Naval wargaming

I thought this might be of interest. My adaptation of the “Axis & Allies – War at Sea” game with a little more detail.

Axis and Allies© War at Sea©*

Rules adapted for play on a hexagon grid by Paul Wisken


The original rules can be downloaded here:

The following are rule adaptations allowing the game to be played at a greater detail level on a table with a grid of hexagons 6cm edge-edge.

Copyright of the original rule set and basic game mechanisms is acknowledged.

Basic adaptations to the rules.

The original game comes with a paper map of rectangular sea zones, offset to give a pseudo-hexagonal layout.  I have concerted each zone in the original game to an area of 3 hexagons side to side.  Each hexagon represents about 200 yards/metres, and so the models at scale 1:1800 are 20 times too big for the area represented.  Alternatively a large gymnasium floor would be required to play.  Even at this scale it is sometimes required to shift all the models across the table so that the lead ship does not fall off the edge of the world!

The ship and aircraft cards give information about the performance of each type of ship or aircraft unit.  To play this game you will need the original game cards or extensive comparative research about the ships involved to determine the fighting capabilities.

An original card shows movement and firing ranges as sea areas.  My adaptations are:

Movement is determined as the claimed historical maximum speed in KpH/10 rounded up or down.  Thus a ship that could do 67 KpH will move a maximum of 7 hexagons.

Attack ranges from the data card are interpreted in hexagon ranges as:

0 = 1 hex, 1 = 2-4 hexes, 2 = 5-7 hexes, 3 = 8-10 hexes, 4 = 11-13 hexes, 5 = 14-16 hexes, 6 = 17-19 hexes.

The ship card will indicate these ranges and the number of dice rolled at each range for each weapon type.

Units (ships and aircraft) also have individual special characteristics detailed on the card, indicated on the adapted card with *.

Here is an example of one adapted card.  For copyright reasons I cannot publish all the cards used.

Tribal Class Destroyer
Vital armour7
Hull Points2
Main Guns6@1, 5@7
2nd Gunsx
3rd Gunsx
AA Guns5@1
Depth Charge5@1
* Chase the Salvoes
* Valiant Stand

The concepts of Armour, Vital Armour and Hull points are explained in the official rule booklet.

Only one base may occupy one hexagon at any one time.  In general a ship up to destroyer size occupies one hexagon; cruisers, carriers and small battleships occupy two hexagons and large ships like Bismarck and Prince of Wales three hexagons.  This means that Bismarck needs 600m x 200m of sea room.



Weather rules are explained in the game rule book.

Order of play.


At the start of each turn both players roll two dice and add any flagship bonus

The winner plays second, after seeing his opponent’s move.  The loser becomes the First Player for this turn.

Sea Movement

Both players move their ships in turn, starting with the first player, who moves all, any or none of his ships.

Then the second player moves his ships.

Each ship may move forward up to the maximum speed shown on the ship card.

To turn by 60 degrees, reduce the speed by 1.  Every ship must first move at least its own length before turning by 60 degrees.  Long ships (>1 hex) pivot by the stern when turning.  If turning more than once in a move, the ship must make a forward move of its own length between each turn.  Exception:  Submerged submarines may make one free 60 degree turn before moving 1 hexagon.

Any ship that moved >1 hexagon last turn must move at least 1 hexagon forwards this turn.  Any ship that is hove to or moored may move 1 hex astern.  It is useful to have small tokens indicating slow or stopped status.


Any ship entering a hexagon adjacent to any land area, unless a dockside, is deemed to have run aground and is out of the battle. 

Sinking ships are obstructions and are subject to the rule for collisions.

A ship that would move into a hexagon occupied by another ship (including sinking ships) is deemed to have collided.  This may be deliberate (i.e. ramming a submarine to sink her).  Both ships rolls 1 D6, halves the result rounding down, and takes that many points of hull damage.  Clearly a ship already sinking does not roll.


A submerged submarine is indicated by a translucent submarine model or a blue token.  The heading of the submarine must be indicated, even when submerged.

When a submarine submerges, replace it with a submerged token and roll 1D6.  Divide by 2 rounding down and add that number of dummy tokens.  These will be identical to the real submarine but marked underneath as dummies.  Next turn all the tokens may set off in various directions to confuse the enemy.

A submarine on the surface is represented by a model like any surface ship.  It may still use torpedoes and also one deck gun (normally 1 die @ range 4).  Speed on the surface is increased but is now subject to normal ship movement rules.

Air Missions

Each Carrier has a designated number of flights of aircraft.  Aircraft have a minimum and maximum speed.  They may turn as many times as wished without a move reduction, but only one 60 degree turn per 1 hex forward move.  Aircraft attack only directly forwards, and so must face the edge of a hexagon at the end of their move.  The attack range is normally 1 hexagon.

Aircraft must take off towards the forward end of a carrier, moving 1 hex straight ahead in line with the ship before the first turn, and land towards the stern end moving 1 hex straight ahead in line with the ship after the last turn.  On the take-off and landing, minimum distances do not apply.

Normally aircraft will be able to fly for the duration of the battle.  Any restrictions must be included in the scenario notes.  However, after making an attack, they must return to the carrier (or land base) for re-armament.  When taking off, each flight must be assigned a face-down counter showing its armament (Depth Charge, Bomb or Torpedo).   Depth charges, and only depth charges, may be used against submerged submarines.  Torpedoes and bombs may be used against any ship or submarine on the surface.  Both weapons attack at 1 hex range.

When returning to the carrier, each flight is marked as “re-arming”.  This lasts for one full turn before the flight may take off again.

A carrier may not launch aircraft and receive returning aircraft in the same turn.

Only one flight of aircraft may attack one hexagon of a ship in any one turn.  Thus a large ship occupying three hexagons may be attacked by three flights.

Air Defence

Each German ship with enemy aircraft within 1 hex range may fire AA guns.  See the ship card for details.

Note that AA shooting against British Swordfish aircraft is at -1 dice.

Air Attack

Aircraft may make torpedo attacks against enemy ships 1 hex directly ahead with 2 dice per flight.

Surface Attack

Surface ships (i.e. not aircraft or submerged submarines) may fire with main guns, secondary guns, tertiary guns, torpedoes and depth charges as appropriate and as shown on the ship card.  However, guns, torpedoes and depth charges are mutually exclusive.  Only one type of attack may be used in one turn.

The first player makes his attacks, followed by the second player.  Ships damaged in the first players attack may return fire, even if destroyed.


Gunnery effect is divided between forward guns, rear guns and broadside.  Effectively forward guns may fire in an arc of 120 degrees from the front face of the front hexagon of the ship.  Rear guns may fire in an arc of 120 degrees from the rear face of the stern hexagon.  The hexagon grid should make the angles obvious.  Any part of the target may be in the arc for it to be hit.  A metre rule is useful for adjudication.

A broadside is anything within 60 degrees of the centre side point of the front and rear hexagons.

There must be a clear line of sight from the shooting hexagon to the target hexagon, with no intervening ships, smoke or land.

Main, secondary and tertiary guns can fire with half dice rounded up at targets in the forward arc, with half dice rounded down at targets in the rearward arc and with full dice at targets in the broadside arc.

Each salvo (Main, secondary, tertiary guns) is resolved separately.  The guns need not shoot at the same target.  Forward and rear guns may engage different targets.

If two ships attack one, each attack is resolved separately and damage is registered separately, not cumulative.



Many ships are armed with torpedoes that fire from the side of the vessel.

It is not possible to use torpedoes and guns in the same turn.

The ranges are as for gunnery (1,4,7 hexagons).

Torpedoes are fired measuring 60 degrees from the central point on the warship, again using the hexagon grid for guidance.

Torpedo attacks cause 2 points of hull damage on a roll of 6


Depth Charges

Depth Charges against submarines can only be made if gunnery and/or torpedoes have not been used.

Depth Charges may be launched into the three hexes to the rear of the ship, port, starboard and directly astern.   Each hex may receive 1/3 of the total dice for depth charges, rounding up, so long as the total is not exceeded.  For example, 5 dice may be allocated as 2 each side and 1 directly astern.

Submarine attacks

Submarines, submerged or on the surface, may attack ships with torpedoes, shooting directly ahead from their actual position and heading.

Air Return

Aircraft may now return to the carriers, in the last part of movement aligning with the flight deck.

Any failure results in destruction.

Movement Rules

A ship may move up to its maximum allowance.  To make a turn each ship must move its own length forwards before each 60 degree turn, even if it moved directly forwards last turn.  Turning by 60 degrees reduces the speed by 1 hex.

Aircraft: Operate in flights of 3, or as single bombers.  A flight must move between the minimum and maximum hexagons per turn.  There is no turn penalty but the flight must move 1 hexagon forward before turning again.


In all cases of gunnery, torpedo attacks, torpedo and AA the procedure is similar.  Roll the number of dice indicated on the attacker’s card, including bonus dice.

  1. Each 4 or 5 is one hit, 6 is two hits. (Torpedoes only hit on 6)
  2. Compare hits against the defender’s Defence: Armour and Vital Armour. (Torpedoes only cause hull damage)
  3. If number of hits >= armour, 1 point of hull damage.
  4. If number of hits >= vital armour, target sunk/destroyed.


If a ship or submarine takes one damage point it is marked as damaged.

If an aircraft flight takes one damage point the attack is aborted and the flight returns to the carrier under normal flight conditions.


If any ship or submarine is reduced to 1 hull point, it is “crippled”.

A crippled ship reduces its armour, vital armour and speed by 1 (minimum 1 each).

A crippled ship reduces its attack by 1 die.


Any ship that has accumulated damage up to its hull points is sunk.

Any ship that has accumulated damage to its vital armour is destroyed.

Sinking ships

A ship that has been destroyed is replaced with a sinking marker occupying 1 hexagon.  Roll 1D6 and a marker die showing that number is placed by the wreck.  At the end of each turn the number is reduced by 1 and when reduced to 0 the marker is removed.  While a ship is sinking it is an obstacle to movement (see above).


Mines are indicated by tokens in the minefield hexagons. 

A ship with minesweeping capability may clear mines during the surface attack phase of the turn instead of shooting.  Roll 1 die for each adjacent mine.  Remove it with a roll of 4-6.

Any ship (including minesweepers) entering a hexagon with a mine must roll a die.

1=ship destroyed, 2-3 = 2 points of hull damage, 4-5 = 1 point of hull damage, 6 = no damage.

 * “Axis & Allies” and “War at Sea” are copyright titles of Wizards of the Coast.

Published by

General Whiskers

Wargaming butterfly (mainly solo), unpainted model figure amasser, and Historical Re-enactor of the black powder era.

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