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.
- 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.
What affects Positioning
- 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.
- Fleet Composition
- 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 scorts 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 ombatants, 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 a factor in determining positioning. Each fleet has 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 example, Transport Fleets will have their goal to escape, so their optimum range is 450 km. If this range is achieved, the transports will be able to retreat without taking damage. Meanwhile, a CTF needs to be in range for its planes to strike, and yet out of range of capital ship heavy guns. Finally, a SAG needs to close distance as much as possible in order to unleash all its firepower.
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. In HoI2, CVs ruled the seas for this reason, with the only exception of night battles and bad weather. Starting in Doomsday, however, balance was restored: with the introduction of light carriers, it became possible for an SAG with CVLs to close distance.
Combat Range in Naval battles has an optimal value. This value is believed to be calculated as described below
- CV is the highest class in calculating optimal range.
- Capital Ship or CVL is the second highest class in calculating optimal range.
- Screen Ship is the lowest class in calulating optimal range.
- Unique class's
Optimal Range will always be 90% of the maximum range of the shortest range of the highest ship class.
- i.e. If you have two Capital Ship's in a fleet. One with a range of 30 and the other with a range of 28, the optimal range will be 90% of 28.
- NOTE, Range of a lower class is ignored. If you have a Capital Ship in a fleet with a range of 28 and the rest of the fleet is Screen Ship's with ranges of 32 the optimal range will be 90% of the range of the Capital Ship (i.e. 90% of 28) The range of the Screen Ship's is ignored.