Naval Thunder-Battleship Row | Print |  E-mail
Written by Joe Debold   
Sunday, 06 December 2009

Joe Debold takes a first (and second!) look at Steel Dreadnought Games' Naval Thunder - Battleship Row and gives you a report on what he finds.

Now if only we could pry him away long enough to play some other games...


We probably all remember that first book or movie that piqued our interest in a certain war.  For some it is WWI or WWII, while for others it could be the American Civil War, Napoleonics or even ancient warfare.  Whatever the favorite genre, we all started somewhere.

For myself that first book or movie was the movie Midway. I was about eight or nine and it was the movie of the week. My Dad even let me stay up late to watch the end of it. My dad was a fanatic of the old  american west. So it was something special for him to let me stay up so late. For what he deemed, was just another war movie. But there was something about the intense action and raw emotion that rung a bell within me. From that point on I started reading everything I could find on the Pacific theater. I couldn't get enough!

I have never lost that interest. So when I was approached to do a review of Steel Dreadnought  Games, Naval Thunder-Battleship Row (NT-BSR). I jumped at the chance of course!

First and foremost. I need to mention that the game and it's accompanying supplements were  supplied to me for free. I assure you that this will not influence my opinion. After all this review is to help out you the readers and skewing my view of the product would be a dis-service.

At first I was a little taken aback by the sheer amount of information that needed to be read. It really did look like some of the other games I have played where it took days to just understand the rules. NT-BSR has made provisions for not only ship to ship combat, but also aerial and submarine combat as well. Reading through the data was both exciting and daunting at the same time.

But as I read on. I came to realize that it wasn't as daunting as I first thought. Naval Thunder sets down a fair and orderly combat turn in it's basic rules set. In each turn the  basic combat order is repeated. It became apparent relatively quickly that this was not your normal game of a thousand rules. NT-BSR has made it easy to learn and play in the same night.

Combat has been broken down to readily know if you have hit your target. If the shell has penetrated the armor and how much damage was done.  A die roll consists of a number of d10's determined by the weapons being used. Be sure to have about 30 available if you do air combat. We found that about 15 were sufficient for ship to ship combat.

Attack rolls are determined by the type of weapon fired and the number of the same weapon in the firing arc. A quick roll of the dice determines if you penetrate the armor. Then you resolve any critical hits. Pretty simple, but I found that its simplicity did not detract from the flavor of actually fighting a naval combat.

Optional rules are provided to tailor the game to your needs. Such as air and submarine combat rules, crew quality modifiers, faulty torpedoes and night battles. I found that there was basically an optional rule for just about any situation you would want to create.

Ship Data cards are provided with the game provided on a nifty Excel sheet. Just enter the ships SSD number and it brings up the ship's name and all of the necessary stats. There are ninety two classes of ships provided for, including both the Japanese and U.S. Fleets.

While I was impressed with the number of warships whose specifications were made available through the data cards. I was a little disappointed not to find any submarine classes. Since there are rules governing submarine combat in the rules set. I am hoping that they will be included in the expansion game currently in the works.

Editors' Note: Steel Dreadnought clarified this submarine concern at publication time, and it's a good answer. Here's the quote:

 The way in which the rules address submarine warfare doesn't require data sheets for them.  Each fleet is given a certain number of submarine attack dice which can be used prior to the engagement, as well as once during the game on ships that are not accompanied by a screening element.  In this way subs are handled as an unseen, lurking menace, rather than as additional miniatures that are moved around on the table.  That approach would not present a very realistic situation since the whole purpose of submarines is stealth and evasion.

I had put together a Friday night skirmish between The Ninja and I set in the early days of the  war. Approximately March 1942. We each had one carrier, 2 heavy cruisers, 2 light cruisers  and 2 destroyers. Then to balance things out for the playtest I had provisioned 2 Colorado class battleships against 1 Yamato class battleship.

We found that the ship stats closely resembled what would happen in actual combat. The Ninja's first sortie with his torpedo bombers quickly destroyed some of my lightly armored destroyers. He even managed a magazine explosion on one of my light cruisers. But the more heavily armored battleships and heavy cruisers could withstand the attack. Fortunately anti-aircraft fire kept him away from my carrier!

Ship to ship combat also provided a nice element of realism. The Yamato class battleship had  better range, armor and damage delivery than the Colorado class battleships. A very apparent fact that The Ninja took advantage of early in the game.

Since I was the US admiral, I really don't want to admit this but as was typical in the early days of the war the U.S  fleet was sent packing. Thankfully, the Japanese fleet was not without its losses. Of course The Ninja doesn't let me forget that he kicked my tail!

As with any ruleset, we made some misinterpretations on the first time out. Even so, we found the game was enjoyable. It wasn't until later in the night that we observed that we had used the wrong number of aircraft for the forces deployed...  Ugh!

NT-BSR is designed to resolve itself in just a few hours. Because we wanted to give the game a fair review. The Ninja and I spent quite a bit of time double checking the rules. So we actually played for about nine hours straight. And The Ninja didn't learn in that first game, that you really don't need fifteen minutes to move your fleet!

Gaining some experience with the first game, I played the same scenario with my wife the next night. We finished in just under 2 hours. A somewhat more realistic time frame for many of us. A word of caution though. While it is nice to have your spouse take an interest in your hobbies. It is going to be awfully hard on my pocket book when she starts requesting her own miniatures!
Editors’ Note: Denise was hooked after we played a scenario of “take the town” in 28mm fantasy more than a year ago, she’s been itching to wargame since.

If you like the Pacific theater and wish to play a game that can be resolved in two or three hours. Naval Thunder-Battleship Row just might be the game for you. I found that I liked not having to determine individual stats for each weapon or type of ammo used. I have played games with intense detail. I find that I usually do not have the kind of time required to play them to conclusion.

Naval Thunder provides plenty of material to give the feel of real naval warfare that can be resolved in an evening. I can honestly say they have done a good job of bringing a game to the table that many of us will enjoy. I know I am certainly looking forward to my next game!

More information on Naval Thunder-Battleship Row can be found at  The Steel Dreadnought website

Naval Thunder: Battleship Row can be purchased in PDF format for $14.95 USD.

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