Saturday 6 February 2016

Are You Sure They Should Be Black?

After a bit of a hiatus, caused by having a bit of a cold, the painting of very small ancient galleys is back on track, at least, insofar as there is a track to be back on. I did find that being all bunged up (I am sure there is a correct medical term for that, but I do not know it) made me even less inclined than I usually am to pick up a paint brush, even though painting very, very small ships is a lot easier that painting figures. There are, for one thing, a lot fewer colours.

Still, having recovered sufficiently to finish another batch last weekend, I now find myself in the position of having a sufficient number of ships for a small action. Of course, I have no rules, except for a vague idea which I outlined a few weeks ago. I am sure that you would like me to say I have been quietly beavering away and am about to unleash on the world a fully blown, all singing, all dancing rule set. I too would like that, but reality has rather precluded it.

I do have a few thoughts, however. They are not necessarily coherent, and may not stand the light of impact of the blue cloth and models, let alone dice. But for the record, they are jotted down below. Feel free to offer suggestions for improvements, but I reserve the right to misunderstand….

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 manoeuvre 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.’

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 Manoeuvre: Ships not in formation can move in any direction is they have sufficient room (1 clear base depth in front of them). 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.

7 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.

8 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; +1 if corvus in ship to ship.

9 Outcomes: losers in ship to ship combat are rammed. Rammed ships are removed.

10 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. Command points unspent are lost at the end of the turn.

11 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.

12 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.

So, there you have a set of rules for ancient naval wargames with big fleets. Hopefully they will be fast playing and not too complex. If you would like to, do have a go and let me know how you get on, but remember, the rules are worth exactly what you paid for them….

Tiny Galley Painting Update: finished: 35; painted and unbased 10; grey 105.


  1. Thanks. A nice and simple set of rules. Looks like it could be fun.

    One question: the movement rule is a little unclear. You have movement in formation at the pace of the slowest vessel but then you say movement in formation is 2 base lengths. Were you planning on different rates for different types of vessel/quality of seamanship?

    1. I was, but decided things were complex enough as they were. Still, is is an option for later on in development.