Disclaimer (thanks LWM): The following is a PREVIEW of the upcoming release of Henri IV, a ship provided to me by Wargaming. This is how the ship appeared in the testing period up to and including the publish date of April 9th, 2017. The statistics and performance discussed here are still being evaluated by Wargaming's developers and do not necessarily represent how the ship will appear when released.
As we announced on the podcast last week, the hosts of The Warships Podcast were accepted last week into the Community Contributor program by NikoPower. From now on we'll be previewing new Premium and non-Premium ships on the podcast. In addition, I will write articles like this one when I have the time!
I spent the weekend testing the most recent iteration of the French Cruisers on the live server. Rumor has it that they're due for another round of revamps before release, at which point I will revise this guide and publish the final version.
TL:DR: The French cruiser tree is comfortable to play, is an amalgamation of the playstyles of USN and IJN cruisers, and are largely (with a few notable exceptions) middle of the road in terms of power curve.
Captain Skills Before I get into the nitty gritty details about each ship, I'm going to discuss Captain skills and Upgrade modules.
First 10 Points The first ten points are the same for every cruiser in this line and are pretty standard for HE slinging cruisers.
T1: Priority Target T2: Expert Marksman T3: Demolition Expert T4: Concealment Expert
Why these four skills to start off with? Tier for tier the French cruisers are more durable than the Royal Navy light cruisers, and less durable than a same tier USN/IJN cruiser. This makes Priority Target extremely valuable information and intelligence for knowing when to retreat and reposition. If more than two people are shooting at you, its time to retreat.
Throughout the line, the French cruisers have turret traverse times that IJN cruiser captains will recognize, Expert Marksman is a quality of life must have.
Up to and including the Tier 10 you'll be spamming HE shells like your friendly neighborhood IJN HE Spamming Cruiser brethren. Demolition Expert is another must have.
Concealment Expert I expect to be something of a controversial skill. The reality is that all of the French cruisers lack a certain amount of inherent stealth. This, more than anything else, makes the long range HE spamming ships. They like to be on a flank engaging either 1v1 or behind a friendly line of battle and being supporting fire. With their high speed abilities, you want to be able to go dark and reposition when things get to hot. This means that you want your concealment abilities to be as high as possible, which is around 11km for the majority of the line.
19 Point Captains There are two subsets of the French Cruiser line. They either use Inertia Fuse for HE Shells or they don't. I'll get into the reasons why later, but Tiers 1-6 and the Tier X use IFHE. Tiers 7-9 do not.
Adrenaline Rush and Superintendent are staples of both 19 point Captains. AR helps increase the rate of fire and is just a good all-around skill. Superintendent helps with charges for the large number of consumables these cruisers get.
For Tiers 7-9, I chose to take Advanced Firing Training as the 2nd Tier 4 skill. This helps push your AA range out a bit and can allow you to make some different choices with modules, as we'll discuss in a moment.
IFHE is obviously useful for guns below 155mm, as any Kutusov player will tell you. So it's a no brainer for the light cruisers of the French Line. The kicker is the 240mm guns on the Henri IV. IFHE allows the Henri to penetrate up to 52mm of armor with HE shells. /u/snypr69 wrote an excellent post about what it can and can't penetrate!
Upgrade Modules Upgrade modules are funny, depending on the Tier you get up to 6 slots, but many of them are almost always the same.
Slot 1: Main Battery Mod 1 Slot 2: AA Mod 2 or Aiming Systems Mod 1 Slot 3: Main Battery Mod 3 (Reload Module) Slot 4: Speed Boost Elite Mod / DC Mod 1 Slot 5: Steering Gears Mod 2 Slot 6: Concealment Mod 1
Slot 2 if the first interesting choice. If you take AFT, then Aiming Systems Mod 1 is probably your best bet. No one is ever going to mistake the French CA's for Fleet Air Defense ships, but their AA is sufficient for self protection when the Defensive Fire consumable is used. I found that having 20% extra range was helpful from either AFT or AA Mod 2 was helpful, but stacking both didn't gain me much.
Slot 3 the reload module is a must on both the Tier 9 and Tier 10. It turns the Tier 9 into an absolute monster of a ship and the Tier 10 needs all the ROF help it can get for now. Both ships have sufficient range not to need the range module.
Slot 4 if you have the new Speed Boost Mod, it will synergize well with the French Cruisers, extending their speed boost and lowering the downtime between boosts. If not, standard Damage Control Mod 1.
Slot 5 Steering Gears Mod 2 is a no brainer, you'll be dodging shells a lot and will want the extra rudder shift.
Slot 6 As noted in the Captain skills section, Concealment is important for any cruiser and the French Cruisers need to be able to disengage. If his isn't your playstyle then potentially Steering Gears Mod 3 would work, but I wouldn't recommend it.
Consumables The French Cruisers get a wide array of consumables that get larger each Tier. If you have the cash, I always recommend Premium consumables for all slots. If you're short on cash, get a Premium Damage Control and Repair Party. I'll discuss the peculiarities of the consumable load out on a ship by ship basis.
The Ships of the Line Whew, that was a lot of text before we even get to the first Ship Review, but I played these cruisers without Captain skills or modules before I loaded them up, and they play much differently the more you invest in their Upgrades and Skills. Trust me when I say that you want to be grinding a French Captain on Dunkerque if you can!
Tier 1 - Bougainville There's no getting around the fact that this Tier 1 is complete garbage. The only light at the end of the tunnel is that you'll only be in her for a few games, max. Bougainville only sports 3 main guns, with the same 6 second reload and range as an Erie. The terror of Tier 1, Black Swan, will rip you to shreds when he has the whim. Use cover, stick with the pack, and hope someone else gets shot.
Rating 1/10 - Would Not Tier 1 Again
Tier 2 - Jurien de la Gravière Life immediately gets better in the Tier 2, the Jurien has 8 guns, five of which can be brought to bear on a single broadside. She's a protected cruiser and is a decent Tier 2 ship. She seemed to uptier relatively well against Tier 3s, just don't try to yolo an entire group of ships. Not a lot to say here as, once again, you won't be in this ship very long.
Rating 5/10 - Adequate and Comfortable
Tier 3 - Friant Holy dear lord, you thought the Black Swan was OP at Tier 1? Wait until you see the Friant at Tier 3. I didn't play the last iteration, but she got whacked pretty hard by the nerf bat in 0.6.3.1. Being honest, she needs a bit more of the nerfbat. If you want to sealclub and have a dedicated Captain for this ship, take Basic Firing Training. The Friant's 139mm guns are small enough to take advantage of BFT, and even with their relatively long reload time, she's a menace at Tier 3.
She has 8 guns arranged in 4x2 AB-XY configuration, which allows her to put all 8 guns on either broadside. Her HE shells hit same tier cruisers hard, wreck same tier DD's, and make even Tier 4 BB's want to cry while they choke on the hellfire fumes they can't put out. Add to that six 6km torps on each side and this ship is a sealclubber's wet dream. First game out in this ship I put up a 90k damage game... at TIER THREE. shakes head Enjoy it while it lasts, I suppose. I fully expect this ship to get nerfed in some way before release.
Rating 10/10 - Red Sky at Night, Sealclubber's Delight!
Tier 4 - Duguay-Trouin Gun and Torpedo configuration wise, the Duguay is a virtual sister ship of the Friant, except with 155mm guns that can't take advantage of BFT. Duguay feels like a solid Tier 4, but the other ship lines are catching up a bit and you won't rofl-stomp them quite so hard when you're up-tiered. Still, the Duguay is a solid, dependable Tier 4 that many people will have fun in.
Rating 7/10 - Fun Ship, but a repeat of T3
Tier 5 - Émile Bertin This is where the line starts to morph a little bit. You're no longer pushing people around with your OP little ships and you have to start adopting the longer range, flanking, and harassment tactics that you'll use for the rest of the French Cruiser line. The Emile feels a little bit like her German counter-part, the Konigsburg, except with an AB-X gun configuration and spaced armor that is pretty troll against equal tier guns. Her 152mm guns benefit from IFHE and with DE, she sets plenty of fires on enemy BBs. You're down to three torps per side, but the 9km range is nice for herding potential targets. You get Hydro for the first time, but no option to use Defensive Fire.
Overall, Emile is a solid Tier 5, with good HE and decent AP.
Rating 7/10 - Solid, but nothing special
Tier 6 - La Galissonnière La Galissonnière is a repeat of the Emile at Tier 5, with the same 152mm guns in the same AB-X configuration. These two ships feel and play VERY much like the Konigsburg and Nurnburg in the German line. And just like the Nurnburg, the Tier 6 La Galissonnière struggles a bit more than her Tier 5 counterpart. You're down to two torpedoes per side, but still have the 9km range. Realistically, they're just for show, something that will be a repeating theme as we climb the tech tree. On the upside, you do get Speed Boost for the first time! You also get your choice of Defensive Fire or Hydro, of which I recommend Defensive Fire. Hydro is nice, but DF will save your butt during an air attack.
I liked La Galissonnière, and I would play her in a heartbeat over the Nurnburg, solely because her spaced armor is much more troll-y and allows you to live when Nurnburg would just eat multiple citadels. That said, she's middle of the road, power-wise, at tier 6.
Rating 6/10 - Repeat of Tier 6 but still solid
Tier 7 - Algérie Fair warning, the Algérie and I didn't get along in the few games I played her. It wasn't that she was a bad ship, in point of fact she's completely decent. She plays, and looks, very much like the German Yorck. The problem is that both the Tier 6 and the Tier 8 are better than she is. Maybe the problem was that I kept getting up-tiered in her, and she did not deal will with Tier 8 and Tier 9 battleship gunfire. This is where kiting and long range HE spam really becomes an imperative. You have the range, the accuracy, and the gun arcs to shoot at targets 15-17.9km away. That's where you want them to stay. Close ships hurt you. Close ships fire shells you can't dodge.
You get the same module options as the Tier 6 plus a catapult fighter, and I would continue to stick with the Defensive Fire here as well.
Rating 4/10 - Fragile Boat, not enough guns
Tier 8 - Charles Martel Do you like the New Orleans? Do you like HE Spamming like an IJN cruiser? Then you'll like the Charles Martel. Her 12 second reload rate, good fire chance, and long range typify the French cruiser line. Her troll armor and agility will frustrate people trying to shoot you at longer ranges. She still gets the three 9km range torps per side that are standard on French CA's. She gets the exact same consumable options as the Tier 7.
The downside is that she doesn't have the radar utility that New Orleans brings, but frankly you don't want to be that close to enemy ships anyway. As a competitive ship, she's useful as a flanking harassment ship, but Atago would still be a better choice owing to the heal and larger number of torpedoes. That said, she's still a solid choice for random matches, especially for solo gameplay.
Rating 8/10 - Gudbote
Tier 9 - Saint-Louis Same triple 9km Torps. Check Same triple 203mm guns in AB-X configuration. Check
Sprinkle in a 10 second reload time and the reload module and suddenly you have nine guns firing every 8.8 seconds. Yes, the Roon does the same thing, and the Baltimore can, if she sacrifices the range, but MY GOD. The Fires are intense. For me this ship is the reason to play the French Cruisers right now. We'll talk about Henri IV in a minute, and I do like her, but the Saint-Louis is the pinnacle of the French Cruiser line.
This ship will laugh at Baltimore's trying to chase you down, pummeling them with HE while you dance and run. She'll punish Ibuki's with AP trying to fire all their guns at her. Dmitri AP will bounce off you, forcing them to fire HE at you. Even Tier 10's will start to cry under her merciless pounding of HE spam and fires.
I love this ship. She was a huge surprise to play, but I cackled madly as teams would try to gang up on the shiny French ship and the man with the CC tags. Mid to Late game she'll flex across the map and ambush ships unexpectedly. She shadow box on a flank and push an enemy team out of position. I'm not exaggerating that I think the Saint-Louis is the best Tier 9 cruiser in the game.
Yet, as someone asked me, she's not overpowered. She has her flaws, her weaknesses, and if you let ships get close or surround you, you deserve the spanking you're going to get. At the same time, her strengths are amazing and make her a BLAST to play.
Your consumable options change up a bit at Tier 9 though, you get the addition of a heal which has it's own slot. This pushes the catapult fighter to be a secondary option on the speed boost slot, but don't get rid of speed boost, it really makes these cruisers what they are.
Rating 10/10 - Would Play Again
Tier 10 - Henri IV The Henri IV has taken a lot of flack from the Preview looks at her, but is she really that bad?
The short answer is no, she's not that bad. Are the other Tier X Cruisers better? In her current state, yes. Does she deserve a buff? Undoubtedly. Is she unplayable? Absolutely not.
As I mentioned in the Captain Skills area, the Henri IV and her 240mm guns benefit from taking the IFHE skill. Combined with Demolition Expert and the high base fire chance on the 240mm HE shells, and you'll be doing 4-6k damage per salvo of direct damage, and you'll set a shocking number of double fires.
I tried to play this ship like Moskva, but it doesn't work. Her bow armor isn't made of Stalinium. I tried to play her in smoke, and that works as long as you don't get radared or get torped.
But where she really shines is as a flanking/harassment ship. Cruiser showing broadside? That's an AP paddling. BB's and Bow on Cruisers? Burn them with HE. Khab being annoying? Your HE will do full damage to his 50mm hull armor.
The base reload on the 240mm guns is 17 seconds, which is undeniably painful. With the reload module, it's a manageable, but still not great, 15.1 seconds. You get the same triple 9km torp launcher on each side as the other French CAs and the same consumable options as the Saint-Louis.
What buff does this ship need? In my opinion she needs a slight rate of fire buff. If the base reload was in the 14 second range, that would be about right. They say the AP penetration is getting a bit of a buff, which would also help at longer ranges. Other than that, the only thing Henri IV needs is a slight AA DPS boost. Right now it's really only good enough to panic with Def fire and shoot down a plane here or there. Self-defense AA, in other words.
Henri IV has her strengths, High speed (over 42 knots with boost and a flag), good fire chance, good HE damage, but people get hung up on the weaknesses. Is she fun to play? Yes, I enjoyed her immensely. Is she comfortable to play? Ehhhh...she's close, but I don't think she's quite there yet.
We'll see what the next patch brings before release, but until then...
Rating 6/10 - Playable, but not quite comfortable yet