Matchmaking: As a tier seven cruiser and the favorable matchmaking for ships of such tier, the Belfast can easily exploit lower tiers. She holds her own against tiers of equal or higher value and I found little issue in doing 100k damage in Tier VII match as I would in a Tier IX match.
Rate of Fire: Twelve shells every 7.5 seconds to start the match. Then, combined with adrenaline Rush, this rate of fire was literally withering on more than one occasion. The AP is satisfactory at 3,100 damage a pop. Against cruisers inside 9km, I could manage citadels rather easily if they thought that exposing the side of their ship was a good idea. Even against T9 cruisers. Against battleships I enjoyed similar success with AP. I recall several salvoes against broadside North Carolina Class Battleships inside of 6km doing upwards of 12k damage. The rate of fire is also useful when someone is charging you. Especially if it late in the game and you are already heavily damaged. The faster fire rate usually results in the loss of their ship or wishing they had chose a different target. Call it a perk or other, but the rate of fire also always for "kill secures" on a regular basis. You may only do 4-10k damage to the actual target, but the high rate of fire often leaves you with the final hits.
HE and AP: Both are strong and the high rate of fire often leads to burning wreckage all around. When I communicated in battles with CVs and DDs we were able to set fires and then their torpedoes would come to finish the job after the enemy cruisers and battleship used their damage control. Unlike other cruisers with smoke, the HE gives you options when the enemy angles.
Consumables: When used conservatively and wisely, they give the ship a real power in the game and in my opinion, most ships have yet to figure out that fire into the smoke is better than not firing at all and just being punished.
Armor: The armor of the Belfast is such that it can be citadel'd from just about any angle...if you are in the open...you will be used. You do not handle torpedoes very well and often eat near full damage.
Torpedoes: There are no torpedoes on the ship. If you are in a pressure situation and ships are bearing down on you in your smoke you cannot really stop them. The Fiji has torpedoes and can keep a battleship from charging. The Belfast simply hopes team mates can carry when in a pressure situation. Sometimes it works...sometimes it does not. Being at the mercy of your team in PvP is not an ideal position for any captain.
A Three Course Meal:
Ship Consumables "The Meat and Potatoes of the Belfast": The Belfast's primary resource is her consumables. Radar for finding destroyers, which if combined with her concealment outlined below, means that when they detect you, give it 5 secs, then open up the radar...there is nowhere for them to go. The hydro is great for dodging torpedoes and is necessary while sitting in smoke. I usually popped hydro 10 to 15 seconds after popping smoke to ensure the duration of the smoke I was protected and to give me time to dodge anything unseen.
Survivability "The Vegetables of the Belfast": This is where the Belfast is selfish. Her base health pool is 35,700. However, the way I see her is that she 37,500 plus all the health pools of ships spotting while she is sitting in smoke. As long as she can remain concealed and fire at will...her overall survivability is augmented and combat multiplied by those around her. In return, a good Belfast Captain will recirpocate this stolen health pool by shattering ships as they bear down on objectives and other ships in the fleet. While the ship is selfish, you shouldn't be. You may not be able to tank damage, but you can certainly dish it out...do it. In my smoke I was able to get off approximately 10-15 salvoes...and this is important.
Ship Upgrades "The Appetizer": Concealment Modification One. So, this modification is great for hiding from planes. When combined with the Captain's Skill Concealment Expert and Camo, you now have a detectability range of 8.7km by sea. Thats a little over .2km from being able to use radar. It ensures the only other targets that can get close to you are a Belfast and Destroyers...and I like destroyers.
Main Battery "The Desert": I find that when I used a smoke, 15-25k damage per a use was ideal. The in between is where I did everything else. However, do not get too stuck on the damage, as killing a destroyer or cruiser is more important than 25k fire damage on a BB...it looks cool, but rarely carries a battle.
Where do I sail my ship to be most effective? Simply put, the Belfast is not a ship you take into open water. As long as you are not playing in a fail platoon, you will never see T10 battles and therefore never see the Ocean map. There are a lot
Two Brothers: If you are spawned on a flank, support that flank. Then hug the inside of the island and take up a cover position on the edge but faced in a position to withdraw. An example would be placing your ship its nose facing J10 but positioned on F/G6/7 area just behind the island. You are safe from torps, usually detection, and it affords some protection against gunfire. Additionally, while not great, your aa got first crack at planes inbound. The two big islands offer great cover for a belfast...and 16 inch shells cannot penetrate the islands. When in doubt, use smoke.
Neighbors: I found that going to the islands just short of F7 often proved to be the most useful. It gives you control of B and lets you kill DDs. It lets you shoot into C. And you can withdraw into the islands or southwards if a flank begins to crumble. Having an out was always critical. When I pushed, I usually went through B just inside of the big island at E6, capping and shooting over the island as my smoke recharged, before emerging on the other side and often catching battleships sitting and sniping...oh the fires.
1. Priority Target (1 point) - Knowing how many ships are pointing their guns at you is critical information, especially when in a floating citadel. The information to know when to and when not to pop smoke increases your overall efficiency when using your smoke. Just because you are visible, doesn't always translate to you needing to hide. Only when the targeting comes on, do you need to use the smoke to evade.
2. Expert Marksmen (2 points) - This is really great for minimizing one of the ship's weaknesses of having a slow turret traverse. While it does not give you the turret traverse efficiency of an Atlanta, it does speed things up and enables you to change priority targets adequately. When switching from burning battleships to killing destroyers, this was critical in helping to get to the priority threat.
3. Superintendent (3 points) - Likely the second most important skill you can take as a captain. The ability to have more smokes, radars, and hydro acoustic available is precious. As the key resources to keeping your ship invisible and threatening, this skill (along with premium consumables) gave me four charges. I found that in many games, I would use all four of my smokes before yolo'ing to whatever end. Radar was amazing to catching the enemy cruisers and destroyers napping. Two to three salvoes of HE or AP usually ended their ship and punished a sitting vessel in smoke.
4. Concealment Expert (4 points) - The most important skill you can take. When combined with the Concealment Modification One and the Camo, 8.7km detection is ideal. Only destroyers and other Belfasts can see you first...and that is ideal for hunting those pesky DDs.
5. Demolition Expert (3 points) - I noticed a significant difference in the number of fires I was able to set on ships. I went from ~9.5 to 11.1 fires a game. While this did not always translate to significant damage, it often brought our damage control, and exposed those ships to increased risk from torpedoes and other fire. If they let the fires burn, then much like a boxing match, these body shots would have significant value over time.
6. Adrenaline Rush (2 points) - So, as an aggressive captain, who often lets himself take punishment early to eliminate destroyers from the opposing team this became a significant skill to have. As my reload rate dropped below 7 seconds, I was able to punish cruisers quicker and in many cases fire nearly two full salvos to their one, which greatly effected the DPS.
7. Jack of All Trades (2 points) - Again, I opted for speed with recovery of consumables. The more I could conceal, the more unfettered damage I could dish out. Combined with the high caliber signal flag, thats 10% off of all consumables...41 seconds between complete Smoke Charges...and 4 smokes is a good thing.
8. Extra Smoke (2 points) - When using smoke, it is necessary to slow down. WG wisely eliminated the ability of British CLs from using the acceleration module on their ships. This however, is the work around. Instead of popping smoke around 14 knots while decelerating, you can now pop it around 16 knots. This is two to three seconds...might seem small, but again, improves the efficiency of your ship and hides you faster. A Belfast in the open is a Belfast needing to be punished.
HEAP: I elected not to take HEAP, despite the rave reviews it received as a captain skill for cruisers with 150 to 155mm guns. I instead focused on the efficiency of smokes and ensured they were always available. I argued in my mind that if you are alive you will always be of value...and Jack of All Trades chopping 6-8 seconds off of ship consumables recharge literally translated to life and death on multiple occasions. Whether it was dodging incoming torpedoes or getting the smoke up just in time, blinding a battleship from deleting me...I was the better player for having it. I will be curious to watch other captains as they use HEAP and see how they fare compared to my results with using HE.
Radio Direction Finder: RDF is an interesting skill, I just didnt see a need for it as my concealment was already a great way to monitor the DDs around me. I already have enough detection toys...and Jack of All Trades and Extra Smoke just made more sense to me as a late skill choce than RDF.
Conclusion: The ship is very powerful for a cruiser. However, it is a skilled commanders ship. You have to KNOW the MAPs you are playing on and where you need to set up a strong position. Like a Yammy, you need a strong position and then let your guns dominate that area and about 14km around it. Best of luck fellow captains, I look forward to someone bumping me from the top spot shortly...or even offering their own success stories/strategies that make the Belfast work for them.