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- Damage at Nats -


The purpose of this article is to try to describe various trends in damage and sinks at nats over time.



About the data:

I’ve been able to amass the raw data from the electronic score sheets from Nats starting in 2002. I am writing this article after Nats in 2020. I wanted to look at “normal” battle conditions only for ships of class 4 and higher, the capital ships. I used data from fleet battles at Nats only (no campaign, night battle, one-on-one, challenge battles, etc). I additionally excluded ships that withdrew from combat which is a very small number on average. The data from 2002 until 2014 is from the now dissolved MWC (Model Warship Combat Club). The data from 2015+ is from the IRCWCC (International Radio Controlled Warship Combat Club). The data set itself is large, it includes 2656 unique battles (generally 5 per captain per nats sans various exclusions). In 2017, point values for bb hole damage was changed from 10 for above, 25 for on, 50 for below to 10 for above, 20 for on, 30 for below; for ease of comparison all data concerning damage/point values is converted to the “old” system of 10/25/50. The data can be sorted in various ways, I tried to look for trends that I thought could be interesting and made various assumptions that I will attempt to explain along the way in order to try to answer various questions I had that might have statistical insight.



How often do ships sink?

On average 27% of ships sink in any given battle. The major year to year variables are likely: the quality of the ships at nats, the size of the pond, the skill difference/margin of victory.



How much damage does it take to sink a ship?

This is actually a deceptively difficult question to answer. When I first started compiling this data in about 2012, my intent was to figure out how much better ships were getting at taking damage over time due to technology improvements in pump design and battery capacity. However, damage actually can mean a lot of different things. It could mean total amount of holes. But holes have different point values and different ship sinking potential. Most capitol ships will not be bothered by 100 aboves, but 100 belows will sink nearly all ships in very short order. Perhaps looking at damage totals is more meaningful because it can reflect the relative ship sinking “potency” of each hole more accurately. However, the quality of the damage is also quite variable, some times the triple stern guns from a North Carolina can be tightly grouped and take large chunks out of the side of a ship, or perhaps a few closely placed below the water line hits gest lucky and blows out a big panel. This is also complicated by the types of ships that show up at any give nats. For instance, a lot of North Carolinas might show up in the data as more above the water line damage in a certain year, or a lot of sluggers might be evidenced by lots of below the water line damage in a certain year. Also, relative size of ships seems to matter, large ships can generally take more damage than smaller ships. Also, there are clearly differences in pump capacity and water channeling effectiveness of various builds throughout the years. And then there is the random bad luck, some times a pump dies, or a ram is uncalled, or a ship component fails. These factors might make a ship sink much more easily or make a damage total inflated an immobile ship could take a complete pounding and slowly sink. The data set should be broad and large enough that I think the variability in some of these factors works itself out, since there are 2656 battled ships in the data set.



The total amount of holes required to sink a ship is surprisingly stagnate over the course of 18 years, with an average of 81 holes.



The data from a different angle (Total Damage – scaled to 50/25/10 point values) would seem to indicate that the long term trend up until 2015was a slow but slight improvement, with a dip and slow recovery thereafter. The trend when taken in total does indicate slow improvement, but probably not as much as I would have expected.



When I discovered that my hypothesis of significantly improving damage taking over time was not seeming to be true, I thought of other ways to try to make the data more meaningful. What if I exclude the ships that sink way too easy (poor design, pump failure, etc)? In a retrospective look, this is tough to do because you can’t really go back and figure out which ships had a pump fail or just sank with light damage because they are built poorly, especially since I’m using data dating dating back 6 years prior to when I joined the hobby. When I was initially sorting this data in about 2012, I came up with an approximation that a ship really shouldn’t sink with any less than 50 aboves and/or 20 below. I called a ship an “easy sink” if it sank with 49 or fewer aboves and/or 19 or fewer belows. If the ship sank with 50 or more aboves and/or 20 or more blow, I called it a “hard sink” with the approximation that though each score may not truly represent a ship’s damage taking capacity, it would at least get rid of a fair amount of the low damage outliers.



Even with “easy sinks” excluded, there is at best a slight but not consistent trend of ships sinking with more damage over time.



How common are Easy Sinks?

As I’ve mentioned, ships sink for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it is earned because they were shot to smithereens by a blood thirsty enemy fleet. Sometimes there is light damage because of captain error (like forgetting to turn the pump on or wiring it backwards), sometimes because of dumb luck (like pump failure), and sometimes the ship is poorly built.



The percentage of a ships that sink but do so with light damage (as defined by less than 50 above and 20 below) is actually fairly high. As above, 27% of ships sink in any given battle (roughly 1 in 4), and 20% of those had light damage (1 in 5 of those). It is probably not surprising for most Nats-goers that roughly 1 in 20 ships (or about 1 or 2 per battle) will sink without notable damage. In terms of trends, it would look as if the mid 2010’s was starting to indicate fewer less reliable ships, but recently there has been an uptick.



This is the adjusted data, the “Easy Sinks” and “Hard Sinks” (total sinks minus easy sinks) each having their own series, as a percentage of all of the battled ships at Nats. Consistent with the math mentioned previously, on average 5% of the ships in any give Nats Battle will sink with light damage, and 22% will sink with ‘adequate’ damage. Interestingly, the two graphs mostly mirror each other with a few exceptions. There seems to be a higher percentage of easy sinks vs adequate damage sinks in the most recent 4 years. Also, in 2010 there were a lot of sinks and they were nearly all earned.



What about ships that don’t sink?

Maybe I’m looking at the data from the wrong angle, and the sinks are not really telling the story, so lets look at the ships that survive, perhaps they are taking more damage, which would support the hypothesis that ships are getting better at taking damage over the course of time.



In considering only the ships that were not sunk, it would appear that in terms of total holes and in damage absorbed that ships survivability is improving over time. It could be confounded however, if we were getting better and were just landing more shots than in past years. But it might be reasonable to conclude there was a jump in survivability that seemed to occur in about 2010 and has otherwise once again become somewhat stagnant.



Similar to what was done with ships that were sunk, I opted to re-imagine the data without ships that were not taking significant damage. Again, in my approximation a ship with less than 50 above and/or 20 below are not likely to be in any danger of sinking. Maybe the battle was lop sided or a captain didn’t battle aggressively for whatever reason, or perhaps the enemy had poor accuracy. By excluding ships with light damage, it would appear that ships that don’t get sunk are in fact able to take more damage (measured by holes or points), but only with a slightly positive trend.



Other trends

While sorting the data, not only did I start to become curious about other factors that could be influencing the data relating to the original question of survivability, but also what other trends could I glean from the data.



I was curious about what size of ships are being battled at Nats. The is from the same data set (class 3 and lower are excluded) and I opted to count the Iowa/Yamato as class 8, though by rule they are class 7 in terms of ship weighting for scoring, by counting as class 8 it more accurately reflects units on the water. It looks like on the whole, people are opting for smaller ships. I could probably get better indication by counting units rather than class. I can’t explain the downward trend, but suspect it could be due to an aging captain population who are looking for smaller ships, or perhaps other trends in play style, pre-fabricated hull availability, regional trends, and/or technology that make smaller ships more desirable. It should also be noted that captains often battle the same ship for several years in a row.



Another metric that I thought was interesting was distribution of damage, in terms of above, on, or below the water line hits. I made the trend for all ships (sunk and survived). With a large data set even slight changes are probably occurring for a reason rather than by chance. There are different ways to interpret this data. I think there are slight bends in damage trends indicating slightly more below the water line damage starting in 2008 which more or less flattens in 2013 through present, and a peak in above the water line damage with an uptick from 2008 until 2013 with a regression thereafter. I hypothesize that we are seeing a reflection in the data evidence of what I have observed to be the dominance and prominence of the North Caronia followed by the overtaking of the game meta by ships with stern sidemount guns. I also think we might be seeing improving side mount accuracy (or perhaps ability to score sidemount hits via gun placement/trends vs ship survivability and thus survivability of a sidemount engagement) from 2008 until 2013 but it is otherwise flattened. And a slight uptick again in above hits from 2016 to 2020 would also likely indicate slightly improved accuracy or survivability to get all guns fired before sinking. Combined with the trend of decreasing ship size/units, it is important to realize that more holes are being made with fewer units on the water. Since class 3 ships are omitted from the data otherwise, their damage into capitol ships is still a part of this data, so there may be other factors influencing the data relating to the relative popularity of class 3 and smaller ships as a primary ship as well.



Another trend that is worth looking at is relative Nats attendance. The data is similarly somewhat limited because class 3 and below are excluded, so there could be more total battlers with more of them opting to bring smaller ships. A good example of this is relating to a rule change a few years ago allowing pre-dreadnoughts to use a sidemount, which has observationally led to at least a few being battled as an option for a small slugger ship. It would appear however that fewer people are going to Nats, which does vary by location/year/economy/etc otherwise. 



Conclusions and other thoughts:

I did linear regressions for most of the data in which I commented have trends, I think it makes the charts messy and doesn’t really add things that are not qualitatively apparent.


My assumptions about what constitutes light damage is certainly arguable. I used a number that I thought was both reasonable and would eliminate some outliers.


A common line of reasoning when discussing potential rule changes throughout the history of our hobby is that built-in vulnerability of ships is a good thing. “We all like to see sinks” is a phrase that is kicked around. I believe that we can fairly accurately conclude that we are not on the brink of sink-less battles. To re-state the observation above: on average 27% of ships sink in a battle, over 1 in 4. It also appears that the trend is one of slightly positive growth in percentage of ships that sink, with a bit of an outlier minimum in 2002 of 15% and otherwise not falling below 20% thereafter, and a maximum of 37% in both 2010 and 2016. 23% sank in 2011 and 2014, 33% sunk in 2009 and 35% in 2020. Essentially 1 in 3 ships sank in 6 of the 18 years. I don’t know what the proper number percentage is, but I think we better be careful what we are asking for if a range of 1 in 4 to 1 in 3 ships sunk per battle seems light.


Though I see no evidence of ships becoming “unsinkable,” it does appear that ships m tight be able to take heavier damage more reliably and not be sunk. This is really what the optics of “unsinkable” ships is about. I would argue it is a good thing for the hobby to have ships that are able to survive longer. More play time (ability to take damage) without sinking should encourage the hobby at large, especially newer battlers. And the difference on average is probably noticeable not massive, it is the difference of surviving with about 65 holes vs about 80 holes. Assuming a few periods of stagnation, that’s still at the steepest part of the curve a change of only 2-3 holes more per year.


Of the ships that sink, 1 in 5 of them do so with light damage. Ships that are easily sunk will never be zero. Random systems failures and forgetting to turn on a pump occasionally will not likely be ever eliminated. I do think that the number overall however is higher than it should be and is due to poor ship and ship systems design. If you are consistently sunk easily, fix it. I will help you if you ask.


As stated above, I believe you can see the rise and fall of the North Carolina. I think this is cool that it actually shows up in the data.


There are rule changes over the years that effect the data. Pre dreadnaughts allowed to use a sidemount is one of them. Rudder size increase allowing for a larger variety of viable ships is another. I’m not convinced these obviously show up in the data but are a factor in how we should interpret it.


As always, I’m concerned about the vitality of the hobby. More battlers is more fun. Aging battlers without new influx is bad.


The data was effected by a change in parent organization. As sated 2002 until 2014 is MWC, 2015 to present is IRC. The rules were only slightly different in 2015. The people and ship constitution changed considerably, which may have influenced trends.


These data are limited by the style of play that happens at Nats vs what happens at a local or regional event. I would generally expect most battlers to be less aggressive at Nats. The accuracy and damage taken are thus reflective.


Class 3 and lower ships are not accounted for by the data, but will have contributed to the holes shot into the capital ships.



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