Fleets vs. Armies

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Re: Fleets vs. Armies

Postby Mr.E » 29 Dec 2017, 11:19

I would usually favour some sort of balanced build policy with the exception of England, which I'll come back to later. But I think the key to whether you build fleets or armies depends very much on your grand strategy, your game plan, or journey map.

Don't have one? Yeah, you do, in some way or another. You start the game thinking something like: I'm heading for this/these SC(s), so I'll need to... And, perhaps, you'll be thinking along the lines of: And, when I've got them, I'll aim for ..., depending on how the game looks. That's a short-term game plan. Even if you don't think further than that, because by then you'll probably be thinking only of which power you'll need to finish off, that's a plan. And when you get closer to achieving these objectives, others will present themselves, and you'll be planning what you need to take those.

OK, maybe calling this planning a 'Grand Strategy' is a little exaggerated, but it's a plan. Others will look at a bigger, truer grand strategy, involving working out which SCs they will want to capture, in the order they want to capture them, which powers they'll want to work with to achieve their aims, etc.

A lot of players will tell you this is a waste of time and, in the way I've laid it out, this simply, it is. Become too reliant on this plan and you'll end up bitten off the north coast of Kiel, experiencing dark waters south of Sevastopol, or munched on in the forests of Germany. Whatever your plans, you need to be flexible, to have alternatives, and to respond to the developing situation of the game.

Still, you will be thinking about your next targets, and part of that process is how many units you'll need and, crucially, what type of units. Or you should be.

This is crucial in the early game, especially for those powers that have options. In 1901 you'll get to build; well, maybe you won't but if this is the case, your plans need to be about how the feck you'll survive. So let's be more positive: you'll have a build or two - France and Germany maybe even three. So, before you build, you should be considering what you're going to do, what you're going to be capable of doing, how you're going to do it, and what you'll need to do it.

The last bit is as important as the other bits: What units are you going to need to achieve your next objectives? Germany is reliant on armies, as are Russia and Austria. Germany needs to get her armies into play, whether she's heading east, west or south. And she may be working in alliance with England, so building fleets - even a fleet - is going to make England think twice. But, if she's heading for England, or if she faces a defensive Russian line to the east, she will need to think about a fleet, maybe two (if she has that luxury).

Russia's problem is that fleets in the south, early on, are going to be matched or bettered by Turkish fleets. So she is - usually - left with the option of building a fleet in the north. Building it on the south coast limits it; building it on the north coast is going to make England think twice (England may be doing a lot of multiple thinking). What's more likely for Russia is picking where her new armies are likely to be best placed: Balkan-warring (which means Austria), Turkey-plucking or Germany-stomping.

Austria's problem is simple: She has one port and it's badly positioned. She could really do with a second fleet, frankly, but it has such a limited set of options (unless she's captured Venice) that it feels a waste. And she is also likely to offer Russia and Turkey dangerous options if she doesn't build armies.

At least England is free of thinking twice if Austria builds a fleet...

What I'm getting at is that, while Germany, Austria and Russia will normally be thinking army, army, ARMY!, there are times when they will be thinking shh... fleet. And this depends on what they're aiming to do, what they want to achieve - and how they're going to get there. Part of strategy is always about the geography of the battle ground and the geography involved in reaching the battle ground. As Sun Tzu mentioned, avoid marshes, they're no good for your warriors; avoid mountains, they're hard work. In Dip, avoid fleets if you're Germany and heading for the Alps, or Burgundy, or Warsaw; avoid armies if you're heading to London. Pretty simple.

Now, England; England is different.

Remember, we're still in the early game. Certainly 1901 Adjustments, probably 1902 Adjustments, maybe 1903... if the triangle is taking some resolving. England needs fleets. She's sea-locked. She needs to have fleets to convoy armies. She needs fleets to expand, to defend, to survive.

Post-Napoleonic Wars, Britain developed a naval strategy by which she would maintain a naval force bigger than the next two largest fleets in the world combined. This was mainly because she had to maintain a growing empire, which was far-flung and required dominance of the seas to take advantage of. But also because she was always facing the possibility of invasion from the continent. Napoleon had planned to invade; this had been changed into the Continental Blockade, but the threat had been there. The Armada had failed, while England's navy was weak(ish), because they hadn't planned for the prevailing south-westerlies blowing the ships through the Channel, into the North Sea and northwards. William of Orange had succeeded because his fleet - larger than the Armada - had benefited from unusual easterlies blowing his ships into the Channel. Britain has this idea that the last successful invasion from the Continent was in 1066. It wasn't; it was 1688. William of Orange was invited, and he didn't need to conquer Britain, as such, but he still invaded and became William III.

In Dip, England needs to be aware that she is threatened. At the start of the game, she has more fleets than any single power in the north (yes, Russia has two fleets but one of them is years away), but she is outnumbered by a combination. A William and Mary alliance of France and Germany with Russia is often successful, simply because they can better England at sea.

England is likely to get a single build. She can't even guarantee that - Norway - unless she uses both fleets in 1901. She may get Belgium but that will probably need either France or Germany to help (which isn't unheard of simply because Belgium is so easy to chuck England out from). If she uses a Southern Opening (F Lon-ENG and F Edi-NTH) she has a better chance of taking Belgium but it isn't certain by any means. And she may nick into Brest or, if she's extremely lucky, Denmark.

England can get two builds. She needs armies to move into the Continent in a serious way, so follow a balanced build policy - a fleet and an army. She may manage just one build - which isn't a bad result for England - so build a fleet or an army (she still needs to get onto the Continent, after all). And, as the game progresses and England's builds creep up, balance armies and fleets.

... or so the prevailing 'wisdom' goes.

England does need armies, it's true. I'd even go so far as to suggest that, at some point in the early game, a second army isn't a bad idea... perhaps. But England has a greater, more pressing need - control of the seas. Unchallenged control. There are three reasons for this.

(1) England needs to survive. If she builds a second army, while getting her first army into Belgium/Brest/Norway/wherever, it can sit in Yorkshire, covering her ass in London, Edinburgh and Liverpool. Yorkshire is the best place for an army to be in England (as well as Yorkshire being the best place in Britain for real). However, if she is out-matched at sea, and if France and Germany can take advantage of this, she's vulnerable. If Russia is in Sweden at the end of 1901, she'll look to Norway and, while building an army in St Petersburg can achieve this as well as a fleet, an army is no good for heading west from Norway. France can justify building a second fleet in Brest. Suddenly, England's two or three fleets are facing the possibility of two Russian, two French and a German fleet (or two). If England sees two fleets built in the north, she shouldn't be thinking twice - they're coming for her. If she sees three...

So, England might build a third fleet in 1901. If she has two builds, she may build a second army, too. But she could still be out-numbered! And, because England is tough to get at, good players who aren't England will take the chance to deal with her early on.

This is, perhaps, a negative view. Survival is all very well, but you're aiming to win and England needs armies to get into the Continent. A more sensible view, for any power, is survive the early game first, then look to get a better result than a survivor's draw. But England needs fleets for more positive reasons.

(2) England needs an ally. Let's be positive (we're supposed to be being positive): England gets two builds in 1901 from Norway and Belgium. France won't worry about England being in Belgium; neither will Germany. Whether it's a fleet or an army, it's easy enough to kick out. Belgium changes hands frequently in the early and middle game until one power, or one alliance, wins out. So, with two builds, a balanced build policy says one should be an army (again, not a terrible idea, on the face of it).

France sees that army and wonders where it's really going. England says Norway so she can take StP with an army and back it up, or because she says she's leaving it at home for defensive purposes, or because it's aimed at Germany. And it may be. But France is also concerned by the possibility that England can, quite quickly, get that army into Picardy, or Brest, while Germany shoves her armies west.

Germany sees that army and wonders, too. If France is pushing east, England could well be looking to push armies into the Low Countries - Holland will be vulnerable if she isn't careful - or down into Denmark, perhaps even helping Russia there.

And Russia... well, England 'needs' an army in St Petersburg, doesn't she? (No - but that's another story.)

Now, if England sticks to building fleets, France isn't concerned about invading English armies bothering her; Germany looks happily at the classic Anglo-German alliance in which she builds armies and England fleets, and Russia is happier because England needs an army in St Petersburg, doesn't she? Any of England's potential northern allies will be happy to see England stick to fleets. While it means she is that much more difficult to deal with - now - she is also less of a problem... and probably because England is silly enough to be not building in a balanced way.

(3) England can wait. England does need armies to win; I'm not saying she doesn't. But she doesn't, necessarily, need them NOW. Which SCs does England have on her early and mid-game radar that aren't coastal SCs? Possibly Paris. That's it. Everywhere else is a coastal SC: Brest, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, St Petersburg, Spain, Portugal, Berlin, Kiel. Coastal. Accessible from the sea; supportable from the sea - or from sea-accessible SCs.

Let's qualify that. An army in Belgium would be needed if England aims to support a French or German thrust against Germany or France. But what if it needs to retreat? The chances are only the sea will be available to retreat to, certainly without the army becoming detached from support. An army might be useful in Norway to push into St Petersburg, and a fleet in St Petersburg is in that infamous cul-de-sac, so... And an army in Kiel is more useful than a fleet, often.

But when does England need these armies? She builds some armies early on and she has to spend time getting them out. She needs fleets to get them out. Let's imagine English fleets in the Channel or Irish sea, MAO and WMS: a convoy can drop off in Belgium, Picardy, Brest, Gascony, Spain, Portugal, North Africa and Tunis. Let's imagine fleets in the North Sea, Skagerrak, Heligoland Bight: a convoy can drop off in Belgium, Holland, Kiel, Denmark, Sweden and Norway. North Sea, Norwegian Sea, Barents Sea? Convoy to Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Norway and St Petersburg.

Look a little further: A strong fleet presence has the potential to get into the Baltic and GoB, or GoL, Tyrrhenian, Ionian.

Fleets are about survival initially but they're about dominance and, importantly, flexibility later on. Additionally, if England can get fleets into Portugal, MAO and - say - Irish Sea, she can become invulnerable to a Mediterranean power. If she can hold North Sea, the Channel and Norwegian Sea, she is well-defended from the Northern powers.

She'll still need to take Paris, probably Munich, likely Moscow, maybe Warsaw. Armies are needed for these SCs - and armies to hold them. She will probably need armies if she is going to grab Marseilles. She needs armies. But, crucially, she can wait and - I suggest - should wait to build them. A second army, providing she has fleets enough to survive an allied attack, in 1902/3, yes, OK. But England needs fleets initially and, importantly, can prosper with a fleet-building policy initially.

Wait, rollback. England building armies early; these will take time and fleets to get them out, you said. She will need to take time to get them out later, too!

True. But at that point, England has fleets there. She has them in place. She has more flexibility. She is stronger and not seriously challenged (OK, some exaggeration there, possibly). If she establishes her sea power, she has greater options and can get armies to important points when she needs them.

I did gloss over, somewhat, one potential situation where a fleets-first build policy for England is not ideal: dealing with France. This, perhaps, is the real reason England should be more balanced in her builds. If England is going after France at the start, she will need armies. After Brest and Belgium comes Paris, and she'll probably need two armies to take Paris, and - as mentioned above - an army, at least, for Marseilles. And she needs to consider Germany, taking France's place in the west.

Many players suggest England should make dealing with France a priority. She's the old enemy for good reason. Actually, those reasons are 1066 and the Plantagenet empire. The first, well, fair enough. The second was of her own making. The Plantagenets were a power in France before they became sovereigns in England; they then established their empire in northern and western France. Enmity with the French crown came about because maintaining that French empire, for the English crown, meant war.

Anyway, France is probably the most dangerous of England's neighbours. Germany can grow as quickly as France can, but France has better reasons for building a second fleet in the north, just over the Channel. And France can, without English care, slip into the Irish Sea and Channel quickly enough. So, yeah, France. Don't deal with her and she'll deal with you. Potentially.

But does France need to be 'dealt with' aggressively? Possibly not. Fleets will go some way to dissuading French aggression; diplomacy and forcing the issue of an Anglo-French entente is an additional way of neutralising her. Potentially. So, if France is the reason for a balanced build policy, rather than a fleets-first policy, then it's not necessarily the best reason. Defeat the enemy without engaging her. Get a fleet into MAO.

Here endeth the opinion. Know what your objectives are, know how you are going to get them, and build what you need to build to achieve them. Thinking like that means neither fleets nor armies are better, per se; one type will be better in different, specific situations.
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Re: Fleets vs. Armies

Postby Zosimus » 30 Dec 2017, 06:25

nanooktheeskimo wrote:
Zosimus wrote:Although it's true that there are a good number of coastal supply centers, that doesn't mean that you necessarily want fleets there. For example, if you're England, do you want to put an army into Kiel or a fleet? If you're Austria, you're never going to get a fleet into Kiel, only an army. The only country that wants fleets in Kiel is Germany.

Another example is Finland. Although both an army and a fleet can go there, you would much rather have an army there.

Actually...as England, I'd only want an army in Kiel long enough to force Munich, then I want a fleet there or moving through there to Baltic.

Oh, really? All right. You are playing England, allied with France against a 17-center Turkey, who also holds Berlin. If Turkey takes Munich, he wins.

Turkey has armies in Berlin, Prussia, Silesia, Bohemia, Tyrolia, Piedmont, Livonia, Moscow, and Constantinople.
He has fleets in North Africa, Western Mediterranean, Gulf of Lyons, Tunis, Tyrrenian Sea, and the Black Sea.

What do you want in Kiel -- a fleet or an army?
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Re: Fleets vs. Armies

Postby nanooktheeskimo » 30 Dec 2017, 06:33

Zosimus wrote:
nanooktheeskimo wrote:
Zosimus wrote:Although it's true that there are a good number of coastal supply centers, that doesn't mean that you necessarily want fleets there. For example, if you're England, do you want to put an army into Kiel or a fleet? If you're Austria, you're never going to get a fleet into Kiel, only an army. The only country that wants fleets in Kiel is Germany.

Another example is Finland. Although both an army and a fleet can go there, you would much rather have an army there.

Actually...as England, I'd only want an army in Kiel long enough to force Munich, then I want a fleet there or moving through there to Baltic.

Oh, really? All right. You are playing England, allied with France against a 17-center Turkey, who also holds Berlin. If Turkey takes Munich, he wins.

Turkey has armies in Berlin, Prussia, Silesia, Bohemia, Tyrolia, Piedmont, Livonia, Moscow, and Constantinople.
He has fleets in North Africa, Western Mediterranean, Gulf of Lyons, Tunis, Tyrrenian Sea, and the Black Sea.

What do you want in Kiel -- a fleet or an army?

Changing the situation a bit, aren't we? Obviously building a stalemate line changes things--but nobodies ideal game involves having to build a stalemate game against a 17 center power solo threat. So yeah, in that scenario, England NEEDS an army in Kiel--but does he want one there? I'd contend that no, he does not want one there, because he does want to be in a situation where he's forced to have one there.

Need is different than want.
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Re: Fleets vs. Armies

Postby Zosimus » 30 Dec 2017, 19:57

No, actually, I don't think I am changing things at all. Let's try the ideal game scenario, then. You are England and you hold 17 centers including Tunis, Berlin, and St. Petersburg. If you take Munich, you win. Do you still want a fleet in Kiel?

The point is, an army in Kiel can project power into Munich. This is far more important than a fleet in Kiel managing to project power into Helgoland Bight.

A fleet in Denmark can do everything a fleet in Kiel can do and more.
Be more aggressive.
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Re: Fleets vs. Armies

Postby DavidMaletsky » 11 Jun 2018, 20:55

So much is contextual / situational, it’s difficult to produce a truism on this topic. Optimizing one’s unit balance is contingent on myriad factors. As but one example, if I’m England, working with Germany, my ally is likely thrilled with all the fleets I build. Maybe he is grudgingly ok with me putting some armies in Scandinavia or Russia. Probably not so much in France or the Low Countries. When considering a build, there’s no Platonic ideal answer; it depends on what is going on in the game.
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Re: Fleets vs. Armies

Postby David E. Cohen » 12 Jun 2018, 00:27

DavidMaletsky wrote:So much is contextual / situational, it’s difficult to produce a truism on this topic. Optimizing one’s unit balance is contingent on myriad factors. As but one example, if I’m England, working with Germany, my ally is likely thrilled with all the fleets I build. Maybe he is grudgingly ok with me putting some armies in Scandinavia or Russia. Probably not so much in France or the Low Countries. When considering a build, there’s no Platonic ideal answer; it depends on what is going on in the game.


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