Biremes, Triremes, Quadremes, Quinqremes, Oh My!
A Roman fleet versus a Charthaginian fleet with
Greek Allies.The fleet view.
This is a quick play rule set for Anceint Naval Wargames. Its
meant to be fun and flavorful. Enjoy yourselfs and remember
You can set up on any size table, with any amount of ships.
Each figure represents 1 figure and a crew. Ancient ships used
oars for movement and did not rely on the wind. they did, however,
need calm seas. With oarpower these ancient ships could manuever
much like Modern tanks, that is, they turned by pivoting. They
could turn while sitting in one spot, they could move directly
forward or in reverse. They could move fast or slow. They did not
have effective missile weopons so, like ancient land warfare, the
ships had to attack by ramming or boarding.
TYPE OF SHIPS
There are only four types of ships we will deal with. The
Bireme, a small ship with two banks of oars; The Trireme, three
banks of oars, longer body, more crew; The Quadreme, larger, more
crew, and the Quinqreme, the broadest and largest crew.
the BIREME was the original
warship of the ancients. Small, light, fast, with two banks of
Oars. This ship carries a crew strength level of 10.
the TRIREME became the standard
warship of the Ancient period, before the Roman Empire. It was
light, fast, had three banks of oars. It carries a crew strength
level of 20.
the QUADREME also had three banks
of oars and was as long as the Trireme, however, it was much
broader giving it more crew space and more weight. This would
become the standard ship of the Roman era. It has a crew strength
level of 30.
the QINQREME was also a three bank
oared ship, but it had a very, broad deck and hull which carried
a large crew. This particular example (see image) is a Roman
Quinqreme with a Corvus at the bow used in boarding. The
Quinqremes were used as troop transports and as flagships. They
have a crew strength level of 50.
Sea battles of this age first began in the Persian war period
between Greek and allies of Persia (Phoenician and Asian Greeks).
During the Age of Classical Greece, Greek vs Greek battles
predominated, especially between the rivals of Athens and Sparta
(The Peloponesian war) The Age of Alexander and the successors
saw huge Greek and Greek type navys from all the former conquered
lands. Then came the great naval battles between the Romans and
the Carthaginians in the Punic wars. Last but not least would be
Roman action against Greek navy's and against their own navys in
the Civil War period. Throughout all these periods there was
always pirates to deal with by any national naval power.
Ancient Naval Battles were always fought near land. Set your
battle near a shore, in a channel, in a bay, near islands, etc.
You can roll dice or decide amongst yourself if the forces are
even or mismatched. If the battle is a meeting engagement or if
one side has had time to set up a defence, or if one side is
beached when the enemy suddenly appears. You can draw up a large
map of Greece, or the Greek islands or Italy, etc and have naval
campaigns where the navy elements battle for supremacy of the sea
lanes. You can roll 1d6 to determine opposing sides if you wish.
Greek vs Persian Allies = 1
Athenian vs Spartan = 2-3
Roman vs Carthaginian = 4-5
Naval power vs Pirates = 6
In this case some attributes to remember in play.
Greeks get a +1 to any melee during boarding. In the Greek vs
Athenians get a +1 to Ram and Oar Swipe rolls, while Spartans
get a +1 in any melee after boarding.
Carthaginians get a +1 in any Ram or Oar swipe, while Romans
get a +1 in any melee after boarding.
Each turn begins with a roll of 2d6 amongst all participants.
Highest roll moves first, and so on. Determine ties by rolling
Movement and combat may happen in the same phase.
The player announces the movement and any offensive combat
action that a ship is undertaking. He should perform this
movement and combat with each ship, one at a time, until done.
Ships that don't move or are locked in melee due to a boarding
can be announced last.
Once he has moved all his ships and conducted whatever actions
his move entailed, his turn is over and it is the next persons.
Oared ships may travel forwards backwards and may turn up to
180 degrees. They may choose to not move at all and sit in one
On each Turn a ship has 5 movement options it may choose from.
MOVE FORWARD: This is a straight line, 90 degrees in the
direction the bow is pointing, with no angling of the movement.
VEER RIGHT OR LEFT: Using the Veerance Template, a ship may
move forward and angle itself up to 25 degrees from the direction
of its bow.
TURN LEFT OR RIGHT: Turns are accomplished in 90 degree angles.
A ship may turn to any point within the angle it is allowed to
turn. For instance, a ship that is allowed to turn 180 degrees, may actually stop its turn anywhere within that 180 degree allowance (26 degrees to 179 degrees) Use the Turning Template.
NOTE: Turning, other than a 25 degree veer, is a seperate move
and no forward or reverse movement can be made if the ship
chooses to turn more than 25 degrees.
SPECIAL NOTE: The Bireme, due to its lighter form and greater speed, has more agility than the other ships, thus it is the only ship that may turn and move in the same sequence. It may only turn 90 degrees if it chooses to also move. It may only move half its allowable distance if it also turns (3 inches if forward) It must conduct its turn at the beginning of the move or at the very end of it.
REVERSE: This is a straight 90 degree movement to the rear or
stern of the ship.
STAY ON STATION: The ship doesn't move at all.
this image, the bottom ship is the moving ship, and the three top
ships represent its movement options. 90 degrees ahead, or 25
degrees veerance left or right.
image demonstrates a 90 degree turn.
SPEED is equated as distance a ship can move. Due to size some
ships are slower than others and move shorter distances. Any ship
may move as fast or slow as the player wants, depending on the
distance he wishes the ship to travel.
SHIPS NORMAL SPEED
BIREME's: These may move forward up to 6 inches a turn, and in
reverse up to 2 inches. These tiny vessels can turn upto 180
TRIREME's: These ships may also move up to 6 inches or reverse
in 2 inches, and may turn upto 180 degrees.
QUADREME's and QUINQREMES: These ships may only move up to 3
inches or reverse 1 inch. They may only turn upto 90 degrees.
RAM SPEED AND RAMMING!
This is the main offensive action of Ancient Naval Warfare.
Each warship is fitted with a bronze and wood Ram at the bow. The
object is to generate enough speed to slam this home into the
side of an enemy ship and sink it. A ship may ram another during
its turn by the player declaring its intentions, its target, and
making sure the requirements for a RAM are met.
In order to Ram another ship, that target ship must be within
the RAM SPEED parameters. These are a minimum distance that the
ramming ship may be to the target and a maximum distance it can
move to strike the ship.
Minimum Distance to declare Ramming.
BIREMES & TRIREMES: Must be 3 inches from target.
QUADREMES & QUINQREMES: Must be 2 inches from target.
Any target that is closer than these ranges, can not be Rammed.
By declaring a RAM, the ramming ship is given a speed increase.
This is RAM SPEED. The ramming ship may strike a target within
this distance. Movement may not increase if no target can be
BIREMES & TRIREMES: May increase their normal movement by
QUADREMES & QUINQREMES: May increase their normal movement
by 1 inch.
NOTE: The more distance traveled in order to Ram a target ship,
equals more power in the Ram attempt.
A ship can only be rammed if it is one of two positions
relating to the angle that the Ramming ship bow. 90 degrees dead
on, and 25 degree oblique. If the target is bow or stern on, then
no Ram can take place.
This is a 90
degree or dead on (to the side) Ram.
This is a 25
degree or Oblique Ram. Both rams are permissable.
position no Ram could be undertaken, but an Oarswipe could.
Declare your Ram, then move until the bow of your ramming ship
touches the target at the correct angle and roll 2d6 (Two 6 sided
dice) and modify the roll if any modifiers are in effect.
SUNK : .........................................10-12
STUCK FAST : .............................08-09
DEAD IN THE WATER : ..............06-07
IMMOBILIZED : ...........................04-05
RAM GLANCED OFF : ................02-03
Bireme vs. Quadreme: -1
Bireme vs. Quinqreme: -2
Trireme vs. Quinqreme: -1
Quadreme vs Bireme: +1
Quinqreme vs Bireme: +2
Quinqreme vs Trireme: +1
Target ship is immobilized or dead in the water during attack:
Attack is at Oblique: -1
Attack is 3 inches or less: -1
Attack is 4 inches or more: +1
SUNK: Target ship is sunk and removed from play.
STUCK FAST: Ram succeeded but both ships are stuck as if
grappled. Boarding must take place on next turn and whoever wins
must occupy the Ramming ship, as the Rammed ship will sink when
DEAD IN THE WATER: Damage was not sufficient to sink the
target ship, but it may no longer move during the game.
IMMOBILIZED: Target ship is immobilized for 1 turn. Put a
marker (a small piece of paper or cardboard or plastic) that
marks it as immobilized and then remove the marker after 1 turn.
All modifiers are accumulative.
Another offensive manuever in which the attacking ship tries
to smash the opposing ships oars before that crew can pull them
in for safety. There are minimum distances required, but no bonus
distances. Their are also angle requirements. Once all
requirements are met, the owning player declares an OAR SWIPE and
moves his ship to touch the side of the ship in question.
Minimum Movement requirements.
BIREMES & TRIREMES: Target ship must be within 2 inches.
QUADREMES & QUINQREMES: Target ship must be within 1 inch.
NOTE: Their must be enough movement left for the Swiping ship
to move at least 1 inch beyond the Target.
OAR SWIPING ANGLES.
If the target ship is at a 90 degree or dead on angle, no Oar
swipe is possible. An Oar swipe is possible if the target ship is
at a 25 degree oblique angle or bow/stern on.
No Oar swipe
swipe is possible on a bow on or Stern on angle.
swipe is possible on a 25 degree angle as well.
Once declared the Target ship has one of three defensive
options it may attempt.
1. It may attempt a sudden turn that will move its Oars away
from the swipe.
2. It may attempt to save its Oars by drawing them in quickly.
3. It may allow the Oarswipe an attempt to grapple the other
ship as it passes.
If the Target ships player chooses 1 or 2, then he rolls 1d6
to determine if he is successful. On a 5-6 he is successful.
If the Target ships player chooses 3, then he must wait til
the Oarswipe is completed, then roll for a successful Grapple (see
Grappling & Boarding) If the grapple is successful then the
Oar swiping ship is brought back and placed side by side with the
OAR SWIPE RESULTS
ONE BANK OF OARS DESTROYED : ........ 10-12
IMMOBILIZED ONE TURN : ........................05-09
NO APPRECIABLE DAMAGE : ....................02-04
A larger ship Oar swiping a smaller one: +1
A smaller ship Oar Swiping a larger one: -1
ONE BANK OF OARS DESTROYED: That ship looses 50% of its
movement for the rest of the game. (movement loss is accumulative.
Another 50% loss would result in the total immobilization of the
GRAPPLING AND BOARDING
Another offensive move or even a defensive one, is to attempt
to Grapple the other ship and hold it fast so that your crew can
board and destroy or capture the other ship. This is the other,
most commonly applied offensive move, as ancient warfare, land or
sea, was about the sword and the shield and man vs man. Enemy
ships were more valuable captured than sunk.
Their is no minimum distance requirement or bonus movement.
The player whose turn it is, must declare the attempt to grapple
and then move his ship side by side with the target ship. Oar
swiping angles are in effect. If the target ship is 90 degrees to
the moving ships bow, no grappling can be attempted.
is the position for both an Oarswipe and a Grapple attempt. In an
Oarswipe, the swiping ship would then move 1 inch further on. In
a grapple attempt, if failed, the target ship could move 1 inch
further on or in reverse.
As in Oar Swiping, the target ship may attempt a quick turn on
a 1d6 roll of 5-6. This would negate the grappling attempt.
If no sudden turn is made, then the ships remain side by side
and a Grapple is attempted. Both players roll 1d6. If the
grappling players roll is equal to or higher than that of the
target ship, then a grapple has succeeded.
NOTE: No defensive roll or grappling roll is neccessary for an
immobilized target ship. The grapple attempt is automatic.
Attempt to grapple a larger ship: +1
Attempt to grapple a smaller ship: -1
If the Grapple is not successful the target ship may move 1
inch to the front or to the rear or may turn away (up to 90
If the grapple is successful then boarding by the grappling
ship is automatic and melee may start.
Note the respective ships crew strenghts on the roster. Ships
crew maximum strengths are noted above.
Melee will take place until one side or the other has totally
defeated the others crew (when that crew's strength reaches 0)
There is no escape from melee for a ship that has been grappled
and boarded. Melee will be conducted in one round per turn for
every turn the ships are in Melee.
Each player rolls dice for the casualties he inflicts upon the
other crew. Subtract these results immediately. Once one crew's
strength reaches 0, then that ship may be captured or sunk by the
winning side. The number of dice and modifiers are determined by
1-6 = 1D6 -1 for every number less than 6 (ie: 4 crew strength
7-12 = 2D6
13-20 = 2D6+1
21-+ = 2D6+5
NOTE: See national modifiers at the top for more modifiers.
The Romans were the best Melee fighters of the Ancient period.
ADDING TO A MELEE.
Other ships may grapple to the sides of ships that are
immobilized due to being in a melee, and those ships crews may be
added to that players side in the melee. Simply add all the ships
crews together. Any number of ships may add on into a melee.
However, they will all be locked into the melee until the fight
is over, and will share the fate of the winning or loosing side.
an example of Multiple grapples locked in a Melee.
Once the melee is over. Ships that are deemed Sunk are removed
from play. Ships that are captured must be manned by at least 5
crewmen from the winning players ship (or ships) Then that ship
may act as normal on that players side. (any damage suffered
previous, such as loss of 50% movement, etc, continues as before)
CORVUS: This is a Roman device which in
essence is a Gangplank with a Spike on the end that is dropped
and embedded onto the enemy ship. Thus the grapple is very secure
and Roman soldiers can easily cross onto the other ship. Ships
must be noted as having a corvus. In my ships only the Qinqremes
have Corvus. You may limit your corvus to your bigger ships as
biremes and Triremes are really more 'sailing' warships than
board and melee ships. Any ship with a Corvus may +2 to any
All crews have archers on board. When no other offensive move
can be undertaken or is planned, any ship at the beginning or end
of its movement (but only once in a turn) may fire missiles.
Missiles may be fired at any ship in range (but only one target
may be fired on per turn) and that target may be at any angle.
The Firing player must choose what type of missile fire he is
conducting. Note, only a creew of 6 or more may conduct missile
1. Crew Attack.
2. Fire Attack.
The range for a missile attack is 2 inches.
If it is a Crew Attack, The firing player rolls 1D6 and that
number of casualties are subtracted from the target ships crew.
If it is a Fire Attack, roll 1D6 and on a 6 that target ship
The bane of any wooden vessel. if a ship catches fire, place a
cottonball on that ship on that turn. On the next turn the crew
may attempt to put the fire out. A ship on fire may not conduct
any offensive actions, but may move normally. On each succeeding
turn the target ships crew must roll 1D6 to put out the fire. If
it fails another CottonBall is added. Each ship, depending on its
size, will sink when it reaches a certain number of cottonballs.
Roll to put out fire is a 6 on 1D6. Modify by ships crew size.
20 or less is normal, 21+ receives a +1 to the roll.
Number of Cottonballs (one cottonball per turn) until a ship
has burned out and sunk.
Bireme: 3 cottonballs.
Trireme: 4 cottonballs.
Quadreme: 5 cottonballs.
Quinqreme: 6 cottonballs.
FIRESHIP: a ship may set on fire at anytime by its owning
player and then set drifting towards a target ship to set it on
fire. A ship without a crew drifts at 1 inch and only in a 90
angle to the bow (no turning) A ship that still has a crew can
move at normal speeds and turn and if it touches another ship (ramming
or grappling) while on fire, that other ship may catch on fire.
If rammed, the chance is a 1d6 roll of 5-6. If Stuck fast or
Grappled the chance is increased to 4-6.
CREW TRANSFER: At anytime a player may move two of his ships
side by side and conduct a crew transfer (done on the roster) He
must announce what he is doing to the opposing player. He may do
this with any of his ships including those that are immobilized
or on fire, but not those that are in melee. If he docks with a
ship that is on fire he must roll 1D6. If a 5-6 is rolled, that
ship catches on fire, otherwise the crew transfer is completed
and that ship may move or turn 1 inch from the burning ship.
could be a crew transfer. If a ship were on fire it would have
one or more cottonballs in a line behind it.
Well that should do it my Naval Wargaming friends. To battle
and "RAM SPEED AHEAD!"
GOOD LUCK! EMAIL me if you wish to tell me if you found the
rules fun to play or not.
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