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Premium Ship Review: Giulio Cesare

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The following is a review of Giulio Cesare, a ship kindly provided to me by Wargaming. This is the release version of the vessel and these stats are current as of October 20th, 2017. 
This was a triumph.  (I'm making a note here:  "Huge success".)  It's hard to overstate my satisfaction.
Quick Summary:  Giulio Cesare feels like a traditional battlecruiser -- fast, hard hitting but with a poor protection scheme.  She's incredibly agile for a ship of her size.
Cost: $24.99 USD with a port slot.
Patch and Date Written: to, October 12th to October 19th, 2017
Closest in-Game Contemporary
Kongo, tier V Japanese Battleship
Degree of Similarity: Clone / Sister-Ship / Related Class / Similar Role / Unique
Kongo is about as close as you'll get to a ship with similar game play style to Giulio Cesare, but this is still a rather far cry from the Italian Battleship.  Cesare is stealthy while Kongo is not.  Cesare is agile while Kongo is not.  Both ships excel at engaging enemy ships at medium distances, using their speed to dictate the range.  Cesare exerts far more control than Kongo between her superior firepower, gun handling, agility and stealth.
  • Extended waterline belt armour helps bounce shells when properly angled.
  • The inside of the prow has an 85mm armoured "beak" which makes citadel penetrations through the bow more difficult.
  • Guns feel very accurate with a combination of a 1.9 sigma value and the turrets being mounted close together.
  • HE shells have an excellent base fire chance of 35% and a rather large splash radius of 28m for damaging modules.
  • Fast gun traverse of 5.0º/s
  • Small, 640m turning circle, good rudder shift time of 13.0s and a fast top speed of 27.0kts, making her one of the most agile battleships currently in the game (yes, even more agile than Warspite).
  • She's a small target, smaller than many light cruisers with an excellent surface detection range of 13.7km.

  • Exceedingly fragile with poor torpedo defense, low hit point total, a large exposed citadel and poor armour values overall.
  • Secondaries are lackluster with a modest rate of fire and a combination of HE and AP shell fire.
  • Poor anti-aircraft firepower and range.
  • Feels blind without any form of spotter aircraft, float plane fighter or similar vision-assisting consumable.

The Italian Battleships are here!  Well, kinda.

Giulio Cesare is an Italian battleship but for those who were hoping to be able to pin point what sort of flavour or gimmick they would have to differentiate themselves from the Germans, British, American and Japanese, you're going to be a bit disappointed.  Giulio Cesare got the Dunkerque treatment in that there's nothing about her that points to some special flavour of the Regia Marina dreadnoughts.  We shouldn't be too surprised given what's come before like with Hood and Tirpitz which were each poor indicators for the ship lines that came after.
This doesn't preclude Giulio Cesare from being an interesting ship in its own right as you will see.
I have to admit, even as a die-hard Royal Navy fangirl -- the Italian ships are simply gorgeous.
Pretty run of the mill stuff here.  Giulio Cesare has a standard battleship Damage Control Party with a 15s active period and a 120s / 80s reset timer depending on whether or not you go for a premium version.  Her Repair Party is also standard for a battleship.
  • Damage Control Party
  • Repair Party

Premium Camouflage:   Type 9/10. As of patch, type 9 and 10 camouflage patterns are identical.  This provides 50% bonus experience gains, 3% reduction in surface detection and 4% reduction in enemy accuracy.
Module Upgrades: Three slots, standard non-American battleship options.

  • In your first slot, take Main Armaments Modification 1.
  • In your second slot, take Aiming System Modification 1. If you really hate aircraft, you can take AA Guns Modification 2 instead.  While this will help dissuade tier IV and V carriers, be advised this will not save you against tier VI+ carriers, even with a full anti-aircraft build.
  • In your third slot, take Damage Control Systems Modification 1.
Primary Battery: Ten 320mm rifles in an A-B-X-Y superfiring configuration.
Secondary Battery: Twelve 120mm guns in 6x2 turrets and eight 100mm guns in 4x2 turrets
I got so terribly excited when I saw the load-out of Giulio Cesare's secondaries on paper: a ten gun broadsides?  That's almost German-good!  Sure, this would be hamstrung somewhat by the 4.0km range, but I was gonna be happy and I was going to pew pew stuff in the face and be all, "Veni, vidi, vici!" on all of those gunship destroyers that think they're so great at tiers IV and V.
Yeah, no.  There are two little issues with my dreams of close-quarter conquests with a phalanx of secondary fire.
  1. Giulio Cesare's secondaries don't have quite the rate of fire I was hoping.  Each gun fires 10rpm -- a whisker shy of the 12rpm I hope to see on secondaries at a minimum -- especially for low caliber weapons like 100mm guns. I mean, 10rpm isn't terrible but it's not ideal.  Anyway, I could over look this in of itself...
  2. ...except that point number two is that her 120mm guns (which form the backbone of her secondary armament) fire AP shells.  Blech.  Now, don't get me wrong.  In of itself, AP shells from secondaries can be good if they've got a lot of hitting power.  But these ones don't.  They have a maximum alpha strike of 2,000 damage per if they citadel and they're not going to do that often.  It's like asking a cross-eyed Farragut to save your life from a rampaging Podvoisky and the fool loads AP instead of HE.

As it turned out, getting that close with Giulio Cesare is generally a loser move anyway (see her protection scheme below), so having mediocre secondaries isn't that much of a loss.  Still, it's a shame.  I do love my low tier brawls.  As it would fall out, I did find an elegant solution to that charging gunship-destroyer problem.

Meet the problem solver. 
Giulio Cesare is one of the most comfortable gunnery experiences I've enjoyed in a battleship.

It's kind of hard for me to believe she's stricken with German dispersion values.  These are the worst in the game.  Her guns feel far more accurate than what her dispersion value would suggest.  This comes down to three factors:  Her sigma value, the size of the ship and the number of guns she wields.

  • Giulio Cesare boasts a sigma value of 1.9 which is a marginal improvement over the usual 1.8 value found on tier V battleships.  The higher the sigma value, the more likely shells will land towards the center of the dispersion field.  In practice this means there are fewer 'wonky' shots where shells fly every which way.  They still occur, but more rarely than on other battleships like König or Iron Duke.
  •  The second factor is the proximity of Cesare's guns to one another.  Cesare isn't a very large vessel -- she's shorter in length than many of the cruisers within her matchmaking spread.  As a result, her guns are crammed closer together.  This has the effect of reducing dispersion further   This is part of why a ship like New Mexico feels more accurate than Fuso even though the latter has better dispersion values.
  • Finally, Cesare has a ten-gun broadside.  Had she only eight like Kongo, her dispersion wouldn't feel as generous.  The sheer volume of fire does much to diffuse any perceptions of occasional inaccuracy grace that if you throw enough shells at a target, something's likely to hit.

 So despite the flaw of a large base dispersion value, you're seldom going to feel it.

.Giulio Cesare's guns should be considered "good enough" in all other respects.  She doesn't win out on DPM, alpha strike, penetration, or even fire chance (she's bested by Iron Duke, Oktyabrskaya Revolutsiya, New York, and Iron Duke again, respectively).  However, she's a contender in each category without any serious weak spots.
  • She has the second highest DPM for a battleship at her tier.
  • Cesare's HE penetration value is artificially high.  For a 320mm gun, we should expect her to be able to penetrate 52mm of armor.  She can instead penetrate 55mm.  This isn't an enormous difference, but it is a bonus.
  • Cesare has a very high fire chance at 35% per hit.  This contrasts with a more modest HE shell damage of 4,800 which is respectable but not great. 
  • Cesare's module blast radius is respectable for her tier at 28.35m even with her smaller caliber guns.  Cesare is great at causing critical damage to enemy ships, including setting off magazines of light cruisers and destroyers.

This just leaves Cesare's AP penetration to talk about.  It's not terrible, but it's not great.  Her shells have comparable penetration performance to Royal Navy 381mm guns found on Hood and Queen Elizabeth.  This is perfectly serviceable at tier V and VI though it starts feeling a bit lackluster against some of the more heavily armoured American and German belt armour, especially at close to maximum range.

Image courtesy of Wargaming's Armada video on Giulio Cesare. 
Cesare's penetration values lack the raw potential up close, though they preserve their power well over distance.

Giulio Cesare is a battleship where you could be forgiven for spamming a single ammunition type and either one would yield good results.  To be clear:  Her AP shells are better than her HE shells, but the latter are no slouches.  A player who elects to use just a single shell type won't perform as optimally as someone that's more dynamic with their ammunition choices.  However, they will still do reasonably well.

The only real weakness of Cesare's main battery armament (and I am really stretching things to call it a weakness) are her gun fire angles.  They're not bad but they're not excellent.  Her forward guns have a 288º fire angle.  Her rear have a 290º fire angle.  This means that to bring all eight guns on a target ahead, she needs to angle out to 35º -- this isn't auto-bounce territory (30º) so she needs to be careful lest she eat unwanted citadel hits.  Towards the rear this is slightly worse at a 36º fire angle.

Overall, Cesare has an excellent main battery armament that's not only easy to use but quite powerful.

  • Good traverse rates and decent accuracy makes her guns very comfortable to use.
  • Her per-shell damage may not be phenomenal, but the number of hits she can land more than makes up for this.
  • Dynamic ammunition choice will yield the best results, but homogeneous fire of AP or HE can still score some impressive damage totals.
  • Her secondaries are unfortunately lackluster despite the impressive number of weapon mounts.

Giulio Cesare has got it where it counts.

Top Speed: 27.0knots
Turning Radius: 640m
Rudder Shift: 13.0s
Maximum Turn Rate: 4.9º/s
Cesare is fast and Cesare is agile.
Her twenty-seven knot top speed at tier V is excellent.  She's not the fastest ship in her tier -- that honour goes to Kongo -- but she is much faster than all of her other contemporaries.  What's more, she doesn't pay for this speed with horrible handling.  In fact, Cesare is one of the most agile battleships in the game.  While Warspite may boast a smaller turning circle, Cesare preserves more speed with her rudder hard over, allowing the ship to rotate faster and change direction more suddenly than every other battleship she faces.  This gives her a maximum rate of turn of 4.9º/s compared to 4.7º/s of Warspite.
As you can imagine, this makes Cesare great at dodging incoming shells and other forms of attack.
 Speed is life for Giulio Cesare.  The value of being able to control engagement distances must not be underestimated.  Cesare's speed wanes as you face higher tiered ships, however.  While her twenty-seven knots feels blinding fast in the small, claustrophobic maps of tiers IV and V, when you're up-tiered, it doesn't quite measure up.  The maps get significantly larger and you begin to face opposition that is as fleet footed (or faster) than you are.  Still, like with Nagato, Cesare's 27 knot top speed is sufficient at tier VII though not especially quick.  It pays to be a little more cautious because of it.
One of the most satisfying elements of Cesare's speed and agility is that she is all but immune to torpedo attack form tier IV and V aircraft carriers, provided you keep your wits about you.
Turning radius difference between Giulio Cesare (left) and Kongo (middle), and Warspite (right) using navigational buoys on the Ocean map as markers.  One frame = approximately 3.0s.
Hit Points:  45,500
Maximum Citadel Protection:  250mm +24mm turtleback + 40mm
Min Bow & Deck Armour:   19mm
Torpedo Damage Reduction:  19%
All of Cesare's speed comes at a price.  She doesn't have a lot of hit points, for one.  This in turn means that her Repair Party consumable isn't terribly impressive, healing back a maximum of 6,370hp per charge.  For another, she's almost sufficiently protected, but there are significant problems with her armor scheme.
First and foremost, there is no avoiding Cesare's most crippling flaw:  Her citadel sits high over the waterline, stretching from in front of B turret to all of the way back behind X turret.  Her citadel continues, submerged, beneath A and Y turrets.  She doesn't have good armour protection around her citadel either -- not with how high it stands.  The maximum citadel protection she receives is a bit of an illusion as her citadel sits so high that her turtleback will not always come into play -- nor will her thickest belt armour which is also submerged.  Often, Cesare is forced to try and protect her machine spaces with as little as a 130mm upper belt armor and a 40mm citadel wall which doesn't stand up to punishment, even at very long ranges.  If you give up this ship's side, you can expect to take citadel damage as a matter of course.
Bow on, the story changes.  While she has an extended belt armour which helps her face tank some shells, there's still a large section of 19mm worth of armor that can be overmatched directly head on.  However, she is unlikely to take citadel hits from this angle as there's an interior 85mm armoured "beak" inside the bow to help deflect shells away from her magazines and barbettes.  This wedge is a mixed blessing.  While it does largely prevent citadel hits, it also upgrades many hits that would simply be overpenetrations into penetrating hits instead.  So while it's unlikely for Cesare to take catastrophic hits when sailing directly bow onto an enemy, she'll still take large damaging hits as a matter of course.
Cesare's extended belt armour covers her entire waterline to the rear, however, making her surprisingly tanky on the retreat. Just make sure you're aware of her worse gun fire angles when shooting over the shoulder so as to avoid giving up too much side when firing A and B turrets.
Given these deficiencies in her armour scheme, it's best to take on a 15º to 20º angle towards enemies either on the attack or retreat to maximize the protection provided by your belt.  Use her excellent agility to bait and dodge shells while unmasking your guns to return fire.  Her agility should not be underestimated.  Speed and camouflage will be your best defense in gunnery duels.
 Oh, and you can forget about Cesare having good protection against torpedoes.  They hurt more than being stabbed twenty-three times.
Concealment & Camouflage
Base Surface Detection Range:  13.68km
Air Detection Range:  9.42km
Minimum Surface Detection Range:   11.41km
Detection Range When Firing in Smoke:  10.86km
Main Battery Firing Range:  16.37km
Surface Detection Rank within Tier:  Tied for first with Oktyabrskaya Revolutsiya
Surface Detection Rank within Matchmaking:   Tied for fourth with Oktyabrskaya Revolutsiya
Giulio Cesare is incredibly stealthy for a battleship.  When she's top tier, the only ships that have better potential concealment are rare premiums, Nikolai I and Arkansas Beta.  When she's bottom tier, the closest tier VI ships are New Mexico and Warspite with Cesare enjoying a 400m advantage.  The closest tier VII is King George V with Cesare enjoying a 700m advantage.  Combining her great handling and top speed, Cesare can dictate engagement ranges when fighting other battleships, which is a good thing.  She will be uptiered often and this measure of control makes such matches far more comfortable than they would be otherwise.  Silencing her guns and turning tail will allow you to disengage from unfavourable encounters.  This goes a long way towards increasing her survivability.
This is especially important given how blind she is.  Cesare suffers like many battleships do that lack float plane fighters or some gimmicky consumable like Hydroacoustic Search.  When forced to do her own spotting, she's groping in the dark which makes spits of land all the more dangerous and dealing with enemy destroyers far more challenging.
It's worth noting just how small Giulio Cesare is.  Even Duca d'Aosta, a light cruiser, is longer than the new battleship.  She has a comparable length to the short and squat (and very cute) USS Texas but with even better concealment values.
Anti-Aircraft Defense
AA Battery Calibers: 100mm / 37mm / 20mm
AA Umbrella Ranges: 4.0km / 3.5km / 2.0km
AA DPS per Aura: 26 / 70 / 27
Planes are a problem for Giulio Cesare.  For one thing, they have a nasty habit of negating Cesare's impressive surface detection range.  For another, they like to drop explody things that make me have a sad.  As mentioned previously, Cesare's agility will largely keep you safe from munitions from tier IV and V carriers so long as you keep a wary eye out.  Cross drops from an expertly played Zuiho can still cause issues.  
Her anti-aircraft armament isn't terrible, but it's not good.  At best you could say that she doesn't have the worst AA power among battleships of her tier.  Her large caliber guns are hamstrung by a 4.0km aura.  For much of the playtesting period, I used AA Guns Modification 2 to help compensate for this (mostly because Aiming Systems Mod 1 was not available to testers) and this provided her with enough teeth to shoot down two or three aircraft from same or lower tier carriers per attack run.  When facing higher tiered planes, killing one plane was a victory.  Killing two was a triumph.  
 So keep an eye on the skies.  You'll need to manoeuvre to avoid attack and that can leave you open to incoming fire.  Be sure to evaluate threats appropriately.
How to Train your Publius Crassus
Your first ten skill points in Giulio Cesare are rather standard for a stealthy battleship.
  • Start with Priority Target.  For those players comfortable with their situational awareness, this can be swapped for Preventative Maintenance or Expert Loader
  • At the next tier, take Expert Marksman.  You're going to be throwing Cesare about often in heavy manoeuvres.  Her turrets can barely keep up with her maximum rotation rate and this will help get your guns back on target. 
  • Superintendent is your best purchase next to give you an extra charge of your Repair Party.
  • And finally, take Concealment Expert at top tier to drop your surface detection range down to 11.4km.  This will help you control fights, especially when you're bottom tier in the Matchmaker.

The current meta will reward you best for taking survivability based skills after this.  Fire Prevention (4) and Basics of Survivability (3), should all be considered high value skills.  Fire damage is especially prevalent at lower tiers.  For the remaining two points, Adrenaline Rush (2) is your best investment. 

If you're especially salty about aircraft and want to feel like a big fish in a small pond, you can build for AA-power with Advanced Fire Training (4) and Basic Fire Training (3) instead.  Combined with AA Guns Modification 2, this will give you a rather healthy flak umbrella that will make tier IV and V carriers rather salty when they engage you.  However, be advised this build is not only sub-optimal, it's all but useless when facing tier VI and VII carriers.
Cool battleships don't look at exploding aircraft.
Overall Impressions
Skill Floor: Simple / Casual / Challenging / Difficult
Giulio Cesare has one lesson to teach novice players -- don't show your sides.  Beyond that, she's not a terribly complicated ships, with very forgiving attributes.  She's agile enough to respond to belatedly addressed threats.  Her AP and HE shells are both competitive even when the wrong ammunition choice for a task is selected.  She's not so fast that you will easily outstrip your support.
Skill Ceiling: Low / Moderate / High / Extreme
Veterans will love her concealment value, agility and speed while celebrating the punishing hitting power of her guns.  If she wasn't blind, she would be the perfect mid-tier battleship.  She presents an interesting challenge on how best to maximize her armour and what few hit points she has.
Mouse's Summary:
  • 1.9 sigma, good muzzle velocity and her gun layout makes her feel more accurate than her dispersion stats would otherwise indicate.
  • She does not stand up well to abuse.  She's got enough armour to shrug off a few hits but under concerted fire, she's not going to last very long.  Make sure the things that are shooting at you die painful deaths.
  • Fast, agile, stealthy.
  • She hates planes.  She also hates torpedoes. 

Giulio Cesare had an interesting development cycle.  Her first iteration was disgustingly overpowered with the ship enjoying the same horizontal dispersion value as Japanese Heavy Cruisers (!) with a 1.5 sigma value.  The second iteration was the ship we see now but without the Aiming System Modification 1 upgrade which is what this review is based upon.  As I write this, I haven't had a chance to play her with the accuracy increase and I'm very much looking forward to that.  It's only going to make playing her more fun.

Giulio Cesare is a battleship that rewards good gunnery and awareness skills -- so much so that I honestly believe she might be just a little overpowered but I'm on the fence.  This ship is going to spit so much damage so regularly, that I anticipate she's going to end up near the top of the pile on the damage meters.  The only thing that will hold her back is her survivability and that's not nearly as bad as some may be dreading.  Overall, she's a very powerful ship in the right hands.
What I found worked best was keeping engagement distances out to about 10km to 12km and holding it there.  This let Cesare's guns land hits regularly while still giving her enough time to angle or avoid incoming fire.  Against more serious threats like the Scharnhorst-class battleships, extending this range to 14km helped, as well as switching ammunition based on the opportunities provided.
Cesare feels a bit idiot proof in that you can spam HE and get good numbers.  I found myself leaning upon this ammunition a little more than perhaps I should have. As a consequence, this lead to more than a few detonations of enemy vessels -- a total of five out of forty-six games played.  This number shouldn't be considered anomalous -- any battleship that spams HE at soft targets like cruisers and destroyers could get similar results provided they can land the hits in the vicinity of the ammunition lockers.  Cesare was uniquely suited to this with not only her improved accuracy but also her speed which let me get her into positions to hammer these softer targets early on in a match.
Much will be made of Cesare being a tier V battleship and suffering the ills of the current Matchmaking.  This is a battleship that up-tiers very well -- at least provided there are no aircraft carriers present.  In pure gunship fights, she has all of the tools necessary to contend with these larger vessels.  I did not feel horribly disadvantaged facing a Colorado, Nagato or King George V.  It was a challenge facing these ships, to be sure, but it wasn't a forgone conclusion like it might be had I been sailing a New York or König.
When Cesare is top tier, it's really not very fair.  There are only a few ships to give me pause in such match-ups.  A well played Hosho, Kamikaze or Oktyabrskaya Revolutsiya might make me play a little more cautiously, but Cesare provides so many advantages it's hard not to feel confident when Matchmaker spat me out into such a game. 
Like the French cruiser, De Grasse, Giulio Cesare surprised me with how much fun she was to play.  This is a ship I will be happily revisiting in my spare time when I can get her on my personal account.
Would I Recommend?
Well, I want her...
  • PVE Battles
    How well does the ship maintain profitability in Co-Op modes and how does she fare against bots?

Giulio Cesare is a real bully in PVE battles.  Her operational costs are 11,500 to repair and typical ammunition costs amounting to this value again.  This is an easy sum to recover in Co-Op.  I highly recommend her for players that enjoy battering bots.

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

Giulio Cesare is a monster in Random Battles.  She's got all of the tools needed to carry the day here.  She's an easy recommendation for battleship lovers.

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

I'm torn here and I think I would give her a pass.  Giulio Cesare thrives in the chaos of a disorganized melee of Random or Co-Op battles.  In the more structured (and often static) environment of a competitive arena, she may not fare as well where fire is often quite focused and manoeuvre plays second fiddle to hugging islands and concealment.

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

Giulio Cesare is one of the few battleships in WWII to have engaged in surface action against other battleships -- namely, HMS Warspite.  For that reason alone (and her association with my favourite bae-bote), she gets a nod here, especially for those that like to recreate historical engagements in training rooms.

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

Very yes.  I had a lot of fun playing this ship.  It reminded me of the good ol' days of playing Kongo back in Beta.

  • 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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