Sunday, 17 October 2010

Memoir of Battle at Sea: Play-test 1

Despite having had a rather busy weekend, I managed to run a play-test of my MEMOIR OF BATTLE AT SEA naval wargames rules.

I decide to pitch two late nineteenth/early twentieth century coastal defence ships against each other, the Greek Psara and Turkish Messudieh.

These two ships were evenly matched, and might have faced each other in battle had the circumstances arisen.

Turn 1
Both ships began in opposite corners of the battle area.

As soon as they saw each other, they turned so that they were directly heading for each other.

Turn 2
Both ships maintained their current course, and the distance between them began to close.

Turn 3
For the second turn running, neither ship changed its course.

Turn 4
Simultaneously, both ships turned towards each other, and the distance between them closed so that they were almost in range of each other.

Turn 5
They both turned again as they came into range of each other so that they could engage each other with broadsides.

Turn 6
Both ships fired at each other. The Psara threw two 'reds' (i.e. misses) but the Messudieh threw a 'red' (i.e. a miss) and a 'blue' (i.e. a minor hit that cause one point of damage of the Psara).

Both ships then moved forward and turned sixty degrees so that they could still each fire at the other.

Turn 7
Again both ships fired at each other. The Psara's gunfire missed yet again, but the Messudieh threw a 'blue' (a minor hit) and a 'white' (a major hit) which cause the Psara a further three points of damage.

Both ships continued to turn so that they remained broadside on to each other.

Turn 8
This was the decisive turn. Psara fired at the Messudieh and caused her some damage ('white' inflicted a major hit which was worth two points of damage), but in reply, Messudieh threw a 'white' and a 'blue', which caused Psara to suffer a further three points of damage. As she had only had two points of her original six remaining, she sank.

I was pleased with the way the rules worked. In particular, firing before moving rather than the more traditional 'move then fire' approach seemed to work well. I hope to play-test a somewhat more complex scenario next time (possibly two weaker ships against a single stronger ship) before I look at ways of introducing rules that allow ships to fire torpedoes at each other.


  1. Johnny Turk seems to have had a good day of it, damn his eyes.

    I think Bob that this system of yours is worth a playtest at one of your monthly games, to get the full chaos of a catch as catch can sea battle.

    Naturally, the Greek chap should have got close, given the Turk a volley and then boarded him in the smoke...

  2. Hi Bob,

    An interesting read and well in advance of my own efforts! I liked the models and the use of the heroscape terrain tiles. The use of the Psara raised an interesting point in that owing to her unique main battery arrangement (IIRC only the after 10.8" was traversable and I am uncertain about the forward pair but suspect the fire arcs were limited due to the way they were mounted)do you feel that the number of combat dice should be adjusted depending on her firing aspect?

    All the best,


  3. Conrad Kinch,

    The Turks were very lucky ... in reality, the Messudieh was never rearmed after she was rebuilt by the Italians and should have been a push-over for the Greeks!

    Once I have the game mechanisms working as I want them to, I hope to take them to one of the monthly games for a 'try out' with a critical audience.

    All the best,


  4. David Crook,

    Your point about the Psara is well made, but at the moment I am still at the stage of developing a generic set of rules with mechanisms that work. Once I am happy with the generic rules, I intend to move to the more specific. For example, allowing the Psara and her sisters (which were all designed to fight in a line abreast formation rather than in a traditional bow-to-stern line of battle) better fire (i.e. more dice) ahead than abeam or astern.

    I have also begun to think about torpedoes, with ships larger than destroyers only being able to fire torpedoes directly ahead, astern, or abeam (i.e. at 90 degrees to the ship’s side). Destroyers and torpedo boats with trainable torpedo tubes would be allowed to fire at targets that are anywhere that is abeam of them (only destroyers and torpedo boats with fixed bow tubes would be allowed to fire ahead).

    Because of the era I am modelling (the late 19th and early 20th century), the torpedoes will have short ranges (3 hexes?) but will throw three dice regardless of the distance they have to travel.

    All the best,


  5. Another good report Bob.

    Gets me thinking about naval warfare again.

    Now, if you add a hidden table, pix from a digital camera, and a concealed order system, you might have a real fun game.

    Still thinking!!


  6. Jim Duncan,

    You are way ahead of me on this one! I am still crawling and you are running!

    The 'hidden' orders would not be too difficult to add: order counters with what players want their ships to do could be placed face down next to each ship. They can then be turned over after all the players have placed their orders, and the ships are then moved accordingly. This is similar to the order system used in Megablitz, but altered to suit the particular circumstances of naval warfare.

    All the best,


  7. All very interesting, I haven't done a lot of naval gaming and was never on a ship which was firing her guns in anger (as opposed to target practice).

    A couple of comments on comments.

    You mention torpedos being fired at right angles due to fixed launchers. Don;t forget that it takes very little to cause a steam ship to yaw slightly in order to fire a weapon then return to course.

    Written orders are interesting but an alert observer can detect a serious course change in an opposing ship within seconds of it beginning and smaller ones can be spotted in only a little more time so the time lag in responses should not be long. I have played games where the time lag allowed absolutely silly things to happen all too quickly as players followed written turn orders with no ability to react. Perhaps a "maintain range and bearing to enemy vessel" might be a possible order? Its odd but in many ways an inititative roll followed by alternate moves would actually result in a more realistic result with one side initiating maneuvers and the other trying to react.

    Oh dear, I've not been planning to do any naval gaming of my own and now I have iron clad gunboats on my mind.

  8. Ross Mac,

    My thoughts about torpedoes are just that at the moment, and the rules I suggest are just a starting point. As firing is done hex to hex, this should allow for the slight 'spread' that torpedoes undergo due to ship movement.

    Early torpedoes are an interesting subject. Unlike any other ordnance they were fired and fired again during practice (fitted with dummy warheads so that they floated to the surface after they had run their course). Each one had a log book, and the settings were recorded every time they were fired. This was to enable them to be set up so that they could be fired accurately when the 'shooting war' started for real.

    I take you point about written orders. Perhaps the orders should not be issued for each ship but for each flotilla or squadron (unless, of course, it is just a ship vs. ship action). I also take you point about alternating/reactive moves. Perhaps this could be factored in by allowing each side to throw a D6 die for who moves first each move and not just at the beginning of the battle.

    Sorry if thoughts of gunboats are clouding your mind … but I only started down this line of development as a result of a conversation with Ogrefencer, so he should really be the one to take the blame! (Said in jest, by the way!)

    All the best,


  9. Those Heroscape water tiles look good. I'll have to try and get some on eBay (lost all the previous bids...).

  10. Dale,

    I was lucky and got lots of them when I bought a large number of cheap starter sets a couple of years ago. I then 'topped' up the number I had with a couple of successful bids on ebay.

    They went together very easily and quickly, and are do not take up a lot of storage space.

    All the best,


  11. Who produced the ships? Or are they homemade?

  12. Jhnptrqn,

    I made the ships many years ago from balsa wood, thin plywood, and cane (for the funnels). They are 1:3000th scale, but the hulls are oversize to make them easier to see and pick up. The design of the models was based on illustrations of the models made for Fred Jane's Naval War Game.

    All the best,