Old School feel without Old School complexity
Rory Crabb has written a fine set of rules for naval actions between the American Civil War, and World War One. These rules are designed primarily for smaller actions, of up to ten ships per side, though more could be used. Any size models, or counters can be used. a table of 6x4 feet is recommended. you need several d6 and a pair of d10s., and a ruler.
The rules are laid out in a readable, logical manner. Each turn has a command phase, for morale checks and writing movement orders. Next is a movement phase, for both players. gunnery, torpedoes and damage is next, then a damage control phase. MORALE and DAMAGE CONTROL are two very important parts of this game, and serve to prevent players from 'fighting to the last shell" .
Movement is very easy to learn. Gunnery takes a little more study. Early ships do NOT have fire control, so the players must estimate range to their targets, and roll for 'overs and unders' until they have 'registered' the enemy range. differnt ship types have different armor. Larger guns can defeat more armor. This is covered on a very clear chart on page 12. Once you see if you you are 'on target', you roll to penetrate the enemy armor. Each penetrating shot is then rolled on a d100 to find location and damage, anything from a point or two of hull damage or fire, to a catastrophic explosion....and lots of variety in between.
Once damage starts to accumulate, you must repair hull breeches, fight fire, and pump out flooding...if you can Morale decides your ability to respond to these crisies.
For added detail there are rules for weather, shore batteries, running aground and fleet actions.
I fought a solo action with two protected cruisers attacking an armored cruiser. The heavier guns of the AC could strike while the PCs were out of range. The PCs closed rapidly, and soon were bringing many more guns against the heavier weapons of the AC. In five turns, One of the PCs blew up, but the AC was riddled with holes, drawing on water, and had out of control fires, forcing the crew to abandon ship. The game took about forty five minutes, while learning the new system.
I storngly recommend this ruleset to anyone with an interest in late 19th century naval warfare.
[5 of 5 Stars!]