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TITLE:  Sides of Steel: World War I Fast Play Naval Rulesdreadnought

AUTHOR: Benjamin King




PRICE (with date): $18.00 (in 2008)

REVIEWED BY: Mark “Extra Crispy” Severin

PERIOD COVERED: World War I 1914-1918


Dreadnought is a comb bound booklet with a card stock cover. The book runs 24 pages and also includes a card stock page of necessary templates.

SCOPE: Dreadnought is a game of tactical naval combat set during World War I.

FLEET SIZE: Dreadnought will work well with as few as a single ship per side and as many as 50 or possible even more.

BASE UNIT: Each ship is represented separately. There are no formal “units” in the game.


  • Ground Scale: Not stated (heavy guns fire a maximum of 20”)
  • Time scale 1 turn = 2-3 minutes
  • Figure/Base Ratio: 1 figure = 1 ship
  • Recommended Figure Size: Written for models in 1:2400 scale or smaller.
  • Table Size: 30” x 30” is recommended
  • Game Length: Most games should be playable in 2-3 hours

BASING SIZES: No basing is required but the rules do note that basing the ships makes turning and movement easier.


  1. Roll For Initiative: Each player rolls a D20, high roll wins.
  2. Movement: High roller moves his ships first.
  3. Movement: Low roller moves second.
  4. Assess Torpedo damage as appropriate
  5. Ranging: Announce shots and determine straddles
  6. Gunnery Damage: check for fall of shot and penetration of shells
  7. Vital Damage: Roll for critical hits
  8. Fleet Morale: If required fleets perform a morale check


Movement: Because there are no written orders movement is fairly simple. Each ship has a turning radius value from 1 to 5. This corresponds to a circular turn template. The larger the number the larger the radius. The edges of the circle are marked like the face of a clock. One knot of speed moves the ship one mark around the turning circle.

Ships are free to perform any maneuver they like subject to only a few restrictions. First, ships may only speed up or slow down 50% of their current speed. Movement is timed - 5 minutes for new players, 3 minutes for veterans. That’s it!

Ranging: When firing guns the first step is ranging. To range in you must equal or exceed the range (in inches) on a single die. Ranges are measured from front funnel to front funnel. Heavy guns roll a D20, medium guns a D12 and light guns a D10. There are a handful of modifiers to the ranging roll. No charts needed - compare die roll to range and you’re done!

The biggest modifier in the game is for successive targeting. For every consecutive turn of firing at the same target, the firer gets a +1 to their ranging roll (there is a maximum of +12 for heavy guns, +7 for medium, +6 for light). They get a +2 for a turn in which they straddle. This means that at even long range, after a few turns ships will hit each other more often than not. Note the bonus is not for penetrating or causing damage, just for repeated targeting.

Fall of Shot: If the ship’s fire has ranged in, the next step in gunnery s to determine how many shells hit - this is called the fall of shot. This is determined with the roll of a D20. One simply cross references the die roll with the number of firing guns on the Fall of Shot table to determine how many shells hit.

Penetration: For each salvo, penetration is checked on the appropriate chart. There are separate penetration charts for heavy, medium and light guns. Again a roll of a D20 is cross referenced on the Penetration Chart to the gun size, target’s armor and range. At longer ranges a second D20 may be called for. This determines if the shot had sufficient arc to hit the deck armor or if it hit the belt armor instead. Obviously it is much easier to penetrate deck armor than belt armor. Note that guns are rated for what armor types they can penetrate. A 3” pea shooter can’t penetrate A-class armor.

Damage for penetrating shot is simple multiplication - the damage factor of the given size of gun times the number of shells that penetrated. For example, a 9” gun does 4 points of damage per shell. If a salvo of 3 shells penetrates it will do 12 points of damage. Salvos either all penetrate or not.

Ship Damage: Each ship has a Damage Card. On each card there are four rows of boxes. As ships take hits the boxes are crossed off. When a row has been completely crossed off, the ship loses 25% of its guns and some of its speed. Damage (other than Vital Damage) is not location specific.

Vital Damage: Vital Damage represents the possibility of critical hits. Vital hits are determined by a D20. Depending on how many shells penetrated the ship, the more likely Vital Damage is. If there is Vital Damage a series of die rolls determine location (either Steering, Propulsion, Gunnery or Magazine) and severity (from temporary loss of speed to KA-BOOM!).

Combat Example: Brazil’s Minas Geraes, a battleship, is attacking the Argentinian pre-Dreadnought Independencia. The Minas Geraes has a BDSD1 of 12B10, meaning it has 12 main guns but a broadside of 10. Her guns are 12” She fires all 10 at her enemy. The range from front stack to front stack is measured at 14.5 inches rounded up to 15. This is the third consecutive turn she has fired at the Independencia so the MG gets a +2 to the ranging roll. She rolls a D20 for her heavy guns and scores an 14+2=16. She has equaled or exceeded the range so she straddles. Now she consults the Fall of Shot table. She has 10 guns and rolls an 13 on the D20. This results in 3 hits. Next penetration is checked. A 12” gun at 15” may penetrate any armor rated G or worse. At that range the MG will hit the deck armor on a 19 or 20. She rolls a 20 - 20! Her shells hit the deck armor. Good thing too - The Independencia has E main armor - MG’s guns can’t penetrate at that range. But her deck armor is an H. The shells will penetrate H armor at 15” on a 14+. MG rolls a 16! Three of her shells have penetrated the deck armor. Consulting the penetrating hits table we see a 12” shell does 5 damage points per shell - so 15 points of damage! A check is made for Vital Damage. With 3 hits Vital Damage occurs on 16+ and MG rolls another 20. A D20 determines location (a 13=Propulsion) and severity (a 6= 3/4 speed for 3 moves). This is moot as Independencia only has 9 hull boxes. The massive broadside has destroyed the proud ship and sent her to the bottom!

Torpedoes: Torpedoes, as would be expected, are again a simple affair. They are fired prior to either side moving ships. A track is laid down along side the firing ship in the direction the torpedo was fired. If a ship ends its movement on a torpedo track there is a possible hit. As with guns, torpedoes do a standard amount of damage but count as two hits for Vital Damage checks.

Fleet Morale: Fleet morale only applies in scenarios with 4 or more ships per side. The morale check is a comparison of ships lost to total ships. The die roll is modified by the fleet’s morale level (Elite, Veteran, Average or Substandard), friendly losses and enemy losses.

A morale check starts with the morale table. Comparing ships in the fleet with ships lost yields a Fleet Condition. The roll of a D20 is added to this along with any modifiers. If the result is 65 or less the fleet will flee; between 66 and 85 it will withdraw, 86+ it will fight on. Morale may be checked by ship, squadron or fleet by mutual agreement prior to the battle.


The rule book includes extensive ship data charts. Each ship is rated for:

  • Name - the name of the class of ship
  • Type - whether it is a cruiser, destroyer, battleship etc.
  • MA Main Armor - Rated form A (best) to J (worst)
  • DK Deck Armor - Rated form A (best) to J (worst)
  • KN Knots - The maximum speed of the ship
  • TC Turning Circle - a value form 1 to 5 determining which turning template is used
  • BN Base - the number of hits the ship can take
  • Prime - the caliber of the main guns
  • BDSD1 - the number of main guns and how many in a broadside. the abbreviation 12B10 means there are 12 main guns with 10 in a broadside
  • SEC - the caliber of the secondary guns
  • BDSD2 - same as BDSD1
  • TER - the caliber of the tertiary guns
  • BDSD3 - same as BDSD1
  • TT - the number of torpedo tubes
  • STD - Standard Torpedo Damage - the number of points of damage caused by a fully functioning torpedo
  • MTD - Minor Torpedo Damage - the number of points of damage caused by a partially functioning torpedo

There are a number of campaign and scenario booklets available separately.


While there are a few gray areas in the rules, I find they read very well. They are fast play of course, so no tracking individual guns or turrets. So these may not be for everybody. The physical book is “old school” but neat enough. The same basic game system is also used for King’s pre-Dreadnought Sides of Steel and his WW2 Task Force (with suitable changes and additions of course).


I have played this game 7 or 8 times. It plays very fast and gives a nice conclusion in an evening’s time. My old gaming club wanted to use it for Jutland. While one could certainly do this it would require a lot of players. However, we had a computer program written to do all the combat die rolling and damage tracking. This made it possible to play Jutland in 5 or 6 hour with 4 per side. While there were minor changes made to the rules for the program, they were minor and in no way affected the game (for example: penetration was calculated for each shell in a salvo separately). We found it was a very good game easily enjoyed even by complete noobies to naval gaming (like yours truly).


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