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Sail and Steam Navies

Sail and Steam Navies

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Sail and Steam Navies is a miniatures rules system for fighting naval battles during the period of 1840 to 1880. These rules are designed for use with 1/600 scale waterline models but include options for use of 1/1200 scale models.  

The basic rules are 40 pages long, which include charts, an example of play, and conversion information for 1/1200 scale. The Under Both Flags module adds six scenarios, a scenario generator, and the forms for the ships. There are over 500 pages of forms (generally with two forms on a page) included in the game covering pretty much every ship involved in the American Civil War (at least the ones that fought in battles or are mentioned in the various histories) and a number of forts and shore batteries. There are multiple forms for many of the ships that show changes in armament while in service.

The game uses D10s for resolving combat and other actions. Usually you will only need one or two dice, but there might be times during damage checks when you will need a handful of them.

The turn sequence is straightforward; it starts with writing speed orders for the turn (this is just writing down how fast a ship will go for the turn, not actually plotting movement), followed by combat (cannon fire, musket fire, boarding/melee), then movement, and finally morale checks and repairs.

The game includes a really good player aid page (which is easy to print out) that lays out all the game information in a clear manner. Once you are familiar with the rules, you really only need the player aid chart and ship forms to play the game.

Gunnery: Cannon fire in the game is pretty easy. Guns are broken down into light, medium, heavy smoothbore or rifled guns, and mortars. Each group has a set close, medium, and long range, which determine the Hit Number. The player declares if they are firing solid shot, shell, or grapeshot and rolls a hit die and location die, with the hit die result being modified by various game, firer, and target conditions. If the modified roll is equal to or greater than the Hit Number the target ship is hit and the location die is used to determine what part of the target is hit. The location numbers are shown on the target ship's form, so there is some variation between ships. The location roll can also be modified if firing through the bow or stern arcs of the target, which prevents cases of hitting the bow of a ship when firing from the stern aspect.

If the target is hit, the armor rating for the location is subtracted from the modified gun rating for the firing gun. The gun rating is listed on the attacking ship's form and is modified based on range and if the gun is firing shot or shell. The result is the number of damage dice that are rolled (Note: you always get to roll at least one damage die, even if the armor rating is greater than the modified gun rating). This is where you might need a lot of dice, especially if you are firing a big gun at a wooden vessel at close range. The damage dice cause damage on a roll of 8 or higher; with the damage being Suppression (affecting the crew), armor, or hull hits. There is also a chance of taking out a gun or scoring a critical hit if three dice come up with the same number.

Damage results are pretty easy too. Ships have armor at the different locations (including stacks, and paddlewheel boxes) and hull boxes. The hull boxes are divided into upper and lower hull types. There are always fewer lower hull boxes and if all of those are marked off the ship begins to sink (the lower hull boxes are marked off due to ram and torpedo attacks or for hull hits on the lower portions of the ship). The damage to armor and hull is marked off as needed.

There is a phase for musket fire, which is handled in a similar manner as cannon fire but only causes crew suppression, and a boarding/melee phase for those rare boarding actions.

Movement: Movement is done in two rounds. In each round one side, determined by initiative die roll, moves all of its ships and then the other side moves. The same movement order is repeated in the second round. Ships must move the full distance they wrote in the speed order box at the start of the turn, unless damage has reduced their maximum speed. For turning, each ship is rated for a distance it must move straight before making a 30-degree turn. The turn distance is on the ship's form and can be modified for paddle wheel damage or rudder damage.

During movement ships can attempt to ram each other. If a ship hits another at a shallow angle, then it is a glancing blow and minor or no damage occurs. If not at a shallow angle, a roll is made to see if the ram is successful. If not, then it is treated as a glancing blow. If successful, a number of dice equal to the ramming ship's speed are rolled. The die rolls are modified by the size and ram value of the ramming ship and the armor value for the defending ship at the point of impact. Higher die rolls cause hull hits to the target and lower rolls cause damage to the attacker, with middle rolls not causing any damage. Spar torpedoes are handled in a similar manner with the attacker checking for success in the same manner as a ram. If successful, three dice are rolled for damage.

There are also rules for sailing ships in the game and optional rules such as allowing ships to hold fire until the beginning of the second round of movement.

After movement is the Morale phase. Ships check morale for certain cases (such as losing half its hull boxes or having no movement). The first failed morale check causes the ship to withdraw and a second failure causes the ship to surrender. Additionally, a ship that has all of its suppression boxes marked off will surrender. The last phase in the turn is the Repair phase where players check to repair damaged systems, put out fires, refloat grounded ships and grapple/ungrapple. Then the turn sequence starts all over.

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Reviews (1)
Discussions (5)
Customer avatar
Mark B February 02, 2021 9:50 pm UTC
Question regarding the ship rosters...what do the numbers in parentheses next to the gun symbols (only on some ships) represent? Thanks in advance.
Customer avatar
Andrew H July 07, 2021 6:53 am UTC
Agreed, I just saw this too. But, am not seeing it in the rules. I saw it first on the USS Minnesota, and Im thinking its how many guns of that type are in that arc.
Customer avatar
Mark B July 07, 2021 3:04 pm UTC
That is correct, I got confirmation I think on TMP. Good rules but that point could be made clearer.
Customer avatar
Jack W May 10, 2020 6:31 pm UTC
Are there counters for the mortars, forts, torpedo boats, etc?
Customer avatar
James H November 30, 2018 2:31 am UTC
Is there a module for British and French ships for these rules?
Customer avatar
Nathaniel W September 29, 2018 5:54 pm UTC
I have just gotten into ACW naval gaming and have been looking at several rules sets. Your description of the basic mechanics of the game is appreciated---so many games' descriptions just includes "innovative designs!" or fluff that doesn't explain how the game plays.
Customer avatar
Damon R April 30, 2016 9:54 am UTC
A fantastic game system that is great fun for gaming groups with each player controling a few ships. has an authentic feel without being too complex. My only complaints are somewhat minor in that sidewheel ships should have higher odds of having the paddleboxes hit by gunfire. Hoping their will be an expansion for South American Navies.
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File Last Updated:
March 30, 2020
This title was added to our catalog on July 14, 2013.
David Brandon
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