Knowing when to fall back or retreat under certain circumstances is not only crucial to your survival but can also be a determining factor in a win for you team. In this brief Guide, I will go over the circumstances and criteria to determine when to fall back and when to hold your ground. These situations are based off of the combination of what ship you’re in, your positioning, your backup and your enemy. So lets start.
Generally speaking, if you’re in a battleship and find yourself being the lone spotted target, retreat is the best option, but not the only one. You typically have to weight the pros and cons of such a maneuver, given what ships you are or might be facing, how far they are away, and if giving a broadside to them is a risk worth taking. If you are say 15km+ from 1-2 other battleships in a Kurfurst, this can be a risk worth taking. Your turtleback armor scheme will likely prevent citadel damage but you could still take up to 40k in damage from pens. While that will hurt, your 105k HP pool plus heal will help mitigate that damage. If you are in a Thunderer or Conqueror, so long as there is 1 battleship, you need to ensure you can go dark before you make that turn. Your high citadel and relatively weak armor will not protect you in the least, especially in a turn. The same can be said for the Yamato. While you might be protected against the weak AP from a Conquerer at 15km+, your heavily armored mid-section will not protect you from many other battleships. Ships that you can weigh the risks a bit include the Montana, especially at 15km+, the Kremlin and the Republique. Both the Montana and Republique can be pretty hard to citadel at certain ranges, and while the Kremlin does have a raised citadel, its armor protects it quite well as anyone knows. The above assumes that the captain is in open water.
Note: The only ship that I would reliably bow tank with in open water is the Yamato.
As for being in a defensive position near an island, there are only a few ships that I would reliable trust, and this comes down to holding a position. Those ships would be the GK, Montana and Kremlin. While the Montana might seem like a questionable choice, she is difficult, but not impossible to citadel at close range, and can be very tanky. Couple that with her 12 guns with good accuracy at close to medium range and fast turret traverse, she’s a poor choice to give broadside to. The other tow choices should be obvious but to summarize, good armor, decent secondaries, especially on the GK, hydro (GK only) and good turret traverse make them harder break loose. So if you find yourself in one of these ships and in a defensive position should you always dig in? The answer is absolutely no. Things to consider that would otherwise deter you from such a defensive posture would include something like a Daring or Minotaur with single fire torps, more than one other type of destroyer, CV’s, or being completely out DPM’d by multiple cruisers. The final part is why would you hold? The short answer here is to delay the enemy. If you are able to use your ship to tank damage or have its position deter or delay the enemy force on that flank from pushing through, so long as the other flank is doing its job, your death may not be in vane. Though we all know this can never be a guarantee, there’s always hope.
While most cruisers are not capable of being the damage sponges that a battleship is, some of the same concepts from above can be considered on whether or not to hold/delay a flank or to fall back. For cruisers though, you need to consider DPM and utility over armor. The best cruiser, in my experience for digging in and delaying a flank are the Stalingrad, Moskva and Des Moines and Salem. While the first two are far tankier than the DM, the DM makes up for in overall utility and DPM. However, they are still cruisers and for easier to be citadeled and deleted compared to a battleship. So in their cases, you either chose to disengage or dig in fairly early based on how the battle may be unfolding. Doing so early will often make the difference between survival and death. Cruisers like the Zao, Yoshino, Henri IV and Hindenburg are very good at open water tactics – harassing and delaying or taking the attention of the enemy force from a safer distance. A Minotaur has the concealment and maneuverability to act as a destroyer in some case and can fill that roll pretty well if play correctly. That leaves the Worcester and Smolensk. Both bring some serious DPM to the engagement and are capable of open water fighting but both prefer to harass from the cover of an island or smoke – thus require spotting.
To summarize for cruisers, I would tend to err on the side of caution and fall back as early as possible, especially if your flank is getting slaughtered or your greatly outnumbered. Exceptions would be if you’re in the DM, Salem, Moskva or Stalingrad and have a high probability of inflicting more damage or casualties than you’d take.
For the vast majority of destroyers, the biggest considerations for delaying versus out right falling back comes down to CV’s and radar. However, other considerations include detectability, torpedo range, and speed. If you’re in a ship with lower detection, you can get away with staying on their flanks so long as your torpedo range will allow you to maintain a safe distance. The other scenario, is if you have shorter range torpedoes but the speed to quickly disengage outside of radar range should you need. Ships that I would consider capable of delaying a flank include the Gearing, Shima, Somers, Grozovoi, Yueyang, Halland and Z-52. While that is most of them those that are not included, while some are very fast, their poor detectability severely limits them. Others, like the Daring or the Haragumo, lack either the speed or have other weaknesses that make falling back a much better option.
While the above are guidelines that I use on when to fall back or to stand my ground and fight, making those assessments mid-engagement is often easier said than done. You can often get so focused on the target(s) and threats in front of you that you neglect to notice that the support around you that might have made it a fair fight, has evaporated – due to either enemy fire or fear or both. This can often lead to you being late to the party for retreat as well as the only target for the enemy force. This has been especially true as of late when close games are no longer the norm but the rarity and steamrolls are far more common. As a result, there is little worse being in the wrong ship, in the wrong place with not safe option for retreat against a majority of the enemy fleet. What can make said situation worse is, while you have don your best to work down the enemies on your flank, the other flank, which should have superiority is not making the best use of their numbers and get delayed by so few, as you have done to the enemy, resulting in a loss flank, your sinking, and a net gain of zero. What it does all still boil down to is communication and map awareness. Without that, the match is lost, regardless of what could be your Herculean efforts.