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Posted on Nov 2, 2006 in Boardgames, Front Page Features

War Galley – Boardgame Review

By Wyatt Bogan

Rules, Mechanics, and Game Play

War Galley’s rules are short; they are only about 16 pages long. I found them simple, straight-forward and easy to retain. The game’s simplicity of design might be a good reason for its lasting popularity. I’ve also heard that the rules have been adapted for use with miniatures. I’m not going to explain all the rules. Reading all the rules is easy enough to do and can be down loaded here. What I can say about the rules is that the systems and mechanics all work smoothly and all make complete sense; be it the squadron system, movement, galley combat, or manpower combat. Here’s just a few other comments about play:


One thing about movement that took a bit of time to digest was how a galley’s bow or flank was supposed to pivot out before the galley proceeded.

Don’t take setting your galleys to maximum speed lightly. You might fatigue your crews – and your crews may not become un-fatigued very quickly either; meantime, your enemy will fall on you like a boulder.

If rammed (and not on fire) galleys only sink on a die roll of six. Other than that your rammed ships will just bob around in the water like corks in a pond.

Using the Fleet Record Sheets vs. Using the Counters

There are a lot of factors that need tracking when playing. They include: manpower changes, crew changes, half-speed, rammed, fouled, sails up/down, towers jettisoned, captured, crippled, fatigued, on-fire, etc. There are counters for every one of these actions or you can track the information on the Fleet Record Sheets. The disadvantage to using the Fleet Record Sheets is that the game board won’t show you the whole picture of what is going on; you’ll have to constantly reference the Record Sheets. By using the Fleet Records Sheets you are apt to lose perspective of the myriad of factors that may be at play at any given moment during a game. The other method of keeping track of the situation is to use the available specific counters. This method also has a drawback because you will soon have ships with dog-pile-mounds of counters on top of them in very close quarters with other ships that are in the exact same predicament. Warning- it is highly likely that galleys may have more than three additional counters placed on top. Oh yeah, and then you need to move these little piles around – which actually ends up feeling more like the development of some new form of nanotechnology.

Another method of dealing with the dog-piles of counters on top of your galleys is to try and acquire a map that has one-inch hexes. The larger 1” hexes give you some much-needed elbow room. It is a big relief to use this method and you will undoubtedly have a more enjoyable gaming experience.

Playing away with map with 1” hexes.


On top of the fact that you get thirteen scenarios in the game, replay is made more interesting because the scenario set-ups frequently allow players some flexibility in arranging their galley’s line-up for war. This one factor can make a big difference in how a battle will unfold. Should you mingle a few Cataphracted triremes with your quadremes in your main battle formation or should you form a separate squadron of triremes for mopping up the enemy or attempting a flanking maneuver? Another big bonus that extends the playability of War Galley are the multitudes of scenarios available largely through GMT’s C3i magazine. At this point, they include: C3i #11 – Ben Hur, Mylae 260 BCE, Tyndaris 257 BCE. C3i #12 – Elbo 217 BCE , Culpea 208 BCE, Multi-player Rules and scenarios. C3i #13 – Sapriportis 210 BCE, Multi-player Rules and scenarios. C3i #17 – Cape Pachynus (hypothetical) 212 BCE. C3i #18 – (upcoming) Alalia and Cumae.

Overall Impression

War Galley is a thorough look at tactical naval warfare in the ancient world. It is also a lot like demolition derby. Some battles might end up leaning towards the worst kind of bumper car gridlock you’ve ever experienced. If you’re not a naval warfare kind of person, don’t be put off by the fact that you’re going to get one of those maps that has nothing else on it other than big blue wide-open sea. Give War Galley a test drive. If you’re a hardened grognard, chances are that the rules will be a lot easier than what you’re used to. The great thing about War Galley is that it is fun; then again, I know different strokes are needed for different boats. If you play War Galley, most likely you’ll get hooked just as I did. Before you know it you’ll be ramming, crippling, grappling, boarding, and sinking your enemies all across the wine-dark sea.

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