Wooden Ships and Iron Men

Wooden Ships and Iron MenI’ve come back to my parents place as I do this time of year for a quick holiday before work picks up again after the semester break. This time instead of covering some technology I thought I might do something different. Today we’re looking at a board game we played as kids called Wooden Ships and Iron Men.

It was originally made by Battleline publications but later re-published by Avalon Hill. We had a few other Avalon Hill games, one for the D-Day landings and another of the Africa Campaign fighting Rommel. These games were great fun to play, and taught us about strategy and planning. We used to play these with Dad mostly, but occasionally me and my brothers would play each other.

The board

The board

I forget when exactly I was given Wooden Ships and Iron Men, but I suspect it was a Christmas or birthday present. Unlike the other games we had played this is a naval combat game for ships from the 18th – 19th century.

The ships log book

The ships log book

Because we were kids at the time we chose to play the basic rule-set the most. We were also way too ambitious, having set up stupidly large fleets instead of more manageable encounters. This meant that we rarely completed a game because of how long it took the three of us to command and manage the ships. We still enjoyed playing, and had fun with some of the interesting ships like fire ships.

Combat Tables

Combat Tables

The game uses log sheets for each ship to record its hit points for various parts of the ship such as hull, crew, guns, and rigging. The log is also where commands are written during the planning phase of play. You record the ships movements and whether the guns are fired or reloaded. Once everyone has planned, all the ships are moved (whilst checking for collisions) and then dice are rolled to resolve any of the combat or events that may occur.

Ship Counters

Ship Counters

I think ideally you need to either keep the number of ships down or play in teams to make larger fleets more feasible to get the most out of this game. It is quite fun, and will give you a glimpse into what naval warfare in the time of Nelson and Napleon was like.



2 Responses to “Wooden Ships and Iron Men”

  1. July 12, 2015 at 5:22 pm

    I own several Avalon Hill games I’ve picked up over the years and a few other of the more complex games of these sorts. unfortunity I’ve never played any of them because I never had a single friend that was into these kind of games. best I could ever get a friend to play with me was Risk and Axis & Allies.

    • July 12, 2015 at 5:29 pm

      That’s a bit unfortunate as they are quite fun. Perhaps you could find a local war-gaming group that would be interested in playing with you. I’m not sure how you’d find them these days, but I was introduced to them by a history teacher I had at school and my Dad.

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