HoI4's anti-naval bias and what does it mean

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Dimmie_Dumm

Major
Feb 10, 2017
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This post intends to get things straight in concise and non-inflammatory manner. Any emotional evaluations are stamped out and the reader is rather encouraged to come up with conclusions of his own.

While any phenomenon of such complexity is best examined and explained through its various manifestations, which cause this analysis to be split into categories, it is only the aggregation of them that forms the anti-naval bias as such.

In this report, we will follow the whole cycle of how HoI4 ships come into existence, are put to use and make an impact on war.

Table of contents

[1] Research and Construction
[2] Naval OOBs and Historical figures
[3] Production
[4] Deployment
[5] UI
[6] Upgrades and Repairs
[7] Application Methods
[8] Responsiveness
[9] Submarines: expectations vs HoI4's reality
[10] Navy vs. Land/Air unit interactions
[11] Navy vs. Infrastructure interactions
[12] Impact on Global Economy
[13] Casualties
[14] Impact on War Participation score


[1] Research and Construction

In two years of ingame time, capital ships designed right now will have entered service. That pace might seem plausible compared to history, but in that real history nobody expected it to come to its full conclusion in 6, 8 or 12 years tops, which is what HoI4 is all about. In fact, historically it was not uncommon for capital ships to remain in commission for 30 years: with construction time of 2 years, that makes construction to service ratio of 1:15. In HoI4, we're suggested to accept ratios as poor as 1:2 or even 1:1 for late-game shipbuilding (provided one completes a ship in 1944 and plays till 1946).

This issue is amplified by the fact that in contradistinction to actual history HoI4 ships never allow any design changes throughout construction period. In a game of rapid tech progression, one commits to a design bound to get outdated halfway through and then spends yet more time and capacity refitting. Or even just plugging empty slots; say, with a radar - which for some reason would become 6 times as expensive once the ship leaves the dock.

Even vital components were not as rigid as HoI4 at times implies. Historically, with diesel powered vessels, the engines and their bedding were installed very early in the construction of the hull. The hull had to be virtually built around the diesels and they essentially became a part of the hull itself. In contrast, turbines and boilers could be installed much later after the hull was mostly complete. In HoI4, prohibitive refitting costs for engines and the fact they are set in stone from the get-go would make one think he builds diesels. (Curiously enough, the icons show exactly that while the localization text for e.g. cruisers hints they are all in fact turbines from I to IV, and as we know historically it were turbines and boilers to emerge atop)

We say of this because construction-to-service time ratio is crucial. Once the war starts, there are no arbitrary cut-off dates to split relevant and irrelevant timeframes, rather one generally wants to have as much firepower available as possible at any given day. Having your firepower come in smaller chunks is thus preferable to it coming in large ones. E.g. building a battleship ten times as expensive as a destroyer misses the opportunity of having had operating 1-5 DDs by the time the BB is only half-finished.

[various synthetic 'IC-normalized' naval tests to for instance compare battleships vs. destroyers we have seen so far do not take this into account and either assume DDs are built in parallel with 1 dockyard each, or are limited solely to pre-war construction with all the implications coming from that. This is not to belittle them, but to make a point that is often overlooked]

Historically - speaking of gunboats - battleships were the most cost-efficient designs of the era, which was the reason of the naval arms race and subsequent treaty limitations, and it was no different to what the world will have witnessed with Nuclear Arms decades later. No one limits non-efficient means of warfare.

Rather than acknowledge these issues explicitly to incentivize shipbuilding directly, HoI4 attempts to alleviate them by resorting to ad hoc injections of half-constructed capital ships into the queue via Focus Trees, and then bestows refitting buffs onto few selected nations to boot. The recently introduced option of seizing entire navies intact (along with crews) serves the same purpose, albeit we are unaware of any major naval power emerging this way historically.

Does modeling historical construction time coexist in HoI4 with historical incentives and historical production figures? And if we - for some reason - had to pick among those, what should have been the game design priorities?


[2] Naval OOBs and Historical figures

The table under the spoiler compares existing (1936) Dockyards and Navies and time to construct them under normalized Output modifiers (i.e. +35%).

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Germany is a notable exception as a WW1 loser deprived both of ships and rights to build them, but overall two points are clear: 1) these numbers are not far off from reality as world-class navies were indeed built for decades; 2) there's no excess in Dockyards number at the start, and given the historical WW2 naval production, HoI4 relies on naval industry build-up to match.

Germany in order to produce 1140 subs within 6 years it did historically should in the game have 100 Dockyards running at +100% worth of output modifiers. It's unrealistic to expect these numbers in 1939, and in practice the number of Dockyards one should eventually come up with will be even higher than that, particularly if the player also builds some surface ships and diverts Dockyards for repair and refitting tasks.

USA at some point produced basically a combat ship per day. Replicating that in the game requires (very roughly) 300 Dockyards. Are these countries encouraged to do that to build that many ships? If not, what might be the reasons?


[3] Production

Ships in HoI4 are produced at Naval Dockyards (further on Docks for brevity) exclusively, which means it's a shared slot building that otherwise could have [often] been a Military Factory (Mil). In fact, these two buildings have a comparable construction cost, are granted by Focus Trees roughly in equal numbers (per focus) and in order to operate consume Resources which are never unlimited. Resource consumption rate is similar and Resource types largely intersect between the two.

Thus we are entitled to compare Output values of both Docks and Mils directly.

Those base values are 2.5 for Docks and 4.5 for Mils. Unlike Docks, Mils run at varying efficiency which modifies their output (generally decreasing), but still given other factors such as actual tech progression and various positive modifiers it is not that unreasonable to establish Mils outproduce Docks by 2:1. On the other hand, assuming 1:1 parity would require us setting Mils to ~50% efficiency which is too low of a value for any large-scale production line meant to churn out crucial items such as tanks, planes or infantry kits. Finally, at this stage of HoI4 development we may witness the proliferation of modifiers boosting max efficiency above 100%. Therefore, we will stick to 2:1 ratio as the most accurate and simple to operate.

The 2:1 ratio means a ship produced for 4000 Industrial cost is a production equivalent for 8000 worth of stuff produced by Mils. To immediately put things into perspective, 4000 is a cost of a mediocre Cruiser and 8000 is a Railway Gun. The latter is alternatively 600 decent Medium Tanks or up to 800 cheaper ones.

Being presented with these options, the player has to decide whether his shipbuilding expansion would be worth the inevitable cuts in military factories and subsequent shortages of e.g. tanks in the proportion shown above.

It's worth saying that this Docks/Mils dichotomy HoI4 seems to suggest might have not been that pronounced historically. A lot of components ships consisted of were produced at various steel, armament or electronic factories and Dockyards were a place to construct the hull itself and assemble everything together. Under the late-war German U-boat construction programm (depicted in the game by a 10% cost reduction spirit) whole sections of submarines were produced at in-land factories which previously had no expertise in shipbuilding whatsoever and under HoI4 definitions could have never contributed to that process.

An important question to ask ourselves is this: provided we for a moment double the IC cost of HoI4 ships but produce them at Mils just as any other equipment to get the Dockyard bottleneck entirely eliminated (and convert Docks into Mils), what would be the Navies typically built in the game?

For now, we conclude this chapter with a small reminiscence. When trains were introduced into HoI4, Mils got this:
- Mil factory production output increased by roughly 5% to account for new supply requirements (trains, trucks et al)
When MtG came out and ship repairs from there on required diverting Docks from actual production, their output remained the same.


[4] Deployment

Unlike air wings or land divisions requiring equipment to be produced and optionally stockpiled to be deployed at will, naval entities are effectively on-map units from the get-go and are produced to be deployed instantly, provided there is enough Manpower at the final day. (If the latter is not the case, Docks will still be kept busy, Resources will be consumed and the UI will be silent about this until the player enters the Production tab and finds the exact entry himself).

Navy thus is the only armed forces branch where disbanding the unit completely eliminates the asset produced and returns bare manpower. Temporarily freeing up some manpower by mothballing old or non-crucial ships is never an option. The lack of one's control over his ships and crews is all the more inexplicable as HoI4 demands ships to have full manpower only at their service entry. Undermanned existing ships operate seemingly fine and the only penalty known to us is reduced hit chance while in combat.

As for HoI4 priorities, the game will rather allocate limited Manpower to Garrisons than deploy a ship - yes, even with Garrisons priority set to Low at Recruit & Deploy tab.

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Ships cannot be deployed unless fully finished. This disables any gradual design improvements (see [1]). This violates history the other way too: when the situation called for it, quite a few ships were reclassified during construction, and the battleship Jean Bart even left the docks incomplete to later be used in combat in a somewhat better but still not fully finished shape.

These deployment rules are set for the Navy in the game which allows unfurling any number of planes to get Trained pilots in 2 weeks and Regular ones in another month. Rookie ones can of course fly in just 48 hours, and that flying may already involve operations as complex as pin-pointing and striking ships moving in the open sea thousands of kilometers away.


[5] UI

Fleet icons with admiral portraits cannot be moved around freely the same way as armies and army groups.

There are no quick-access icons to see how a naval battle is progressing from the UI alone, all we have is the option of setting naval theatre priority to high to get a general Naval Combat icon at the bar on top, which doesn't differentiate between important naval battles with dozens of ships shooting each other and lesser ones such as convoy raiding or lopsided skirmishes. When a Decisive Battle begins, the player may well miss it being distracted by no less important events.


[6] Upgrades and Repairs

Navy is the only armed forces branch whose units are required to withdraw and return home in order to be repaired or upgraded. In stark contrast, land and air units may remain active and barely cease their operations, and any upgrades and repairs will be delivered to them by unspecified means. In poor Supply this may cause delays, but the deliveries themselves are not exposed to any logistical load, interception or destruction even when sent to a remote island - they come along with the same 'Supply' and at 0 cost if those supplying assets are lost. Damaged ships returning home are devoid of such conveniences; on the opposite, damaged ships within the same fleet are more likely to be targeted by planes than their full-strength counterparts.

Repairing at occupied ports will use tech and output modifiers of their owner, which are very likely to be below that of the player, so at times it's returning home literally.

HoI3 ships were upgraded 'by wire', much like HoI4's land or air units. It's unclear what gameplay benefits were achieved by switching exclusively naval units to a new system. It becomes a particularly legitimate question to ask since any ship sent for upgrades is put to the very bottom of the production queue (below 19th century rifles and IW garrison "tanks") and has to be dragged atop manually, provided one wants this ship back as soon as possible and there's even the slightest deficit in Resources or a slim chance it might arise.

Repairs removing Docks from Production often means that whatever Resources were imported to keep the Docks running may now overflow and effectively force Trade to be re-adjusted manually. Only the Navy requires constant Trade jiggling for things as trivial as Repairs.

Not only Navy is the only armed forces branch where Upgrading equipment costs more than producing one from scratch, it's also the only one where upgraded (i.e. replaced) component is simply tossed out rather than saved to be optionally reused elsewhere (to arm second-rate ships, create coastal forts or even simply be melt for metals, all of which happened historically).


[7] Application Methods

Aside from being hit by naval strikes and (hopefully) hitting the planes back (only one ship from the whole fleet shoots back), there are only two ways of utilizing ships: missions and putting fleets on hold at a selected sea tile.

(Aside from +5% War Support from having a Pride of the Fleet, keeping fleets on Hold is the only peace-time activity where HoI4 ships bring benefits. Every ship (a SHBB or a DD1 - no difference) on other nation's coast grants +1 increase in Trade Influence (base is 150). The modifier expires instantly when the fleet sails off or starts a mission. That's probably how the game reflects a historical concept of Gunboat Diplomacy.)

Generally, On Hold is used to either provide bombardment bonus or block straits, but in that case the fleet is unavailable for other natural tasks, such blocking supply shipment or engaging the enemy. For comparison, a land unit placed on a land tile at the same strait will physically deny the enemy both strategic redeployment and supply via this tile (trade may still pass as it checks for state control rather than province) and it will also engage enemy units trying to pass it. Divisions keep all their functionality available all the time and don't rely on any mutually exclusive missions to reap the benefits.

Even with a seemingly correct mission selected, Naval interactions are at times very unclear and it might be hard to tell why a particular task force has disengaged from the battle it should have just entered, or why at another occasion a task force is unwilling to join at all although the battle ostensibly happens at a known spot. Operating both land and air units is devoid of these hurdles.

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Planes do have missions, but these are non-exclusive and will simply be prioritized from left to right. And "Air superiority" one is particularly interesting to have a look at: it allows to engage enemy fighters, to engage enemy bombers, shoots down transport planes dropping both supply crates and paratroopers, and also provides a region-wide penalty for enemy land units both in and out of combat.

A fair Naval equivalent for the "Air superiority" mission of planes would have been doing the following: seek and engage enemy fleets, engage whatever convoys are spotted meanwhile, provide a bombardment to any ongoing coastal land battles and slow down enemy divisions moving along the shores.

For Navy, there is a constant choice between assigning a fleet to either convoy raiding, spotting or just staying alert as a strike force. There is no mission to follow the famous words "Sink, burn and destroy. Let nothing pass" - the HoI4 fleet either destroys or attempts to prevent passing. We say attempts as there's no functionality as simple as blockade. For some reason, Navy is tasked to search through an entire sea zone to pick off a convoy or two (also likely missing many more) while we want just the port X to be denied of shipment going in. And out: a fleet on Hold next to an encircled enemy port will of course allow trapped divisions to escape freely right between its fingers.


[8] Responsiveness

While in combat, HoI4 ships may disengage to end up in a grey box outside actual combat yet still unavailable for other tasks or battles. These ships will keep consuming fuel at the max rate. Their course of sailing is hard to explain in any other term than circulation: once the combat is resolved, their on-map position will remain exactly the same and allow consequential engagements to happen immediately right at the same tile or next to it. This gets the entire Royal Navy wiped out in a matter of days through surface action alone and obviously even quicker if we were to resort to air strikes and minelaying.

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As for the grey box, the game provides neither a name nor explanation for it and we may call it limbo.

This limbo is a particularly interesting concept to study when coupled with the way HoI4 renders submarine warfare overall and submarine performance in particular.

It is not uncommon to see dozens of ships on either side (or on both) waiting out for some subs to finally retreat. This inexplicable magnet effect of submarines managing to pin down entire fleets leads to all sorts of issues with naval warfare. In particular, battles taking so long to resolve may effectively merge and eventually drag in participants who are neutral to each other and yet end up exchanging shots with actual casualties among both ship crews and troops on intercepted convoys.

Another feat is the spam of fake attacks of an already repulsed naval invasion going on because the convoy transporting the invaders is engaged in a battle with subs. Those under fake attacks are pinned down too: so it's the surface navy and both the offending and defending units all stuck until a submarine retreats.

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The time it might take is out of one's control or even prediction. Once engaged, a fleet neither can bail out nor brute force its way to victory to be redirected the way say an armor division can. A battle with some ships already in limbo may be further reinforced by yet more ships and subs, and those ostensibly having had disengaged long time ago will never re-enter it no matter what. The Navy is the only armed forces branch experiencing constraints like this.

Submarines having so highly unrealistic stats are not the prime reason for this (the reason is the design itself), but they contribute a lot and thus deserve a chapter of their own.


[9] Submarines: expectations vs HoI4's reality

We believe that a lot of issues with naval warfare stems from the fact that HoI4 has been seemingly intended as a WW2 game with Germany put in the driver's seat. Various boosts economically elevating it well above its historical position imply just that. And since Germany was conducting its naval war mainly through subs (a poor man's virtue out of necessity), this aspect has been elevated as well by e.g. granting subs a stopping power that only the surface fleet could have.

WW2 subs were largely a defensive tool and in certain sense not much different to mines. (Thankfully, HoI4 models mines in a rather abstract way and spares both players and analysts many headaches. We wonder what could have been wrong with doing the same with submarines other than the considerations above).

There are some purely technical matters that are hard to be swept under the rug.

First of all, subs were slow. What HoI4 believes to be 18 knots (1936 tech) was in fact the surfaced speed (Type VIIC). Submerged was around 8. So subs either lost contact quickly or were seen, reported and shot at. They could of course lurk behind some really slow convoys (which sailed at the speed of its slowest steamer), but other than that sheer ambush and luck were the tools. HoI4 pins the targeted surface fleet down instead and makes us believe there are equal parties fighting. Late-war Type XXI was obviously far better in underwater performance, but still not nearly good enough to justify the way HoI4 subs are rendered, and they saw practically no real service anyway.

The second reason is battery capacity, which only allowed for a very limited underwater movement. At max speed they'd typically run out in just an hour or less (90 minutes for Type XXI). The faster the sub went, the easier it was for the enemy to detect due to noise of engines and reduction gears. So they literally creeped. Once the battery ran out, the sub had to either surface or stop. HoI4 allows subs to have their best performance for a virtually unlimited time and to combine the best of both worlds - a high surface speed with a stealth mode.

The third one is structural strength and the difficulties of the underwater damage control. Submarines were fragile, and once surfaced and spotted they could be threatened by being simply rammed by even the smallest ship HoI4 has (DD), let alone bigger ones. None other than the famous Dreadnought (a battleship in HoI4 terms) sunk a U-boat this way. Even non-fatal injuries (or for that matter non-combat reasons) could force the submarine to surface where it could be subsequently hit by just about anything and would rather surrender. HoI4 doesn't portray these vulnerabilities in any way, submarines are never hit by naval guns and short of having depth charges surface ships are rendered helpless. Only DD hulls have a minimal built-in damage (1) against subs.

The fourth reason is detection. The optical one was naturally poor because of low position. Radars were either absent or - when/if entering service - could have been mounted on surface ships just as well (and in fact large surface ships benefitted more since the radar too works best when raised above the water). HoI4 subs have detection equal to that of cruisers and battleships. They surpass them with the help of doctrines. The size of radars is the same and affects ships equally (battleships just pay more because of engine and armor cost modifiers). Neither of that has any real basis.

It takes as little as 4 (four) subs split into 4 task forces to cover the Atlantic from Greenland all the way down to Africa and raid with 100% efficiency. The more the better, but this bare minimum works already coverage wise.

Once in the ocean, all HoI4 ships have unlimited supply and ammo and technically may never return home. Subs however benefit by far the most due to a number of reasons.

Short of transporting US president Harry Truman, German subs in HoI4 can do anything their real counterparts could - just better and with a far fewer numbers. The same cannot be said of the surface navy as a lot of its functionality is unilaterally missed.


[10] Navy vs. Land/Air unit interactions

Against land units, naval ones interact by either imposing a shore bombardment penalty (when friendly land units allow for it by fighting) or by attempting to sink the convoys the land unit travels at.

To get shore bombardment up to -10%, heavy attack of 100 is required and although the exact cost of that ship is vague (and depends on tech/admirals/advisors one applies on top), we may be sure it hardly ever goes below 10k of naval IC (meaning 20k IC as per [3]). For 20k, one builds a railway gun (which is better at providing bombardment for several reasons) and leaves 12k IC for tanks. While shore bombardment may go up to its -25% cap, that requires quite a lot of naval power and the effect is split between the eligible land battles (and will disappear if the fleet joins a naval battle). For the cost of one railway gun, the player can build a 4k cruiser with maybe 40 heavy attack (after modifiers), meaning a -4% bonus. That's the top estimate, and fully functional mid-game ships are likely to provide even less.

So maybe ships are good at sinking divisions at sea? While intercepted, unless the land unit takes exactly one convoy, it wouldn't be destroyed when all its convoys are sunk. Once the battle is over, the land unit will receive new convoys mid-way to keep travelling until further naval battles may eventually bring it to 0% strength and finally cause its dissolution. Land units experiencing sinking at the sea have strength damage applied to them with each convoy sunk individually rather than summed up and applied afterwards, and multiplying 1 by say 0.75 4 times is apparently not the same as multiplying 1 by 0.

This of course results in land units having many second chances against the navy and eventually sneaking into the port to be reinforced to full strength via supply. As mentioned earlier, if intercepted and sunk, these subsequent supply-based reinforcements will not cause any further manpower or equipment losses.

Active interactions against Air units are not provided. An island-based airwing is not affected by a hostile surface fleet nearby and keeps operating all the same. This wing itself can keep striking the fleet. At naval battles, when a carrier is sunk its airplanes will be evacuated to a closest airfield rather than destroyed (even if out of range, as range is never an issue for rebasing wings). For the reference, historically reinforcements for Malta included 19 costly and dangerous aircraft carrier ferry operations to deliver fighters.

Passive interactions against Air units are allowed only at naval strikes and naval battles. When a fleet supports a naval invasion (or protects against it On Hold) and a land battle emerges at the shore, enemy bombers may arrive and hit friendly divisions, which will shoot back with their divisional AA. State AA if present will shoot too (provided that the side being bombed has a share of the state control). The fleet at the shore will not contribute with its AA, as it is not bombed.

When a land unit is not engaged in battle, it cannot be hit by planes. Naval units may be hit regardless.


[11] Navy vs. Infrastructure interactions

Interactions against neither cities nor installations are provided for the Navy.

With the recent DLC, given proper doctrines are unlocked, marine divisions will cause 1 level of damage to all strategic state buildings after any successful naval invasion; paratroopers will cause damage to Military and Civilian factories and Infrastructure upon landing.

We're unsure to which extent these capabilities are supported by historical evidence. For all we know, both marines and paratroopers carried little compared to what a contemporary 380mm or 410mm high-explosive shell could provide in terms of destructive power. As early as in 1807, high enough concentration of naval force allowed the British to set Copenhagen on fire and force the Danes into submission in a matter of 3 days.

Since then, the appearence of naval mines, cheap torpedo boats and relatively expandable coastal submarines (not batteries) probably discouraged these activities to a large extent. That said, both World Wars featured a few notable episodes.

December 1914. Imperial German Navy attacks British ports of Scarborough, Hartlepool and Whitby. The bombardments cause minor damage but result in public outrage in Britain against the Royal Navy for failing to prevent them.

February 1941. Operation Grog. Naval and air bombardment of Genoa and La Spezia by a handful of British ships cause minor direct damage (several cargo ships destroyed in harbor etc.), but shows inability of Italy to protect its own coastal cities and dissuades Spain from joining the Axis.

July–August 1945. Allied warships conduct a series of bombardments against industrial and military facilities in Japan. Heavy damage to several of the targeted factories, disruption of varying degree and reduced morale among the population.


[12] Impact on Global Economy

Historically Navy emerged as a necessity to support sprawling empires and keep them welded. While HoI4 requires overseas trade to be shipped by convoys, Industrial output from Civs/Mils/Docks simply teleports right to the capital (we of course can't pretend it's all used locally, otherwise the same should apply to Resources) and cannot be targeted or blockaded by the Navy. British Empire with its fleet forced to stay at bay (or eradicated, for that matter) is as stable and integral as ever before.

Conversely, projecting one's Civs to build up overseas holdings (or help out ally members) is never in danger.

And those have been just the existing mechanics touched upon. We of course should make a point that in WW2 era even smaller countries were largely interdependant on international trade and other similar ties, all maintained by having a free access to the sea as the main transportation means.

HoI4 omitted these concepts from day one, and all these shortcomings deprive Navy of its first and foremost role while providing nothing in return.


[13] Casualties

Manpower lost by ships in naval battles (or under naval strikes) is not accounted for at the war screen which now sums up almost any other casualties caused by the enemy directly (another exception we know are paratroopers lost in the air). To pre-empt claims of this being immaterial: the game is accurate enough to add 2 men to the death toll per each airplane, so why exclude sailors? Besides, HoI4 already tracks this manpower to some extent (as per 00_defines).

The casualty rate that service manpower on ships endures is the highest in the game among all 3 armed force branches. A submarine serviced in HoI4 by 200 men will typically return back to the manpower pool some 20 - 60 upon its sinking. Surface ships don't fare much better. The exact mechanics was presented here in full details (unchanged since then) and we have no need to harp on it. It's plausible that a ship is 'serviced' by several times as many people as were historically present on board (i.e. some 50 for subs or 2-3000 for battleships) - why so many die, though? For planes, small airframes are serviced by 20 and just 2 are dead when the plane is downed, meaning the game admits that service manpower is not the same as crew.


[14] Impact on War Participation score

War score gained for every IC of a sunk ship is 20 times as low as score gained for every IC of a destroyed airplane. With 2:1 ratio (see [3]), this means investing into the Navy, committing it to all sorts of risks and sinking the enemy is 40 times less rewarding than doing similar things in the Air.

Sinking convoys along with strategic bombing is the only war-time activity which impact on war score is measured by comparing destroyed against produced or repaired (meaning the score might go down over time), and with values set so low these actions net 1/100...1000 of what the same (naval-minded) nation scores on land or in the air combat. Playing a purely naval game will likely drop that participant below the 5% threshold and leave him without any war score at the peace conference.

Destroying enemy divisions at sea is not rewarded at all score wise (treated as sinking bare convoys). The player is encouraged to set up artificial traps, let the enemy come and destroy him in port rather than sink with his Navy.


Consclusion

HoI4 is indecisive whether it prefers realism (within its own limited simulations and rule sets) or better gameplay. When it comes to the Navy, realism-based limitations seemingly prevail. Realism-based incentives are either downplayed or removed outright. The other two military branches operate under what we'd call gameplay primacy doctrine and arguably have most of their historical upsides intact. Arbitrary obstacles and incoherent game mechanics seem to be affecting the navy by far the most. Ultimately, this split forms the very foundations of the anti-naval bias.

A superior manager once told us that any analytical paper that doesn't contain immediate suggestions is next to useless. We reserve ourselves a liberty to put up a few in the upcoming post.

Hopefully, this one has already been helpful and substantiated our initial claim.

edit: fixing grammar and adding table of contents
 
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This post intends to get things straight in concise and non-inflammatory manner.
You fell short of the first spectacularly.

As for the second, having a title of "anti-naval bias" is inherently inflammatory and implies the development was done with a philosophy of being against naval warfare, whereas your lengthy post boils down to a range of issues which you feel are insufficiently modelling the real world and history (some of which I agree with you on). But this is by no means evidence of an anti-naval bias, you just disagree with the (over-)simplification / abstraction of various mechanics.

You offer no solutions and nothing to really engage with, other than a title so poorly worded I'm tempted to call it a troll post, followed by a word salad of "I don't like how X is done in HOI4).

I suggest you edit it and focus on a single issue that we can discuss, for example how the submarine game might benefit better from more realistic submerged speeds, zone coverage from subs, damage mechanics.
 
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You fell short of the first spectacularly.

As for the second, having a title of "anti-naval bias" is inherently inflammatory and implies the development was done with a philosophy of being against naval warfare, whereas your lengthy post boils down to a range of issues which you feel are insufficiently modelling the real world and history (some of which I agree with you on). But this is by no means evidence of an anti-naval bias, you just disagree with the (over-)simplification / abstraction of various mechanics.

You offer no solutions and nothing to really engage with, other than a title so poorly worded I'm tempted to call it a troll post, followed by a word salad of "I don't like how X is done in HOI4).

I suggest you edit it and focus on a single issue that we can discuss, for example how the submarine game might benefit better from more realistic submerged speeds, zone coverage from subs, damage mechanics.

While I sympathize with the spirit of this, I would strongly-disagree that OP's post qualifies as a "troll post" (too much research on too many actual issues exist for it to simply be baiting controversy; these are largely observable problems, some of which have existed since launch). Additionally, "anti-naval bias" is difficult to really argue with given the game emphasizes land combat in almost every patch, and rarely addresses core elements of naval warfare (mostly focusing on the order of battle and design, not actual mechanics).

While half the points don't have solutions yet (quite a few are self-evident, such as "not representing warscore for maritime casualties" or naval IC being half of land IC), the OP also mentions at the end he intends to answer some of these after the post. Obviously that doesn't address the "concise" bit, but "word salad" is a bit insulting for points that include both real-world examples and numerous in-game ones. Skipping the context results in the exact problem that the game development has constantly fallen for: addressing one core "problem" that fails to address the underlying mess of overlapping issues, or may even exacerbate other issues (such as fleets constantly fleeing battles being replaced by fleets being annihilated in absurd meatgrinders that almost never happened in reality, let alone on that scale).

In other words, the post is research context (game and reality) for whatever discussion comes next.

To address one of the points raised (and end on a constructive example): submarine mechanics are spelled out effectively, and I can more easily derive my own ideas with the OP's framework (subs lock fleets into battle for too long despite not really participating in reality; solution is to use them in hit-and-run attacks, and add organization to subs which diminishes after each raid and is based on a combination of hull size, doctrine, and the number of torpedo launchers since larger boats can raid longer with more ammo).
TL;DR: Subs should raid akin to aircraft and lose org from using torpedoes or taking damage, and recover based on local supply from ports combined with doctrine. Subs should not participate in fleet battles at all, except briefly if caught out by destroyers. Addressing both this and a separate issue, fleets should leave battles when disengaged, allowing ASW patrols to not suck entire battlefleets into hunting 3 submarines.
 
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While any phenomenon of such complexity is best examined and explained through its various manifestations and hence this analysis is split into categories, it is only the aggregation of them that forms the anti-naval bias as such.

"Since this is a complex topic, I've split it into different categories. But these issues should be looked at as a whole"

Writing things in as "pedantic and obtuse" a manner as possible is not impressive. Taking a complex topic and writing it in an approachable and easy to understand fashion indicates a lot more intelligence.

Edit your post if you want good faith engagement.
 
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"Since this is a complex topic, I've split it into different categories. But these issues should be looked at as a whole"

Writing things in as "pedantic and obtuse" a manner as possible is not impressive. Taking a complex topic and writing it in an approachable and easy to understand fashion indicates a lot more intelligence.

Edit your post if you want good faith engagement.
My intentions is not to be rude here but, I feel you're clearly not engaging in good faith either way here.
The op could easily have gotten excited and passionate about a topic they care greatly for, I know that it can be a pain to be concise at times. But you dismissing a detailed post as "pedantic" doesn't sound like you're actually engaging with the topic brought up (the disparity between output in navy between real world and the game) to instead jump on a "if you don't do things the way I prefer them, clearly you're not engaging in good faith".

This is shown
Edit your post if you want good faith engagement.
You could easily have written "this is a very long post and I'd appreciate a summary before committing time to engage with the thread, could you possibly make that" to op or something along those lines, or just not engaged. Instead you seem to have felt a need here to talk down on them.


I myself do agree with the post in the sense of that I believe there are many flaws with the current naval system.
To get shore bombardment up to -10%, heavy attack of 100 is required and although the exact cost of that ship is vague (and depends on tech/admirals/advisors one applies on top), we may be sure it hardly ever goes below 10k of naval IC (meaning 20k IC as per [3]). For 20k, one build a railway gun (which is better in providing bombardment for several reasons) and leaves 12k IC for tanks. While shore bombardment may go up to its -25% cap, that requires quite a lot of naval power and the effect is split between the eligible land battles (and will dissapear if the fleet joins a naval battle). For the cost of one railway gun, the player can build a 4k cruiser with maybe 40 heavy attack (after modifiers), meaning a -4% bonus. That's the top estimate, and fully functional mid-game ships are likely to provide even less.
For example this, it shows a usual trap that Paradox happens to fall in a lot. It is generally cheaper or easier to just make more land units to secure your victory. Only exception I find is Stellaris which has opposite problem.

This has to do with that it is generally easier and more flexible to make another mil than a dockyard. A mil can make tanks, rifles, railway guns or planes (transport, fighter or other) without much issue. Meanwhile if you make a dockyard you either make ships OR you make convoys (with a thing for naval invasions). But there are more situations in game you get use of a single mil than a single dockyard, no matter if you're a landlocked nation or if you're something like japan. Expanding your army is necessary to win the war, expanding your navy is not.
I do believe that he makes a good point in that there ought to be some incentive to try and build at least a mini-navy for some duties but I myself cannot think of one right now (possibly expand on the gunboat diplomacy mentioned below).

(Aside from +5% War Support from having a Pride of the Fleet, keeping fleets on Hold is the only peace-time activity where HoI4 ships bring benefits. Every ship (a SHBB or a DD1 - no difference) on other nation's coast grants +1 increase in Trade Influence (base is 150). The modifier expires instantly when the fleet sails off or starts a mission. That's probably how the game reflects a historical concept of Gunboat Diplomacy.)
 
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Potential solution for point 12: with AAT, we did get an abstraction for transferring CIV power from countries selling goods, and I think (please correct me if I'm wrong) they can be intercepted. Applying that system to overseas CIVs (or possibly even to constructions on overseas projects) might help
 
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Thank you for this very detailed presentation of the topic. It's instructive.
I would add another point on the subject: the range and speed of large ships are largely underestimated, which lead to some real operation not being possible (for instance, the battle of the river plate)

I can think of three simple modifications that could improve naval warfare : an overall of shore bombardements, a better interception of convoys by surface fleets, and mechanic to force subs to regularly go back to their home port.
 
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Let me be blunt here: I've rarely seen posts as detailed and filled with food for thought as this one. Precisely because of that I'm dismayed by the reception in the following posts.
I'd say we have to encourage more posts like that, there are multiple things and perspectives in the OP that I've never considered before, and, albeit I might not agree with everything, there might be some good lessons to be learned here. In the very least it has the potential to kickstart some great conversations about the state of the game and how things can improve, if only people don't get too defensive about it.
 
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Dockyards used to not be effected by eco consctrunction malus so you could build like a hundred as USA before giant wakes. Now the meta is to build zero as any serious major and if you do it's considered larping for all the reasons outlined above. I'd love to see them get merged with mils.
 
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For the longest time, I've held a further issue, one that has been touched on at various points, but never properly got it's own analysis: naval investment is only usable once

Once the opposing fleet is gone (Which due to several issues mentioned throughout happens rather quickly) ships are practically useless. 7, 10, 11, and 12 all highlight the point that all a fleet does in HoI4 is sink other ships. And once those ships have been sunk, all the investment into naval dockyards and ships no longer has a purpose

The solution I've always held is to add an additional mission specifically for shore operations. One that has a fleet go through and automatically support battles, automatically deploy carrier planes to land zones, and attack infrastructure as it passes. Your suggestion that using the same mechanic that Marines were given might be reused is a good one

This also helps another issue that your analysis missed due to it being an AI issue rather than a capability one: the AI won't sortie ships out unless an enemy fleet has already been spotted, meaning it relies on patrolling fleets, and once all patrolling fleets are gone ships will sit in dock preventing invasions without ever leaving port. In the Pacific at least, at least 4 of the 5 of the major battles (counting Guadalcanal and Leyte as one big one for convenience sake) (the 5th is Philippines Sea which I can never remember the start of) happened because one fleet was running a shore operation, and the other moved to stop them. Having this operation would both get the AI to move fleets out of port even if they don't have patrols, or would allow the AI to know where your fleet is without patrols, getting them to actually sortie
 
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yeah now that we have invasion support that should be the requirement and the preparation should tick down only while the mission is up. so often i've capped ai uk and japan without their navy ever leaving port
 
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I don't have anything to add; good post, OP
I really wish we could just have EU4 style navies and binary blockades. Blockaded = no sailing into or out of a port without a guaranteed straight-into-naval-battle.
I know they don't want EU4 navies because 'hurr durr you just doomstack in that game'. But does the HOI4 naval model really discourage doomstacking?
 
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An excellent writeup- I find myself agreeing with all of your points. The Navy needs more love- while we all enjoy our tank encirclements and the grand battle that is Germany vs Soviets, so much of the game, and the history of WW2 was determined by the Navy that it is a little sad how ineffiecient navies are- I love your suggestion for a Naval Superiority mission akin to the all encompassing Air Superiority mission. As you quoted- "Sink, burn and destroy. Let nothing pass"

I'd like to summarise your writeup with a priority list of things that I think anyone agreeing with this writeup would like to see Paradox introduce to HOI4.

High Priority
-
Ships in construction should be able to change template mid construction to fill empty slots. Having to wait for your battleship to be produced and then have to immediately refit it to add your new radar tech is tiresome. Changing already filled slots should not add too much extra time to ship production, although I'd be fine with engines still being expensive refits for most big ships
-Navy needs 2 new naval missions. 1. A Naval Superiority mission that acts similar to Air superiority- enemy fleets will be automatically searched for and engaged(with the appropriate engagement levels set-for example Always Engage on your main battlefleet), convoys will be escorted if no enemy ships have been spotted. 2. Blockade. Although convoy escort efficiency already emulates this, as you mentioned in your post, kind of weird for enemy divisions to slip out of ports that you have your navy right next to if you don't have those ships on convoy raiding.

Medium Priority
-Dockyard overhaul to bring dockyard IC more in line with progressing military factory IC which is affected by several bonus factors rather then just raw output% and resource efficiency. I'd personally like to see Scaling dockyard production- First off increase Dockyard IC to be in line with mills. The first dockyard assigned to a ship outputs at 100%. The next dockyard added to that ship outputs at a lower %(i don't know what, 90%? then the next 80% and so on? this would need balancing), and gradually and so on until you've reached the maximum dockyards allowed to a ship. Convoy and Floating harbors are an exception.
-General Naval combat overhaul. As you say, weird that once a ship disengages from a naval battle it can't rejoin and is instead held in purgatory until the battle is finally over- not something that happens with the army which can disengage, reorg, then reengage. Your writeup covers alot about submarine battles and fleet battles and you didn't even touch on the role of carriers in battle which I think most of us would agree need tuning. In Singleplayer, you can just wipe enemy full fleets with your own carrier-less fleets just thanks to hard hitting battleships and hard hitting light cruisers (although I think this has more to do with the fact that AI doesn't refit ships)
-War participation overhaul. Navy needs an increase, destroyed planes need a decrease.

Low Priority
-Ships should be able to be deployed without being fully finished. This incurs penalties ofc but can still be done.
-Improve trade system to make having a fleet more important instead of magically teleporting rubber from Siam halfway across the world no hassle the same as buying steel from your next door neighbour


Also to contribute my own idea to your writeup- you touched briefly on what destroying ships do when it comes to manpower, but why isn't there some sort of mechanic for scrapping outdated big ships? It was done to save resources for other ships or other uses. And not even just sea ships- the Germans dismantled all their Zeppelins for the scrap!
 
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HoI4 is indecisive whether it prefers realism (within its own limited simulations and rule sets) or better gameplay.
This. And this has been the issue from the very start. It attempts to please 2 different playerbases.
 
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