Be warned, there may be bitching ahead!
Let's start with the Pensacola. It's a great anti-aircraft (AA) platform, especially if you go for the upgrades AA Gun Modification 1, which gives your AA guns a 20% survival bonus, and AA Guns Modification 2, which increases your AA range by 20%. A commander with Basic and Advanced Firing Training only makes it better with a further 10% increase in AA efficiency and another 20% improvement in AA range. In one of my games this weekend I shot down 20 airplanes attacking our fleet's aircraft carrier. It was an Independence class carrier so had decent AA of its own as well as fighters. It shot down 37 attacking aircraft. Combined we took out almost seven flights in a match with one carrier per side. Our carrier was not hit by a single bomb or torpedo. The enemy planes never had time to drop them. You don't have to sink the enemy carrier to render it useless.
The issue I have with the Pensacola is its main guns. Yes, they are 8" guns making the Pensacola nominally a heavy cruiser. But they fire once every 15 seconds doing 2800 HE and 4600 AP damage in a fully upgraded ship. Compare this to the Cleveland class cruiser that has twice the firing rate and does 2200/3200 damage. In one minute the Pensacola, if it hits will all shells, can do a maximum of 112,000/192,000 damage. The Cleveland class can do 211,200/307,200. Why would I want a Pensacola in a surface engagement? That's what has me frustrated. It's a heavy cruiser but it loses every time to a Cleveland unless you have impeccable aim and hit a citadel at least once. And while you're trying to carefully aim and do that, the Cleveland is raining HE on you and burning you down to the waterline. It's a race you can't really win.
I've noticed one advantage to the 8" guns on the Pensacola. They can penetrate the armor on at least a New Mexico class battleship and get a citadel hit. I've done it. But to paraphrase General Ackbar, you won't last long against those enemy battleships. Her shells will go trough your armor like it wasn't even there. And they have a repair capability. You don't. Oh, and battleships just love to shoot all the cruisers first, even when our battleships are also close at hand. It gives them an easy kill before our destroyers/carriers sink their lumbering aft with torpedoes.
The other thing a Pensacola class cruiser can do is take four torpedo hits meant for your fleet carrier and survive. Not that it is a lot of fun making that sacrifice. But when you look at it analytically, that carrier has far more damage potential than you do. Too bad Wargaming doesn't give experience for being such a team player.
But all that isn't the start of my whine. My whine starts with the match maker. At this stage of the open beta, it seems there are lots of Tier V and lower players, and lots of Tier VIII and higher players. Since the Pensacola is a tier VII ship, guess the group with whom you get to play? Did you know a Tier VIII or IX battleship can shoot HE at a Pensacola and sink it with near misses at 18 kilometers? No, I'm not really exaggerating.
I'd like to think the U.S. cruiser line will get better with the New Orléans class, but the damage potential is only 108,360/178,020 because of the loss of a gun. However, six of them fire forward so it is better than a charging Omaha. The Baltimore class only has nine guns as well, and only gets you back to a damage potential commiserate to the Pensacola, but at least it has better armor. It's the Tier X Des Moines that really sings songs of destruction. With its auto-loading 8" guns, its damage potential is a staggering 252,000/450,000! I've only seen one in a match, and thankfully I did not have to go up against it.
I find that I am starting to play as many matches in my Omaha class cruiser as my Pensacola. I kept it as it has torpedoes, and I am finding it more fun to play. I don't like getting brutalized game after game in the Pensacola, and the old Omaha can dish out a potential 146,300/206,150 even taking into account that no more than seven of its guns can be brought to target at any given angle. It makes me want to just use it to go through the rest of the U.S. cruiser line until I can sail a Des Moines. Is that wrong?
So, there's my bitch. Do you agree or disagree with my assessment of the Pensacola, and the top half of the U.S. cruiser line in general? What am I missing? Are lower tier U.S. cruisers just overpowered and in need of a nerf? Does the Pensacola, et al, have any redeeming values beyond their AA capabilities? Let me know in the comments - and thanks.