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Blood, Bilge and Iron Balls (Hardback)

A Tabletop Game of Naval Battles in the Age of Sail

Wargaming Nelson & Trafalgar Naval Modelling Photo Books Colour Books

By Alan Abbey
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 144
ISBN: 9781848845343
Published: 30th November 2011

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Blood, Bilge and Iron Balls is a set of wargame rules for naval battles in the age of sail. They are fun, fast-playing and very easy to learn. Each player can easily command a single ship or several, the rules working equally well for a single frigate chasing down a privateer, or a large-scale fleet action with multiple players on each side. The basic rules are written with the emphasis on a fast, fun game full of incident, while still rewarding use of historical tactics. Optional rules add further historical detail. Sample scenarios and a campaign system are included. The book also contains colour ship counters, so no expensive models are needed to get started. Now there is no excuse not to relive the glories of Nelson at Trafalgar or Hawke at Quiberon Bay, or perhaps try your hand at a little piracy.

If you are fond of naval battles with sailing boats and would like to get started in the world of naval wargame , "Blood , Bilge and Iron Balls" can be one of your first hand.

Read the full review here.

José Manuél Rico Cortés (Mister JM) - Miniaturas JM

There is a seven-page section of full-colour cut -outs fleets for the British, French and Spanish. Counters are available to download, along with all of the ship rosters and playing aids, on the Pen and Sword website, in case you don't want to cut up your nice book.
These are a good solid set of rules that will appeal to newcomers to the period, especially for their simplicity and support materials.

Wargames, Soldiers and Strategies

I first came across these rules by accident. I have played a few Napoleonic naval war games and have found some to be rather complicated. However these rules are the opposite, they are fast, tense, exciting and above all fun. So if you have ever had even a passing interest in Napoleonic naval warfare and wondered what it was like to imagine the feel of the quarter deck rolling under your feet, sea spray in your face and the wind in your hair; the roar of round shot as it passes through your ships sails and spars, battling to keep your ship afloat as she sustains critical damage; fires ravaging your decks as you decide which repair crews to direct to each crisis to keep her in the fight, then these are the rules for you.

The game turn is divided into three parts, a firing phase, where firing takes place, a sailing phase where you carry out sail changes, turns and movement and a repair phase where you attempt to use your crew to carry out repairs to keep your ship or ships in the fight including putting out fires, repairs to your steering gear and more.

These phases are printed on six cards which are shuffled, placed face down and then drawn, giving total unpredictability to each turn. At the end of each turn bloody boarding actions are carried out with the assistance of your Marines. Damage is decided by the turn of playing cards with the jokers providing the odd lucky shot causing disastrous levels of damage to be dealt with. A player can easily control one ship or a whole squadron.

When I introduced these rules to my club after a brief explanation it took only a few turns for them to grasp the game and play without guidance. Easy to learn hard to master, all thoroughly enjoyed the game.

Apart from dice and playing cards the book provides all the items needed to play or they can be downloaded from this website. There are even coloured ship counters you can use if you don’t have any ships. The book also provides scenarios and a campaign game.

A thoroughly enjoyable game which I can heartily recommend. If you only buy one set of Napoleonic naval rules these are the ones.
I first came across these rules by accident. I have played a few Napoleonic naval war games and have found some to be rather complicated. However these rules are the opposite, they are fast, tense, exciting and above all fun. So if you have ever had even a passing interest in Napoleonic naval warfare and wondered what it was like to imagine the feel of the quarter deck rolling under your feet, sea spray in your face and the wind in your hair; the roar of round shot as it passes through your ships sails and spars, battling to keep your ship afloat as she sustains critical damage; fires ravaging your decks as you decide which repair crews to direct to each crisis to keep her in the fight, then these are the rules for you.

The game turn is divided into three parts, a firing phase, where firing takes place, a sailing phase where you carry out sail changes, turns and movement and a repair phase where you attempt to use your crew to carry out repairs to keep your ship or ships in the fight including putting out fires, repairs to your steering gear and more.

These phases are printed on six cards which are shuffled, placed face down and then drawn, giving total unpredictability to each turn. At the end of each turn bloody boarding actions are carried out with the assistance of your Marines. Damage is decided by the turn of playing cards with the jokers providing the odd lucky shot causing disastrous levels of damage to be dealt with. A player can easily control one ship or a whole squadron.

When I introduced these rules to my club after a brief explanation it took only a few turns for them to grasp the game and play without guidance. Easy to learn hard to master, all thoroughly enjoyed the game.

Apart from dice and playing cards the book provides all the items needed to play or they can be downloaded from this website. There are even coloured ship counters you can use if you don’t have any ships. The book also provides scenarios and a campaign game.

A thoroughly enjoyable game which I can heartily recommend. If you only buy one set of Napoleonic naval rules these are the ones.

Mark Montbrun

About Alan Abbey

Alan Abbey is a keen wargamer of long standing, and founder of several wargaming clubs. He is currently studying for his MA in history and is also a keen local historian and former chairman of the Historical Research Group of Sittingbourne.

Perfect Partner

The Battle of Quiberon Bay, 1759 Britain's Other Trafalgar (Hardback)

Revered naval theorist, Alfred Thayer Mahan, thought the Battle of Quiberon Bay (20 Nov 1759) was as significant as Nelson's victory in 1805, calling it 'the Trafalgar of this war [the Seven Years War]'. Arguably it was even more vital. Britain in 1759 was much less well-defended, with virtually no regular troops at home, and the threat of French invasion was both more realistic and more imminent. When the British fleet under Admiral Hawke fell upon them, the French ships of the line under Admiral Conflans were actually on their way to rendezvous with the invasion troopships gathered at the mouth…

By Nicholas Tracy

Click here to buy both titles for £36.98
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