So, finally it has come to this point… I’m proud to be able to present to you guys the outline of my own WWII Naval ruleset: Naval War
What kind of ruleset is Naval War? Why is it
different from other rulesets?
Naval war is a fast-playing, action packed wargame that will really blow you away… ‘wink’
...Right, now that we’ve got that over with and further trying to avoid the compulsory superlatives, let me take you on a cruise down the ruleset so you can make up your own mind about what makes this game unique:
The game is designed to be played on a tabletop, and to be usable for different kinds of scales. The goal to produce a fun and exciting game took precedence over simulating exact ranges and speeds. Abstractions have been made which causes ships to move quite fast compared to most naval games, and at the same time dramatically increases the importance of maneuvering, keeping distance and the effects of squalls, shoals and islands. Movement is measured in ‘Movement distance’ units, this allows the players to tinker with this variable when playing in a different scale. Time is also variable because of the activation mechanic about which I will elaborate more below. These things will probably sound anathema to most hardcore simulation gamers, but in practice it works surprisingly well by allowing players to zoom in and out of different events happening on the battlefield. Still, if your looking for a full-fledged simulation, I think there are much better rulesets on the market for that.
The core of Naval War is the players’ Command Station. The Command Station is where it all happens, it dictates the flow of the game, decides if lady luck is on your side, annoys your opponent and allows you to outsmart and outmaneuver the enemy fleet. Now how does this work? Every player’s fleet generates a certain amount of Order tokens each turn. An order token allows you to activate a single ship or a squadron of ships (for convenience I will refer to this as a ‘squadron’ from here). When you activate a squadron with an order token you can perform an activation, which could be a maneuver, shooting your guns, launching aircraft from your carrier etc. After this activation, your opponent can activate one of his own squadrons (and so on..). The amount of activations are only limited by the amount of your order tokens and the rule that a squadron cannot perform the same activation twice in one turn. This means that Naval war does not have pre-defined phases of movement, shooting etc. Players alternate their activations during the turn and this opens up a complete new spectrum of possibilities. Do you want to move closer to your opponent first and risk getting shot at before you can, or do you open fire at long range to get in the first shot? Because of the alternate activations, players are non-stop involved in the game.
On top of this, each nations' Command Station comes with a pre-defined set of orders you can give your squadrons during an activation (or as a reaction to your opponents’ activation). These orders require you to spend order tokens. So you can spend tokens to make your ships move faster than average (Flank Speed!), shoot better than average, or just be more luckier than average. It sometimes even allows you to influence the shooting or movement of your opponents’ squadrons, simulating ‘friction’ and bringing a huge amount of tension to a game. There is a catch however: both activations and orders tap into the same resource which is limited, your order tokens. On top of that, each order outside of the normal activation orders can be acted upon by your opponent by playing disruption tokens, which allow him to influence the chance of succes for your orders, again, simulating friction in command and control during a battle.
So do you spend your order tokens to maneuver every squadron in your force or do you enhance the performance of individual ships or squadrons, risking that you run out of tokens and that squadrons cannot perform the activations that you want them to? Do you constantly try to disrupt your opponents' actions or do you save up on disruption tokens to mess up his key strategy on the moment supreme? It creates in the game exactly those situations you read about in the battle-reports, leaving the readers wondering why some ships did not perform as they could have in a battle, while other ships seemed to have all the luck in the world on their side taking center-stage (Taffy 3 anyone?).
Speed of play is another aspect that is taken into account in Naval war, the activations create a tremendous amount of involvement for both players, but on top of that, each activation plays out relatively fast. The D6 is used for most rolls with a single D20 needed for determining hit location. Shooting is resolved by 2 rolls; A combined roll to hit and determine damage location (D6's + D20) and an opposed roll for damage/armor penetration. Torpedo’s work almost the same, but use a template to simulate the spread, and effects are resolved at the end of the turn, allowing for a cat-and-mouse game of ships trying to launch their torpedo’s after their targets activated for movement (so cannot take evasive action anymore) and opponents trying to anticipate torpedo launches or desperately trying to get out of the way once launched. The hit location/system damage chart is the only chart in the game, and since it has only 20 entries (with different entries for torpedo damage) it is quite easy to use thanks to the comprehensive Quick Reference Sheet provided.
This brings us to the next subject, damage registration. Naval War uses elaborate ship statcards to represent each ship on the table. In addition to all the general stats of the ship you can mark damage and damaged components. The card will then show the effects on performance because of that damage. No damagemarkers on the table are required, one glance on the unit statcard will inform you of the current status of your ship. Each component and weapon system has a ‘damaged’and ‘disabled’ status, allowing or disallowing damage-control and possible lethal hits to take out complete systems in one go. A command system is also integrated into the damage system and as ships take more damage, the chance increases that they will break off the action.
|A typical statcard|
Besides the usual historical scenario's Naval War uses a point system to build fleets but does not use unrestricted fleet lists. Order of Battle PDF’s are provided to guide the player in building a fleet inspired by a specific campaign or battle. This will for instance enable a German-navy player to build his fleet from one of the lists in the Norway 1940 Order of Battle to capture the feeling of a fleet that could have sailed in the invasion of Norway. This will make sure that all constructed fleets still have a certain flavor to them.
To round off my presentation, rules for in-game aircraft, carriers, dogfights and land based air support are present, as are rules for submarines and ASW. I hope that I have sketched the broad outlines of the Naval rule set enough to spark your interest, and also convinced you of the fact that it is an unique game to play!
Give it a try and download it for free at the website (
If you do, please feel free to give constructive feedback and suggestions on the forum, they are very much appreciated!