“A ship at sea is its own world. To be the captain of a ship is to be the unquestioned ruler of that world and requires all of the leadership skills of a prince or minister.”
— Col. Corazon Santiago, “Leadership and the Sea”
Doctrine: Initiative is a fourth-tier exploration technology that relies on Industrial Automation and Doctrine: Flexibility. Just like all of the other exploration doctrines, this one unlocks a new chassis for military units. And, as one might expect from the quote, this one allows a new type of sea vessel. The cruiser hulls allowed by this tech are both faster and more expensive than the earlier hydrofoils, but otherwise serve the same purpose.
The two additional movement speed points provided by the cruiser hulls (increasing from four to six) is a bigger deal in the game than it might naively seem because of how naval combat works. Normally, when two units fight, the attacker compares its weapon strength to the armor strength of the defender. Since weapons have higher base values than armors by this point on the tech tree, this means that the attacker has the edge unless the defender has some sort of bonus from the terrain. And there are no terrain bonuses out on the open ocean.
However, guns mounted on a naval chassis also count as artillery for free (without applying the special ability). This enables them to fire at land targets as if they were a normal 2-space artillery, modeling classic shore bombardment. But this also means that they can engage in artillery duels with both land and sea based guns. An artillery duel is interesting because both sides use their weapons value (armor is irrelevant) and the duel lasts only a limited number of turns instead of being a fight to the death.
This all means that a fleet of faster ships can control the engagement and usually ensure that they hit first. At the very least, they can ensure that they end up defending with their weapons at range instead of their armor close-up.
However, the effect of this technology grows larger when one takes into account the effect it has on troop transports. A transport module attached to a naval chassis in lieu of a weapon enables it to transport land units over the water. In addition to replacing the weapon, it reduces the speed of the ship by one. This means that a cruiser transport has five movement points instead of the typical three, meaning more of a percentage increase in the ability to surprise an opponent with troops from out of sight.
Going further, the technology also allows the Amphibious Pods special unit ability. This enables a unit to attack directly off the boat instead of having to disembark and absorb a round of enemy counterattacks before attacking. It also means that if the opponent has entirely fortified his coast with defenders, it is still possible to make a contested landing.
The final benefit this technology provides is the opportunity to build Naval Yards (which act like Command Centers for ships, adding experience to ships built at this base) and the Maritime Control Center secret project (which causes every base to act as if it had a Naval Yard, while additionally adding an extra two movement points to all naval units).
If you put all these benefits together, it’s clear that the technology is aptly named. All of these gameplay features add up together to allow the faction with this technology to gain the initiative militarily over his backwards rivals. The idea is to use control of the sea to move swiftly and decisively toward the key points of the battlefield before the foe can react using his interior lines of defense.
And, in that context, the quote adds some interesting flavor to Colonel Santiago’s philosophy. Back on Earth, naval officers and army officers have traditionally placed emphasis on different ideas and promulgated different key doctrines, which has led to distinct but related cultures arising around these functions. That’s a big part of the reason why most modern nations operate distinct armies and navies instead of just treating the whole lump sum as an “armed force”.
But we’ve seen that Santiago has always been about mobility, first and foremost. That’s the treasured technology she brought to Planet with her. And this has extended throughout her conception of military strength. We’ve seen that sea warfare, to Santiago and the Spartans, is a natural extension of land warfare. The medium may change but the warrior’s mindset must always be the same: Mobility, Flexibility, and Initiative.
So when the Colonel states that a captain of a ship must have the leadership skills of a prince or minister, there are a couple of levels to that comment. The first is the obvious one: people on a ship are largely isolated from the rest of the world and must serve as a functioning small community for the duration of their voyage. Therefore, ruling a ship is in many ways akin to ruling a small city.
But the second is that, in context, initiative is only possible if authority is widely distributed. A fleet made up of ships each of whom is run by a man who thinks of himself as a prince will act more firmly and decisively than a fleet all of whom are waiting on orders from a central command. It’s this initiative, born of the sense of ownership stemming from a wide grant of authority, that is key to victory.