Tuesday, January 3, 2012

War At Sea Large Map House Rules

This is my first post of the New year.  I decided to start out the new year by finishing some old business I wanted to get done last year.  One of my favorite Beer and Pretzels games is  Axis and Allies War at Sea which first came out in March 2007.  It is a collectible miuatures game based on WWII naval warfare.  Very simple table top game with nice plastic 1/1800 scale pre-painted minis that are sold as a starter set and in random boosters. 

2010 Starter pack


Currently there have been a total of six sets produced and I currently own every unit made and most in multiples.  In addition to using the ships for War at Sea I use them for my other more serious WWII Naval gaming.

Before being intorduced to several other Naval rule sets I knew I wanted to do more with my War at Sea collection than the basic rules allowed.  I quickly realized that a larger gaming surface would more accurately represent the large scale carrier battles of WWII.  About a month after the game was released in 2007 I went to work on making a large scale map a reality.  Instead of using the small paper map that comes wit the basic game I built a 4'x8' gaming table complete with the WaS grid system and some 3D islands instead of the card stock ones provided.  With the help of my two sons who were 11 and 10 at the time we created the base for what has become my Large Map house rules.  These have been posted on the "foruMINI" since June of 2009 and updated sevral times since first created.  With the introdcution of every new set certain modifications needed to be made to accout for new aircraft and some special abilities, but the basic premise never changed. 

HMS Eagle

Since posting these online  I have received numerous request for the word document version of my rules and they have been very popular with the War at Sea fan base who like me wanted a bit more form their gaming experience without delving into other more comples rules.  I have honore those requests, but for the last year I had not updated the rules due to time and other commitements.  I have now taken the time to do just that.  In addition, I have now posted the word version of the rules on a file share site so anyone can download the most current version without e-mailing me.

 "afilter's War at Sea Large Map House rules"


These rules are designed to augment the WAS game system.  They were created with the idea of playing WAS on a larger map and to simulate more realistic carrier and air operations within the current game system.  These rules incorporate continuous flight for planes with a limited range each plane can move per air phase.  Unless otherwise noted the basic WAS advance rules apply.
These rules are not designed to turn WAS into a simulation.  Instead they are intended to give WAS more of a flavor of WWII naval aviation combat where the fleets are spread farther apart and admirals must manage their air arm as well as the surface fleet.  They are also intended to keep carriers at a longer range from other carriers and surface ships as historically occurred in the war.

Even with these house rules I realize there are many areas that could still be improved to add more realism especially in the area of recovery and re-arming times for aircraft.  The intent is to keep the game fairly simple within the basic WAS structure and avoid a lot of record keeping as occurs in other naval war gaming rule sets.  Of course more cards and units can be created to further add realism, but that was not my intent.  Any player possessing the basic units and ability to obtain a larger map can use these rules.


As mentioned above these rules are designed to be played on a larger map in order to stretch the battle area out.  We chose to build a larger map using a 4’x8’ board with a 4” WAS style grid system to create a battle space 24x12 sectors instead of the 11x7 sectors on the basic paper map. 

We realize not everyone has the means to do this.  Another easier option is to use multiple WAS maps and just trim or fold back the edges to line them up and create a larger battle area.  Whatever you decide I think you will enjoy the ability to deploy larger fleets in a bigger area with more maneuver room.

Sequence of Play

A. Initiative phase
B. Sea Movement phase
• First Player’s Sea Movement step
• Second Player’s Sea Movement step
C. Air Mission phase (players alternate moving Aircraft)
 -Aircraft move along the map up to the maximum number of sectors per phase (see air range chart)
 -Check for Air Defense if an Air group passes through a sector containing an enemy unit
D. Air Defense phase
• First Player’s Air Defense step
• Second Player’s Air Defense step
(Units that participated in Air Defense during Air Mission phase are not included in this Phase)
E. Air Attack phase
• First Player’s Air Attack step
• Second Player’s Air Attack step
F. Surface Attack phase/Surface unit torpedo attacks
• First Player’s Surface Attack step
• Second Player’s Surface Attack step
G. Submarine Attack phase
• First Player’s Submarine Torpedo Attack step
• Second Player’s Submarine Torpedo Attack step
H. Air Return phase (players alternate moving Aircraft)
-Aircraft move along the map up to the maximum number of sectors per phase (see air range chart)
 -Check for Air Defense if an Air Group passes through a sector containing an enemy unit, ships that used air defense during Air placement phase or air defense phase cannot fire during this phase.
I. End of Turn

Air Movement:

Instead of just placing air units they now have a movement range and fly across the map in continuous flight from the start point to the target and back.

Air units do not have to land each turn, but can remain in flight from one turn to the next.
Air units move a number of sectors equal or less than their max movement range.
 Air Range Chart

Air UnitALLIES:              Max Sectors/phase     AXIS:       Max Sectors/phase
Sea Hurricane Mk 1B        9                       FW 200 Kondor           6
Swordfish Mk. II               4                        Ju 87B Stuka                6
Barracuda Mk II                6                        BF 109                         9
Halifax GR Mk V              8                         C 202 Foglore            10
Beaufighter                        9                         JU-87 R2 Ricchiateli     7
F4F Wildcat                     9                          SM 79 Sparviero         8
PBY Catalina                    5                         A6M2 "Zeke"               9
SBD Dauntless                  7                         B5N2 "Kate"                6
TBD Devastator               5                          D3A "Val"                     6
B-25H Mitchell                 8                         G4M "Betty"                  7
F6F-3 Hellcat                   10                       A6M2 Zero Kamikaze    8
TBF Avenger                    7                         D4Y1 "Judy"                   9
Martlet Mk. I                    9                         H8K1 Type 2 "Emily"      8
SB2C Helldiver                 8                         JU88A-4                        9
D520                               10                         Re 2001 CB                  10
V-156F Vindicator            7                        A6M5 “Zeke”                  9
Sunderland Mk. 1             6                          B6N2 “Jill”                      8
B-24D Liberator               8                          Fi 167                            6
F4U-1A Corsair               12                        Z.506B Airone                6
P-40E Warhawk              10                        N1K1-J George              11
PBY Black Cat                  5                        B-239 Buffalo                  9   
IL-2M Sturmovik               7                       A6MN "Rufe"                  8
*Formula used to determine number of sectors an air unit can move per phase:
(Planes max MPH/12) x (1760) = (yds/air movement phase) / 5000yds = sectors per phase

** Always round down

A6M2 Zero

Air Defense:

If an air unit passes through a sector containing and enemy ship/plane or shore battery with an AA rating the opponent has the opportunity to make an immediate air defense roll using the AA value of the unit/s in the sector.  Results of the Air defense take effect immediately.  Once a unit uses its AA it cannot be used again during that turn to include the air defense phase or air return phase no matter how many other planes pass through the sector.


All planes that return to an airbase or carrier are required to rearm one full turn.  The turn starts with the next full turn.  If a plane lands during the air placement phase it a re-arm counter will be placed on it and it must remain on the air base/carrier for the remainder of the current turn and the next full turn when the re-arm counter will be removed and the air group will be available.

*Note: If you feel this is too short simply add more re-arm counters. (6 would probably be realistic), but this will extend the game considerably and limit air)

Take off and Landing:

Planes that take off from an airbase/carrier can only move up to one space from the airbase/carrier that first phase.  This is to simulate the air groups forming up.

Air bases/carriers can only launch/land air groups up to their base capacity per air phase.  For example a carrier with a base capacity of three could launch or land up to three air groups in any combination.  For example it could launch two air groups and land one during a particular phase.  It could not launch three and then land three in the same phase.  The landing groups would have to wait until the next air phase to land.  At all times the base capacity of the Airbase/carrier cannot be exceeded during any phase.  This will require Admirals to manage their air groups more closely.


Assigning air groups to carriers:

During set up air groups are assigned to specific carriers and air bases.  Additionally a carriers SA is assigned to its associated air group/s and no other air groups can use that SA even if the carrier’s original air group is destroyed.  For example if the USS Enterprise is assigned 3 bomber groups all three can have the expert bomber SA.  When a group is destroyed now only two would be left with that SA from the USS Enterprise and so on.

Air groups can easily be identified by placing a sticky flag on the base of the plane with the ships name and appropriate SA if any.

Air groups from another carrier or airbase can land on a different carrier at anytime, but there is a penalty.  If an air group not assigned to a specific carrier lands on it one additional re-arm marker is placed on that air group for a total of two.

There is not penalty for planes from a carrier landing on an air base; any planes can land at an airbase with no additional penalty.
Requiring planes to re-arm:

Planes are not required to return to an airbase/carrier to re-arm until they actually make an attack.  For bombers and Torpedo planes this includes attacking a ship, submarine or airbase.  For fighters this would involve being engaged in an air defense attack or strafing.  Once this occurs the planes are considered to have dropped their payload/expended ammunition and must return to an airbase/carrier to re-arm. A simple marker could be used to show that a plane unit needs to re-arm.

Aborting aircraft:

When an air unit is aborted as the result of an air defense roll an aborted marker is placed on it.  The air unit is forced to retreat one sector form the direction in which it came.  It is as if the air group was prevented from entering the sector as a result of being disrupted by enemy fire.  The air group still retains its payload and remains in flight.  As a result of being aborted the air unit must remain in the sector during the next air phase and cannot move while it regroups.  After that the aborted marker is removed and the air unit can move normally.

Sinking Aircraft Carriers:

Since planes are now either in flight or re-arming a die roll is no longer used to determine if planes are lost when a carrier is sunk.  When a carrier is sunk all planes that are on board are immediately lost as well.

USS Hornet


Original Stacking limits are in place even when playing with fleets of 500pts or more.  Stacking can be adjusted accordingly by the scenario designer.


Aircraft Carrier vulnerability:

Reduce vital armor by 1 for each squadron currently on board when the ship is attacked.

Island Air Bases (optional):

Airbases are no longer a notional off the map location.  They are represented by an actual terrain piece located on the map.  The quantity per side and location is determined by the scenario.

Air unit limit per specific airbase is determined by the scenario.  Usually ranges from 2-6 in our scenarios.

Damaging/destroying and airbase:

Now that airbases are an actual location they can be attacked by either naval gun fire or bombing.  Each airbase is usually assigned an armor value and hit point value (hull points).  Typically we do not use vital armor.  A typical airbase would look something like this:

Units: 4    Armor: 4   Hit Points: 6   AA: 5

(Note: if a shore battery is collocated with an air base the AA value of the battery is used.)

When an attack totals or exceeds the armor value 1 pt of damage is done.  When damage equals or exceeds ½ of the airbases hit point it is deemed inoperable and air groups cannot land or take off.  When the hit points are equaled or exceeded the airbase is destroyed and all planes on the ground are destroyed.

Repairing an airbase:

On every turn that a damaged air base is not attacked (successfully or not) and no planes land or take off 1 point of damage can be restored to the base up to the original value.   For example if the above airbase had been bombed and reduced by two and then not attacked for two turns after one point of damage could be restored each turn for a total of two hit points as long as no air units landed or took off from the airbase. This puts the pressure on the attacker to maintain pressure until the airbase is put out of commission.

Shore Batteries (optional): Depending on the scenario some islands or airbases are giving shore batteries.  In our scenarios these islands are usually an objective for the opponent to invade and capture.  A shore battery is basically treated like an immobile ship with an assigned arc of fire if that applies to the terrain.  The values we use for a shore battery are typically equal to a cruiser or less depending on the scenario.

Shore batteries may look something like this:

Heavy battery:
Gunnery: 8/7/6    Armor:  5   Hit Points: 4 AA: 6

Light battery:
Gunnery: 5/4/3 Armor: 3  Hit Points: 2 AA: 5

For every point of damage scored on a shore battery its gunnery is reduced by 1 die the following turn.  Once the damage equals or exceeds the hit points the battery is destroyed.  In our scenarios the battery usually has to be reduced before the invasion can take place.

Garrisons (Optional):

In some scenarios when an island invasion is the objective the particular island may have a garrison assigned. Garrisons like an airbase cannot be directly attack naval units, but they may have to be reduced before the island can be invaded.  A typically garrisons might be 1-3 units.  The invader will then have to move a sufficient number of transports next to the island to overwhelm the garrison by at least a 2-1 margin.  Each transport can carry 1 unit.  The other way to reduce a garrison if you cannot achieve numerical odds with your surviving transports is to reduce the garrison with naval and air units until you can achieve numerical odds or reduce the garrison to zero units and still have one surviving transport that can land.

Typical numbers for a garrison are:
Armor: 3  Hit points: 2    AA: 4

These scenarios add a nice complexity to the game as the attacker has to defend their invasion force while reducing the objective.  These scenarios will usually give the attacker an invasion group with escort, a surface bombardment group and a carrier wing to provide cover.  It makes for some interesting play.


These additional house rules using the basic WAS frame work and a larger map have definitely increased the playability of WAS as a Naval combat game.  They do not make it a simulation by any means, but do add a bit more WWII naval combat flavor to the game.  Additionally, the options are limitless to design your own scenarios or try to recreate historical engagements using actual order of battles.

WAS is a great out of the box game with excellent miniatures.  The intent of these modification is to stretch the game from a nice beer an pretzels game to a longer more detailed strategy system where the two opposing admirals have to manage air and surface forces to accomplish the goals of a particular scenario instead of just a slug it out in a race to notional objective points.

Current Scenarios for use with this style Map and house rules:

Catapult Vengence:

Mayhem in the Atlantic:

Brawl in the South Pacific:

The above rule set is now is available for free download here:

Rules(Word Document):

Player Aid(Power Point):

Hope you enjoy!

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