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"Simple Age of Sail Rules" Topic

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2,445 hits since 30 Sep 2011
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Personal logo GuruDave Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member30 Sep 2011 7:51 a.m. PST

I have recently become interested in naval combat in the age of sail (late 18th to early 19th centuries). I settled on 1/1200 scale and did some research looking for rules to use. I have a book titled "Naval Wargaming" by Paul Hague that includes a chapter on age of sail gaming. The
rules are very simple (I know there are other, probably better rules out there, but I want to start VERY simple and I already have an investment in these rules so I want to continue to use them).

I have yet to play a game, but one concern I have is that it seems like it will take many many combat actions (ships firing on other ships) to cause much damage or sink another ship. The Hague rules provide for 1 firing factor for every 10 guns firing. One dice is thrown for every firing factor, and (at close range) a 4,5, or 6 scores a hit. Damage is absorbed by the target as hull hits, 1 per each gun carried, or mast hits, 10 for each mast. For example, a 74-gun ship would, for a close range broadside, roll 4 dice (37 guns firing from one side, divide by ten and rounded up). On average, only 2 hits would be scored rolling four dice (4,5, or 6 needed to hit). The same sized ship could absorb 74 hull hits (1 per gun). So, it would take, on average, 37 broadsides at close range to sink her.

Does this sound historic? I would think far fewer broadsides at close range from a similarly-sized vessel could sink a ship in this era.

One adjustment I am considering is, after hits are scored, roll each die that hit and sum up the pips for the final number of hits scored. That would triple (using d6) the number of hits, so on average it would take 12 broadsides at close range to sink a 74-gun ship. Even that sounds a bit high to me.

Any advice (besides switching rules)?

RobH Inactive Member30 Sep 2011 8:04 a.m. PST

Depends on how the critical hits work. Battering vessels enough to sink them outright was pretty rare. Most in battle losses were magazine explosions or fire.
There are many more accounts of defeated vessels being taken in tow by the victors and subsequently sinking due to sea conditions, storms and such like.

Also hull damage is only one part of the equation, you also have mast/sail damage which will reduce or remove totally the ability to manoeuvre/fight the ship, in which situation it would be likely to strike the colours.

Personal logo GuruDave Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member30 Sep 2011 8:23 a.m. PST

In Hagues' rules, hits can be aimed at masts or hulls, the wind direction with respect to the target might force more or fewer hits to be apportioned to masts or hull, because of the roll of the firing ship due to press of sail.

The rules allow 10 hits per mast, and apply a penalty for movement if a mast(s) are lost.

There are no critical hits in the rules. I was thinking that might be a good enhancement as well.

BrianW30 Sep 2011 8:23 a.m. PST

RobH is correct on this one. It is actually very rare for a wooden ship of the line to sink during a battle. When the British sank HMS Implacable in 1949 she didn't really sink even after they blew the bottom out of her. She had to be rammed several times before she went down.
Some pictures of her there.
Basic history of the ship.
Some newsreel footage of her.

Personal logo GuruDave Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member30 Sep 2011 9:11 a.m. PST

Very interesting, BrianW. Whoever ordered the sinking of the HMS Implacable should be keel-hauled! Too bad the Brits and French didn't WIN WW2….they might have had the funds to maintain her for posterity.

Personal logo StoneMtnMinis Supporting Member of TMP30 Sep 2011 9:55 a.m. PST

Remember the goal of most captains at this time was not to sink the enemy vessel, but to render her ineffective and then make her a prize. Many captains(and their officers and crews) became prosperous by capturing and selling prize ships. So you had a very strong self-interest in making sure the vessel didn't sink.


Allen57 Supporting Member of TMP30 Sep 2011 10:52 a.m. PST

Im not sure that winning WWII has much to do with this. Look at US historic ships. Texas just about sank a year or so ago for lack of maintenance. Olympia was barely saved from being scuttled as an artificial reef and her future is still in doubt. SS America is going to the breakers. We, of all nationalities, who have an interest in our Maritime heritages are few.

Allen57 Supporting Member of TMP30 Sep 2011 10:57 a.m. PST

Sorry re: the above post. Dont mean to be hijacking your thread.

I would simply reduce the number of hits necessary to put a ship out of action or to make it fail a morale check and flee. Reduction should be proportinate between the number of sail and hull hits as given in your current rules.

I dont see any reason to buy a different set of rules though it is always fun to explore other sets.

Personal logo GuruDave Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member30 Sep 2011 11:45 a.m. PST

Allen57 -- no problem, my comments about the French and Brits not being able to afford to keep the Implacable afloat as a museum were made in haste. It just pains me to see artifacts of history lost.

Regarding your suggestion about morale check and fleeing, did that happen much historically? It seems like a captain that ordered his ship to leave the line of battle would be signing his own execution order. Not quite the same as an officer of a infantry unit that couldn't prevent his men from routing?

Personal logo GuruDave Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member30 Sep 2011 11:52 a.m. PST

Another couple of general questions, this time about movement.

1. Do larger ships turn on a larger turn radius than smaller ships?

2. Do larger ships move more slowly through the water than smaller ships?

3. Loss of part of the rigging (e.g. a mast) reduces sailing speed. Does it also reduce manuverability?

Again, I am looking for a general answer, in the 1790-1815 time frame.

BrianW30 Sep 2011 12:27 p.m. PST

I have to agree with Allen57 also. I don't think it was so much about winning the war as institutional short-shortsightedness. His above examples are excellent ones that apply to us, unfortunately. I can even understand the French not wanting it back, with the conversation going something like this:

England: "I say, would you like to have back this reminder of your humiliating defeat at Trafalgar 140 years ago?"
France: "Thanks terribly, but no, not really."

BrianW30 Sep 2011 12:31 p.m. PST

As to your questions:
1) Yes.
2) That depends on several factors, including wind strength, ship's attitude to the wind, and ship condition. Under the right circumstances, a ship of the line can run down a smaller vessel like a brig simply because the brig cannot set enough sail to take advantage of the stronger winds.
3) In that a lack of speed makes a ship have less maneuverability, yes. Also, a mast hanging over the side will tend the drag the ship in that direction. That's why it is important to cut away the wreckage as quickly as possible.

Prince Alberts Revenge30 Sep 2011 1:34 p.m. PST

The Hague book is what got me into wargaming in the first place. I never actually tried his rules for Age of Sail gaming, but I'd love to know how they play.

Trierarch30 Sep 2011 11:02 p.m. PST

Hague's other book "Sea Battles in Miniature" has a specifically Napoleonic set in it. The set in "Naval Wargaming" is targeted at late 17th and earlier 18th century battles and looks to handle them well.

They are also aimed a small fleet actions (hence the choice of smaller models). Overall I think they are quite a good set.

Reagarding the question in the OP: I'd say the rate of damage infliction is rather higher than reality to make a quicker game already. One alternative to increasing the number of hits would be to require a morale check at one-third and two-thirds damage to force the ships out of action earlier.

Regarding your specific questions:
1) Yes, but – sail setting, wind and crew ability might all make a larger impact (not to mention hull condition).

2) As Brian says – it depends on the ship, the sail setting and wind conditions (as well as crew quality) – for Napoleonic, frigates are usually faster than sail of the line and unrated vessels.

3) As the balance of preassure on the sails is important to control, yes loss of sails can affect your ability to hold course and steer – a ship with her mizzen shot away will tend to fall off the wind and may require a reduction of sail forward to allow the helm to keep the head up.


Mark Barker01 Oct 2011 5:12 a.m. PST


No need to apologise about your comments, they are exactly correct in the case of Implacable !

As I've already observed in another post, when she was scuttled in 1949 the people of Britain were still on food rationing and the priority was rebuilding and rehousing from the wreckage of our major cities.

Heritage considerations were a little down the list …

It is an unthinkable act in retrospect, which is why I understand the motto for the world ship preservation movement is something like "Never Again Implacable".

The Hague rules are great fun, there is also a good set in "Sea Battle Games" by P.Dunn which is another excellent little book and well worth picking up if you see a copy.

Oh, the 'morale check and fleeing' is exactly right. With the exception of the single-ship battles and the odd squadron action, every fleet battle ended with one side breaking contact, followed by a hasty round of despatch writing justifying their conduct !

Best wishes,

Mark Barker

Mako1101 Oct 2011 11:06 a.m. PST

Sounds reasonable on the dicing convention, but instead of sinking, just say the vessel is incapable of firing back.

If you really want to be able to sink a ship, then make the number of hits 1.5x – 2x the level to incapacitate her. Don't forget to throw in a chance for catastrophic fires, or explosions, since unless I am mistaken, those occurred more frequently than actual sinkings throughout history.

It's rather hard to sink wooden boats.

Reduce a vessel's firepower as it takes damage, e.g. loses 1/4 of FP when it takes 25% damage.

vtsaogames Inactive Member01 Oct 2011 1:50 p.m. PST

Not only did ships break contact and flee, but ships also refused orders to close with the enemy, even some Royal Navy captains from time to time.

Also be aware that British ships from about the Seven Years War on were better sailed than their opponents. Staying on station for blockade makes for much better seamanship among crews and officers than hiding in port.

During the SYW, the French Navy considered the Saint Laurence River downstream from Quebec too hazardous for ships of the line. The Royal Navy just sailed up when they brought Wolfe and his army and thought it less difficult than the Thames. So much for all ships of the same class sailing the same.

Personal logo GuruDave Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member01 Oct 2011 3:35 p.m. PST

Great information from you all! I have learned very much and I am very encouraged. I started painting my 1/2000 Valiant ships (starting with the 74 gun ships of the line) today. They look pretty good. I cannot decide yet to tackle adding some standard rigging (backstays for each mast). I think that would drive me to distraction. I have a simple policy for my miniature projects: if I don't want to, I don't. ;)

Thanks again!

Lion in the Stars01 Oct 2011 9:38 p.m. PST

During the SYW, the French Navy considered the Saint Laurence River downstream from Quebec too hazardous for ships of the line. The Royal Navy just sailed up when they brought Wolfe and his army and thought it less difficult than the Thames. So much for all ships of the same class sailing the same.
Again, it's one thing when you have extremely competent ship-handlers. It's a whole new ballgame when you don't.

vtsaogames Inactive Member02 Oct 2011 11:49 a.m. PST

According to NAM Rogers "Command of the Ocean", the crucial point was when the Royal Navy learned mid-century how to provide proper victuals and keep crews healthy at sea – more so than the average civilian ashore.

Before this, fleets of all major powers could only stay at sea for 2-3 months and then lack of food and sickness would force them to seek shelter in port. They could not sail again until all had recovered and supplies were laid in again. Once the Royal Navy surmounted this, they could blockade their enemy. Their sea-handling got better with practice while that of the blockaded withered.

Mind you, Rodgers has astoundingly conservative views on political things he mentions in passing. I understand that British historians don't think the US founding fathers came down from the mountain with holy writ, but he dismisses Franklin and Jefferson as pro-absolutists and Jacobites because they opposed the will of Parliament. If you take the book with a bucket of salt, his history of the Royal Navy is wonderful.

It's also amazing to see what lengths the Navy Board and Admiralty went to to lie to Parliament.

11th ACR02 Oct 2011 5:14 p.m. PST

Go to the "Age of Sail" Group on Yahoo Groups:

In the "Files" section there are a number of rules sets.

The ones I written are very simple to play, but are very much of the Napoleonic flavor.
They are titled: "NAPOLEONIC NAVAL WARFARE 1.7"


Robert Henry

John Thomas801 Jun 2012 6:38 a.m. PST

TFL's Kiss Me Hardy plays well, IMHO.

Personal logo War Artisan Sponsoring Member of TMP01 Jun 2012 10:30 p.m. PST

I cannot decide yet to tackle adding some standard rigging (backstays for each mast). I think that would drive me to distraction.

It need not. Even a few stays can tremedously improve the appearance of your ships. Keep it simple, or go whole hog, as you like:


A tutorial that will show you how is here:

PDF link


1968billsfan Supporting Member of TMP02 Jun 2012 3:27 a.m. PST


I think that I have found something a lot better and quicker than using white glue modified thread:

cf: TMP link

"In the bead & jewerly section are spools of "Bead Stringing Wire" (fil pour enfiller les perles). It comes in 60 foot rolls and cost 3-4 dollars. It is made of nylon coated stainless steel and comes in several colours. The black really looks like tarred rope and appears to have some striations in it as well. It also comes in several thickness, I find that the 0.015 inch / 0.38mm thickness works for 1/2000 shrouds and standing rigging. (The product is "Beadalon" JW02B-60ft from Beadalon, Valley Twp, PA, 19320). The stuff is cheap enough that I can make a lot of snips off the roll to get the exact right length. Hold with forcepts or tweezers, dip both ends into some white glue, drop one then the other glued ends where needed, do fine tuning of the position by poking it with a pin……"

Personal logo War Artisan Sponsoring Member of TMP02 Jun 2012 8:49 a.m. PST

I've used both wire and thread. Some prefer one over the other, but both do the job. Whatever gets GuruDave's fleets fitted out and on the table is good.

I'd say, with Valiants and Hague's rules, he's off to a good start. It would be interesting to hear how his project has progressed since last October . . . Dave? . . .

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