Way back in the late 1970s and early 1980s I became interested in Napoleonic naval wargames, almost as an extension of my Airfix Napoleonic fixation that I moved to London with. My old friends Messrs. Fox and Hardman had already gamed the period extensively using a variety of rules with a selection of models that featured some early Navwar resin castings. The games looked really interesting and as I recall the period was in fact my very first taste of naval wargames. I cannot recall how it came about but amongst the three of us we landed on the set you see above - a set of square grid based naval rules that eventually morphed into the award winning hex based board game Wooden Ships and Iron Men by Avalon Hill. Actually the rules you see above came out after Wooden Ships and Iron Men but the original set predated the board game by some years - the BattleLine edition incorporated some ideas from the board game but stayed loyal to the square grid.
The rules (currently out of print and have been for some time - there are some legal issues around who owns the rights to them) are detailed and feature plenty of charts and tables. The ship record cards used are also quite detailed and so you could be forgiven for thinking that they are somewhat over complex - especially when you compare them to the simplified version that became Wooden Ships and Iron Men.
Using the miniatures rules the denizens of the old Newham Wargames Club fought many actions both large and small including a rather large game at Present Arms that yours truly ruined due to a self inflicted injury....
I had started on a Russian navy of all things (I was building a Russian army at the time) and as I recall managed to get half a dozen or so models built and painted. Sadly by the time they were ready to use the club had moved on to the Armada period and I had moved away from the area.
Although we fought some very large actions using the original tabletop rules - before my injury we had planned to fight the Glorious First of June at the Present Arms wargames show - the rules were well able to cope with the numbers involved despite their apparent complexity. The same level of detail worked equally well for smaller actions.
The use of a square grid has a useful advantage for naval wargames (and indeed for land based versions as well) in that you can use the eight most common compass points. The rules allowed for diagonal movement and firing and this worked very nicely indeed. Having eight points of the compass to use for direction also allowed for more intricate movement without the need for a protractor or the appropriate measuring gauges.
Ship combat used a system of factors based on the broadside of the firing ship and modified for range, ammunition being used, target facing and crew quality. The firing ship would also specify if the ship was firing at the hull or the rigging. This procedure would yield a hit table number and so the appropriate table - hull or rigging - would be consulted and a pair of d6 rolled to ascertain the damage. The d6 used needed to be two different colours as the results were not added together but treated as a whole number. The range thus ran from 1,1 to 6,6.
All the usual pieces of chrome from the period - boarding, using full sail, firing from anchor, organising prize crews etc - were included as well as a brief summary of the major navies and names of the ships therein.
The grid size used was 1 1/2" squares for use with 1:1200th scale models, 3/4 " for smaller scales. For my own future purposes I am planning on using a 3" square - which should give you an idea of where this may be heading.
I really liked these rules and when I eventually get back into 'wind and water' Napoleonic naval gaming they will be my first choice to use.