World of Warships

“Grouping up” as counterplay is toxic to the game: a discussion.

WorldOfWarships1 - "Grouping up" as counterplay is toxic to the game: a discussion.

Last time, we tackled the issue of CVs having infinite planes. I think we had some good discussion, and many good points were made. The conclusion that I took away from it is that while it matters to CV players whether or not they have infinite planes, as it affects how they play the game, to most surface ships, it matters very little. Others may have had a different take away, but I feel confident in that position.

This time, I want to address the most common recommendation for CV counterplay, grouping up, and the effect it has on the game.

First off, I want to set aside the issue of whether or not it is effective. I don’t think it particularly is, or at least it takes far more than the oft-cited 2-3 ships being very close together to form an effective defence, but that’s not the point we’re after here. There are plenty of examples on Youtube of good CV players dropping into multiple ships and taking minimal losses. But for the sake of the argument, let’s assume it is at least somewhat effective.

And I am somewhat encouraged that the CV defenders seem to have at least given up on the other oft-recommended forms of counterplay: dodging, sectoring AA, etc. At the very best, these can only delay the inevitable. The only suggestion to frequently grace the forums anymore, and to be actively defended, is grouping up.

My position is that this remaining form of counterplay, forming tight groups of 2-3 or more ships, is actively bad for the game.

This is somewhat tangential, but it is worth mentioning that grouping up is not always feasible. For one, as the game progresses, there may not be anyone nearby to group up with. I may have been in a group, but my allies have all since died. Not to mention that many ships have playstyles that aren’t conducive to grouping up. If a Donskoi groups up closely with a Minotaur, one or both of them will not be very effective. Or even more extremely, if a Colorado spawns next to a Jervis, how exactly are they supposed to group up? What would that even look like? Also, grouping up requires a degree of teamwork and coordination; how often do you see that in random battles?

But the main thrust of my argument is that the necessity of grouping up, as counterplay, is bad for the game because it substantially reduces the tactical options available to surface ships. It makes the game narrower, if you will. Staler. More boring, less interesting. Games tend to play out the same when both sides group up for protection.

In what way does it limit tactical options? Here are some examples:

  1. Back-capping. Let’s say the reds have successfully won a flank and secured a cap, and the greens are falling back to focus on other objectives. The reds likewise shift their attention to a part of the map that is still being contested. A smart DD or even a cruiser may recognize that the cap the reds fought so hard for is now being left undefended, and can sneak in and steal it back. However, this would require breaking off from the group and going in alone, thereby exposing yourself to harassment from the CV.

  2. Ambushes. A DD or cruiser, or in some cases, even a BB can recognize when the enemy has a blind spot, due to islands, or whatever, and that there is an opportunity to sneak around and get shots or torps on the broadside of the enemy team, often at point blank range, potentially doing devastating damage. Again, this would require breaking off from the group to pull off, and if spotted by the CV, leave you open to harassment by planes, not mention that the surprise of the ambush has been ruined (though that has more to do with the spotting effect CVs have).

  3. Flanking and cross-shots. All good players know the importance and value of establishing cross-shots. Working your way around a flank in a cruiser or BB can force the enemy to angle to you, thereby giving your teammates the opportunity to shoot their broadsides, or vice versa. But this requires splitting off from the group to do, leaving you vulnerable to CVs.

  4. Torp attacks in general. Staying as part of a larger group makes getting off good torp attacks substantially more difficult. If my DD has to stay near the group of BBs and CAs, then in all likelihood, the enemy is pointing just their bows at me, which makes for poor torping angles

  5. Slowing pushes. If the enemy is strong on one side, or a flank collapses, getting out in front on the push to slow it down, harass it, and deal damage can be a very effective method of buying the rest of your team time to finish their own push, or reposition to deal with the new threat. Kiting cruisers tend to be quite effective at this. But, again, this requires breaking off from the group, which is the cardinal sin according to CV defenders.

We can certainly come up with more, and I encourage others to give their examples in the comments, but I think this serves to illustrate my point. These tactical options are no longer available if ships are required to group up lest they suffer the Wrath of the Red CV.

Now, some might say that WoWs is a team game, is it unreasonable to ask people to work as a team? They say that it is good that these solo adventures are discouraged by the presence of a CV. To that I point out that many of the examples given, back-capping, flanking, and getting in front of pushes, are very much team-oriented plays. In some cases, I’m giving up the opportunity to do damage, or risking my ship, in order to do what is best for my team. And so what if they weren’t? Why can’t there be the opportunities for a bit of solo glory here and there?

Some might also say that many of the suggestions given can be performed by ships in groups. Why not have 2-3 ships get in front of a push, for instance? Aside from the fact that kiting ships tend not to group that closely together out of necessity, yes, that can sometimes work, but for one thing, we’re splitting the group into smaller and smaller groups, and each time we do it makes the AA cover less and less effective. There may also simply not be enough ships in the group, or enough ships of the suitable type to split off another group. Lastly, that would require a degree or coordination and teamwork rarely seen in random battles, and competitive teams tend to be too small to split into smaller and smaller groups.

The final response a group-up advocate might make is that even though the CV removes some tactical options, it makes up for it by adding new ones. For instance, using a CV to spot and remove a pesky DD giving your flank trouble. The problem with that is that while those are tactical options for the CV, they’re not really for his teammates. Nicely asking the CV to do something in chat (and hoping he speaks English/pays attention/cares/doesn’t suck) isn’t really a tactical option. It’s something the CV can do, and at best, you can take advantage of. Ultimately, the small amount of tactical variety added by CVs pales in comparison to what is lost.

To summarize: if ‘grouping up’ is the only effective method surface ships have of countering CVs, the game loses much of what makes it fun – many of the moves and counter-moves that make WoWs “the thinking man’s action game” are taken right off the table. We go from chess to checkers.

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for your patience. I look forward to engaging with you in the comments. If you think I’m wrong, let me know; I will surely do the same.

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