Home Forums Air and Sea Naval AoS: a complete rundown

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    Avatar photoDeleted User

    OK. let’s begin.

    I’m, I guess, a pretty experienced wargamer but have never done anything naval much less AoS. Indeed, apart from the internet, I’ve never even seen a game. So callow, somewhat feeble-minded newbie might be an apt description of me in terms of this genre though Patrick O’Brien is in my top 5 novelists if that makes a difference.


    Let’s start with the basics, given I know nothing. Scale.

    What scale should I consider & who makes models for it? Are there pre-builds? If not, how difficult is the whole sail & rigging thing?




    Avatar photoBrian Weathersby


    Scale depends, to some extent, on what type of battles you want to do.  If you want just a few ships on the table, then I think that the 1/1200 scale ships are the best.  If you want to do larger engagements, then you may want to go with 1/2400 scale ships.  The smaller scale also lets you use the ships without doing much, if any, rigging.  As an aside, one of the nice things about AOS is that ground scale and figure scale can actually match up.  After all, 400 yards in 1/1200 scale is only 12 inches/30 centimeters.  You will need more room than that for maneuver of course, but once the shooting starts you will want to be up close and personal.

    I don’t own any 1/2400 sailing ships, so can’t speak much about them.  I know that Hallmark used to make a line of them, but I think they are now made by Noble Miniatures out of Wisconsin.

    In 1/1200, you are spoiled for choice; minis come from Langton, GHQ, Red Eagle and Navwar.  Where quality is concerned, that is probably the order I would rank them in.  Also, since 1/1200 is one of the classic scales for collectable naval miniatures, there might be others out there as well.  There are some problems with 1/1200 miniatures.  Storage can be an issue, and (IMHO) the 1/1200 ships just don’t look right without some rigging on them.  Doing at least the standing rigging (those are the lines that support the masts) means that when one of them gets dropped or knocked off the table, it will be easier to line the masts back up and they are less likely to break.  And yes, at some point they will get dropped, knocked off the table, etc.

    I don’t know that there are any pre-built ships out there other than the Sails of Glory ships that are in 1/1000 scale.  They are pre-assembled and painted, but don’t have any rigging done.  I don’t own any, but the pictures I see online look pretty decent.  You can have people paint and assemble them for you, like Julian at Model J Ship.    Be forewarned though: Anyone who does it to a decent standard is NOT cheap.  Actually, that’s not fair.  Given the amount of work that goes into making a model look good, and especially when you aren’t doing it for yourself, Julian’s prices are pretty reasonable.  My wife is very frugal, and once walked in on me looking at a website (not Julian’s) who sold pre-built ships.  When I explained to her that they wanted about $225 US for a three-decker, her response was, “well, given the amount of work you put into yours, that’s a reasonable price.”  Yes, I did marry a keeper, why do you ask?

    Now we come to the question I’ve been dancing around, which is rigging.  “How hard is it” is not an easy question to answer.  It’s almost like the old joke, “how long is a piece of string?”  It can be difficult when you are first starting out, and I would recommend getting the biggest ship you can as you will have more room to work.  Like anything else, the more you do the better you get at it.  I use Rod Langton’s rigging guide, and have learned a few shortcuts over the years.  His is not the only guide out there, though.  Vol has one on his blog and it is quite good too.

    The thing about AOS naval gaming is that it is a niche within a niche within a niche.  By that I mean: Miniature war gaming-Naval war gaming-AOS naval war gaming.  Because of this, most AOS gamers are more than willing to share their tips, tricks and other ideas with people who are interested.  I know most gamers are like that, but AOS gamers seem to go even farther than most.  Some days I think it’s because we all read the same Hornblower and Aubrey/Maturin books and found something in them that spoke to us.


    I'm lucky to be here
    With someone I like
    Who maketh my spirit to shine
    --Warren Zevon

    Avatar photoVolunteer

    Hello Donald,

    I may not be the best person to talk to because I don’t get to game much other than solo, since I live rural and the nearest club doesn’t do naval. That being said, I have been obsessed with AOS since 2012 when my wife bought me four 1/1200 scale GHQ Napoleonic ships for Christmas. I was in the middle of painting a troop of Strelet Russian mounted Jagers. I never finished them. It has been nothing but ships and terrain for the naval games ever since.

    1/2400 Scale: Small, less expensive, less space required for storage and games, so large scale battles like Trafalgar can be fought on a small table. Not great on detail. Too small to rig more than standing rigging.

    Figurehead: Has a large range of ships by nation and some terrain pieces. They even sell entire fleets and specific battle fleets that include both sides. Magister Militum in the UK and The Last Square or Noble Knights in the US.

    Tumbling Dice: Probably the better one for detail and most popular. Both Napoleonic and Armada periods. Not as large a selection.

    1/1200 Scale: Much more detail, still small enough to store a large number of ships and game in relatively small areas. Harder to game larger battles on small tables, but wow! what eye candy on a large table!

    Rod Langton Miniatures: Considered the best all around, for detail and sturdy masts. Also has a very large number of hulls, sail sets, nations, buildings, fortifications, island terrain, etc. Rod carries both Napoleonic and Dutch Wars periods. Jeff Przybylo at Waterloo Minis is the US distributor. Spendy.

    GHQ: Probably better hull detail, but spindly soft masts, hard to impossible to rig well. Come as complete kits: Hull, sails formed to masts, boats and anchors. A lot of folks just throw the sails/masts away and buy Langton sail sets to use. a very few, like me, make their own masts and sails to use with these hulls. Limited selection. Spendy.

    Navwar: Old molds, not very detailed, but with some work can take the table with the other two brands. Same problem with the masts as GHQ. Reasonably large selection. Inexpensive. Snail mail order only from the UK.

    Although no longer in business, there are some old Skytrex and Davco models floating around that are well worth snagging if the opportunity arises.

    Valiant Miniatures: Spanish Main Armada period

    1/1000: Only Ares’ Sails of Glory is in this scale. The ships are already assembled and painted so you play right out of the box. The game and ships have a large following, their own forum site. Many are bashing and modifying the plastic toy like ships, making some of them pretty awesome looking. Very limited number of ships and types, but the number is growing.

    1/900 – 1/600-1/300: Larger so more gaming room is required but these scale are gaining popularity.

    Jeff Knudsen at War Artisan’s Workshop is a great source for all 3 of these scales, actually all the way down to 1/1200. Jeff designs and sells card models that are just, well the best word is Awesome! The great thing about his ships are that you can buy one, then duplicate it as many times as you want to make a fleet. You can also resize it to any scale you want. Jeff has full instructions and tips for building a beautiful ship. He does Napoleonic, Dutch Wars and 1812 Great Lakes periods. He has one or two free sample ship downloads, one is a 64 gun ship of the line. Jeff also has 3 sets of rules on his site: Away Boarders is free for the Great Lakes; Captains Bold is also free for fighting frigate actions; Napoleonic Command is a for sale game.  http://www.warartisan.com/

    1/450 -1 1/500: A few are gaming in this scale using plastic models cut down to waterline, and a handful of resin manufactures like Peter Pig and Old Glory.

    Rules: Probably best left to gamers with more experience with different rule sets. I play Kiss Me Hardy by Too Fat Lardies. It is fast, not to complicated, not too much record keeping, but still gives a period feel for sailing and maneuvering with only the wind. Ask Rory about Trafalgar and Fighting Sails rule sets, he plays all the time.

    Hope some of this helps.



    PS: Jump in here guys, lets help this man out!


    "Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing"
    Wernher von Braun

    Avatar photoDeleted User

    The generosity of the two gentlemen who replied to my OP is outstanding.

    Thank you very much. I have to consider your posts before moving on to further questions but much food for thought…..and information to start googling.



    Avatar photoVolunteer

    Funny, there were no replies when I answered you Donald. And now I come back and Brian’s answer is ahead of mine. His is 7:43AM, mine is 8:43AM. Could it be exactly the same moment but two time zones? mmmmmm….interesting!

    Anyway, in case you hadn’t picked it up in other threads,

    Brian’s blogsite is


    Mine is


    Oh, loved your scratch bronze age galleys BTW.



    "Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing"
    Wernher von Braun

    Avatar photoDeleted User

    Oh, loved your scratch bronze age galleys BTW. Cheers, Vol


    And you ignore my Nile Steamer!

    Nile steamer: Mahdist wars

    I’m going to spend a bit of time web surfing the manufacturers you gave me. And start looking at a possible rule set. More later.



    Avatar photoAutodidact-O-Saurus

    The venerable old Avalon Hill ‘Wooden Ships and Iron Men’ started out as set of rules for miniatures, ‘Ship 0′ the Line’. If you can find a copy, it’s probably as good as any set though it is rather Old School with its record sheets and all. If you’re looking to get into the period but are a bit budget minded, I’ll second the recommendation for War Artisan’s card models. Assembly is greatly eased by using tweezers rather than human sized fingers. And if rigging is a challenge, go for the larger scales, master the art and then decide whether you want to go smaller.

    Here’s my attempt at his free Anglo-Dutch download in 1:1200 scale (IIRC). Note the lack of rigging. I haven’t mustered up the courage to try it yet.

    Self taught, persistently behind the times, never up to date. AKA ~ jeff
    More verbosity: http://petiteguerre.blogspot.com/

    Avatar photoDM

    Well there’s some pretty comprehensive answers there so not much to add. Froma  personal perspective I prefer 1/1200 for frigate and squadron level actions, 1/2400 for fleet action. I also use 1/450 (mainly Peter Pig) for small ship actions and for games at shows and events – the PP pigs are like Marmite, you either love them or hate them, but they do have a character all of their own plus they are EXTREMELY rugged and so ideally suited for games where your players may not be as careful as you’d like.

    I’m also rather keen on “Sails of Glory” and its 1/1000 scale ships. I was heavily involved in the playtesting and have followed on with advice and guidance to Ares on new models and other aspects. The range of ships is a bit limited – conversions and simple paint jobs will get you pretty much anything you want from 6th rate frigates up to first rates, but there’s precious little out there for more unusual ship types or smaller craft (gunboats, sloops, brigs, galleys etc.) so you are stuck with slipping in 1/1200s and turning a Nelsonian eye to the size difference, or scratch building. There were plans by at least one plastic wargaming manufacturer to release sets of 1/1000 kits that could be made into various types for various nations and which would have included small craft but as yet those plans have come to naught

    As far as rules are concerned this, as I am sure you appreciate, a very subjective thing and there is no “perfect” set. My own preference is for “Form Line of Battle” for small ship through to squadron and even fleet actions (we did Trafalgar using FLoB in 3 hours back in the old Southampton club many years ago). I use a heavily modified version of “Man o’ War” for small ship actions at shows (quick, simple, fun, not entirely realistic), and I’m working on a set of fast play rules for feet actions that emphasise the command and control aspects rather than minutiae so that players feel like they are admirals rather than role-playing a load of captains. They have a long way to go though.

    Warhammer Trafalgar has been mentioned – avoid (it has a number of flaws, but these are correctable and I’ve written a couple of articles that provide suggested changes; they are dated and I’d probably do things differently now but if anyone is interested let me know). Fighting Sail – I personally don’t like them, ships die too quickly and the rules as written let you drive directly into the wind; that said, there are variant rules by the author and others that correct some of these issues.

    Whatever route you decide to go down its good to know there’s a new naval gamer on the streets. If you want to chat through any aspects please don’t hesitate to ask.

    Avatar photoDarryl Smith

    Great discussion and helps me to think about my Lake Erie project.

    I am still hopeful to find a set of rules that cover gun weight (in terms of amount of lead thrown), has differences in ship types and their respective maneuverabilities, has national characteristics, and in top of it all, is easy to play for convention settings. Not too much to ask, is it?

    Years ago I played Heart of Oak, and really appreciated what I felt to be a decently realistic set of rules, but they are not suited for convention gaming.

    Wooden Ships and Iron Men were great for larger ship types, but I do not think they do well for smaller ships, and do not consider the broadside weight.

    As for scale, one cannot go wrong with 1/1200 or 1/2400. I have Lake Erie ships in 1/2400 (Figurehead) and 1/2000 (the latter being Valiant).

    Buckeye Six Actual

    Avatar photoVolunteer

    [Quote:] “And you ignore my Nile Steamer!”


    Oh Yes Donald! I can hear the “WhooWhoo” as it comes down the river. Very nice.

    "Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing"
    Wernher von Braun

    Avatar photoMcKinstry

    Old Glory also makes 1/2400 AOS ships. They are single piece casting and bases and fit in with the Tumbling Dice models pretty well. When mixed with the Figurehead 1/2400, the Figurehead models seem a bit spindly compared with the other two manufacturers (IMHO).

    Navwar and Westwind make AOS in 1/3000. I use them on a hexed mat to play Wooden Ships and Iron Men and Follow the Admirals Wake. They are not that different from the 1/2400 but at that scale, other than minimal rigging isn’t really practical.

    The tree of Life is self pruning.

    Avatar photoDeleted User

    Reading internet reviews of rule sets.

    One definite bonus of naval wargaming is that unlike with many military games, you are not lock-step with basing & rule set.

    Thus, I think if I try an AoS set of rules & find they don’t suit me, it’s relatively easy just to find another set.


    Avatar photoGeneral Slade

    My experience of Age of Sail  is restricted to a single game of Sails of Glory.   The game was a lot of fun, the rules are easy to pick up and the miniatures look good (though the masts can be a little fragile and if they do break they are hard to repair).  It’s not cheap, and I have no idea how it rates in terms of realism but if you want to get playing and don’t want to have to spend a lot of time model making then it seems like a good way to start.

    You can download a PDF of the rules here if you want to get an idea of how the game plays: http://www.aresgames.eu/9927

    Another good thing about Sails of Glory is that it lends itself very well to solo play and people have created manoeuvre tables you can download for free to decide the movement of enemy ships.  The one we were using worked very well.  We had four players on the British side, each controlling a single ship, fighting against fleet of four French ships controlled by the ‘AI’.  It was a very close battle and the ‘AI’ system consistently came up with sensible results.

    Avatar photomadman

    Well I grew up with Wooden Ships and Iron Men. It was the first wargame I bought as a teen. I have the original Battleline version. Avalon Hill made some changes, but never having played that version I only recently found this out. In the AH version they (apparently) had 3 melee (boarding party) combat phases per turn. On another web site they say go back to one.


    I liked it (haven’t played for decades) but getting back into wargaming after a 25 year hiatus AoS is one of the areas I want to pursue. I have been trying to see what is new and better out there and based on the discussion here and on TMP it seems there is nothing significantly better. There does seem to be a lot of different approaches though. I also have Ship ‘O the Line which was printed by Battleline after WS&IM which goes into more detail and is/was intended for miniatures. I looked it over but never played it as WS&IM was rarely pulled out after high school due to uninterested opponents. I also have quite a few GHQ 1:1200 minis some of which I have painted but not assembled for the same reason. It seems to me that based on my main interests, single ship to squadron actions, up to the war of 1812 and wanting to work some games in the Great Lakes there is no great improvement to be made with any of the other rules. Part of this opinion is although WS&IM is old and harder to get a copy of many of the ‘replacements’ have gone out of print long ago as well. I was told Flying Colours was a good replacement but apparently there are large numbers of counters required on the game board and obtaining a copy is dicey. WS&IM uses a ship log and this game mechanic is very familiar to me as a long time Air Superiority player as well. The one area I am unsure of is how accurately it reflects the smaller ships prevalent on the lakes.

    I am not adverse to trying new titles as, for example, ASL always intrigued me. But after playing it recently I found the Conflict of Heroes game system in Awakening the Bear a much more enjoyable gaming experience. Frankly, having been out of the hobby for so long, the array of titles is quite bewildering but I am constantly impressed by the design quality, apparent play testing and development work done and the physical component quality of the games nowadays.

    Just my $0.02

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