• Crusader Kings III Available Now!

    The realm rejoices as Paradox Interactive announces the launch of Crusader Kings III, the latest entry in the publisher’s grand strategy role-playing game franchise. Advisors may now jockey for positions of influence and adversaries should save their schemes for another day, because on this day Crusader Kings III can be purchased on Steam, the Paradox Store, and other major online retailers.


    Real Strategy Requires Cunning
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Darth Tracid

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Pro_Consul's HoI2 Naval Primer

-----------------------------------------

Introduction -

Many players neglect the naval aspect of this game; some because they find
its different rules too vague or scantily documented, some because they have
never played a strategy game that bothered to have a realistic naval combat
model and thus lack experience with it, and some because they simply don't
want to be bothered. For the last group there is not much of value here, but
for anyone else this FAQ is intended to illuminate the workings and simplify
the strategies of naval warfare in HoI 2 so that they can get the maximum
enjoyment from ALL aspects of this excellent game. Some of the tactics and
guidelines in this FAQ may seem like unnecessary refinement when it comes to
squashing an AI-controlled country, and that is at least partly true. The
FAQ is really more oriented toward MP play where your opponent(s) will be
more intelligently using his/their own naval forces. But there is still
value here in that the tactics and tips in this FAQ can help you achieve
your naval goals in a single player game at a minimum of expense, thus
freeing extra resources for your land and air forces. But whatever your
situation, I hope you find value in this guide and that it makes the game
even more fun for you than it was before you read it.

---------------------------------------------------------

I. Early Fundamentals - this section will cover basic information that can
be useful to any country that has a navy, from as small as Mexico to as
large as the United States. It covers early planning and some initial tasks
to take care of before the game clock starts.

A. Determine your naval objectives. - Here are the main uses for your navy
which you are likely to see during play, depending on what country you play
and what type of overall war strategy you plan to pursue, plus a general
rundown of what is required to do each one. Remember, at this point you are
just deciding what your objectives are, including time frame, and what
forces you will likely need to meet them. You will get to the more specific
tasks in a bit.

1. Are you going to be transporting and supplying armies overseas? Doing
this with large armies is generally the province of the larger naval powers,
but some medium powers like the Soviet Union and Germany may also choose
this course. And any country might choose to do it on a small scale. If you
plan to make numerous landings in different parts of the world, then
battleships (BBs from here on) will likely be necessary for their shore
bombardment value and ability to protect the transports carrying your
troops. But if you are just planning to get ashore in one specific place,
like invading the USA as Germany, then you can do without BBs altogether as
their expense then outweighs their utility. Transports (TPs) are another
thing you will definitely need. Cruisers of at least one of the three
varieties in the game will almost certainly have some role, either as the
principal combatants or as escorts for the BBs. And last, destroyers (DDs).
Virtually every kind of naval task, with the sole exception of the
all-submarine navy I will mention later, will require destroyers, usually in
equal or even greater numbers than any other combatant.

2. Are you going to need to keep long sealanes, or even entire oceans, clear
of enemy interference in order to maintain convoys to distant colonies and
conquered territories? This is definitely the province of major naval
powers, so if your country is NOT a major naval power you will need to make
it one. The best ships to ensure domination of the seas against potentially
powerful naval opponents are carriers (CVs). These are very expensive when
you factor in technology, shipbuilding and the required planes. So if CVs
are beyond your industrial reach, large numbers of light and heavy cruisers
(CL and CA, respectively) can be used to handle the job. In either case you
will also need DDs to protect your capital ships, though you will need a lot
more of them if you go the cruiser route. A small number of long range subs
will be valuable if you go with the CV option, as they are great for tilting
the surprise balance in favor of your CVs, and thus act as force multipliers
for them. BBs are not needed for this task, contrary to initial appearances.
For their cost they are not as good a value as cruisers, and they can never
hope to equal CVs in this role.

3. Are you planning to fight a strictly continental war but want to give
yourself an edge by using the coastlines as an extra front? For this task a
few BBs or CAs are going to be required, along with enough destroyers to
keep them from being sunk by subs. A few transports will also be needed.

4. Are you going to need to defend yourself against a larger naval power who
will be attacking you across an ocean? For this task you can take any of
three approaches. First, if you are going to need a surface navy for other
tasks in addition to this one, then you can do this duty with cruisers and
destroyers. If not, meaning if this and/or #5 below are the only tasks you
intend your navy to do, then your second option is to build an all-submarine
navy and ignore most of the naval techs. Third, if this is the ONLY naval
task you had in mind, consider having no navy at all and just depend on
coastal defenses and radars, and use naval bombers to hit the enemy when
they come near the coast.

5. Do you need to disrupt a naval power's ability to convoy resources to his
home territory and supplies to his colonies? See above, because the naval
requirements for this task are basically identical to those for task #4. So
if either or both of these constitute your entire naval plans, you can go
the all-sub route. If this is only one of your naval needs, go the
cruiser/destroyer route. Obviously the no-navy plan is not an option for
this one.

B. Begin to prepare a force to achieve your goals. This section is a very
basic follow up to section A above, since it depends heavily on other
sections of this FAQ, particularly the parts covering research and the
specific ship types. Now that you have decided what tasks you want your navy
to handle, and thus have at least a basic idea of what kind of ships you
will be needing, you need to take the first step in building that navy. And
the very first step is to burn to the waterline any ship which will not be
needed. If you know you will not be needing BBs to achieve your goals,
disband any BBs you have. Or if you know you will be building class 4 BBs in
time to fill your needs, scrap any earlier class BBs you start with. And so
on for each ship class. DDs and subs in particular will likely be the first
against the wall for most countries, since they are quick to build and you
will be able to get better ones before the war starts. However, if you have
some need for those early model ships, by all means keep them in service for
as long as they are useful. The point of pruning is to stop spending
resources supplying ships you will never use anyway. Once you have pruned
your fleet of all unneeded vessels, consolidate the ships you are keeping at
one port in your homeland. You will need to reorganize them before the war
starts and this will be most easily accomplished if you get them into one
place together where your soon to be newly built ships can also be deployed.
Just don't forget to allow time to move them back out to whatever theaters
they will will need to operate in before they are needed there. The rest of
the building of a navy comes down to only a couple of factors, i.e.
researching the hull types you want to build and then starting construction
early enough to complete the required number of ships before you need them
in action. As I said, more on this in the other sections.

C. General research tips - These are just generalities. With the simplified
research model of HoI 2 there is no real micromanagement required, so
extensive coverage of specific techs would be wasted.

1. Since by now you should have an idea what types of ships you will need,
set a specific initial research goal for each one. Only the United States
can expect to be able to research every naval technology, and even then they
won't get them in time to be ready for hostilities. So for each type of ship
you will be needing, set an initial goal and make sure it is attainable in
time for your needs. For example, if you want certain ships to be ready for
the job of invading England in 1941, don't choose hull types with a
historical year of 1942 as your initial goal.

2. Also, for all ship types EXCEPT CVs, set a final goal as well. For
a small country one ending point might be the development of an early
Battleship type. For a larger power it might be the development of Super
Batteships. Set such a goal for each ship type you will need, and don't
research any ship types beyond that goal. However, if you plan on using CVs
in your navy, then plan on researching them as far as your ability allows,
even if you won't actually build the higher tech hulls. The techs for the
higher CV classes also enable the higher quality CAGs, and those planes can
be upgraded for use on any carrier hull, thus greatly improving the
performance of even the simplest carrier models. Its unrealistic (the idea
of a pre-war, wooden-decked carrier launching and retrieving turbojets?),
but very useful.

3. Don't neglect the naval doctrines. Have a look at the doctrines available
for your country, see which ones are both compatible with your plans and
available in time to be of use. Then plan on researching those as their
historical years arrive so you can have them done before your need them. And
if you are using CVs, don't neglect the air doctrines since some of them
improve your CAGs, and your carriers are only as good as the planes they
carry.

------------------------------------

II. Ship types - this section is a rundown of all the different ship types,
their strengths and weaknesses, and their general usefulness. Tactics come
later.

First, however, a few definitions to avoid confusion as I go into specific
ship types and their descriptions.

Principal - the primary mission-oriented vessel type in any task force. In a
carrier task force this would be the carriers, while in an anti-submarine
warfare group it would be the destroyers. For this reason, the term
"principal" is oriented to the mission, not the size of the vessels in the
group executing that mission.

Escort - any combatant vessel which accompanies the principal vessels to
assist them in their mission. It could be DDs which accompany CVs in a
carrier task force in order to protect the flattops from subs. Or it could
be CAs accompanying DDs on an anti-sub patrol, to protect them from surface
ships while they hunt for subs raiding your convoys. So for purposes of this
FAQ, an "escort" may not necessarily refer only to the smaller ships, nor
does "principal" imply a large ship.

Capital ship - any surface combat ship of heavy cruiser or heavier type.
This includes CAs, BCs, BBs and CVs. This term is only important as it
applies to positioning and is explained more in the tactics section below.

Screening vessel - CLs and DDs which are operating in the same battle with
heavier surface combatants in a sea battle. They may not necessarily belong
to the same task force as the heavies, but they are currently involved in
the same battle. For example, an ASW group of 3 CLs and 6 DDs is present in
the same seazone as a group of 6 BBs and 6 CLs when an enemy fleet shows up
and engages both groups in combat. For purposes of the sea battle that
ensues, the group would be considered as having 6 capital ships and 15
screening vessels. Again, this term is only important as it applies to
positioning, so is covered in the tactics section where positioning is
explained.

Ship of the line, or line ship - these are the heavier guns of the fleet and
the term is roughly interchangeable with "capital" ship. When not discussing
positioning I may refer to a ship as a line vessel in order to avoid
implying that positioning is affected by what I am saying at the time.

Thanks to John Heidle for bringing up the need to differentiate between
these terms. Principal and capital vessels may seem interchangeable, as may
the terms escort and screening vessel, but they are not. A heavy cruiser may
act as as an escort for a destroyer on an sub hunting mission. The CA would
be the escort even though it is a capital ship, and the DD would be the
principal even though it is a screening vessel.

A. Battleships (BBs) - the so-called "queens of the sea". BBs are only
really good for a couple of things. First, they are the most powerful ship
when it comes to shore bombardment, but unlike in HoI1, cruisers can also
help fill this role. Second, they make good escorts to defend your amphib
transports during sea crossings and the unloading phase of an amphib
assault, and then provide shore bombardment to support invading troops. They
have two main weaknesses. First, their lousy visibility and sea detection
ratings make them very POOR escorts for carriers. Second, they have no way
to detect or attack subs, so they MUST be escorted by destroyers or they are
lunchmeat. BBs are very expensive and take a long time to build (about 18
months depending on model).

B. Battle Cruisers (BCs) - the BC is basically a poor man's battleship and
as such does not really excel at anything in particular and is a poor value.
It has better bombardment and sea attack values than the CA, but lousy
visibility (about as bad as BBs) and detection (even worse than BBs). It is
not the equal of the BB in any performance measurement, yet it costs almost
as much in industry and time to build and maintain. If you can afford these,
then you can afford BBs and should build those instead. If not, then you
should stick to CLs and CAs as your main surface combatants.

C. Heavy cruisers (CAs) - CAs are decent all around surface combatants and
probably the most flexible surface combatant in the game. They have decent
surface attack ratings, low sub detection and sub attack, and decent air
defenses, as well as moderate bombardment abilities. They are also far less
expensive than BBs, and take far less time to build. For these reasons their
main uses are as escorts to defend carriers against surface ships and as
line combatants when BBs are out of your budget range for the task. They can
also be used to escort DDs doing ASW work in front line areas if needed.
Like BBs, they should be accompanied by destroyers at all times.

D. Light cruisers (CLs) - Due to their weaker gun power, shorter gun range
and low surface defence rating, CLs are more escort and support vessels
rather than line ships. A CL is as much a heavy destroyer as it is a light
cruiser, having the abilities of both but not at the same level as either.
It is also in between in terms of cost and time to build, albeit closer to
the cruiser than to the destroyer. In uncontested seas these are the best
choice for coupling with DDs on ASW duty, but don't send them into contested
waters except as escorts for heavier combatants like BBs or CVs. This is
about the only surface combatant that you can safely send out without DD
escorts, but whether you would want to is another matter since DDs are still
cheaper and better at ASW and so are still useful for absorbing damage for
their heavier cousins. CLs also have very high air attack values, and so
make excellent air defense assets when used in an escort role, particularly
when combined with DDs and their excellent air defense values.

E. Carriers (CVs) - if BBs are the queens, CVs are the KINGS of the sea.
This is still (just like HoI 1) the most underrated of the surface ships,
and when used correctly the most potent surface combatant. A properly
configured carrier task force (CTF) is by far the most potent naval force
you can have. Once you load the CAGs (carrier air groups - the planes) on
them CVs have the best surface detection ratings of any ship. They also have
by FAR the best attack range, able to engage enemies FAR outside their gun
range. They also have some sub detection and attack value, unlike HoI 1,
which is a more realistic approach. They have some weaknesses of course.
First, although they have some defense against subs they still require an
escort of DDs. Second, if caught in bad weather conditions they can be
damaged by enemy surface ships without having an opportunity to fire back
(more on this in the tactics section), so you need to use care in your CTF
composition to cover this vulnerability. Third, their own cost plus the cost
of the planes they will carry make them prohibitively expensive for all but
the main combatant countries. Early model CVs are not terribly expensive and
don't take terribly long to build, but the techs necessary to make them
truly effective DO take a long time, so they end up being somewhat expensive
anyway. Early CVs also have lousy mission range, so their usefulness is even
further limited. Medium to good model CVs cost about as much per day to
build as BBs but take almost 2 years to build. Only three nations can
reasonably expect to be able to afford them in sufficient numbers and
quality to make it worthwhile early in the game: the USA, UK and Japan.
These three all start with some CVs already built and a number of the most
important CV-related techs already known. For the other major powers they
can only be effectively deployed later in the game, generally after 1942,
and won't be quite as effective since those countries do not have most of
the carrier doctrines available. But they can still be quite useful even
then.

F. Destroyers (DDs) - DD's are without doubt the most important surface ship
in the game and the workhorses of the fleet. They are far and away the best
naval vessel for true defense against subs. They can deploy at the edge of
your fleet to absorb damage from surface attacks and provide air defense,
another job for which they are the best platform. They are inexpensive and
quick to build, making them easily replaceable. And their techs directly
effect the efficiency of your convoy escorts.

G. Transports (TPs) - TPs are required if you plan to ferry troops, either
via simple transfer to a friendly port or by amphibious invasion. They are
also needed to convoy resources and supply, although unlike HoI 1 you do not
build TP units and then covert them into convoys; you either build TPs or
you build convoys. They are basically defenseless, so they always require
escort. There is only one TP model, so there is no real research to plan.

H. Subs (no abbrev. needed, but officially are SS) - Subs have three main
uses. First, they can be used in large groups to prey on enemy surface
fleets. Second, they can be used in large or small groups to eat at enemy
convoys. Last, they can be used in very small numbers in CTFs and small to
medium SAGs (see the tactics section for info on these) to help them achieve
surprise, thus getting better positioning to allow for maximum effect of
your main combatants' abilities. One minor task you can use them for is as
pickets to detect ships approaching your shores so that your land based
naval bombers can pound them. At low to mid tech levels they are not very
potent offensively, but this is compensated for by the fact that destroyers
and, to a lesser extent, cruisers and CVs are the only ships that can shoot
back at them. They are cheap and quick to build, like destroyers, so they
are easily replaceable.

------------------------------------

III. Technology - most of the technology research you will be doing during
the course of the game is pretty straightforward, but there are a few
important notes you should keep in mind.

A. Start your naval research early, especially if you are going to be
building BBs or CVs. These vessels take a LONG time to build, so if you wait
too long to research the techs needed to build the hulls you want, you won't
get them built in time. Improvements that are not prerequisites for the ship
types you are planning to use can wait until after you begin actually
building the ships.

B. Ships cannot be upgraded, unlike HoI 1. Doctrinal techs which improve
their abilities go into effect immediately upon completion of the research
projects.

C. While ships cannot be upgraded, CAGs can. This is why a CV-using
player should continue researching higher classes of CV even if he does not
plan to ever build them. They enable the higher classes of CAGs thus making
your lower class CVs much more potent and survivable.

D. Units on convoy duty no longer ignore tech levels as they did in HoI 1.
Certain doctrines which improve your CVs' or DDs' abilities also improve
your convoy efficiency.

E. Watch out for tech improvements which improve your ships' positioning.
More on this in the tactics section.

-----------------------------------------


Part II

IV. Tactics - this section is divided into functional groups, usually called
"task forces". For each one I will describe its uses, weaknesses and optimum
composition. Next I will discuss positioning and its effects on combat, then
leadership and stacking, and the associated penalties/bonuses involved with
them. Finally I will add some notes on what happens after a battle and on
the use of ports as bases and for repairs.

A. Carrier task force (CTF) - a CTF, when properly used, is the most potent
surface combatant group in the game, just as in real life, but also requires
the most explanation. It can stake out a seazone and blatantly dare the
enemy to try to pass through. It can also support land operations, albeit
only in coastal provinces. The best composition for a CTF is as follows:

1. 4-5 CVs depending on the level of enemy resistance expected
2. 4-5 CLs and/or CAs to defend against surface ships in bad weather
3. 4-5 DDs to provide defense against subs and, to a lesser extent, enemy
air
4. 1-3 subs to aid in achieving surprise and thus gaining better positioning

The total number of ships may vary a bit depending on how powerful the enemy
forces you expect to encounter, but in no case should exceed 18. The number
of cruisers (be they CLs or CAs) should be added to the number of DDs and
the total should be 1.5-2 times the number of CVs. For example, with 4 CVs
you should have a total of no less than 6 cruisers and destroyers (1.5 x 4 =
6) and should need no more than 8 (2 x 4 = 8). If you do not use CLs, then
make sure that the number of DDs is also equal to or greater than the number
of CVs and CAs combined (see positioning for explanation). Finally, add the
1-3 subs (the lower their quality the more you should take) to finish off
the CTF.

As missions go, CTFs are well suited to almost any task. They can make
excellent convoy raiders, interdictors for blockades, main combatant fleets
to eliminate the enemy's navy at sea or in port, shore bombardment support
groups, etc. The only task you might not want to have them undertake is the
escorting of transports, as the transports will mess up the
surprise/positioning equation pretty severely, thus sacrificing one of the
CTFs most important advantages. However, some players may even choose to do
this, since they will still have the advantage of keeping the enemy at a
much greater distance, thus minimizing the chance that any of your
transports will even be fired upon, let alone sunk. The main reason you
might refrain from using CTFs as covering forces for TPs is if the area
being passed through is already fairly under control and you don't expect
interception by any strong fleets. In that case the CTFs are a bit expensive
for the job and not really needed. Put them on an interdiction mission
instead so they will roam and keep the general area sanitized as the TPs
pass through. (But still have some kind of escorting force with the TPs!) If
the TPs are carrying a vital ground force into contested waters, though, a
CTF is the ideal choice to protect them.

Surprise has been replaced by weather as the most important combat variable
in the use of CTFs. This is because inclement weather prevents CVs from
launching their CAGs. So be alert to season and climate when moving your
CTFs around. Don't park CTFs off the coast near Leningrad in winter, for
example. With the cruisers and destroyers to act as escorts, the CTFs should
be able to retreat in good order if caught in bad weather, but don't make a
habit of it.

Surprise is still an important factor, but now is no more critical for CVs
than for any other ship type, and CTFs have a natural advantage in this
regard since both the principal vessels, i.e. the CVs, AND the escorts have
sea and sub detection abilities. In fact, as mentioned before, CVs have the
best surface detection of any unit type in the game. Surprise is now a
component of positioning so I will go into the rest of this in that section
below.

A quick note on port strikes. In the vanilla version of the game there was a
bug (actually a bad setting) that made CTFs way too powerful when striking
ports. This has been corrected in 1.2 to restore a bit of balance in this
regard. But carriers striking ships in port can still be a very good way to
put/keep your enemy's fleet out of action. However, AA or fighter patrols
can make this risky (see below).

The last important note on the use of CTFs is the fact that a CAG aboard a
CV reduces the org of the CV when it takes combat losses from enemy AA or
fighters. However, when the CV returns to port it will reorg fairly quickly,
so this is not a huge issue. But be wary of attacking a port or other
coastal province with heavy AA or which is covered by land-based fighter
patrols, since that will leave your CTF vulnerable until it returns to port
to reorg.

The only two types of naval forces that can dependably drive a properly
configured CTF out of a seazone are a more powerful CTF or a land-based air
group powerful enough to defeat the CTF's planes. Note that with early
techs, the CAGs will not have a very high sea attack rating, and thus will
tend to drive off enemy flotillas by reducing their org rather than sinking
them outright. This is still useful since it forces your enemy to keep his
fleets in port a lot and denies him access to the sealanes patrolled by your
CTFs. As you advance in technology and upgrade your CAGs to higher levels,
though, they will become unmatchably lethal, just like in real life.

B. Surface action group (SAG) - a SAG is a task force of surface ships whose
duty is to attack other surface ships. If your resources and strategy allow
you to deploy BBs, then these will form the core of your most powerful SAGs.
If not, or if you wish to deploy numerous SAGs, CAs can readily be
substituted for the BBs to make less powerful, but still quite useful, CA
SAGs. The optimum configuration is 6 BBs or CAs plus 6 DDs for a medium
sized fleet, or 4 BBs or CAs plus 5 DDs for a smaller patrol group. You can
also add a sub or three to a small or medium sized SAG to improve its
chances of getting the jump on opponents in the positioning battle (more on
this below). Should you need a really large SAG for some special purpose
like supporting an amphibious assault against a heavily defended beach, try
a mix of 12 BBs and/or CAs plus 15-18 CLs/DDs and 0-3 subs. For example, 6
BBs, 6 CAs, 7 CLs, 8 DDs and 3 subs. This will provide enough air and sub
defense so that the group's absurdly high visibility will be survivable,
allowing it to at least survive long enough to retreat in good order if
attacked by a powerful CTF. If your enemy does not have subs or has very
few, you can trade a couple of DDs for BBs or CAs, changing the mix to suit
the job, but in no case should the number of BBs/CAs exceed the number of
escorting CLs/DDs. Also be careful with changing the mix of CLs vs DDs too
far, because the DDs are also your best air defense platform to defend your
heavies from carrier or land based air attacks.

SAGs are best used in an advanced role to clear enemy surface ships out in
advance of an invasion fleet or to blockade the enemy and keep his surface
fleets from getting to or from a particular place. For example, you could
use a SAG in the North Sea to keep the Kriegsmarine from launching an
invasion of Norway. Or you could use a few SAGs in the west Pacific to keep
the Japanese from sending raiders out to hit your convoys. Another use for
SAGs is to intercept incoming enemy invasions, however subs are better
suited for this role if you have them in your navy. Lastly, they can be used
to provide extra shore bombardment value when your forces are fighting any
close battle in a coastal province.

When going for barrier missions likes blockades, you should usually deploy
as close to the source of interference as possible if you have naval
superiority, and as close to the destination as possible if your enemy has
the better navy. For example, if you want to cut off supplies and fleets
moving from Japan to Truk before invading it, you have two choices. If you
are the USA and thus have the better, larger navy, then set up your blockade
near the Japanese home islands; this not only cuts off the supply convoys to
Truk, but also to a number of other Japanese possessions, plus it helps keep
the Japanese navy from moving out to Truk to interfere with your invasion
fleet, or MAF (see below). If you are Australia, however, setup your
blockade at the seazone right outside Truk's port. This way you minimize the
chance of your SAG being savaged by the numerically superior Japanese fleet,
most of which will tend to stay close to its home waters.

C. Marine Amphibious Force (MAF) - a MAF is basically nothing more than a
SAG with TPs attached to it for the purpose of ferrying troops and executing
amphibious forced entry assaults. If you have a BB SAG, then that is the one
to use for this.

One note on the actual landing phase of an amphibious assault: Issuing an
"Amphibious assault" order to the MAF can sometimes cause the fleet to
simply return to base without executing the order. I won't go into the
reasons because there is a better way to do it anyway. Prior to loading the
land forces onto the transports, assign them all to a single hotkey. Then
load them and move the MAF to the seazone which contains the beach icon for
the province you are going to invade. Next hit the hotkey to select the land
forces and issue them a normal attack order, just as if they were attacking
from one land province to another. At this point you may be tempted to give
your MAF a bombardment or move order once the troops have unloaded and begun
their forced entry assault. DON'T DO IT! The transport ships need to remain
in place without orders in case the assault goes badly and your marines need
to retreat back to sea. If the ships move (by order or if they bombard and
decide to do it from an adjacent seazone or decide to return to port to
reorg), then your invading troops will be destroyed if they are forced to
retreat. Also, there is a bug that sometimes causes retreating enemies to
stop and reassert their presence in the province they were retreating from.
There is a small chance that this can coincide with an enemy counterattack,
which again could necessitate having ships offshore to retreat to. For this
reason never move or give new orders to the MAF until the province is under
control and all retreating enemies have fully vacated. If you need to move
in a second wave to support the first while this is happening, use a second
MAF built on a smaller SAG (since you won't need the bombardment value
anway).

D. Anti-submarine warfare (ASW) group - an ASW group is exactly what the
name implies, a group of ships whose role is to hunt and sink enemy subs.
Since the prime anti-sub vessel is the DD, this is the core of any ASW
group. The optimum composition is generally either 9 DDs plus 6 CAs if your
enemy also presents a surface threat, or 9 DDs plus 6 CLs if he is weak in
surface ships. Still include some cruisers, light or standard, in either
case, though. Even if the enemy doesn't attack with surface ships the
cruisers can absorb damage for the DDs so they can hang longer in case of a
protracted battle with a very large sub group. Protecting the DDs is not a
huge issue, since they are so cheap, but enhancing their ability to hang in
a firefight increases their ability to sink more subs and maximizes the time
they spend on patrol as opposed to repairing in port.

E. Submarine wolfpack - any group of submarines that includes no surface
ships. For intercepting convoys use 9-18 subs per group and be prepared to
rotate groups out to port to repair. Using larger groups is overkill. If you
need that many subs in one area, split them into two groups. They can cover
twice as much area and will still be able to support each other if need be.
If you want to use your subs to hunt surface ships, use 12-18 subs per
group, depending on their quality and the size of the flotillas you
anticipate encountering. And if you want to use them as pickets, where you
park them in a seazone for the purpose of merely detecting enemy fleets who
will then be attacked by your land based naval bombers, use 3 subs, since
using only one or two makes it too likely that an enemy will pass without
being detected. Also build a radar in an adjacent coastal province so that
you can see more detail about the enemy fleets which approach and know when
to intercept and when to stay out of their way.
 

Darth Tracid

Field Marshal
47 Badges
Jun 2, 2001
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F. Positioning - Positioning is the term for how the game handles the
starting conditions of a sea battle. This section is based on some gross
simplifications, because positioning is quite complex, far too much so for a
number-crunching examination of it. Instead this part of the guide focuses
on tendencies observed from actual game experience with the goal of
illustrating just the factors within your control that you need to pay
attention to, and their actual effects on naval combat and the tactics you
should use in dealing with it.

Basic facts: the higher your fleet's positioning, the more chance that your
ships will begin the battle in position to fire on the enemy and the greater
chance that your shorter ranged screening ships will be in position to help
defend the heavies; the lower your positioning, the more chance you will
have to spend one or more rounds maneuvering before any of your ships can
even shoot at anything, and the less chance your screen will be in position
to defend your more valuable capital ships. When there is no real
positioning advantage, the opposing fleets will tend to begin the engagement
separated by a distance approximately equal to the range of the
longest-ranged ship in the entire engagement and both sides' screens
will be slightly out of position but not badly so. Having surprise on your
side increases your positioning and lowers your enemy's, which will adjust
that starting distance towards the range of the longest ranged ship in
your own fleet
and put the enemy's screens further out of position
allowing you to concentrate fire on the more valuable enemy targets. That
said, when dealing with a 30-ship fleet heavy with BBs, don't waste time
trying to tweak your fleet composition to improve your chance of surprise.
You have no chance anyway, so instead gear your composition to best deal
with the inevitably poor positioning it will have to endure most of the
time. Generally this means including extra escorts who can absorb damage for
your heavies and provide extra air defence. Leadership also plays a role in
positioning, with higher leadership values and certain traits imparting
bonuses to positioning, but these are eclipsed by fleet composition and
surprise. I cover these further on in the leadership section.

Like HoI 1, surprise and positioning are affected by yours and your enemy's
detection and visibility values. The higher your detection and the lower
your visibility, the more likely it is that the surprise equation will work
in your favor and give you advantageous positioning. So obviously the main
trick to improving that situation is to include a few subs in your important
task forces, since they have decent detection and VERY low to practically no
visibility. A secondary tip is to not include more line ships than are
needed for the mission, since every surface ship you add increases your
fleet's total visibility. The only exception is the CV, which has a
correspondingly high detection value to offset its high visibility, and thus
does not really net you a disadvantage when it comes to surprise. No other
line ship has a sufficiently high detection rating to offset its visibility,
not even the CA.

Positioning is also where capital and screening vessels come into play, not
to be confused with the terms line, principal or escort. For purposes of
positioning, the game divides surface combatant ships into two classes:
capital ships and screening vessels. CLs and DDs are the only ships which
count as screening vessels. All other surface combatants, from CAs on up,
are considered capital ships. The game applies a positioning penalty to a
fleet if the number of screening vessels is not equal to or greater than the
number of capital ships. This is to simulate the handicap such a fleet will
suffer due to its lack of picket ships to perform early detection and combat
support. Transports and subs, since they are not surface combatants, do not
count in any way in this regard. They neither help nor hurt your fleet's
capital ship to screening vessel ratio. So when considering fleet
composition, first figure out what mix of surface combatants you need to do
the mission, then make sure there are not more capital ships than screening
vessels, and last add whatever subs or TPs you need involved in the mission.

Combat range is another factor of the positioning issue. Each fleet will
have an optimum combat range it wants to achieve when entering combat, and
if it achieves surprise it will have a good chance that its positioning will
be high enough to start the battle at that range. For fleets with TPs but
few combatants, their goal will be escape so their optimum range will be a
million kilometers (or more like 450km in reality) to maximize their chance
of getting away. A CTF will want to be in range for its planes to strike but
out of range of the enemy's guns, so it will want a range about equal to the
combat range of its CVs. A SAG will want to get ALL of its ships into gun
range, so its optimum will be about equal to the combat range of the
shortest-ranged combatant it has, which will usually be either a DD or a
sub. The other main advantage of the CV, its incredibly long combat range,
is illustrated by this aspect of positioning. Given no surprise on either
side, imagine a 15-ship CTF entering battle against a 30-ship BB SAG, with
both fleets led by comparable leaders and composed of medium tech vessels.
Since neither side is advantaged by surprise, the longest ranged ship on
either side will tend to set the initial engagement distance. That will of
course be the CVs whose combat range will likely be around 180km at medium
tech. The next longest ranged ship is the Super Battleship, which has a
range of approximately 40km. That means the BBs will have to close the
distance by about 140km before they can even shoot back, all the while being
bombed by the enemy planes. The obvious conclusion: unless surprise is
achieved, only CTFs have a realistic chance against other CTFs in a stand up
fight. Any other group will be fighting just to retreat before being
severely mauled, with nighttime as their best chance of doing so. Again,
though, weather is the big equalizer. In the middle of a massive rain storm
the CTF's planes would be unable to launch, so the BBs would be able to
close the distance and engage the CTF's escorts and the CVs themselves. Of
course the BBs would also be suffering an effectiveness penalty due to the
bad weather, so this would not be the end of the world for the CTF. But this
does show why cruiser escorts are still necessary for CTFs, and why a CTF
caught in such a circumstance would want to retreat until the bad weather
had passed....and then go back to send those BBs to Davy Jones' locker.

G. Leadership - Leadership has three main affects on your naval operations
as do leader traits, and these can be very critical so care should be taken
to consider all of these when assigning leaders. Some players have touted
leadership as the greatest factor in naval combat, but that is not really
true. It is certainly important, but proper fleet composition is far more
important. Some of that is apparent when you review the positioning section,
and the rest is explained below.

1. Command limit - a leader's rank determines how many ships he may
simultaneously command without suffering command penalties. This works
pretty much like land combat command limits except that the number of units
allowed is different per rank level, ranging from 6 to 30 instead of from 2
to 12. Also, HQs have no effect on naval command, so there is no naval
equivalent of the HQ unit's "doubling" effect on command limits as seen in
land combat. When a leader ends up in a position where he has more ships
under his command than his command limit allows, all ships beyond the limit
get no benefits from his leadership and suffer a 25% penalty to their
effectiveness to boot. Unlike HoI 1, there is no free ride for TPs. Every TP
in the fleet counts against the command limit of the fleet's leader. There
is a loophole here, though. Since the game engine ranks all combat vessels
ahead of TPs when it arranges them for effectiveness calculation, the TPs
will be the first ones to get the "over command limit" penalty of 25% and
lose the leader's bonuses. And since the TPs aren't fighting in the battle
anyway, this means your combatants can get way without the penalty so long
as their total number not counting the number of TPs is within the leader's
limit. So a fleet of 30 combatants plus 30 TPs led by a Grand Admiral
(command limit 30) would suffer no penalty to its combat effectiveness once
engaged. There is a catch, of course: those TPs would not benefit from such
traits as Spotter or Blockade Runner and would severely handicap the fleet's
positioning value as a result, plus non-TPs ships over the limit would still
increase the stacking penalty for ALL ships in the group (see stacking
below); so you don't want to play fast and loose with the command limit.
Also, leader traits aside, a task force that large would be pretty much
impossible NOT to surprise, so would constantly be at the short end of the
positioning stick. Bottom line: if you don't NEED to exceed the command
limit of a leader for some overriding reason, then don't. Remember also that
just like land combat, units suffering the penalty are likely to break early
due to org losses and force the entire fleet to retreat early as a result.
And don't forget that, just like land combat, one leader must command ALL
the friendly forces in a particular battle, even if they come from multiple
fleets, or even from different allied nationalities. So be aware that if a
large fleet passes through the same seazone as another allied fleet and then
both get drawn into the same battle, a large portion of the combined force
is going to suffer a pretty severe penalty for being over the command limit
of the one leader who assumes command of the battle. To avoid this, you
could assign a Grand Admiral to command of an 18 ship CTF which will need to
operate in the same vicinity as a 12-sub wolfpack. That way if the two
taskforces get drawn into the same battle, there will be a leader present
capable of commanding their combined number without penalty. Incidentally,
in that example above, if the subs were commanded by an Admiral with the Sea
Wolf trait, the subs would still get the advantage of his skill and trait
even though the overall commander of the battle was the Grand Admiral
leading the CTF. But they would NOT benefit from the Grand Admiral's traits
or skill, if any, only their immediate commander's. This is also pretty much
the same as land combat.

2. Leadership skill and positioning - as mentioned above, the higher a
leader's skill rating, the better chance his force will enjoy better
positioning at the start of a battle. This effect is eclipsed, however, by
detection and visibility. For example, a skill 5 leader commanding a fleet
of BBs will still be disadvantaged in positioning when encountering a skill
1 leader commanding a couple of CVs and DDs. So don't put too much stock in
leader skill when it comes to positioning. Fleet composition is far more
important in that regard. But don't ignore it, either!

3. Leadership skill and combat effectiveness - this functions just like land
combat. The higher the leader's skill, the more effective his ships will be
in combat once engaged. Again, however, this is often eclipsed by
positioning. The same skill 5 leader commanding a fleet of BBs will not get
full use of his effectiveness bonus when a skill 1 leader commanding a CTF
engages him from a range of 200 miles, because his ships won't be able to
shoot back anyway. They will, however, enjoy a better chance to defend
themselves from the air attacks while they move into range of, or retreat
from, the CTF. So leader skill is still important, but by itself won't save
you from bad fleet composition.

4. Leader traits - Because surprise is now handled pretty much the same for
everyone as simply a component of positioning, the leader traits are now
more universally useful. In HoI 1 the Spotter and Blockade Runner traits
were most effective for CTFs and MAFs, for example, but are now useful to
any fleet that has a need to improve its positioning value. So just evaluate
your fleet's mission and composition, and then assign the leader with the
skill and traits that best augment its ability to carry out that mission.
There is a basic principle of warfare: always support strength, never
support weakness. In this context that means don't bother assigning a
Blockade Runner to command a force with pitiful positioning values. His
strength is wasted there because it will never overcome the positioning
deficit caused by the fleet's composition. If a fleet is composed in such a
way that it is going to suffer from a severe positioning handicap, assign a
leader with skill and traits that will improve its ability to cope with that
positioning handicap, like Expert Tactician. If the fleet is marginal on
positioning but is on a mission where it requires good positioning to ensure
success, like ASW or interdiction missions, then assign a leader with
Spotter and/or Blockade Runner traits to give it that positioning boost it
needs.

H. Stacking - This is the only area in which TPs get a free ride. Stacking
penalties, not to be confused with command limits, apply to any naval force
in involved in combat that contains more than 2 non-transport vessels. The
penalty takes the form of -1% effectiveness for each non-TP ship beyond the
first two. This penalty is applied to the ENTIRE FLEET. So a fleet with 10
combat surface ships, 2 subs and 18 transports would suffer a 10%
effectiveness hit when engaged in combat (12 non-TP vessels minus the first
two as freebies = 10). However, that fleet would suffer no command
penalty as long as it was led by a Grand Admiral since the total number of
vessels was not greater than his command limit of 30. On the other hand, a
force composed of 30 combatant vessels would suffer a 28% stacking penalty,
in addition to any command penalty that would result if it was led a leader
of lower rank than Grand Admiral. Like command limits, the stacking penalty
takes into account all friendly forces present in the battle as one total,
even if they come from several different fleets, or even from different
allied nationalities.

I. After-action - Once a battle is over it is time to take a look at your
forces involved in the fight to see if further orders are needed. Usually
one of three things will be the logical next step:

1. If your ships took significant damage or org losses, return them to port.
Ships at sea do not repair, and ships in port reorg more quickly. Be sure
the port has capacity at the moment, though. A 10-capacity port that already
has 12 damaged ships in it is going to greatly slow the rate of all ship
repairs done there if you go and add another 12 damaged ships to its
workload. Ships do NOT need to return to the port they are based at to
repair, so just give them a move order to somewhere else nearby that has
decent free port capacity. On a side note: port capacity is not terribly
important in deciding where to base your ships, unless you want to be
able to leave them in automatic mode executing the same order for a very
long time and periodically returning to port on their own when they need to.
Port capacity really only affects repair and reorg rates, not supply
ability. For example, a port with a capacity of four could be used as the
home base for 3 fleets totaling 45 ships, but as long as only four damaged
ships were present in port at a given moment they would be repairing at full
speed.

2. If the enemy retreated and you have a combat-ready formation present,
pursue the enemy. An arrow will appear on the enemy fleet's icon showing
which way it is retreating, so give your combat group a move order in that
same direction. If your ships are fast enough they will arrive before the
enemy reaches that seazone, or at least before he can leave it, and you can
pound him again. Lather, rinse, repeat.

3. If you don't need to repair and you need your ships to continue what they
were doing before the combat happened, then do nothing. They will
automatically continue executing their previous orders.

Conclusion:

A final word on the guidelines and tactics suggested here. They are just
that: suggestions and guidelines. Feel free to adapt them to your style as
much as you like. As long as you are careful to account for such factors as
positioning, leadership and balance in your fleet compositions, the game is
very flexible about the rest. The only rule you should never, NEVER break:
don't pet a flaming dog. Enjoy! :rofl:

--------------------------------

So far major thanks go to the following people:

John Heidle: for pointing out a couple of major oversights and for his
positive feedback approach

JHHowell: for correcting a major faux pas regarding CAGs and for several
other useful comments about carrier warfare and leadership

Gjerg Kastrioti: for pointing out the extra value of CLs' air attack
advantage

Shuffler: for pointing out the advantage of using CTFs to escort TPs

PPharaoh: for several good questions which led me to fill in some important
gaps in leadership and stacking information

Solon: for reminding me that find and replace exists (saved me a lot of
time!)
 
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