when i created my “pirates of the havens” setting, the writing bug grabbed my brain tight and wouldn’t let go until i’d also written a set of very work in progress rules ideas for naval battles. inspired in part by the Siege rules for castles, since in many ways ancient naval warfare has a lot in common with siege warfare, only with the ‘castles’ able to move to varying degrees.
these rules are very preliminary, and probably need a lot of work. especially since i only recently started the game myself so there are probably rules interactions i’ve overlooked.
there are a number of resin, plastic, and MDF kits making various pre-modern ships that could be adapted to use with these, and it would not be hard to scratch build some ships from foam or card either. so i haven’t ironed out things like sizes yet. (i have a zip file with some templates for a scratch built “pirate ship” if anyone wants it)
Kings of War: Naval Combat
(Notes and Ideas)
Naval combat in pre-modern historical settings is very different from more modern naval combat. Even with the advent of gunpower and cannon, the most effective method of combat is simple. Maneuver alongside your enemy’s ship, and send troops across to kill the enemy troops and crew. Archers, Muskets, Ballistae, Cannons, and other such weapons are usually just a means by which you soften up the enemy defenders before sending over your boarding parties. Fantasy settings like Kings of War have a wide range of ship types available to them, with many anachronistic mixes possible, as well as many fantastical elements such as Monsters and magic. But the basic truism about the nature of naval combat would remain.
My basic assumption is that rules for naval battle should be an adjunct to the standard Kings of War rules, where you can use your army as troops aboard ships. As such, the rules should allow the ships to actually hold the army models on their bases. Similar concept as the Siege rules, in many ways. This means the ships will be in the 25 to 32mm scale of the standard game, and will likely place larger vessels as well over a foot long.
Ships effectively act as mobile fortresses. Each vessel will have their own stats in terms of movement, defense, and Nerve, as well as special ability rules governing specific aspects of their movement. In addition, each ship will have a unit capacity listing, representing the maximum size of unit or units it can carry. When drawing up these notes I worked on the assumption that the ships would be modeled with large enough open spaces on deck to place multi-based models, for visual effect. (if they were not actually on deck, and just marked on a card or roster sheet, might as well just make an all new game in a different scale.)
Most normal units cannot attack a ship directly, as they cannot hurt it. Only those units with Crushing Strength , Blast , and Breath Weapon may damage a ship directly. Aside from those limitations, attacks against ships are resolved as normal. A ship’s nerve value represents its crew’s will to continue to perform their jobs in adjusting the rigging, row, performing damage control, and so on. A crew that Wavers will be unable to make the adjustments that allow a ship to maneuver. One that Routs will leave a ship dead in the water. This is the only change from the standard Nerve test for a Ship. On a Rout, rather than the ship being removed from the board, it is marked as Disabled and remains where it was when it routed, as an immobile platform for any troops aboard. Disabled ships could end up as major navigational hazards later in the game if enough of a fleet is taken out. (Historically naval vessels were very difficult to destroy in combat, and even In the late gunpowder age it was far more common for a ship to be disabled than destroyed.
Ship movement: Ships have a set movement, and use the standard rules, with the following additions.
Ships may only remain on terrain designated as water terrain. In most naval battles this will be the majority of the flat surface of the map.
Only Ships with Rowers may move “ At the double ” or “ Charge ”
Ships may not interpenetrate while moving.
Ships treat all Hills as Impassable Terrain. (basically, they may not change elevations.) Hills are typically employed to represent small islands or other areas of land projecting out of the seas.
When setting up the board for the game, the players or campaign master should declare a wind direction, coming from one of the edges of the board. Wind Direction will effect certain types of ship movement.
Ships have two types of movement abilities. Sail and Rowers .
Rowers indicates the ship uses banks of oars for its movement. Ships with rowers may make “At the double’ moves, allowing it to cover extra distance, and may treat a “Ram” as a “Charge” for the purposes of movement distance.
Sail indicates the ship is using masts and rigging for motive power. When moving ‘with the wind’
(away from the board edge the wind is coming from) ships with Sail movement active receive +1D6 inches of movement distance, rolled before the ship begins its movement.
(All ships meant for use outside a harbor will typically have a sail which provides their main propulsion, however on rowed ships this sail, and sometimes the entire mast, will be taken down prior to combat and during battle they rely entirely on the rowers. Those ships without rowers will continue to rely on the sail even in battle.)
New movement orders:
Ramming: If a ship is close enough to end its movement in contact with another ship, the player can declare a Ram and move their ship into contact with the opposing ship. The rammed vessel takes [damage to be determined], and the ramming ship is rotated to be side by side in contact with the rammed ship. A Ram can occur without declaration of a charge. After a ram the ships are Locked in Combat .
Docking: If a ship is close enough to end its movement in contact with a friendly ship, it can declare a docking. The ships are moved to be side by side, but are not locked in combat.
Boarding Combat: any troops that are aboard ships that are locked in combat can now engage each other. Combat occurs as normal, with the exception of unit facing and Flanking.
Aboard a ship, combat orientation is centered on the side of the ships, not the front and back. A unit aboard ship will automatically redeploy to face an enemy ship. Thus the ‘front’ of the unit aboard is the side of the ship in contact with the first enemy ship. If a second enemy ship comes in contact with the opposite side, that ship will be flanking and receive double the attacks.
Only one unit may fight per side. If a ship has more than one unit aboard, and a 2nd enemy ship becomes locked in combat on its opposite side, the 2nd onboard unit may orient towards the new enemy.
Breaking combat: Should any onboard unit waver or rout, the attacking vessel must make a nerve test to remain locked in combat. On success the ships remain Locked in Combat. On failure the ships are separated to one inch apart and may move normally on the next turn.
Ranged Combat: Onboard units with ranged attacks may use those attacks to attack enemy units (or ships, if possible) within their range. The unit must declare which side of the ship they will be firing from to determine firing arc. However Units aboard a Ship count as in cover for ranged combat.
Disembarking and transfer between ships: A ship which has moved into contact with non-water terrain (usually an island or the shore), or while docked with a friendly ship, can transfer one of the embarked units aboard it. This takes a full turn, and the unit cannot engage in any other action during this time. If disembarking onto shore, place the unit onto the non-water terrain in base contact with the ship.
Monsters: All Units of the [Mon] or Hero[Mon] are treated being Aquatic, and thus do not require a Ship and can travel directly on the sea, otherwise treat their movement as normal.
(issue: by all rights Naiad’s and the entire Trident Realms faction should have Aquatic, making them the only faction that does not require ships. This may be difficult to balance however.)
Ship types: The ship types on this list are generic. Although they have been named after types of vessels from history, their exact appearance and design is up to the player. Depending on faction, these may not even appear to be traditional ships, and may take the appearance of rafts, magical platforms, or even large animals.
Troop capacity: The ships below have a troop capacity, expressed as a numerical value. This value governs the size of the unit or units that can be carried. A Troop or Warmachine requires 1 capacity, a regiment 2, a horde 4, and a legion 6. regardless of the Capacity, all ships may carry as well a single Hero.
Cutter – 7 inch move, Capacity 1.
Sloop – 7 inch move, Capacity 2.
Barque – 5 inch move, Capacity 4.
Corvette – 5 inch move, Capacity 6.
Rowed ships: May choose to add a Ram prow for +[Points], which adds +[attacks] to a Ram.
Launch – 5 inch move, Capacity 1.
Courser – 5 inch move, Capacity 2.
Penteconter – 4 inch move, Capacity 4.
Dromon – 4 inch move, Capacity 6.
Faction specific ships: (ideas. These would be specific ship types available only to that faction or related factions. which would have either their own weapons built in, or just some special rules/stats different from the standard types.)
Basilean Fortress Ship