Phil Barker

15th November 2003


This is a set of wargames rules for pre-dreadnought naval battles between 1890 and 1913 (no dreadnoughts fought before 1914!), prompted by the re-discovery of some 30-year-old 1/1500 models, but equally suitable for contemporary 1/6000 models.



Each ship model or pair of TBD/TB is mounted on a rectangular card base representing a sea area 2 cables (of 1 tenth of a nautical mile or 600 feet) or 400 yards long. This represents a standardised major ship length at the model scale plus the normal 1 cable interval between ships in formation. 1/1200 requires bases 150mm or 6 inches long, 1/1500, 1/2400 or 1/3000 100mm or 4 inches long and 1/6000 50mm or 2 inches long. Base widths are half the length.



All dicing uses a single ordinary 6-sided dice (D6).



Ship types are:


BATTLESHIP – Slow, heavily armoured ships with heavy guns usually in 2-gun turrets fore and aft, medium calibre guns in broadside batteries and light guns for fending off torpedo craft. Value 12 Ship Points (SP).


1st CLASS CRUISER – Armoured (belted) or Protected (armour-decked) cruisers of near battleship size but faster and less well armoured, with heavy-medium or medium guns fore and aft, medium guns in broadside batteries and light guns. Value 8 SP.


2nd CLASS CRUISER – Smaller cruisers with little armour and fewer medium guns, but equally fast. Value 6 SP.


3rd CLASS CRUISER – Smaller and slower cruiser primarily for trade protection. Value 4 SP.


SCOUT CRUISER 1905> – Very small but unusually fast cruisers with no armour and only light guns, often used for leading or supporting TBD. Value 4 SP.


TORPEDO BOAT DESTROYER (TBD) 1895> – Pair of small craft capable of high speed in good weather, armed with torpedoes and a few light guns, and used for delivering and defeating attacks with early non-heater torpedoes. Value 2 SP.


SUBMARINES 1900> - Small slow vessels operating mainly on the surface but able to submerge. Value 6 SP.


OBSOLETE ships are battleships or cruisers built <1890 or Torpedo Boats (TB), which are the obsolete equivalent of a TBD. Value that of type halved.



Battle ships and cruisers are organised into squadrons with one ship designated as FLAG. One squadron’s Flag is also that of the Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C). A Flag can be transferred from a cripple to another of its squadron in full side edge contact.


TBD and TB can be attached to a Squadron or organised into Flotillas, which can also include a Scout Cruiser. This Scout Cruiser or in its absence a TBD is designated as the flotilla’s CAPTAIN (D).



1.         The two sides adopt opposite short table edges as their entry edge.


2.         They each dice. The side with the higher score has the initiative and names the table edges North, East, South and West.


3.         They each place one geographical feature, the side with the initiative last.


4.         The side with the initiative dices for Time of Day.


5.         The other side dices for Wind and Weather.


6.         Each side dices for the presence of neutral shipping.


7.         The side with the initiative starts the game by moving ships across its entry edge.



These can be a:


(a)        COAST LINE, occupying up to 450mm or 18 inches of any table edge and projecting inward up to 300mm or 12 inches. It can include a port.

(b)        ISLAND, capable of fitting into a space 150mm or 6 inches square.

(c)        SHOAL, capable of fitting into a space 150mm or 6 inches square.


All these can be Navigational Hazards.

All except shoals block lines of fire. Shoals block lines of fire from TBD, TB and Submarines.



Throw 1 dice for the time of day at the start of the game. Each side can choose to add 1 to the score or deduct 1 from it. If the modified score is:

1 or less,          the time is 1 hour before sunrise.

2 or more,        the time is that number of hours before sunset.


Sunrise lasts 30 minutes and hinders shooting at targets between North East and South East. It is preceded by 30 minutes of dawn with limited visibility, and followed by day.


Sunset lasts 30 minutes and hinders shooting at targets between North West and South West. It is followed by 30 minutes of dusk with limited visibility, then night.



Dice twice at the start of the game.


A score of 1 to 5 from the 1st dice indicates that there is a moderate breeze blowing across the table from one corner to that diagonally opposite, if 1 from the North East, 2 from the South East, 3 or 4 from the South West, 5 or 6 from the North West.


Scores from the 2nd dice have the following effects:


1          Wind is reduced to light airs or calm. If before dawn, each side can choose to place a stationary mist bank, which will dissipate when the placing side’s senior Flag has a NIP dice score of 6.


2          A fog bank starts to cross the table downwind at 1 move per spell.


3          A rainsquall starts to cross the table downwind at 2 moves per spell each time the senior Flag of the side with the initiative has a NIP dice score of 1.


4 to 5   No effect.        


6          Wind strength is increased to strong producing rough weather.



Merchant shipping exists to irritate navies. Each side may place 1 purportedly neutral liner, tramp steamer, sailing ship or fishing fleet on the table at the start of the game, which will move across the table without changing course. It cannot be fired on, but can be challenged by lamp signal and ordered to stop. When the challenger is in any base contact, the stopped ship can be inspected by ships boats. Dice for the effect of the search next bound. A score of 6 indicates that war contraband has been found and the vessel is made prize.



If no ship starts the game in sight of enemy, all ships start in CRUISING mode. They change to COMBAT mode when any ship of either side first sights an enemy ship, signal or shore installation.



Play is divided into alternate SPELLS, which are assumed to overlap the preceding and following enemy spell. Each represents 30 minutes (or 1 Glass) in real life if CRUISING, but only 5 minutes if in COMBAT mode.



A base length represents 2 nautical miles (nm) if CRUISING or 400 yards (0.2nm) if in COMBAT mode. Sea scales are therefore:         

  Cruising:                     Combat:

1/1200 models.                          3 inches = 1 nm.         3 inches = 200 yards.

1/1500, 1/2400 or 1/3000.         2 inches = 1nm.          1 inch = 100 yards. 20 inches = 1 nm.

1/6000.                                      1 inch = 1 nm.            1 inch = 200 yards. 10 inches = 1 nm.



Distances are measured between the nearest points of bases. Surface ships and shore installations can be seen (and fired upon if within range) at:

16 nm in clear daylight.

6 nm (12,000 yards) in daylight through mist, haze or a rainsquall.

2 nm (4,000 yards) at night if illuminated by or using searchlight or on fire, or at dusk or dawn.

½  nm or 5 cables (1,000 yards) at night if un-illuminated.

1 cable (200 yards) in fog.

A surfaced submarine is seen at half those distances. Mines can be seen at 1 cable.


Hoists of signal flags can be read in clear daylight and morse from a shuttered searchlight seen by day or night at 10 nm (20,000 yards) if from a Battleship, 3rd class or larger Cruiser or shore installation, or 4 nm if from other ships. Morse from a lamp can be seen and read at 2 nm (2,000 yards) by day or night. These ranges are halved through mist or rain and reduced to zero in fog.

Wireless Telegraphy (from 1900 on if fitted) morse signals can be received at 65 nm, but may be corrupted or even more likely misunderstood. Each word is diced for and deleted if it scores 1 or 2.  A crippled ship cannot use WT.

Morse messages are limited to 6 words in clear or 3 in code per spell in combat and 20 in code if cruising. Messages in clear are read by both sides, code only by friends.


Flag, searchlight and lamp signals received by one ship of a squadron or flotilla are automatically repeated to all other friendly ships in sight and in range.



Sides take alternate turns called Spells. During its spell, a side:


1.  Throws 1 Naval Initiative Point (NIP) dice for each squadron and flotilla.


2.  Moves and adjudicates any mining incident.


3. Both sides shoot. All Submarines fire first, then all shore batteries, then each side, starting with the speller, alternately fires one squadron/flotilla. Each ship must nominate all its targets before firing and finish its shooting before another starts.



Ships of the same squadron or flotilla can either move individually, or collectively as a formation expending the same NIPs as the slowest and moving in the same direction or turning through the same angle. The only formations recognised are:


LINE AHEAD – with each member in full front or rear base edge contact with at least 1 other ship of the formation


LINE ABREAST – with all front base edges level and the centre of each member’s front edge within 1 base length of that of the next ship of the formation on either side.


Ships not in such contact cannot be part of the same formation.



A move is always 1 base length, except that an optional move can be less if joining or changing formation, and a free move is double length if cruising. Ships can make several moves in each spell:

A Battleship can make a total of 2 compulsory or optional moves (representing a maximum tactical speed of 14 knots), a 1st Class or 2nd Class Cruiser 3 moves (21 knots), and a Scout Cruiser or TBD or TB 4 moves (28 knots). A surfaced Submarine can make 1 optional move.


Each ship except submarines that has not been crippled or stopped must make 1 compulsory free move straight ahead. A 1st or 2nd Class Cruiser may make 1 extra free move straight ahead. All other moves are optional and expend NIPs:

A 2nd move expends 1 NIP unless a free move by a 1st or 2nd class cruiser.

A 3rd or 4th move or stopping or restarting expends 2 NIPs.

A 2nd, 3rd or 4th move in rough weather expends 2 extra NIPs if a TBD or TB, 1 if not.

A move expending NIPs expends 1 extra NIP if by an obsolete ship.

A move expending NIPs expends 1 extra NIP if the ship’s Flag or Captain (D) has been sunk or is beyond signal distance.


A NIP move can include a turn of up to 90 degrees, pivoting on a front corner.

Ships in LINE AHEAD each turn in succession as they reach the leader’s position. Any that do not reach the turning point that spell continue to turn at it in following spells until all have passed it. Ships in LINE ABREAST pivot on the innermost ship. These turns expend 1 NP per formation, all other turns 1 NIP per ship.



A Submarine must submerge if shot at effectively and can submerge in any of its side’s spells in which it has not fired. When it submerges, it is removed and a bubble marker is left at its position. It can surface in any of its side’s spells except the next and must surface to fire (simulating prolonged periscope exposure or deck-gun use). It is replaced facing in any direction anywhere within 2 moves of the bubble marker, which is then removed.  Each side can always have 0-2 fake bubble markers.



This can belong to either side, or unless a Transport, be neutral. All merchant shipping of a side shares 1 NIP dice thrown by 1 of the side’s players. Neutral shipping moves in a straight line in the spell of the side with the initiative using only free moves. Liner movement is as if 1st or 2nd Class Cruisers, Transports as if Battleships, Tramp Steamers as if surfaced Submarines. Sailing vessel movement is as if Tramp Steamers except that they cannot move within 45 degrees of directly upwind. Fishing Fleets (of several trawler or drifter models on a single base) dice each spell and make 1 move straight ahead if they score 3 or 4, 45 degrees to port (left) if they score 5, 45 degrees to starboard (right) if they score 6.



Each side can have a single Raider or Minelayer depicted as a neutral Liner or Tramp Steamer and move like these until within normal range of an enemy merchant ship or challenged by an enemy warship, then firing on these and throwing and using NIP dice. A side can also have a single Armed Merchant Cruiser depicted as a Liner of their nation and acting as such as long as the controlling player wishes.



Ranges are measured model-to-model, not base-to-base.

Range bands are based on firing practise ranges and actual combats of the period.

0 to 800 yards (0.4 nm) is CLOSE range, but only if firing is by or at a TBD/TB or submarine.

0 to 1,600 yards (0.8 nm) is NORMAL range. 

1,600> yards to 4,800 yards (2.4 nm) is LONG range.

4,800> yards to 6,000 yards (3.0 nm) [8,000 yards (4.0 nm) 1905>] is EXTREME range.



Ships of this period still used gun crew aiming rather than centrally directed fire and all except TBD/TB and submarines can simultaneously engage more than one target. Lines projected through the diagonally opposite corners of the ship’s base define forward, aft, and port and starboard broadside arcs of fire. The firing face of a shore battery is treated as if a ship’s broadside.


Ships other than TBD/TB or submarines can engage:

1 normal, long or extreme range broadside target at full effect and 1 normal range opposite-broadside target at reduced effect.

1 forward and/or 1 aft or normal, long or extreme range target at reduced effect.

Any or none of these, plus 2 opposite-broadside close range targets at full effect. 

TBD/TB can be shot over by ships firing at long or extreme range targets.



Compare the total of firing ship’s Attack Factor + Tactical Factors + 1 dice (if its AF is x, no firing is possible) to the target’s Defence factor + Tactical factors + 1 dice.



Attack Factor if range is:              Close.  Normal.  Long.  Extreme.         Defence Factor.

Shore battery.                      -                2             2              1                           5

Battleship.                                       3               3             2              1                           4

1st Class Cruiser.                             3               2             1              0                           3

2nd Class Cruiser.                            2               2             0              x                           2

3rd Class Cruiser.                             2               1             0              x                           2

Scout Cruiser.                     2               1             x              x                           1

TBD/TB.                                         2               0             x              x                           1

Submarine.                                      2               0             x              x                           3



Shooter or target:

- 2        if crippled.

- 1        if obsolete ship.


Shooter only:

- 2        if shooting at reduced effect, or by TBD/TB that has fired during game.

- 1        if shooting at TBD/TB at night without searchlight or at dusk or dawn.

- 1        if shooting while hindered by sunset or sunrise, or at target illuminated only by its own searchlight use.

-1         if not the first ship to fire at the target this spell.



If the target’s total is less than, but more than half the firer’s total, and it is a:

Submarine.                      Forced to submerge by gunfire. Sunk if mined.

Any other target.              Crippled if already damaged twice, or if a ship target of TBD/TB or Submarine, or if mined. Damaged if not.


If the target’s total is half or less than half of the firer’s total, and it is a:

Ship.                            Sunk if the target of a TBD/TB or Submarine or if mined, or if a Submarine or already crippled. Crippled if not.

Shore battery.   Destroyed by magazine explosion.



Damaged ships are marked with a small puff of black cotton wool, representing the sudden puff of dark smoke often remarked when the jolt of a serious hit shakes soot into the funnel gases.

Damaged shore batteries are marked with a brown puff representing earth thrown up by internal shell bursts.

Crippled ships or batteries are marked with a red puff representing a serious fire. Any damage markers already in place are removed. New ones can still be placed.

If enough accumulate for a 2nd crippling, the target is destroyed.



Liners have a Defence Factor of 2, Transports, Tramp Steamers and Fishing Fleets of 1, Sailing Vessels of 0.


Armed Merchant Cruisers and Liner-based Raiders have the same Attack Factors as 2nd Class Cruisers, Tramp-based Raiders as 3rd Class Cruisers, and once disclosed, move as if these.  Minelayers have an Attack Factor of 1 and Defence Factor of 0.



A ship whose compulsory move intersects land or a shoal runs aground and remains there in a crippled condition until destroyed or salvaged. A ship whose move intersects another ship moves through its position without collision unless it is a compulsory move and the other is already crippled, a submarine, or in fog or unilluminated at night, in which case the rammer is damaged and the rammed ship sunk unless bigger. If a Fishing Fleet and Submarine intersect, the submarine is sunk (having become entangled in the nets). Collisions in peacetime evolutions of stubborn admirals are not apposite.



A field of sown or unsown mines up to 3 cables (600 yards) long made up of sections ½ a cable (100 yards) square costs 1 ship point per section. A sown field is deployed at the start of a game. A previously unsown field appears by sections behind a merchant steamer as it moves. Any ship entering or remaining in a minefield is treated as if in combat against an Attack Factor of 0 if TBD/TB, 5 if not. From 1904, a minefield section can be swept by being passed through by a TBD (representing a pair with the sweep between them). The sweeping TBD itself can still be mined.


A side has lost when all its ships have been sunk or retreated off-table, or when at the end of the time allotted the value of sunken enemy ships and destroyed shore installations exceed the value of its own losses. This provides a motive for finishing-off or rescuing cripples.



Dice before the game for the character of each squadron commander, but not of any Captain (D). If the score is:

1          He is a gunnery fanatic. Except at close range, his ship and one other of his squadron (specified before the game) add +1 to their firing dice score if this is an odd number.

2          He is a paint and brightwork fanatic and dislikes the damage from practise firing. All his ships deduct –1 from their firing dice score at long and extreme ranges.

3          He is a torpedophobe. All his ships must turn away at least 45 degrees from TBD/TB at normal range.

4          He is a gallant officer and/or completely mad. His ships expend 1 extra PIP for any turn that increases the range to the nearest enemy ship, except when this is a submarine.

5          He is a cautious officer, and has probably read a book - once. His ships expend 1 extra PIP for any turn that reduces the range to the nearest enemy ship.

6          He is chivalrous. His ships will only engage major warships 1 on 1: they will not fire on such a ship if it is already been fired on this spell by a friendly warship. However, this does not apply to fire on or by TBD/TB or Submarines, since chivalry and torpedoes do not mix.



Advice is required on what sort of table size and fleet size you have found best with the various ship scales, and the size of table at which cruising scale becomes useful.


Some of you have queried why torpedoes can be fired more than once. This is because destroyers carried only 2 or 3 and fired them singly. The firing of multiple spreads did not come in until WW2. At Wei-Hai-wei in 1905, 10 boats fired 8 torpedoes and 3 fired 7 in 2 attacks. At Port Arthur in 1904, 10 boats fired 18 torpedoes in singles or pairs.   Of 116 torpedo attacks at Jutland (discounting torpedoes fired by battleships) with mostly bigger destroyers carrying more tubes, 74 involved a single torpedo, 28 two, 5 three and 4 four (all by cripples firing before they sank, of which only 1 ship scored a hit) and only 5 were prevented because no torpedoes remained fit to fire. I have concluded that it is not possible to differentiate torpedo and gun attacks for TBD/TB without also doing so for battleships and cruisers with unacceptable complication and record keeping. It has also been suggested that torpedoes would pass under small craft. This is possible, although it should be noted that a torpedo track lagged the torpedo by up to 200 yards, so that a track passing under a ship usually meant the torpedo had already passed ahead. At Jutland, I have found 3 destroyers hit by torpedoes and 4 reporting torpedoes passing under them. Torpedoes passing under fishing craft are likely to hit the nets.


Damage control was in its infancy and its successes and failures are taken into account in NIP expenditure.


While it is possible to classify ships in greater detail, I have deliberately chosen not to do so, so as to emphasize tactics over book-keeping.


I have previously reported that the Hong Kong club have recently successfully played a one-day campaign set in the Med with 6 nations and 85 ships and in 12 hours fought 4 actions ranging from a cruiser stern chase to full fleet actions, of which one ended at night “with burning cripples attracting all the wrong sort of attention.” See http://www.hksw.org.