The thing I really wish for is a detailed text report available in the logs, showing round-by-round combat results for ALL combats (including when I lose a ship). It's slightly frustrating to lose ships without knowing what they ran into, and how to better prepare for such an opponent.
This type of stuff is really going backward to paper and pencil rpg type of gaming.
That's what's going on. If you really want to understand the game, you have to accept that you can't fly magically out to look at the battles as you could in "Age of Sail." You have to mentally picture the battles. BTW, The Age of Sail
was an exceptionally crude, simplistic game which is\was not very historically accurate at all. And besides it gives the illusion of commanding a ship from a god's eye in the sky instead of from on the deck with limited information and less than perfect command and control. There is no strategy in it; it's a first person shooter in war game drag.
... giving it some thought, I think you are right, directly controling the combat goes against the type of gameplay that makes up Tropico 2, it is an administration game and not directly controled strategy game. It would still be nice to watch sea and land battles, but a lot more work for something you don"t have effect over. ... If you have ever tried Age of Sail which stays strictly to realistism of old sailing ships, it is like watching a snail race, ...
The issue is to learn the structure of the computer battle algorithm for the ships you send out. Where you send them; how you equip them, and the orders you give them. That's what wins the battles. What happens at sea is just a weighted decision logic tree with a little randomness here and there for flavor. It's no secret. The developers described it here and in the manual and strategy guide that comes with the game.
The problem that most players have is that they wish to learn gameplay intuitively with a few tries at playing. For this game you really do have to read the background.
The Pirate King in the game provides the where-with-all for the NPC captains to win and bring home the loot from the sea. In the magical mists of the game design, there are national admirals doing the same thing (without the same kind of captives) matching moves to put the Pirate King out of business.
IMHO, the game works best with fleets of the heavier ships cruising where the richest prizes are while some lighter ships explore and pull a few smash & grab hits on rich towns.