Sunday, January 7, 2018

Rules/Book Review: Wargaming the Spanish Armada

I’ve been intrigued with the Spanish Armada for some time. There are a number of interesting books and games available on the subject and I have some Armada boardgames, but I’ve always been little reluctant to get into gaming the era with miniatures. I decided to spend a little Christmas gift certificates to get a copy of the Spanish Armada book in the Battle of Britain series of book-games.
The Spanish Armada book cover
Each book in the Battle for Britain series, there are seven all-together (and they are launching a Fleets in Profile series this year), covers a different war in British history. Each include profile illustrations of soldiers and weapons to cut out, along with easy to play wargame rules. The Spanish Armada book has all the major ships you need to recreate the navies that clashed in the English Channel in 1588 and has instructions on how to cut out and assemble them. It also includes a coastline, islands, and a sea surface with squares for playing the game. The rules are quick and easy to play, but still show the differences between Spanish and English ships and tactics. The book also includes short descriptions of the overall campaign and the different ships on each side, along with tactical suggestions for ship captains when playing the game. There are six scenarios in the rules (four historical, one hypothetical, and one generic) and a campaign game. So, there is really a lot packed into book.
Spanish Fleet description from the book
To start a game, you need to have your play area and ships, along with some six-sided dice for combat and a deck of cards for determining the wind information. The turn sequence for the game is Spanish move and shoot, then the English take their turn and can move and shoot or shoot and move. Movement is pretty basic with most Spanish ships only able to move one square, while most English ships can move two. If you are playing with the Orders rule, you roll a die at the start of the turn to determine how many ships you can move. There are also movement limitations based on the wind speed and direction (determined before the start of play). One interesting rule is that the Spanish transports don’t normally move during the game; they only move if they are hit by English gunnery. This does make games more fun that just doing the typical stern chase.
A page of English ships (click on the image for a closer look)
The movement information, damage and gunnery information for each ship type is summarized on a card.
Ship summary cards
For gunnery combat you roll a number of six-sided dice based on the firing ship type and range, with sixes being hits. When ships take enough hits, they become crippled and no longer move and can be forced to surrender. The English automatically reload their guns when they move, while the Spanish roll to see if they reload their guns. So, the Spanish have to think about when to fire their guns. There is also a rule for Spanish boarding (the English cannot initiate boarding). But a Spanish ship has to be in the same square as an English ship to try this and that isn’t very likely.

The campaign plays through a series of scenarios as the Armada moves through the Channel giving each side options for attacking the enemy (including a chance for the Spanish to attack ports or invade from Flanders). There are chances to resupply and repair your forces between battles too.

I haven’t cut out any ships yet, but I did play a couple battles with some stand-ins and the game played quickly and smoothly. There is a rules summary sheet, which I referred to when first getting started, to help with any basic questions.

The Spanish Armada book gives you ships, easy-play rules, and a basic history all a comprehensive little package. The author also gives you permission to copy the pages, so that you don’t have to cut up the book. Overall, I was pretty happy with the game and think this is a worthwhile purchase.


  1. Cool. I recently read Mattingly's book on the Armada as well as a bio on Drake. They got me in the spirit, but with all the irons I have in the fire, I haven't brought myself to buying any minis--let alone painting them. I think the old Valiant range is a good option for ships. The price is pretty good. I had some years 'n' years ago and recall them being nice models.

    1. I'll have to go back and look at the Valiant ships. But, like you, I've got a lot going on right now and I'm not sure it is in my gaming budget. If money were no object, I would look at the Old Glory Shipyard 1/300 ships!

    2. Yeah, money and time. They're very nice models. Are they discounted for Old Glory Army? My membership has lapsed and I don't recall--though I think they may have been exempted. $36.00 per model is steep, but actually less than 28mm if you count each ship as a unit.

  2. I just read your Lepanto article. You mentioned Christian Fire and Turkish Fury. Any idea where I might get a copy of the rules? Thanks, John

    1. John, I believe they were published in an old Wargame's Illustrated, but if you leave your email I can see if I have a PDF of them around. Although, if you are interested in the era, I would recommend checking out Long Face Games' (David Manley) Cannon, Cross, and Crescent rules on Wargame Vault

    2. Thanks!! My email is
      I just finished reading Cannon, Cross,and Crescent rules. I'm trying to figure out which scale to use--1/1200, 1/2400, or 1/300. Any suggestions? Thanks again, John

    3. John, email with the old PDF has been sent. I have 1/2400 scale ships for Christian Fire, Turkish Fury, but the 1/1200 seem good for Cannon, Cross, and Crescent.

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