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Damn Battleships Again

Suggested Rules Amendments


Peter Hunt


Unable to resist tinkering, below are my changes and additions, a printer friendly copy of which can be found here..  Scale used is 1 cable = 2½ ". 




Up to two TBD or TB, or one scout cruiser or TGB and one TBD/TB may be mounted on one base.


Ship Types


See factors for my own ships at Annex A.  Ignore “obsolete” classification.  Ships marked with a “*” for speed pay a NIP for the second move as “obsolete” did.


New ship type: TGB = Torpedo Gunboat.


2nd Class TBs are those designed for coast defence or for carriage on larger vessels.


Ships that historically had a very low freeboard, or were very wet or excessive rollers, or had much of their armament unworkable in a seaway, are known as “bad sea boats.”


Ships (such as the early ironclad frigates,) that carried their armament on the broadside with only a few chase guns capable of fore and aft fire are known as “broadside ships.”


A few ships that, because of their great size for their class, can take more damage than would be normal given their armour are known as having “special protection”. Examples of such vessels would be the British “Powerful” class protected cruisers and Italian “Lepanto” class battleships. They are marked with a “+” for the defence factor at Annex A. Ships with weak or badly distributed armour are known as having “inferior protection”. They are marked with a “-“ for the defence factor.


Although practically all ships were fitted with ram bows, the use of ramming tactics as a major factor in battle was a topic of much conjecture in this period. The general feeling was that after the 1860s improvements in gunnery had made ramming unlikely except as a result of accidental collision. However, even as late as the 1890s, some ships were designed to use the ram a main weapon, examples include the British “Polythemus”, “Rupert”, “Conqueror”, and “Arrogant”; the British/Turkish “Belleisle”; and the American “Katahdin.”  These vessels are known as “Rams” and were generally more manoeuvrable at close quarters than their contemporaries and were better stressed for ramming. These advantages are reflected in the ramming rules.          


Bad sea boats, broadside ships and those with inferior protection cost the same points value as other ships despite their disadvantages: consider them bad bargains. There is no additional cost for Rams as they are very unlikely to make use of their additional attributes. Ships with special protection cost more: that is the price that you pay for the prestige of such large vessels.


Sequence of Play


Add: 4. Damage Control.    


Dice once for each of the speller’s ships that is flooding:

On a score of 6 the watertight bulkheads hold and the flooding is stopped. Remove the marker.

On a score of two to five the flooding continues.

On a score of 1 the flooding continues and an additional damaged marker is added. This may cause crippling or sinking in the same way as gunfire damage.


Naval Movement


Ships marked on Annex A with a speed of “2+” receive an extra free move straight ahead (i.e. TBD, 1st class TB and scout cruisers as well as some, but not all, 1st and 2nd class cruisers.)


If a squadron contains any crippled ships, at least one NIP must be allocated to each crippled ship in the squadron before two NIPs can be allocated to any other ship or group in the squadron.


A squadron that makes a turn together from line astern into line abreast as a group move may not make another turn as a group move for the remainder of that spell and for the whole of it’s next spell. Its ships may make individual turns using individual NIPS during this period. (Note: this restriction makes the “battle turn away” that was only mastered by the well drilled German High Seas Fleet of WWI much more difficult, as it was in reality, and thus encourages the use of line ahead and the turn in succession.)



Allocating Targets


Broadside ships can engage targets to full effect on each beam simultaneously but cannot engage targets forward and aft.


Broadside ships whose main armament is in turrets, (such as the “Captain”, “ Neptune ” and “Wivern”,) may only engage on one broadside to full effect or may engage to both broadsides simultaneously at reduced effect.


It was common for some rams and coastal defence vessels to carry all the main armament forward. Such vessels do not count reduced fire when firing through the normal forward arc at long and extreme range, but they have no fire through their normal stern arc at these ranges.


Battleships or coast defence ships that have no secondary armament, (such as the “Devastation”, “Cyclops”, “Puritan” etc.,) may only engage on one broadside to full effect or may engage to both broadsides simultaneously at reduced effect.


Battleships and 1st Class Cruisers other than those covered above, use the following Attack Factors for their normal range opposite broadside depending on the number of medium calibre (5” or larger,) secondary guns that they mount on the broadside. They do not count “reduced effect” for these attacks:

~ 4 or less secondaries on broadside: AF=1

~ 5 or more secondaries on broadside: AF=2




In addition to normal gunfire, un-crippled ships with a torpedo factor of “1” may make one torpedo attack per game. Un-crippled ships with a torpedo factor of “2” may make one attack at an attack factor of two, or two separate torpedo attacks each with an attack factor of one, per game.


Torpedo attacks made during the enemy’s spell may only be made at an attack factor of one.         


TBD and TBs may make a full effect torpedo attack through their broadside or bow arcs.


Other vessels may make a full effect torpedo attack through their broadside arcs or a reduced effect attack through their bow or stern arcs.


(Note: These attack limits are based on the fact that the ship will be manoeuvring inside its base area during the attack to bring beam and bow/stern tubes to bear and assumes that most reloading, where reloads were available, would take place out of combat.  A possible exception to this would be TGBs and larger ships, which certainly carried reloads, but the intent of the rule is to prevent incessant “pot shotting” with torpedoes which were saved for decisive use. The restriction on making a full strength attack in the enemy’s move reflects the confused nature of a torpedo attack “melee”.)


Torpedo and gunfire attacks are announced at the same time. Torpedo attacks are resolved before gunfire but any effects from the torpedoes are not counted for that turn’s gunfire, (the torpedoes take time to run in the water so their effect is not instantaneous like gunfire.)


Place an appropriate one or two factor marker on the ship’s base when torpedoes are fired.


Small Calibre Guns


Scout Cruiser, TGB, TBD and TB gunfire is only effective against ships with a defence factor of 1or 0.


Tactical Factors


Now read: -


Shooter or target:

-2 if crippled.


Shooter only:

-1 if firing guns at a ship, which is being shot at by three or more ships. (See also “Windy Corners and Stopped ships for exceptions.)

-2 reduced effect.

-1 if shooting at TBD/TB at extreme range.

-1 if shooting at TBD/TB at night without searchlight, or at a TBD/TB at dusk or dawn.

-1 if shooting while hindered by sunset or sunrise, or by heavy seas.

-1 torpedoes at normal range.

-1 torpedoes vs the bow or stern base edge of the target.

-1 torpedoes vs target that moved 3 or 4 last spell.

+1 vs target that was stopped last spell and is not crippled now.

+ if the target of a torpedo attack, or an adjacent ship, is the target of another torpedo attack.


Combat Outcome


Change “TBD” in “Other”, and “TBD, TB or Submarine” in “Ship” to “torpedo attack.”

Add new sentence: “Ships crippled by torpedo attack start flooding.”


Crippled ships in line ahead fall out of line one base width away from the direction of fire.  The front base edge remains on the original heading.  If the ships were multiply based place the crippled ship on a new base.


A target ship with special protection takes three damage hits before becoming crippled.


A Second Class TB is crippled if it is already damaged. Damaged if not.


A target ship with inferior protection counts a draw result as crippled if already damaged twice or if the target of a torpedo attack. Damaged if not.




A ship whose move intersects another ship tests for involuntary ramming if both ships are friendly, or if the mover does not wish to ram; or tests for voluntary ramming if the mover wishes to ram.


If there is a risk of friendly collision, make all compulsory moves first, then make any optional moves in the following order: lowest squadron NIP dice, if of same squadron slowest maximum speed (not necessarily the number of NIPs allocated,) if of same speed largest ship.


When testing for rams/collisions the moving ship must state how many NIPs it intends to move.


If a line abreast or line ahead contacts one ship test for ramming in order from the closest ship at the beginning of the move first.  If that ship makes an effective ram ignore all other moving ships who pass through the target.  If the closest ship does not make an effective ram, test for the next ship, and so on.  If the target rams one of the moving ships other moving ships are ignored if they are in line abreast.  If the movers are in line astern the other ships still have a chance to ram the target, which may now count as stationary.


Throw one D6 for the moving ship, add its speed in bases, according to it’s declared NIP expenditure, and deduct the speed of the target for last spell, or this spell if it has since been stopped. If either of the ships involved is a “ram” it may add, or deduct, one to the dice score to reflect its superior manoeuvrability. If both ships are rams the rammer states whether he is adding or subtracting before the target decides.


If the rammer contacts a broadside edge a score of 5 or 6 indicates an effective ram if voluntary, 6 if involuntary.


If the rammer contacts a bow or stern edge a score of 6 indicates an effective ram if voluntary, 7 if involuntary.


A score of 1 or less indicates that the target has struck an effective ram on the rammer.


If there is no effective ram move the mover through the target and continue its move in accordance with declared NIP expenditure.  In a bow or stern ram situation where the mover only has one move left place it broadside to broadside with the target.


If a ram is effective compare the size of rammer and target.  Reduce this size by one level (“smaller” is the minimum) if the rammer’s speed is only one base. Increase the size by one if the rammer is a “ram”.



Target Is

Rammer Is

BB/1st Class

2nd Class


BB and

1st Class Cruiser

R = D

T = C

R = D


R = OK


2nd Class


R = D

T = D

R = D

T = C

R = D



R = C

T = D

R = D

T = D

R = D

T = C


R = Rammer

T = Target

D = Damaged. Ship stops if ram is through broadside.  If ram is through bow or stern and damage occurs to the rammer, place the rammer broadside to broadside with the target and move no further that turn, but neither ship is stopped. Ship starts flooding.


C = Crippled.  Rammer will stop without passing through target if it suffers this result on a broadside ram, or will stop broadside to broadside if on a bow or stern ram. Ship starts flooding.


OK = Ship continues its move.


For stern rams reduce the effect of the ram on the rammer and target by one level, i.e. sunk becomes crippled, and so on.


A damage result cripples an already twice-damaged ship but has no additional effect on an already crippled ship. In both situations the ship will start flooding.


Points Values


Ships PVs = total of:

  • Attack factors at Normal and Extreme Range

  • Defence factor. If the defence factor is 3 add an additional 1 point. If the defence factor is 4 add an additional 3 points. If the defence factor is 0 halve the sum of all the other factors.

  • Maximum speed

  • -1 if  Extreme Range Attack factor is “x”

  • -1 if speed is “*”

  • +1 if ship has special protection.


Further Complications (Add To Taste)


Open Barbettes


Many ships of the period carried their main armament in open barbettes to facilitate loading and training and to reduce top weight. Such barbettes were vulnerable to plunging shellfire at extreme range and to small calibre fire at close range.

When firing at such ships add +1 to the attack value at extreme range.

When firing at such ships at close range the firer may fire twice, using his close range factor, (if it is not being used for anti-TBD/TB fire,) in addition to the normal range factor.




From the late 1870s to the early part of World War One battleships and cruisers of most nations except the USA were equipped with anti-torpedo nets. These nets were a very effective defence against earlier torpedoes but were ineffective against later weapons. They could be raised and lowered easily but restricted a moving vessel to a speed of about six knots when deployed. However, even when nets were lowered the bow and stern portions of the ship were usually left exposed so protection was not complete. Also there was always a danger that battle damage would cut loose nets, even if they were not deployed, which could then foul rudders or propellers. This almost happened to Derfflinger at Jutland .


To simulate these factors:

  • Raising or lowering nets takes 1 NIP. This may be done as a group move.

  • Ships with nets lowered may only move one base. Any turn requires an additional NIP.

  • Deduct –1 from all torpedo attacks against ships with nets lowered.

  • If any ship equipped with nets receives a “damaged” result dice again. On a score of 5 or 6 if the nets are lowered, or of 6 if they are raised, the nets foul the ship. It falls out of line and stops as if crippled. In the damage control segment throw to cut away the fouling on a score of 5 or 6. Fouling is never permanent.


Rough Weather


Ships are affected as follows in Rough Weather:

  • “Fast” ships lose their “free” second move.

  • Bad sea boats, 2nd and 3rd class cruisers, scout cruisers, TGB, TBD, and 1st class TBs lose one base from their maximum movement and deduct –1 from all gun and torpedo fire.

  • 2nd class TBs return to port or their mother ship.

  • When attempting to stop flooding dice again on a 6. A score of 1,2 or 3 indicates that the heavy seas rupture the repair. The flooding and repair attempts continue next spell.


Bow and Stern Arcs


Until the fore and aft layout of main turrets was settled upon in the 1890s, naval designers of practically all nations made attempts to maximise fore and aft fire. This was intended to allow the same firepower to be applied when approaching the enemy bows-on as could be applied from the broadside. This trend include the French preference, (copied on the British “Warspite”) of deploying their main guns in a lozenge to give the same theoretical firepower forward, aft and on each broadside. Similarly the citadel turret ships, such as the Italian “Duilio”, the British “Inflexible” and the Chinese “Chen Yuen”, had their main turrets en echelon amidships which limited broadside arcs for their guns but which again could, theoretically, fire their full armament fore and aft.


The key word in all of this is “theoretical”. When firing the wing turrets straight ahead they could often do more hurt to their own ship by blast damage than they did to the enemy.  Thus the bridge of the “Ting Yuen” was blown away by the blast of its own guns at the Battle of the Yalu and the unfortunate Admiral Ting knocked out for two hours. However such ships were designed to fight end on, and to let them do so the following rules apply:

  • At long and extreme range a ship which has its main armament in lozenge or en echelon may fire at targets which have any part of their base inside the two lines extending the firer’s own base sides without counting the “-1” for reduced effect. The firer may choose to take the “-1”.

  • If the firer did not take the “-1” and throws a “1” on the dice blast damage badly affects the ship and it may not fire during the next two fire phases.

The relatively narrow arc allowed for such fire reflects the fact that theoretically no wing turret had an arc of over 180 degrees. The restriction to firing at long and extreme range only reflects the secondary batteries being a more important component of the ship’s firepower at normal range. 


Monster Guns


During their drive to build the fastest and most powerful individual ships in the world the Italians built several classes of battleships with monster 17” and 17.7” guns which had a great effect but a very slow rate of fire. To match these ships the British responded with HMS Inflexible mounting monster muzzleloaders and the monster breach loaders on HMS Benbow and the Victorias. These vessels have two firepower factors, one reflecting their main and secondary armaments firing and one reflecting only their secondary weapons firing without the main guns. Use the former factor during the ship’s own spell and the latter during the enemy’s spell. (There is no choice in this, even if the ship does not fire in its own spell it may not fire its main factor in the enemy phase. This makes any record keeping unnecessary but also reflects the problem of training such monster guns that were intended for slow shooting at long range in open arcs rather than snap shooting at crossing targets.) Take the average of both fire factors when determining the ship’s points value.


Windy Corners and Stopped Ships                 


One of the riskiest manoeuvres in the era of big-gun naval warfare was to turn in succession under the guns of the enemy. This enabled the enemy fleet to concentrate its firepower on a fixed point, the knuckle of the turn, and each ship passing through it would come under concentrated fire.  For the enemy splash was still a bit of a problem but half of the difficulty of obtaining a range solution, the movement of the target, was removed so the shooting should be more accurate. Togo got away with such a manoeuvre at Tsushima and the 5th Battle Squadron was lucky to survive such a turn at Jutland .


To model this situation if a squadron is turning in succession through more than 45 degrees, the base location immediately after the point of turn is known as “Windy Corner.” If a ship fires at Windy Corner in a spell, in the next spell it does not count against the limit for splash confusion if it fires at a ship in the same Windy Corner base location. Note that it will not necessarily be firing at the same target ship because, if it is the enemy’s movement spell, one or more ships could have moved through Windy Corner.


Windy Corner ceases to exist when all the ships in the squadron have moved through the base location.


Any ship that is crippled on Windy Corner still counts as being on it as she hauls out of line.


A squadron that is making a series of sharp turns in quick succession may create several Windy Corners. However the advantage of firing at a Windy Corner cannot be transferred to another Windy Corner, no matter how close. It is the fixed spot in the ocean that the ships are turning on that is the target, not the ships themselves.


For instance, let us assume that Red has a squadron of four battleships: A, B, C and D in line ahead. In spell one they move one base and then turn in succession 90 degrees. Only A completes the turn. A’s position is now Windy Corner. Blue has eight ships that are firing on Red’s squadron, two on each target.


In spell two Red does not move so A is still on Windy Corner. Now the two of Blue’s ships that fired on A last turn do not count against the splash limit so in spell two four ships can concentrate their fire on her without deducting for the splash problem.


In spell three Red moves again, two bases straight ahead with the turn continuing. A moves off Windy Corner, (much relieved.) B moves through Windy Corner, (she suffers no disadvantage for this I know, a rules fudge,) and the unfortunate C ends up on Windy Corner. Now the four Blue ships that fired at A last spell can fire at C (in A’s old position,) without counting against the splash limit so a total of six Blues can concentrate with no deduction.


In spell four all eight Blues can concentrate on C.


In spell five the Reds move two bases again. If C was lucky in spell four, she moves off Windy Corner, D moves through and beyond Windy Corner at no disadvantage and the Red Admiral compliments himself on a bold manoeuvre in the face of the enemy as Windy Corner disappears.  If C was unlucky in spell four and was crippled she hauls out of line but still counts as being on Windy Corner. Blue can continue firing at her with no deduction. If D has enough NIPS she can move through Windy Corner but if she does not have enough NIPS then she ends up in the hot spot previously occupied by A and C. Blue can choose whether to fire on C, or D, or both with no deduction


When firing at a ship that is stopped, either voluntarily or because it is crippled, the same procedure for deducting for splash confusion applies.


Launching 2nd Class Torpedo Boats


In the 1880s and early 1890s it was common for battleships, such as the British “Inflexible”, Italian “Duilio” and Chinese “Ting Yuen” to carry their own torpedo boats. Even some cruisers such as the British “Leander” carried TBs and it was also anticipated that troopships or armed merchant cruisers would be used to transport TBs. This philosophy was taken to its logical, (but ultimately ineffectual,) conclusion in the British “Vulcan” and French “Foudre” which were purpose built torpedo boat carriers, designed to take a whole squadron of the short ranged TBs to sea with the fleet, rather like the aircraft carriers of later years. This strange arm of warship evolution eventually became extinct as 1st Class TBs and TBDs became more seaworthy and could accompany the fleet under their own steam.


In most cases the 2nd Class TBs would have been launched prior to an engagement starting, either to protect their own fleet at anchor or to attack the enemy fleet. In this case no special rules are required, simply pay the cost of the TB and move them, either as part of their mother ship’s squadron or as a squadron in their own right. To launch TBs in a tactical situation TBs must be paid for, the mother ship must be stopped and uncrippled. To launch each TB costs one NIP. Battleships and cruisers may only launch one TB each spell. TB carriers and merchant auxiliaries may launch a maximum of two each spell. The launching ship may not fire that spell. Place the TB on a separate base abeam of the mother ship. It may move in its next spell. If the mother ship is damaged, crippled or sunk in the same spell as it launches a TB the TB suffers the same result.


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