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The Call to Arms Campaign, U-boat operations and US En

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This is a very specific topic, and the play testing I have done is almost exclusively with patch 1.04, so if 1.05 fixes the problem, then please ignore this.

The basic issue is that U-boat attacks in the Atlantic on commerce and even unrestricted U-boat attacks on commerce have far too little impact on US entry into the war. There does seem to be a chance that regular U-boat attacks might cause the US to be irritated by this Central Power action, and therefore raise its preparation for war or even enter the war. Based on my experience in a number of games, this chance is low or very low – I have only seen it happen a couple of times in the course of perhaps 50 U-boat attacks on commerce. The number of attacks by U-boats made in a single turn does not seem to matter – I had one opponent attack five times with U-boats in a single turn and the US didn't make a peep. Unrestricted U-boat warfare has a significantly higher chance of irritating the US, but the subsequent impact on US preparation for war is seldom even 5% (it has been higher – once! - but it has also been lower). This is far too little.

A few comments on the commerce raiding campaign in SC as compared to historical reality. As might be expected, the commerce raiding model in SC WW I is a kludge. There were essentially NO convoys in the Atlantic until rather late in the war (April 1917 is the conventional date for convoy start). Once convoys were started, U-boats had almost no ability to find them once they were more than 2 to 400 miles off shore – the 'wolfpack' tactic used extensively in WW II was neither conceived or really all that practical in WW I. (The squares designated for unrestricted U-boat warfare actually are pretty close to historical reality here). Finally, there were a grand total of six – and ONLY six – U-boats that actually had the range to travel to North America and attack shipping. So the concept of convoy lanes being raided by U-boats in the middle of the Atlantic in SC is just about completely artificial.

That said, it sort of works – except that U-boat attacks seem to have very little or no impact on the US. This means that one of the great issues of the First World War is almost absent from this game – reasonable Central Power players face almost no chance of the US being any kind of factor in the war, let alone ENTERING the war, no matter what they do. I have extensively used unrestricted U-boat warfare as the Central Power player, and crushed the Entente before the US ever got close to entering the war. In fact, in one game in September 1917 the US was still only at about 60% preparation for war. As a comparison, the Fate of Nations campaign, which starts in January 1917, has the US starting at 60%. Based on my experience I would suggest that there is something very wrong with how little impact the unrestricted U-boat attacks have on the US.

A related but not quite the same topic is the Entente blockade of the North Sea and NW of Scotland. This blockade has clearly been adjusted to irritate the US, depending on Entente efforts to mount the blockade, and I think the adjustments are not too bad. (I also advocated the changes, so I guess I am biased in my view). However, I ALSO advocated a strengthening of the impact of U-boat commerce raiding in the Atlantic on US prep for war. I didn't comment on Unrestricted U-boat warfare as I did not realize how little the unrestricted attacks would affect the US. Now, with a lot more experience, I would strongly suggest that both regular commerce attacks and unrestricted attacks need to have a more significant impact on the US than is currently the case.

I would also argue that, when Unrestricted attacks are taking place, there should be almost NO chance that the blockade would reduce US preparation for war. I am currently playing a PBEM game where my opponent has been conducting unrestricted U-boat attacks for about the past five turns. Last turn, the US level of preparation for war DROPPED from 16% to 15% because of the blockade. Now, 16% was silly enough, given the remarkable provocation that unrestricted attacks represent, but to have the level actually drop was just astonishing.

Getting the variables affecting US entry into the First World War right is a really, really difficult task, but in my assessment the impact of U-boat commerce raiding and unrestricted U-boat warfare are both not well reflected in the Call to Arms campaign. The Central Power player should have to choose between reducing British imports using U-boats or irritating the US and potentially causing it to enter the war. Right now the Central Power player is not much affected by the impact of U-boat operations on the US, which means there isn't much of a choice – it simply is too beneficial to the Central Power player to use U-boats against the British, and there is rather limited downside risk in doing so.

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The Entente is currently far more powerful then the CP and doesnt even need US support to outman the CP, if CP does not use unrestricted warfare Britian can easily make up to 400 MPP a turn. You should also keep in mind that there is quite a cost/danger to using subs in in the unrestricted warefar places, and that the more US is mobelized the more MPP they will send to UK.(which means their mobelization does make an impact even if they don't join the war)

Entente can also add deplomacy points to push US toward their side. Overall, I don't think your argument is really all that valid when considering all the points, unrestricted warfare should NOT on its own merits cause US to join the war, it should just lean them toward joining the Entente.

And on the blockade in north, I think it is fine the way it decreases mobalization, but I think it should be adjusted to do more NM damage as currently the effect seems almost non existant to me.(Mostly because unrestricted warfare NM gain/loss was increased a few patches ago so I think it broke the balance between the two)

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Hi Sapare

Thanks for your comments. The Entente does have the potential to be more powerful than the CP, but the CP starts with significant advantages – that is one of the reasons this game can be so balanced. I agree that the U-boat campaign does have potential pitfalls for the CP, but I would argue that, in the Call to Arms campaign, those pitfalls are not severe enough to offset the advantages of using unrestricted U-boat warfare, and that the restrictions to using U-boats as commerce raiders alone are so slight as to be non-existent.

SC WW I is overall an amazing balancing act, so adjusting anything is fraught with difficulty. However, in my experience over about ten Call to Arms PBEM games, not a huge number but enough to get some idea of how things work, I consider that the use of German U-boats in the Atlantic fails to be penalized quite enough. I am most certainly not saying that these should not be options – but there should be a more significant cost associated with those actions, and I have yet to see the US seriously impacted by unrestricted U-boat warfare, let alone almost any impact from U-boat commerce raiding in the Atlantic. Almost invariably the war ends before the US is enters, despite extensive use of unrestricted U-boat warfare. Sometimes the CP wins and sometimes the CP loses, but the US ends up being an almost complete bystander.

The Fate of Nations campaign is quite different. With US preparation for war starting at 60%, a German decision to use unrestricted U-boat warfare holds real risk of bringing the US in. I have played Fate of Nations less frequently than Call to Arms, but in those Fate of Nations where unrestricted U-boat warfare was adopted the US did come in and make some difference.

I am not sure what the magic level is so that Call to Arms will end up being more like Fate of Nations in terms of the potential for US involvement, but overall the balance seems better in the latter campaign than the former. I speculate that a somewhat more significant impact on US prep for war as a result of a German decision to use U-boats aggressively against commerce in the Atlantic should help to balance the game more.

So I suppose you are correct to argue that the game is not that bad as it is, even if the use of U-boats in the Call to Arms campaign has such a limited impact on the US. It is, however, very far from the historical model which would have CP use of U-boats in the Atlantic causing a significant potential for US entry into the war on the side of the Entente. I am not arguing that the ASW model or the convoy raiding model should be made more realistic – they are kludges but the kludges more or less work. But the strategic decision for the Germans should be whether the use of their U-boats in the Atlantic is worth the risk of US involvement. Right now there is so little risk for the German player that the decision of using the U-boats aggressively seems completely one-sided: of course the German player should use the U-boats aggressively as it would be very unintelligent for him not to. You are essentially arguing that the German player has to use U-boats aggressively if he is to have any chance of restricting the massive British economy. While this may be reasonable, I honestly think that the use of U-boats against Atlantic commerce (I am very specific about the Atlantic here!) should involve more of a strategic decision in the Call to Arms campaign, which is already the case in the Fate of Nations campaign.

As for the blockade, I agree that it is more or less correct as is. Whether it should cause more NM damage is arguable - it does have an impact, depending on how vigorous it is applied. If you doubt the impact, just try to not have any blockade and see how happy the Germans are in terms of NM.

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Being brief - I agree. The US in general plays too little a potential role in Call to Arms and also Triple Alliance I think. The damage to UK mpp earning from unrestricted sub warfare can be extreme, and yet the US only slowly wakes up. By the time the US is in France is probably out, unable to hold when supported by a weak UK ally.

The only solution is for the entente to commit all naval forces to ensure that subs do not successfully carry out the warfare in the first place, and that just doesnt feel right.

I think something needs to be done because, as you say, once an experienced player has "learned" the game it is currently too easy to win as CP. My comment here is based on pbem games and not against the AI - I cant comment on that as I dont play the AI.



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Is that really the consensus view that the game is "too easy to win as CP"? I've won all of my PBEM games as the TE (except the very first when I didn't know how the game worked, and even then I felt it was far more of a draw). Of course, my sample is small and it all depends on who you're playing but at least two of my opponents were obviously used to winning as the CP.

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BTW, I do agree that it seems like the US does not get ticked off enough by unrestricted sub warfare. In a recent 1.04 game, my opponent did it for many turns with at least half a dozen sub units and, after all that, it only bumped US intervention to 15%. What I wouldn't want to go back to is the earlier versions when the US was guaranteed to enter the war.

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Firstly, I love these discussions as this is a good chance to see where we're at in terms of features and balance. :)

I thought I'd provide some figures so that we can properly assess things and see what may need changing.

The Effects of Unrestricted Attacks

Germany gains 75 National Morale points per turn per sea area (e.g. the Bristol Channel, the North Channel, etc) for using unrestricted naval warfare.

The UK loses 75 National Morale points per turn per individual trigger point when the Germans are using unrestricted naval warfare.

The strength value of ports near the trigger points will be reduced when unrestricted naval attacks are in progress, and when the port strength falls below 5 the port will cease to function, and British income will fall by the value of all the convoys travelling to that port.

Once unrestricted attacks cease, port strength will increase and once it's back over 5, British income will rise as the convoys start arriving again.

The Effect on the USA

Unrestricted attacks have a 50% chance per turn of a 3-5% increase in US mobilization.

As a naval unit will be on the trigger point for both a Central Powers and an Entente turn, this actually equates to a potential 6-10% increase whenever unrestricted attacks are carried out.

The sinking of the Lusitania will increase US mobilization by 5-8% when it happens (it has a 50% chance per turn starting from the 7th May 1915, if unrestricted attacks are being used).

There is a 2% chance per turn of a 1-2% increase in US mobilization due to German naval units being between Ireland and the USA. This allows for the small annoyances caused by German commerce raiding which followed the rules.

There is a 2% chance per turn of a 1-2% decrease in US mobilization due to the Distant Blockade, with a 4% chance of a 1-2% decrease in US mobilization due to the Northern Blockade.


It was my impression based on feedback that a lot of players weren't using unrestricted warfare as they didn't want to annoy the USA, so in implementing the changes for patch 1.04 it was my intention to make unrestricted attacks a more attractive option. It is of course possible that they are now too attractive an option!

The random nature of a 50% chance per turn of increasing US mobilization could be replaced with a higher, even 100% chance, though possibly coupled with a wider variation in the actual effect on the USA, e.g. a range of 1-5%.

While I don't think that commerce raiding that follows the rules should necessarily trigger any substantial increase in US mobilization, we could increase the chance of a German naval unit which is between Ireland and the USA causing annoyance to the USA from 2 to 4% a turn.

Or some other combination... but this really is a tricky subject because significant increases in US mobilization will increase the UK's convoy income, so unless unrestricted attacks are continued, the UK could end up benefiting more from the unrestricted attacks than the Germans.

There's such a fine line between the two, though the National Morale effects of unrestricted attacks are always in Germany's favour, unless of course their vessels are sunk.

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Hi Bill

Thanks for providing all this background – now we have all the information that Rabelesius wanted, and it does make for a more informed discussion.

I completely agree that adjustments in anything that affects National Morale is difficult, and there is quite a balancing act involved. Nonetheless, I still remain convinced that your efforts to encourage the use of U-boats has been too successful, and that adjustments to make the use of U-boats in the Atlantic potentially more painful to the Central Power player – Germany almost inevitably – are needed.

First, I rather strongly disagree with your comment that U-boats following the rules only caused 'small annoyances'. This very much reflects a hindsight view of the campaign. In actual fact, new rules were being devised (and revised) as the war continued, as cruiser warfare rules adopted by the international community before the outbreak of the First World War were almost impossible for submarines to follow. This is not so much a case of blindness as an example of a reaction to a previous conflict – the US Civil War in particular – and a failure to understand that submarines would require different rules. There were only a few brave souls, Admiral Fisher for example, who really thought that submarines would actually torpedo merchant ships: most thought such a use of submarines too barbaric for 'civilized' nations.

The war changed this, of course, and submarines torpedoing merchant ships is not viewed today with anywhere near the same pejorative view that existed in 1914. We have had decades and hundreds, even thousands, of torpedoed ships to allow us to get used to the idea. But there needs to be an understanding that the 'rules' of commerce raiding for U-boats changed, and quite significantly, during the war itself.

Should this affect SC? A valid and difficult question, but I think it can and should. First, if a Central Powers player chooses to use commerce raiding, it might be very easy to make one change that would actually be very simple and not too far off history to adopt. As soon as a Central Power player uses commerce warfare ANYWHERE in the Atlantic (or perhaps just on the convoy lines that run to North America – that might be a more appropriate kludge) OR unrestricted warfare then there will NEVER be any chance of the northern blockades affecting US attitudes. This reflects the fact that almost ANY U-boat attack was worse than what happened to ships inconvenienced by the blockade, as U-boats almost HAD to sink ships to be effective, whereas a blockade did not. And sinking ships caused a significant and one way change to US attitudes. So IF a Central Power player chooses to use commerce raiding in this way, he automatically makes it easier for the Entente to blockade – which is actually what sort of did happen historically.

Second, the actual impact of U-boat attacks, even when following 'rules' that were adjusted as time went on, did cause irritation and were much more likely to cause offense than is reflected in the current numbers. In particular, I think a fairly straightforward change is that the more times U-boats attacked, the more irritation should be caused. So instead of each turn checking and applying an increase to US preparation for war at a very low (a very, very low) possibility rate, increase the rate for EACH and EVERY U-boat attack. The probability of the US increasing its preparation for war as a result of commerce attacks in the Atlantic should therefore rise steadily, perhaps even to the point where every U-boat attack had a 100% chance of causing US preparation for war to rise. Now, there is one important caveat where I sort of agree with Bill. U-boats that followed the 'rules of commerce warfare' (as these were established) were extremely unlikely to have caused the US to enter the war by themselves. My proposal to deal with this situation (which is reasonable) would be to put a cap on US preparation for war caused ONLY by U-boats attacking commerce using the rules (ie 'normal' raiding of the convoy lanes in SC) at perhaps 85%. This way the US would not enter the war so long as U-boats followed the 'rules', but – as Bill notes – US support to the Entente over the convoy lanes would increase substantially. To actually cause the US to enter the war would require another trigger, be it the Zimmerman Telegram, unrestricted submarine warfare, or some other event external to the commerce raiding campaign itself.

IF these changes are adopted, then perhaps the current unrestricted warfare results do not need to be adjusted (and every change does impact other changes, as I am well aware). However, if nothing is changed then I think the current unrestricted rules may need to be boosted a bit. I think Bill is perhaps right to suggest that unrestricted warfare should have a 100% chance of increasing US preparation for war, and adjusting the range of increase to 1-5% (or perhaps 2-5%) does not seem unreasonable. But all changes impact upon each other, so I think it depends on what (and how much) is changed.

Overall the U-boat campaigns proved an important part of the war. However, the more recent adjustments make these commerce raiding campaigns a little too positive for the Central Powers. I think that the best way to balance things is to adjust how much the US might prepare for war, based on what actions the Central Powers (Germany in particular) takes, or chooses not to take. This makes events in the game contingent on strategic decisions that players make, and should make the possibility of the US being a factor – or not much of a factor – a result of game events. Right now there is just too little chance of the US being involved period, no matter what the German player does.

I think it also worth noting that US entry into the war is hardly definitive in and of itself. I have seen the Entente player defeated even after significant US forces arrive in Europe. It just makes the task of the Central Power player harder – and this seems entirely reasonable to me.

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I just want to throw this out here again. The idea that CP has it easy at the time being is insane.. I have never seen the CP fairly win(not cause by bugs or the whole Ottoman disaster mentioned in another topic) a Call to Arms game.(AI does NOT count)

Now, I am not saying it is outright impossible for CP to win... but if you have two really good players facing off my bet will be on the Entente's side all the way.

(While in Tripple Alliance it is the counter opposite, CP will always win unless there is a HUGE devide in skill, my past two tournement matches confirmed that for me)

Point being? If you really plan to make a difference to the effect of unrestricted warfare to USA, then you should be ready to rebalance the whole game... becuase it is on knifes edge as it stands.

I still say it should stay as it is, you guys seem to act like unrestricted warfare's ONLY cost is the fact that it makes USA mad. A good entente player could also destroy the subs or cause enough damage to force them to be repaired. Infact, I fear that it will cause the Cost/Gain ratio of doing unrestricted naval warfare to just not be worth it.

Also, keep in mind that the NM impact is really not that much. It does add to German moral and keeps theirs high, but it should.. Germany will never be able to fight the lengh of time it should if it doesnt get the NM boost. UK is probably never going to leave the war becuase of their insanly high NM. The real impact of unrestricted naval warfare comes from shutting down the ports, for which you need to be standing on the port related tile for 5 turns in a row.(Also, diplo whise.. it costs about 37.5 MPP in diplo points each turn to do naval warfare. So it isnt like it is without price for Germany to do it, you just dont see it as a direct but instead indirect price)

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Thanks for the reply Ludi and I'll see what I can come up with.

One thing that would be tricky to do would be to stop the US from complaining about the blockade at the same time as either unrestricted attacks or commerce raiding are taking place elsewhere.

But I'm not sure that it's necessarily unrealistic for the US to complain to the British about the blockade at the same time as they are complaining to the Germans, as going from memory I think they did this during the war.

But I guess that the most important thing is that we get the balance right between the effectiveness of unrestricted warfare and its effect on both the UK and the USA.

Sapare is definitely right in saying that things are on a knife edge!

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