John Lambert plays with his junks.
I scouted around for a suitable set of rules for Chinese Junk Warfare. I wanted a set that would allow ship v ship action during the age of Discovery in the Far East. I saw that a set of Solo play instructions were available for the Galleys and Galleons ruleset and so took the plunge. After three play test games, I’m glad I did. They fit the bill well and whilst they may not appeal to purists they appear suitable for other theatres. As they are quick play, with a minimum of reference tables you could easily play large scale encounters such as Galley battles in the Mediterranean, Armada battles or pirate adventures in the Caribbean prior to Line of Battle tactics.
Play Area and Measurement
The rules are designed for 2ft, 3ft, 4ft square table options. All ranges and movement distances are measured using measuring sticks scaled to the play area.
There are example stats for 36 different vessels in the rulebook and 27 individual special rules you can use to build your own ships using a downloadable fleet builder to tailor your own designs and calculate a points value for the vessel. Each vessel has two common stats these are Quality (Q) and combat (C). C can never be more than Q+1. The lower the Q value, the easier it is to activate a vessel and it is likely to carry out more actions in a turn though this is likely to be disadvantaged in combat compared to a larger vessels which are likely to have less actions in a turn though the use of the special rules can add combat bonuses so for example a Race Built Galleon may have a Q value of 2 and a C value of 3, add trained Gun crew and Master Gunner special rules and you have a tough customer though this comes at a point cost. Points costs re used to provide a balanced game.
To start with three ‘white’ dice are rolled for a designated vessel and compared to the Q value. Any roll equal to or over the Q value allows an action. All sailing ships get a movement action but if they fail to succeed any activations rolls, they continue on the current setting even if they sail over the edge of the world or into shallows. These vessels which have the Razee special rule have been lightened and can move an additional short move – good for chasing down an opponent. All movement distances are based on the type of rig – Square Rig, Galleon Rig or Lateen Rig and attitude to wind. Other special rules include Yare which allow an additional change of direction and shortening sail – important to avoid those rocks. When a player fails to activate a vessel or completes his turn, initiative passes to the opponent.
This is a straight D6 roll with C value added and any other combat bonuses depending on gunnery or boarding action. Additional actions allocated to combat can boost these too or are required to deliver a stern rake broadside and during boarding, so timing of a boarding attempt is critical. When a vessel is damaged, it has to roll on the critical hit table (2 x D6)
Effect of damage.
If vessel is damaged, usually by combat a ‘white’ dice is replaced by a ‘red’ dice. If a 1 is rolled on the ‘red’ dice, bad things happen. Of course, you don’t need to roll a ‘red’ dice but your actions are limited. Quite neat.
Scenarios and campaign rules
There are five scenarios of which I’ll use four in my games and simple campaign rules for a Mercantile or Pirate player. There is also a section on Fantasy beasts – a Kraken and Leviathan which have some appeal. One of the drivers for me was the Korean film ‘Pirates’ where a huge whale swallows the royal seal of the Emperor and the ‘plot’ centres on it’s retrieval.
I pitted Dim Sum’s Pirate ship against a Merchantman using the introductory pursuit scenario.
Dim Sum’s Junk : Q3, C2 lateen rigged, reinforced hull
Merchantman : Q4, C3 lateen rigged, reinforced hull, Chaser Guns (360o), Merchantman (not so good at firing or boarding actions).
In this scenario, the defender Merchantman sets the play area and wind direction with terrain items to bog down the pursuer. The objective for the Merchantman is to cross the play area diagonally. The pursuer can select one of the other three corners to deploy on and starts with the initiative.
Dim Sum choose to broad reach around the shallows and get at the Merchantman as soon as possible. Dim Sum’s lower combat value and reinforced hulls would make damaging the Merchantman difficult. When activation dice are rolled and there is a double, the wind changes direction. Mid table both ships traded desultory boardsides at long range to no effect but in the final third, Dim Sum managed to get three successful actions and was able to move into position to deliver a stern rake broadside at close range.
The Merchantman had been doubled , taking a damage and having to roll on the Critical Damage table, 2 D6 (avoiding an 11 or 12)
Oh Dear! The Merchantman’s magazine has exploded and Dim Sum had his first victim.