Thursday, January 18, 2018

Ancient Naval Rules

As noted two posts ago I am looking for a set of rules that will allow large fleet actions to be played in a reasonable amount of time.   James Roach has been experimenting with War Galley from GMT games these are available in their living rules section under great battles of history

I went through my library and looked at all the rules that I currently have.  What follows is a brief description of their suitability for large or small battles.   There is one set that I do not recommend at all which I will mention first.   That is Bireme and Galley from Fantasy Games Unlimited Inc. 1978   They are out of print.  The ship classes don't match historical ship types.  The ship diagrams are odd with features that don't match other reconstructions.   What looks like a Decares (a 10) is called an Augustan Bireme..   Now for the others

5mm rules -A joint collaboration between Heroics and Ros and Navwar covering land, sea, and siege rules.   Out of print, detailed.  better suited to small actions.
Ad Mare Bellum - available from Wargame Vault (listed as Ad Mari Bellum) for about $7.00.   Playtested at Ad Mare Bellum playtest  could work for large fleet action with modifications noted.
Chosen by the Gods - another free internet download.  one page per ship record keeping, better suited for small actions
Corvus - covered in a previous blog post corvus  has some example fleet lists.
Diodochi - Correct spelling Diadochi.   free on the internet.  The introduction states "This is a simple set of naval miniature rules for fleet battles in the Diodochi (Alexandrian Successor)period.  The time period covered also includes the Punic wars, but these are not included and there are no rules for the Roman corvus.  While the rules cover ship sizes up to the 40 of Ptolemy the smallest ship with statistics  in the rules is a 3.  Smaller ships are mentioned in one of the fleet lists as the successors did make use of much smaller ships called Lembi.    The activation method used in warmaster is used to activate squadrons or individual ships.   In this case it uses a d10.  It also has a blunder table if a 10 is rolled which is way too frequent.  Warmaster used a pair of d6 and had less than a 3% chance of a blunder compared to 10%.   Movement is based on formation with only line astern or line abreast allowed.  Missile fire, if successful will immediately cripple a ship.  The rules would work for a large fleet engagement, but I would get rid of the activation rules and have to make some changes to other parts of the rules.
Diekplus - published by Newbury Rules 1979  detailed game mechanics better suited to small actions.
Embolos - Out of print.  one page records per ship with turn orders  Not suitable for large fleet actions.
Naumachiae - free download from Langton Miniatures.  Very detailed set of rules.  I am not sure if these would work for more than a few ships per person due to the record keeping needed.  I got a bound copy from them years ago before they stopped printing it.  Would require a very experienced player to help others who are not experienced.  include extensive fleet lists.
Naval Wargames Rules Fleet Action - by Richard Nelson published by War Games Research Group 1973.  Out of print Detailed record keeping better suited to a squadron per player.
Oceanus Strategoi -  Free from the internet.   Can be found in files of War Galley Yahoo Group.  Game mechanics ae better suited to smaller actions. require extensive record keeping.
Roman Seas - from Hotz Art Works.  detailed, best suited for a few ships per player max.   While intended for the Punic Wars, there are ship types for larger polyremes up to tens and would also work for the eastern Mediterranean powers.
Trireme - A board game from Avalon Hill.   War Galley from GMT similar and much better.
War Galley - board game published by GMT Games.  rules and scenarios available for free in their living rules section.  Would also work for large engagements.  Several playtests and rule modifications at War Galley playtest

I have some others, but they only have a few ship classes and would need extensive additions to cover all the various ship types.   As can be seen from the publication dates I originally developed an interest in ancient naval warfare back in the late 1970's.

While there are several contenders, I am going to choose Corvus for large fleet actions.   Corvus only needs a minor change to the missile fire rules.   Other items are only chrome additions or tactics of the period.  

Update:  I have added another post on rules along with a previously unknown ship manufacturer at More Ancient Naval Rules


Prufrock said...

Thanks Bill, an excellent survey.

William Butler said...

thanks for the compliment, Aaron

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the correction on the spelling of Diadochi. I have updated the page and the pdf file.