I’ve infrequently dabbled with naval wargames – both in miniature and board formats – but Bob Cordery’s Gridded Naval Wargames provided rules useful across key eras of modern history: the ACW ironclad engagements and pre-dreadnought and dreadnought periods (with rules easily adapted to World War II battleships, cruisers, and destroyers). Some might recall a report of a Russo-Japanese wargame in the opening stages of the pandemic in early 2020. While Gridded Naval Wargames provided just the right amount of depth and engagement for my own solitaire battles, it also demonstrated how well it works with younger players who aren’t quite used to the complexities of many more comprehensive rules. So I embarked on two project expansions for my naval wargaming with an eye toward involving both a younger player (my son) and – once we feel safer with relaxed pandemic precautions and current infection rates – with an acquaintance who’s a fan of WWII history, particularly of PT boats (They Were Expendable being one of his favorite period films).
|Thoroughbred Figures ironclads|
with my hand-crafted models
behind, along with stat cards and
a decorated storage box.
|Opening salvos deal lots of damage, as noted|
with Litko tokens.
|The final round: mutual destruction.|
|A second game with an additional|
ironclad on each side.
|USS Cairo limps away.|
|A view of some of my ships, cards,|
and the storage box.
|One of GHQ's amazingly detailed|
tiny PT boats.
this scenario I
a few adjustments to the rules, especially since the small PT boats
guns with minimal range and power and
torpedoes. With their speed and agility I allowed PT boats to turn
any amount spending one movement point. They could
also occupy a hex with another ship, particularly useful when
maneuvering with other PT boats (though
they can’t ram). The
freighters and tankers gained 2D from their deck guns fore and aft,
essentially allowing them to fire at a PT boat in an adjacent hex
with one die. The larger Japanese ships could not fire at a PT boat
in their own hex, though moving into a hex with a PT boat would allow
them to ram the enemy vessel. I
did not allow destroyers to use torpedoes against PT boats, believing
their shallow draft, smaller size, and high maneuverability would
exempt them from such attacks (a
ruling Warlord Games’ Cruel
uses, too, though historically torpedo hits on PT boats were
Two Japanese destroyers escort
a freigher and a tanker.
|The PT boat finishes off the freighter|
while the destroyer waits to counter-attack.
Overall we were pleased with both games. The rules remain easy enough for kids to understand yet contain enough depth on the table to offer some interesting player choices and some engaging naval action. Hopefully I can develop them further and bring them to a wider audience as pandemic restrictions ease and museums and game conventions start welcoming people back.
A Note on My Stat Cards
In all my Gridded Naval Wargames sorties I’ve used stat cards to summarize each vessel’s capabilities...especially when using my optional critical damage tables. When a ship takes a critical hit on a roll of a “6” the vessel loses one flotation point (just like a regular hit) but the target player rolls 2D6 and consults the table for additional effects: loss of one value of movement, inability to turn to port or starboard (or at all), loss of gun effectiveness, etc. (I also allow a vessel to forego attacks in one turn to try repairing one point of damage to a system on a die roll of 4-6.) The laminated stat cards allow players to mark both flotation point losses and other damage; PT boats mark off how many of their four torpedoes they use in an engagement.
I still need to adjust a few ships, possibly noting special modified rules (like those for PT boats mentioned above), and modify some of the ironclads based on potential firepower. At some point in the future – when I feel comfortable enough in my adjustments and revisions – I might convert some stat card sets to PDF for the personal use of fellow wargamers on the internet. Right now I have stat cards for all my ACW ironclad models, my handful of Russo-Japanese War vessels, my SOPAC Patrol ships, and the key players in the Battle of the River Plate. No doubt I’ll create more should I branch out to explore other naval engagements.
Overall they’ve proven helpful aids in my Gridded Naval Wargames experience. They keep track of multiple ships in a large fight and multiple stats for larger vessels. For kids they offer a chance for some in-game record-keeping experience, a reminder of ship capabilities, and a visual aid for quickly determining a ship’s condition.