Sunday, 1 February 2015

The Portable Naval Wargame revisited

Before looking at the possible introduction of some of the elements of my existing PORTABLE NAVAL WARGAME rules into my 'new' Ironclad vs. Ironclad rules, I decided to stage a re-fight of one of my recent play-tests using my PORTABLE NAVAL WARGAME: PRE-DREADNOUGHT rules.

I rated each of my Rams as Ironclad/Coastal Defence Battleships and gave them temporary names. The model with the pronounced ram bow was named Rambeau (as per Archduke Piccolo's suggestion) and the other was named Furious (well it did get sunk twice during the first play-tests!).

Rambeau vs. Furious
As before I set up an unencumbered 12 deep by 10 wide grid of blue Hexon II hexes. The opposing warships were placed on the rows of hexes furthest from each other and 5 hexes in from their respective left-hand column of hexes, with Rambeau being closest to the camera in the following image.

The battle began with the Furious trying to close the range as quickly as possible whereas the Rambeau turned to port in order to be able to fire broadsides at her enemy when the range closed.

Both ships maintained their courses ...

... until their guns came into range. The Furious managed to hit the Rambeau twice, but the Rambeau was only able to do half that amount of damage to the Furious when she returned fire.

Events then began to favour the Rambeau, whose subsequent broadside did sufficient damage to the Furious that the latter was forced to turn away. The Furious was not out of the fight by any means, and her return fire inflicted further damage upon the Rambeau, forcing her to break off from the battle as well.

As neither ship prevailed, the battle was drawn.

I was somewhat surprised by the fact that this battle was so short and felt less satisfactory than the two Ironclad vs. Ironclad play-tests I had previously staged.

After some thought I came to the conclusion that the individual Ship's Flotation Points and Critical Point (i.e. the point at which a ship is forced to break off action due to damage) in my PORTABLE NAVAL WARGAME: PRE-DREADNOUGHT rules is too low for a single ship vs. single ship action. I also felt that the movement rates and turning rules in my PORTABLE NAVAL WARGAME: PRE-DREADNOUGHT rules were not right for the size of the playing surface, and preferred the shorter and simpler movement rate and turning rules in the Ironclad vs. Ironclad rules.

I do feel that the gunnery rules in my PORTABLE NAVAL WARGAME: PRE-DREADNOUGHT rules work better than those in the Ironclad vs. Ironclad rules, but that the option to disable an enemy ship which is included in the latter rules is something that I would like to think about including in any future pre-dreadnought era naval wargame rules.

The Ironclad vs. Ironclad rules do place great emphasis on ramming whereas my PORTABLE NAVAL WARGAME: PRE-DREADNOUGHT rules do not. (My original PORTABLE NAVAL WARGAME: 1860 to 1870 rules do included ramming rules, but I removed them when I wrote the pre-dreadnought version.) In the Ironclad vs. Ironclad rules a rammed ship is deemed to be automatically sunk, which I think is too drastic a result. My personal opinion is that ramming should be used to administer the coup de grace to an already damaged enemy ship and not as a ship's primary weapon.

My PORTABLE NAVAL WARGAME: PRE-DREADNOUGHT include rules for locomotive torpedoes whereas the Ironclad vs. Ironclad rules do not. Any rules that I do end up writing as a result of melding these two sets of rules together will have to include rules for torpedoes, but like ramming they should be seen as a coup de grace weapon rather than as a major warship's primary weapon.

This was an interesting play-test, and it raised quite a few matters that require further thinking. I hope that as a result of this I will end up with a set of very simple, fast-play naval wargame rules for the ironclad era ... and if I don't, I will have had fun trying!


  1. That looks like a useful as well as enjoyable game.

    Given the sorts of time and distance scales that appear to be involved, I would think that any ship not dead in the water might be able to carry out last minute evasive manoeuvres represented perhaps by a modified contested die roll. A successful attack could then be seen as deadly.

    I'm sure you'll find a good answer but if I find myself making little toy ships, I'll know which 2 bloggers to blame.

  2. Ross Mac,

    It was a very enjoyable and useful battle, which has given me something to think about,

    What an excellent suggestion regarding the rules! I will look closely at how I can incorporate it into the next draft of my rules.

    As an ex-member of the RCN I would have thought that a few extra model ships would be have been a totally acceptable addition to your collection!

    All the best,


  3. Keep at it Bob. How do you think the rules will work with small fleets of ships?

  4. Conrad Kinch,

    I have a rather busy week ahead of me, but I hope to do a bit of work on the rules if time allows,

    It is my intention that the rules should end up being useable for battles involving up to four ships per side, the main constraint on the number of ships involved being down to the size of the playing surface.

    All the best,