Bireme & Galley

image from catalog

Out of Print
Brief Description

According to the catalog: "Complete naval rules for ancient, medieval and Renaissance periods. Designed to work with Chivalry & Sorcery [FGU's fantasy role-playing game], included are cut-apart ship counters for fleet actions and 25mm scale deck plans for boarding actions. Also included are detailed rules on naval trade, piracy and profits." The main rules cover sea states, maneuvering under both oars and sail, crew quality, naval tactics, all manners of combat (ramming, boarding, missiles, etc.), and include a section on historical naval campaigns.

Extracts from the game's Designers' Notes: "These rules provide the wargamers with an evaluation of the performance and important characteristics of the most common vessels from about 1200 BC to 1500 AD. There is a balance between the relative performances of the ships, and wargamers can recreate historic engagements and campaigns with some confidence that realistic conditions will be simulated.

"Attention has also been given to seamanship, shiphandling, and conditions of the weather and seas. Players have to be aware of the sea, the winds, tides, currents, and weather, and also of how their ships will react in these conditions. Before great naval victories can be won, men must first prevail in the battle against the sea itself.

"Depending on the number of players and the size of the battles, the wargamer may wear as many as three hats: that of the fleet admiral, a squadron commander, and a warship captain. Due attention has been given to crew compositions, fighting ability, permissible tactics, and artillery, missile, ramming, and melee combat. The real enthusiast may even choose to fight man-to-man boarding actions using 1" = 6' deck plans and miniature troops, right down to the last gory detail.

"Provision has also been made for developing historical campaigns, with a point-based analysis of ancient seapowers."

Period Ancient through Renaissance - from the Egyptian "Punt" ships of 1200 BC, to Greek and Roman triremes, to Byzantine dromons, to Viking longships, to Venetian galleys.
Ground Scale unknown
Time Scale unknown
Figure Scale unknown
Miniature Scalesunknown
Basing unknown
  • 100-page, perfect-bound 8 1/2" x 11" book
  • two identical cut-apart ship counter sheets
  • an acetate turn radii template
  • a sample ship record sheet
  • a 22" x 34" ship deck diagram sheet (for boarding actions)
Designer Jan Vrapcenak, Edward E. Simbalist
Publisher First edition published 1978 by Fantasy Games Unlimited

What You Think

Dan Dionne (

Bireme and Galley suffers from extreme rules amibiguity. The rules do a bad job of describing the game effects of events, particularly missile fire. My group played a couple of games many years ago, but just couldn't work out what was supposed to happen with ship damage and casualties. It's a fine historical and rpg resource, but I would rate it "unplayable."

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Online Resources

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Last Updates
12 April 1999additional information provided by Chris Fawcett
2 December 1998page first published
Comments or corrections?