The game is set between the years 1775 and 1815. Battles range from small ship-to-ship duels all the way to the largest fleet actions of the period.
Command and control in Ultimate Admiral is intuitive. Players can select select ships by clicking on them or by selecting their names from the fleet list. Similarly, players are able to issue simple movement commands by clicking or drag arrows to plot more complex courses. Players can control the type of shot, primary targets, and where to concentrate fire for every individual ship as well as order boarding actions.
The AI can assist in controlling as many or as few ships as ordered to. Likewise, ships can be grouped into formations for ease of control.
All ships present in-game are historical replicas. Their models were created from the original design drafts used in their construction. Some designs had detailed, public documentation, others required more rigorous research into naval databases. Players will get the chance to meet famous ships like the USS Constitution, HMS Victory, HMS Trincomalee and many more in the game.
Each ship has several characteristics that describe their navigational and combat abilities. The primary characteristic of all ships is their carry weight. Weight affects the number of upgrades, types of cannon, and crew sizes that are available to be mounted/quartered on your ships. Each ship offers up to five upgrade slots and four gun decks. Likewise, dependent on the size of the ship, a number of officers will be required to command the vessel. One is enough for the smallest, but up to six officers will be required to control the largest warships.
In-game, ships are available under three designations: warships, transports, and mortar batteries. Warships are not only your main battle units, but are also universally useful vessels that can perform other tasks (such as transportation and bombardment). Transports are, as their name suggests, useful in transporting large numbers of infantry and carry a minimal crew complement. Mortar ships are highly effective against coastal fortifications.
Armor and Penetration
Every ship is outfitted with armor to protect the crew and internal structure of the vessel from damage. When a round hits the hull, penetration is calculated by a combination of base cannon penetration values and effective ranges. Likewise, armor thickness is calculated by the base armor value and angle of impact.
If the final penetration value exceeds the thickness of the armor, damage is applied across both the armor and everything behind it: internal structure, guns, crew, and modules. Damaged armor has reduced thickness, and concentrating fire on an already damaged side of a ship will increase the damage dealt.
Maneuver in Battle
Maneuvering is paramount in naval combat. Because penetration depends largely on armor value, angling your ships away from your enemy’s vessels will reduce both the damage dealt to the enemy ship and the damage taken to your own, and vice versa.
Similarly, one of the most effective maneuvers is to position your ships abaft your enemy’s. From this angle crewmen, guns, and masts are very densely placed and poorly armored, and such raking fire can effect great damage without your enemy being able to respond quickly.
Officers and Crew
A ship is commanded by her officers and manned by her crew. The quality of both the officers and the crew will effect the performance of your ships. Each officer has a set of skills and occupies a position where he will put them to good use. Crews have their own skill levels which will affect ship behavior. Performing actions (such as sailing and shooting) will raise the skill of both officers and crew, but while an experienced officer will greatly help an inexperienced crew to perform better, an inexperienced officer will complicate matters for even the most seasoned crews.
- Efficiency: Responsible for the overall performance of the ship, affects the other characteristics of the crew.
- Sailing: Responsible for managing the top speeds and turning rates of ships.
- Boarding: Responsible for the effectiveness of on-board marines, as well as general boarding actions.
- Gunnery: Responsible for cannon accuracy and reloading speeds.
- Morale: Responsible for the spirit of the crew; the speed and likelihood at which a panicking ship might surrender.
- Stamina: Responsible for the longevity of the crew in a fight, a ship’s ability to carry out orders will be negatively affected by low stamina.
Sailors and Marines
Ships’ crews consist of both sailors and marines. The former are responsible for the proper operation of a ship, and the latter for engaging the enemy with musketry at close range during battle. Marines are professional soldiers who are also effective in land operations. Sailors may likewise fight on land, but their lack of skill at arms will leave much to be desired. The ship contains a number of squads equal to the number of officers aboard. Disembarking squads requires an officer to assume command of the detachment.
Landing and Boats
While conducting landing operations, if the maximum number of squads are disembarked, the ship will be left in the control of a skeleton crew that is incapable of fighting.
When disembarking, a boat is created for each squadron to navigate to shore. Upon reaching solid ground, the squad lands and will act as a land unit. If necessary, the landed troops may return to their ships via any free boats that are ashore.
Surrendering and Capturing
Morale is constantly shifting throughout battles. When a ship receives damage, loses an officer, or has a mast destroyed its moral also falls. When damage is inflicted on an enemy ship morale improves. If morale is too low, the ship is immobilized, or surrounded and fighting multiple enemies, the officers and crew will begin to panic and may surrender the ship. In this case, the ship raises a white flag and begins to drift. You must dispatch a boat with an officer aboard to capture any surrendered ship.