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Form Line of Battle

Naval Wargames Rules for the Age of Sail 1650 to 1820

by David Manley


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These rules enable you to take on the role of Hornblower RN, John Paul Jones or even Horatio Nelson. The period covered is that around the turn of the 18th to 19th Centuries. They are also suitable to be used for the period of the Dutch Wars, and there are rules covering this.

They are prepared in such a way that you can take command of a squadron of Ships of the Line. In larger games with many players you may be given the command of but one vessel. We recommend that a player should have up to 3 vessels under his command in his first games. Experienced players could probably handle more once they have got an understanding of the game system.

The rules are easy to learn, and there are a host of optional extras to give the feel for the period. In each game turn, the two sides each have a Command Phase followed by two Action Phases (when the ships move, shoot and carry out boarding actions). When each side has its Command and Action Phases is managed using a card system. Each side has three cards, which are shuffled together and drawn. The first card drawn is always the Command Phase of the side indicated, followed by that side’s Action Phases as their next cards are drawn. However, the opponent’s cards may be drawn between your Command Phase happening and you getting any Action Phases. In this way, which side gets to do what is randomized and every turn will be different.

The Gunnery rules have two levels, which players can choose, depending on the size of the action they are fighting. The Standard rules have a fair amount of detail while the alternative Basic rules are recommended either when starting out, or if you are fighting a large fleet action.

If you want to fight an action between smaller ships such as 5th and 6th Rates, and Unrated vessels, there are additional Advanced Rules, which effectively scale up the ships’ capabilities, and for which we recommend using the detailed Standard gunnery rules.

25 typical ship classes are provided to get you into the game, as well as an easy to follow system to create your own ships based on historical research.

As part of the rules there are a selection of Scenarios covering the following battles:

  • Havana (1748)
  • Minorca (1756)
  • Arbuthnot’s Action (1781)
  • Kamperduin (1797)
  • The Battle of the Nile (1798)
  • Copenhagen (Slaget pår Reden) (1801)
  • Algeciras I and II (1801)
  • Trafalgar (1805)


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Quick Reference Sheets

Quick Reference Sheets for Form Line of Battle

Rules Support

Templates for Wind Attitude, Firing Arc and Turn Indicators and blank Ship Record Sheets for use with these rules are available in the following PDF:

Form Line of Battle Rules Support Package


Nothing at the moment.


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Rules Updates

There are two updates to the rules: The first is a slightly revised Gunnery Results table, which is for use with Editions prior to Edition 5. This table is in editions from 5.0 onwards. The second is a complete revision of the Boarding Rules. This should be used with all Editions prior to 5.1, in which these rules are included.

Form Line of Battle revised Gunnery Results Table (2014)

Form Line of Battle revised Boarding Rules (April 2020)

New Data

There is no new data at the moment.

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