Iron and Fire

catalog picture of cover

No longer in print.
Brief Description Naval combat in the latter half of the 19th century. Includes scenarios for Hampton Roads (March 9th 1862), Iquiqui (May 21st 1879) and Angamos (October 8th 1879).
Period 1850 to 1880, with particular emphasis on the American Civil War and the naval wars in South America
Scale One inch equals 300 feet. One turn equals three minutes. Intended for use with 1/1200 scale riverine miniatures, or 1/2400 scale ocean going models.
Basing Models are mounted on rectangular card bases, which should exceed the external dimensions of the models by about 1 centimetre
Contents unknown
Designer David Manley (
Publisher Published 1995 by Felix Enterprises

What You Think

David Sullivan (
I just played my first game. I gotta say I like 'em.

We played a scenario set in Charleston using the CSS Palmetto State, CSS Charleston, and two torpedo boats. These went up against the USS Nahant (monitor), USS New Ironsides, USS Paul Jones, USS Massasoit, and USS Kansas. All ships were 1/600th scale Thoroughbred. We used the regular scale of the rules which worked fine even with the larger models.

The object of the game was for the Confederates was to sink the New Ironsides and get away with both ironclads. The Union wins by preventing this.

Due to user error, I was applying damage to the ironclads from non-penetrating shot which racked some serious PV loss to both Confederate ironclads. Rather than backing up after I found we we doing it wrong we just went on. This would later work to my discomfiture.

Both torpedo boats went ka-boom on turn one. Little bitty things (5 PV), they were done in very quickly by some 11" shot.

The Union wooden boats took some nasty damage in the first part of the game and courageously skedaddled to avoid more.

The two Rebel ironclads and the two Union ironclads danced around each other trading mostly ineffectual shots (well, my shots were ineffectual; the Nahamt was making life unbearable for the poor Palmetto State). The Charleston made two unsuccessful ramming attempts on the New Ironsides. The Palmetto State finally did it. The ram results + spar torpedo caused 20 pts. flooding damage per turn. Fortunately the New Ironsides has about 165 PV to start with and had ample time to stop flooding. However, before that happened the Palmetto State, bravely absorbing a lot of XV" shot from the Nahant, finally took a waterline hit that did 8 pts. flooding damage, which by an intersting coincidence was exactly how many PV it had left. Ergo, Palmetto State sleeps with the fishes and the Union wins. Bastards.

Our impressions of the game were most favourable. The mechanisms are simple, but give a very good feel for the period. Armored ships are tough to kill with ACW-era weapons. The two Confederate ironclads had armor values (AV) of 6 and 7. The XI" Dahlgren has a "6" penetration at point blank. That's enough to do some damage. The XV" Dahlgren can penetrate "7" at point blank. The Confederate armament was incapable of penetrating the armor on either of the Union ships (but made hash out of the wooden boats).

It didn't take much time to get the hang of the game. We had four players, three of whom had never seen the rules beforehand. By turn 3 we were going smoothly.

Gunnery is simple and straightforward. The New Ironsides - with all those broadside guns - didn't hold up the game ad infintum. We used the statistical tables to easily determine number of hits, form there it was just a matter of determing effect (usually none). It works the way it should, too. Once a ship gets in close and its gins can penetrate it can do very bad things. If there is no penetration the target is off scot free unless a critical hit occurs, although most of them need penetration for effect. (Watch out for critical hit #4, the "foist with your own petard" crit. It wrecks your own gun and caused 10 PV damage. Ouch.)

We used alternative movement. This worked surprisingly well. It saves a great deal of time (no order writing) and is no less "real" than writing orders and moving simultaneously, which always seemed like a lot of begosh and begorrah to me and created too many collisions (a.k.a., unintentional rams on your own ships).

The ramming rules were good, too. Successfully ramming a manouverable target is hard, target and rammer roll a D10 each and the ram is only successful if the numbers match. This accords well with reality. Out of four attempts in our game, one was successful. Three others never happened because the damn Yankees got the initiative and scooted away.

Things I particularly liked:

  1. The alternate move system. A lot of the gamers I play with have no sense whatsoever of spacial reckoning. They just write down a plot and hope for the best. This causes a lot of collisions and goundings which you'd figure any captain of the period would be smart enough to avoid. (By "goundings" I don't mean happening upon hidden shoal water, I meaning running into an island or something.) Alternate move gives you the ability to actually free form your move. The tension of initiative is good when you've got a nice ram lined up and hope to go first to carry it out, or get out of its way.

  2. Gunnery. This is nice and easy and gives "real" results, IMO.

  3. Ramming. Hard to actually accomplish, as it should be. On the whole I was happy with the ramming rules. However, the results tend to be a bit conservative. Historically, many rams did damage, caused flooding, but failed to sink their target. Other rams (or collisions) were catastophic. Rei d'Italia went down in 3 minutes at Lissa. With a PV of 224 in "I&F" terms, even the most devatstating ramming result (20 pts. flooding per turn) would keep it afloat, and repairable, for 11 turns (between 30 minutes to an hour depending on what you assume as the game's time scale). HMS Vanguard and HMS Victoria both went down rapidly after collisions, Queen of the West sliced the General Lovell in two at Memphis, and the Albemarle sank the Southfield so quickly she nearly went under herself whe she got lodged in. So while I'm very happy with the rules for determining if a ram occurs, I think a greater spread of possible results - including catastrophic sinking - would be a nice emendation.

Things I disliked:

Nothing, really.

Things to change:

(Mostly just thoughts while strolling, i.e., no serious deliberation...)

  1. Add a flotation track in addition to hull hits (PV loss). This would make damage from ramming, torpedoes, and below the wl hits affect the ship differently than regular hits from gunfire. Make the flotation 1/4 the PV. An otherwise intact ship can go down like a stone when it loses it flotation from any cause, rather tha need to be battered to a pulp before it's in a sinking condition. Conversely, a ship can be reduced to a floating wreck from hull hits w/o any flotation loss.
  2. Elaborate more on the Troops on Shore rules. I like their simplicity from the read I gave them (I haven't played them yet), but might like to see them developed more w/o being complicated. Some actions against ground targets involving combined arms (e.g., Ft. Hindman, Fts. Henry & Donelson, Ft. Anderson, Ft. Pemberton, etc.) would be nice to play.

On the whole, I think Iron & Fire plays very nicely and is definitely one of the better sets available. I'm looking forward to more games of this. IMHO, it beats the heck out of Smoke on the Water and is far more accessible for newbies than Ironclads in all those convention games I wind up running.

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Last Updates
6 October 1999comments by David Sullivan
27 August 1999No longer in print
27 February 1999designer's website
15 August 1998new email for David
23 July 1998added cover illustration
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