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Premium Ship Preview: Exeter

The following is a PREVIEW of HMS Exeter, a ship kindly provided to me by Wargaming.  This ship is still under development and all of the statistics here are subject to change.  These stats were current as of January 11th, 2019.

I’ve been having a hard time mollifying my mammaries with HMS Exeter coming to World of Warships.  This was on the short list of premiums I wanted to see added to the game, having gone so far as to bug Wargaming about it repeatedly.  I can’t claim that my influence had anything to do with her arrival.  She certainly deserves it based on her own historical merits.  I’m very excited.

As mentioned above, Wargaming has given me access to Exeter, albeit in a very limited fashion.  I’m able to look at her in port on the Public Test Server and nothing more than that.  So, no Random Battles (even if it is the Public Test Server), no Co-Op Battles, not even a Training Room.  The best I can do for this preview is give you a stat-heavy theorycraft, a lot of which won’t be substantiated.  I’m pulling out all of the stops here, digging up third party stats from various third party sites to try and put together the most accurate impression we can have before taking her out onto the game servers.

I want to thank the World of Warships wiki-staff for helping me collect some of the key datapoints for this review.  Specifically Phoenix_iz and SireneRacker737.  Thank you both! Let’s get stuck in before Wargaming changes everything an invalidate all of the work that’s gone into this preview…

First Blush

Exeter is a tier V British York-class Heavy Cruiser.  She appears in game in her 1940-1941 rebuilt state after the Battle of the River Plate with her fateful encounter with Admiral Graf Spee.  I’m disappointed we’re not seeing her in her 1939 configuration.  While I’m not at “WeeVee 1944!” levels of outrage, it does irk me a bit.  Oh well.  The differences are admittedly minor overall and she should generally still play the same.

HMS Exeter in her 1939 configuration. The big differences to note are her lack of 102mm dual-purpose secondary mounts (replaced with four single-guns) and the differences to her masts and bridge.

PROS

  • Large hit point pool for a tier V cruiser.
  • Heavily armed with six 203mm rifles with a good rate of fire of 5rpm per gun.
  • Good torpedoes for her tier with an 8km range, the ability to single fire them and hard hitting warheads.
  • Excellent assembly of consumables including a Repair Party and Smoke Generator.
  • Very stealthy with a surface detection as low as 9.6km when fully upgraded.
  • Appears to be an excellent (and badly needed) crew trainer for Royal Navy cruisers.

CONS

  • Her armour profile looks exceedingly squishy with 13mm extremities.  She can be overmatched by 203mm+ AP shells.
  • Her citadel sits above the waterline with only 76mm of belt protection.
  • AP penetration looks like it might be found wanting.
  • Anti-aircraft firepower looks … uh … well, not great.  It’s hard to tell with the rework still being balanced.
  • Large(ish) detection range when firing in smoke of 6.1km.

Options

First things first, let’s take a look at the various consumable, upgrade and camouflage details.

Consumables

  • Exeter’s Damage Control Party appears standard for a cruiser.  This has a 5 second active period and a 90s / 60s reset timer with unlimited charges.
  • Like other British cruisers, she has a Repair Party.  The duration and healing rate appear standard, healing up to 14% of the ship’s hit points over 28 seconds.  This comes with 2 charges base and a 120s / 80s reset timer.  She queues up to 50% of penetration damage and 10% of citadel damage.
  • Exeter’s Hydroacoustic Search mirrors other tier V cruisers with a 3km torpedo detection and 4km ship detection radius.  This is active for 100s with a 180s / 120s reset timer and 2 charges base.

It’s in her fourth slot where we’re presented with our first choice.

  • Her Smoke Generator is identical to that found on Emerald with a 15s emission time and a 96s dispersion per cloud created.  Each cloud is 1.2km across.  This has a 240s / 160s reset timer and starts with two charges.
  • Her Catapult Fighter is… well, it conforms to the new norms with the CV rework.  Like other tier V cruisers, Exeter’s catapult fighters are up for 30s and have a 135s / 90s reset timer and comes with two charges base.  Like all Catapult Fighters, Exeter’s were bugged on the Public Test Server with the standard version having a squadron of 4 planes while the premium version only had two.
Test conducted using HMS Emerald which has the identical Catapult Fighter stats as Exeter in port on the Public Test Server.  This issue has been brought to the attention of the devs.  If you needed a reminder that everything discussed in this article is very much a Work in Progress, I refer to you very strongly towards this discovered bug.

Camouflage

Exeter uses Type 9 – Exeter Camouflage.  This provides the usual 50% bonus to experience gains, a 10% reduction to repair costs, a 3% concealment bonus and a 4% increase to enemy shell dispersion.

Upgrades

Exeter’s upgrade options appear standard for a tier V cruiser, though some are of obviously questionable merit.  As a lower tiered ship, she does not have access to any of the special upgrades to improve things like her Smoke Generator or Hydroacoustic Search.  These typically become available at tier VI+ so she’s currently missing out.

Note, I would personally lean towards taking Main Armaments Modification 1, Propulsion Modification 1, Aiming System Modification 1. 

Thoughts & Feels

There’s nothing terribly surprising here (short of finding that catapult fighter bug).  So far everything conforms to the norms I would expect for a British cruiser.  This is good news for those looking to use her as a trainer as the presence of a Repair Party and Smoke Generator means that she’ll work well with any synergizing captain skills.

Firepower

Main Battery:  Six 203mm/50 guns in 3×2 mounts in an A-B-X superfiring configuration.
Secondary Battery:  Eight 102mm/45 guns in 4×2 mounts with two turrets per side straddling the funnels in a forward-firing arrangement.
Torpedo Tubes:  Six tubes in 2×3 launchers rear facing straddling the foremost funnel

We’re now going to wade deep into the depths of theory-crafting.  Hold onto your butts.  First, have a quick graphic’s dump of known values:

Gun Handling

Exeter has good gun handling with an 8.0º/s gun rotation speed.  This is identical to that found on the Admiral Hipper-class of cruisers and much faster than most heavy cruisers which tend to rotate closer to 5º to 7º per second.  The final verdict here will be contingent upon the rate of rotation of the ship itself and if she can out twirl her turrets.

Values pulled from GameModels3D.com and haven’t been independently verified in client. Remember: this is a preview and the ship is very much a Work in Progress with everything subject to change.

The only bit of bad news here is that her firing arcs are just barely passable when firing forward and pretty darned terrible when she’s kiting to the rear.  We’ll have a closer look at her citadel and armour protection in the next section to show why this is painful.

Ballistics and Penetration

Exeter fires a 116kg shell at 855m/s.  She has a shell drag coefficient of 0.346.  This is very close to Pensacola’s AP shells which weighs in at 118kg and is fired at 853m/s with a 0.321 drag coefficient.  In practice this means that Exeter’s shell arcs will be very comparable to Pensacola’s AP ballistics, though every-so-slightly worse.   This gives us the following estimations for shell flight times:

  • 4km:  ~1.8 seconds
  • 8km:  ~4.4 seconds
  • 12km:  ~7.5 seconds

Exeter’s range caps out at a very modest 14.3km which is on the low side of average for a tier V cruiser.  However, she doesn’t have the capability to boost her range like some of the other ships can with a Spotter Aircraft consumable.  When she’s top tier, this won’t hurt as much given the claustrophobic maps she’ll fight upon, but it will definitely start hurting when she’s facing tier VIIs.

These values were reached by taking Pensacola’s AP performance less 20%. This gives us a very rough idea of Exeter’s expected AP penetration at all ranges. The two ships have similar enough ballistics on their AP shells, leaving Krupp as their primary difference. Pensacola has 18.5% more Krupp which, when combined with the minor energy retention differences, leads to these values.

Exeter AP shell penetration looks pretty average on the whole.  When she’s top tier, this will be more than enough to absolutely devastate the various light cruisers she’ll encounter but it’s not going to be enough to challenge battleships.  This does raise one unknown, though — her auto-bounce values.  I couldn’t find any sources on this (I’m sure someone can datamine it after reading this). I’m assuming they will be standard, with ricochet checks beginning at 45º and automatically occurring at 60º, but we’ll have to see.  I’d only expect to see improved auto-bounce mechanics if she was forced up a tier.  Ideal engagement range seems to be between 10km and 12km against enemy cruisers.

Her HE shells have the standard 1/6th shell diameter penetration.  This maths out to 34mm, giving her more than enough bite to punish anything within her matchmaking spread and beyond.  The Inertial Fuse for HE Shells skill is a complete waste of time (it would only boost to 44mm), so Exeter’s shaping up to be a good RNCL trainer.

Main Battery Damage Output

If the numbers don’t look very inspiring, keep in mind that Exeter can sustain-fire from smoke in this current build which is pretty huge.  Fire setting wise, Exeter is pretty meh.  She puts out 4.5 fires per minute base which isn’t too bad — from our comparison, Molotov and Pensacola are the best at 5.6.  Once you factor in your accuracy and the enemy’s Damage Control Party, you’ll be lucky to stack more than 2 fires per minute on a battleship target if they’re smart so you’re not likely to hoover up massive amounts of XP this way.  If they’re smart.

Exeter’s damage-per-minute (DPM) values are pretty darned respectable for a tier V cruiser.  Her HE shells in particular are pretty meaty and they’ll probably end up being the ammunition of choice until an Omaha or Nurnberg gives up her side within spitting distance.

Secondaries

Exeter uses the same 102mm/45s found on many RNCLs and RNBBs.  They’re largely forgettable on Exeter due to their base range of 4.0km which is unfortunate.  They’re otherwise a lot of fun, firing 20rpm with a base 6% fire chance.  They’re situated to have pretty good fire arcs as well.  They’re just not going to be worth specifically specializing into unless they’ve got some hidden amazing-accuracy parameter that’s not yet showing up.

Torpedoes

Exeter has a pair of triple launchers.  I cringed when I first saw how these were mounted; buried in the hull adjacent to the funnels. I was anticipating some horribly restricted fire arcs but previews through datamining sites are saying that she has almost 120º worth of firing arc without a rearward bias.  She’s apparently able to throw out fish 30º off her bow which is pretty stellar and just shy of 30º off her stern.  For those of you familiar with the Royal Navy cruiser line, these are Leander’s upgraded torpedoes.  She only has triple launchers to Leander’s quads, but that does mean she has a faster reload time.  According to the Facebook Devblog, these can be single fired like with other Royal Navy cruisers.

The alpha strike potential of these fish are not as high a I would hope.  Individually the fish are fine, but with only a single triple launcher per side, Exeter doesn’t quite have the murder-power to obliterate a battleship in one go.  Furutaka is easily better at this with harder hitting (and longer reaching) torpedoes.

Thoughts & Feels

Exeter is looking well armed.  I wasn’t expecting great things from her gun battery, small as it was and I think her AP shells may end up being found wanting, especially at range.  Thankfully, given the soft skin of most of the cruisers at tiers IV, V and VI this really isn’t going to be much of a drawback.

There are a couple of X-factors to consider, though.  The first is more minor — how does her gun handling compare to her agility?  If she can out-turn her turrets then even the 8º/s rotation they manage now will feel a bit frustrating.  More importantly will be how she interacts with smoke.  Not only can she borrow those of her friends and enemies, but she makes her own.  When we get to the Refrigerator section below, I’ll go into this in more detail.

I’m really curious to see how she stacks up to the hitting power compared to Furutaka.  GIven what I’m seeing here, there isn’t enough to automatically supplant the IJN Heavy Cruiser as the defacto queen of the tier V cruisers, but there’s definitely potential here.

Summary:

  • Guns look okay — nothing amazing, but I wasn’t expecting miracles.
  • Leander’s upgraded torps and good fire angles are a pleasant surprise.
  • Secondaries are forgettable.

Defense

Hit Points:  29,400
Min Bow & Deck Armour: 13mm
Maximum Citadel Protection:  13mm extremity / deck + 72mm transverse bulkhead
Torpedo Damage Reduction: 4%

So… the bad news. Exeter doesn’t have much more armour than an Omaha-class cruiser. The good news is that her citadel is much smaller and less exposed.  Her stern is also covered in 13mm of armour with the transverse citadel bulkhead being once again 72mm on the upper half but with only 25mm below.  Those 9mm holes in her citadel roof make me smile.

Yikes.  Welp, every battleship in her matchmaking spread can overmatch her hull with only her turrets and belt being capable of forcing a ricochet.  Even then, her turrets aren’t going to ricochet 381mm guns and higher, so there’s that.  HE will also eat her alive.  None of this comes as any particular surprise.  The big thing to worry about is that her bow can be overmatched by 203mm AP shells so other heavy cruisers can blow her extremities apart and even land citadel hits no matter how she angles.  Yay.

Like Emerald, Exeter has access to a Repair Party.  Just like Emerald, that consumable isn’t going to do you any good if you can’t survive long enough to disengage and heal up.  You can’t heal Devastating Strikes, after all.  You know what this means:

Make judicious use of smoke.

Thoughts & Feels

She looks super squishy.  The heals are nice and all but she’s going to have to live to make use of them.  I’m predicting a lot of Exeters are going to be caught out when their smoke expires and die hilariously fast.  At least her citadel’s roof is fully enclosed.  She has that over Emerald.

Emerald needs nerfs.

Agility

Top Speed: 32.0 knots
Port Turning Radius:
650m
Rudder Shift Time: 8.4s
Estimated 4/4 Engine Speed Rotation Rate: 
See Below.

The big question I have is whether or not Exeter will get the same improved engine power as the other Royal Navy cruisers.  Without access to the fourth upgrade slot, there’s no way of knowing until I get a chance to play her.  If she’s normal, then there are some things we can automatically calculate and compare her to.  With her in port statistics, her rate of turn should max out at 6.1º/s or so.  Her turning radius is tight but her rudder shift time is noticeably slower than with other tier V cruisers, so she’ll feel a bit cumbersome.

This all changes if she ends up with the British cruiser acceleration and energy retention in a turn.  Then we see her retaining upwards of 31.2 knots in a turn instead of 25.6 knots.  Her turning radius will balloon from 650m to closer to 720m.  Her rate of turn will increase from 6.1º/s to around 6.7º/s  What’s more, she’ll accelerate like a champ which will help save her life when smoke starts dissipating around her.

If things are STUPIDLY broken, Wargaming will have given her the improved engine power AND her in port turning radius has already been adjusted to account for it.  If that were the case, she’d twirl at 7.4º/s which would be hilarious.  The only downside would be that Expert Marksman would become a must as her turrets would almost slide off targets while under manoeuvres.

Thoughts & Feels

If she comes into the game vanilla, she’ll be a whole bucket-load of meh in this category.  Her stats make her the slowest cruiser at tier V with the slowest rudder shift time to boot and an unimpressive turning radius.  She’s not so slow where she’ll be a liability but it’s certainly not an area of strength.  She won’t feel like a British cruiser.

Anti-Aircraft Firepower

Under the old system, Exeter’s AA would have been pretty meh.

AA Gun Calibers:  102mm / 40mm / 12.7mm
Old Timey AA Umbrella Ranges:  5.0km / 2.5km / 1.2km
Old Timey AA DPS per Aura:  37.6 / 39.6 / 4.2

Note, these values mean nothing now, it’s only for a comparison under the old system.  This would have given her something in between Emile Bertin and Kirov.  These were the best cruisers at their tier for AA power but neither were especially formidable.  Until the CV mechanics solidify and I get a chance to actually play this ship against some aircraft carriers, your guess is as good as mine.

My wild stab is that it’s not going to be enough to keep her safe from determined attack, even from a tier 4 aircraft carrier unless they like flying into your black flak bursts from your 102mm and your pom-poms.  I don’t think either gun mount is going to be generating very many of them.

Thoughts and Feels

This wouldn’t have really been her strong point before the CV rework.  I really doubt it’s going to be her strong point now…

Refrigerator

Base Surface Detection: 11.0km
Air Detection Range: 7.1km
Minimum Surface Detection: 9.6km
Detection Range When Firing in Smoke: 6.1km
Main Battery Firing Range: 14.3km

This is really where Exeter all comes together.  She’s not only stealthy but she also has access to a British cruiser Smoke Generator.  The effectiveness of this consumable is largely dictated by her detection range in smoke — 6.1km.  While this value compares very favourably with other 203mm armed cruisers and 152mm armed cruisers that don’t bring their own smoke to the fight, it’s a far cry from the values of British cruisers.  They enjoy almost another 2km worth of concealment when shooting from their own smoke.  And it’s this understanding combined with her soft, squishy snoot which creates (in my mind) an image of how she should be played:  Like Mikhail Kutuzov.

Use and abuse her range.  It’s not much, but it should be enough to keep opponents at arm’s reach.  From there you can safely setup, deploy smoke and begin bombarding targets.  This isn’t a cruiser with which you want to get into knife fights or jousts with.  Keep at a safe distance.  Silence your guns and ready your torpedoes if enemies start getting in close.  If you have time, accelerate away and make good use of her excellent surface detection.

Thoughts and Feels

This is the element which interests me the most.  Were I Wargaming, I would be keeping a close eye on Exeter’s concealment — not only her smoke use, but also how her surface detection plays out.  If it gets too easy to redeploy between clouds, she might get smacked with a nerf hammer early on in development to prevent a low-tier Kutuzov situation.

Overall Impressions

I’m concerned — not because I think Exeter will underperform, but because I think she will be too powerful right out of the gates.  A smoke laying, HE spamming, cruiser with good concealment and (potentially) good agility?  It’s not Belfast or Kutuzov levels of OP right there, but there’s certainly something to watch out for.  I’m hoping with the smaller map sizes that the general claustrophobia of said arenas will partially mitigate the strength of her smoke and concealment, but we’ll see.

I suppose this illustrates the importance of play testing and why just looking at stats in port and theory-crafting them can only take you so far.  I don’t know how the overall whole will feel.  It will take a few games to confirm or shake off my trepidation regarding these initial biases.  Certainly some elements will be reinforced or dismissed quickly with only a match or two needed but others may take a while longer to put to rest.  The first things I’ll be looking for are her engine power and how her AP shells perform under duress.

I’m looking forward to taking this ship out and putting her through the paces.  There aren’t a lot of exciting cruisers at tier V anymore with only Furutaka and Kirov really standing out as hidden gems.  They could use some company and it doesn’t hurt this self-admitted teaboo that it might come in British form. I do have one further concern…

She’s only tier V.  I suppose beggars can’t be choosers at this point, but for a commander trainer, tier V isn’t exactly the best choice.  We’re currently starved for a Royal Navy premium to help accelerate retraining of our captains when moving them from ship to ship.  Exeter works — she’s certainly better than nothing.  It’s also a point in her favour that she’s not going to require a unique set of commander skills to get the most out of her so RNCL skills should overlap nicely with her strengths.  However, the experience (and credit) output at tier V is lacking.  I would have much preferred to see a tier VI+ candidate instead for this niche.  Maybe Exeter will get uptiered?  Stranger things have happened…

I hope you all enjoyed this first look at Exeter.  Please let me know if you’d like to see more of these in-depth preview articles in the future.  Otherwise I’ll just stick to slapping together some silly Angry YouTuber graphics after I get a chance to playtest a given ship.

Thank you for reading!

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Appendix

Armour penetration data was pulled from two sites:

Furthermore, data mined statistics were drawn from:

2 thoughts on “Premium Ship Preview: Exeter

  1. Just stellar as usual! As far as this format or waiting, I prefer this where you get out some initial impressions and then return later once the meta (and stat changes) settle. However, that’s more work for you in the long run. I’d say if I had to choose I’d pick the later review just because the most important thing is the longevity of a review. I’ve used reviews you did years ago to scrutinize ships I just unlocked on the tech tree.

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