroy. The optimal choice would then be to assign this order only to the strongest commander, fight the eventual battle, then revoke this order and give it to another commander while the first one recuperates, and so on.

With an order like “advance front” instead, the General’s intention is simply to capture territory as efficiently as possible, ideally while avoiding enemy interference. If it’s impossible to avoid the enemy, the imperative is to try to be intercepted by as weak of an enemy force as possible. Meanwhile the intent behind “defend front” is the opposite: prevent enemy incursions by defending it in the places where the enemy might advance, bringing to bear as powerful a force as possible. Similarly at sea, “convoy raiding” is about maximizing shipping lane damage while avoiding detection, while “patrol” is about minimizing damage to convoys by seeking out and destroying those enemy ships attacking them - not to sink ships for its own sake.

Depending on how the war is developing your priorities or overall strategy might certainly shift, causing you to change the orders you’ve assigned or make changes in your ranks to distribute resources differently. But our design intent is that this should only be necessary because your strategy is evolving, not to counter enemy movements or try to minmax your way to victory.

This is an especially important consideration for the naval part of the warfare mechanics. Naval (and aerial) warfare in strategy games commonly face the design challenge of extreme mobility options due to the lack of obstacles to movement. Usually some form of Fog of War and interception-radius mechanics is employed to counteract turtling behavior. The AI also often has to be forced to make mistakes to not become too good at dodging or intercepting the player in this environment. Even with Victoria 3’s more strategic-level decision making, the freedom of “movement” the sea provides would make a system where being in/avoiding being in the same location as the enemy so as to start/not start a battle extremely micro-heavy, annoying, and highly unfair to either human or AI players depending on implementation.

So instead, in Victoria 3, you tell your Admirals what their overall priorities should be for the war and then they try to do that, using the resources they’ve been allocated, only coming into conflict when they become aware of an enemy Admiral with an order that clashes with their own.

I hope that gives you a good idea of what to expect from the naval mechanics in Victoria 3. Next week we will wrap up this first batch of diaries on the military system by going through the many economic impacts of warfare in Victoria 3. Until then!
 
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nelliott

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Their Orders do not conflict, so no battle will transpire. Similarly, if all Generals on a Front are set to Defend that Front, no battles will break out. This is totally legit, since either side might be choosing these Orders because they know they have the inferior force and just want to ensure they do as much damage as possible without risking their men in an attack.
Is there a way to tell a flotilla to engage both hostile navies and enemy commerce? If not, I think there should be.

Historically flotillas, especially small, far-flung ones would opportunistically engage both enemy naval vessels and merchant ships during a time of war. I think it's good to be able to specify 'focus on convoy raiding' or 'focus on patrolling', but I think it would also be great to say 'do both opportunistically.' Maybe apply some penalty to the efficacy of each to represent the splitting of roles, but I think that is better than requiring two flotillas for each region, one to patrol and one to raid. Splitting into two flotillas when you want to do both doesn't make logical or historical sense, as if you have a fleet covering a large region and you want to both engage enemy merchant ships and enemy convoy raiders, you wouldn't want half of your fleet to ignore merchant ships and half to ignore the raiders. Because it took so long to sail places , due to extreme distances, weather (especially during the age of sail), and supplies, the density of ships per total area was always very low and ships had to take on multiple roles.

EDIT: rather than a separate order to engage both naval vessels and merchant ships, you could also go the route of HOI4 and make the naval orders non-exclusive, so you could select multiple orders for each flotilla.
 
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Axe99

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Are there any plans to have coastal defences in the game?

It's a great point - coastal defences were a big thing in this period - here in Australia most of our forts date from the mid-19th century Russian war scare.

Still, I believe that it is better to say something in the hope that the developers will notice and correct something than to stay silent.

Aye, absolutely - sorry, I wasn't suggesting they shouldn't be raised at all - I think it's a great idea, and it's well worth raising :). I just don't want to be going rattling on too much in the thread - I've already posted far more than I usually would in one thread. Thanks for raising it, and keep up the great posting :)

In this case the flotillas having a complement of escorts would be ideal simplification, I think.

This works from about 1910 onwards, but this would mean capital ships built prior to 1910 would magically all get escorts once they were required, which might feel a bit odd (and be quite exploitable) - or capital ships prior to 1910 built in 1895, say, are charged the price of escorts they might use in fifteen years time at the point of construction. Both might feel a bit odd. There's also the question of the number of escorts needed per capital ship varies by the number of capital ships in formation (so if it's just one capital ship, they might need 2-4 destroyers, but if it was three capital ships, they might get the same degree of submarine protection with 6). On top of that, there's the potential issue of what if someone wants to 'bench' some of their capital ships and use their destroyers for convoy escort work?

It also seems a bit strange mechanically - given players won't be micro-ing ships, it seems a bit odd arbitrarily locking escorts and capital ships together (linking them organically is something I'd more expect in a (simplified) naval warfare game where people were clicking on and moving their capital ships about individually in a tactical sense).

I'm not saying it couldn't work though - it just feels like an unnecessary historical plausibility distortion where a reasonable abstraction could be had.

As always, I could well be wrong. Far more importantly, I like your sea control idea, it goes very well :)
 
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Antediluvian Monster

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This works from about 1910 onwards, but this would mean capital ships built prior to 1910 would magically all get escorts once they were required, which might feel a bit odd (and be quite exploitable) - or capital ships prior to 1910 built in 1895, say, are charged the price of escorts they might use in fifteen years time at the point of construction. Both might feel a bit odd. There's also the question of the number of escorts needed per capital ship varies by the number of capital ships in formation (so if it's just one capital ship, they might need 2-4 destroyers, but if it was three capital ships, they might get the same degree of submarine protection with 6). On top of that, there's the potential issue of what if someone wants to 'bench' some of their capital ships and use their destroyers for convoy escort work?

It also seems a bit strange mechanically - given players won't be micro-ing ships, it seems a bit odd arbitrarily locking escorts and capital ships together (linking them organically is something I'd more expect in a (simplified) naval warfare game where people were clicking on and moving their capital ships about individually in a tactical sense).

I'm not saying it couldn't work though - it just feels like an unnecessary historical plausibility distortion where a reasonable abstraction could be had.

As always, I could well be wrong. Far more importantly, I like your sea control idea, it goes very well :)

From what we have seen from production methods a single building can support several types at the same time. As such the naval base building that produces the flotilla could have separate production methods for capital ships and escort with the option "none" supported for the latter.

Perhaps something like this:

First production method determines the type of the flotilla. E.g. capital ship (capital ship + optional destroyer escorts), cruising (number of sail frigates, steam corvettes, steel cruisers + optional destroyer escort), coast defense (monitors early on, later minelayers and torpedo boats), destroyer (just destroyers) submarine (just submarines).

The second production method determines the type of main unit.

The third production methods determines the type of escorting unit (if any).
 
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Are inland rivers and canals being used to transport goods and can they be blockaded? The royal navy's blockade of the grand canal (the artery of the Chinese empire) threatened the food supply to the capital which significantly contributed to Chinese capitulation.
 
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From what we have seen from production methods a single building can support several types at the same time. As such the naval base building that produces the flotilla could have separate production methods for capital ships and escort with the option "none" supported for the latter.

Perhaps something like this:

First production method determines the type of the flotilla. E.g. capital ship (capital ship + optional destroyer escorts), cruising (number of sail frigates, steam corvettes, steel cruisers + optional destroyer escort), coast defense (monitors early on, later minelayers and torpedo boats), destroyer (just destroyers) submarine (just submarines).

The second production method determines the type of main unit.

The third production methods determines the type of escorting unit (if any).

I'm not sure if I follow here - so the buildings can update flotillas post-construction? It sounds like it still wouldn't address the capacity to switch escorts to ASW duty, say, but otherwise that would cover it. It seems an overly-complex, inflexible and unintuitive way of doing things, but perfectly useable :)

Are inland rivers and canals being used to transport goods and can they be blockaded? The royal's blockade of the grand canal (the artery of the Chinese empire) threatened the food supply to the capital which significantly contributed to Chinese capitulation.

Inland waterways provide an infrastructure buff, but aren't a "line of trade" like railways (somewhat ironically, given rivers were more-or-less the first 'railways', in that they provided bulk inland trade of goods before railways were a thing, and indeed still do to some degree - but I appreciate there are some design challenges here that are presumably inconsistent with the current design) - so at least from what we've seen so far, they're not "blockable" per se.
 

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I'm not sure if I follow here - so the buildings can update flotillas post-construction? It sounds like it still wouldn't address the capacity to switch escorts to ASW duty, say, but otherwise that would cover it. It seems an overly-complex, inflexible and unintuitive way of doing things, but perfectly useable :)

As I understood from the DD this is the case at the moment. Naval Base buildings, just like the Barrack buildings and indeed all buildings in the game have their "output" tied to a production method. For Naval Base and Barracks the output is a flotilla or a battalion which you can then assign to an admiral or general. To upgrade the battalion to use new rifles, you go to the Barrack building and switch the production method to the one using the new rifles, which sees the input change (at least in volume) and the output changes to an upgraded battalion with different stats. If you want to change your flotilla to use a new type of ship you researched, you go to the Naval Base building and switch the production method to the new type of ship, which then upgrades the ship the flotilla uses after a set time (to represent time spent building the new ship).
 
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As I understood from the DD this is the case at the moment. Naval Base buildings, just like the Barrack buildings and indeed all buildings in the game have their "output" tied to a production method. For Naval Base and Barracks the output is a flotilla or a battalion which you can then assign to an admiral or general. To upgrade the battalion to use new rifles, you go to the Barrack building and switch the production method to the one using the new rifles, which sees the input change (at least in volume) and the output changes to an upgraded battalion with different stats. If you want to change your flotilla to use a new type of ship you researched, you go to the Naval Base building and switch the production method to the new type of ship, which then upgrades the ship the flotilla uses after a set time (to represent time spent building the new ship).
Which sounds like a lot of micro…
 
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As I understood from the DD this is the case at the moment. Naval Base buildings, just like the Barrack buildings and indeed all buildings in the game have their "output" tied to a production method. For Naval Base and Barracks the output is a flotilla or a battalion which you can then assign to an admiral or general. To upgrade the battalion to use new rifles, you go to the Barrack building and switch the production method to the one using the new rifles, which sees the input change (at least in volume) and the output changes to an upgraded battalion with different stats. If you want to change your flotilla to use a new type of ship you researched, you go to the Naval Base building and switch the production method to the new type of ship, which then upgrades the ship the flotilla uses after a set time (to represent time spent building the new ship).

Thanks for the explanation :) I'm not sure about that approach to shipbuilding - old style ships were often kept around (particularly one 'gen' below the previous) and often used in conflicts (steam and sail ships of the line fought (shore bombarded) together in the Crimean War, for example). It'd be even more concerning if the ships were unavailable during the upgrade period, which Wiz suggested they might be (his post wasn't entirely clear, so I could be off there).

But, in terms of your description, this would mean you could change the flotilla to with (or without) escorts, and then the yard would chug away for a bit and the flotilla would change. As @Blastaz says, it sounds pretty micro-intensive, and pretty unintuitive as well, but we should withhold judgement until we know more.

A bit odd we just don't build ships, and deploy them (seems by far the most intuitive way to do things), and maybe have the total yard capacity put an upward limit on how many ships we can maintain (although given budgets are in the game, one would think a "Navy Vote" would be the simplest, most historically plausible and most sensible way to set an upper limit on what can be built/maintained). Either way, we'll see, and I'm sure it'll be possible to have a fun game out of it, and given the lack of historical plausibility to Vicky 2's naval game, even something like this (navies always-on, monitors as raiders and trade protection, ships somehow permanently connected to the yards that built them, amongst other things) is a big step up for the series.
 

Antediluvian Monster

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Thanks for the explanation :) I'm not sure about that approach to shipbuilding - old style ships were often kept around (particularly one 'gen' below the previous) and often used in conflicts (steam and sail ships of the line fought (shore bombarded) together in the Crimean War, for example). It'd be even more concerning if the ships were unavailable during the upgrade period, which Wiz suggested they might be (his post wasn't entirely clear, so I could be off there).

But, in terms of your description, this would mean you could change the flotilla to with (or without) escorts, and then the yard would chug away for a bit and the flotilla would change. As @Blastaz says, it sounds pretty micro-intensive, and pretty unintuitive as well, but we should withhold judgement until we know more.

A bit odd we just don't build ships, and deploy them (seems by far the most intuitive way to do things), and maybe have the total yard capacity put an upward limit on how many ships we can maintain (although given budgets are in the game, one would think a "Navy Vote" would be the simplest, most historically plausible and most sensible way to set an upper limit on what can be built/maintained). Either way, we'll see, and I'm sure it'll be possible to have a fun game out of it, and given the lack of historical plausibility to Vicky 2's naval game, even something like this (navies always-on, monitors as raiders and trade protection, ships somehow permanently connected to the yards that built them, amongst other things) is a big step up for the series.

I suspect the reason we don't just build ships is because buildings and their production methods are the way in which the game, per it's grander design, employs population (and pays their wages!) and consumes resources, and in this case makes the government pay for those wages and resources which is then the source of naval upkeep. Even if there was some kind of upper limit to how many ships you can keep in a fleet, making it so that we simply build ships would mean introducing a new supplementary systems for navy manpower and the wages for that manpower (because the pops need a source of living too) as well as goods demand and costs just for the sake of simply building a ship, in which case it wouldn't be that simple anymore.

As far as micro is concerned, changing production methods in large numbers of buildings (military or otherwise) is probably going a central part of the gameplay loop in Victoria 3 so I'd hope we'll get flexible set of batch commands.

I don't think I have any great alternative to offer, but here's an earlier post of mine before this DD. It's not "just building a ship", but rather "also building a ship":

What exactly are the options for naval construction in light of what we currently know (i.e. tied to production methods)?

Either you have some kind of establishment that employs people and consumes shipbuilding materials (e.g. steamer convoys of previous games) and artillery etc. that then furnishes a ship as military unit (probably with a delay of some sort to represent time spent building a ship), or there is an intervening naval yard building that produces a ship first from the shipbuilding materials and pools it somewhere and then that pooled ship is taken by some kind of shore establishment or naval base building (to represent manpower and upkeep) to furnish an actual military unit on the sea. In essence, naval vessels would be an off map stockipilable non-market good.

To me the second method would feel more natural even if it didn't also allow for construction and sale of ships to other countries. Pushing new ships into service and pushing old ones to colonial station, reserve fleet or mothball could be automated process.
 
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CharlieFox

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I hope that the ship building system, whatever it might be, is able to model a limited shipyard capacity (i.e there is a limit in how many warships you can build in parallel based on your naval industry) and realistic ship construction times. What I mean is that no matter how much you spend buying artillery and steamers you should not be able to build 20 dreadnoughts in 6 months
 
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Axe99

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One other thing that comes to mind about the "flotilla-based" production system is that there's also a risk in terms of the number of capital ships. 40 ships of the line would (as we understand it) be 40 flotillas, but it's a lot cheaper to maintain and requires a lot less manpower than 40 N3 battleships, for example. I don't think it's insurmountable within the current design, but it could lead to some Vicky-2 like oversized battlefleets later in the game.

I don't think I have any great alternative to offer, but here's an earlier post of mine before this DD. It's not "just building a ship", but rather "also building a ship":

Thanks for sharing that post :) I'm afraid I can't reliably keep up with anything beyond DDs (particularly given I like other PDX games as well) - it's a good post :)

I suspect the reason we don't just build ships is because buildings and their production methods are the way in which the game, per it's grander design, employs population (and pays their wages!) and consumes resources, and in this case makes the government pay for those wages and resources which is then the source of naval upkeep.

The thing I'm most concerned about (which could still be accommodated within this system) is Wiz suggesting that flotillas would be unavailable while "upgrading" (I'm slowly getting better at not reacting to the somewhat historically implausible terminology). The approach implied by Wiz's comments suggests large strategic distortions that could create gameplay-changing situations (ie, lets attack while their fleet is upgrading and largely unavailable). If they are linked to factories, hopefully it'll be timer-based (works for X months, then the flotilla switches over automatically). No navy during the period, that I'm aware of, decommissioned their current line of battle while the new one was building (indeed, both Britain and France had sailing ships of the line serving concurrently with Warrior and Gloire).

I hope that the ship building system, whatever it might be, is able to model a limited shipyard capacity (i.e there is a limit in how many warships you can build in parallel based on your naval industry) and realistic ship construction times. What I mean is that no matter how much you spend buying artillery and steamers you should not be able to build 20 dreadnoughts in 6 months

This is also a good point - if flotillas are all supported by a port already, then once the technology is developed, there's a risk that the gameplay model will be "all change at once" I don't think shipbuilding times will be unrealistic, but there is a risk in the current design that 20 pre-dreadnoughts will switch to 20 dreadnoughts after two years (or however long it takes) for the shift - and that's also well worth avoiding.
 
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Balesir

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Coming late to this thread, so sorry if I missed an answer, but I have a few questions:

You mention that a blockade order is planned - I agree that this is very important, but I wonder if a version of it (and convoy "raiding") could be allowed if at peace? It was relatively common to interdict goods with warships by intercepting, flagging down, boarding and (if necessary) confiscating goods. I suggest that this might be represented by having the blockade reduce the efficiency of the particular route, but not affecting overall convoy efficiency (as no ships are being actually sunk). The recovery from such "interdiction" might also be quicker, maybe.

Their Orders do not conflict, so no battle will transpire. Similarly, if all Generals on a Front are set to Defend that Front, no battles will break out. This is totally legit, since either side might be choosing these Orders because they know they have the inferior force and just want to ensure they do as much damage as possible without risking their men in an attack.
It would be very nice to see orders that allow a slightly more "active" defence - a "forceful reconnaissance" for example. This might possibly be done as part of a submissive/cautious/bold/aggressive scale for all orders, maybe, affecting the chances of battle in combination with the opponent's stance? "Aggressive defence" would accept (and cause) a level of "attrition" (representing skirmishing and small engagements) in return for intelligence on the enemy's real strength and intentions?

It's focused around a capital ship with escorts and support vessels, yes. With respect to smaller vessels like monitors which would have multiples to a group, the Flotilla is considered to be named after one of them. Like Battalions, Flotillas are scaled to represent the combined force of 1000 Servicemen and Officers.
Would there be flotillas entirely of smaller ships as well? Trade protection in less dangerous areas, for example, would often be done just with light ships, and men-o-war/battleships were seldom used for this at all.
 
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