Mediaeval Naval Warfare – the rules

These rules are yet to be play-tested. Look out for a battle report soon.

Ship Value and Damage

Each ship has a starting value of 6, indicated by a 7mm die carried on the base. (An average die may be rolled for variety)

Allegiance is shown by the colour of the die.

As damage is inflicted, the ship value is reduced. This reflects loss of soldiers rather than physical damage to the ship, except in the case of collisions.

Wind Direction and Strength

At the start of the game roll 1D6 for wind direction and 1 average die for wind strength.

Place the wind indicator on the table.

At the start of each turn roll a die for wind strength.  6 means it increases by 1, 1 means it decreases by 1.

At the start of each turn roll a die for wind direction.  6 means it veers 1 point clockwise, 1 means it backs 1 point anti-clockwise.

If the wind speed reaches 6, at the start of each turn, every ship must roll 1D6.  On a roll of 1 it is dismasted and henceforth drifts 1 hexagon per turn downwind.

Turn Sequence

Each ship is allocated a card, and the cards are shuffled and dealt for the sequence of movement.

Boarding is carried out immediately after movement.

Then the cards are shuffled and dealt again for the sequence of shooting.

Ship Speeds

Updated from the original post. Here is a new table.

From aft112233
From the quarter001122
From the beam000111
From the bow000000

One 60 degree turn may be made at the start of the move.  The ship moves according to its new heading.


This reflects the activity of longbowmen, crossbowmen and the occasional firearm.

Range is 1 hexagon.

If the target is in one of the 3 hexagons to the front of the ship, shooting value is half the ship value, rounding down.

If the target is in one of the 3 hexagons to the rear of the ship, shooting value is half the ship value, rounding up.

Two enemy ships may be targeted at the same time, one forward and one aft.

Roll one die for each target and subtract the result from the shooting value.  The remainder is the damage inflicted on the enemy ship.

Collision and Boarding

If a ship enters a hexagon occupied by another ship a collision occurs.  It halts.

If friendly, both ships take one damage point, and on the next turn of either they separate.

If colliding with an enemy, both ships take one damage point, and the non-active ship may be grappled and boarded.

Both ships roll 1D6 and add their current value.  If the attacker wins, the ship is captured. Replace the allegiance die.  If the defender wins, the attack is repulsed.  The ships separate on the next turn of either.

End of game

The game ends when one side has no ships remaining on the table, whether sunk or abandoned (reduced to 0 strength), captured or retreated.

Mediaeval naval gaming

Following my recent foray into naval wargaming in the late 18th century, I read an article about the battle of Sluys in 1340.

Naval battles of the time were more like land battles aboard ships, but I thought I would have a go at adapting my naval rules to the period.

I remembered that I had in the loft a boxed game of “Mighty Empires” that includes 15 model cogs, so I dug them out for use.

After painting with some drab colours, and adding some colour on the shields around the fore- and stern-castles, I had this

And then cut out some MDF bases and added 7mm die holders for strength counting, I am ready for battle.

Next post. The rules.

Gaming again

It’s been far too long since I posted here, or had anything worth posting about. For the last six months I have been out of sorts with my wargaming. I have had three eye operations and have been unable to paint models. Even now my focussing is not good, but I am making a start. I have also had to deal with the aftermath of my mother’s death in February and have had problems with alcohol abuse to boot.

A couple of weeks ago I spent a weekend with the Featherstone wargamers and it kickstarted my gaming again. I know that OI have several stalled projects but instead I have been looking for inspiration at “one-off” games from magazine articles. One such is described below.


The scenario is based on an action which took place on 13th January 1797 in which the French 74 gun 3rd rate ship “Droits De L’Homme”, battling her way back to Brest after a failed invasion attempt on Ireland, was intercepted by two smaller British ships; HMS Indefatigable (44 guns) and HMS amazon (36 guns).  The action and scenario are described in “Wargames, Soldiers and Strategy” magazine No. 117.

The scenario is described for use with “Black Seas” rules.  I recently bought a copy of these rules but have none of the equipment needed, and besides I prefer something simpler, so I used my own rules.  My model ships are taken from the collectible game “Pirates”, but there are very few models larger than frigates in the game collection.

Thus I took the largest French ship in my collection, the “Duc De Burgoyne”, with a gunnery rating of 4 dice, and two British ships in proportion.  If a rating of 4 represents 74 guns, then 44 and 36 guns round to 3 and 2 dice respectively.  So here are my three ships with their cards.  The two British brigs are HMS Cumberland and HMS Gallowglass.

Here is a sample ship card.

The scenario states that the French enter from the South and the British from the North.  I randomised the entry points by rolling 2 dice and counting hexagons from the west table edge.  I rolled 5 for the French, 6 and 10 for the British. Normally I would roll 5 dice, but there is a gale blowing from the west, and ships will tend to move eastwards.  I set the wind at maximum strength 6.  This has two effects.  First, all ships must move one hex downwind at the end of their planned move.  Second, three-deckers cannot use their lower gun-ports, so the gunnery dice are reduced by one.

Each turn the wind will be rolled for and if a one is rolled, it is reduced by one level.  A subsequent roll of 6 will increase it again.

Turn 1

HMS Cumberland moved first.  Heading south-west with the wind on her bow she moved 1 hexagon, then was blown 1 hex eastward.  HMS Gallowglass moved similarly.  Finally the Duc De Burgoyne moved 1 hex to the north-east and was blown 1 hex to the east.

No shooting was possible (maximum range being 3 hexes), so I continued to move the ships until they were close to coming in range.

Turn 6

Cumberland moved first, followed by the Duc de Burgoyne and finally Gallowglass.  If Gallowglass continued on her course she would come within medium range of Burgoyne’s broadside.  She turned to port and with the wind on her quarter sailed rapidly past Burgoyne, ending up at long range.

Shooting.  Cumberland was still out of range.  Burgoyne fired first, with 3 dice at long range, rolling 3,4,5.  Only the 5 was a hit, and 3 hits are needed to do damage at long range.  Gallowglass returned fire with two dice, rolling 5,6.  5 is one hit and 6 is two hits, so the necessary 3 hits were made, inflicting one point of damage.  Burgoyne’s value was reduced to 4 and her gunnery dice to 2.

Turn 7

The wind abated to strength 5.  Storm conditions were removed.  No more drifting downwind and Burgoyne could use her lower ports, so back to 3 dice for gunnery.  Gallowglass turned to starboard and moved out of Burgoyne’s broadside arc.  Burgoyne turned to starboard, bringing Gallowglass back into long range. Finally Cumberland moved 1 hex and turned to starboard, into the wind.

Gallowglass fired first and missed.  Burgoyne replied with 1,6,6 for four hits on Gallowglass, reducing her value to 2 and her gunnery dice to 1.

Turn 8

Burgoyne turned to starboard and moved towards Cumberland.  Gallowglass turned to port with the intention of circling back to intercept Burgoyne.  Cumberland, facing into the wind, was only able to turn to starboard.  No ship had a target.

Turn 9

Cumberland turned to starboard and passed in front of Burgoyne, which turned to port and drew alongside.  Gallowglass turned to port and ran eastwards.  Cumberland fired first.  3 dice at short range failed to hit.  Burgoyne’s reply scored 1 hit for 1 damage point on Cumberland.  Gallowglass had no target.

Turn 10

Cumberland turned across the bows of Burgoyne, which turned to conform.  Gallowglass turned to port and moved to re-join the fray.  Cumberland fired at close range, rolling 6,6,6 for 6 points of damage, sinking the Duc de Burgoyne.

A sudden and unexpected end!

The game took an hour and a half including set-up, photography and typing the report.