These are wargame rules used for the naval battles from the 17th century to the end of the War of the Napoleonic wars.

It simplifies both sailing and combat to make a game which lasts as long as your patience! For this game, you will need ships and a large playing surface.

The Wind.

The direction of North needs to be decided on the play surface table. The game makes use of a simple compass, for indicating wind direction and ships turning circle. The starting wind direction can be set to any of the eight point compass positions, with battles fought in the Atlantic, Medditeranean likley to get prevailing west winds, whilst those in the Carribean are likely to be east winds. In addition, a counter showing the current wind speed (ranging from 1 to 7) is required. At the start of the game, the wind speed is set to 4. At the end of each round, a dice is thrown and the wind changes accordingly. The wind direction is adjusted, by the Venti (the Gods of the winds) by rolling a die. 1 = move wind 1 points anticlockwise. 2-5 = no change to current wind direction 6 = move wind 1 points clockwise. Also at the end of each round the wind speed is adjusted by rolling a die. 1 = reduce wind speed 1 level 2-5 = no change to current wind speed 6 = increase wind speed by 1 level Thus the Gods, or if you will, chance will constantly move the wind during a battle.

Movement

The scale of movement of the ships is 1 cm = 1 unit of distance. To find the maximum speed a ship may sail at, multiply the current wind speed, moderated by its current Points of Sail (angle to the wind) by the total amount of movement the ship may have, found from the number of masts. The Points of Sail are shown below.

If the ship is moving at a direction of +45° to the wind (close hauled), then reduce the speed by one. If the ship is moving at a direction of +45° to 135° to the wind (beam reached to broad reached), then increase the speed by one. If the ship is moving at a direction of +180° (running by the wind), then the wind speed is unaffected.

So, for example, if a ship of the line has 3 masts and the wind speed is 4 and it’s sailing +180° (running by the wind), the ship may move 3×4 = 12 units of distance, which equals 12 cm. If the wind increased to strength 5, the maximum distance increases to 3×5 = 15 units, which is 15 cm.

If the wind increased to strength 5, and the ship is sailing +90° (beam reached) the maximum distance increases to 3×6 = 18 units, which is 18 cm. If the wind increased to strength 5, and the ship is sailing +45° (close hauled) the maximum distance increases to 3×4 = 12 units, which is 12 cm.

Note that lower rated ships (including Pirate ships and Frigates) have a main mast which gives them 2 units of movement per wind speed, so undamaged, sailing +180° (running by the wind), with a wind speed of 4, they would have a maximum movement allowance of (2X1 +1X2) x4 = 16 units of distance, which equals 16 cm.

The minimum speed any ship may make in one move is 1 cm. Losing masts in combat reduces maximum movement by the level indicated from the number of masts left. Alternatively, if all masts have been shot away, the ship will drift 1 unit in the direction of the wind. Ships may repair fallen masts by throwing one dice per turn; getting a 6 repairs the mast, but the crew cannot man their guns or board another ship whilst they attempt to repair their masts. Ships may sail in any direction, except directly into wind, when tacking alternatively to port and starboard by one compass point allows a ship to head into wind (Example if the wind is due south, a ship may not sailing a due north direction, but must tack from NE to NW in order to progress in a northerly direction).

All ships must use the 16 point turning circle below to change direction (each point takes one unit of movement, i.e 1 cm).

Thus to alter course by 90° would take 4 units of movement, i.e 4 cm.

Conventionally, ships in squadrons follow the leading ship and turn at the position this ship did, holding a line of battle. Pirates however can only sail independently of each other.

A ship may drop anchor and cannot move until an entire move has passed to raise the anchor again. Ships passing over shoals or mudflats marked on the playing surface do so at their peril, for they must throw a dice and a score of 1, 2, 3 indicates they founder and cannot move again until they throw a 6 and refloat.

The Ships and Damage Records

You need damage records for each ship to log the damage that each sustains. Damage records for ships in the navies of England {(Commonwealth(1648 – 1660), Royal Navy (1660 to 1707) and (1708 to 1800) }, France {La Royale (1618 to 1789)}, Netherlands {United Provinces (1648-1795}, Spain {Armada Española (1660 to 1796)} and Privateers can be found below:-

Ship damage sheets

Each ship is named, and has 3 gun decks on both the port and starboard side (with the exception of Pirate and Frigate ships, which have only 2 gun decks), 3 masts and 3 hull integrity units. The ships are numbered on their mounting card and named. The masts indicate how much each contributes to the movement. The gun decks are shown separately for port and starboard, each allowing a single dice to be thrown when firing or in hand to hand fighting. As damage ensures, these cells are marked off one by one.

Combat

Combat occurs either by firing or boarding another ship. Each gun deck has an arc of fire of 90 degrees. Port side has a fire arc of NE to SE and the starboard side NW to SW if the foredeck is N. Each gun deck can fire once per round and uses 1 dice throw when firing to indicate whether damage is inflicted.

Each gun deck in the arc may fire once in the round at any point in a players move.

The firing player must declare before the dice are thrown if he is aiming for the masts, or the gun decks then roll the dice, one for each gun deck shooting. If the result on each dice is equal or greater than the value indicated in the range table below, a hit is scored and the gun deck or hull is irretrievably damaged. Sails may be repaired as outlined earlier.

Score for hit on  Hull (gun decks)  or Sails
Range
0- 4cm                3-6                             4-6
4- 8cm                4-6                             5-6
8-12cm               5-6                                 6

The following ruler shows the scores needed at each range.

If gun decks were selected as the target, then each hit will knock out one gun deck on the side you are firing at. If sails were chosen then each hit will remove a mast. If it is a broad side, then the owner of the target ship chooses which mast. If however the hit came from the fore or aft, then the masts will be removed in order from the fore or aft onwards along the ship. Firing directly from the stern creates equal damage to both sides of the ship, making it particularly effective in damaging ships.

If a firing player manages to get a pair of sixes in the firing round, the target catches on fire. In the next round the ship on fire must throw a 5 or 6 to put the fire out. If unsuccessful, the fire grows and in the next round,

the ship must throw a 6 to put the fire out. If unsuccessful, the ship blows up and is immediately sunk and removed from the game. All ships within 12cm of this explosion risk catching fire themselves. Use the range table above for damaging hulls to determine if any other ships catch on fire.

If all gun decks and the hull markers are lost, the ship is prone to sinking in high seas (when the wind speed reaches 6 or higher in the game). For each move that ships in this damaged state sail in high seas, if a 1 or 2 is thrown, the ship will sink.

Boarding a ship occurs when two ships contact each other. A battle ensues with each remaining gun deck giving a dice throw for the ship. Simply total the score for each ship from the number of dice thrown for each gun deck. The highest total wins and captures the opposing ship. Once the ships are in contact, it takes a throw of 6 on a dice to disentangle them. On separating, the captured ship must be manned by at least one gun deck from the winning ship. The gun deck must be marked off on the ships record, and it can no longer contribute to the winning ships combat effectiveness. The transferred crew is the captured ships new combat potential and mans the gun decks accordingly.

Game Sequence

Define wind direction and strength.

Players lay out their fleets.

Both players dice for who moves first, winner moves first.

Player 1 Fire removal stage (5,6 first turn, 6 second turn. Immediate explosion if unsuccessful, check to see other ships catch fire).

Tries to separate any entangled ships if desired.

Tries to refloat any ships foundered on shoals.

Checks to see if severely damaged ships (no gundecks or hull integrity units) sink in high seas (wind speed greater than 5 units). The ship will immediately sink if a 1 or 2 is thrown.

Moves their ships and checks if any ships foundered on shoals when first encountering them.

Combat exchange via broadsides or boarding with enemy at the end of the movement phase.

Player 2 repeats sequence above.

Round restarts by redefining wind direction and strength according to die rolls.

1 = move wind 1 points anticlockwise.

2-5 = no change to current wind direction

6 = move wind 1 points clockwise

and

1 = reduce wind speed 1 level

2-5 = no change to current wind speed

6 = increase wind speed by 1 level

The winner is the Admiral inflicting the most damage on the opposing fleet.

Age of Sail

The rules are a simplified version of naval combat during the Age of Sail, and provide very interesting if turbulent games!

Contact the author using the comments page below if you would like further details on how to use them.