Naval Wargames and History

I really love Naval Wargaming. It is probably my favourite era to paint miniatures in and my second favourite to play in. In one of my by now famous quotes, I recall talking to my friend Wally in Australia about naval wargaming, and noted how much I enjoyed playing with ships that sail and how good my abilities were when using them. Wallace noted that he rather preferred triple expansion engines and large guns. Since that time, I have never won a sail based wargame against him and he has never won anything with gunpowder weapons and screw driven vessels. Ah, such is life. Enough of this however. As I mentioned, I really love naval wargaming. I love it in all periods of history, from very ancient up to World War II. Particular favourites are the Russian Japanese War of 1904-5 and the ironclads of the American Civil War.

One of the more memorable American Civil War games occurred between Wallace and myself. We were playing with one vessel each in a river action. The result of the battle was considered a draw as at the conclusion of the battle, Wallace’s damaged vessel, with its captain hors de combat on the bridge, was sailing as rapidly as possible away from my vessel. However, I was unable to pursue and ultimately destroy his vessel as his final shot before departing resulted in the jamming of my rudder and my vessel then sailing in circles.

On another occasion, playing Russian Japanese War of 1905 with Wal, Wal had suffered 17 defeats in a row using the Russians and me the Japanese. He remarked that there was no way the Russian vessels could win against the Japanese. The following week we swapped sides, I took the Russians out and soundly defeated the Japanese. This is what makes naval wargaming such fun.

Enough of these reminiscences. On to matters more naval.

This page is devoted to my efforts with Naval Wargaming. However, as I love so much naval wargaming, this area has been divided by period, with separate pages for each. These pages will become available as articles over the coming months. This is as much to keep the load times of each section down as it is to help me keep track of what I am doing. We start with the ancient naval period, move through time to the American Civil War, the the Russian Japanese War of 1904-5, WWI and WWII. Some of these areas are only just started and some are more complete. Later I will be adding sections for action under sail, probably the Dutch Wars, Great Northern Wars and perhaps Napoleonic Wars as well. I have also considered the later ironclad battles such as Lissa.

As mentioned, I have divided my gaming here by era. The active eras are:

Ancient Naval Wargaming
This covers everything from the time of the pharoahs and the Sea Peoples up to the time of the Vikings. My favourites in this period are the Roman and Carthaginian Wars as well as Persian and Greece. Details of ships, rules and painting are in this area.
Renaissance Period
One of the best and fastest set of rules I have ever used was designed for Renaissance Galley Warfare. Not only were the rules fast but the ships were pretty as well. I managed to persuade number two son to buy some appropriate models at a show a couple of years ago. These he has painted up. Details will appear here again soon.
American Civil War
The start of the ironclad era. There is a wonderful diversity of vessels in this era as well as the introduction of new weapons such as mines, torpedos and submersible craft.
Russian Japanese War of 1904-5
When men were men and ships were really vulnerable. The last of the pre-Dreadnought period of Naval Warfare.
World War I
Jutland, the Coronels, the Falklands. The majestic line of battle. Battleships as the queen of the seas. This was the first war of the Dreadnoughts.
World War II
The coming of airpower, the demise of the Battleship and the diversity between the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans as well as the Mediterranean Sea (all the world’s salt water saw conflict in this war unlike the land areas).

There are a number of e-mail lists around providing information and giving the wargamer the chance to ask questions of other wargamers. Advice is free here and some of the debates are quite amusing. Well worth the look. The lists are maintained on the Yahoo Groups site. Follow the instructions when you get there and search for those areas you are interested in such as General Quarters (my preferred 20th Century Naval Rules), Battleships, Ancient Wargaming and so on.

There are four (actually, there are a lot more but there are four that I belong to) dealing with some of these Naval periods. They are :

General Quarters Naval Wargames Rules for World War I and World War II (best set of naval rules ever).

Ironclads over the period 1860 to 1880.

Pre-Dreadnoughts – the period between the Ironclads and the launch of the Dreadnought.

Naval Warfare under oars, and Wargaming of said subject. Acceptable topics for discussion are history of Greek, Roman and other Ancient nautical warfare, extending into middle ages all the way up to Lepanto– and not neccesarily of the Western European tradition.

There are also some really great and useful naval links to a wealth of information on the Internet. I will be including these in the links section of this site.

3 thoughts on “Naval Wargames and History

  1. William 30 November 1999 / 8:00 am

    Hello, Tomo!

    This isn't a comment as such, but I thought you and those of your readers who are interested in ancient naval warfare might like to know about my upcoming book on the battle of Salamis: see… for fullest information, but it is also easily found on Amazon or the Osprey Publishing website. Publication date is June 22. Please let me know if you would like me to send you a cover image.

    Best regards



    • thomo the lost 30 November 1999 / 8:00 am

      Hi William – yes – please feel free to send. I am quite happy to post a description of the book and review here as well

      Cheers, Ian (aka Thomo the Lost)


  2. William 30 November 1999 / 8:00 am

    Sorry, that should have been Thomo!



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