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WOWS Enjoyment - Brawling 101

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hangglide42    275

Hi All!  Hangglide42 here again with a topic that may be of interest to many new players - Brawling.  Hopefully, this post will help you understand the builds, Captains Skills and strategies that will enable you to become more successful in Brawling situations.  I'll also cover some related build models (i.e. Enhanced Secondaries and Enhanced AA - a optional build strategy short of a fully committed Manual Secondary or Manual AA Build).

Firstly, what is a Brawl?  This isn't as obvious a question as you might think - When the Bismarck first appeared in-game, one of my teammates excitedly declared in chat that he couldn't wait to see "how good this ship is at brawling" and promptly proceeded to YOLO straight into B-cap at the beginning of a game in the Land of Fire map.  Predictably, he was crushed and proceeded to spend the next few minutes in chat complaining that the Bismarck's brawling capabilities have been highly overrated.

For the purposes of this post, a Brawl is any engagement with one or more enemy ships (intentionally or unintentionally) that occurs within "relatively short range" (i.e. so your secondaries are in range - which in the case of the German Tier VIII BBs and above and IJN Tier iX BBs and above are > 10 km - yes, you can get a Close Quarters Expert medal from > 10 km).  The engagement can be one-on-one or more often, one on many or many on many and while being in a BB is most useful for success, the post also describes mismatches (i.e. when you are in a CA going up against a BB).

I posted a question in my Lanchesters Law posting which asks:

Q: You're in your Bismarck and you have a BB, CL/CA & DD on 3 sides of you within brawling range. 

     What do you do and why?

A:  Point your nose at the BB, Target the CL/CA, Focus the 2ndaries on the DD

This post will outline the reasons for the answer to the question.  Also, since the recent buff to the Tirpitz's secondary range, the Tirpitz would be an even better brawler than the Bismarck.


Brawling Builds

This section primarily discusses BB builds since this is the class of vessel that is best suited for brawling.  If you wind up brawling against a bigger ship (e.g. a CA vs a BB), you will simply be trying to maximize the strengths of your Cruiser and aren't trying to build a ship for that particular scenario.  While that will be discussed, the brawling builds/Captains Skills are primarily targeted at BBs since they are the class that you intentionally may want to enter into brawls.

What ships are suited for brawling?  Ideally, those with very strong long base range secondariesthat can be enhanced by Captains skills to increase range and rate of fire (ROF) or Module Upgrades that increase Range and Accuracy and Signal Flags which further increase secondary range).  Some ships have extremely strong AA and modestly strong secondaries in DPM and range so for these ships, you may want to balance  each of the ships to your liking based on their strengths. 

One way to think of Secondary builds are that they serve as a "protective anti-DD bubble" around your BB.  There is no guarantee that you will kill the DD in the bubble, but if a DD wants to close within your secondary range, they're going to have a pretty unpleasant  time.  Also, the strength of Manual Secondaries is HE damage & the additional DPM created by fire.  Certain BBs have secondaries which fire AP so you should note this when configuring these BBs as Brawlers.


Ship Modules

Secondary Battery Mod 2 - Extends Secondary firing range by 20% & decreases dispersion by 20%

Auxiliary Armaments Mod 1 - Increases survivability of both Secondary & AA mounts by 100%

Secondary Battery Mod 3 - Decreases Secondary loading time by 20% (increases ROF by 20%)

AA Guns Mod 2 - Increases AA Range by 20%

AA Guns Mod 3 - Increases AA Gun DPM by 25%


Captain Skills

Advanced Firing Training (AFT) - Adds 20% more range to BOTH Secondary and AA Guns  <= 139mm (i.e. most secondaries)

Basic Firing Training (BFT) - Increases ROF by 10% and Increases damage of AA guns by 20%

Adrenaline Rush (AR) - Increases your ROF (drops reload) by 0.2% for each % of health loss  leading to close to 20% ROF improvement for all armament if you're nearly dead.

Manual Secondaries (MS) - Improves accuracy of Secondaries (reduces dispersion) by 15%  for < Tier VII & 60% for >= Tier VII

Manual AA (MAA) - Increases DPM of AA Guns > 85 mm by 100%


Signal Flags

Mike Yankee Soxisix - Increases your Secondary gun range 5%, decreases dispersion 5% and  decreases load time (increases ROF) 5%

November Echo SetteSeven - Increases AA DPM by 10% (also Aircraft gunners)


In this post, the following build/Captains Skills types will be discussed - the list goes from strongest secondary builds to strongest AA build w/ secondary effectiveness getting progressively weaker. Note: If you have both flag types available, it doesn't hurt to run both to maximize your secondary & AA performance further, otherwise, for the Secondary Builds, run the Mike Yankee Soxisix and for the AA specialized Builds, run the November Echo SetteSeven.

When determining whether you want a AA focused build, consider the prevalence of CVs on your respective server - there are almost always DDs in a game whereas not all games include a CV in MM.


Manual Secondaries - All skills focused on maximizing range & DPM of secondary batteries for brawling

This is the maximum brawling build, but ironically, it does not necessarily have the highest DPM for your secondaries.   This is due to the fact that when you take Manual Secondaries, your secondaries will not fire unless you explicitly CTRL-Click and target a ship.  Also, only the secondaries on the side of your ship facing the target will fire, even if there is a viable target on the opposite side as well.  If you've ever been in a situation where your secondaries started going off as a "warning" that enemy ship wandered into secondary range, be aware, that this capability goes away when you take manual secondaries.

The upside is that manual secondaries  offers great advantages to actually help you bring down ships (either that DD while you shoot at another ship, or to give you extra firepower if you have a bow-on brawl situation).

Captains Skills:  AFT, Manual Secondaries, BFT, Adrenaline Rush

Module Upgrades: Secondary Battery Mod 2, Auxiliary Armaments Mod 1 (optional),

                               Secondary Battery Mod 3 (Optional - Tier IX & Above)


Enhanced Secondaries - Extended Range & DPM increase of secondaries, but balanced w/ AA - no Manual Secondary targeting

This is also a very useful build that stops short of manual secondaries, but has the advantage of not giving up too much in a brawl, gives you very strong AA and keeps additional potential DPM from your secondaries to address more enemy ships.  It has the further advantage in that you can use the Tier IV Captain Skill instead on Concealment which can be very useful if a North Carolina can sneak up to a fraction over 12 km and ambush you (possibly negating the need for a brawl).

Captains Skills:  AFT, BFT, Adrenaline Rush

Module Upgrades: Secondary Battery Mod 2, Auxiliary Armaments Mod 1 (optional),

                               Secondary Battery Mod 3 (Optional - Tier IX & Above)

For certain national BB classes, it may be desirable to up your AA capability, but still keep some brawling characteristics.  If you believe CVs to be a more prominent threat, you may want to consider the following 2 builds.


Enhanced AA - Extended Rage & DPM increase of AA, but balanced w/ Secondary range - no Manual AA targeting

This build focuses on increasing range & DPM of the AA suite, but also tries to extend the range of the secondary guns. It allows for the incorporation of the Concealment captains skill giving an ambush capabaility and disengagement possibility with the main armament.

Captains Skills:  AFT, Manual Secondaries, BFT, Adrenaline Rush

Module Upgrades: AA Mod 2, Auxiliary Armaments Mod 1 (optional),

                               AA Battery Mod 3 (Optional - Tier IX & Above)


Manual AA - All skills focused on maximizing range & DPM of AA batteries, with lower consideration for Brawling

This build primarily focuses on maximizing AA firepower for certain BBs bringing their AA rating near 100.

Captains Skills:  AFT, Manual Secondaries, BFT, Adrenaline Rush, Manual AA

Module Upgrades: AA Mod 2, Auxiliary Armaments Mod 1 (optional),

                              AA Battery Mod 3 (Optional - Tier IX & Above)

The optional modules are due to the trade-off one has to make with a primary gun upgrade in these slots (e.g. Main Armaments Mod 1, Main Armaments Mod 3 or GFCS Mod 2).  In general, it's not advisable to sacrifice the performance of your main gun for your primaries to too large an extent.

A list of the mainline ships (and some premiums are shown below with their maximum secondary ranges).  Even though these ships might be the best at brawling, you can still configure manual secondaries on lower tier ships for a "shorter ranged Anti-DD bubble"


German BBs

German BBs, Tier VIII and above are the best brawlers.  Their AA is pretty decent but their strength is in their secondaries which range out to 10.6 km (in maximum secondary build/captain/flags) and their turtleback armor which helps against close in citadels make it the goto ship to configure as a Secondary Build for Brawling.  Even the Tier VII BBs Scharnhorst and Gneisnau have secondaries that reach out to 7.6 km and are very good in a brawl.

Tirpitz- 11.3 km Secondaries + Torpedoes (6 km @ 64 kts)

Bismarck, FDG, GK - 11.3 km Secondaries

Scharnhorst & Gneisnau - 7.6 km + Torpedoes (6 km @ 64 kts)



IJN BBs are kind of  the in-between BB line who can brawl, but are not ideally suited for it.  IJN BBs have reasonable, but the weakest AA of the 2 BB lines (mainly due to some AA gaps between short/long ranged AA & DPM of long ranged AA).  Similarly, their armor is not as "tanky" as the German BBs, but they do have a long secondary range at Tier's IX & X of over 10 km.  Even the Tier VII and VIII have decent secondary ranges out to 7.6 km.

One thing to note - the IJN BB's larger caliber secondaries fire AP instead of HE, so it reduces your fire potential and if your secondary target is angling, it reduces your damage potential overall.

Yamato - 10.6 km (bow-in beast who can pen any ship in-game thru the bows)

Izumo - 10.6 km (but huge - bigger than Yamato)

Amagi - 7.6 km

Nagato - 7.6 km



The US BBs are known for VERY strong AA and due to their relatively small secondary batteries (i.e. 20 127 mm guns in higher tiers), they are better optimized for a Enhanced AA or Manual AA build which also has extended range secondaries.  Having a Manual AA or Enhanced AA build gets very close to a 100 rating for AA on these ships.  While you can configure US BBs for secondary builds, if you find yourself in a brawl w/ another BB, your secondaries will be overmatched by the other nation's BB.  Having said this, it's worthwhile to get the modules and skills to extend the range of your secondaries to improve your self-protection bubble.

Montana - 9.0 km

Iowa/Missouri - 9.0 km

North Carolina - 7.6 km


Now that we have all the configuration details out of the way let's get down to the techniques and strategies involved with brawling.


How to Brawl

Going back to the 3-ship scenario postulated, how do you kill these 3 ships and survive?   The main strategic principles are based on Lanchester's Law and simply put, your strategy should be remove the attackers guns as quickly as possible while maximizing the defensive strengths (i.e. your armor, maneuver and clever angling) of your ship. 

Most newer players would expect the BB is the largest threat and be trying to shoot the BB.  Meanwhile, the DD will be shooting torps at you (a volley of torps will devastating strike you), and the CL/CA will be trying to get large broadside damage, setting fiires w/ a firing rate 3X faster than you or torping you himself.

Why you point your bow at the BB, shoot the cruiser with your main guns and select the DD for your manual secondaries is because this gives you the best chance of removing the most enemies shooting at you the quickest.

- A Cruiser can be a 1-2 salvo kill, especially if they're being careless and showing too much of their side.  In a brawl, you'll have a relatively close shot at the cruiser so if you can kill a Cruiser within 30 sec  (i.e. a BB gun has approx a 30 sec reload), that's a threat from broadside AP (a US CA can do huge damage to a broadside Iowa), fire or torp danger removed very quickly.  A inexperienced Cruiser player may also assume you're going to be paying attention to the BB and will give you too  much of their broadside.

- A DD is hard to hit because of it's size and speed, so let your manual secondaries go to town while you target  something easier to hit.  Also, think of it from a DDs point of view.  A DD knows to have a better chance to hit with their torps, they need to be closer, rather than at max range of their torps (which increases the chance you will turn off their aim point). Nothing is as disconcerting to a DD than being manually targeted by manual secondaries from a Bismarck when within 11 km. If you  have manual secondaries configured and the DD is not full health, you will get a Close Quarters Expert very shortly if the DD doesn't retreat.

- By pointing your nose at the BB, you let your armor and angling tank damage for the minute or so to resolve the Cruiser & DD threat.  A BB shouldn't be able to kill you in a minute if you give them  your best armor profile, even if they've brought all guns to bear.  Once you've addressed the  immediate CL/CA and DD threat, you can focus on the BB.

One mistake many newer players make is they try to bring their rear guns to bear on the BB target in a brawl.  Resist the temptation - it is better to keep your armor angled and use just your forward guns than to turn to the degree needed to get your rear guns on target and take much more damage. 

Similarly, the enemy BB, if they are inexperienced may try to get all of their guns on you which is playing into your hands since they will be giving you more of  their side.


Considerations when you brawl

Situational Awareness is Paramount - You need to be aware of what the enemy ships are doing so you can best time your maneuvers to avoid torpedoes and angle your armor.   As such, you need to learn to understand what the enemy ship is trying to do in his attack strategy. This is essential for the following reasons

- Knowing when a ship had shot at you or torped you is the best warning you can get to dodge the shot - this is BEFORE you see any actual torpedoes.

- Evaluating what your enemy is doing lets you gauge their experience level and allows you to evaluate which enemies are likely to make mistakes such as showing too much of their side,getting too close or are aiming only at the torpedo reticle grey bar (allows you to execute strategies for "baiting" easily dodgeable torpedo shots.  Also, less experienced captains, may show some reluctance to enter into the brawl despite their numbers advantage so their attacks will likely be a "one and run" or less optimal attack (i.e. from a bad angle or too soon so they can disengage quicker).

- Getting a general idea of how good your opponent captain is also allows you to prioritize your threats to more efficiently take out the targets which remove the most damage potential to yourself the quickest.

- Knowing what you will be forced to do because of where the enemy ships are positioned or where they are in their phase of attack, also factors into what a better enemy captain may do to take advantage of your own forced maneuvers.  It's a common DD tactic to force a BB to turn hard to avoid a torp spread (they will use only 1 set of torp tubes in this initial attack), then waiting until the BB over-rudders to commit to the turn to dodge at which point, they will fire their 2nd torp spread. 

Because of a slow BB rudder shift and you are committed to the turn, they will aim ahead of the aiming reticule to pick you off as you dodge the 1st torp spread.


Maneuver to keep your bow pointed at the BB - You should be close to nose-in, but slightly angled to the BB so you'll get help from autobounce as well as your armor protection.  If you're directly nose on, a BB may be able to pen your bow.  If you're too much broadside, they will find a flatter armor spot and citadel you.  You want to maintain the >60 degree angling necessary for autobounce to help you deflect the BB's heavy shell. Controlling your speed as well as turns throws the enemy aim off.


Maneuver to break a predictable course to be torped by the DD/CL/CA/BB - If the enemy BB has torps, you do not want to approach within torp range of the BB, if at all possible.  If you do need to "get close" or if a DD or CL/CA is a torpedo Cruiser, maneuvering becomes key as to whether you will survive or not.  The trick is to understand when the enemy ship is maneuvering to fire his torpedoes.  One of the reasons to play all 3 gunship types is that it gives you a better understanding of how you need to play the other ship types to successfully attack your enemy.   It can benefit you as the BB player if you  can learn to recognize when a DD or CL/CAs movement indicates they are likely to have fired their torpedoes.

Some examples of this are:

The DD broadside - the torpedo arcs of most DDs require the DD to give you an almost broadside move when they've dropped their fish (apart from the lower tier German DDs that have torps that fire forward of the ship).  Thus an attacking DD will try to approach you almost bow on, wiggling from right to left to dodge shots, until they do this move to launch torps.

The IJN Retreat - the torpedo arcs of most IJN cruisers are in the rear quarter of the ship, requiring the ship to turn broadside to you and retreat as they fire their torpedoes.  Thus, if you see a IJN cruiser turning away after aggressively attacking you, they've just launched their torpedoes.

The KM Wiggle - if you're brawling w/ a Tirpitz/Scharnhorst/Gneisnau/KM Cruiser w Torps, they will likely approach you nearly bow-in (to give you their best armor profile), then do a wiggle to one (and sometimes the opposite side thereafter).  That's the sign they have likely fired their torpedoes at you.  Good KM brawlers will either hold their torps until they have a high hit probability (and they feel they can still survive the encounter) or may try to use they're torps to force you to maneuver you into a broadside from one of their teammates.

When you see these moves, you can dodge by changing your course and speed.   Just dropping your throttle from full to 3/4 then going back to full and turning will dodge most torp drops if executed early enough.(i.e. when you see this move, well before you see the torpedoes even if you have a Captain with the Situational Awareness skill).  Be careful of dropping your speed to low as most ships become sluggish and slow to accelerate at 1/2 speed or less which can work to your disadvantage in a brawl.

Also, you can try to develop the "Setup" move which is more effective on less experienced enemy captains.  To do this, you need to sail your ship in a manner to be a "juicy" target for a torp drop - you need to appear to sail a predictable course for a period of time until the enemy captain drops his torps, then you immediately turn and change speed.  This will make torpedo dodging a breeze if your opponent cooperates (and you successfully anticipate when he's dropped his torps).


If the enemy BB has torps, do not approach within torp range (if possible) -  The exception to this is if you're torp armed yourself and feel you have a captain advantage in a 1-on-1 torp duel with your counterpart.  I've seen many occasions where a Colorado became too close to a Gneisnau and paid the price (too slow to run, the KM BB will charge you to usetheir torps while keeping their armor angled).


Careful giving your full broadside to a CA - As you move up in tiers, enemy Heavy Cruiser AP is extremely damaging if the enemy knows where to hit you.  A USN heavy cruiser at close range pumping shells into the armor above your belt armor can easily take 6-10K damage per salvo if you're in a USN BB.  When you bow on the BB, make sure you don't forget the CA and try to stay somewhat angled to the cruiser as well (you don't have to angle like you are trying to autobounce w/ the cruiser).


Minimum Torpedo Arming Distance - In a brawl, one tactic to use (as a desperation) is to take advantage of the minimum torpedo arming distance.  This game mechanic is present in CV TB dropped torps and in ship launched torps.  Basically, if you are too close to a ship when you fire your torps, the torps will not arm and the enemy ship will be unscathed.  I was recently in a brawl in a Scharnhorst for C cap on the Shards map in which our team had no DDs.  A Fiji and I (after eliminating some initial attackers) went in to cap and found ourselves in a close range brawl w/ a Gneisnau and Belfast.  The Gneis and I went bow-in and charged at each other, with one vital difference - I fired my torps at the Gneis from 1-2 km away from a less than optimal angle, while the Gneis tried to hold his torps until he had a point-blank broadside shot.  I sailed as close as I dared to the Gneis passing alongside w/o ramming (the Gneis probably thought I was trying to ram).  My torps hit, his didn't arm due to the proximity and I finished him off w/ the 2nd set after he grounded trying to maneuver to get his guns on me while the Fiji and I fired on and killed the Belfast.


After Passing, Do not get into a turning fight! - One common temptation once the initial pass happens in a brawl is that the ships enter into a turning fight (i.e. they start circling tying to bring their guns to bear on the enemy ship.  You must avoid the temptation to do so (very easy to do when you're tunneled into the binocular view).  Instead, kite almost directly away from the enemy ship while bringing your rear turrets to bear on the enemy ship.   If the enemy is less experienced, he will be trying to turn to bring all his guns to bear which should give you some juicy shots into a more broadside opponent while you stay safely angled).  Your rear turrets will likely have about a quarter turn to bear and you stay safe while your forward turrets get the time they need to rotate backwards.


When you are a CA and the enemy is a BB - First of all, try not to get into a close in situation like this if at all possible.  If you do find yourself in one, though, the best you can do is:

- Angle your armor as best as possible - some cruisers have surprisingly effective armor if sufficiently angled. This is not to say you can bounce a lot of BB shells like another BB, but in general, you maximize your chances regardless of what cruiser you may be in if you try to present as angled a profile as possible when the shells hit.  I was surprised that I took very little damage in a Hipper going up against a almost full health Fuso during a cap contest.  I maneuvered and angled myself until I got into torp range and was able to get torps from both sides into the Fuso,   sinking her.

- Time the BBs shots and maneuver - BB reload times are approximately 30 sec, tho the Scharnhorst is 20 sec and the introduction of Adrenaline Rush has made that figure less reliable as in the past.   Knowing a BB has this type of time gap can be used to time your maneuvers (to hopefully) move toward some cover that you can use to make a more effective turn and retreat. 

Unfortunately, this time is not quite long enough for most cruisers to make a full 180 degree turn so unless a BB has just fired and you know the shots will miss, you're taking a very large risk if you try a full retreat in 1 turn w/o cover.

- Inflict as much damage on the BB as possible for as long as possible - If the enemy BB is experienced and in a 1 vs 1 with a cruiser, they will likely be angled & bow in (since you are a cruiser, he may be wiggling to get his rear guns to bear on you too).  Getting DOT damage (i.e.. fires) that take down his health or force him to use damage control will help the rest of your team take him down.   If you are a CL with IFHE or are a CA and know you can pen his bow - HE can do surprising  damage by hitting his bow or the superstructure of a BB.  Remember, Lanchesters Law says that even if you end up dying to the BB, the easier you make it to take the BB out of the numbers game  will improve your win chances as a team.

- Use the BBs slow maneuver and turret rotation to your advantage - The closer you get, the BB will have a harder time for for his guns to successfully track you.  As such, if you can maneuver to force his guns to turn or his ship to turn, you can avoid shots this way.  Try to maneuver in a way to force his slow turrets to turn.  A less experienced BB captain may also try to turn his ship to help his turrets track you which is the double whammy.  If you get a BB captain to bring his rudder shift into play in addition to the slow turrets, you can reverse your turn so that his ship will be turning away from the direction of his turret rotation and sometimes slip by the BB allowing you to turn safely (be careful of his rear turrets tho).

- Setup for a point blank torpedo shot (if so armed) - if you're stuck approaching an enemy BB and any turn will likely result in death, you're hoping for a point blank torpedo shot.  Some new players when faced with this situation will try to bring their torpedo tubes to bear while close, but still in front of the BB.  If the BB player is at all experienced, he will be waiting for this move and you will get deleted as you start your torpedo drop move (since it usually results in you having to show your side).  Instead, your best chance is to maneuver to your armor's best advantage & sail close, but next to the BB (if you get close enough, his turrets won't be able to track you inside a certain range). and fire your torps as your pass - this strategy is key if you are in a ship like the IJN cruisers w/ rear mounted torpedo launchers.

When you Bow-in use every advantage possible - This is what I call the "Bow-in Brawl" - not really a brawl per-se, but usually involve 2 BBs, both of  whom are trying to use their armor to their maximum advantage.   USN BBs such as the NC or Missouri are decent bow-in ships, but, again, the KM BBs take the prize.  The difference here is KM ship's armor and secondaries.  If you are the KM BB (or in cases IJN BB), use your secondary range advantage.  Ideally, stay at a range that is within your secondary range, but not the enemy's.  Just firing forward batteries coupled w/ your secondaries gives you a statistical advantage (the USN BB will not win this encounter unless it gets help or does more damaging hits from his main batteries). 

When you engage in a bow-in battle, relying on your secondaries, be aware that you do need to be slightly angled for your secondary batteries to have the gun arcs to engage the enemy BB.

If you do engage in this type of static fight, you need to be aware of 4 things:

- DDs - Relatively stationary BBs are easy torp targets for flanking DDs - you don't want this type  of fight if the probability for enemy DDs being in a position to get torps off at you are high.

- CVs - Stationary BBs in a Bow-in fight are Xmas for any CV TB squadrons

- Fire Spam ships - Enemy CL/CA with good fire spamming capabilites (e.g. IJN Cruisers, Kutuzov,  Chapayev) are good counters for any static bow-in BBs.

- Flanking enemy ships - you want to do this in a location where the probability of taking flanking fire is low (i.e. make sure you have cover on your flanks).


Well that's a quick summary of Brawling Builds/Captain Skills/Flags and tactics.  Hope you find this useful in your own "Close Encounters".  Good luck and here's to many Close Quarters Expert flags for you in the future!


A complete list of Forum Articles in the links below can be found in WOWS Enjoyment - List of Forum Articles & Guides.



Edited by hangglide42
  • Cool 1

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pmgaudio    3,492

I like how, at the end you called it a quick summary....



still a good wot

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