Wargamer's Corner

Up until he died, it was a one-developer show, so it was indeed more about the numbers and simulation engines than UI or fancy graphics. Now it's in other hands, we'll see where it goes.

I played a lot of the first one and a moderate amount of the second- I'm more interested in the WW1/WW2 dreadnoughts than the aircraft carriers, at least how they're modeled here. I'm likely to pick up this one very soon, though probably not instantly out of the gate as I'm busy with other games and don't want it to lose that new game smell until I'm ready to play it. The system itself is very, very nichey- if this is your jam, this is exactly what you want; if "battleships are pretty cool, I guess", it might not work as well.

What I like about it is the ship design system- it's pretty clear what you're getting for each choice you make, and gives you a lot of info about the tradeoffs of certain choices. And if you don't want to deal you can have the AI design a ship and tweak it a bit to your liking. The UI for managing fleets is a bit spreadsheety but does the job- you know where your ships are and what their status is.

This version is also supposed to fix an annoyance from the previous iterations- it wasn't really possible to organize your ships. Often you'd go to a battle with an arbitrary grab-bag from your ships in a zone, instead of sending out, say, a standard battlecruiser squadron or division of dreadnoughts.

What I didn't like is that is can be very opaque about why something fails to happen or doesn't go well. Why am I missing all my fire? Why is that squadron not obeying an order? Why are my DDs not launching torpedoes when they're nominally in range? You get to guess.

I have to recommend Robert Farley's The Battleship Book for naval fans; it's a great examination of all significant 'battleship' classes of the time.

I played a lot of the first one, much less of the second one. I echo qaraq's statements. The best part of the game is designing ships. The tech tree was interesting and allowed you to go in ahistorical directions but this always had consequences which made sense. Or you could try to go all Jeune École and see if that could actually work (usually not). Technical progress is pretty rapid and it does a great job of capturing the feel of the 1880s-1920s where ships could be obsolete before they got commissioned due to the rapid march of naval technology.

The strategic layer was there to push you into wars and was sometimes maddening. You try and manage relations with the other powers because you need to wait 3 more years for your new ships to come online and some random event would sour things such that war happened anyway. Semi-true to life, no one is ever truly prepared for war, but still anger inducing when it happened.

Once in a war, the engagements were also somewhat nonsensical a lot of the time. If I have 8BB, 12CA, 33DD on station, why are my battles always 1CA + 7DD vs the AI's 3BB + 8CA + 22DD? Doesn't happen all the time but often enough. Again, I understand why this was done this way, there were many more engagements in the time period with small sets of combatants than large fleet battles. Still, the game is all about designing and building ships and then smashing them together, so it is kind of a bummer when that doesn't happen more regularly.

The battles can also be a let down due to how the sighting rules work: you can easily sail around and exhaust the battle timer and never see anything at all.

However, when you do get a relatively even fleet engagement, it was really fun, despite being somewhat opaque, as qaraq mentioned.

Version 2 tried go cover more time and get into aviation and missle warfare of the 50s but I did not think they did a great job of it and stopped playing very early after release. It has probably been patched up, the devs were pretty good about getting patches out.

I am cautiously optimistic about version 3. From what I read, the devs took a lot of feedback to heart about the problems in 2 and was trying to address them (in fact IIRC what became 3 started out as DLC for 2 - could be mis-remembering that though). The UI is old and clunky but Rule the Waves 1 was a pretty good game despite its flaws. I am glad Matrix/Slitherine is publishing 3 and it is on Steam, I think it deserves a wider audience than just being on the NWS storefront.

Robear - I thought it was the owner of NWS who passed away, not the actual devs. Could be wrong about that though.

Yeah, it was the guy who emailed serial numbers who died, not the developer.

I bought RTW3 and jumped into a 1890 campaign as France tonight. Great fun! Bullying Italy in the Mediterranean never gets old.

What I've always loved about the series is its depiction of strategy:

1. It's the player's job to come up with an appropriate force structure and ship designs that bridge the gap between national policy / circumstances (coastlines, colonial ambitions, etc) and the available resources (naval budget, economic strength). That focus on the policy level makes the RTW series unique among wargames & strategy games, and is much closer to my interests.

2. It also depicts the reality of decision-making in an organisation. You design and command the fleets; you don't lead the nation. The politicians make the decisions about peace & war. You just get the job done.

The 1890 start is interesting so far. The dev diary is not kidding when it talks about the inaccuracy of early weapons. I've managed to sink a few enemy cruisers so far by cutting them off from the rest of the fleet and then bullying them. I've never managed to sink more than 1 ship per engagement, or anything larger than an armoured cruiser. Battleships seem to shrug off each other's fire. I've mostly focused on cruiser builds as I don't want to waste money on building new pre-dreadnoughts that will become obsolete in 15 years. Destroyers haven't even entered into service yet.

Best praise I have is, RTW3 has managed to temporarily tear me away from Zelda.

It was a pretty easy mod for RTW2 to remove aircraft from the game, although you had to be careful to also block the AI from building CVs and AVs. From what I've read in the Steam forums it ought to be possible in RTW3 as well.

In the missile age I think the underlying engine of CMO is better for that era than RTW, but like I said I'm far more interested in the DN/BB period.

I have a book written shortly after WWII by a naval officer; it's mostly about how the war was fought but has a final chapter with predictions for the future. They're hilariously wrong in hindsight, but would be a very interesting alternate history, and I'm curious to see if RTW can model them. He really didn't see jets coming to CVs and figured that aircraft powerful enough to threaten ships must be land-based. So he proposed a hybrid BB/CV concept; 100kton ships with heavy guns but also flying local interceptor and light attack a/c.

I thought he was also a dev. Still, it crippled the business for a bit.

Battleships in the 1890's/1900s were supposed to be victimized by torpedo-firing small boats and destroyer flotillas. Which led to massive changes in composition of fleets in all sorts of competing directions for about 20 years.

Qaraq, have you read "Fleet Tactics and Naval Operations, 3rd Edition" by The Estate of Capt Wayne P Hughes, Ret.? It has a lot of history on the development of tactics and weapons and the like, all the way up to the drone and stealth age. Unfortunately he died in 2019 but that's plenty up to date.

You can learn a ton from that book. It's taught at the USNA.

I have a copy of 2nd edition from a few years back, but not 3rd- I think the difference is chapters on coastal operations as well as technological updates. No drones in the old one for sure. Been a while since I read it though.


Honestly, I gotta respect a game out here in the Year Of Our Lord 2023 looking like Windows 95 on purpose.

Question: Will this game allow me to pit a fairly modern Aircraft Carrier vs. the Entire Spanish Armada?

No, it only goes back to 1890 I think.

Robear wrote:

No, it only goes back to 1890 I think.

Yes, 1890 is the earliest start date.

With help from my British allies, I thrashed the Italian navy last night in a second war circa ~1900:
- Reduced them to 3 Bs (pre-dreadnought battleships) from ~7 or 8 pre-war
- Sheared away all their colonies (Sardinia and Albania to me, Eritrea to Britain)

In a fit of 'potentially too clever for my own good', I followed up in the peacetime with a naval treaty that imposed tonnage limits on each navy and banned the construction of - IIRC - ships with guns larger than 8". The consequences will be interesting:

- No guns larger than 8" means that, if the treaty holds, dreadnoughts are going to be at least a decade delayed compared to our timeline
- I'd expect more innovation in cruisers/destroyers while everyone hoards their (currently) irreplaceable pre-dreadnought battleships
- The treaty limits will prevent the Italian Navy from rebuilding for an entire generation, and enshrine my (slight) tonnage margin over Germany
- But they also prevent me from building more battleships to rival the larger German battle fleet (more of my tonnage cap has gone to cruisers)

For now, the Mediterranean is a French lake, but the danger is Germany in the Atlantic.

Let's see what happens

The US Navy needs to bring back dreadnoughts!

The idea of a BB hull with a crapload of 8" guns instead of the more usual 8 or 9 12"-16" guns, kind of like an overgrown Atlanta CLAA, amuses me greatly. I'm not sure how much the engine will let you do that though, since both superimposed and triple/quad turrets IIRC take a while to get to. Still, with some focus it should be possible, maybe with a hex-turret design, to slap 18+ 8" guns on a large hull. More Dakka, battleship style.

No no, modernize them. Give em 32" guns!


Robear wrote:

No, it only goes back to 1890 I think.

Will this game allow me to pit the Bismarck against a nuclear-powered carrier battle group?

qaraq wrote:

Still, with some focus it should be possible, maybe with a hex-turret design, to slap 18+ 8" guns on a large hull. More Dakka, battleship style.

Ha, that would be interesting! I wonder if the game engine would even let you design a battleship with main guns that small. I don't think I even have wing turrets (and I definitely don't have superimposed turrets) yet, though, so I wouldn't be able to mount enough dakka yet.

Prederick wrote:

Will this game allow me to pit the Bismarck against a nuclear-powered carrier battle group?

No nuclear propulsion in game, but yes, I'm sure you could pit a WW2-era battleship against a modern aircraft carrier group.

(If you don't mind paying maintenance for the battleship for all those decades!)

Well, the naval treaty didn't last long! Got into a war with Germany and Japan within the decade. The UK, the US, and Spain jumped in on my side.

I don't know whether it's the "gunnery training" doctrine, crew quality, fire control, or sheer good luck, but something is paying off. My battleships seem to regularly achieve higher accuracy than their enemy counterparts. So far, the war is going well.

Now up to 1955. Wow, the new stuff is cool.

The preceding decades saw me:
- Beat Germany in the last war of the pre-dreadnought era.
- Lose to a German-Italian coalition around ~1914-1915. Two painful lessons learned: (i) pre-dreadnought armoured cruisers are horrifically obsolete against dreadnought battlecruisers, so I should build the latter ASAP when they become available; and (ii) France is strong enough to take either Germany or Italy, but not both at the same time.
- Get my revenge on Italy in the 1920s. This was the dawn of the aircraft carrier, so my newfangled naval aviation was little more than a curiosity. While the biplanes buzzed around, the battleships and cruisers still did the real work.
- Beat Italy in two more skirmishes, up to the 1940s. The battleship was still dominant, although now with radar helping out. In the short time that both wars lasted, the game never spawned any carrier engagements. By this point, the naval disparity between me and Italy was so great that both times, Il Duce sued for peace almost as soon as the war began.
- Now fighting Germany. The US is lending me a helping hand. I think I can win, but it's probably the most even fight I've had in decades.

The current war, with 1950s tech, is another really cool inflection point:
- Jet aircraft are ubiquitous now, and early antiship missiles exist ... but without radar guidance, they're limited to use within visual range, and accuracy seems poor.
- Old-fashioned guns and torpedoes are still around, and with radar and modern fire control, they're devastating against enemies within range. I lost every modern heavy cruiser I had in a gun/torpedo battle against the German cruiser fleet. Then in the next encounters, my battleships took revenge.
- And the battleship still has a place! Germany discarded all of theirs, which looks like a mistake on their part. My veteran Aquitaine-class battleships - originally built in the early 1930s as battlecruisers, eventually re-roled as fast battleships, and continuously upgraded with modern radar - are probably still the fleet MVP.
- There will be a day when the missile takes over, the old prop-driven torpedo bombers and dive bombers (still operating from my older, pre-jet carriers) retire, and the battleships live the rest of their lives in a museum. But that day is not today.

Besides the new content, I like one rule tweak:
- The old 'keep masses of obsolete destroyers around as cheap ASW/convoy escorts' seems less effective - there's a new (I think) rule that eventually, ships without modern sonar receive a penalty to their ASW stat.

Welp, Mind, you talked me into it. I used my 17th(!) anniversary coupon from Matrix to get it for $20.

Hope you're happy!

Haha, enjoy!

I may do that next time mine comes up.

Well that didn't last long. Started as the US, accidentally got into a war with Great Britain in 1893 - got some unlucky random tension increases with them while I was trying to get something started against Spain. Man, they took me out behind the woodshed. They took Midway and Hawaii. They just have so many ships. I don't think they are very good ships (neither are mine) but quantity has a quality all its own. I am so far behind now I am going to restart.

Good times!


Yeah, I take very, very great care not to annoy the UK (and eventually the US). Punching down/currying favour up might not be chivalrous, but it keeps my sailors alive. The British embark on a colonial land grab? Yes, sir; would sir care for tea and scones? The Italians embark on a colonial land grab? Aux armes, citoyens

Speaking of minor naval powers, after I posted that update, my purported ally Austria-Hungary switched sides to join their other ally — Germany. I felt betrayed! Not only had AH stood shoulder to shoulder with me in my unsuccessful war against Germany/Italy decades earlier, I’d also fed them technology during the intervening years so they could help me counter Italy. I have Germany on the ropes, but now I’ll have to divert forces — probably my older, pre-jet carriers, plus a destroyer screen — to the Med. Good thing the US is on my side.

I think that kind of alliance treachery is another new feature in RTW3. I can’t remember it ever happening in the previous games.

Finished my French campaign yesterday!

After beating the Austro-German alliance, my final war was in 1962, against the UK and Italy. The US was on my side again. That war ended in a negotiated white peace -- and whichever French diplomat negotiated that should get the Legion of Honour, because I was hanging on by the skin of my teeth.

The UK was, predictably, formidable. The surprise was Italy. After rebuilding their fleet in the previous ~20 years of peace, the Italians were much, much more dangerous than I expected. They had 3 fast battleships ("officially" BCs, but bigger and tougher than my BCs-turned-battleships, and resilient against multiple missile hits), a lot of land-based air, and modern anti-ship missiles. Against that, I had a navy that was too top-heavy (4 battleships and 8 carriers, only 4 of which were modern jet-capable designs), with a bare handful of modern DDGs and missile cruisers, and too many obsolete pre-missile destroyers.

The war was brutal. I lost 2 carriers (including 1 modern one) and 2 battleships. I don't think the British lost anything heavier than a light carrier. I had to shift most of my fleet to fight the UK, leaving almost nothing to hold the line in the Med. The status quo ante bellum was a heck of a lot better than I "deserved" based on the performance of the surface fleet -- Italy even handed Sardinia (which I conquered near the start of the game, and they recaptured during the war) back to me in the peace treaty. I wonder if my investment in submarines might have been what saved me, because I kept getting notifications about the sub campaign leading to shortages in the UK.

Late-game, flak seems almost useless. Fighter CAPs accounted for >60% of Anglo-Italian air losses. SAMs, despite only being fitted to a handful of ships, accounted for most of the rest (IIRC, high 20% range). AAA kills were pretty much a rounding error.

After the war, I scrapped the oldest carriers and destroyers to free up money to rebuild the fleet. I also economised on aircraft by downgrading most of my fighters from heavy to light jets and swapping out land-based jet attack aircraft for maritime patrol planes. Heavy jet fighters and jet attack aircraft are expensive! I spent the rest of the 60s building a modern DDG fleet supported by a small number of air defence-oriented missile cruisers. That modern fleet never saw battle -- the game ended in 1970.

Overall, great fun! I think this was my first successful French campaign in the series -- I tried and lost 2 French campaigns back in RTW2. France is more challenging than it looks -- despite being a developed European country, her geography makes it very easy to get into 2-ocean wars (the Med and the North Sea/Atlantic), often against more powerful enemies. This time, I was lucky -- the Italo-German alliance that beat me in the 1910s didn't last, I could rebuild in peace and pick off Italy in the coming decades, and the US alliance helped me stay alive in the 50s and 60s. My final prestige was in the low 40s -- the French Navy named an aircraft carrier after me.

As my first RTW3 game, I was also new to the transition from the carrier/gun era of the 40s to the jet/missile era of the 60s. In future games, I'll probably invest more heavily in the last generation of gun destroyers (my destroyers tended to suffer from being small and optimised for torpedo spam), throw on more missiles as a stopgap while I wait for purpose-built DDGs and CGs, and be more economical with jet aircraft.

I'll probably take a break from RTW3 and come back after the inevitable patches and tweaks (for instance, missile-era battles start with the fleets practically within range of each other - might that be tweaked later?). After France, Japan might be a fun country for a change of pace

HUGE update for Command: Modern Operations takes it to 64-bit, moves it from Dx9 to Dx11, and adds in a ton more detail to things like sensor height on masts, ground combat terrain LOS obstructions (a big deal in wooded and urban environments), a new "between the buildings" ultra low level flight mode for some UAVs, helos, etc, and a bunch of other enhancements and additions. You're gonna want this one, folks.

When the hell am I supposed to check that out Robear? Between Diablo, Zelda, SF6 and BG3…

I am jonesing for some wargaming goodness too…

More like, put your mouse on the right part of your Steam list, close your eyes, jiggle the mouse a bit and click.

I posted a key for Twilight Struggle to the keys thread but I figured that I'd let the folks in this thread know too. If you don't have TS already, it's really good.

PWAlessi wrote:

I posted a key for Twilight Struggle to the keys thread but I figured that I'd let the folks in this thread know too. If you don't have TS already, it's really good.

It's a lifestyle, so be warned!