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Empire: Total War - Naval Battles
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Empire: Total War Heaven » Forums » Empire: Total War - Naval Battles » Bigger isn't Better
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Topic Subject:Bigger isn't Better
TKwarrior17
Mariner
posted 06-15-10 08:10 PM EDT (US)         
After playing out about 30-40 custom naval battles, I have come to a surprising conclusion. While I do not have exact numbers/details to give you, I can assure you I did a thorough investigation.

In my 'study,' I pinned fleets of smaller ships (5th-3rd rates) against fleets of larger ships (2nd-H1st rates). 60-70% of the time, the outmanned and outgunned fleet won. I alternated between commanding the fleets each game to try to make it as even as possible.

I noticed that when it came down to overall ability, the third rate had all other ships beat soundly. Obviously, a one-on-one battle between a third rate and a first rate would likely end in victory for the first rate, but 5 first rates versus 5 third rates almost always ended with victory for the third rates. The reason for this is maneuverability. Second rates and first rates are quite bulky, and have a difficult time turning around. Heavy first rates, however, and horrendously difficult to maneuver, and are the most unresponsive ships imaginable. Even the Santísima Trinidad, however impressive it may be, is better off kept as a prize ship and nothing more.

It's plain and simple: Anything 98 guns and above is just to cumbersome to be a worthy addition to any fleet, except perhaps as an admiral's flagship (which should not be thrown into the thick of combat - ever).

Cutting back to smaller ships, I closely examined the fighting capabilities fourth rates and the smaller fifth rate:

The fourth rate has (depending on your nationality and game (i.e., ETW/NTW)) about 54-64 guns. It's lack of firepower (compared to the third rate) is made up for quite well by its speed and maneuverability, but it has no chance against a second rate or larger. It is useful at the early-game stage, but should not by any means be the mainstay of your fleet. It does make an excellent pirate-hunter, however.

The fifth rate has 32-38 guns, and is massively useless against heavier ships unless in larger numbers. The fifth rate is a poor fighting ship, and is even more worthless than the fourth rate. I wouldn't suggest adding them to your fleet.

The third rate, however, is a different story. It combines much of the same firepower of the second rate with the excellent maneuverability of the fourth rate. It has a sleek shape, thin frame, and a strong hull able to withstand heavy broadsides. It's sleek shape enables it to reach much higher speeds than larger ships, while it's thin frame allow for better handling. These are typically attributes of much smaller ships, but when you combine them with it's strong hull and much larger armament, this is a combination that incorporates the best of both worlds.

The Spanish, alas, never caught on like the British, French, and Dutch, and therefore could not keep up with their naval capabilities. That is not to say that their massively over-armed floating fortresses were not still a threat, however.

Un bon mot ne prouve rien. A witty saying proves nothing. - Voltaire
Dieu nous a donné le cadeau de vie; c'est jusqu'ŕ nous de se donner le cadeau de vivre bien. God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well. - Voltaire
AuthorReplies:
BurningSushi460
Scenario Reviewer
posted 06-17-10 10:20 PM EDT (US)     1 / 5       
This is an interesting case of how naval battles can be affected by micromanagement and macromanagement. The smaller, faster ships that can dart to and fro on the waves to deliver fire at the right time and place usually represent the deciding factors of the battle. Large behemoths like the 3rd, 2nd, and 1st rates are usually the line of the battle for their size and payload, but are very difficult to manage and keep on top of the enemy during the heat of battle. Balance of micromanagement (which represents speed, manuverability, flanking, and reliability) and macromanagement (firepower, endurance, stats, damage ratio) are what can decide any engagement.

You state that a First Rate can trounce a Third Rate in a one-on-one standoff, but should that Third Rate not think like Line Infantry and instead outspeed the First Rate's turnspeed, will effectively defeat the latter's superior statsheet qualities.

To summarize what you say and help me understand your study, I would compare the Heavy ships and Light ships to (not using ETW units) medieval knights and horse archers. Heavy infantry like knights can basically rip apart any adversary once they engage thanks to the superior armor, training, and weaponry they use. The problem is all the superior army and weaponry weighs the knight like an anvil and prevents the trained knight from engaging fast enemies or enemies out of swinging distance. Any half-witted bowman would plant a bodkin right through his skull before he could reach him. Horse archers deliver instant firepower to the enemy and dart away or flank their opponent faster than they can reassemble to face them. However, when the horse archers are trapped by melee troops or forced to endure durated counterfire, they will crumble apart as a force and be slaughtered. You can see how the tactics of both ships and land armies are comparable.

Actually it was originally called just Heaven, but then God sold the naming rights to Microsoft, so.... -GoForGoldenJarls

Astor: “Churchill, if you were my husband, I’d put poison in your coffee.”
Churchill: “Madam, if you were my wife, I’d drink it.”
CliffBarney
Mariner
posted 08-07-10 07:55 AM EDT (US)     2 / 5       
Yeah, your Third Rate will win if fought correctly. Just keep out in front of the behemoth 1st Rate and keep raking him with chain shot 'til he is demasted. Then pound away with round shot 'til he surrenders. I've even defeated 1st Rates 1 vs 1 with Fourth and Fifth Rates, and once with a Brig -- just be sure you don't get close enough to his bow or stern for him to fire one of his golden bullets. Have tried beating one of these behemoths with a single sloop even; didn't work. The sloop's chain shot was pretty ineffective and one or two hits from the enemy bow gun caused the sloop to rout.
Hussarknight
Seraph Emeritus
posted 08-08-10 04:35 AM EDT (US)     3 / 5       
Bigger was better before the 1.4 patch came out which changed the naval balancing. If I recall correctly they gave the smaller ships more range and firepower than the big ships so I'm not surprised by the outcome of your test. I remember that just after the patch someone posted a pic here of a sixth rate having beaten a first rate 1vs1.

          Hussarknight
NewPatton43
Mariner
posted 09-11-10 09:39 PM EDT (US)     4 / 5       
in my opinion and experience the 3rd and 4th rates make up all my fleets with maybe 1 or 2 2nd rate ships to give that 'extra' push. However 4th rates are the best in my opinion but thats just me, and my navy always come from sweden or the usa in customs
stryper
Mariner
posted 02-09-11 11:30 AM EDT (US)     5 / 5       
I would have to agree.

in a recent Naval Battle, I was fighting a group of brigs and dhows with a 2nd rate 2 third rates and a few brigs a sloops. The big ships basic strategy is charge in and engage, which they did quite well. However by splitting the force of brigs an sloops I was able to encirlce the enemy fleet and capture most of the dhows.

So, as shushi said, each ship has its role. But just like the horse archer, if a brig or sloop gets caught, its dead; usually explosively.


Another thing that annoyed me was the dhows kept fighting, with thier 1 cannon each. The big ship damage rate dropped significantly against these very small ships. They hit the ocean more then the ships. However, the smaller ships did better as their cannon were closer to the waterline.

So as with most things in TW, specialization has its benefits if used well.
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