Sculpted and cast some triremes that I finished painting the other day. There’s some really nice ancient ship models out there, but they tend to be larger than I’d like and can add up in price. I wanted something about an inch long for a game I can play on a 2 by 2 foot board.

A dozen boats are done. The rules are still in progress.

Why are naval rules some of the crunchiest in all the hobby? Maybe the technical aspect of naval warfare draws those most interested in reproducing the intricacies of sailing. It’s not for me. I’m looking for a game that has the feel and outcome of an ancient trireme battle – the mechanics of reaching that goal need to be unobtrusive.

While his suggested rules aren’t to my taste, Paul Hague makes some great points about naval wargaming in his book Sea Battles in Miniature. Games are best fought around an objective and ideally as part of a campaign. Navies have a goal, maintain a blockade or supply an army, which gives context to individual battles. I’m hoping to make rules that reflect the important factors in Peloponnesian War naval battles – morale, rested crews – without bogging down in dozens of tables and charts.

So that means keeping combat simple to fit within a campaign. What I’ve come up with so far is an easy movement system involving a matchstick and fast combat results. Once fighting has begun, crews become more likely to flee each turn if they see friends sunk. Ramming is effective but only if you’ve got the room to maneuver, otherwise ships fight in boarding actions.

Here’s the end of my test battle. The turned over ships have been knocked out of action – triremes didn’t sink exactly but would swamp – and two ships of the winning side are attacking fleeing enemies.

There’s a long way to go to make a game that functions and is, you know, fun to play. I’ll post the rules here once I’ve got a first draft.

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