Saturday, 8 July 2017

Are You Sure They Should Be Black? Revision 1

Well, as vaguely threatened, I have revised my 1:3600 ancient galley rules. They are below.

Not that I imagine anyone will be particularly interested. Whenever I post about something naval the pave views crash. That probably says more about the interests of wargamers than anything else.

1 Models: The models are based on consistently sized bases, I use 20 mm by 10 mm, but I doubt it matters too much.

2 Ship types: the types of ship available are penteconter, trireme, quinquereme, hexereme and merchant. Penteconters are size 1, triremes and merchants are size 2, quinquereme and bigger are size 3.

3 Seamanship: each vessel will have a seamanship rating ranging from 1-6. This reflects the abilities of the captain and crew to manoeuver the vessel both in and out of combat. 1 is ‘which end of this thing goes in the water?’ and 6 is ‘Oxford and Cambridge boat race? Pah! Amateurs.’ If you want to assign seamanship randomly, it is best to use an average ide. The Athenians can get a +1 to this, because they practiced.

4 Formation: Ships can either be on their own or in formation. In a formation, the ships are in edge to edge base contact. The seamanship for a formation is the seamanship of the lead vessel of the formation which is usually the flagship.

5 Movement: Movement is at the rate of the slowest ship in the formation. Normal movement for an independent ship is three base depths (so, 60 mm in my basing system). Movement in formation is 2 base depths.

6 Formation Changes: Ships usually proceeded in line ahead, and then turned to line abreast for combat. This takes one command point to achieve. No ship may move more than its normal independent ship movement to achieve this.

7 Manoeuvre: ships not in formation can move in any direction is they have sufficient room. Formations may turn by wheeling; the inner ship remains stationary except for changing face, the outer ship moves its maximum distance towards the required direction, and the rest conform to that movement.

8 Combat: combat is by matched seamanship rolls. Each side adds to their seamanship a D6, and adjusts for tactical factors. In single ship combat the loser is rammed. In formation combat the loser’s formation is disrupted and the victor’s ships can close in and fight at an initial advantage. Transport ships cannot ram, but may defend themselves.

9 Tactical Factors: +1 having a larger formation; -1 facing more than one group (unless you have more than one group); -1 single ship facing a group; +1 per size difference between attacker and defender vessel (see #2); +2 victorious formation closing in; +2 ramming from the flank.

10 Outcomes: losers in ship to ship combat are rammed. Rammed ships are removed. Place markers where the ships are sunk, as ancient ships rarely sank except in rough weather; rammed ships were usually submerged. Ships may not cross locations where ships have been rammed and sunk. Victors will need to withdraw at least one base depth before resuming normal movement.

11 Command: each side receives 1D6 command points. An individual ship or formation costs 1 command point to start or stop movement. Each side may bid up to their total command points to obtain the first move in the turn. A turn consists of the movement of both sides and any combat.

12 Terrain: most ancient battles were fought near shorelines. Ships and formations next to shore lines (within one move of them) must make seamanship rolls (one per turn) to avoid running aground. Formations failing seamanship rolls are broken up and next turn the ships must roll individually. Individual ships failing seamanship rolls run aground and are stuck until a seamanship roll is successful; for each turn stuck, a 1 rolled on 1D6 indicates the ship is holed and it must be removed.

13 Reforming: formations may reform (or form ex nihilo) if all ships in the potential formation are not in combat. A formation takes 2 command points per ship to form. An individual ship may join a formation for 2 command points.


  1. FWIW from someone who has done only a fairly superficial amount of reading about and wargaming of ancient naval warfare, based purely on a read through, these look quite reasonable and effective to me.

    1. Thanks Ross. I think they do work, and they are fast. Most ancient naval rules seem to be for handfuls of ships; these would, I think, work for hundreds.

  2. I just stumbled on this page while researching 1/3600 ancient naval games. Do you have a play-test version of your rules available on the blog? I'd be interested to try something in this scale, where squadron formations are actually important and not an afterthought.

    1. This is the play test version.

      Do feel free to give them a go. If you have any comments or questions do let me know.