The following rule modifications and naval lists were developed specifically for the needs of an e-mail DBM campaign set in the late 3rd century BC. They are designed for the simple but satisfying resolution of fleet sized naval battles.

Although these rules are grounded on the existing naval aspects of DBM, they are in no way intended as a replacement for the existing rule mechanics used in the land game. Instead the aim has been to create a set of rules appropriate for purely naval battles.

The rules and naval lists have been written with a very specific period in mind, namely 240BC to 167BC. This is the period from the end of the First Punic War to the final Roman destruction of the Macedonian monarchy. But the rules should be perfectly valid for a much greater time frame, embracing most of antiquity up to the Byzantine era. I have no doubt that later periods might be accommodated with further modifications right through the 15th century and beyond.


I. Rule modifications.
II. Notes.
III. DBM naval lists for 240BC-167BC era campaign.

I. Rule modifications.

    The DBM naval modifications are detailed below. All existing DBM rules should be used except as indicated in the modifications:

  1. New naval type and redefinition of existing types.
  2. Gal (X):

    Regular only. This new naval type represents the larger galleys of the period, i.e. "eights" to "tens" (note that these sorts of numbers generally refer to the number of rowers per oar or the number of rowers on up to three banks of oars in a hull section). Their use was mainly confined in period to the Macedonian and Ptolemaic Kingdoms as flagships. These ships were sufficiently provided with rowers to match the speed of much smaller galleys, while mounting heavier artillery and carrying much larger numbers of soldiers; but size would likely limit turning ability.

    Exceptional galleys fight in contact as (S) galleys, may shoot as (F) artillery or (S) galleys (owner's choice of one per bound), and act otherwise as (I) regulars.

    Gal (S):

    Standard cataphract battleships of the era, the "five" or more heavily built "four;" either in the hands of a skilled crew as regular; or a less skilled crew more adept at boarding actions as irregular.

    Gal (O):

    Smaller cataphract vessels, "threes" and lightly built "fours;" either in the hands of a skilled crew or an unskilled one as above.

    Gal (F):

    Regular only. Fast undecked vessels with ramming capability and a skilled crew. Used by both regular navies and by some pirates.

    Shp (S):

    Irregular only. Primarily large sailed vessels designed for boarding with large crews.

    Shp (O):

    Irregular only. Smaller vessels as above with smaller crews or possibly less motivated.

    Shp (I):

    Irregular only. Baggage and transports.

    Bt (O):

    Irregular only. Lembi and and triaconters. Also smaller barbarian craft.

    Bt (F):

    Regular only. Fleet dispatch vessels and some pirate craft.

  3. Element Cost.
  4. Movement Changes.
    1. All naval elements moving under sail and irregular naval elements using oared movement now pay the extra pip for movement as most irregulars do; giving a maneuver advantage to regular oared movement. To simulate this in line with the other movement rules: on page 16, paragraph 5, third modifier, strike out "or any naval" and replace with "or any naval except non-(I) regulars moving under oars."
    2. Sail/ oar movement. All naval elements are capable of sail movement except Bt (I). All naval elements other than ships are also capable of oar movement. Naval element that may use either sail or oar movement may choose which they are to use in a bound before they move. They may not use a combination of the two in the same bound. The differences between the two is defined as follows:
      • Sail movement is treated as movement in difficult going if the element(s) moves within 45 degrees of the wind. Regular naval cannot use sail movement to move straight back as a group.
      • Oar movement progressively costs one additional pip per each move in a bound after the first. Thus, oar movement costs +1 pip the second time an element moves ("marches" ) in a bound, and +2 the third time; etc.

  5. Combat Differences:
    1. Diekplus attacks. The diekplus was an attempt to penetrate an enemy line abreast with a column of ships in line astern. DBM naval rules require the following change to make this tactic viable:
      On page 21 under "Close combat," add a third bullet in the third paragraph that states "If a group of galleys moves into contact of is contacted along a front edge, up to three regular galleys forming a legal group behind the first count as overlaps against the enemy. Furthermore, so long as the front element of this group remains a legal part of the group and does not begin a bound in frontal combat contact (grappled), it is immune to all enemy overlaps."
      To this end an additional tactical factor should be added on page 22 stating:
      -1 For each enemy regular galley counting as an 'overlap' from behind a regular enemy galley in frontal contact that is not grappled (up to three).

    2. Boarding actions. Naval elements that "lock" in combat (neither side recoils or is destroyed) while in frontal contact are assumed to be grappled and engaged in melee. Such elements cannot break contact and treat all subsequent "recoil" results as war wagons do (ignoring them). The lone exception to this is elements "grappled" to an enemy flank who may turn and face normally if frontally contacted on their own flank. Players should be careful distinguish grappled elements from newly contacted elements to avoid confusion.
      The following tactical factor also applies to boarding actions: +1 For irregular (S)/(O) galley, (X) galley or (S)/(O) ship in close combat that begins a bound in frontal contact with an enemy (grappled).

    3. Naval pursuit. The section on the top of page 25 should be changed to "Galleys whose opponents are destroyed (only) must pursue one base depth, with rear elements providing overlap pursuing also." This is necessary to make sense of grappling--otherwise boarding will become much too common an occurrence (with many ships ending a bound in frontal contact or "grappled").

    4. Naval "flee." Demoralized naval units flee normally--they are assumed to have raised their boatsails to escape. But naval units that are forced to flee as a result of shooting (pg. 23) merely "recoil a base depth and face away."

  6. Other rule adaptations.
  7. All fleets are organized into squadrons in an identical manner to the way land elements are organized into commands. Each squadron should be provided with two Irr Shp (I) baggage ships that function as baggage does in the land game. These baggage ships may be deployed "beached" on suitable land masses in a side's rear zone as immobile baggage. Flank marches and ambushes behind islands or headlands are both permitted as in the land game.

    Weather and time of day may be determined as in the land game. Terrain should be restricted to open water, rivers, and land (mainland, islands, etc.).

    Players may wish to experiment with shoals and reefs as difficult going, but remember that even large ancient warships were of very shallow draft. In general, no ancient naval battles were fought very far from land.

II. Notes.

This is quite a different game than we are used to, as naval elements have no "zone of death" and are generally very hard to kill, especially with (S) types and the addition of the grappling rule. Because of this I would recommend a limited number of points being used. I think four element commands of quality ships are optimal for regulars.

The sail/ oar distinction in movement creates more accurate "march" restrictions for naval elements. Even though galleys would routinely put their main sails ashore before an engagement; their smaller boat sails would be retained for pre-combat maneuver (where possible) and flight. The progressive penalties for continuous rowing in a bound is a fatigue limitation.

The diekplus is the one aspect of ancient naval warfare that was the hardest represent in DBM. The ability to attempt it has been appropriately limited to the well trained "regular" galleys. The historical maneuver involved the front galleys in the column rushing the gaps in the enemy line and disabling opponents by raking their oars rather than maneuvering to ram bow on. Ideally it was the depth of the attack formation that allowed the following galleys to strike the flanks any enemy attempting to close on the flanks of those in front. This is the situation that makes the lead element immune to adverse flank supports and the depth of the column important as a modifier. The risks of this maneuver are represented in the vulnerability of the diekplus to envelopment by the enemy line (periplus), especially when adequate allowance has been made for a reserve line to contain any breakthrough.

Grappling simulates naval elements involved in drawn out boarding actions and possibly disabled after being oar raked. The effects of grappling should encourage the player with skilled crews to avoid attacking under less than ideal conditions. The player with the +1 advantage in boarding combat should seek to tie up more maneuverable enemy ships. Both will be well served by a second line reserve that is free to maximize combat support against immobilized enemy elements. This interaction sets up something of the classic interaction between the maneuver fleet (Athenian/Carthaginian) against the boarding fleet (Peloponesian/Roman).

The modified flee result from shooting makes more sense of the DBM result, and is a pleasing game effect.

III. DBM naval lists for 240BC-167BC era campaign.

Below are included some examples of the naval lists written in conjunction with the rule modifications for the campaign. These lists are constructed to accommodate battles up to 400 points; but 200 point battles seem more than adequate, especially when many (S) types are present. There are no minimums other than admirals to encourage some experimentation with the limited choices of naval elements available. If players end up taking all the (S) types they can get, this is historical for the period battles anyway. The lists do not include foreign allies and possible coastal fortification/ artillery; as these were separately provided for by circumstances in the campaign. Each fleet is required two Irr Ships (I) per command to serve as baggage. These are not paid for.

Polybian Roman:

Admiral's Flagship Reg Gal (S) @30AP		1
Vice-Admiral's Flagship Reg Gal (S) @30AP	1-2
Standard Cataphracts Irr Gal (S) @9AP		0-30
Smaller Cataphracts Irr Gal (O) @7AP		0-10
Dispatch boats Reg Bt (F) @5AP			0-2
The Republican Romans were normally ambivalent in naval affairs. In the course of the first Punic War they went from having no fleet to having the best fleet. By the era of the second Punic War these advantages had all been lost; and the Romans were relying on allied (many Greek) navies right into the imperial era. This list represents the Republic's own fleets in an era that Rome fought few naval actions. Although all galley fleets necessarily practised both boarding and ramming; limitations on Roman seamanship abilities led the Romans to emphasize boarding actions with legionaries. I have assumed that the best crews would be confined to the ships accompanying the admirals and dispatch boats. Regular flagships in an irregular (S) galley fleet will mean that in boarding actions the flagships will fight with the same +4 as the line ships; put this anomaly down to Roman commanders being ill at ease away from dry land.

Later Carthaginian:

Admiral's Flagship Reg Gal (S) @30AP		1
Vice-Admiral's Flagship Reg Gal (S) @30AP	1-2
Standard Cataphracts Reg Gal (S) @10AP		0-12
Smaller Cataphracts Reg Gal (O) @8AP		0-24
Undecked vessels  Reg Gal (F)  @7AP		0-6
This was not a remarkable period for the Carthaginian fleet. No doubt after recovering from the losses of the first Punic War it remained an efficient naval force. The Carthaginians historically preferred more lightly built ships. The maneuver advantages now conferred by the regular classification should reflect their naval capabilities better.


Admiral's Flagship Reg Gal (S) @30AP		1
Vice-Admiral's Flagship Reg Gal (S) @30AP	1-2
Standard Cataphracts Reg Gal (S) @10AP		0-20
Smaller Cataphracts Reg Gal (O) @8AP		0-16
Undecked vessels  Reg Gal (F)  @7AP		0-2
Though never large, this should be the best fleet of the period. Excellent seamanship coupled with generally heavier types than the Carthaginians. Superior Rhodian naval architecture was a state secret, with the sentence death passed on unauthorized persons in military shipyards. Frequently allied to Rome, the Rhodians provided the major check on pirate activity in the Mediterranean. When Roman policy later diverted trade revenue from Rhodes destroying the economic basis of the fleet, the Mediterranean largely fell under the control of pirates. The modified DBM naval rules do no real justice to the qualitative advantages this very small navy enjoyed against period opponents.

Later Macedonian:

Admiral's flagship  Reg Gal (S) @30AP			1
Vice-Admiral's flagship Reg Gal (S) @30AP		1-2
Upgrade f-ships to lrge ctphts, Reg Gal (X) @5AP	any
Standard cataphracts Reg Gal (S) @10AP			0-12
Smaller cataphracts Reg Gal (O) @8AP			0-12
Lembi Irr Bts (O) @5AP					0-18
Undecked ships Reg Gal (F) @7AP				0-4
The Macedonians had access to many good Aegean seamen from traditional Greek naval powers.. They also made large scale use of smaller pirate craft in support of their first line battleships. Very large ships were built after the example of Antigonus and Demetrius. The Reg Gal (X)'s represented here would in fact be dwarfed by some of the monsters the earlier successors were floating (and successfully too).

Seleucid, Ptolemaic and Pergamene:

Admiral's flagship  Reg Gal (S) @30AP		1
Vice-Admiral's flagship Reg Gal (S) @30AP	1-2
Upgrade flagships to (X) (Ptolemaic only) @5AP	any
Standard cataphracts Reg Gal (S) @10AP		0-15
Smaller cataphracts Reg Gal (O) @8AP		0-18
Undecked ships Reg Gal (F) @7AP			0-6
The Seleucids and the Ptolemies drew on Phoenician sailors and ships from the same tradition as the Carthaginians. The Pergamenes relied on similar sorts from Aegean Greek states. The Ptolemies (like the Macedonians) had a tradition of building the largest sorts of ships. Ptolemy Philopater owned a "forty" in this period which probably didn't get out of the Nile much.


Admiral's flagship  Irr Shp (O)  @16AP		1
Vice-admiral's flagship Irr Shp (O) @16AP	1-2
Upgrade flagships to (S) @+2			any
Larger boats Irr Shp (O) @6AP			0-12
Lembi Irr Bts (O) @5AP				0-25
The Illyrians had a long tradition of organized piracy and slaving in the Adriatic. This list is a generic attempt at representing a period barbarian power.

Greek Pirates:

Admiral's Flagship Reg Gal (F) @27AP		1
Ally Admirals' Flagship Reg Gal (F) @17AP	1-2
Pirate craft Reg Gal (F) @7AP			0-12
Smaller craft Reg Bt (F) @5AP			0-12
Lembi  Irr Bt (O)  @5AP				0-24
This list is a collection of ship types typical of period Greek pirates. Although this period was not know for organized pirate fleets on the scale of the later Cilician pirates, organized piracy was an option for minor Greek maritime states and freebooters alike. Fast maneuver types are emphasized with ally admirals for appropriate effect. Although there are no minimums on any of these lists, each ally admiral should command at least 1/4 of the available elements.

Trev's addendum.
The original lists included a Chinese, Indian and Barbarian list which I've added for completeness:

Chinese, Indian and Barbarian

Admiral's flagship  Irr Shp (O)  @16AP		1
Vice-admiral's flagship Irr Shp (O) @16AP	1-2
Larger boats Irr Shp (O) @6AP			0-40
Upgrade any above to (S) Chin/Indian Only@+2	0-1/2 
Smaller boats Irr Bts (O) @5AP			0-20

The rules were developed exclusively with 1/1200 models on 40 x 40mm bases. This scale seems an attractive and affordable option. I would like to thank all the participants in the campaign for their valuable criticisms. Simon Clegg of the antipodes deserves especial credit for his ideas.