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Premium Ship Review: Poltava


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The following is a review of the Soviet Battleship Poltava. Wargaming provided me this ship for review purposes -- I didn't have to pay for this thing. To the best of my knowledge, the statistics presented here are accurate as of patch 0.8.10.  Please be aware that her performance may change in the future.

When I first looked at Poltava, what struck me immediately was how sleek and low-lying she appeared. She didn't have a massive superstructure which brought to my mind two things:

1.) Maybe she'll have good concealment.
2.) Her main battery gun range is probably going to suck with her range finders placed so low.

As it turns out, I was kinda-sorta correct in the first part (though not to the degree her looks would imply) and the latter didn't matter at all, because BALANS.  Looks can be deceiving.

PROS

  • Decent armour profile with extended waterline belt and thick upper hull armour.
  • Good anti-torpedo protection with a 33% damage reduction.
  • Soviet Damage Control Party -- trivialize those fires today!
  • Quick-firing main battery guns with a 28s reload -- this is especially fast for a Soviet battleship.
  • Excellent AP penetration values for a 356mm gun.
  • Large caliber AA guns have a 6km range and do good damage.
  • Good concealment with a surface detection as low as 12.2km.

CONS

  • Exposed citadel sitting high over the waterline.
  • Lots of exposed 25mm hull and deck sections for a Soviet battleship, leaving her quite vulnerable to large caliber AP overmatch and HE shells, especially from long-distance fire.
  • Her 356mm main battery guns cannot overmatch most tier VIII+ targets.
  • Doesn't have Soviet battleship dispersion (!!!)
  • Only a modest range of 18.3km.
  • Horrible rate of turn at 3.3º/s with an enormous 1000m turn radius.
  • Kinda boring, offering nothing new or innovative with sometimes frustrating game play.

Overview

Skill Floor:  Simple / CASUAL/ Challenging / Difficult
Skill Ceiling:  Low / Moderate / HIGH / Extreme

One of the nice things about Poltava is that she's very straight-forward and easy to play.  She completely espouses the Soviet battleship meta -- namely point your nose towards what's dangerous and keep pulling the trigger.  She's also fast enough to keep up with the flow of battle, so it's not like you have to fuss with pre-planning due to a low top speed.

The only reason she doesn't merit a "simple" rating is owing to her exposed citadel and her 25mm exposed armour sections.

Options

Poltava has no surprises here.

Consumables

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  • Poltava's Damage Control Party is standard for a Soviet battleship.  It starts with 3 charges base and is active for 10s per charge. It has a 60s / 40s reset timer.
  • Poltava's Repair Party has two charges base.  It's active for 28s, healing back up to 14% of her starting health.  This queues up 10% of citadel damage, 50% of penetration damage and 100% of everything else.  This has a 120s / 80s reset timer.
  • In her third slot, Poltava has a Catapult Fighter.  This starts with 2 charges based and deploys 3 fighters.  They are active for 60s with a 3km operating area.  The reset timer is 135s / 90s depending on whether you use the premium version or not.

Upgrades

Soviet battleships don't differ from the standard build for most other nation's battleships.

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  • Start with Main Armaments Modification 1 in your first slot.  You can elect to take the special upgrade Damage Control Modification 1 if you'd like.  This extends your Damage Control Party active period from 10 seconds to 14 seconds, if you're so inclined.
  • Next up, take Damage Control Modification 1 to help mitigate fire damage.
  • Follow this up with Aiming System Modification 1 to tighten up that dispersion.
  • And in your last slot, Damage Control Modification 2 is optimal for reducing fire and flooding time.  Alternatively, you can take Steering Gears Modification 2 to reduce your rudder shift time from 14.8s to 11.8s.

Camouflage

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Poltava comes with Type 10 Camouflage - Poltava providing the usual  3% bonus concealment from surface targets, 4% increase to enemy gunnery dispersion, 10% reduction to post-battle service costs and 50% bonus to experience gains.

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I have to say that both palette versions and Poltava herself look hella handsome.  Her default is with the blue-grey bow.[

Commander Skills

During play-testing of Poltava, I dusted off my 13pt Azur Lane Aurora commander.  The ideal build for Poltava is going to follow along similar lines to most battleship builds.

  • Start with Priority Target.  It provides the most benefit for it's point cost.  Alternatively you can take Preventative Maintenance or Direction Center for Fighters instead.
  • Take Adrenaline Rush next.
  • Superintendent should be your first stop at tier 3.  We'll come back to this tier.
  • You have a choice at tier 4.  Take either Concealment Expert or Fire Prevention for your 10th skill point.  The other should be your 14th skill point.
  • Once you've got those secured, take Basics of Survivability from tier 3 for your 17th point.
  • Finish this off with Expert Marksman for your 19th point.

This is a safe, basic battleship build which will serve you well for... well, just about any battleship you could ever play.

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Firepower

Main Battery:  Nine 356mm/54 rifles in 3×3 turrets in an A-B-X superfiring configuration.
Secondary Battery:  Sixteen 130mm rifles in 8x2 turrets.

Poltava has secondaries but they're forgettable.  They have a decent rate of fire, fire chance and a reasonable 5km range.  However, their forward arcs are not great, so don't bother with them.  If you set a fire (or even hit something), bonus.  Let's get onto the meat of the matter.

Are 356mm (and smaller) Guns a Serious Flaw for Tier VII Battleships?

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"Of course they are, Mouse.  What are you, stupid?"

I seriously had to ask myself this.  There was a time where I would have considered anything smaller than a 406mm gun to gun to be hella weak at this tier.  Nagato and Colorado set the standard, making Gneisenau look pathetically under-armed when she was released (and let's be fair, Gneisenau is pathetically under-armed but the size of her six 380mm guns isn't helping her at all).  But there was also Scharnhorst.  And then came Hood.  After that there was King George V and her initially lackluster sister, Duke of York.  Finally, there was Lyon with sixteen 340mm rifles and it would be a struggle to call her firepower weak.  So where sixteen-inch guns used to be standard for tier VII, I now have to look at them through the lens of being an oddity rather than par for the course.  While Sinop and Nelson have added to the 406mm population, Poltava and the upcoming California balance them off in the other direction.

This doesn't answer the question, though:  Are 356mm guns (and smaller) a serious flaw at tier VII?  There's no doubt they have weaknesses.  The biggest is their inability to overmatch 25mm armour sections.  This armour value is VERY common within Poltava's matchmaking, appearing first on tier VI and VII battleships and then on most tier VIII+ cruisers.  So while Poltava (and the other sub-380mm armed battleships) have a glut of targets to bully when they're top tier, this largely falls away when they're stuck in tier VIII or tier IX matches.  Yet to answer this perceived flaw, each of the tier VII battleships with these smaller-caliber guns has an answer:

  • Scharnhorst and Lyon counter this with a higher volume of fire, with a nine-gun, 20 second reload in the former's case and a sixteen-gun, 30 second reload in the latter.  Scharnhorst also has increase HE penetration, great secondaries and torpedoes besides.
  • King George V and Duke of York have improved HE penetration and a very high fire chance on their 10-gun broadsides.  KGV also enjoys as 25 second reload while Duke of York has a slower 30 second reload but improved autobounce angles on her AP shells.

So that leaves the question of Poltava:  What does she have to compensate?  Well... penetration.  Poltava has great penetration on her AP shells with comparable punch at 15km to the 406mm and 410mm rifles of other ships.  She isn't quite on the same level, but she's close.  Thus, if you can catch an enemy broadside, Poltava has enough bite in her AP shells to ruin someone's day.

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Poltava's approximate penetration over distance compared to Sinop and some of the more popular battleship premiums of tier VI and VII. Values are pulled from proships.ru -- give them some love, they're an invaluable resource.

Now I would like to tout that as advantage enough to assuage all concerns but the reality is that even low-penetration AP shells seldom struggle to do at least some damage to broadside battleships -- the trick is simply to aim for the upper belt instead of going for citadel hits.  Against cruisers, this is a non-issue, even the lowest penetration battleship-caliber gun at tier VII has more than enough bite to make even an Alaska or Kronshtadt balk.  So this penetration thing is nice and all, but it's not the cure-all for Poltava's woes.

So, relative to her peers, Poltava has a faster reload too.  It's nothing impressive like the 20 second reload off Scharnhorst or even the 25 or 26 second reload on King George V and Gneisenau respectively.  At 28 seconds, Poltava's reload is only noteworthy in that Soviet battleships typically have longer reloads to begin with.  Pyotr Velikiy, Izmail, Sinop, Vladivostok and Lenin each have a 33 second reload.  So Poltava has 5 seconds shaved off what's ostensibly nominal Soviet battleship rates, giving her a huge advantage over them but only a slight advantage over anything not-Soviet.  Still, Poltava isn't winning any prizes for damage output.  So what are we missing?

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California remains a work in progress and her DPM is subject to change. Poltava doesn't come off looking too badly in this comparison, though I must stress this isn't a fair measure. This doesn't account for things like accuracy, penetration, overmatch potential, fire arcs, etc. It's their raw potential, should everything go their way.

Well, it's a matter of the total package.  Poltava, like other Soviet battleships, is generally tougher than the other battleships at her tier.  The idea is that she should be able to last long enough to make her guns sing.

Thus, 356mm guns are a serious flaw, but only if you're not top tier.  When you are, Poltava a monstrous bully, owing not just to her ability to overmatch -- but because she gets all of the bonuses they baked into her to compensate for that lack against higher tiered opponents.  It's a similar manner to how Scharnhorst and Lyon seem to over-perform relative to their tiering in such match-ups.  The only thing throttling the firepower of these ships is their overmatch woes.

This is a whole lot of woulda-coulda-shoulda which largely amounts to this: Poltava is going to ask you to put in more work for similar results when you're bottom tier.

You'll note I didn't talk about her accuracy.  Well, there's a damn good reason.  See below.

Summary

  • Strong guns when top tier ... provided you can hit with them.
  • Weak guns when not top tier ... even when you can hit with them.
  • Sightly improved reload, good AP penetration and high AP damage for their caliber.  If they weren't 356mm, they'd be hella strong.

Defense

Hit Points:  59,100
Min Bow & Deck Armour: 25mm
Maximum Citadel Protection:  370mm belt
Torpedo Damage Reduction: 33%

Were it not for the rest of the Soviet battleship line, Poltava's  armour profile would be considered 100% adequate.  Sure, she's got a high citadel but that's not unheard of.  Soviet battleships are extant, however, providing us with a gold-standard of what ideal battleship armour looks like in World of Warships (or at least giving the Germans a run for their money).  In this regard, Poltava is found wanting.

Large sections of the Soviet battleship decks and upper hulls are outright immune to AP overmatch (from any caliber) and will shatter incoming cruiser-caliber HE shells. Once you hit tier VIII+, this protection scheme amidships is near bullet-proof.  The battleships at lower tiers have gaps to one degree or another, with Poltava having especially large holes.  Compare her to Sinop, who shares her deck vulnerabilities, but all of Sinop's vertical surfaces amidships are HE resistant and can ricochet AP shells at proper angles.  As a result, Poltava's not as good at tanking AP shells at any range.  Similarly, Poltava takes slightly more HE damage.  Most other Soviet battleships, when properly angled, are frustrating targets for AP rounds and shatter considerably more HE.

So Poltava wins no prizes for her structural armour layout.  Combined with her exposed citadel and crappy Soviet Repair Party and she sits well behind ships like Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Hood for her straight-up ability to shrug off hits with troll armour.  The good news is that she has a Soviet Damage Control Party which largely trivializes damage over time effects from flooding and fires.  Speaking of flooding, Poltava has decent anti-torpedo protection which isn't very commonplace at this tier.

On the whole, Poltava's protection is "alright" -- it's better than more than a few of the battleships at this tier, but she's not like the higher-tier Soviet battleships which utterly dominate this category.

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Behold, Poltava's greatest strength and weakness! That's a lot of 25mm exposed areas. That 200mm upper belt and extended waterline belt sure are nice, though. Don't expose her sides or you'll get clobbered rather hilariously. Yes, I tested this out. Yes,  it went about as well as you would expect.

Agility

Top Speed: 29 knots
Port Turning Radius: 1000m
Rudder Shift Time: 14.8s
4/4 Engine Speed Rotation Rate: 3.3º/s

The ONLY good thing about Poltava's agility is her top speed.  29 knots allows her to keep up with the pace of battle and kite when needs be.  Her handling is otherwise a sick joke.

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Poltava turns like a one-legged cow with brain damage. California is still a work in progress and her agility is still subject to change.

Anti-Aircraft Defense

Flak Bursts: 5 explosions for 1,400 damage per blast 
Long Ranged (up to 6km):  36 damage every 0.39s (93dps)
Medium Ranged (up to 3.5km):  51 damage every 0.39s (132dps)
Short Ranged (up to 1.5km): 13 damage every 0.41s (31dps)

"Is Poltava's anti-aircraft firepower any good, Mouse?"

No, no it's not.  It's not bad, but you're not winning any prizes here.  I got pretty excited when I first looked at Poltava's AA fire.  Seeing that 6km range with some front-loaded DPS made me very happy until I started doing some number crunching.  Without upgrades or focusing on priority sectors, it takes Poltava about 11 to 18 seconds of continuous fire to shoot down a single tier VI aircraft with her long-range guns.  That's a stock aircraft -- the kind you find in Co-Op.  You know, the squishiest kind you'll ever encounter.

During play testing, Poltava's AA was never a credible threat to carriers.  I'd shoot down a handful of aircraft, sure, but that wasn't ever going to be enough to frighten a determined opponent.  The best that can be said about Poltava's AA power is that it lends itself very well to supporting her allies.  In a group of two or three ships, Poltava contributes handsomely and this is the way to keep you and your team mates safe.  Like Gneisenau, she forms the foundation of a good AA nexus, with her catapult fighter providing a second layer of deterrent.

Stick with your team mates.  If you're caught out by your lonesome, you're going to have a rough time.

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Twin 130mm/55s dual-purpose secondaries in red. Quad 37mm autocannons in teal. Single 12.7mm machine guns in yellow (they're so cute!).  With everything so tightly packed together, you can expect to lose everything that isn't a 130mm turret mount to even a little HE fire.[

Refrigerator

Base Surface Detection: 13.94km
Air Detection Range: 12.02km
Minimum Surface Detection Range: 12.17km
Detection Range when Firing in Smoke: 12.07km
Main Battery Firing Range:  18.3km

I'm trying hard not to make this seem like a big deal, because it's really not.  Poltava has the best surface detection of any of the currently released battleships at her tier.  I stress at her tier. Once you toss tier V, VI and VIII battleships into the mix, it starts being less to celebrate about.  Odin, Roma and the Famous and Historical Monarch all exceed her at tier VIII thanks to their access to Concealment Modification 1.  Even Vladivostok comes out on par with Poltava with this upgrade, which really takes the wind out of her sails.  At least at tier VI it's only Bayern which upstages her.  At tier V, pretty much everything does short of Kongo and the New York-sisters.

So, yeah, Poltava has decent surface detection.  She's got crap aerial detection concealment, though -- the worst at her tier.  Again, this isn't a big deal, really.  It's nice for Poltava to be able to go dark in late-stage engagements in a given match, especially given how much room and time is needed for her to come about.

Final Evaluation

So lemme start with a graphic that explains why Poltava, to me, is a hard pass:

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Poltava doesn't have the vaunted Soviet battleship dispersion.  I didn't cover this in the Firepower section because it was the show-stopper for me.  It decided, there and then, that this wouldn't be a battleship I could recommend to my readers.  She's shackled with only nine 356mm guns with 1.7 sigma, American battleship dispersion and a 28s reload at tier VII.  No thank you.  This ended up largely defining my experiences in Poltava during play testing.  I only managed a 27% accuracy rate, which is hella low for me.  Couple that to her overmatch issues and no... very no.

In summary:  Poltava is a Soviet battleship with small caliber guns with poor dispersion, that handles like the aforementioned drain-bamaged, hogtied cow with decent, but not great armour.  The best that could be said about her is that she reloads semi-quickly, she has Soviet damage-over-time mitigation and she's kinda fast.

Can you make this work?  Absolutely.  Will she be competitive?  Probably not.  Poltava lacks identity.  She's boring besides.  That's a cardinal sin for a premium.  If you're not immediately powerful, you should at least be entertaining.  Poltava fails spectacularly in this regard and I condemn her to the dregs of the forgettable premiums alongside ships like Alabama, Prinz Eitel Friedrich and Makarov.

Would I Recommend?

Hells to the no across the board. 
If you're looking for a Soviet battleship trainer, Lenin is hands down a better ship.  Spend your quid there if you're really hard pressed for a new ship.

In Closing

I think I'm back, baby.  December promises to be a busy month.  Friesland's review will be the next one out barring some calamity or another transpiring.  I want to get out at least three reviews in December to catch up on my backlog, so stay tuned.

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1 hour ago, Ensign Cthulhu said:

I think you're missing an "is" here. 

You might also want to amend your recommendations for the new forums, given that Lenin is no longer available. 

Recognizing the fact that these are the original reviews LWM wrote, the amending might best be done at the top of each review to quickly indicate what's changed since then. I think that's the reasonable and most efficient way of handling it.

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1 hour ago, Admiral_Karasu said:

Recognizing the fact that these are the original reviews LWM wrote, the amending might best be done at the top of each review to quickly indicate what's changed since then. I think that's the reasonable and most efficient way of handling it.

maybe someone should volunteer, since Mouse is pretty busy trying to catch up reviews as I understand it. Someone could go through the back log of old reviews for mouse and add the errata at the start of each.

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31 minutes ago, MBT808 said:

maybe someone should volunteer, since Mouse is pretty busy trying to catch up reviews as I understand it. Someone could go through the back log of old reviews for mouse and add the errata at the start of each.

Some are simple things like the availability of Lenin to point out. Meta change effects would be a lot harder to determine. If someone's up to the job, they'd need to be fairly proficient in the game and its mechanics to make those calls.

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5 hours ago, Admiral_Karasu said:

Some are simple things like the availability of Lenin to point out. Meta change effects would be a lot harder to determine. If someone's up to the job, they'd need to be fairly proficient in the game and its mechanics to make those calls.

This is the rub.  Imagine undertaking the following task:

  • Collecting relevant data of all 625+ ships in the game.
    This includes not just the stuff that's easy to pull, like range or concealment, but calculated values like HE blast size, damage per minute profiles.  There's also those that need to be tested and verified, such as ship's handling.  I tried to do this for JUST AA values for all high-tier ships and it was a monumental task.
  • Maintaining this collection on a per-patch basis.
    Anytime anything changes, update the data, re-sort (and possibly restructure) the list.  This has to be kept in a format that's legible, easy to sort, easy to read, easy to read.  Some of these are exceedingly difficult to maintain without some kind of 3D software program, such as citadel layout or armour values.  Even 2D renderings of things like firing arcs on secondaries or a ship's turning circle radius are a bit of a project.
  • About once every year update one of the option sections.
    Commander skills, camouflage options, consumable options, upgrade options all get tweaked over time.  Wargaming tends to make alterations on one of these about once a year on average, with commander skills being the most likely tweak. So, for example, we're seeing another commander skill tweak this year.  Last year, camouflage got completely changed, etc.  The recommendations / information for relevant ships will have to be updated.
  • Address any major meta shifts.
    The game typically receives meta-changing patches at the end of January.  These can overlap with the option section above, but it can be more substantial such as a complete overhaul to the concealment system (the loss of open-water stealth firing), or the overhaul of a ship type (CV & AA rework), the addition of a new ship type (Submarines), or changes to the core mechanics (HE penetration, IFHE rework, structural armour re-balance) or matchmaking (the "kiddy pool" changes to tiers I, II, III and IV).
  • Address changes on a per-X basis (patch/season).
    I don't believe this could be kept up predictably (as a patch drops), but it could be done as a retrospective.  Giving opinions on which ships are most competitive / easy to use would be invaluable and it would be very helpful after the dust settles on new tech-tree lines or popular premiums.

It's essentially asking to make yet another wiki but with even more info.  The wiki has a staff of more than a dozen volunteers, support from Wargaming and a dedicated website formatted for this kind of thing. 

These reviews are only capable of being a snapshot of how I felt about the ship at the time I wrote them.  The game changes every month.  The meta shifts.   Just writing a new article in the format I've maintained, takes a month now.  There's too much information.  (EDIT:  Let me really stress this:  It takes longer than a patch cycle to collect, format and publish a review about a SINGLE ship released within that patch cycle -- that's stupid!) Content creation has slowed to a crawl and I'm not happy about it.  @Lert can attest this has been a problem for a while and I've been struggling to figure out how to get around this.  I have ideas.  It's going to be a mountain of work that I hope the community likes.  If successful, then I can push forward.

But in short?  I'm not going to update older reviews.  These articles cannot be that resource.  There's the wiki for that.  There's 3rd party sites that have some information out there.  I'm happy to talk about an individual ship or meta shifts conversationally, but being asked to maintain thesis-levels of information on every premium / reward asset in the game in the context of the greater ship population is insurmountable for a small team of volunteers, to say nothing of an individual.

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@LittleWhiteMouse Thanks for making the dauntiness of the task abundantly clear to us. No other site on the Internet that writes and publishes reviews (on much anything) ever does this either. If they do, like in the case of physical products (PC cases, for instance), they essentially do a whole new review of the product. In your case...maybe this would be warranted only if WG were to re-release some ships that had been removed at some point.

However, there's a slight problem that DevStrike (and also Discord) and any other Internet site (yeah I know Discord does not qualify for an 'Internet site') always display the original date of publication. In our case, the original date for the reviews are visible on the Official World of Warships forum (NA), but all that's just going to implode into pixel dust tomorrow, courtesy of Wargaming WoWS team.

@I_cant_Swim_ We are slightly off topic here when it comes to the Poltava, but... how's the editorial technology on DevStrike? Could we theoretically jiggle with the thread posting dates to edit them in the forum database to match LWM's original dates on WoWS official forum Mouse's Catalog of Ship Reviews. Alternatively, if @LittleWhiteMouse could easily produce a list of publication dates, I could spare the time to go around the reviews and insert the original publishing date and place at World of Warships General Game Discussion.

The end result would then look something like this:

On 10/28/2023 at 9:16 AM, LittleWhiteMouse said:

Originally published  on November 28, 2019 in WoWS General Game Discussion

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The following is a review of the Soviet Battleship Poltava. Wargaming provided me this ship for review purposes -- I didn't have to pay for this thing. To the best of my knowledge, the statistics presented here are accurate as of patch 0.8.10.  Please be aware that her performance may change in the future.

When I first looked at Poltava, what struck me immediately was how sleek and low-lying she appeared. She didn't have a massive superstructure which brought to my mind two things:

 

 

 

 

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