Monday, 26 December 2011


Here is the late, great John Coates admiring a large model of Olympias (pic nicked from : obviously he preferred 1:1 modelling but what is the best compromise between aesthetics and practicality ?

Some nice pages to view small-scale ancient ship models are

Bob Lord's collection scale ? (small)

SteelonSandBlog has views and discussion of 1/3600 Outpost models

WABcorner Blog Valiant 1/900 and Langton 1/1200

Eric Hotz has produced Roman Seas in 1/300 but now appears to be answering demand from figure wargamers and is scaling them up to 15mm/10mm also.

To wargame a battle in the real age of galley warfare requires the fielding of circa 100 models.

Those 100 should be more than blobs and at the same time the table-top should be less than a football field.

Salamis involved circa 1200 ships in an area about 4km square.
This requires the following 'tables-tops':

1/300 : 13metres 1/900 : 4.4metres 1/1200 : 3.3metres 1/3600 : 1.1metres

1/3600 is obviously the best solution for those of us who don't live in a castle or have unfeasibly long arms. They are about 15p each. BUT the ships and overall aesthetic is more that of a map game. They are so small that they would even perhaps have to be based as groups?

1/300 is OUT except for skirmish games. HOWEVER I like the larger ships with easily visible detail and their cheepnis.

If 1/300 are reduced to 66% this gives 1/400 scale models with Salamis requiring a 10 metre table....apparently I can't have everything. Reduced Hotz ships cost me half an hour, ink, glue and card. Let's say 25p each.

1/1200 is also a good solution BUT 100 ships means circa 400 quid in outlay, painting and weight.

A funny thing is that I have not found any gamers on the net who have done some battles with c.100 ships ? Is everyone effectively doing skirmish wargaming ? even with small models ?

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Paper Quadrireme !

Amazing modelling of a quadrireme -- All the better because it is made in PAPER !

Sunday, 18 December 2011


66% is the size I settled on. Look good. Relatively easy to make. The hemiolia is possible - stands in as a pentekonter/scout.66% is nearly 50 and gives nearly four times the playing surface.

An unexpected bonus is that the models stand alone and no base is needed. The oar-banks just need bending down a bit. I painted the undersides with pva glue and sprayed the models with matt varnish. The finished thing is quite strong and does not need such care in storage as do full-size models on bases.

Deck crew at this scale could be a problem but the 6mm card figures I made for full size models actually look quite ok. (phew)

Friday, 16 December 2011

Pros and Cons of Scaling-down

  1. Construction was not too onerous using shortcuts.
  2. Finished models still look far more 'lively' than lead
  3. Cost is very low : pence versus several quid for lead


  1. Construction time
  2. Do the shortcuts detract from the models?
  3. Deck troops..hmmm.. v.small. 6mm still look ok on 75% scale-down.


I printed a Hotz trireme at 50%, 66% and 75% original size.

To simplify the fiddly bits I
  • Left the outrigger off
  • Cut the stem-post straight instead of curved
  • Cut base-tabs and oar-tabs off
  • Did not add extra ram-thickening
  • No interior walls - coloured them black

I used superglue, scissors and a modelling knife.

It was not too bad. Took about half an hour for each model.

It was necessary to secure the deck to the main hull with glue so that unsightly 'wobble' was avoided.

The final models. Viewed here with a full-size 1/300 Hotz trireme and a lead one which, I think, is a Navwar 1/1200(theoretically) trireme.

PDF scaling..aaaargh!

Trying to scale Eric's files for 50% printing proved a nightmare.

Adobe Acrobat only allows limited scaling. Trial and error with the page options failed.

Searched possible options and found, at last, free download of FoxitReader HERE.

FoxitReader has a %scaling option , just set 'Scaling type' to 'Custom' and Robert is your mother's brother.

Having measured the print it is a little variable - just use a constant value to ensure all prints are compatible!

Also, switch centering off - then you can send the card into the printer the other way round and get two prints on the same A4 sheet. (now 4 would be even better ?)Now there is just the question of cutting and assembling................................(but I will stick with card models ..I am hoping).

Friday, 9 December 2011

Periplous and Diekplous

These tactics are often misunderstood as manouvres by single ships against their opponent. They are actually unit actions whereby a group of ships outflanks the enemy line or makes a breakthough, after which they can attack the vulnerable sterns of the enemy.

More support for using units of ships for a game rather than playing each model individually.


Ships should operate in units to be historically accurate.

At Mylae the Carthaginians seem to send a wave of 30 ships ahead of the rest - according to Polybius (1.23)
At Drepana (Pol. 1.50) the Carthaginian commander assembles and coordinates a flank attack with 5 ships in line. Only attacking when they were ready and presented a united front.
At Ecnomus the Roman fleet forms up in 4 squadrons which altogether make a formation. (Pol.1.26)

At Arginusæ the Athenians deploy in what appear to be units of 15 ships (Xen. Hist.Græ.1.6.29..)
Their Spartan opponents deploy in squadrons of 10-15 line-astern.

There are other references but this is enough to make the point that the ancient sea battle was not a free-for -all of single ships before organisation broke down.
The other point is that order and coordination was important so that formations could be maintained and ships could cooperate to cover each other and threaten the enemy.

Nuff said: a set of rules requiring ships to operate in units is not unhistorical.

Impetus Navalis Rules

A test version of these rules is available HERE.

They seem to be highly stylised but may give a quick playable game.

Monday, 28 November 2011


One severe problem with Hotz ships is their size. Paradoxically it is the size which also appeals.

1/1200 ar too small to have any appeal. 1/600 in lead cost an arm and a leg.

I may have been barking up the wrong tree with trying to allow players to manouvre ships.

Perhaps players get to manouvre UNITs of ships. They decide who to attack and from which direction but the detailed movement is considered to be at a higher resolution than the game.

The ship on its base is considered to be a ship plus a suitable amount of searoom for it to manouvre.

On no.... many implications.

Sunday, 27 November 2011


New rules being developed in the style of IMPETUS ancients rules.
Read blog HERE.

I like IMPETUS and the info here seems to indicate they will be a good set for large battles.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Final Turn Template?

After much head scratching and calculation I developed several turn template models.

The final version is simplest and smallest while still accurately controlling the ship's movement.

One for each class of ship: MAJOR (3 to 6) and MINOR (smaller) and Alexandrian (Larger).

In a single move phase the ship can manouvre in steps of turn 1/3 and advance 1/3.

The severity of the turn accumulates 0, 1 or 2 Speed Penalty points. A throw is made to see if the speed penalties cause a reduction in speed of 1 level at the end of that move phase.

The long arrows are 1 'ship length' and can be used for measuring straight moves and shots.


Command your own warships and ram the enemy !

Free flash game at the British Museum website HERE

Don't you love it when the Persians stream onboard ?

Friday, 25 November 2011


At the ground scale of Hotz ships (1/300) it is not practical to have a long time scale. With a long game turn the models will simply travel too far each turn and the table needs to be very large.

With a shorter turn ships stay within the table area but the trick is find a period within which something meaningful can happen without stretching things too far.

I chose a 'ship's length' : the length of a trireme, as an arbitrary unit of distance. This is circa 35m and roughly equates to a Greek plethron which was 100 feet.

The fastest ships can make circa 10 knots in a burst of hyper-energetic rowing.

I mashed some figures to give ship speeds of 1 to 5 ship lengths corresponding to a range from 1 to 10 knots ( ish ). 5 ship lengths is 575 feet which would take 95 seconds at 1 knot or 9.5 seconds at 10 knots. This arithmetic mess allowed me to justify an average game turn of one minute! ....phew

In one minute two warriors can exchange blows with time for one to despatch the other. An archer can shoot several arrows, a light bolt shooter make a shot and marines can run along the deck of a ship some distance. Enough.

This was not enough to allow movement to be executed in an interleaved way which gives a sense of simultaneity. For this I chopped the game turn into 5 phases - these ended up at 12 seconds on average - short - but could represent up to 30 seconds at a pinch.

Again, seeking to rationalise/justify this I would say that a game with 1/1200 or smaller models could be played with un-segmented moves , a simpler system but at 1/300 the extra resolution is necessary to make an exciting game with fewer ships on the table. If a squadron of 15 ships gets splattered at 1/1200 scale there can be several moresquadrons still available. At 1/300 a side of more than 15 ships is difficult for one player to control unless the rules become very simple indeed. (At this point I have had visions of using Periplus as the basis for a Hotz game to make everything much more simple...........

The final turn sequence:

Move phase
Move phase
Deck Action
Move Phase
Move Phase
Deck Action
Move Phase
Move Phase
Deck Action

Where did the sixth Move Phase come from ? That is a card for FATE. When it is turned players must take a FATE / Random Events card which allows the injection of some atmospheric 'colour'.

Then the cards are shuffled and next turn starts.

Now what happens in each phase ?

(photo from Olympias site)

Thursday, 24 November 2011


Deciding how to manage movement in an ancient ship wargame is a headache, especially turning.
Things are made a little easier thasnks to the fact that sails and rigging were usually dispensed with for a battle ! :) Wind-regulated movement in a tabletop game uuugghh...

The sea-trials of Olympias give much useable information plus I have some experience on viking galleys - for that is what the longships also are.

I started from the basis of establishing the minimum turning circle - Olympias gives us time and angular distance. Larger ships will turn more slowly, smaller ones faster.

One thing to remember is that the steering oar swings the stern out as the turn is made so the ship does not go round a turn like a train on a track but holds a tangential position to the arc cut in the turn.

It is possible to calculate turning circles for all ships. Not necessary and tedious. I grouped ships into three classes. The trireme was the benchmark for doing this.

In my rules a ship just has to be ordered to go AHEAD, TURN PORT, TURN STARBOARD or BACK. The speed the ship is doing and its crew characteristics then determine how much it can turn, the final move being decided by the player as he moves that ship.

The templates are transparent and do not disfigure the playing surface when lying about.

I started with heavy perspex templates but changed to flimsy acetate ones which do not mash the ships when things get heavy!

Cheapo Ships

A pirate copy may be appropriate for an ancient ship ?
An obviously ripped-off copy of Hotz ships (simplified) is available at Junior General.
I have commented to Matt at JG and Eric Hotz but the files are still up so I feel no qualms about publicising it.

These paper versions are by Eduaro Burca and can be printed quite small and look OK.
They are not a patch on Eric's originals, shown below, though miles better than other printable ships.

Rules again

After an hiatus I have got back into working on the rules.
Test version is downloadable HERE but incomplete.
New version up soon.


The trireme reconstruction 'Olympias' is to visit New York USA and be refitted.
Info HERE.

Antikythera Mechanism

A brilliant account of the Antykithera mechanism. I have chosen to use this as an excuse to involve old-style 'disc calculators in my rules.

An Early Start into Trireme Fever

Some children made this funny version of an ancient sea-battle.