Premium Ship Review: HMS Nelson

The following is a review of HMS Nelson, a ship kindly provided to me by Wargaming. This is the release version of the vessel and these stats are current as of August 14th, 2017.

The Walking Dead.

Quick Summary:  A slow Royal Navy battleship with all of her guns mounted forward on her bow.  Her repair party consumable can allow her to come back from the dead twice over.
Cost:  375,000 free experience.
Patch and Date Written: 0.6.9. August 10th through 14th, 2017
Closest in-Game Contemporary
Imperator NIkolai I, Tier IV Russian Battleship
Degree of Similarity: Clone / Sister-Ship / Related Class / Similar Role / Unique

Whoa, no one panic!  Nelson is not the second coming of the Nikolai.  She simply shares a very similar gun layout and achieves a similar state of resilience (though admittedly through different means). They also share the affliction of having a very high citadel which means they both fold like a deck of cards if someone catches their side with battleship AP.  Finally, like Nikolai, Nelson’s big weak spot is her bow.  While the Russian battleship really only has to worry about shells punching through the upper part of her snout, Nelson’s entire bow can be easily overmatched by most of her contemporaries, but this is a common affliction to all tier VII Battleships.
  • Powerful Repair Party consumable, restoring up to 40% of the ship’s hit points per charge.
  • Good armour protection versus American AP Bombs.
  • Good 1.9 sigma value which helps tighten up her dispersion.
  • Flexible gun layout, able to switch fire from port to starboard very quickly.
  • Short fuse timers on her AP shells, leading to less over penetrations.
  • Ridiculous HE performance, with 101mm of penetration, high alpha strike and a 46% chance of starting fires per shell.
  • She feels blind with no consumables to aid with spotting (plane, radar, hydro)
  • Citadel sits high over the waterline.
  • Lackluster penetration values, comparable to HMS Warspite at tier VI.
  • Slow turret traverse of 4.0º per second
  • Anti-aircraft firepower is concentrated in short range (and excessively fragile) batteries.
  • Nelson is slow with a maximum speed of 24 knots.
  • Large surface detection range of 15.3km.

HMS Nelson is the last of the so-called “Big Seven Battleships” to find their way into World of Warships.  These were the battleships of the United States, Japan and Great Britain that were allowed to be armed with 16″ guns under the Washington Naval Treaty after World War One to put an end to the naval arm’s race.  They consisted  the Nagato-class, represented by Nagato and Mutsu, the Colorado-class of three ships, Colorado, Maryland and West Virginia and Nelson-class with Nelson and her sister ship, HMS Rodney.  Of these seven vessels, the Nelson-class are certainly the standouts where design is concerned.  There’s no denying that their silhouette is very distinctive.  When play-testing her, I received many comments about her looks (often derisive, but a few people had the right of it and called her ‘awesome looking’).  I can say that her play style is as distinctive as her appearance.  Let’s get into the hows and wherefores of their performance in game.


Nelson has access to an improved version of the Repair Party consumable.  This restores 1,188hp per second for 20 seconds, healing up to 40% of the ship’s hit points per charge.  However, this only comes with two charges as opposed to the usual three for battleships.  Nelson queues damage in the similar manner as other Royal Navy battleships.  She uses the same Damage Control Party of other Royal Navy Battleships (except Warspite) with a 15 second active period.

  • Damage Control Party
  • Repair Party

Module Upgrades: Four slots, standard Battleship options.

Premium Camouflage: Type 10, tier VI+ standard. This provides 50% bonus experience gains, 3% reduction in surface detection and 4% reduction in enemy accuracy.

 For your upgrades, you’ll be picking standard battleship options.
  • In your first slot, take Main Armaments Modification 1.  You’re going to be tanking a lot with your bow and turrets, so your guns take a lot of abuse.  In particular, her B turret gets disabled and destroyed frequently.
  • In your second slot, Aiming Systems Modification 1 is your best choice.  Nelson’s horizontal dispersion is not as good as previous Royal Navy premium battleships, so the extra accuracy is sorely needed. Her anti-aircraft guns and secondaries are not worth upgrading.
  • In your third slot, take Damage Control System Modification 1.  This will boost your torpedo damage reduction up to 21%.
  • And in your fourth slot, you have a choice.  Steering Gears Modification 2 will reduce your rudder shift down to 11.9s.  Alternatively, you can take Damage Control System Modification 2 to reduce fire and flooding damage if that’s your preference.
Special Upgrades

The only special upgrade that has any sort of application on HMS Nelson is Damage Control Party Modification 1.  When applied to HMS Nelson, this would increase the active period of her consumable from 15 seconds up to 21 seconds without affecting the reset timer.  This competes with Main Armaments Modification 1 in HMS Nelson’s first upgrade slot.  Given the amount of abuse her main battery takes, this special upgrade isn’t worth applying.


Primary Battery:  Nine 406mm rifles in 3×3 forward facing turrets in an A-B-C layout on the bow with B superfiring over A.
Secondary Battery:  Twelve 152mm rifles in 6×2 turrets and six 120mm rifles

Nelson’s approximate penetration values for her AP shells are 550mm at 5km, 450mm at 10km and 350mm at 15km.
Like Dunkerque, Nelson is largely defined by the layout of her primary gun battery. She mounts all nine of her guns ahead of her superstructure. Veterans who have played Izumo and are concerned about her gun handling can rest easy — Nelson’s gunnery is very comfortable; more akin to the Soviet tier IV Battleship, Imperator Nikolai I than the tier IX Japanese vessel.  Her A & B turrets have excellent fields of fire with a 300º and 322º firing arc respectively.  C is more limited, but still easy to use.  It can engage enemies 25º to 137º off its side for a total combined field of fire of 224º.  In most engagements, you’ll be primarily making use of A & B turret with C being used to take opportunistic shots where possible.  Nelson’s turret rotation may not be fast at 4º per second (45 seconds for a 180º rotation), but with these guns all being forward facing, it’s very easy to shift fire left to right as needed.  Overall, Nelson’s gun placement makes gunnery enjoyable.  Even firing over the shoulder isn’t too difficult.
Nelson’s accuracy, however, is a bit of a mixed bag. Her shell groupings are rather tight with a 1.9 sigma value, however she does not have the vaunted Royal Navy battleship shell dispersion seen previously on HMS Warspite and HMS Hood. Her linear horizontal dispersion appears to be the same as USN Battleships.  This is still better than French and German vessels, but  it’s hardly enviable. As a result, when firing Nelson’s guns, you can be blessed by a string of really tight shell groupings and then suffer some really wonky strays.
Nelson’s AP shells aren’t terribly inspiring but her HE shells are phenomenal.  The latter does not replace the former, however.
Nelson’s AP shells have almost identical penetration over distance to HMS Warspite’s 381mm guns, while having a shorter- fuse timer as seen on HMS Hood. This is perfectly adequate (and even ideal) for bullying any cruiser within her matchmaking spread, but it’s a different story where battleships are concerned. Her 406mm gun caliber ensures she can overmatch the bows of any cruisers she encounters, as well as the bows of battleships at tiers VII and below. Unfortunately, her ability to land citadel hits against enemy battleships has largely fallen away by ranges of 12km except for the softest skinned targets such as Oktyabrskaya Revolutsiya. Landing reliable penetrations becomes questionable outside of 14km. These ranges drop further when Nelson is bottom tier or she’s shooting at thick skinned dreadnoughts.
Closing the distance isn’t always the best option with HMS Nelson.  While this does greatly enhance the penetration powers of her 406mm guns, the backup provided by her secondaries is less than inspiring.  Nelson’s secondary gun complement is divided between 120mm dual-purpose guns in single mounts and six, large twin-gunned 152mm turrets.  They are better positioned than those on Dunkerque, but these guns are still poorly laid out to support an attack.  The volume of fire they put out is also less than stellar.  Her 152mm guns fire a mere five rounds per minute with their AP shells.  Her 120mm fire twelve rounds per minute with HE and a great 8% fire chance per hit, but these are largely rear facing and cannot begin engaging an enemy until they’re alongside Nelson.
Nelson does not appear to use the same dispersion model as Warspite and Hood.  Her 1.9 sigma value keeps her groupings tight, however.
Nelson’s main battery HE shells are something to behold.  They boast 6,900 alpha strike per shell, 101mm of penetration, and a 46% fire chance.  The list of ships that Nelson can citadel with her HE shells is long — long enough that a player might be tempted to think that spamming HE shells is an optimal way to play this battleship.  While each penetrating hit does land an impressive 2,277 damage, this number quickly falls away as areas become saturated.  This leaves her impressive fire starting ability to take over damage dealing which can be hit or miss on focused targets that already have blazes set.  Nelson’s AP shells should be relied upon as the principle damage dealer for this vessel, with HE used as situational backup.
Nelson’s HE shells are best used opportunistically, such as when an enemy battleship angles in at a distance, or as a one-off to help support a friendly CV by knocking out masses of AA guns in a single volley.  The enormous 39.2m blast area of her shells will cause extensive module damage against any target she strikes, even if they fail to penetrate.  These shells have a larger and harder hitting explosion than anything short of the Yamato, Lion and Conqueror. This can leave a formidable AA armament in tatters. It may also force ships to reach for their Damage Control Party consumable to repair disabled engines and steering gears, leaving them vulnerable to follow-up fires.  It can even set off the magazines of destroyers and cruisers with the concussive force alone.  An Iowa-class battleship can be stripped of all (yes, all) of it’s small and medium caliber AA gun mounts in as little as two to three volleys of Nelson’s guns.  Peppering a few preliminary HE shells around like this in the early stages of a match can go a long way towards helping your CV allies out, especially before closing into more effective AP shell range.  Just don’t forget to prioritize nailing those cruisers with AP when you see them.
Between gun handling, AP and HE performance, Nelson’s firepower is incredibly forgiving.  A novice player could, in theory, spam HE constantly and still amass some pretty respectable damage totals provided they survived long enough.  They would definitely lose out to a Nelson commander who varied their ammunition choices, however.
Rivals: Battlecruiser HMS Hood

HMS Nelson is the second tier VII premium British battleship in the game, with HMS Hood preceding her by a few months.  The two ships are so very different in design and game play as to be almost laughable.  Nelson is a slow, enduring and relentless.  Hood is fast, flexible and fragile.  Nelson is victimized by aircraft and Hood is a nightmare target for enemy carriers. Both struggle when facing tier IX ships.  It’s HMS Nelson’s gunnery which sets her ahead of HMS Hood, in my opinion.  Nelson deals damage reliably — something the British flagship cannot claim, even with its (much) improved accuracy.

With the coming of the rest of the Royal Navy line, I wonder if we’ll see HMS Hood get some minor tweaks and buffs to bring her into line with the rest of the British ships.  Only time will tell.

Top Speed: 24.0knots
Turning Radius: 750m
Rudder Shift:  14.9s
Maximum Turn Rate:  3.71º/s
Nelson is slow.  24.0 knots is almost acceptable.  Almost.
Nelson is a full knot slower than Nagato which is already a ship that struggles somewhat with agility.  This limits Nelson’s flexibility and her survivability.  She cannot control engagement distances.  She cannot escape by outrunning her opponents or the reach of their guns.  These problems compound when she faces tier VIII and tier IX opponents where not only are most ships faster than her, the map sizes make her low speed especially punitive.   It’s only when Nelson is top tier that her low top speed is less of a liability as she faces more of the standard-type American battleships and the distances she needs to cover are further reduced by the smaller maps.
Now don’t get me wrong — this isn’t Arizona-slow.  And while she does have a three knot advantage over Colorado, she does not get Colorado’s special speed preservation in a turn.  Like most battleships, Nelson bleeds off 25% of her velocity when she’s under manoeuvres, slowing down to 18.0 knots with her rudder hard over.  If you’re applying WASD hax as you should, you’ll often see your speed struggling to get over 20 knots and this can feel like a real crawl when you’re trying to get into position or you’re trying to get away.
Nelson is a pig in a turn.  Nelson’s only saving grace is that she rotates 0.1º/s faster than a Nagato, which isn’t saying much. The good news is that she’s incapable of out turning her turrets, even with their slow rate of rotation.  The bad news is that while she may answer her rudder quickly, the effect of her rudder just isn’t substantial enough to throw the ship about.  This makes her very vulnerable to torpedo and aircraft attacks.

Hit Points: 59,400
Citadel Protection: 32mm anti-torpedo bulge + 356mm belt.
Min Bow & Deck Armour: 25mm
Torpedo Damage Reduction: 19%

Armour layout of Nelson’s belt, turrets and citadel.  The only additional protection is a 32mm outer hull and upper deck not shown.
At first glance, Nelson has horrible durability for facing off against enemy battleships.  She has a citadel that sits so high over the water line, you would think she was a copy-paste job of the old Iowa and Montana-class battleships.  What’s worse, she’s tier VII so her enormous bow is only 25mm thick.  It gets overmatched by all AP shells larger than 356mm which includes the guns of all tier VII+ battleships with the exception of Scharnhorst.  While she does boast some decent armour values, with up to 356mm of belt armour and a 305mm transverse bulkhead on her citadel, they are both heavily overtaxed trying to protect her vitals.
The sad reality is that it’s this 305mm bow plate which is HMS Nelson’s achilles heel.  Even with perfect angling (approximately 25º to 26º) bow on to the enemy, this plate just cannot stand up to any guns that can overmatch her bows.  Bayern, HMS Hood and Queen Elizabeth need to get close to citadel her through the bow like this.  They can only do so at ranges of 12.0km or less.  Warspite and Mutsu can pull it off at at 13.0km.  Things jump up considerably from there.  Colorado can do so reliably from 18.0km.  Everything else can do so at ranges in excess of 20km.  When under fire from enemy super dreadnoughts, angle as best you can, know your ranges and hold your breath.
In short:  She eats citadels for days and then begs for a second helping when facing enemy battleships with 380mm guns or larger.
Things don’t get much better in regards to soaking up torpedoes.  HMS Nelson has terrible torpedo protection with only a 19% reduction that can be boosted to a mere 21% with Damage Control System Modification 1.  While this is better than that of HMS Hood, at least HMS Hood begins her turns faster.  I lost this ship more often to torpedoes than any other damage source.  Sometimes it was my own dumb fault.  In others, the lack of damage mitigation simply overwhelmed the modest hit point pool of this battleship.
Finally, there’s the issue of her turrets.  I have not been able to isolate why it happens so frequently, but HMS Nelson has her main battery guns disabled very often.  B-turret seems especially susceptible.  This is strange given the thick armour of her turret faces (406mm) and her barbettes (356mm).   My guess is that shells are striking her barbettes or catching the softer sides of the turrets and prompting the critical damage rolls.  Whatever the reason, you can expect to have one of your guns temporarily disabled at least once in a match.
Yet for all of the deficiencies and even her modest hit point total, Nelson is quite easily capable of being the toughest ship afloat at her tier.  This is all thanks to her Repair Party consumable.  Unlike most battleships that recover up to 14% of their maximum hit points over 28 seconds, Nelson recovers up to 40% over 20 seconds.  Yes, you read that right.  This works out to 23,760 hit points that Nelson can heal with each charge of her Repair Party consumable.  Nelson will, time and again, appear to be on her last legs only to spring back, hale and healthy and itching for a fight.  Adding a India Delta increases this value up to 48% (or 28,512hp) per charge. With Superintendent, this provided HMS Nelson with a theoretical maximum damage total of 173,448 hit points needed before she sinks, provided her consumable is used optimally.
I cannot stress this enough. Warspite, a ship known to be a tough little monster, would call receiving 80,000 damage before sinking a good match. This works out roughly 1.5 times her starting health.  For Nelson, that number sits around 150,000 damage — in excess of 2.5x her health pool.  You can delay the enemy team simply grace of being a damage sponge they cannot sink quickly.  This makes Nelson an absolute beast when it comes to facing enemy cruisers.  She can soak the bombardment and the resulting fires for days and deny them any progress with a touch of a button.
The only thing that keeps this from being disgustingly overpowered is the aforementioned tendency for Nelson to eat citadel hits.  Her Repair Party consumable only queues 10% of citadel damage into the healing pool, while 60% of normal penetrations and 100% of flooding, fire, ramming and over penetrations make it into the queue.  Her consumable also shares the long reset timer of other battleships.  Large alpha strikes or masses of sustained damage can (and will) sink this ship in between cooldowns.  Finally, she only gets two base charges of her Repair Party as opposed to the usual three.
Overall, Nelson is incredibly resilient to fire damage because of this consumable.  She simply laughs it off and heals all of the damage back, undoing the burn stacked by cruisers, destroyers and dive bombers without issue.  This makes this vessel particularly well suited to farming up Fireproof and Dreadnought awards.
Nelson is a zombie.  If you do not put her down properly, she will keep coming back from the dead.  Head shots, in the form of citadel hits or mass torpedo strikes, are the only way to ensure she goes down for good.
Concealment & Camouflage
Base Surface Detection Range: 15.30km
Air Detection Range: 12.36km
Minimum Surface Detection Range: 12.76km
Main Battery Firing Range: 18.21km
Min Surface Detection Rank within Tier: 2nd out of 7
Min Surface Detection Rank within Matchmaking:  19th out of 37

Wargaming has hyped that the Royal Navy battleships at tiers VII+ will have great surface detection stats.  That’s not present here. Within her own tier, when all of the ships are rigged for stealth, she sits 500m behind King George V and ahead of the Scharnhorst-sisters by 300m or so.  In a cross-section of all of the battleships she may face, she’s decidedly average, sitting right in the middle of the pack.  Regardless if she’s top tier or bottom, there are potentially battleships that she’ll spot first and others that will be more stealthy.

Concealment for a slow warship helps keep them alive.  When Nelson silences her guns, her surface detection range goes down to 12.8km with a full stealth build.  This can allow her to sneak up on unsuspecting targets until she gets within a more optimal firing range or angle.  Sadly, she does not have the speed to really allow her to take advantage of this.  Short of one-time ambushes or picking on distracted enemies, it will be very difficult to sneak up upon wary targets.
It should be noted that Nelson is a terrible ship for doing her own spotting.  She’s effectively blind without any consumables to help her in detecting enemy ships, aircraft and torpedoes.  Skills like Vigilance become increasingly important for her as a result, especially when it comes to navigating around islands or through channels.
Nelson’s concealment is alright.  It’s not a real telling strength, but it’s not a liability either until she’s uptiered.

Anti-Aircraft Defense
AA Battery Calibers: 120mm / 40mm / 20mm
AA Umbrella Ranges: 4.5km / 2.5km / 2.0km
AA DPS per Aura: 36 / 119 / 126 (133 in 0.6.10)

Do not let the big DPS numbers fool you.  Nelson’s anti-aircraft firepower isn’t as healthy as it looks.  It boils down to two issues.

  • Nelson’s AA firepower lacks range.
  • Nelson’s AA firepower is concentrated in a small number of fragile mount-clusters.

Nelson doesn’t boast the best range with her anti-aircraft firepower.  The 4.5km reach on her dual-purpose mounts is disappointing but would workable if they did more damage.  Unfortunately, the majority of her strength is located in her small and medium caliber mounts.  Nelson’s 40mm pom-poms only reach out to a range of 2.5km and her 20mm guns reach out to 2.0km.  This largely limits her anti-aircraft firepower to self defense actions only and she cannot provide fleet support, even when specialized with AA Guns Modification 2 and Advanced Fire Training.  The small firepower total from her 102mm guns ensures that Manual Fire Control for AA Guns just isn’t worthwhile.

But it gets worse.  Her anti-aircraft defense is easily knocked out by even small amounts of HE fire.  Nelson only has six of the octuple pom-pom mounts.  Losing one reduces her medium range AA firepower by 19.8dps, and four of these guns are mounted in pairs along the long axis of the ship, making them easy prey for bombs and HE spam.  Things don’t get any better with her 20mm Oerlikons.  She has thirty five scattered across the surface of the ship (with two more being added in 0.6.10).  However, they are packed closely together in large groups which reduces their survivability.  For example, ten of these reside in a tight cluster on her bow in front of A-turret.  Any HE salvos will usually knock out these small caliber mounts in handfuls, quickly decimating Nelson’s AA effectiveness.
The only real ray of sunshine is that Nelson has fairly decent protection against American AP Bombs.  Tests have shown that only a rare drop with all bombs hitting will cause anywhere close to 10,000 damage.  More often than not this sat at a considerably lower total.  Preliminary tests with Graf Zeppelin’s AP bombs were much more damning, however, but these are still in the development phase and very much a work in progress.
 In summary:  Nelson has pretty good raw AA values, but this is only useful for self defense and it will not hold up over the course of a battle.  Taking even minor HE damage can quickly gut the potency of her flak.  While the ship is pristine, she’ll put up a good fight against aircraft, but their short range means that the enemy will still drop their ordnance.  With luck, you’ll simply make it expensive for them to do so.

Dive Bombers do not present Nelson with that much of a threat, even if they’re armed with AP Bombs.  She’s able to heal back any resulting damage with ease.  Torpedo bombers are another matter, however.  Nelson’s anti-aircraft firepower isn’t up to the task of keeping her safe.
Nevermind the Manoeuvres
 HMS Nelson is a little weird when it comes to choosing her skills:  short of her core skills, she just doesn’t care.  Optimizing HMS Nelson really doesn’t go beyond ensuring she has Superintendent and Concealment Expert.  After that, do what you want.  There are three general builds which will likely end up popular.  Of these three, a Survivability Build is optimal.  Next comes a general anti-aircraft build (minus Manual Fire Control for AA Guns which is all but useless for her).  This second build will be pretty similar to low-tier (and very high tier) Royal Navy battleship builds.  Finally, you can specialize towards spamming HE like a derp cause it’s hilarious.  The core for all three builds is as follows:
  • At the first tier, Preventative Maintenance is the optimal choice, but only if your own situational awareness is elevated to such a degree that you can track threats when spotted.  If not, then Priority Target should be your default choice.
  • At tier two, take Adrenaline Rush.  As you take damage, your DPM will increase.  Note that with the huge jumps back and forth with Nelson’s hit point pool, the gains from this skill vary considerably.  Alternatively, you can take Expert Marksman for better gun handling, though Nelson isn’t hurting here much.
  • At tier three, take Superintendent.  This will increase the number of charges of your Repair Party by one.
  • And finally, at tier four, take Concealment Expert.  You’re a big ship, but you’re not Fuso-Fat.  This will help keep you alive and give you more time to use your Repair Party.

You can place the next nine points where you wish.

Survivability Build
This is, in my opinion, the best way to build up Nelson.  Reach for skills that will keep you in the fight longer and improve your damage output.  High AlertBasics of SurvivabilityVigilance, and Fire Prevention are all great skills for this, so pick and choose your favourites. Make sure you take Preventative Maintenance too if you took Priority Target as your first skill.  Your guns are going to get knocked out a lot.
Anti-Aircraft Build
Be aware that while Nelson has some pretty potent looking AA DPS numbers, her anti-aircraft firepower will only ever be for self-defense purposes and not fleet support.  In addition, it’s incredibly fragile and easily knocked out by even a small volume of HE fire.  While the ship is pristine, she can be a thorny target for carriers but she’s never going to be considered a “good” flak platform. If you wish to go this route, take Basic and Advanced Fire Taining for a total of 7pts. High Alert or Expert Marksman (or Adrenaline Rush if you opted for the other) are your best choices for the remaining two points.
HE Spammer
Now, for the player that wants to derp around with HE shells, let’s talk about specific HE-boosting skills.  DO NOT take Demolition Expert.  The difference between 46% and 48% fire chance just isn’t worth the investment.  This is too expensive a skill for too little gain. Expert Loader might actually find some use, though, when you need to smarten up and reach for your AP shells.
Now let’s talk about Inertial Fuse for HE Shells.  HMS Nelson is fully capable of damaging any ship within her matchmaking spread with HE without any need for taking this skill.  This includes battleships and the armoured deck of carriers like Taiho.  Her penetration is so high, she can citadel almost half of the cruisers in her matchmaking spread.  Doing so provides a big boost to Nelson’s damage totals, but this is a harder shot to land than with AP shells.
Here’s the list of cruisers HMS Nelson can citadel stock with HE:
  • France:  De Grasse, Charles Martel, St.Louis
  • United Kingdom:  Emerald, Leander
  • Soviet Union:  Kirov, Murmansk, Krasny Krym, Molotov, Shchors, Chapayev, Mikhail Kutuzov
  • United States:  Omaha, Marblehead, Pensacola, Atlanta, Flint, Indianapolis
  • Japan:  Furutaka, Aoba, Mogami, Ibuki
  • Others:  Perth.

Taking Inertial Fuse for HE Shells only opens up small sections of battleships to penetration damage and none of them large enough to be worth it (with the exception of HMS Hood and Oktyabrskaya Revolutsiya which each have large sections of their upper hull that becomes vulnerable).  It does nothing to help you with aircraft carriers or destroyers.  Where it does come into use is against cruisers.

Taking the skill adds the following ships that HMS Nelson can now citadel:
  • France:  La Galissonniere, Algerie,
  • United Kingdom:  Fiji, Belfast, Edinburgh, Neptune
  • Soviet Union:  Budyonny
  • United States:  Cleveland, New Orleans
  • Japan:  Myoko, ARP Myoko, ARP Ashigara, ARP Haguro, ARP Nachi, Eastern Dragon, Atago, ARP Takao

You’ll note the absence of German cruisers and the Italian premium, Duca d’Aosta.  The spaced armour around their citadels prevents HE from penetrating their machine spaces (though the modules themselves can still be damaged by the shockwave).  Note that all of the French ships listed above are also largely immune but they were included because of small sections directly beneath their turrets that will allow HE to citadel them.

Landing citadel hits with HE is different than landing them with AP shells.  HE shells detonate immediately upon contact with any surface.   Thus, you need to bulls-eye the outer citadel wall to land these high-damage hits.  On some of these vessels, the amount of surface area is painfully small — sometimes only a sliver over the waterline.  The only consolation is that HE shells don’t concern themselves with angle at all.  Whatever surface upon which they first make contact is the one affected by the attack, so you can do some rather rude things to select ships that might otherwise bounce AP shells.
I must stress, however, that as fun as it may sound to citadel cruisers with HE shells no matter how they angle, Nelson can do this with AP shells most of the time anyway.  AP shells also do more damage.  As hilarious as it is to make Belfasts cry when you not only carve out most of their hit points with an HE volley but also blow apart their modules and set fires, your four skill points could be better spent elsewhere.
You don’t really need any special skills if you want to be an HE spammer in this ship. Feel free to toss your Belfast Captain in here if you want, though.
Jack Dunkirk

The Legendary Commander, Jack Dunkirk, makes a rather good Royal Navy Battleship captain.  His Smoke Screen Expert bonus is wasted upon these Dreadnoughts, however, but the bonuses he provides to Jack of All Trades and Expert Marksman makes him very appealing for ships like Nelson.  Remember, so long as the commander build includes the skills Superintendent and Concealment Expert, Nelson is largely forgiving.  So, if Jack has skills specialized for one of your cruisers, he can still train in Nelson with only a small dip in expected performance.

Boom, baby!  Nelson using HE in the opening stages of a match, bombarding an enemy Scharnhorst at 17km.  By her fourth salvo, Nelson had destroyed both of the Scharnhorst’s torpedo tubes, set three fires and crippled her anti-aircraft battery.
Overall Impressions
Skill FloorSimple / Casual / Challenging / Difficult
Nelson is really going to punish novice players. They’re going to make mistakes and Nelson is going to slap them around for it. Her armour needs a subtle touch to be angled properly. Spamming HE doesn’t generate great damage numbers. Her AP will bounce a lot at long ranges. She’s too slow and too big to easily extract herself from trouble situations or to position herself where she’s needed most.

Skill CeilingLow / Moderate / High / Extreme

In the hands of an expert, Nelson becomes a different beast altogether. She just will not die. Proper management of her Repair Party will have her coming back from the dead twice over, ensuring that her team can have a near full-health battleship late in the game, even after tanking a ton of damage. Similarly, proper ammunition use can pay enormous dividends. Her carry potential is limited by her slow speed and lack of vision control, however.
Mouse’s Summary:
  • She’s like a zombie.  Without a headshot to put her down for good, she keeps rising from the grave.
  • Her HE shells are a hella fun to use, but it’s a mistake to rely on them heavily.  You’ll kick yourself for every time you have HE loaded and some dumb cruiser or battleship suddenly offers up her broadside.
  • She does not up-tier as well as Nagato, Gneisenau or Scharnhorst.

This ship is so much fun.

So I know the big question on everyone’s mind:  Can you spam nothing but HE shells and make this thing work?  The answer is ‘yes’.  You won’t do as much damage as you would if you fired AP shells, but it’s entirely possible for you to just spit out walls of HE shells instead of anything else and rack up some decent damage and kill totals.  The catch is always going to be that you could have done more damage if you fired AP instead.  In close matches where the outcome is neck and neck, the lost opportunities to land AP citadel hits may well end up costing you the game.  The wiki-editors and I challenged one another to try playing some matches where we shot nothing but HE. Topping 120,000 damage was more difficult than a mix of AP and HE, but it was possible, especially with stacking fires.  So, go ahead and spit out nothing but flaming death onto your opponents if you want, just be aware that your damage (and win rate) will take a small hit as a result.
 This ship seems to be designed to farm salt from the enemy.  Between the fires she can set and the absolutely trollish heals, she’ll make the enemy want to focus you down hard and fast (lewd!).  It’s absolutely mean what you can do with her HE shells.  See that Scharnhorst / Gneisenau / Tirpitz that’s trying to brawl your friends?  It would be a shame if someone tore off their torpedo tubes, wouldn’t it?  Or how about that North Carolina that thinks itself immune to air attack from your tier VII Kaga division mate?  It would be a shame if someone stripped them of all of their close and medium range AA power.  This is the kind of nonsense that Nelson’s HE allows you to do better than other battleships at her tier and it’s a very fun shakeup of the usual game play.
For all of these tricks and hilarity HE can offer, her AP is still just so much better.  Why butcher a New Orleans’ AA firepower when you can just blow their citadels out of the water instead?  While it’s fun to congratulate yourself for a 5-shell, 11,385 damage high explosive volley, this is still less than a single AP shell citadel hit (barring fires of course).  There are right times to fire HE, do not get me wrong, but AP should really be the staple of your damage totals in this vessel.
Nelson is a good ship, but she’s not great.  She’s got three big flaws in my opinion:
  • Her citadel is too high.
  • She’s blind.
  • She’s too slow.
That high water citadel is going to be a deal breaker for some.  When you’re up against someone that really knows how to aim (or simply in a tier IX battleship), her weak spots are all but impossible to protect.   This all but negates the awesomeness of her Repair Party consumable.  And speaking of negating her Repair Party, torpedoes have a habit of doing this too.  She has no tricks to help her spot these warheads or their source before it’s already too late — destroyers can pester you with impunity.  Given the island humping meta that’s so essential to master, Nelson really feels the pinch when she can’t send up a plane to take a quick peek on what’s going on around the corner.  Finally, she is slow.  And, I think the worst thing about Nelson’s slow speed is that she’s not slow enough that many players will see it for the flaw that it is.  Nelson will get caught out on occasion and it will cost you games — not a lot of them, but enough to impact her overall performance.
Her big gimmick, though, is damage management.  I put an India Delta signal on my Nelson and I took no small amount of pleasure announcing in all chat, “Watch my hp,” as my poor, battered dreadnought jumped from 1/3rd of her hit points remaining back up to a hale and healthy 5/6th remaining.  The outrage was delicious.  I even made a Belfast player complain Nelson was OP when I denied him a kill by healing up from 1,200hp to almost 30,000. Pulling this off requires careful management of your concealment and positioning, disengaging from the thick of the fighting to lick your wounds and then returning to the fray as fast as your slow speed will allow.
If it weren’t for those three aforementioned flaws, Nelson would be overpowered as all get out.  As it is, she’s an excellent competitor for any veteran player and she will challenge you to find balance between ammunition choices, fighting at the head of the pack and withdrawing to conduct repairs.
Rivals:  Battleship USS Missouri

HMS Nelson is the second premium vessel to be made available for free experience.  The first was USS Missouri, the tier IX American battleship.  Missouri’s price tag weighs in at a hefty 750,000 free experience — double that of HMS Nelson.  So the question becomes:  if you had to choose one, which one would you get?

Obviously, if a player prefers one nation’s game play over another, that will bias them in favour of a given vessel, but in terms of raw utility, it’s hard to argue against the American juggernaut.  Missouri has an enormous credit-earning coefficient baked into the ship.  She trivializes the earning of credits, with even a poor game netting players in excess of 200,000 to 300,000 credits.  Players that own Missouri have posted battle results screens showing them earning over 1.5M credits in a single match.  No other premium vessel in the game is as profitable.  HMS Nelson simply cannot compete with her on that level.

Would I Recommend?
Nelson can only be acquired (so I’m told) by spending 375,000 free experience.  At a 1 doubloon to 25xp conversion rate, this works out to a cost of $63.25 USD for this ship if you had to buy the 15,000 doubloons necessary at full price.  Weigh this against the cost of Scharnhorst, another tier VII premium battleship which weighs in at $42.99 including the port slot (which you’ll have to pay extra for with Nelson).
  • PVE Battles
    How well does the ship maintain profitability in Co-Op modes and how does she fare against bots?

Battleships almost always do well in Co-Op battles.  Nelson does alright, though be aware that things can get a bit tight on coin if you run with premium consumables and you don’t have a premium account.  We haven’t seen any tier VII scenarios yet, so it’s difficult to say if she’ll meet their requirements well or not.

  • Random Battle Grinding:
    This includes training captains, collecting free experience, earning credits and collecting signal flags from achievements.

If you’re not going to get USS Missouri, then hells to the yeah.  If nothing else, Nelson will print Fireproof and Dreadnought medals like you will not believe.  She’s not a bad Arsonist and Witherer farmer either if you want to derp around with HE shells.  She’s a great trainer for your Belfast Captains in this regard (even if there are going to be some wasted skills here and there).  She also works well for training your RN Battleship commanders given that she accepts most builds with a shrug of her shoulders.

  • For Competitive Gaming:
    Competitive Gaming includes Ranked Battles and other skill-based tournaments. This also includes stat-padding.

Nelson will rock people’s socks in Ranked Battles.  A fire slinging, super-healing, bow-tanking battleship?  Unless she’s put down quickly, she’s just going to keep coming back and driving the enemy team nuts.  When she’s not on your team, you’re going to hate it when your team mates waste ineffective firepower on her.  She gets my vote.

  • For Collectors:
    If you enjoy ship history or possessing rare ships, this section is for you.

I would have preferred HMS Rodney — Nelson’s sister ship has a much more storied history.  While HMS Nelson served throughout WWII, her exploits mostly involved catching 4 torpedoes and 3 naval mines through the course of her career.  She saw little to no surface action, being too slow to catch the Scharnhorst-sisters and too far away to participate in engaging Bismarck.

  • For Fun Factor:
    Bottom line: Is the ship fun to play?

Depending on your play style and your tolerance for derp, Nelson is either going to be the most fun you can have in a battleship with your pants on or a lackluster mehbote that does nothing for you.  I have a high stupid-tolerance, so I say yes.

  • What’s the Final Verdict?
    How would the ship rate on an Angry YouTuber scale of Garbage – Meh – Gud – Overpowered?

GARBAGE – Grossly uncompetitive and badly in need of buffs.
Mehbote – Average ship. Has strengths and weaknesses. Doesn’t need buffs to be viable, but certainly not advantageous.
Gudbote – A strong ship that has obvious competitive strengths and unique features that make it very appealing.
OVERPOWERED – A ship with very clear advantages over all of its competitors and unbalancing the game with its inclusion.

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