Quick Summary: A specialized brawling Battleship that’s near impossible to citadel at close ranges. Her strengths include great secondaries, a high top speed, good durability and the German hydroacoustic search consumable.
Patch & Date Written: 0.5.10.1. August 25th to 27th, 2016.
Excellent citadel protection with her turtleback armour, making her functionally immune to citadel hits.
Bow armour of 32mm and deck armour of 50mm allows her to easily tank when prow on towards enemies at medium to close range against guns up to 420mm.
Large hit point pool at 69,200hp.
Fast reload time on her 380mm rifles with with a 5′ per second turret rotation which provides good gun handling.
Good range of 21.2km which can be extended with a spotter aircraft.
Excellent secondary armament with massive 7.0km base range.
Well balanced anti-aircraft complement.
Good top speed of 31.0 knots.
Has the Hydroacoustic Search consumable.
Enormous carry potential — incredibly forgiving.
Armour isn’t overall as thick as some advertise, leading to many normal penetrations unless properly angled.
Poor anti-torpedo defense with only a 22% base damage reduction.
German Battleship dispersion on main batteries can feel punitive at times.
Small main battery with only eight 380mm rifles.
Poor HE performance with 4,400 alpha strike.
Awful handling, with a 16.0s rudder shift time and 850m turning circle.
Enormous surface detection range of 16.4km and aerial detection range of 14.7km.
Rough stock-grind until you unlock her Hull Upgrade.
Rest easy, fans of the Bismarck. Her legacy is safe in this game.
The Bismarck is for World of Warships what the Pz.Kpwf. VI Tiger is for World of Tanks. She is the stuff of legends and surrounded by so much hype and misinformation to make it difficult to separate fact and reality. Sensationalized documentaries often describe her as the single greatest threat that the British Royal Navy ever faced in the Second World War. This leads to some very high expectation (and trepidation) in regards to her inclusion in World of Warships.
The headliner for the Bismarck’s options is the inclusion of the German Hydroacoustic Search. This is identical to that found on the German Cruisers of the same tier with their extended range. This makes closing in to brawling ranges a lot more comfortable. Harrowing panic situations when enemy DDs or smoke-launching cruisers are harassing you become almost laughable. This pairs well with her heavy secondary armament which can quickly doom lightly armoured ships caught out by your consumable.
Consumables: Four slots
Damage Control Party
Choice between Spotter Aircraft and Float Plane Fighter
Module Upgrades: Five slots, standard German options. Camouflage: The Bismarck has the option of purchasing premium camouflage for 3,000 doubloons. This provides -3% to your surface detection range, increases enemy dispersion by 4%, provides a 50% bonus to experience gains and reduces your repair costs by 5%.
Primary Battery: 380mm guns in 4×2 turrets in an A-B-X-Y arrangement.
Secondary Battery: 105mm guns in 8×2 turrets, 150mm guns in 6×2 turrets.
At first glance, the Bismarck looks under gunned compared to the other tier 8 Battleships. And you wouldn’t be remiss in thinking so. Her eight 380mm rifles pale compare to the nine 406mm found on the North Carolina or the ten 410mm guns found on the Amagi. She compensates for this by having the same reload time as the Gneisenau — a mere 26s per volley. This helps pad her DPM numbers somewhat but she’s still trailing the leaders in terms of potential damage output.
The 380mm caliber guns first introduced at tier 6 with the Bayern are starting to feel a bit long in the tooth by tier 8, even with the improved performance over their WWI predecessor. With their accelerated reload and reasonable alpha strike, they can be quite the nightmare for unwary cruisers. There’s enough punch in each AP shell to take the fight out of anything smaller than a Battleship. But you’re not going to find the single, overwhelming blows found on the North Carolina’s 406mm shells. Fights with other BBs can take a while. Her HE shells also are downright terrible, but that’s nothing new for German ships. Another point of contention is the wide spacing of her guns. This tends to exaggerate the wonky dispersion RNG occasionally throws your way. Still, with a 5′ per second turret rotation, the gunnery on the Bismarck is pretty comfortable — comfortable enough that you’ll likely forgive her being a bit lacking on alpha strike and DPM.
Where the Bismarck really shines is with her secondary armament. She not only has a lot of guns (14 per side) but their range is incredible at 7km. With the right upgrades, skills and signals, you can get her range up to 10.58km which is insane at her tier. Many a Bismarck captain has decided to specialize their ship around these guns and few are disappointed. This makes a 10-skill Captain almost a must to maximize the Bismarck. My only area of contention with the Bismarck’s secondaries is that they appear to have a bit of a blind-spot directly ahead of the ship.
The good handling and fast reload on her main battery combined with her fearsome secondaries makes the Bismarck a real monster in a brawl. Her firepower traits make her very forgiving to play. A missed salvo with the Bismarck doesn’t hurt as much as you can reload and readjust sooner than other Battleships. Her secondaries passively stack damage and can wrack up impressive totals without much input from the player.
Main armament is very comfortable to use, with good turret rotation and a faster reload.
Heavy secondary gun battery with excellent range for her tier.
Ship is somewhat lacking in alpha strike and DPM potential.
Gun accuracy can feel a bit off at times with the wide gun spacing on her turrets.
Secondaries have a blind spot directly forward of the ship.
From left to right, the Bismarck (tier 8), Bayern (tier 6) and Gneisenau (tier 7). Each use 380mm guns with comparable hitting power, though only the Gneisenau and Bismarck use the same type. The Bayern uses a WWI era 380mm rifle with different characteristics for its reload and shell.
Top Speed: 31.0 knots. Turning Radius: 850m Rudder Shift: 16.0s
The Bismarck is one of the fastest Battleships in the game at present. Only a handful of enemy capital ships can outrun her. This gives the Bismarck a tremendous amount of flexibility, especially when top tier. She can dictate the ranges at which combats will occur and force enemy Battleships to play on her terms. It’s only when facing the higher tiered German Battleships and the Iowa that she needs to be wary. Largely, you’ll want to hold off on using her speed in the early portions of the game until you can best isolate the opening you want to exploit.
The downside to all of that speed is that the Bismarck doesn’t turn very well. Stock, her rudder shift is an absolute nightmare and it only gets marginally better with her hull upgrade. The good news is that she’ll never out turn her turrets. However, that’s small consolation when enemy destroyers send a swarm of torpedoes at your broadside.
Hit Points: 69,200 Citadel Protection: Up to 315mm + turtleback Bow Armour: 32mm (immunity to 410mm rifles) Torpedo Damage Reduction: 22%
Tier for tier, you’re going to struggle to find a Battleship as well protected as the Bismarck at medium to close ranges. And there’s the key — getting her in close. Bow on, she can deflect the 283mm to 420mm rifles found at tiers 7 through 10 with ease, having only to worry about the shells striking her turret faces or barbettes. Properly angled at this engagement range, she can repulse any guns she faces, bouncing even the fearsome main battery of the Yamato. Against the IJN flagship, you’ll need to angle 20′ to 30′ and bait shots against your belt armour as her 460mm guns can still over match your bow.
She is also functionally immune to citadel hits against her broadside at ranges up to (and including) 16km. One of the few ways to land citadel hits is to strike her while she’s sailing directly towards or away and slam shells down the length of her ship or through her deck armour. This is much easier said than done and the Bismarck can largely ignore the threat of citadel damage. This immunity comes from the layer of her turtleback armour — angled armour plates behind the belt designed to deflect shells up and away from the machines spaces and magazine.
As good as this all sounds, the Bismarck isn’t impervious to damage. Far from it. While citadel hits are difficult (nay, nigh impossible) to land on her, this doesn’t mean you can sail around exposing your broadside. Her belt armour is only 315mm. And while the turtleback internal armour will protect your vitals, you will still take a lot of damage from penetrating hits. If you expose her broadside, do not be surprised to take in excess of 20,000 damage from a rival Battleship smacking you upside the head with full penetrating salvos. It’s critical to keep your Bismarck angled and to use your rudder and speed to avoid incoming fire.
One “interesting” (read: overpowered) consequence of the difficulty of dealing citadel damage to the Bismarck is that her main hull can be over saturated. This reduces the damage of AP hits from 0.33x maximum damage down to 0.165x maximum damage, greatly increasing the amount of punishment needed to put her down. Once all of the localized hit points of this section are reduced, it’s possible for the Bismarck to take full on penetrating salvos for zero-effective damage. Enemies must switch their fire to the bow, stern or superstructure to finish off the Bismarck in these cases.
You’re rarely ever going to encounter a situation where the Bismarck is taking zero-damage penetrating hits to a section of her hull, but damage saturation is commonplace. Be aware you may need to shift your fire when facing her if your damaging hits aren’t quite up to muster.
Another benefit to this immunity to citadel damage is that this greatly increases the efficiency of her Repair Party consumable. Only 10% of the damage done to the citadel of a Battleship may be recovered, while 50% of penetrating hits may be restored. It’s easier to get more use out of your Repair Party in the Bismarck as you don’t have to worry about being “cheated” out of 40% of a heal from a citadel hit. Her larger base hit point pool also means she recovers more hit points per charge than a North Carolina or Amagi.
The Bismarck doesn’t have everything her own way. She is very vulnerable to torpedo hits, reducing the incoming damage from those waterborne warheads by 22% before modules, and only against hits that strike her bulges amidships. Coupled with her large turning circle, she needs to be wary of destroyers and their main armament. This said, with her Hydracoustic Search consumable, she can give herself a big head start on getting out of the way of incoming strikes.
Very large hit point pool & functionally immune to citadel hits except from torpedoes.
Repair Party synergizes well with citadel immunity and large hit point pool.
Good armour that can be actively angled to foil or minimize damage — best suited at medium to close range.
Still vulnerable to penetrating hits which can be quite commonplace if not angled properly, especially at range.
Very vulnerable to torpedoes.
Into the Maelstrom. The Bismarck is tough enough to forgive many a mistake — such as finding yourself over extended and facing the teeth of the enemy fleet. If this happens, turn around and get out. Unlike other Battleships, you have little to fear from citadel damage and the sooner you can mitigate the harm being done, the better. Find cover, begin regenerating health and go at them again.
Concealment & Camouflage
Surface Detection Range: 16.4km
Air Detection Range: 14.7km
Minimum Surface Detection Range: 12.31km
Concealment Penalty while Firing: +11.40km
The Bismarck is a large Battleship with a surface detection range to match. You can invest heavily in trying to camouflage her but this will largely be an exercise in futility. A heavy investment may pay dividends in late-stage matches where there are no aircraft present. This will allow you to “sneak” to almost within extended secondary gun-battery range on open water.
Anti-Aircraft Defense AA Battery Calibers: 105mm, 37mm, 20mm AA Umbrella Ranges: 4.5km, 3.5km, 2.0km AA DPS per Aura: 133 / 103 / 138
The Bismarck may feel like a small step backwards from the Gneisenau in terms of AA defense. Where the Germans enjoyed overall anti-aircraft superiority at tier 7, they are very much put in their place by the arrival of the North Carolina and her modernized AA batteries.
It’s not that the Bismarck’s AA power is bad. It’s very well balanced between her three umbrellas, almost evenly splitting into thirds at each step. The only real unfortunate change from the Gneisenau to the Bismarck is the loss of the 5.2km range from the Gneisenau’s dual purpose 128mm rifles. The Bismarck is armed with 105s instead which go back to the Bayern’s maximum range of 4.5km. This is a marked downgrade and should be treated as such. Though the overall values of the Bismarck’s aircraft damage per second have gone up, this loss of range should be as keenly felt as a significant dip in DPS.
This does mean that tier for tier, the Gneisenau has better AA power than the Bismarck. It also reduces the standing of the Bismarck’s AA power from “good” to “average”, sitting just over the Amagi but several steps behind the aforementioned laurels of the North Carolina. Functionally, when facing same tier or higher enemy carriers, you can expect the Bismarck’s AA to bloody incoming attack planes but not see them off. You’re also going to be the preferred prey of torpedo bombers if they’re given the choice between you and an American Battleship. Thanks to the Tirpitz’s reputation as a poor AA boat, many CVs may be more inclined to try their luck against your hide.
It’s important to stay with the fleet and to not isolate yourself when there’s an enemy carrier on the team. Your AA power isn’t bad, it’s just not enough to keep you safe if you’re caught out alone. You will bloody their noses, but that’s small recompense when aircraft are easy to replace. Your hit points are less so.
The Bismarck warily eyes fifteen dive bombers passing 4km away. These planes had no interest in the German Battleship and were on their way back to their ship. The Bismarck’s flak only managed to shoot down one of them. She has decent AA power, but not enough to give a tier 10 carrier pause.
The Bismarck is one of the most forgiving Battleships in the game. She has good armour, good speed, good gun handling, good reload times and AA power. She will reward a Captain playing her over cautiously from the second line and she’ll be equally as forgiving to a Captain that pushes a little too aggressively, keeping her alive long enough to repeatedly pull the trigger. Neither Captain will be helping their team very much, but the Bismarck Captain will feel like they contributed.
Skill Ceiling: Low / Moderate / High / Extreme
The meta for the Bismarck is a game of patience. You’re excellent up close but you cannot risk over exposing yourself early on. Her game play, at it’s most complicated, is looking for an opening where you can close in to within 8km of an enemy and put your tremendous secondary gun batteries and your excellent armour to work. Otherwise, she can sit back and snipe with the rest of the fleet without too much of a depreciation of her combat abilities.
Her carry potential is enormous and you don’t have to be unicum to exercise it.
Her main battery isn’t her strong point nor is it a liability.
Her secondaries are excellent — the best for her tier.
Ridiculous potential durability, making her one of the tankiest Battleships in game when played well.
She has the speed, flexibility and firepower to help decide matches.
As a veteran of World of Tanks from 2013, I am still a little gun-shy regarding German vehicles in Wargaming’s IP. I keep expecting them to have larger-than-necessary drawbacks, or to be significantly up-tiered from what they were designed to face. You can well imagine what a pleasant surprise the Bismarck has been for me. Short of her handling like a fat cow, she really does not have much in the way of serious weaknesses. And these balancing measures are, if we’re completely honest, insufficient from keeping her from being an overpowered monster.
There, I said. I’m in for it now. The Bismarck is overpowered. I can’t take it back.
She is, hands down, the most forgiving Battleship I’ve played — and I own the Imperator Nikolai I. This doesn’t make her more powerful than the Russian Behemoth, tier for tier. She’s not firing at poor baby seals with twelve laser-accurate rifles after all. But she does have enough going for her that I seriously question if she can evade the nerf hammer for long.
A lot, if not all of it, has to do with her durability. It would be enough of a bonus if she simply had her functional immunity to citadel damage short of torpedo strikes, but it goes beyond that. She has good overall armour which lets her face-tank against anything short of a Yamato. She’s got a bucket load of hit points which, when combined with “only” taking penetrations, allows her Repair Party to work that much more efficiently. Unlike the Imperator Nikolai I, she’s got reasonable AA power too. Oh, and she’s got secondaries for days. Anything that gets within 8km of a Bismarck needs to start living in fear of watching their HP hemorrhage between small-caliber shells and resulting fires.
I’m very tempted to crown the Bismarck as THE ship to grind for in the German line. As nice as the improvements are on the Friedrich der Grosse, the Bismarck can see tier 6 Battleships. And you haven’t seen disgusting levels of puppy kicking until you’ve seen a Bismarck wade into the ranks of several tier 6 vessels at point blank range and come out with several kills and most of her hit points intact. It’s downright obscene. It’s even more disgusting when you see her pull the same stunt against tier 7 ships. With careful play, she can also pull it off against tier 8s.
It seems silly to call the Bismarck overpowered and not raise the same flag over-top of the Tirpitz, her premium sister-ship. There are differences between the two craft and I think they’re telling. Between 2km extra range on her secondaries, her better AA power and her hydroacoustic search, I feel that the Bismarck is more forgiving than her sister ship. The Bismarck has eyes (and guns) trained against all threats. Her player doesn’t need to actively participate to dissuade a destroyer from slipping within 10km or to handle incoming aircraft as much as they would at the helm of the Tirpitz.
The only thing that’s going to keep her in line are those eight 380mm rifles. She might dodge immediate nerfs if her damage totals aren’t through the roof. She may even escape player attention because of it (players are so enamoured with high damage totals). But damage doesn’t tell everything. The Bismarck, when played with even a modest bit of skill, will really make the enemy team work at trying to sink her. Seriously, get out there and enjoy.
The Bismarck-class and Admiral-Hipper-class together once again. These make good division mates and look awesome too. Stay tuned for a review of the Prinz Eugen!
Outfitting the Bismarck
The big decision you need to make with the Bismarck is whether or not you want to heavily invest in her secondary armaments or not. Like the Gneisenau, you’re going to feel spoiled for choice.
For your first slot, I’m going to do the rare thing and recommend two different options. Main Armament Modification 1 should be your default option. However, for those of you raising a fuss about being detonated, Magazine Modification 1 will keep you safe from those rare torpedo-inspired explosions that make your face turn purple with the rage. The mod will reduce the likelihood of those occurring from a 1 in 100 scenario to 1 in 300.
For your second slot, you need to decide if you want to focus on her primary battery or secondary battery. Aiming Systems Modification 1 is definitely the better choice, providing a modest boost for both systems. This will nudge her secondary range up to 7.35km. However, you can go full hog and grab Secondary Battery Modification 2 which will up her range to 8.4km.
The third slot options are still terrible. Take Damage Control System Modification 1. It will help reduce flooding and fires and give you a 2% boost to your damage reduction against torpedoes.
At your fourth slot, you’ve again got a choice to make (yay, no obvious min-maxing!). The decision rests between trying to improve her sluggish handling with Steering Gears Modification 2, or reducing the impact of fire and flooding damage with Damage Control System Modification 2. The former will reduce her upgraded rudder shift time from 16.0s to 12.8s. This is arguably the best choice. However, with as much high explosive fire as the Bismarck will take, it’s hard to discount the merits of reducing fire damage and taking the burden off her Damage Control Party.
For your final slot, you have the choice between reducing her detection range by 10% with Concealment System Modification 1 and boosting her minimum acquisition ranges for torpedoes and enemy ships with Target Acquisition System Modification 1. With her Hydroacoustic Search, the latter is of less value IMO, making the Concealment mod more attractive.
Like most Battleships, the Bismarck should equip a premium version of her Damage Control Party. This will reduce the reset timer from an appalling 120s down to an almost manageable 80s. It’s up to player choice if you wish to also follow suit with a premium version of your Repair Party. Along with reducing the cool down, this will provide an additional charge which can be very useful for this front line brawler.
You have your choice of using either a Spotter Aircraft or a Float Plane Fighter in your next slot. Float Plane fighters are perilously short-lived in higher tiered matches with the massive, overlapping AA umbrellas. To this end, I tend to prefer the Spotter Aircraft for it’s early-game utility to help snipe when ranges are still wide open. Still, the Fighter isn’t without its merits, particularly in end game scenarios where there aren’t many ships left. This can help spot enemies and incoming torpedoes, reducing the burden on your Hydroacoustic Search.
Recommended Captain SkillsThe Bismarck’s skill choices will be pretty standard for a high tier German Battleship.
From the first tier, Basic Fire Training and Basics of Survivability are both valuable, with the former being more optimal as it boosts your secondary batteries and your AA power. I would strongly recommend grabbing both.
From the second tier, Expert Marksman is your best choice. This will increase your turret rotation from 5′ per second to 5.7′ per second — a 14% increase.
At the third tier, you have three choices depending on how you want to specialize your ship. Vigilance will give you increased time to react to enemy torpedoes. Note that this does stack with Hydroacoustic Search and can be invaluable this way. High Alert helps ease the burden on your often overtaxed Damage Control Party, reducing it’s reset timer by 12s / 8s. Lastly, Superintendent will provide an extra charge for all of your consumables — very handy for both your Hydroacoustic Search and Repair Party.
At tier 4, Advanced Fire Training is the most valuable choice. This boosts both your AA and secondary battery range. When coupled with your second module, this will boost your secondary range to 8.82km / 10.08km depending on your choice.
At tier 5, I strongly recommend Manual Fire Control for Secondary Armament.
This concludes the closer look at the Bismarck. A special thanks to Lert for being my division-buddy and helping gather screenshots and game play. Stay tuned every Friday on ShipComrade.com for a new review of a tech-tree ship. You can message me on the World of Warships North American or European forums and request the next non-premium ship I look at.