As this game moved into its most decisive turns, the diplomacy had broken down into a straightforward 2 vs 2 scenario. TheArchduke's England and Woden's Brazil were allied together against oledavy's Japan and Singaboy's Germany. The central battleground looked to be the German continent again, where TheArchduke was planning a renewed assault starting on Turn 144 when his prior peace treaty with Singaboy expired. Complicating matters, TheArchduke and oledavy had a Declaration of Friendship that locked them into peace for a few more turns afterwards, which meant that there would be a short window of time where England could attack Germany without Japan being able to provide assistance. When all those various treaties wore off, however, the resulting combat was going to be explosive.
Civs that are allied with one another in Civ6 grant each other full vision of their units and territory. This meant that oledavy/Singaboy shared vision with one another, and TheArchduke/Woden also shared vision. At the same time, because oledavy and Woden still had an active alliance from the period before their diplomacy broke down, they also had an alliance with one another, and each was using this vision to pass on information to their other alliance partners of the various tactical movements taking place. Here's an example of this mechanic in action, with a German unit from Singaboy providing vision to oledavy:
oledavy: TheArchduke is still idling north of that strait. That could actually be a major problem. On the one hand, if he sits behind the strait and just defends, focusing his efforts on Kiel and Zitronheim and nothing else, he gives up his vaunted first strike capability. On the flip side, if he positions wisely, he can create a kill box where he is able to fire more shots every turn than me, and negate my numerical advantage. Great care must be taken, but I am hoping he commits south of the strait and opens himself up to a full engagement.
I will begin heading over when I have all my ironclads upgraded and healed up, with a few frigates trailing behind. They should arrive before a full battle is joined. I anticipate some initial turns skirmishing and me taking: "Who Wants to Live Forever" to establish a base of operations in the region first. I'm really curious to see what Archduke does when my fleet begins heading east. Will he meet me in a full on battle and get the first strike, or sit in the north sea and bide his time?
Meanwhile, Woden is giving him full vision of me. I think just sitting out would be more beneficial for his chances to win, but whatev. At least he made that hamfisted post about "an alliance until it's only me and you." If that doesn't push Singaboy into my corner, I don't know what will. He has to realize at best he's an afterthought for them.
The natural geography in this part of the world was about to become very important from a tactical perspective. There was a narrow one-tile sea lane between the German continent and the former Norwegian continent that was now controlled by TheArchduke's England. Singaboy's scout had revealed that TheArchduke was massing his fleet in the waters to the north of the German continent on the other side of that chokepoint. This raised an important question for oledavy: should the Japanese fleet try to push through that gap and engage the English ships on the northern side, or remain on the defensive on the southern end? This would be debated back and forth in the Japanese thread for the next few turns.
While everyone was waiting for the last few turns of peace to run out in the east, oledavy continued to grind down what remained of Jester's Spain:
Jester had only three cities left at this point. He continued to fight back as best he could, but the Spanish knights and crossbows were badly outdated at this point, and whenever a Spanish unit approached the coasts it would be blasted off the map by Japanese frigates. Spain continued to survive only because the last few cities were inland, away from the reach of Japanese sea power, and because the bulk of oledavy's forces were concentrated over by Germany for the main showdown with TheArchduke and Woden.
Here was the Japanese fleet heading east for the impending confrontation:
oledavy: I strongly considered sending a significant force west to attack Archduke's capital and force him to divide his ships, but his movements suggested he might not defend the bottleneck. I foolishly decided to base my movements on this, and moved absolutely everything east to force a climatic battle. Then this last turn, he deployed. That's actually a sub-par deployment. I could possibly force him to grind me ships 1 for 1 for awhile if he seeks to maintain that formation, something that would favor my numbers, but favor his ability to play for time and subs. This does work both ways though. By just sitting on the defense, and not coming south of the channel, Archduke gives up one of his greatest advantages, his killer first strike. I suspect he may have ironclads before the battle is joined, but he has not added any ships to this fleet over the last bunch of turns, meaning he is been slow to deploy reinforcements and begin a new naval building programme, or he's hiding ships. The latter is not impossible, but I suspect the former.
Archduke could still change his mind and deploy south, but I doubt it at this point. The only thing that could unseat him is a substantial land force, which is not coming. This is not without it's advantages though. I can set up my own kill box south of the strait and destroy his ships at a premium. Moreover, if he moves substantial elements east to attack Kiel and Zitronheim, I can brute force my way through the channel. Singaboy also has 6 ships in the region I can use to augment my numbers. Finally, realistically, I might just need to hold him until I have subs, and then brute force my way through with them. I suspect I will get them just a little bit before him at the current rate. So this last turn, I changed course and opted for a cake and eat it option. My fleet is being divided into 3 commands.
Task Force #1: Charged with eliminating the Spanish
Task Force #2: Charged with reducing Archduke's western Norway holdings
Take Force #3: Charged with counterbalancing his fleet. Additionally, this fleet will be charged with taking Midgard to establish a forward base of operations
For reference, Archduke currently has: 6 frigates, 1 frigate fleet, and 3 caravels visible. Even assuming a few reinforcements, the German and Japanese navies should easily be able to hold this force at bay through the channel, and push through should he choose to attack east Germany. Finally:
Task Force #4: Charged with defending against Woden or punching through Archduke
I can't brute force Archduke and a fleet move west would probably take too long to arrive, but I can run wild and acquire up to seven more cities (and eliminate Spain), while Archduke's fleet is bottled up and impotent. Moreover, keeping Archduke's fleet pinned against his homeland, with my current forces and then with some of my subs, prevents him from combining with Woden. All the while, I'll be increasing my economic base and reducing Archduke's. Without the ability to force Archduke into a final decisive battle, containment and slow accumulation of additional advantages seems to be my best bet. As long as I keep my naval production and economy going, possessing enough fleet at a given time to fight both him and Woden should things come to that, I'll be fine.
Now though, this option is more viable now than it was when I first looked at it a few turns ago because Archduke has chosen not to offer battle, and seems dead set on defending. He has also not reinforced his fleet at the rate I feared he would. This is going to free up the ten ships I need to continue grinding through Spain and Norway, all the while maintaining my commitment to the Germans and limiting Archduke's further expansion. It's a lot less satisfying than an all out brawl would have been, but it probably is the smarter move. The challenge then becomes to have enough subs to beat Woden's Minaes Geraeses and Archduke's subs, but if I can prevent them from combining, the threat they pose is significantly lessened.
All this goes out the window of course, if Archduke advances, but for now, I think my allocation of forces looks promising for my order of battle. There is a chance Singaboy gets upset that I'm not sending all my fleet to help him, but looking at things, he has to realize the tactical situation doesn't favor an all out attack.
Oledavy was therefore sending the bulk of his forces to the German front while also detailing a few smaller squadrons to continue grinding down Jester and harass TheArchduke's Norwegian possessions. This was another controversial decision which would end up having significant effects when the naval war broke out. He was expecting that there wouldn't be a major clash with TheArchduke's fleet, but events would end up taking a different course just a few turns later.
Meanwhile, TheArchduke had several turns to attack Singaboy before oledavy would be able to join the conflict. When Turn 144 arrived, he struck at Singaboy's northernmost exposed city:
Singaboy: And so the war begins without oledavy being able to interfere for a while. I can only hope to be able to resist Archduke for a few turns until oledavy can hit him hard. Alone, I can't do much with my pretty useless defenses. Archduke took Zitronenheim yet again and I am sure, Kiel will be next, there is nothing much I can do to stop him in the east. I am shoring up my navy at Salz am Meer, should Archduke dare to break through on this side. It would threaten my cities but expose him to oledavy's counterstrike on T147. I am not too sure whether he is willing to be so daring. I am hoping that oledavy uses his navy to block Archduke from advancing towards my western cities. Though it doesn't hand me any chance of a win, I can't wait for oledavy to sink Archduke's navy. It will be immensely staisfying to see them sink and his cities burn.
Even as the frigate portion of his navy was attacking Singaboy, TheArchduke was laying his preparations for the upcoming fleet battle with oledavy. The most important English need was having ironclads available in time to meet the ongoing Japanese ships:
TheArchduke: Oledavys Ironclads have been spotted thanks to an alliance with Spain. This means an all out or nothing beeline to it. I am three turns away from Industrialization and then I will use my Great Scientist to snatch Ironclads. This is close, the shallow water bonus is extra annoying basically cancelling out my Great Admirals.
So, the friendship runs out this turn, and Oledavy cocky as ever has lined up his frigates. I am not even in the industrial yet and he has ironclads, soon subs. Finish two workshops and buy a third. Finish Industrialization.
Pop Great Scientist [Darwin] for Ironclads. Shame I canīt wait for 2 shipyards. Now we are talking.
This was a really nice play by TheArchduke, picking up the boost for Industrialization tech just in time by constructing two workshops and cash-rushing a third, then burning his Great Scientist to research Steam Power tech. This allowed England to upgrade its caravels into ironclads in the nick of time before the big clash with the Japanese navy was due to begin. Also take a look at TheArchduke's income: 160 gold/turn, wow! His numerous Royal Dockyards and trade routes provided a massive amount of financial power throughout this game. However, TheArchduke's science rate was never as strong as one would have expected for a civ his size, and the fact that he needed these fancy moves to reach a technology that oledavy had picked up a dozen turns earlier attested to the superior Japanese science output. Oledavy's self-founded religion with Jesuit Education served him very well in this game to get and keep a scientific edge.
However, the fact that TheArchduke was only discovering Steam Power tech at the last second had an important tactical consideration. Units must be upgraded within your own cultural borders in Civ6, and as a result TheArchduke was forced to pull his navy to the north of that narrow channel of water in order to upgrade his caravels into ironclads. This allowed the Japanese ships to pour through the gap and face the English fleet in the more open northern waters, where the greater numbers of the Japanese ships could be used to good effect. I'm not entirely sure if this was the ideal move, since oledavy also had the potential to sit south of the narrows and hold there for a strategic defense, as he himself had suggested earlier. In any case though, the Japanese ships headed north through the gap. Here was the Japanese deployment at the end of Turn 145:
Woden didn't understand that TheArchduke had to pull back his ships for ironclad upgrades, and vented his frustration at the tactical positioning in his thread:
Woden: England declares war on Germany this turn. I don't know what he is doing with his ships... He had the choke point here blocked off and could have slowing worked down Japan's ships as they tried to break through. He could have 6 shot any 2 ships entering the chop point but he seems to have retreated to the next choke point. I also don't understand why I have not seem any Seadogs yet. He has to have civic by now, his culture has been higher than mine for quite some time. Seadogs are the only thing that potentially can counter the Venetian Arsenal with possible free ships on capture. Well, maybe he has something else up his sleeve. We will see.
And similar sentiments from oledavy:
oledavy: My navy is now up to 31 ships, and my swollen military is costing me about 160 gold/turn. (Without Conscription, which I will promptly be running again next time I swap Civics). Other than the one frigate I detailed off last turn, I have kept Task Forces #1 and #2 intact. 16 of my ships are sailing to do battle with Archduke, the other 9 are mopping up western Norway and Spain. The most I could have added to #3 this turn was one ironclad, and it would have left me without a melee unit for Task Force #2. So, I just decided to go with it. 16 ships is going to have to be enough. I've decided 4 privateers are sailing towards England to upgrade en route and reinforce me towards the end or in the aftermath of the battle. The other two are going to be held in reserve and form the core of my anti-Carnival Fleet. I have not yet decided on a timeline for upgrading, but I am probably going to leave Electricity incomplete for a few turns yet.
My late-breaking alliance with Archduke is proving advantageous, as I can fully position my fleet and get the ironclads into position before declaring war, instead of having to beat my head against a wall trying to pass through the channel. My military is now almost twice the size of Archduke's. Woden actually did some upgrading this turn, so I will have to worry about him soon. But, for now, I am ascendant. Eight sub upgrades come on t148.
However, overlooked in all this was the fact that oledavy had made a critical mistake. TheArchduke played before oledavy in turn order, and when their Declaration of Friendship expired on Turn 146, TheArchduke was able to get in a devastating first strike against the Japanese fleet. Oledavy's ships were not concentrated together, with half a dozen of them trailing behind the main force, and Singaboy's own small German navy out of the action entirely. This was a tactical opportunity that TheArchduke didn't miss:
TheArchduke: Summary of the naval engagement. We sink 3 frigates and wound 2 that will probably not escape. Things will be interesting. Basically it is +10 vs +7 (two Great Admirals against Shallow Water Japan... what a nasty bonus) But we upgraded 4 caravels to ironclads in this sector as well, and I only see one ironclad incoming. Still Oledavy was stupid enough to warn us that sub are around the corner, so finish mercantilism, build privateers and finish that tech. Time is awasting.
I will not win this, but I will sure as hell put up a fight.
Oledavy was kicking himself for putting his ships in such a vulnerable position:
oledavy: He can declare on me this turn. I made a mistake. I never signed an alliance with him, only a Declaration of Friendship. This is about to get really interesting really fast. Eesh, that's a lot of notifications, let's see what the damage is.
2 Promoted Frigates Sunk
This is actually not as bad as I feared. Most of my engage scenarios had me losing 5 ships in the first round. Here, he only sank three, and inexplicably chose to damage two instead of sinking one. Looking around, it's obvious why he didn't hit me harder - he was upgrading at least 2 caravels to ironclads this turn. I caught a minor break in that regard. For my part, had I known for sure I would be at war this turn, I would have deployed slightly my conservatively, in order to force him farther forward and possible opening up attacks from a couple more of my reinforcing ships. I also would have had Singaboy move forward last turn. Combined with his decision to sink Woden's caravel this turn instead of move north, he's going to be a little late to this engagement...
Still, it is what it is. Have to make lemonade out of lemons. But yeah, I think the "Archduke collapses" scenario is very unlikely at this point. This is going to be a tooth and nail battle where I expect I will possess the battlefield at the end of the day, but with a mere 3-5 ships surviving. Staged everything for the counter-attack. 9 ships in range, means I can probably kill three of his warships. The fact that my frigates are damaged doesn't matter, most ships just take 2 attacks and some change for me to sink, so they're still very useful. The priority here is to take out his promoted frigates. Any unit that can attack my frigates at +22 strength and not take any damage back needs to die ASAP. Here is the one moment the RNG might have given me a nice break and allowed me a free extra attack on him at the end of the turn. Alas, it was not to be. Here were the final results:
3 Frigates down, and his trade route pillaged for a cool 140 gold. Final Standing on my turn: 13 ships to 7 (?)(including one fleet). Next turn will be really brutal. With his ironclads entering the fray, and each one one good RNG roll away from one-shotting my frigates, it's going to get really bloody. I expect to lose 5-6 ships.
This was absolutely incredible stuff, huge naval fleets going at it on a scale that we'd never seen before in a Civilization game. Even in Civ4, naval units are generally used for transporting ground units and raiding cities, not for huge fleet vs fleet battles. And the fighting was far from finished here. TheArchduke killed five more ships on his turn, posting no pictures in his spoiler thread and writing only "there are so many of them." Singaboy now moved to engage with the small German navy:
Singaboy: oledavy and Archduke have exchanged heated attacks and both navies suffered quite a bit. I am worried whether oledavy is fighting too many fronts (besides the main battle, he is fighting Spain and attacking an English city in former Norway). I pull my ships into the battle zone, but my caravels and frigates can only do so much due to inferior power. I am counting
Archduke: 4 ironclads, 5 frigates including a corp
I am hoping that oledavy can at least take out 2-3 ships including 2 ironclads, so that we both can then attack together the following turn. Salz am Meer is adding another frigate next turn too.
Oledavy counterpunched on his turn after assessing the damage:
oledavy: Christ.... That's 6 frigates down between turns, plus a hit on the ironclad. About the worst scenario I ran. I was hoping he would only kill five, but he had another ironclad and frigate in the fog for 12 ships total. So, this brings me to 9 frigates lost to his 3, so far, and my ability to strike back is severely limited, my fleet is over halfway gone, and in amenities it's starting to show.
So, I had planned to figure out how to sink 3 of his ships, but realistically, I'm going to be challenged to sink 2. I need to sink the ironclads if possible, because Singaboy can't deal with them as easily as I can. And by easily I mean they're a pain in the ass to sink. I did some math, figured out how to go just over on two of them, and brought it home. Half of his ironclads are now at the bottom. If Archduke commits this next turn, in spite of Singaboy's fleet coming in, it will be a battle to the death. I'll be curious to see what he chooses. At present, if he chooses to continue the battle, I think our combined fleet can win, but it will be bloody, probably 2-4 ships surviving. Losses So Far:
Japan/Germany: 9 Frigates
All in Archduke's court now.
Japan's massed forces were taking horrible losses in the face of TheArchduke's smaller but individually stronger ships. The presence of the double Great Admirals allowed the English ships to punch above their weight, which was essentially canceled out by the larger number of Venetial Arsenal-produced Japanese ships. The tactics of this battle were fascinating, with both sides arranging their ships in formation to take advantage of flanking and support bonuses from the nearby ships. The positioning of every ship mattered, the promotions on the ships mattered (especially the +7 strength Embolon promotion pictured above), and the big picture strategic decisions that led to this encounter were a huge component of the outcome. For as much as I've criticized Civ5 and Civ6 for adopting the One Unit Per Tile gameplay mechanic, this was one place where it was working out perfectly. I have to admit that we rarely saw the same kind of naval combat like this in Civ4.
While the main fleets clashed, Japan's other expeditionary forces were quietly making progress elsewhere on the map. One task force was attacking the English cities on the northern coast of ex-Norway:
These cities had changed hands so many times by this point that there was never a real opportunity to develop the lands. The Norwegian continent remained a region of low infrastructure and few districts. Nonetheless, oledavy was working to keep up the pressure in this part of the map where TheArchduke had few forces by taking away whatever he could. It was a similar story in the long-running Spanish campaign:
Apparently Spain was suffering so badly from unhappiness that barbarian rebel knights had popped up near the capital city of Cortes. Sheesh, poor Jester. This was not his game.
In the heart of the conflagration, the turn had passed back over to TheArchduke again. He sank even more Japanese ships... only to face the imminent arrival of the German navy:
TheArchduke: We will not go silently into that night. 4 ironclads dead of his for 2 of mine. Which thanks to the VA is a draw. Now ze germans are coming as well.
Despite the depressed nature of that post, things were looking up for TheArchduke. The fact that he was able to get in the first strike, together with the fact that the Japanese and German ships had not been concentrated together at the start of the battle, looked like it was just enough to give him the edge in this clash between opposing armadas. Oledavy was clearly frustrated with the losses he was taking:
oledavy: This was the second most brutal turn of the North Sea Battle for me, With Archduke destroying all four of my ironclads just before Singaboy finally entered the battlefield. There wasn't much to do here but try to support him in finishing off England's ironclads. Unfortunately, there was just no way to kill them both with 3 attacks. I settled for sinking an ironclad and nailing a promoted frigate in a flanking assault.
Turn 148 was also an important date because oledavy's research finally completed into Electricity tech. This would allow him to upgrade privateers into submarines, albeit at a huge cost in gold. It would also prevent oledavy from building more privateers now that they had been obsoleted, which would cause problems that didn't become immediately obvious for a few more turns.
As if this wasn't enough fighting, Woden was finally bringing his own forces to bear as well. His mixed group of land and sea units approached the eastern coast of Germany and prepared for its own attack:
Woden: Now, I panic a little bit that Germany maybe able to push through the straits area and come and sink my army, so I decide to not attack the planned Kiel city and instead attack his southern most city. This is not optimal as I can only hit it with 1 Frigate but it is better to land and fight and I can always swap out Frigates. I do hit it with a Frigate and barely put a dent in the walls. This might take a while. I think my Frigate will get hit but should survive.
However, Singaboy knew these units were coming because Woden and oledavy still had an alliance with one another and therefore shared vision of each other's units. Oledavy had told Singaboy what to expect, and the German leader was prepared to meet the attack:
Singaboy: The situation in the north doesn't look promising, oledavy lost all of his ironclads and has a mere 3 frigates there. Archduke has 2 ironclads and 5 frigates. Let's deal with the east first though. Woden has used a frigate to attack Teutoburg's wall and taken off 17/100 health points. I am now sure he thinks his frigates can take down my walls and then used the ground forces to capture the city. I will try my best to prevent that.
Well, I have the city walls (ranged attack strength of 55) and two crossbows with 45 attack strength. I use all of them, making use of the fact that one crossbow is pulled to the east of the city and sink the frigate Now, the eastern crossbow is exposed but a ship coming in from the NE shouldn't be able to attack over the hill. I am sure, Woden will move the next frigate in position there to attack.
* * * * *
So, Woden panicked and retreated his troops from Teutoburg in order to invade under the care and nurture of Archduke. I knew it, Woden has no experience to fight offensively against humans. He knows how to take out city states, big deal. For a start, he is making the mistake to split his frigates though. In this game, if you fight on the offense, you got to be prepared to go all out to attack (unless you have such superior forces like Archduke, where strategy doesn't matter much). I am almost equal in strength for land forces to Woden. And I have cities for defense. It will be brutal should he choose to land. I guess he is hoping Archduke uses his navy to bombard me to hell and he then can take depleted cities. Let's hope it doesn't play out that way.
As Singaboy mentioned, Woden backed off after the loss of his initial frigate. His whole force was rather small in comparison to the giant fleets attacking one another off to the west, and Singaboy had units in good position to defend. Woden would have to look for another opportunity to attack one of the German cities elsewhere, and the Brazilians would soon be back again for a renewed assault.
The great battle of the North Sea was finally beginning to wind down now. TheArchduke made one further attack:
TheArchduke: Killing 2 more japanese frigates. One Ironclad survived by miracle, he is doubly promoted now. Without the +combat from Japan shallow waters, Germany stands zero chance. I hope he does not run away. The first new ships come down the line over the next turns. Subs and maybe 1-2 Great Admiral projects next, they are they only thing keeping me alive.
The Japanese/German force was also wrapping up the tail end of what increasingly looked like a losing battle:
oledavy: This was a pretty bad move from Singaboy. Archduke actually withdrew, only killing my two frigates this turn. We had an avenue to retreat with the German fleet intact. Moreover, he double promoted that Ironclad, giving the one that gives it +10 strength against ranged attacks. That thing is now basically unkillable by anything we had on the field Even subs will have problems with it. I don't think Singaboy grasped the significance of that second promotion. At any rate, he went all in and sank another frigate, so I had no choice but to join.
BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD.
Yeah, my other dumb misconception: thinking subs are an industrial unit, this changes a lot of my calculus, which I will get into in my strategy post. On the plus side, this means both battleships and subs will benefit from the modern/atomic admiral (the 6th one), who I am set to get. If I can hold things together long enough, my navy will be very strong, triple GA'd ironclads be damned.
Oledavy felt that he had no choice but to join Singaboy once the German frigates were committed to battle, even though this meant essentially certain death for all the Japanese/German ships. Unfortunately for their side, they were unable to do much in the way of damage to TheArchduke's remaining ships. I'm not sure that this was that bad of a call, however; all of TheArchduke's ships had a huge mobility advantage due to +1 movement from the Royal Dockyard and then another +2 movement from the stacked Great Admirals. It's unclear to me if it was even possible for the German units to run away from enemy ships with so many more movement points. Still, this was a doomed venture for those poor ship captains, who were now certain to go down to the bottom of the North Sea.
Note as well oledavy's realization that submarines are classified as Modern era units and not Industrial era ships. This meant that subs would not get a combat strength and movement bonus from Renaissance era Great Admirals, and more importantly, they would not get the +100% production bonus from the Press Gangs policy card. That policy only applies to Renaissance and Industrial era units, which worked for frigates and ironclads but not subs. In order to get the same bonus for submarines, the players would need to reach the International Waters policy which unlocked at Space Race civic, something that was a million turns away from everyone. Oledavy could therefore upgrade his existing privateers into extremely powerful subs, but it would take him ages and ages to build new subs. He would have limited use of superpowered submarines, with little opportunity to replace them if they happened to be lost.
By Turn 150, the Battle of the North Sea was over:
TheArchduke: 4 more ships are killed whilst fleeing. The battle of the great Armada against the valiant, smaller but better lead english fleet is a victory for England. I should have taken Oledavy more seriously and harvested ressources into ships and money. I think I did a decent job with my money economy, but my science and production has been lacking, not anymore. We are in full war mode and will hopefully crush Germany together with Brazil. I do not mind loosing some norwegian cities. If those 5 ships would have joined the battle I would have been dead.
In his own spoiler thread, oledavy was also thinking about the decision to split off some of his ships to chase after other objectives, in a long post assessing the outcome of the battle:
oledavy: So, tactically, despite my ability to double produce ships, I think this is a pretty clear win for Archduke. He killed more than he lost, even factoring in my hammer discounts. I'm going to estimate that of the hammers and gold in units lost in this battle, about 60% of it belonged to me and Singaboy. While Singaboy and I were successful in protecting West Germany, we utterly failed to annihilate his fleet and begin attacking England's west coast. Strategically, this battle is a draw. I was able to capitalize on Archduke's engagement to continue acquiring territory elsewhere, and my intervention guarantees Germany's survival for now. Regardless of whether going through the strait into the North Sea was the right move, I think acting to defend Germany absolutely was. The immediate threat to Germany is gone, and while Singaboy may still fall, it now will be a longer, more drawn out land war rather than a swift naval campaign. However, the war weariness from losing all my ships complicates things somewhat, as losing the battle is having a negative effect on my ability to produce a replacement fleet, making my losses slightly more meaningful than they would have been otherwise.
However, more than anything else, and regardless of the above, this was a huge missed opportunity for me. Had Singaboy and I prevailed, this game would probably be in the bag for me. Archduke would hardly been eliminated or removed as a threat, but taking out his fleet and burning a couple coastal cities before he could cram out subs would have put him on the backfoot, and made it that much more likely for me to win. This battle kills me inside because of the missed opportunity it represents moreso than the outcome. I still have good odds to win, perhaps the best odds of anyone at the table, but it's going to be a long road to hoe from here. But despite everything, the numbers on the field indicated we should prevail. Here was some of the math I did when running battle scenarios:
Due to first strike, we need 1.5 times Archduke's fleet size.
So, if we had run in with 18 ships against his 12, we should have gone about even according to my math. 22 ships should have translated into a modest victory. An ideal 22 vs. 12 ship engagement should have produced a win with ~10 ships. What went wrong? Well, let's get into each individual mistake, in chronological order.
Not Sending More Ships
Let's address this one right out the gate. 5 ships in Task Forces 1 and 2 could have been with Task Force 3 for the Battle of the North Sea. Their presence would have almost certainly guaranteed a win. However, when I made the decision to split up, it was looking like Archduke was going to mass around the channel, prevent me from slipping more than 2-3 ships through each turn - making moving north of the channel ill-advised. With this in mind, the task force was created when it looked like I was just going to have to defend the channel with Singaboy. A task for which the 15 ships I originally assigned to Task Force #3 were more than sufficient to do, combined with Singaboy.
When Archduke withdrew from the channel and opened up the option, all but one ironclad was too far away to turn around and rejoin the fight, and this was when I believed I would be going to war on t147. In reality, the ironclad would have been late. The decision to split was a strictly better decision in the event that Archduke defended the strait. The decision to go in anyway despite having allocated in this manner was made because Archduke still had only 10 ships. He hadn't upgraded, he hadn't added any ships, and I had Singaboy's fleet to help me in what looked like it would be a 22v10, a battle we had strong odds to win. However, this mistake largely stems from....
Believing War Would Begin on t147
Not much to say, I made a simple slip up here with the math and confusion about which turn the DoF lasted until/if we had an alliance, and thought it more likely t147 would be the first turn of the war. This meant I was deploying on t146 with an eye towards being able to resist and attack, but not believing I would have to. Critically, the ironclads were two turns away at the rear of the formation, meaning they could not absorb the initial hits. Singaboy also deployed on the expectation of t147. If I had known t146 was going to be the first turn of the battle, I would have deployed closer to the channel to try and bait him into a position where my ironclads could hit him sooner. This had an enormous effect on t2 of the battle. Where he was able to bring his full might to bear on me, and I was only able to bring half of my fleet to counter. The battle was basically lost on this turn. However, it was not helped by....
Singaboy's Late Arrival
My battle sims were predicated on basically every ship fighting each turn. Singaboy's fleet got to the battle two turns later than it should have. One of these was my fault, telling him the t147 number. The other was Singaboy deciding killing Woden's caravel was more important than getting to the battle ASAP. This meant during the first two turns, there were a lot less allied guns firing than there were British guns. Moreover, had we been able to take some losses on Germany's shittier unpromoted and not benefiting from Divine Wind ships, firepower for subsequent rounds of the battle would have been maintained. Archduke was able to further capitalize on our missteps with....
Archduke's Mass Ironclad Upgrade/Arrival of Reinforcements
Archduke's ironclads were the determining factor in the tactical battle. At 77 strength each, they were near impossible to kill and could basically one shot frigates. They screwed up all my pre-battle math. He was able to get them upgraded in the nick of time by using Darwin. Combined with the arrival of two additional ships towards the middle of the battle, it was overwhelming. I had trouble dealing with Ironclads, and Singaboy's strength difference without Divine Wind meant he was basically hitting them with pea shooters. Finally, there's the matter of....
I'm not going to be that guy who attributes his opponent's win entirely to luck, but it did play a small role. Notably, if you go back through my thread, you'll notice I gave Archduke an estimated range of kills he was likely to make on the next turn. He scored the top of that range 3 turns in a row. Having one less shot each turn for three turns in a row makes a huge difference. Moreover, the only turn he lowballed (t149), was the turn he withdrew.
In sum, I don't regret the allocation of my forces, or the decision to go through the strait, I think they were both the absolutely right decision at the time based on the information we had. The battle hinged largely on me recording the wrong turn for the end of the NAP, and a maelstrom of bad results stemming from that. Archduke having a first strike with Great Admirals was the biggest single disadvantage to overcome to fighting him. The fact that he got it and got to effectively defeat me and Singaboy's fleet and mine in detail over a number of turns is what allowed him to prevail against numbers that should have been sufficient to overcome his advantages. What's worse, you can go back in my thread and see the post where I realized I counted the Declaration of Friendship wrong - where I had turned it into an alliance right afterwards when any look at Archduke's icon in the game would have indicated otherwise. More than any other factor, the mistaken belief that battle would be joined on t147 snowballed a winnable position into a depressing defeat that has once again thrown the game into doubt.
One of the nice things about a game that had such excellent reporting is that it saves me a lot of working in doing the writeup. Oledavy did an excellent job here assessing what had gone right and what had gone wrong for the Japanese side in the great naval clash. Without TheArchduke's last second upgrading of his caravels into ironclads, without England getting in the first strike against the Japanese fleet, and without the German ships getting caught out of position to the south at the start of the conflict, this battle likely would have had a different outcome. Oledavy was kicking himself over miscounting the start of the war by a single turn and getting caught off guard. The Battle of the North Sea was a clear tactical victory for TheArchduke.
However, I couldn't help but feel that this had been a strategic draw in the larger picture. TheArchduke sunk a good portion of the Japanese fleet, but Germany still remained intact for the moment and none of oledavy's cities had been taken. In fact, while these two navies had been duking it out north of Germany, the small Japanese detachments that oledavy had mentioned were quietly taking English cities in ex-Norway and grinding away at Jester's possessions in what remained of Spain. I put two pictures related to those side campaigns into the post above to break up some of the lengthy text. In fact, Japan was now nearly as large as England in terms of size, with the Venetian Arsenal still working away to provide the 2 vs 1 deal every time a new ship was built. And although Japan had lost more ships than England, Japan was also in a position where it could afford to lose more ships.
As a result, despite all of the ships traded away on both sides, the game still remained in a stalemate. TheArchduke would concentrate his attention on eliminating Singaboy next, with oledavy attempting to prevent Germany's defeat while slowly making more progress in Spain. Woden was soon to gain access to his Minas Geraes battleships and that would also shake up the action in the game further. Despite all that had happened, the outcome of the game still remained to be decided.