Optional Rules

I. Introduction

This section offers a set of optional rules that may be added in any combination to suit the player's taste. Each optional rule adds greater scope and realism as well as complexity to play of the game.

II. Timed Moves

To make the game flow more quickly, use a timer to limit the writing of movement. Allow one minute to write for single-ship actions, two minutes for up to three ships per side, three minutes for up to six ships per side, and an additional three minutes for each additional six ships per side. Ships whose orders do not get written, move on a straight course their full movement allowance. 1, 2, and 3 minute timers may be purchased directly from Avalon Hill. Ask for a current Parts List.

III. Multi-Player Communication

During the age of sail, flags were used to communicate tactics to the ships of a fleet. This system was inefficient for three major reasons:

  1. It took time to set up the coded message to be sent, delaying implementation of important tactics.
  2. In the smoky haze of battle, it was often difficult, if not impossible for ships to discern the flags.
  3. This system limited the number and variety of messages which could be sent.

To reflect this in multi-player games, the following rules may be used:

  1. Messages between ships of the same fleet may be sent in writing only. This is done in the Movement Notation Phase.
  2. Only one message per ship may be sent to the other ships of the fleet in that phase.
  3. This option should be used with the "timed moves" option.
  4. Players may also wish to forbid any communications between players commanding different squadrons of different nationalities, to simulate their difficulties in reading each other's flag signaling system.

IV. Command Lag

The number of ships any flag officer of the period could actually control effectively was a squadron of six ships (often less). There would be a considerable "time-lag" between the time an admiral signaled a squadron not under his immediate control, and the time that squadron actually carried out his orders.

To simulate this loss of time in games where a single player is commanding more than one squadron, use the following rules:

  1. A player must select a ship as his flag ship and divide the fleet into squadrons of six or less ships.
  2. The player writes the moves for the ships in his immediate squadron from turn to turn in the normal manner.
  3. The player writes the moves for the ships in other squadrons three turns in advance. Thus, at the start of the game, the player would write movement orders for these ships for turns one, two and three. After turn one was completed, he would write movement orders for these ships for turn four, etc.
  4. Alternatively, all ships completely or partly within ten hexes of the flag ship can have their movement written from turn to turn. All other ships must have their movement written for three turns in advance.
    1. Ships, which had their movement written for three turns in advance, but end their turn within ten hexes of the flag ship, can have excess movement orders erased, and can be marked from turn to turn.
    2. Ships which find themselves over ten hexes from the flag ship, and which have had their previous movement marked from turn to turn, must have their movement marked for three turns in advance, the next movement notation phase.
  5. If the flag ship surrenders, any movement for ships in that squadron must be marked for the next five turns. After these five turns have been completed, the player can designate a new flag ship and begin moving normally again.
  6. In multi-player games, each player chooses a flag ship for the squadron that he controls.

V. Changing Wind Number

When changing wind direction and wind velocity, a player may roll the die a fourth time. This new number represents the new wind change number. It may not be rolled if the wind does not change in velocity or direction.

VI. Variable Wind Direction and Velocity

At the start of any scenario, a player may instead of accepting the historical wind factors roll a die 3 times for a new wind direction, wind velocity and wind change number. The new direction would correspond to the die roll compared to the wind direction hex on the mapboard. The wind velocity would be the match of the second die roll with the die roll column of the Wind Velocity Table. The third die roll would be the wind change number.

VII. Towing

A. A ship may tow another friendly ship.

B. Ships towing a ship of equal or inferior gun rating lose one hex of speed in all wind attitudes. Ships towing a ship of superior gun rating lose two hexes of speed in all wind attitudes.

C. A ship towing another ship in zero movement allowance attitude may still turn in place as in the Basic Game.

D. Towing Procedure

1. Maneuver the towing ship so that its stern is in the hex to which the bow of the ship to be towed is pointing. Indicate in the "log" that the ships are to be grappled.

2. The two ships can be maneuvered together on succeeding turns, the ship being towed moving directly in the wake of the other ship. Only one movement plot need be written.

3. Ungrappling notations in the "log" will end the tow.

VIII. Loss of Rigging

Although the rigging sections do not correspond exactly on a one-to-one basis with the masts of a ship, there is a positive correlation between the fact that a rigging section is lost and the actual material loss of a mast or part of same. Loss of masts upset the trim of a ship and caused a less stable firing platform. If a mast fell but did not break cleanly, the ship would be heeled to an extent that both broadsides were useless. The following rules allow for masts to effect the play of the game:

A. A ship with all rigging sections destroyed is -1 HT when firing for ships having up to 6 gun squares, and -2 HT when firing for ships with 7 or more gun squares.

B. In a phase in which a ship loses one or more entire rigging section(s), a die is immediately rolled for each section lost and the following table is consulted:


Mast hangs over

the side*

Mast fails free


*Additional Die Roll

1, 3, 5 - left broadside 2, 4, 6 - right broadside

If the mast fails free, the results of the mast loss are the same as the loss of a rigging section. If the mast hangs over the side, the ship cannot fire until it has been cut loose. The Unfouling Table is used, and one die roll per unfouling phase is allowed for attempts to cut the mast loose. The ship's speed is reduced by one and may not turn until it is cut loose. Any adjacent ship within the play of the broadside over which the mast hangs must roll for fouling.

IX. Blocked Wind

When one ship is adjacent to another and lays directly between its bow or stern hex and the wind, the sails would tend to "blanket" or block off the wind to the second ship, thereby slowing it down.

A. If the ship blocking the wind is under full sails, the movement allowance of the ship blocked is cut by two hexes, for that turn. If the ship blocking the wind is under battle sails and has at least half its rigging squares left, the movement allowance of the ship blocked is cut by one hex for that turn.

B. A smaller ship could not block the wind of a larger ship as effectively as one the same size.

1. If a ship blocks the wind to a ship mounting 30 plus guns less than the blocking ship, the loss of speed, as described in A., is increased by one, for that turn. The reverse is also true. If a ship is blocking a ship with 30 plus more guns than that ship, the loss of speed described in A above is reduced by one for that turn.

2. If the difference in ratings between the two ships is 60 or more guns, the loss of speed in A above is varied by two as explained in B above.

X. Exploding Ships

As damage caused by exploding ships was a function of the ship's size, a variable damage effect is herein incorporated. A ship exploding will cause damage to any adjacent ship on the Rigging Effects Table number double to her 1 hex range rake bonus, but in no case to exceed table 10. In addition No. 14 of the Critical Hits Table must be checked for fire damage.

XI. Running Aground

Each ship has a depth value. This value indicates the maximum depth of water in which that ship will run aground. If a ship enters a hex in which the water depth is equal or less than its depth value, it has run aground. The depths of shallow water hexes is given in the appropriate scenario.

A. When a ship runs aground, it stops all movement and may proceed no further that turn. Readjust the movement plot of the ship's log to reflect the actual move.

B. Immediately roll a die. The resulting number indicates the relative difficulty of refloating the ship. On each succeeding turn during the reload phase, the die is rolled to see if the ship can be refloated. The die number rolled must exceed the number initially rolled, or the ship remains aground for another turn. If a "6" had been rolled initially, this would indicate that the ship cannot be refloated by ordinary means.

C. Ships that enter land hexes are considered to be destroyed.

D. Ships that are successfully refloated are moved back into the hex they occupied prior to running aground. They may move normally next turn.

E. Ships cannot fire their guns while aground.

XII. Casting the Lead

Ships often needed to measure depth of uncharted waters through which they intended to travel. Casting the lead was a method used to determine this.

A. Players can be assumed to be "casting the lead" for any ships which have moved a maximum of one hex in that movement phase. On request, the enemy player must tell the depth of water in all hexes adjacent to their ship.

B. Ships at anchor which turn 120 degrees have moved either stern or bow two hexes and cannot be considered to be -casting the lead.---

XIII. Optional Rake Determination

Ships qualify for raking only when they occupy a hex toward which the bow or stern of the target ship is pointing.

NOTE: There have been two different rules presented on rake determination. Each has certain advantages and disadvantages as to its application in the game system. None are totally accurate in their definition of rake. While the optional rake may appear to be the most realistic of the two it can only be applied at set points in time. On the other hand, the Basic Game rule, though it may not consistently present actual raking positions, does take into account the continual movement of ships in real battle.

Players are advised to bear this in mind when choosing which rule to use.

XIV. Fore and Aft Rigging

Allow ships which have fore and aft rigging (ships which are rigged with the type sails used by modern sailboats as opposed to the square sails in general use by warships in this period) to move one hex every second turn in D attitude to the wind. This rule takes into account the improved weatherliness of fore-and-aft sails. Ships which carry this special type of rigging will be stated as such in the scenario. Rigging hits are not doubled if a fore and aft rigged ship is at full sail.

XV. Special Rules

A. Copper Bottom

Some ships, especially during the Revolutionary period, did not have copper bottoming. This allowed marine invertebrates to attack to the hull and reduce the vessel's speed. For those who wish to include this, the following rule is presented:

All ships designated as being at sea for at least three months and having no coppering will lose one movement factor of its allowance in all attitudes under Full Sails.

B. Scurvy

During the Revolutionary War period, Navies had not learned how to combat the disease scurvy. They avoided the effect of crew loss due to this and, other diseases on ships performance by increasing the size of the crews.

Ships designated as newly arrived on a foreign station or to a fleet will have one or two extra crew squares per section for the S.O.L. class ships and one extra crew square per section for frigate class ships.