I personally prefer Rear Admiral mode, not because of any failings in the AI but because I like to manage my screen units closely. Major course changes with a large fleet can result in all manner of confusion because the AI cannot anticipate your orders. So, in RA mode, I can re-position the screen and scouting units in advance of the turn and minimize the confusion. In action I tend to pretty much leave everything except the lead division under AI command but the only correct way to play is whatever you (or any Player) finds most satisfactory.
Discussions of "realism" in any wargame or simulation strikes me as being similar to discussing how many angels can swim in the head of a beer. Everybody has a different opinion and a point of view that works for them but perhaps not for somebody else. All that matters is whether it meets your test for "realism", whatever that might be.
SAI has a considerable amount of doctrine under the hood and there are some Force commands (like Flotilla Attack and Disengage) that can be very handy. Divisions have their own variables, they will generally conform but may stray on occasion. The "Core" command is a good control measure in Admiral's mode.
There is no system in SAI to specifically simulate "TA" as a unique command for manoeuvring in action. However, "TA" was predicated on the flagship acting as guide of the fleet and this is not always the case, particularly in the North Sea where a subordinate squadron commander led the line. A "Core" role for subordinate divisions can provide the effect of "TA" in action since game doctrine emphasises the line ahead for capital ships.
For those who might not be aware, "TA" was the flag hoist used by the Royal Navy which essentially ordered subordinates to "Watch the movements of the Admiral closely as un-signalled course and speed changes may occur". Once "TA" was ordered, ship captain's were expected to use their initiative to conform to the Admiral's movements automatically without further signals and avoid collisions with friendly ships. Other navies had similar manoeuvre doctrines but there is little evidence to indicate that this was a common place or well exercised doctrine anywhere in the Steam and Iron era.
I would say in my opinion admiral's mode is the more realistic, but even then you will have a far better overview of the situation than the admirals at the time had. But it is really a matter of taste what you like the most.
The game does not handle the TA system or signals in specific details, but tries to recreate the overall command and control difficulties of the WW1 era.
Edit: Wrote this at the same time as Randomizers post above, his response is more reasoned and detailed than mine.
Last Edit: Jan 3, 2014 13:51:52 GMT -5 by Fredrik W
my impression is that, using admiral mode, and using core command, you're using TA system, more or less But in WW1 there was Wireless and of course flag signals (unfrtunately for british fleet, according to gordon). Reading some book, I've seen a lot of 'tentative command signals' from our admirals, like scheer charge at jutland, ore beatty's "attack enemy rear".
I mean: 1. My impression is that playing in rear admiral could simulate better "what they (our admirals) try to do (command their fleets)
2. But, we know, the result of their orders was a very very different matter. I.e. fleets that go where they (admirals) didn't want, etc. From that point of view, in my opinion, rear admiral seems to me to be too much 'modern', of course
3. But then, Admiral mode seems to me more realistic as far as the effective results of their orders (what really happened)
It's a very complex matter, I know
thank you for you answers, I think I'll continue to play admiral's mode -)