Premium Ship Review: Imperator Nikolai I

That’s one REALLY unfortunate South Carolina in the background…
Quick Summary:   The Battleship that makes Tier 5 ships glad they’re often stuck in tier 7 Matches.
Patch and Date Written: 05.15.2, December 22nd, 2016
Cost:  No longer available for direct purchase.  However, she may still be obtained through Super Containers.  She was also made available indirectly through “Santa’s Secret Stash” — a promotion Wargaming ran from December 21st, 2016 to January 10th, 2017.
Closest in-Game Contemporary
König Albert, Tier 3 Premium German Battleship
Degree of Similarity: Clone / Sister-Ship / Related Class Similar Role / Unique

They don’t share the same gun layout, play style, armour or even nationality.  Why the heck am I choosing the König Albert as the Imperator Nikolai’s closest equivalent?  Well, because they’re both overpowered seal clubbing monsters.  At her own tier, the König Albert stands above all of her opponents.  Few stand a chance going toe to toe with this monster, which largely echoes the Nikolai in terms of power level.  The only real difference is that the König Albert does not up-tier as well as her Russian cousin.


  • Thick belt extending from her #4 turret all of the way to her bow which provides excellent protection against AP shells aimed at her waterline while angling.
  • Citadel is additionally protected by a 75mm turtleback scheme.
  • Most of her deck armour is 35mm thick, making it immune to damage from HE shells that are less than 210mm in diameter.
  • She has very little superstructure for small caliber HE shells to damage, being limited to the funnels and a small section near the lifeboats in front of the #4 turret.
  • Three of her four turrets are forward facing with good fields of fire, allowing the Nikolai to easily engage targets with 75% of her firepower without over angling.
  • She has the hardest hitting AP shells in the game for a 305mm armed Battleship.
  • Ridiculously high chance of setting fires per HE shell at 33% with good damage value of 4,500.
  • Very high sigma value (2.0) which provides reduced vertical dispersion and tightens up shell volleys.


  • Her citadel sits very high in the water, coming right up to the base of her secondary gun mounts.
  • Large 19mm protected bows section over her belt armour which can be overmatched and penetrated by any Battleship caliber gun.
  • Thin (225mm) and exposed barbette armour often results in guns being disabled.
  • Poor anti-torpedo protection.
  • Horrible turret traverse rate of 56.3s for 180′ turn (3.2′ per second).
  • Long reload on her main battery of 36.0s.
  • Secondaries are very slow firing at only 5rpm.
  • Laughable AA “firepower”.
  • Slow at 21.0 knots with a sluggish rudder shift of 12.8s.

Just in time for Christmas (and flying a cute holiday-themed Fishy flag), the Imperator Nikolai has come on sale… sort of.   Watch your wallets.
Why am I revisiting the Imperator Nikolai I?  Well, a lot of players are able to buy her right now … at least indirectly.  The “Santa’s Secret Stash” promotion through Wargaming, which allows players to buy one of three small loot crates, has been occasionally spitting out the Imperator Nikolai I.  While they aren’t doing this regularly, enough people are reporting success that others may be tempted to invest in a dozen of these crates or more in an attempt to get this ship themselves.  So I thought it prudent to report once more on this ship with a fresh set of eyes and a year’s worth of experience.  Lert will be joining me.  Let’s hear from him now.
The Lertbox

Hello and welcome to another Lertbox. This time we’re revisiting an old and notorious premium ship, Imperator Nikolai I. She’s claimed to be OP by many people, but is she really? And to what extent? For this Lertbox I will be comparing her to Myogi, Wyoming and Kaiser.

Yes, yes she is ridiculous overpowered, Lert.   Here’s why everyone wants this darned thing.

A special thanks goes out to Aetam for narrating for this replay.  Aetam puts together a lot of great World of Warships videos.  You can even send him your own replays to get them featured on his channel.  This is a great way to get some of your best games archived.
This isn’t a one off game.  The Nikolai just does this.  Regularly.  And when she doesn’t win, she makes the enemy team earn it.  Let’s find out how…
Like most low tier ships, the Imperator Nikolai I isn’t complicated when it comes to her options.  She has only the two consumables which are very straight forward.  Her Damage Control Party is the same as that found on German ships, with a 120s reset timer (80s with premium) and a 15s active period.  Her Repair Party is normal too.

  • Damage Control Party
  • Repair Party

Module Upgrades: Two slots, standard non-USN Battleship options.
Premium Camouflage: Tier 2 to 5 Standard. This provides 30% bonus experience gains, 3% reduction in surface detection and 4% reduction in enemy accuracy.

Primary Battery: Twelve 305mm rifles in 4×3 turrets.
Secondary Battery:  Twenty 130mm rifles in casemates — 10 down each side.
The Imperator Nikolai’s main battery guns are a large part of what makes her overpowered.
To a casual observer, it’s difficult to see how.  While she has twelve 305mm rifles, so too does the Wyoming-class of Battleships and they aren’t shackled with the 36s reload that afflicts this Russian premium.  Certainly her 8,600 alpha damage per AP shell is impressive but when you map out the DPM potential of the various tier 4 Battleships, the Imperator Nikolai doesn’t stand out.
Statistics include the use of Artillery Plotting Room Modification 1 and Main Battery Modification 3 for the Arkansas Beta.
She comes in second last for AP DPM behind the six-gun Myogi.  Her gun handling is some of the worst too, with awful rotation speed and horrible reload time.  It’s clear just at a glance that what the Imperator Nikolai doesn’t have the raw stats to win a DPM race.  But thanks to the fire angles of her guns, this largely mitigates these two weaknesses, allowing her to easily out trade most contemporary Battleships.

Fire angles needed to unmask each turret when approaching an enemy.
 So while she does have poor turret traverse speeds, her guns never really need to turn that far to make 75% of her barrels available.  This can be as little as 46° (or 14s before Captain Skills) to shift fire from left to right.  And unlike other battleships, she doesn’t need to choose between angling for protection and optimizing her firepower.  Ships like the Kaiser and Wyoming-class have to throw their ships at nearly a 40° angle to get most of their guns on target — more, if they want to get their #3 turret in too.  That’s never necessary with the Nikolai.  So when it comes to trading fire, the Nikolai is often better protected than her opponents while still delivering the lion’s share of her firepower down range.
 When it comes to these individual salvos, the Nikolai really puts out the hurt.  Not only are her AP shells the hardest hitting 305mm guns of her tier, but they’re also the most shatter-resistant against heavy armour with their high Krupp value.  In addition, it’s long been disclosed that the Nikolai has one of the best sigma values (reduced vertical dispersion) in the game at 2.0.  This is the same as the Nagato and Warspite — two Battleships quite well known for their good shell groupings.  Her HE shells are no slouches either.  Though they fall behind the IJN in terms of raw damage, they have the highest chance, per shell, of starting fires at a ridiculous 33%.  They might get used more if her AP shells weren’t so good.  As it is, they’re often forgotten for her massive AP alpha strikes against all targets.
The only downside to the Imperator Nikolai’s firepower is her secondary gun battery.  Though it looks heavy, with twenty 130mm rifles, these are short ranged at 3.5km and hamstrung by a pathetic 5rpm rate of fire.  You could be forgiven for wondering if your secondary gunners were asleep at their posts for the long delay between volleys.
This may seem to spell disaster when stalked by enemy destroyers, but those driving tin cans should exercise caution when facing a Nikolai.  Like all low tier Battleships, the fuse timer on her AP shells is very short — a mere 0.01s (as opposed to 0.035s found at higher tiers).  If your destroyer is sailing at anything other than a parallel course, this can result in penetrating damage from her AP shells instead of overpenetrating hits.  At 2,838hp per, it doesn’t take many to put down a charging destroyer.  Still, if you can make her flub her shot, you have a 36s window to get in close and launch your fish before she’ll get another chance to fire.
  • Hardest hitting AP shells from a 305mm rifle, with excellent penetration and dispersion characteristics.
  • Her HE shells are excellent but overshadowed by her AP performance.
  • Gun layout and fire angles are very forgiving, allowing her to easily get 9 of her 12 rifles on target without exposing her citadel.
  • The slow rate of fire of her main and secondary guns can leave her vulnerable in a brawl.
The secondary gun batteries on the Imperator Nikolai are all kinds of terrible.  Short ranged and with a 12s reload?  Sheesh.
Rivals:  The Wyoming-class

Ah, the glorious brawl of brick vs brick. Both ships are slow, ponderous, heavily armed and armored brutes, lacking any form of subtlety. But Wyoming will struggle to get sufficient firepower on target without showing too much broadside and has a thinner armor belt that doesn’t extend all the way to the prow. A slugging fest between these two ships is glorious and great fun. Neither ship will come out smelling like roses, but given equally skilled players, Nikolai will usually come out the winner.

Against a fully equipped Arkansas it become slightly more difficult. All those pieces of equipment add up, and an Arkansas is usually driven by a very experienced player. Still, even here, the advantage is Nikolai’s purely because she is tougher and can make better use of her armor while still keeping 3/4 of her firepower on her opponent.

Top Speed: 21.0 knots
Turning Radius: 660m
Rudder Shift Time: 12.8s
As Lert is fond of describing low tier Battleships, the Imperator Nikolai is a brick.  She’s not particularly fast with a slow rudder shift time but this is compensated somewhat by a good turning circle.  Her top speed of 21 knots is about on par with most of the other Battleships she encounters, with only the IJN Battlecruisers being able to lift their skirts and outpace her with any reliability.  With her slow turret traverse, players may be tempted to reach for her rudder to assist with bringing her turrets to bare.  This is largely a mistake in the Imperator Nikolai, given the vulnerability of her citadel to broadside fire, as detailed below.
Hit Points: 44,800
Maximum Protection: 270mm belt armour + 75mm turtleback + 13mm citadel bulkhead.
Min Bow & Deck Armour: 19mm (immunity up to 271mm rifles)
Torpedo Damage Reduction: 13%
 The durability of the Imperator Nikolai has long been described as exemplary.  But it’s really not, at least on paper. The ship has three weaknesses where her durability is concerned.
Very High Citadel
The Nikolai’s citadel sits ridiculously high in the water — right to the base of her secondary gun casemates.  Her premium camouflage is kind of ridiculous in that it conveniently colour-codes where the enemy needs to shoot in order to land effective citadel hits.  If you can catch her broadside, aim for the dark-blue band of her premium camouflage underneath any of her secondary gun mounts.  The citadel extends the full length of the ship cover by her secondaries, so it’s very hard to miss.
Vulnerable Bow & Stern
While the Nikolai can famously bounce Yamato-caliber shells off her bows, this only applies to shells that strike her belt armour.  If you avoid shooting at the dark blue band of premium camouflage, the rest of her snout is squishy and fat.  At 19mm thick and some steep angles, only Battleships can land penetrating AP hits there.  Smaller vessels should aim all HE shots into this large, raised section of the Nikolai.  Anything over 114mm in size will register full damage with HE shells.
Like many Battleships, the Imperator Nikolai has a very vulnerable stern section. Not only is the armour there less angled, but her belt armour does not extend all of the way to the rear. This entire area is only 19mm thick — a perfect target for HE shells. If the Nikolai is sailing away from you, you can pump AP shells into her booty for some easy damage and paternity suits.
Poor Torpedo Protection
Her anti-torpedo bulges can’t even mitigate 1/6th of the damage done by torpedo hits.  Her large size and sluggish rudder shift makes her a juicy target for enterprising destroyers and torpedo bombers.
Do you have those memorized?  Good.  Because most of the time you’re not going to have to worry about them.
As high as the Imperator Nikolai’s citadel rests over the waterline, because of the firing angles of her guns, short of the ship over-extending or being surrounded in a last-stand, she won’t take hits to her citadel.  Most players will aim right at the waterline of the Nikolai with their AP shots as you engage them bow on and you’ll shatter everything.  On top of this, the Nikolai also has a 75mm turtleback.  These angled plates do not cover her full citadel but any waterline hits are going to have to contend with it too, making the Russian Battleship seem even tougher.   She’s functionally immune to citadel her through the bows with the short fuse timers found at low tiers.
While her bows and stern are vulnerable to HE fire from everything bigger than the 105mm found on some German ships, in practice few people seem to aim there.  The Nikolai’s decks amidships are 35mm thick and immune to any HE fire short of Battleship caliber shells in her matchmaking spread.  She has almost no superstructure to speak of that can be damaged from high explosive fire barring the funnels, and good luck hitting those regularly outside of point blank engagement ranges.  She shares the universal Battleship vulnerability to the resulting fires from HE strikes, of course.
Her slow speed should also do a lot to keep her safe from torpedoes.  She won’t be the first Battleship up on the firing line which should give plenty of advance warning about where enemy tin cans are located.  There’s no saving her from aircraft, however.
The only downside to bow tanking in the Nikolai is that you will lose your turrets rather regularly.  Overall, though, thanks to her impressive forward face gun armament, the Nikolai can mitigate the weaknesses of her exposed citadel and deliver the pain while taking little in return.

Going down swinging.  Provided you don’t beach yourself like a derp, the Nikolai will make the Reds pay for attempting to lay her low.
Rivals:  The Kaiser

A ship that can claim the crown of most well-armored tier 4 battleship, Kaiser sports a notoriously difficult to hit citadel and thicker armor belt that also extends all the way to the front. Plus, she’s faster, and has a higher ROF on her guns. Still, Nikolai has the advantage in this match up. Kaiser has more superstructure to hit and her turrets are very awkward to use, requiring to expose a flat broadside to get all five turrets on target. Even foregoing the fifth turret means that she has to expose more of her side than a Nikolai using 3/4 of her firepower,

A fight between these two is a sight to behold. The German ship is tougher, the Russian ship can more easily bring her firepower to bear. But the only way Kaiser is going to reliably win is by getting to Nikolai’s side at medium to short range and pouring a full salvo into the Russian citadel. However, getting there with enough health is going to be the problem.

Concealment & Camouflage
Surface Detection Range: 12.8 km
Air Detection Range: 10.4 km
Minimum Surface Detection Range: 11.0km
Concealment Penalty while Firing: +9.1km (vs 14.1km gun range)
There’s nothing really special about the Imperator Nikolai where her concealment values are concerned.  Stock, her guns outrange her surface detection range by a comfortable margin.  She doesn’t have to worry too much about stealth-firing ships being able to hide from her while doing their own spotting.  Her biggest threat is, of course, aircraft and destroyers.
About the only thing I don’t like about her camo is that it colour-codes her vulnerable sections for enemy gunnery.  Her belt armour is in the darkest blue band, with her citadel found immediately behind it.

Anti-Aircraft Defense
AA Battery Calibers:  63.3mm / 7.62mm
AA Umbrella Ranges: 3.0km / 1.0km
AA DPS per Aura:  2 / 7

The Imperator Nikolai has all of six (count ’em) AA mounts.  These consist of what amounts to four anti-personnel machine guns dragooned into an AA role and two light artillery pieces.  Frankly, I think sticking Boris up in the crow’s nest with a megaphone and just letting him shout the enemy planes to death would be a more effective aircraft deterrent.  If any planes do actually get shot down, you can be it’s from Boris hurting their feelings and not because your pop guns did anything.
Rivals: The Myogi

Myogi is considerably faster, has more range and individually more powerful shells. Unfortunately, that’s where her advantages end. She doesn’t have the volume of fire nor the accuracy to make landing hits at range reliable, and she doesn’t have the armor to close in to a range where she can land accurate hits and survive the return fire from the more heavily armed and armored Russian ship.

And move to within gun range she will have to do, if only for the simple reason that when Nikolai’s guns are silent, her concealment range is shorter than her gun range. So if Myogi wants to pick up Nikolai, she will have to get within the Russian ships gun reach. The only way Myogi is going to use her range with impunity is if something else is keeping Nikolai spotted for her, in which case there are two ships tied up keeping one ship busy, which isn’t good for the team.


Overall Impressions

Skill Floor: Simple Casual / Challenging / Difficult
Skill Ceiling: Low Moderate / High / Extreme
 The Imperator Nikolai isn’t very complicated on the surface.  You can play her like any of the other low tier Battleships and you’ll do rather well.  She has twelve guns that are hard hitting and quite accurate, so it’s not hard for even a novice player do earn a respectable sum of damage, credits and experience with no special skills needed.
Once you understand the core mechanics of World of Warships, a whole new level of overpowered, seal-clubbing apocalyptic-nightmare level of power emerges.  The Imperator becomes very hard to kill, making her able to tank far more damage than she has any right to do all the while delivering a steady stream of damage back out to the enemy.  Is a Destroyer trying to kill you?  Well hold fire until they turn towards or away from you and delete them.  Take your map awareness to the next level and plan ahead to where your juggernaut will do the most good, diminishing the weakness of her slow speed.
There’s a reason this is one of the highest performing ships of all time.  She’s easy to learn and as you get better, her output scales with your skill level.
The Lertbox


Is Nikolai overpowered? Given her turret angles and armor, yes. Yes she is. However, ‘overpowered’ in World of Warships doesn’t mean the same as it does in World of Tanks. There is no peek-a-boom in this game. To get a salvo off you have to expose yourself, and when you’re exposed you’re going to be open to return fire, without the ability to instantly retreat behind a rock. Vision games aren’t really a big thing at this tier either.

In theoretical 1v1 duels, Nikolai is stronger than the other tier 4 battleships. But this game isn’t 1v1. Nikolai falls to getting outflanked, focus-fired or torpedoed. Plus, she’s vulnerable to carriers. ‘Overpowered’ in this case just means that you have to bring a buddy or two to bring her down. Plus, her soft spots are color-coded for your convenience: if she’s bow on to your battleship don’t aim at dark blue part of her camouflage the waterline, but at the medium blue band above that, and your 11″ and larger AP shells will sail right through for solid damage.

Mouse’s Summary:
  • Aside from having twelve guns and good AP rounds, the Nikolai doesn’t look impressive.
  • You could be forgiven, as many playtesters should be forgiven in hindsight, for under estimating just how monstrous this ship can be provided you don’t give up her sides.  Bow on, she’s a terror.  Broadside on, she’s a pinata.
  • Does playing this ship and enjoying it make me a terrible person?  I think it might…

So, not a whole lot has changed with the Imperator Nikolai since I last reviewed it.  We have an armour viewer now, so that’s nice.  We can see that she has an enormous and exposed citadel.  Funny that her weaknesses don’t mean much when she can simply bow tank while delivering 9 of her 12 rifles into enemy faces.  Without well played destroyers and carriers around, the only thing that’s going to bring the Nikolai down is another seal clubber.  And they had better appreciate what few vulnerabilities the Nikolai has or they’re in for a rough ride.

There is one change that’s particularly worth noting.  The Imperator Nikolai used to be the only tier 4 Battleship that saw tier 6 fights.  Hilariously, she still did very well in those fights, being able to bow tank even the Warspite’s 381mm rifles fired at her waterline and shrug off the HE rain from a Cleveland.  The higher tiered carriers were more dangerous though.  But thankfully, her once commonplace predators — the Isokaze and Minekaze (and the now retired Kamikaze) are becoming all the more rare.
I am very happy that more players are getting a chance, even if it’s through the equivalent of a scratch-ticket system, to acquire the Imperator Nikolai.  I sincerely hope that no one hurts themselves financially trying desperately to get her.  There’s always the hope, too, that someone will get her through a Super Container from the daily experience grinds.  I haven’t heard nearly as many cases of that as I have with this Santa’s Secret Stash promotion that’s currently ongoing.
The Imperator Nikolai is still an overpowered monster.  Even the inclusion of the German Battleships hasn’t tamed her reign of terror.  She’s not good for the health of low tier play, but that doesn’t preclude me from taking her out every now and then and working off some frustration on helpless (and delicious) baby seals.

Remember, using a Nikolai in battle isn’t an automatic “I win!” button.  Teamwork matters most.
Would I Recommend?
Uh, yeah, generally speaking.  Short of you hating Battleship play, she’s an overpowered monster.  The only thing I caution is that the only way  to get her is through an RNG system.  Maybe you’ll luck out and find her in a Super Container — so a tiny chance within a tiny chance.  The other option is to buy some of Santa’s Secret Stash crates and hope you get lucky.  I don’t know what the odds are.  I couldn’t even fathom a guess.  Some people have opened only a few (a dozen) and lucked out.  Others haven’t.
But let me be clear here.  If you’re in a position to spend money to acquire an Imperator Nikolai this holiday season, understand that it is by no means guaranteed and probably not even likely.  There are a LOT of success stories going out there but please be safe and responsible with your money this holiday season!
Caveat emptor!

  • For Random Battle Grinding
Mouse:  There are few tools as effective at grinding the soft, squishy skulls of young seals beneath the jackboot of tyrannical Emperor Nikky.  With minimum investment, you’ll farm tons of experience for your Soviet-Captains, earn a fair number of credits and likely farm up High Caliber, Confederate and Kraken awards on a daily basis.  Very yes.
Lert:  Well, yeah. She’s a very strong ship that doesn’t require the use of premium consumables to make her presence felt.

  • For Competitive Gaming
Mouse:  Wargaming hasn’t opened up a competitive area at tier 4 (yet).  However, if one did open, the Nikolai would be a good choice.  This goes doubly so if your idea of competitive gaming is to see who can have the best win rate.  Also very yes.
Lert:  If WG ever introduces tier 4 competitive play, this is the battleship to drive.

  • For Collectors

Mouse:  Historically, the real Imperator Nikolai was never completed.  So she doesn’t have a lot of history going for her.  She has more history in World of Warships as that “one that got away”.  So, no from a historical perspective.
Lert:  Nikolai only has value as a collector ship in that she’s rare and not for sale. She was laid down and launched but never finished, and her  career is remarkable for being completely unremarkable.
  • For Fun Factor

Mouse:  The Nikolai makes me feel more guilt than fun.

Lert:  Do you like performing brain surgery with a sledgehammer? Are you ok with being able to go to the bathroom, make a cup of tea and watch a movie before you get to the battle? Then this is the ship for you.

How to keep your Imperator Nikolai I from roamin’ off
Recommended Modules
With only two module slots, there’s not a whole lot of fussing needed here.  For your first slot, equip Main Armaments Modification 1 to help keep your main battery in action.  Even with this module, you’ll see them get temporarily knocked out with some regularity.  I don’t dare imagine how often it would happen without it.  For your second slot, they’re all terrible choices, but Damage Control Systems Modification 1 is the best of the worst.  This will give a slight boost to your anti-torpedo defense.

Recommended Consumables

 You have two consumables.  Make ’em both premiums for maximum seal-clubby yield and let’s move on!

Recommended Captain Skills

There aren’t any Russian or Soviet Battleships yet in the game.  They’re coming, but they’re not here yet.  You can opt to build a Captain specifically tailored for your Imperator Nikolai, but I’ve found she doesn’t really need one.  Still, here are the optimal skill choices for the Nikolai.

  • From the first tier, take Basics of Survivbility as your first choice.  Basic Fire Training isn’t as valuable as her secondaries are terrible and ol’ Boris is probably off drinking again and he’ll likely drop his megaphone when he tries to moon the enemy aircraft.
  • From the second tier, Expert Marksman is the best choice.  This applies some much needed WD40 to your turrets.
  • At the third tier, there are three skills, all worth taking (and for once, you may want to grab them all before moving on).  Superintendent is the best option for that extra healing charge from your Repair Party.  Next, High Alert is helpful to help take the strain off your Damage Control Party.  Of less value these days, but still important is Vigilance to help spot stealth-launched torpedoes.
  • There aren’t a lot of good skills at tier 4 for the Nikolai.  Advanced Fire Training is arguably the best of a lot of bad choices.  This will give Boris a bigger megaphone and a thesaurus to make the insults he shouts particularly biting.
  • If you do progress to tier 5, then Concealment Expert is a great choice for helping control engagement ranges.  Alternatively, you could go with Jack of All Trades to further reduce the reset timers on your consumables.

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