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

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All I want is a total revisit of naval combat*. All the rest of the stuff is just icing on the cake.

* The way naval combat is currently modeled is trash.
i don't know, having a reason to *want* to win the naval war beyond "i'm allowed to naval invade" would go a long way to encourage players to play the naval game rather than ignore it unless absolutely forced not to do so.
 
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Abolishing the anti-naval bias: supremacy reworked, incentives created

Compared to the review report, this post probably eventually develops into a series of smaller notes aimed to address the underlying issues in greater detail and suggest practical solutions, which will keep these maritime discussions coherent yet palatable enough for the general (pun intended) audience.

For convenience, the theme subdivision adopted in the OP is carried on, and whenever [number] is seen in the text it refers to the same point(s) for elaborative or historical reasons.

So, without further ado. Making the naval game great again for the first time.

How could we possibly start?
We start by creating reasons to: have a navy; make it powerful enough; prevent enemy from operating one next to us. Ideally, a new system will also encompass [some] existing game mechanics and add cohesion where it was previously missed.

As vaguely hinted in [7, 12], the Naval game may provide economical benefits for those with ships deployed. We might start locally and envisage a system which allows a nation to assign a number of Convoys for each of their coastal states to receive a local modifier with benefits akin to these: Construction Speed, Local Resources, Monthly Population Growth etc. Whatever fits! These Convoys (encompassing any non-military vessels such as barges, fishing boats etc.) will become a target at war, leaving the player with options of ceasing the coastal shipment or protecting it.

Coastal waters could be reworked created to allow a concept of "unacceptable damage". Means of inflicting this damage might include mines, probably torpedo boats and special coastal subs (not modelled in HoI4 as of now) and will generally suggest having a small navy not really up to a task of contesting the High Seas, but good enough to make the opponent think twice before going all in (for the purpose of e.g. utilizing new and reworked Supremacy, which we'll cover further below).

(Quite the same thing already exists for the Land and in part for the Air Warfare: terrain, entrenchment and other factors (such as infantry stats) favour defense over offense, and any attacker has to commit disproportional amount of force to succeed lest the battle turns into a meatgrinder; in the Air, having a smaller fighter force still allows to mitigate damage inflicted by enemy bombers.)

Overall, a vastly superior force wins (as it should), but there might be a long way to go as these new coastal waters will penalize large ships heavily. Naval "terrain" could become a more meaningful factor and ideally apply different mechanics to the combat, in particular the screening bonus of DDs should be of little use in the ocean where these small ships have issues to simply keep up with the fleet, let alone charge into a torpedo run or protect against one. But we'll leave the combat itself for later articles, as it is admittedly the most difficult part to conceptualize.

On we go. Naval Supremacy. Rather than it being a static value aimed to throttle naval invasions alone, we envisage it as a generalized reflection of strategic balance within a region, which could hamper (or facilitate) a whole number of operations as well as provide direct boosts or penalties in line with Air Superiority. The Supremacy scale may be split into 5 sections, with values between 40-60% meaning contested waters with no specific yield, 60-90% granting passive Naval Superiority bonuses and unlocking Abilities for Admirals (Command Power) , and finally at 90-100% allowing the most powerful one.

Abilities might be:
(0-100) Port Raid, a slap-on-your-face type of action [see 11], meaning to provoke the enemy for a fight to actually prove his current Naval Supremacy lest it drops for some period. No more zero-fuel "supreme" fleets chilling in a bay. The higher the discrepancy in the alleged Naval Supremacy between the sides, the steeper it drops. Add minor damage to Naval Bases and/or Dockyards etc. to boot.
(60-100) Naval Gunfire Support, providing a real CAS-like continious damage to any coastal land battle
(60-100) Infrastructure Bombardment, damaging Infrastructure and installations such as Airfields, Radars etc. (provided those are in range)
(90-100) Urban Destruction, indiscriminate shelling of coastal cities to cause damage akin to strategic bombing. Within the region, VPs could be used to calculate the exact importance of coastal cities compared to inland ones.

Fleets attempting to use these Abilities might receive visibility penalties (for the sake of easier spotting) and extra damage from planes on Naval Strikes (the location is known and close to the shore, allowing shorter flight time and increased payload). A timer might kick off to allow the enemy to react before the effects are applied.
We'd rather abstract those actions into Abilities to cost Command Power for a simple reason of main caliber shells being quite valuable IRL, and each ship having relatively few of them aboard, particularly when shell types (AP, HE, HEI) are considered. Barrel wear is also a thing IRL. But if succeeded, the impact of these Abilities gonna be really meaningful.

Passive use of Naval Supremacy might include Shore Bombardment in its current (underwhelming) form and incur speed penalties for divisions moving along the shores. The latter is not that far-stretched. At the time of Battle of Crete (1941), the island had just one decent road on its northern shore (a longitudinal one); the rest were subpar and the island was hardly traversable from north to south. Operation Compass (late 1940) in Africa included naval bombardment of a coastal highway, and that added up to the disruption in the rear of the Italians (who would lose 130'000 encircled). Besides, a game that grants Railway Guns the 217 km range could probably afford the Navy some liberties too.

The arbitrary 50% threshold for naval landings is to be abolished. Instead, low Supremacy values will gradually increase the landing penalty even further and the high ones will reduce it. This allows a better representation of Operation Weserübung (to name one) where the Germans were disadvantaged ship-wise, yet managed to pull it off.
 
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I always thought submarines should be removed from the "naval battle" mechanic. Instead, combats involving submarines should happen "off-screen", with the results generated based on the sub detection, speed and ASW capabilities of the target, as well as the sub visibility, detection, speed and torpedo capabilities of the attacking submarines.

Or you could just make submarines retreat much more quickly and be a lot more detectable in that narrow window where they're escaping. The current situation where a submarine "battle" goes on for days and holds all the involved ships in stasis while it goes on is ridiculous.
 
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-Navay attacking anything in land suffers from the problem of HOI4 provinces being arbitrarily large, buildings are existing arbitrarily within a state and naval guns range varrying greatly. Thus without pretty massive changes to fundamental province design most Navy->Shore iteractions will have to be abstracted. Also, computing performance and AI decision making have to be considered.
Secondly, since introduction of naval aviation, WW1 style naval shellings of cities went out of fashion, as that was an incredible risk to not very numerous large ships,
at minimum requiring air dominance, at which point you might as well just:
efd small.png


At least, I don`t remember any attempts to do so by Brits, despite potentially numerous targets in North Germany and Italy.

Submarine one is fairly proper remark, Subs have to pretty much ambush warship and hide after. However, ambush they did, especially if enemy encryption was compromised, but sometimes just randomly.

The production rate of naval dockyard complaint I find pretty nonsensical, as the main factor determining their production rate is the speed at which you are supposed to build capital ships. They can have more or less production per dockyard, but then prices of ships have to be adjusted accordingly so why should devs bother?

The MIC>NAV is pretty much reality of WW2 naval warfare, as it was decided by aviation, carrier aviation and submarines, big gunboats being pretty irrelevant, Hotel Yamato meme existing for a reason. Only player and AI has a bit more insight into the situation from 1936, as opposed to 1940 for real leaders. Unless you have to fight in the pacific, for which you need floating airfields and floating AA batteries, the less you invest into boats, the better.
i don't know, having a reason to *want* to win the naval war beyond "i'm allowed to naval invade" would go a long way to encourage players to play the naval game rather than ignore it unless absolutely forced not to do so.
You can trade over water, you can supply over water, you can navally invade. What else is supposed to be the reason?
 
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Regarding shore bombardments actually damaging stuff instead of just being a land combat modifier - it might be good for ships to be able to attack and damage things that would naturally be in range, like dockyards, naval bases and coastal fortresses.

You could add a "small island" tag to certain provinces that would enable the bombardment and damage of other installations, so airfields on small Pacific islands could be shelled by battleships for example.
 
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Regarding shore bombardments actually damaging stuff instead of just being a land combat modifier - it might be good for ships to be able to attack and damage things that would naturally be in range, like dockyards, naval bases and coastal fortresses.
Whom and when actually did this in WW2? I can only think of Catapult, and then only because Vichy France was "neutral" when Brits attacked it`s navy, so they weren`t particularly afraid of air power. Any other examples?
You would think that shelling sumbarine production would be high profile task for Home fleet, yet to my knowledge, that didn`t happen.
 
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You can trade over water, you can supply over water, you can navally invade. What else is supposed to be the reason?
  • as op points out, actual supply and troop shipments over water usually get through, even with heavy naval presence going uncontested. that's nonsense. in hoi 4 you can "sneak land" troops onto uk as el salvador during a brief moment they drop naval superiority, and even when uk restores said superiority you are somehow getting non-local supply sufficient to sustain the invasion. that's bonkers historically, and it's a poor interaction with:
    • fake superiority blocks naval invasions even when the would-be invader believes they have the better navy and are willing to prove it (putting ships in the sea zone and shooting at stuff). i've seen players try to claim this is historical, which is not a respectable position. fleet in being only works if the other side is afraid of your fleet. if i decide i'm not and move ships accordingly, it's fake naval supremacy to still block stuff. either sink the convoys/my navy, or stop pretending.
  • there is no functional equivalent to blockade order, even though blockades existed for centuries prior to ww2 and nations still knew how to do it.
Regarding shore bombardments actually damaging stuff instead of just being a land combat modifier - it might be good for ships to be able to attack and damage things that would naturally be in range, like dockyards, naval bases and coastal fortresses.
alternatively could give shore bombardment modifier more range. it's not perfectly historical, but it would be reasonably aligned with what railway guns are doing.
 
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Whom and when actually did this in WW2? I can only think of Catapult, and then only because Vichy France was "neutral" when Brits attacked it`s navy, so they weren`t particularly afraid of air power. Any other examples?
You would think that shelling sumbarine production would be high profile task for Home fleet, yet to my knowledge, that didn`t happen.

IIRC, Japan actually tried submarine shelling several times, but it was rarely effective due to them not being able to identify targets well

IIRC, wide scale city bombardment was deterred more by coastal defenses than doctrine. Places like Malta that couldn't mount an effective anti-naval defense suffered heavy bombardment, and IIRC many of the DDay paratrooper operations were to damage the shore guns to allow for a heavier bombardment

The goal if you want to apply historicality would not be to prevent it, but to enable the things that disincentivized it.
 
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  • as op points out, actual supply and troop shipments over water usually get through, even with heavy naval presence going uncontested. that's nonsense. in hoi 4 you can "sneak land" troops onto uk as el salvador during a brief moment they drop naval superiority, and even when uk restores said superiority you are somehow getting non-local supply sufficient to sustain the invasion. that's bonkers historically, and it's a poor interaction with:
    • fake superiority blocks naval invasions even when the would-be invader believes they have the better navy and are willing to prove it (putting ships in the sea zone and shooting at stuff). i've seen players try to claim this is historical, which is not a respectable position. fleet in being only works if the other side is afraid of your fleet. if i decide i'm not and move ships accordingly, it's fake naval supremacy to still block stuff. either sink the convoys/my navy, or stop pretending.
  • there is no functional equivalent to blockade order, even though blockades existed for centuries prior to ww2 and nations still knew how to do it.
Alright, invasions are still a mess, as usual, and presumably sunk convoy modifier needs to go up.

While blockades existed, I'm not sure if they can be very tight realistically, when fast ships could be used to deliver stuff, like Tokyo express.

IIRC, Japan actually tried submarine shelling several times, but it was rarely effective due to them not being able to identify targets well
Ok, what about cruiser+ ships?
IIRC, wide scale city bombardment was deterred more by coastal defenses than doctrine.
Alright, what are historical examples of coastal defenses failing to deter bombardment?
Places like Malta that couldn't mount an effective anti-naval defense suffered heavy bombardment,
The fact that Malta wasn't naval bombarded into submission or surrender, kinda speaks of how ineffective naval bombardment is, frankly.
and IIRC many of the DDay paratrooper operations were to damage the shore guns to allow for a heavier bombardment
Or maybe to ensure landing ships don't get sank. Maybe both.
The goal if you want to apply historically would not be to prevent it, but to enable the things that disincentivized it.
Create new mechanic to never have it actual successful use?
 
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While blockades existed, I'm not sure if they can be very tight realistically, when fast ships could be used to deliver stuff, like Tokyo express.
this would depend a great deal on what the enemy has available. land-based nav, coastal batteries etc would make a tight blockade against ports challenging or even non-feasible. w/o these things the failure rate for even small craft trying to get into port (and actually unload anything before being blasted) would be enormous.

with how the game works now, it's more like the game is just presuming coastal defenses everywhere. in reality, some places had way more than others. it's also to op's point: you don't get to presume static aa all over the place to limit log strikes or have division aa shoot at log strikes passing over top of them. you have to actually build stuff to stop that specifically. however there is no investment required to prevent an uncontested navy from completely choking ports...they simply can't do it unless the convoy raiding available is ridiculous. and even then, supplies sufficient to sustain a threatening invasion often get through.

if all that was necessary to supply an army was to land in a port during actual ww2, sea lion would have been viable. but in reality, they chose not to do it because you can not, in fact, supply and reinforce through a superior fleet executing a blockade on the only port(s) your invasion secured.
 
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Ok, what about cruiser+ ships?

Alright, what are historical examples of coastal defenses failing to deter bombardment?

Create new mechanic to never have it actual successful use?

You answered your own questions

Bombardments tended to happen where coastal defenses were not (with the amusing exceptions of the Japanese sub raids). So the counter to naval bombardment would be coastal defenses. A soft "You can do this, but it will probably hurt" rather than a hard "you can't do this". A late game player who no longer needs dockyards might find the risk worthwhile where countries in reality did not

The fact that Malta wasn't naval bombarded into submission or surrender, kinda speaks of how ineffective naval bombardment is, frankly.

This is why I've always advocated for it to damage infrastructure, not units. While making shore bombardment operate like CAS where it can do damage during battles makes sense, making them damage units outside of combat does tend to fly in the face of reality
 
this would depend a great deal on what the enemy has available. land-based nav, coastal batteries etc would make a tight blockade against ports challenging or even non-feasible. w/o these things the failure rate for even small craft trying to get into port (and actually unload anything before being blasted) would be enormous.

with how the game works now, it's more like the game is just presuming coastal defenses everywhere. in reality, some places had way more than others. it's also to op's point: you don't get to presume static aa all over the place to limit log strikes or have division aa shoot at log strikes passing over top of them. you have to actually build stuff to stop that specifically. however there is no investment required to prevent an uncontested navy from completely choking ports...they simply can't do it unless the convoy raiding available is ridiculous. and even then, supplies sufficient to sustain a threatening invasion often get through.

if all that was necessary to supply an army was to land in a port during actual ww2, sea lion would have been viable. but in reality, they chose not to do it because you can not, in fact, supply and reinforce through a superior fleet executing a blockade on the only port(s) your invasion secured.
Ok, but which are the supposedly important places that are not protected by 1936? Armored gunboats existed for hundred years at this point, aviation was relatively new. What were the places so important Home fleet decided to brave the coastal defences, mines and air threat?
I know for a fact that "home fleets" method of attacks on important coastal objects of Germany&Italy was this:
efd small.png

You answered your own questions

Bombardments tended to happen where coastal defenses were not (with the amusing exceptions of the Japanese sub raids). So the counter to naval bombardment would be coastal defenses. A soft "You can do this, but it will probably hurt" rather than a hard "you can't do this". A late game player who no longer needs dockyards might find the risk worthwhile where countries in reality did not
Ok, so, what were the places so important Home fleet/Italians/Japanese/US decided to brave the coastal defences, mines and air threat to bombard some infrastructure?

We know cases in WW1, we know a tonne of strategic bombing in WW2, but major warships raiding enemy coastal infra in WW2 are unknown to me. So unless you can come up with plenty of examples, I`d just chalk it up to being obsoleted by strategic aviation altogather due to icredibly low consequence of losing a few bombers compared to a ship.
 
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Ok, so, what were the places so important Home fleet/Italians/Japanese/US decided to brave the coastal defences, mines and air threat to bombard some infrastructure?


We know cases in WW1, we know a tonne of strategic bombing in WW2, but major warships raiding enemy coastal infra in WW2 are unknown to me. So unless you can come up with plenty of examples, I`d just chalk it up to being obsoleted by strategic aviation altogather due to icredibly low consequence of losing a few bombers compared to a ship.

The Pacific. Specifically the Pacific Islands where there wasn't that much coastal defenses, most famously Guadalcanal and Henderson Field, though I believe they bombarded the Japanese coast a few times

Or how about the example you tried to dismiss: Malta

Given forts count amongst the infrastructure we're talking about, Normandy

Ditto for Casablanca

Ditto for Italy all throughout Avalanche

And even if you're correct that bombers are better, that doesn't mean ships lost the ability. Once again, soft limits are significantly better than hard caps
 
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The Pacific. Specifically the Pacific Islands where there wasn't that much coastal defenses, most famously Guadalcanal and Henderson Field, though I believe they bombarded the Japanese coast a few times
That`s a pretty relevant example, taken.
Or how about the example you tried to dismiss: Malta
So what exactly was the outcome of bombardment of Malta?
I was under impression it was supposed to be a 9 to 18 job for Italian navy, till it surrendered/was captured.
I`m at loss, at what exactly was the outcome of this case, what results navy actually did achive in the battle where ship bombardment was supposed to easilly win the day.
Given forts count amongst the infrastructure we're talking about, Normandy
Covered under shore bombardment, no?
Ditto for Casablanca
Again naval invasion?
Ditto for Italy all throughout Avalanche
And what was the result?
And even if you're correct that bombers are better, that doesn't mean ships lost the ability.
We already have missles that nobody uses, Super-Heavies&rocket engines and other obscure mechanics nobody uses.
To create a mechanics that mattered twice, locally, in the entire war, but have to put pretty incredible effort into AI do it adequately, because we of course will see AI suiciding into shore defences at every opportunity, is a huge ask, and so far you didn`t exactly create an impressive case for it. Not to mention, yes, bombers are better at it, so we already have a superior replacement, and most people will not use it.
 
So what exactly was the outcome of bombardment of Malta?
I was under impression it was supposed to be a 9 to 18 job for Italian navy, till it surrendered/was captured.
I`m at loss, at what exactly was the outcome of this case, what results navy actually did achive in the battle where ship bombardment was supposed to easilly win the day.

Inflicted massive damage on the island's fortifications and infrastructure, failed to break the resolve of the soldiers. Exactly what I've been saying it should do

Covered under shore bombardment, no?

Again naval invasion?
Not currently covered. The shore bombardment malus only really represents firing on the troops. Granted that's because the malus is barely relevant in general, and needs to be expanded period

We already have missles that nobody uses, Super-Heavies&rocket engines and other obscure mechanics nobody uses.
To create a mechanics that mattered twice, locally, in the entire war, but have to put pretty incredible effort into AI do it adequately, because we of course will see AI suiciding into shore defences at every opportunity, is a huge ask, and so far you didn`t exactly create an impressive case for it. Not to mention, yes, bombers are better at it, so we already have a superior replacement, and most people will not use it.

To think that no one uses super heavies and rockets and the like is incorrect. And they are the things that prove this fits within the design doctrine. The point of their existence is that they could be done but usually weren't because they were inferior to other options. They are available to the player for them to see if they can use them more effectively. In single player especially where this kind of thing can be played with. In short, the examples you use to try to use to counter are the very examples I use to say it fits

If you want an easy case where it would be worthwhile, enemy has air superiority, but you have naval supremacy. You can afford to lose ships, but not planes

As for the AI...As you've no doubt seen across this entire thread, the naval AI needs a complete overhaul anyways
 
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The Pacific. Specifically the Pacific Islands where there wasn't that much coastal defenses, most famously Guadalcanal and Henderson Field, though I believe they bombarded the Japanese coast a few times

Or how about the example you tried to dismiss: Malta

Given forts count amongst the infrastructure we're talking about, Normandy

Ditto for Casablanca

Ditto for Italy all throughout Avalanche

And even if you're correct that bombers are better, that doesn't mean ships lost the ability. Once again, soft limits are significantly better than hard caps
I'd say the main reason it wasn't used more often was simply that most ships were busy with more important tasks than shelling a shoreline because they could.

Up until Operation Torch there just wasn't much in the way of heavy ships available to go shell a coast simply because they wanted to.

The UK is busy protecting lend-lease to Brittain and the USSR through the Atlantic from the Kriegsmarine, supply convoys to Malta and Africa from the Regia Marina. And still trying to scramble some forces to send to defend the Indian Ocean, particularly after the loss of Repulse and Prince of Wales.

The US is still recovering from Pearl Harbor, Midway and Coral Sea and their primary focus still on the Pacific.

That said there are a few examples like Operation Medium where HMS Revenge snuck over to Cherbourg and shelled the port under the cover of night and with the German defenders distracted by a simultaneous air raid dropping bombs and flares.

As for other infrastructure than forts, of you intend to capture it blowing an airfield into a crater field that will take weeks to months to repair isn't very practical when it came to the various naval landings.
 
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I love this post as it highlights many of the problems navy warfare currently has. The system in general doesn´t feel good to interact with.

In my opinion, another problem is that while you can get a general overview of what is happening in the land warfare very easily, and the same goes for the air tab (these regions are colored red because the enemy is conducting operations there), you don´t have the same view in the navy tab. Instead, you have to either deploy your own navy to different regions and ONLY THEN it gets a color based on naval supremacy. Of course you can check every maritime tile by yourself and see the horrendous numbers displayed there (210-273 ships in this tile, what does this even mean? It´s hard to understand this as this includes all types of ships even if they are just on a port sitting there doing god knows what).

I´d suggest an UI update that helps with this problem, by dividing the navy tab into different sections such as "Navy Logistics" (This one would present all your convoy maritime routes + highlight areas where you lost convoys in the last 6 months for example), "Naval Supremacy" (This one should be self explaining, all maritime tiles will be colored according to the naval supremacy you have in them) and maybe a few more that allows the player to understand what missions are being done in which regions.
 
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I just noticed that there are no changes to the naval map for the next DLC and I think that some naval strategic regions could use a rework. Take the coastal regions of Brazil for example. Any coastal operations there will inevitably make you have to cover half of the South Atlantic. This kind of renders the idea of brown water fleets kind of pointless, as you're forced to operate so far from land by virtue of how the map is drawn.
 
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While I don't think HoI4 has an anti-naval bias by nature of it having many naval mechanics included in the game, I do agree that HoI4 definitely has an anti-navel bias. There is not a single navel in the game, all the character portraits only show faces! This is a travesty!
 
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While I don't think HoI4 has an anti-naval bias by nature of it having many naval mechanics included in the game, I do agree that HoI4 definitely has an anti-navel bias. There is not a single navel in the game, all the character portraits only show faces! This is a travesty!
do we really wanna see Hitler’s navel? Or Churchill’s, god forbid?
 
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