Quick and Dirty Napoleonic Naval Rules.

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These rules are derived from a long out of production board game called Trafalgar. Itís a simple,  dirty set of rules not too heavy on detail but has enough for most needs. I would say it would be suitable for a fleet action. Itís a fun game, the board game version takes about 45 minutes to play (2 ships of the line, and 2 frigates per side) and the rules are on both sides of an A4 sheet. Its suitability for a side game in campaign has been commented on, so if your French commander in Spain wants to upset the British re-supply prior to a battle with Wellington, these could be the rules for you!

I have modified the rules somewhat out of respect for the copyright. If anyone knows if the board game is available again, please let me know. If the copyright holders feel that I have impinged on their copyright, please inform me, and I will remove these rules.

I can be contacted by the link on the bottom left of this page.

About the board game.

The board game came with 8 ships in plastic, each with 3 detachable masts, 4 ships were ships of the line, and 4 were frigates. Each ship had a gun deck card which featured a cross section of the ship and there were plastic gun counters, two each side for the frigates, three each side of the ships of the line.

The Game came with 3 dice, each was blank on 3 sides, and marked 1-3 on the remaining 3 sides. 

The board was lined and the ships followed the lines point to point. Each point having 6 lines moving away from it, itís effectively a hex board. There were sandbanks and rock out crops on the map.

What You Need to play?

This game can be played in two forms, one based on a Hex Sheet, one not. For both, in addition to the play area/map, you will need some:-

Ships, Like those of Pirates of the Crimson Sea from Whizz Kids.

Some regular 6 sided dice, If you have access to blank die, leave 3 blank sides, then mark the remaining sides up as 1, 2 and a 3.

A wind direction marker

Sheets of paper showing each of your ships, their mast movement point value, and their gun decks, and markers to show when a gun deck or mast is active or destroyed.

Maybe some Islands and some sand bars.

I shall generally talk about the hex sheet version of playing the game, however from time to time I shall refer to the "free movement" version of the game. It will appear in brackets  (*like this) In this version you will need some way of indicating clock facing and arc of fire. A ring of card of plastic divided into equal quarters, and marked 1- 12 in equal spaces like a clock face will be fine


Each ship has Sails, it is on these sails how many movement points your has to spend per turn. Turning a facing costs 1 move point, Moving Forward a hex costs one movement point. You cannot move directly into the wind! As your ship loses sails, it looses movement points.

 (*In the Free movement version, 2 clock facings take up one movement point, 1 inch forward also takes up 1 movement point)


Before Firing declare "chain" or "Shot". Chain kills masts, and so destroys a ships ability to move. Shot kills decks and so destroys the ships ability to shoot. Failure to declare will equal 'shot'

Can I Hit? All guns are treated the same and have a Range of 3. Hexes. You can only shoot to the areas to the sides of a ship like so:-

Roll one dice per facing gun deck. Ignore any result of 4, 5 or 6. If the result is equal or higher than the range of the target in hexes, it is a hit. 

(*in the Free Movement version of the game, you can only hit anything 45 degrees either side of a line drawn through the central mast. To hit  Roll over the range in inches on the dice.)


Resolving Damage.

Shot. One hit with Shot kills a Gun Deck. on the side closest to the shooter.

Chain, Kills a Mast. If Broadside to broadside, the victim of the damage chooses, otherwise the closest sail is removed. Especially if you fired chain shot from the fore or aft where you victim is unable to reply.

When a ship has no masts and no decks left, it is destroyed/Sunk.



Sail ships may not move Directly into the wind. 

Any ship which needs to move into the wind must Tac across the direction of the wind in a zig-zag fashion.

The player who moves second at the start of the game decides the wind direction. At the end of each round, a dice it thrown and the wind changes accordingly for the next round. The wind direction is set, like turning as a clock facing.

1- wind direction changes 1 Hex Facing clockwise. (*1d6 clock facings)

2- wind direction changes 1 Hex Facing counter clockwise. (*1d6 clock facings)

3-  it changes direction 180 degrees.

Any other result = no effect.



Gun decks may not be repaired during the game.

The crew may knock up an emergency mast. It takes two turns of NO OTHER ACTION. Then the ship gains a 1 move mast

The Round.

Game starts.

The Players lay down any terrain on the board like Islands and Sand Bars.

Players lay out their fleets.

Both players dice for who moves first, winner moves first, looser chooses wind direction.

1: player 1 moves his ships

2: player 2 moves his ships

Note both players may fire at any time in their move, so player 1 may hold his fire until some point during player 2s move.

3: the effects of fire are resolved as they occure.

4: player 2 rolls for any wind change

5: Round starts again.

Optional rules:

Terrain (optional).

Though tricky to talk of terrain for naval combat, not all combat happens on the high seas. Some like the battle of the Nile were fought near the coast, sand bars featured. 

Sandbars are of three depths, 0, 1 and 2. Depth of 0 no ship may pass over, itís a very near the surface sand bar, beach or a rocky outcrop. 1 & 2 are deeper. A ship may pass over them if their draft do not exceed the depth. So a sloop could move over a bar of depth 1 or 2, where as a frigate may move over a bar of 2 only, ships of the line may not move any sandbars!

You can represent the sandbars with different coloured pieces of card/felt or what ever fits your needs.

You could have the sand bars as unknown until a ship tries to cross it.

Reefs Similar to Sandbars but roll 1D6 every time a ship crosses it. 

1-2 = depth 0

3-4 = depth 1

5-6 = depth 2

Sargasso sea Refers to the large clumps of seaweed that float in the sea. each one takes 1d6/2 movement (1-3 movement points)  off your movement points until you spend a turn cutting it away from your ship.

Fog Banks Pirates of the Crimson Coast have Fog Bank markers. I suggest you play these exactly as in those rules.

Islands. Islands cannot be moved through or fired over/through.

Draft (optional).

Each ship type has a draft, it is equal to the number of gun decks. If you use terrain like sand bars, you must also use draft.

Sloop, Draft of 1.

Frigate, Draft of 2.

Ship of the line, Draft of 3.



Ships of the Line.

These are the battle ships, durable, packs a punch but costly!

Ships of the Line have 3 Gun decks per side, and a move of 4.


These are the commerce raiders and patrol ships of the fleet.

Frigates have a move of 6, but only 2 gun decks per side.


Sloops are the fastest but lightest armed ships of the Fleet.

They have but one gun deck per side, but a move of 8.