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Posted on Jul 8, 2007 in Boardgames

War at Sea: Battleships

By Paul Glasser

The most deadly opponent in War at Sea are heavy battleships, like the Richelieu, Bismarck, Yamato and Iowa.

Obviously, in a standard 100 point game, battleships will require a significant investment, with a cost of 53 points (Bismarck), 54 points (Richelieu), 70 points (Yamato) and 61 points (Iowa) each, respectively.

The Bismarck provides a huge amount of firepower, with three strong batteries of 8x380mm, 12x150mm and 16x105mm. This massive battleship will be able to engage several targets each turn, and deal out a significant amount of damage to any opponent in range. Able to withstand more than 300 hits before succumbing to a British task force in May 1941, the Bismarck is protected by a thick belt of armor. With the special ability Torpedo Defense, this sturdy ship is able to shrug off penetrating torpedo hits. In addition, extended range 4 allows the Bismarck to make long-range attacks while undamaged.


Similarly, the USS Iowa will be another tough nut to crack. Although sporting a more limited armament than the Bismarck, the Iowa had bigger main guns (9x406mm) and more AA guns (80x40mm and 49x20mm). The Iowa presents a serious threat to surface vessels and aircraft alike. As with the Bismarck, the Iowa is also able use special abilities to resist torpedo attacks and attack at long range. In both situations, opponents will attempt to use superior numbers to overwhelm these two powerful flagships.

Although not as powerful as the USS Iowa or Yamato, the French battleship Richelieu is still an excellent gun platform. Sporting 8 x 280 mm, 9 x 152 mm, and 12 x 100 mm guns, the Richelieu is able to effectively engage almost any surface ship at short, medium and long-range. With 56 x 40 mm and 48 x 20 mm AA guns, the Richelieu also has a decent chance to abort attacking enemy aircraft.

Although it doesn’t have the thickest armor in the game, the Richelieu is not any easy target to eliminate, with good armor and a cost of only 54 points. The combat-effectiveness of this relatively inexpensive unit is further increased by the abilities extended range 5, excellent spotting and torpedo defense. When firing at the same target attacked by another friendly ship, the Richelieu gets 1 extra attack die. It also can outrange any ship in the game, except the USS Iowa.

With a cost of 70 points, the fearsome Yamato is armed with 9 x 460 mm, 6 x 155 mm, 24 x 127 mm guns. While undamaged, the Yamato can use the special ability extended range 4 to stand off and punish targets without exposing itself to return fire.

Since each of these ships requires a significant investment, a well balanced screening force is required to protect any battleship you deploy. Although most battleships sport good AA defense, a swarm of dive bombers or torpedo planes could easily overwhelm even the toughest ship.

Even smaller ships, like motor torpedo boats and destroyers can pose a threat too if they are able to close in and make a torpedo attack. Although most battleships are better able to withstand a torpedo hit than other ships, too many hits will send even the Yamato to the bottom.

Previous: Air Power | Next: Destroyers



  1. A very good game, however there are some glaring mistakes…The King George V class actually compares very favoribly to Bismarck-an error. On any one-on-one Bismarck should completely dominate the English ship. Same goes for the Yamato vs. Iowa class. Did a one-on-one battle between Iowa and Yamato and Iowa took 3 out of 5. In my opinion, Iowa should succumb every time. Yamato’s guns and armor should trump Iowa’s radar EVERY TIME. Also, Japanese A6M2 should have a major advantage over American F4F, another mistake. Tactically some of the weapons systems should be dialed in to a more realistic representation of how they actually stacked up, other than that, a very enjoyable game that allows for vitually any naval scenario that either did happen or could have happened.

  2. A couple of comments. Bismarcks main 380mm guns fired a relatively light 1764lb shell compared to the Iowa’s 406mm guns 2,700lb shells. There is a huge disparity of broadside.

    Richelieu mounted 380mm guns, not 280mm as shown. A typo I suspect.

    Radar gives the allied Battleships a great advantage over optical rangefinders particularly at night…