Sea Battles – the ships

When a clean up leads to inspiration, and some un-based, yet already painted hoplites, archers and slingers, would make great crew for 15mm galleys.

Chapter 4 of Paul Hague’s, Sea Battles in Miniature, is devoted to Ancient Galley Warfare, and his simple scaled models (seen on both the cover and inside photo pages) are perfect for the right scale and the small number of vessels needed for City-State conflicts.

Instead of scratch building them with card and balsa as Paul obviously did, I decided on using 3D printing to turn out somewhat uniform ships in an efficient manner. This is my second attempt at a galley using SketchUp*, I deleted the first after I made a few workflow errors that played havoc with the geometry after I skewed the model to create the front and rear rakes. I have not yet printed it, since it seems a little large when I put it on my slicer bed. I basically had to align it at 45o, and with a length of 224mm I think it’s a little large? So I need to sort out a size that LAR and also detail the deck and provide a hole for the mast. I also want to add some options, in terms of prow and stern posts and I want to add steering oars that are removable.

Heading down the rabbit warren that is an internet search, I found a blog (small soldiers – stout hearts) talking about Old Glory 15mm Galley Wars. Unfortunately the Old Glory website does not mention dimensions or include a ruler in any of the photos for a size approximation, though using the fat finger fudge method of measurement on the photos on the Small Soldiers Blog showed they were 8.5-9 fingers in length. Given that each finger also approximately equals the height of the 15mm figure, gives the vessel a very guesstimate length of 135mm, far smaller than my 224mm.

I also found a very old “Angelfire” webpage where William Johnson, show his method of scratch building 15mm galleys that look very similar to the ones of the cover the book. On the page William says that his models are approximately 7″ in length, or just under 180mm. So clearly I am going to have to do some resizing either in the slicing software, or more preferred in SketchUp before I site mast holes.

Paul himself states his ships are approximately 6″ in length on page 33. So I think I will aim for approximately that length, which gives a working deck space of about 150mm making the overall length a little longer. Also in the book, the rules allow for detachable oars to simulate damage and battle loses to the rowers, which might be why Paul did not include the deck over the heads of the rowers as was typical in Bireme and Trireme construction. I think I will stick with his plan for the moment, and model the oar banks so I can use magnetic tape to hold them in place.

I also note from my first (well first in probably 20 years**) peruse of the rules that his distances are huge. Movement rates of 24″ or even 12″ will overwhelm the average home table far too quickly, so I will have to make some modification to those to make the rules work for my space. Given that my planned table is probably only 4-5′ across, slowing the forward action down will allow for some steerage and manoeuvring, but careful to avoid the endless trudge across the table, that sometimes results in such rule modifications.

* I really should take the time to learn Fusion 360, but I am really too lazy and I understand the workflow using SketchUp and can get a working digital model fairly quickly, even if the printing does take some time with a .2 head.

** This book was one that my local library had amongst it’s collection, and I recall during my wargaming larval stages (ages 14-18) borrowing it on a number of occasions just to be inspired, much the same with Bruce Quarries fabulous book, Napoleon’s Campaigns in Miniature, historical inaccuracies and over complex rules not withstanding.

2 thoughts on “Sea Battles – the ships

  1. Funnily enough I think I read this book years ago when I borrowed it from the library! 🙂 I’ve scratchbuilt ships to go with my 19th century land forces, but I make them “semi-scale” i.e. all the salient features are there but crammed into a model with small enough footprint to be used on the table top. Rules aren’t usually geared up to scale models of ship, since you find that someone standing on the bow of a ship can’t shoot someone standing at the stern because they’re out of range!


    1. My local library had a small collection of wargaming books as did my school library, so I was lucky enough to be able to devour those books at an age when I was a sponge and had the time to do so. In hindsight nearly all those early rules are overly cumbersome, poorly written and while providing a good simulation of “war”, they oft failed in the “game”, and as I aged I came to embrace a balance between these which tends to fall on the side of “game” if given a choice. (heretical in some circles, I know)


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