HMS Vanguard is the ghost of the Royal Navy battleship tech tree everyone wanted to see. Ostensibly, HMS Vanguard was designed to be a tier VIII version of HMS Warspite. However, Vanguard falls short of this aspiration. For a high-tier Royal Navy battleship, she’s surprisingly not idiot-proof, with a vulnerable citadel that needs to be protected with angling and manoeuvres. What’s most exciting: Her AP shells are wonderful. Wargaming has offered some concessions to both of the fans of the current Royal Navy battleship line. They included HMS Monarch’s excellent high explosive shells to Vanguard’s arsenal, ensuring that these two players can continue spamming HE without a guilty conscience while everyone else rolls their eyes.
I want to thank Wargaming for providing me access to this ship. This is the release version of the vessel and all of the statistics discussed here are current as of November 15th, 2018.
- Large hit point pool of 71,700hp.
- Main battery has a quick 25s reload and excellent gun handling.
- Has the same dispersion pattern as Warspite, Hood and Queen Elizabeth and boasts 2.0 sigma, making her one of the most precise battleships in the game.
- Excellent AP and HE performance for a 381mm shell, including good penetration and damage values, rewarding versatile ammunition choice.
- Very fast rudder shift time for a battleship of 9.7 seconds.
- Improved Repair Party, queuing and healing back more than standard and with fast reset timer.
- Exposed, above-water citadel.
- Absolutely appalling firing angles on her main battery.
- Main battery is only eight 381mm rifles creating issues with overmatching and DPM.
- AA defense is for self defense only and is concentrated in 3.5km range, medium caliber mounts that are easily knocked out.
- Large turning radius of 850m and slow rate of turn exacerbates the issues with her fire angles.
Skill Floor: Simple / Casual / CHALLENGING / Difficult
Skill Ceiling: Low / Moderate / HIGH / Extreme
Vanguard encourages players to sail with their broadsides exposed. With her above-water citadel, you can imagine how well she’s going to go over with novice players. You know what? Never mind the novices. The veterans are going to find this frustrating too as it limits the amount of firepower she can dish out when trading. She’s a battleship that reward cautious, opportunistic play — which is review-speak for “hide in the back, shoot when you can and don’t brawl”.
– Has a significant advantage over her tier mates. A solid, competitive performer.
– No other ship at its tier does this as well as this ship.
- Vanguard has strengths and weaknesses across the board, giving her a rating in Offense, Agility, Anti-Air and Vision Control.
- It’s only in Defense where she stands out with a rating. Her citadel is very vulnerable for a battleship, however she counters this with a the largest hit point pool at her tier and an amazing Repair Party consumable.
Aside from Vanguard’s Repair Party, there’s nothing out of the ordinary to be found here.
- Vanguard’s Damage Control Party is standard for a British battleship. She has unlimited charges. It has a 15 second action time and a 120s / 80s reset timer.
- Her Repair Party is improved. See the DEFENSE section below. There’s a lot to go over. This starts with 3 charges base.
Optimization of Vanguard’s upgrades will see the usual suspects rear their tired old heads.
- Start with Main Armaments Modification 1.
- Next take Damage Control Systems Modification 1.
- You’ve got a choice in your third slot. As ever, emphasizing gunnery is best so your first pick here should be Aiming Systems Modification 1. However, if you’re salty about CVs, taking AA Guns Modification 2 is an okay choice. It’s not great, but it’s okay.
- Damage Control Modification 2 is arguably the best choice for most players in slot 4. You can elect to take Steering Gears Modification 2 to emphasize the strengths of her already quick rudder shift time. Be aware this is harder to make use of optimally even if it can yield higher results — it’s easier to tank damage than it is to dodge it, after all.
- Finally, take everyone’s favourite no-brainer: Concealment Modification 1.
Vanguard comes with Type 10 Camouflage. This provides:
- 50% bonus experience gains
- 10% reduction to maintenance costs
- 3% reduction in surface detection
- 4% reduction in enemy accuracy.
Main Battery: Eight 381mm guns in 4×2 turrets in an A-B-X-Y superfiring configuration.
Secondary Battery: Sixteen 134mm guns in 8×2 turrets. These are superfiring with two forward facing and two rear facing per side.
Let’s start with the small guns.
You can largely forget that Vanguard has secondaries. These 134mm guns lack the range, reload time and volume of fire needed to present a credible threat to opponents. This is really unfortunate given their nice shell weight and fire chance. If they had the range or they had the rate of fire, maybe a secondary build would be fun to play around with. Lamentably, it’s a mistake to invest anything in upgrading these weapons — they simply can’t do what you need them to. At best they might be able to start a fire on an enemy capital ship that strays too close. However, with Vanguard’s high citadel, getting into a brawl is a death sentence, so stay out of secondary range.
Main Battery Precision
There’s so much to like about Vanguard’s main battery.
First of, there’s her precision. Vanguard is a blast from the past, sharing same horizontal dispersion value of the older British premium battleships, including Hood and Warspite. Inside of 12km, she overtakes even the vaunted Japanese battleship accuracy, making her much more adept at picking off close range targets like destroyers. Combined with her 2.0 sigma value, landing hits feels very comfortable, even at long ranges.
Vanguard’s HE shells don’t share the same performance anachronism as her dispersion. They’re modern, almost (but not quite) matching HMS Monarch’s HE, including her shell damage and penetration. Monarch’s have a 1% higher chance to set blazes over Vanguard, though — don’t ask me why. Vanguard doesn’t quite match up to the tech tree Royal Navy battleships for fire setting ability. This is good news to me — it removes some of the brainless quality of HE spam.
When you do reach over for her AP shells, you’re rewarded with a welcome change from other Royal Navy battleship AP. Like Warspite before her, Vanguard has a longer fuse timer with her AP. This has a few effects. The downside is that she’s more likely to overpenetrate soft targets, including broadside cruisers and battleship extremities. The upside is that it provides her AP with increased bite for reaching machine spaces and magazines buried deeper within the core of enemy warships — especially those with spaced armour protecting their citadels. Vanguard is especially good at punishing broadside battleships at range.
Penetration wise, her AP shells are well setup, having comparable bite to Tirpitz and Bismarck. It pays to keep their caliber in mind, however. Her 381mm shells cannot overmatch the 27mm bows of American and German heavy cruisers. As good as Vanguard’s AP shells are, spamming nothing but won’t do you any more favours than if you used HE shells exclusively. Switch shells often in Vanguard and she’ll reward you. Vanguard’s fast 25 second reload facilitates swapping between ammunition while also padding her damage output when it comes time to cycle her guns.
The Deal Breaker
All of these strengths are present to pad for one massive weakness: Vanguard’s appalling fire angles.
Vanguard has a fast rate of fire, great HE shells, fast turret traverse and excellent precision because her fire angles are so bad. It’s all meant to be compensation because Vanguard must present a near perfect broadside in order to fire all eight of her guns at a target. This leaves her incredibly vulnerable to reprisals. She is functionally incapable of autobouncing enemy shells while firing her full armament and instead she must rely on her armour thickness to repel shells. At anything but the longest of ranges, this is a fool’s errand. Thus, Vanguard often has to sacrifice firepower in order to properly angle against her enemies.
This is why her gun performance is so good: she’s often forced to fight with only half of her weapons. Wargaming have done everything they can to make it easier to bring the other half to bear when possible. Her gun traverse is quick. Her reload is fast. She answers her rudder quickly too to help swing her butt out to unmask her guns.
I’m not going to lie: These bad fire angles are enough to put me off this ship entirely, which is saying a lot given all of the wonderful perks her guns otherwise enjoy.
- Secondaries are bad.
- Her main guns perform beautifully provided you can use all of them.
- Her fire angles will get you killed.
What it would have needed to be : I almost gave her a rating here — that’s how bad her fire angles are. However, there’s just too many perks glued onto her weapons to make that a fair assessment. She’d need a much faster rate of fire before I would consider bumping this up. Or, you know, completely redesign the ship to give her better fire angles. That would work too.
Hit Points: 71,700
Min Bow & Deck Armour: 32mm
Maximum Citadel Protection: 356mm
Torpedo Damage Reduction: 25%
Let’s start with the elephant in the room: Vanguard’s citadel sits over the waterline. Much fuss will be made over this and rightly so. Only Roma shares this high-water vulnerability and the Italian ship is much better equipped to angle and bounce incoming fire. The net effect is that Vanguard is more likely to take citadel damage than other battleships when someone catches her side. This isn’t to say that citadel damage is an exclusive weakness to Vanguard. However, it pays to keep her vulnerability in mind. Her aforementioned firing angles on her main battery guns exacerbates this problem. When Vanguard is firing all eight of her weapons, whatever she’s shooting at has an easy target from which to farm damage.
What makes Vanguard’s fire angles such a liability compared to other battleships has to do with autobounce mechanics. Let’s get technical for a moment to explain why.
- If AP shells cannot overmatch armour, there’s an autobounce check. This occurs before any penetration attempts are made. The angle of the shell is compared to the angle of the surface it strikes.
- Normally, battleship AP shells that hit with an acute angle of 30º or less will auto-ricochet. This is why bow-tanking is so prevalent — shells simply slide off the ship’s bow and deck, unable to bite into the armour. No matter how much penetration a shell has, if it strikes at too shallow of an angle, your ship can avoid damage.
- Normally, battleship AP shells that hit with an angle of 45º or more cannot autoricochet. Any shells that strike between 45º and 90º to the hull will follow normal penetration mechanics.
- In between these two values, the auto-ricochet chance scales linearly. For Vanguard, when she fires her all eight guns forward at a 43º angle, any return fire from her target has only a 13% chance of suffering a ricochet. When she fires all eight guns to the rear at a 40º angle, this improves to a 33% chance.
Most battleships are capable of firing all of their guns 35º off their bow, allowing them to ricochet shells automatically 2/3s of the time. The steeper they angle themselves, the better this defense. This mechanic is absolutely essential for keeping battleships safe from the monstrous levels of penetration found at higher tiers. Not only does it provide a better chance of automatically deflecting shells, it adds relative thickness to their armour belts. The steeper you angle, the greater the effective thickness. Vanguard’s belt has between 503mm and 522mm worth of protection at 43º. However, if she could fire at 35º off her bow, this would increase to 598mm to 621mm.
Her citadel protection isn’t all bad, though. First off, AP bombs can’t citadel you. Hooray! Second, shots that land high that attempt to bi-pass her belt and drop down into her citadel have to contend with a 32mm citadel roof. Only Yamato and Musashi’s 460mm guns can overmatch this, meaning that any other shell will skip off the top of her machine spaces for only penetration damage. Thus it’s only shots fired directly at her waterline which can damage her citadel.
The use of Priority Target is almost a must to alert you when enemies are looking your way to give you time to angle in and protect yourself. Vanguard needs time to stack damage — to find those moments where she can sit broadside and make excellent use of her precision and rate of fire but don’t push your luck when you’re taking hits.
There’s one last little point of contention with Vanguard’s protection scheme: With the entirety of her deck and extremities boasting no more than 32mm of armour, Vanguard is a juicy target for light cruisers. Expect to burn a lot if they catch you out in the open.
If Vanguard appears a little squishy, she all but makes up for it with her excellent Repair Party consumable. While she doesn’t boast the same portable dry-dock found on HMS Lion, Nelson and Conqueror, she has the next best thing. Here’s the bonuses she has baked in:
- Her Repair Party resets quickly. The reset timer on consumable is 90 seconds / 60 seconds for standard / premium. Compare this to the usual 120 seconds / 80 seconds of the normal Repair Party.
- She queues up 60% of penetration damage. This is admittedly standard for Royal Navy battleships, so Vanguard doesn’t stand apart from the rest of the ships in her line. For most other battleships it’s 50%.
- Vanguard queues up 33% of citadel damage. This is huge. While it would best to avoid taking citadel damage of any kind, Vanguard heals up more than the 10% of other battleships. Keep in mind, this also applies to torpedo damage which is the most common form of citadel damage battleships receive. This is especially good in Vanguard’s case given her poor anti-torpedo protection.
- She heals up to 16.8% of her hit points per charge. Normal Repair Party mechanics heal up only 14% over 28 seconds — or 0.5% per second. Vanguard enjoys a 20% boost over this like Warspite, healing 0.6% per second over the same time period.
With up to five charges at her disposal through the use of premium and skills, Vanguard’s faster reset timer ensures that she’s able to make full use of her health regeneration. Her enormous hit point pool also guarantees big returns as Repair Party scales with a ship’s starting hit point total.
For all of Vanguard’s potential vulnerability with her high citadel, she’s well equipped to mitigate and manage said damage. When she’s top tier, the vulnerability of her citadel drops down considerably, making her very powerful. Light cruisers are always going to be pain in the butt, though, and beware HE spam from battleships too. Vanguard isn’t done yet with her tricks, though, as you’ll see in the AGILITY section below.
What it would have needed to be : Can a battleship with an exposed citadel even be considered ? It feels a bit of a stretch to me, but if you can keep her citadel protected, Vanguard is hella tough. That’s a pretty big ‘if’ though when she’s not top tier. She may lose her current rating when the North Carolina Repair Party buff goes through.
Top Speed: 30.0 knots
Port Turning Radius: 850m
Rudder Shift Time: 9.7 seconds (!)
4/4 Engine Speed Turning Rate: 4.1º/s
The big thing to talk about here is Vanguard’s rudder shift time. Now I’ve harped on rudder shift before — it’s a mean to an end, not an end of itself. Boasting that a ship has a great rudder shift time is like boasting that a ship has great range on its main battery guns — it’s nice to have but it’s not a good indicator of a ship’s performance. The same applies here. Vanguard answers her rudder quickly and her movements are much more precise as a result, but it would be a mistake to call this ship agile.
Vanguard’s rate of turn holds her back. 4.1º/s is painfully average for a high tier battleship. She sits well behind ships like the Richelieu-class sisters and the South Dakota-class sisters. This is caused by two things. One, her turning radius is big. Two, she doesn’t have any baked in bonuses to help her preserve speed in the turn. The upside to her modest handling (and it’s a stretch to call this a benefit) is that she can’t out turn her turrets. She starts with a 5.0º/s rotation on her main battery guns and Expert Marksman only widens the gap, making adjusting her fire very comfortable if it weren’t for those damned firing arcs.
Vanguard’s fast rudder shift time is almost good enough to allow her to fire her guns and angle back quickly enough to avoid reprisals. Almost. The simple fact of the matter, going from a 30º aspect to a 43º and back again takes too long. I never managed better than 15 seconds during trials. You might be able to pull this off against an inexperienced opponent but this is owing more to their mistakes rather than the merits of the ship itself. If you want to be able to fire all eight of Vanguard’s guns while not getting your citadel blown out, you’re going to have to play clever.
Now just because Vanguard can’t wiggle-wiggle-shoot doesn’t preclude her from being able to dodge. This is something she’s quite good at and where her rudder shift time makes her deliciously unpredictable. You’ll still need range in order to pull this off, but you can pretend to begin unmasking your guns in order to bait shots and then double back on your course to bounce their shells. Similarly, the amount of bounce and twirl in her badonkadonk makes her a real nuisance for destroyers to land torpedoes. Vanguard is all about frustrating gunnery — both yours and your opponents.
What it would have needed to be : She’s not a speed demon like the French botes nor wiggling like the SoDaks. She’s also not a thunderbutt like Kii, so there’s that. I was personally hoping to see her preserve a little more speed in the turn to get her rotation rate up — that would have done it, but it didn’t pan out during testing.
AA Gun Calibers: 134mm / 40mm
AA Umbrella Ranges: 5.2km / 3.5km
AA DPS per Aura: 68 / 413.1
For personal defense, Vanguard’s anti-aircraft firepower is excellent — comparable to the American battleships. However, that’s about as far as it extends. Vanguard lacks the weight of fire with her dual purpose guns to be a credible threat to aircraft further out. This precludes any claims of efficiency with Manual Fire Control for AA Guns — too much of her flak is focused upon her 3.5km 40mm batteries. This adds a second weakness: her medium caliber weapons don’t stand up to punishment very well. If you’ve taken even a light dusting of HE shells, odds are your anti-aircraft firepower is nowhere near as formidable as it once was.
So, while you’re pristine and perfect, you’ll shred planes. It’s worth investing in Advanced Fire Training to help boost this further, but that’s about as far as improving her anti-aircraft firepower should go.
Hey look, I made it through a section without mentioning her awful fire ang — aw, damn it.
What it would have needed to be : She’s very close. Were it not for FOUR American battleships all having very similar AA firepower (and Kii besides), she might be able to muscle in and make her presence felt. As it is, she sits in their shadow.
Base Surface Detection: 16.04km
Air Detection Range: 13.7km
Minimum Surface Detection Range: 12.04km
Detection Range When Firing in Smoke: 14.73km
Main Battery Firing Range: 20.0km
There’s not much to go over here. Vanguard’s concealment is “sufficient unto the task” and nothing more. She sits in the middle of the pack for surface detection behind Monarch (14.6km), Roma (14.9km) and North Carolina (15.7km) and just ahead of the Alabama-twins (16.2km) and Bismarck-sisters (16.4km).
Vision Control consumables are rare at this tier, being limited to Bismarck’s Hydroacoustic Search and various spotter and float plane fighters found on select ships. Vanguard doesn’t have access to any of them and she ends up feeling blind without them.
Alpha and Omega
There’s not much to say in regards to the skill choices for Vanguard. You can buff up her anti-aircraft firepower if you’re super salty about CVs, but on the whole a generic battleship captain build emphasizing fire resistance would serve you better.
- Start with Priority Target.
- Take Adrenaline Rush as your second skill.
- Follow this up with Basics of Survivability at the third tier.
- For your 10th point-skill, choose between Concealment Expert and Fire Prevention with your 14th point-skill, take the alternative.
With your remaining 5 points to spend, customize as you will.
- Advanced Fire Training will serve you well if you want a little more teeth to your AA guns — especially when paired with AA Guns Modification 2 from your upgrades. For your remaining 1pt, take either Preventative Maintenance or Expert Loader.
- Alternatively, you can mix and match between Superintendent, Expert Marksman, Jack of All Trades and High Alert. Keep those tier 1 skills in mind as filler.
- She has two main flaws and only two: Her citadel sits high over the water and her fire arcs suck.
- If you can mitigate these two weaknesses, this boat is amazing. She’s been padded with all of the perks possible to compensate for these challenges.
- If you can’t mitigate them, or you find it frustrating, Vanguard is a steaming pile of doo.
“The second coming of Warspite” has such a nice ring to it. So many of us were hoping that the Royal Navy battleship line would have borrowed heavily from Warspite’s game design — namely her gun’s precision, sluggish gun handling, good agility and improved heals. Instead we got a pack of flame throwers with cloaking devices and portable dry-docks. Complaining about what became of the Royal Navy battleships is so 2017, though. I had pinned my new hopes that Vanguard would be my baebote #2, echoing a lot of what made Warspite great.
She almost got there which is pretty surprising. But let’s not sugarcoat things — Vanguard fell short of the mark. This isn’t a tier VIII Warspite. So is Vanguard “good”? Well, yes. Yes, she is. However, there’s a big ol’ butt attached. She’s good but she’s also potentially frustrating as all get out.
- I’ve bitched enough about her fire arcs. This is a personal pet peeve of mine, if you can’t tell. This right here is what would relegated Vanguard to a port-queen for me.
- For others, her exposed citadel is going to be a big no-no. Why play a battleship that can get her machine spaces easily blown out when you could play something similar that doesn’t have to put up with that nonsense?
- Her inability to overmatch select heavy cruisers will be a turn-off for others. It will keep her from being a contender in competitive play because of it.
- Finally, her longer AP fuse timer gives her an increased chance of overpenetrations. There’s few things as heart breaking as lining up that perfect shot on a cruiser only to watch your shells sail clean through, inflicting minimal damage.
One of the ways a premium ship can get in my bad books is by forcing a player to take extra steps to accomplish the same task as other vessels. Vanguard ticks this box. If Famous and HIstorical Monarch can do what Vanguard does and with less frustration, why bother picking up Vanguard? If the comparison to Monarch is bringing you pause, good. The two ships have very similar play styles with the tech tree ship being idiot-proof. I think this is perhaps the most damning thing that could be said about Vanguard: like Monarch, she’s a little dull.
Thankfully, Vanguard does borrow just enough from Warspite to spare her being called the second coming of the King George V that never was. I’m just not sure it’s enough to redeem the ship in my eyes. Her perks are compelling, but it keeps coming back to those frustrating elements for me. I suppose that says it all right there. Know thyself. If those elements seem like turn-offs to you, then stay away. Otherwise, she’ll do you no wrong.
Would I Recommend?
Vanguard acted as the gatekeeper to the initial offering of HMS Dreadnought. If you wanted the latter you had to also buy the former. Make sure you weigh the merits of both ships before pulling the trigger on a purchase like that.
- PVE Battles
How well does the ship maintain profitability in Co-Op modes and how does she fare against bots?
Yes. Bots are dumb. Battleships vs bots is always a good fit.
- Random Battle Grinding:
This includes training captains, collecting free experience, earning credits and collecting signal flags from achievements.
No. You are absolutely spoiled rotten for choice when it comes to Royal Navy premium battleships. Warspite, Hood, Nelson, Duke of York and Dreadnought are all on offer. Vanguard does have the advantage of being the highest tier, and thus potentially making the most bank, but you could do almost as well for yourself in most of the others. (I can’t believe I’m recommending Duke of York as a reasonable alternative…)
- For Competitive Gaming:
Competitive Gaming includes Ranked Battles and other skill-based tournaments. This also includes stat-padding.
No. Get yourself Massachusetts or Alabama instead.
- For Collectors:
If you enjoy ship history or possessing rare ships, this section is for you.
Yes. She’s the last Royal Navy battleship ever — built in steel and she’s drop dead gorgeous.
- For Fun Factor:
Bottom line: Is the ship fun to play?
No. I didn’t find her fun to play. However, that’s because I’m a whiner when it comes to firing arcs. Maybe your own mileage will be different.
- What’s the Final Verdict?
How would the ship rate on oh-so scientific, not-sarcastic at all, Angry YouTuber scale of Garbage – Meh – Gud – Overpowered?
GARBAGE– I hate it!
Mehbote – An average ship. Probably forgettable.
Gudbote – The best thing ever. Totally not overpowered because I like padding my stats in it.
OVERPOWERED – I hate playing against it!
It’s only a week late. That’s unfortunately going to be the status quo going forward as I perpetually play catch-up with releases. Since Dreadnought and Vanguard were ninja-announced last week, Bourgogne has been finalized. In addition Charleston was released without any warning, so there are three new reviews in the queue. What’s more, the Black Friday ships, Massachusetts, Tirpitz, Atago and Asashio are on their way out. While Tirpitz and Massachusetts’ reviews are still reasonably up to date, the changes to the latter two could warrant a revisit.
Given the limited access I’m going to have with Bourgogne, I’ll probably be prioritizing that one as my next review unless something else comes up. Thank you all for reading. Thank you very much to everyone that supports me on Patreon for helping me produce this content.
Armour penetration data was pulled from two sites: