The Rules Directory:
Naval Thunder

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TITLE: Naval Thunder: Clash of Dreadnoughts (2009)Naval Thunder CoD

AUTHOR: Harry Pratt

PUBLISHER: Steel Dreadnought Games (www.navalthunder.com)



PRICE (with date):  $12.95 (April 2009)

REVIEWED BY: Harry Pratt - Author


  • Naval Thunder: Clash of Dreadnoughts covers World War I naval combat and is one of an ongoing series of released by Steel Dreadnought Games.  Other Naval Thunder titles cover the Russo-Japanese war, and World War II.


The book is a 96 page PDF download from wargamevault.com.  Its printed in an attractive grayscale layout with a sharp cover and thematically linked pictures throughout.  A no-pictures printer friendly version is also provided to reduce the need for printer ink for those who want just the rules as plainly as they can be presented.  A full color counter sheet is provided at the back which allows the owner to print as many sets of counters used in the game as they need.  The counters can be printed in black and white with no loss of functionality or ease of use.

SCOPE: Naval Thunder covers tactical naval combat from exciting single ship duels, to fast paced fleet actions.

ARMY SIZE: Most games will probably involve 8 – 16 ships per side.

BASE UNIT:  Each ship is represented individually, except for destroyers which are grouped into flotillas for ease and speed of play.


  • The ground scale is 1” = 500 yards
  • Each turn represents 4 minutes of time
  • The rules will easily accommodate miniatures of 1/6000 scale up to 1/1800 scale without adjustment
  • Recommended table size is 6’ x 4’.  Smaller tables will be acceptable for smaller actions.  A larger table may be needed for big fleet battles.
  • Most games will be wrapped up in 2 hours or less


  • No basing size is specified as the rules can be used with a variety of scales.  All Naval Thunder games are fully compatible with other games in the Naval Thunder line.


The turn sequence is very straight forward:

    • Movement phase
      • Battleship Movement
      • Cruiser Movement
      • Flotilla Movement
    • Shooting Phase
      • Battleship Shooting
      • Cruiser Shooting
      • Flotilla Shooting
      • Torpedo Resolution
    • End Phase
      • Damage Control
      • Command Checks

In the movement phase, the heaviest ships move first.  This allows lighter, faster ships to react to the movement of larger, slower vessels. 

  • The shooting phase is also resolved in descending order of ship size.  Damage is resolved at the end of each shooting step.  Heavier and more powerful ships can suppress or damage lighter ships before the lighter ships have a chance to respond.  Among other things, this allows battleship secondary weapons to be useful (but not too useful) in beating off attacks by destroyer flotillas.
  • In the end phase, players put out fires, control flooding, unjam rudders, and so forth.  Heavily damaged and/or isolated ships must make command checks to avoid retreating from the battle.


  • Naval Thunder uses ten-sided (d10) dice exclusively. 
  • Movement is conducted in inches with turns costing the ship forward movement.  Turns are easily managed as “up to 90 degrees” per turn.  This speeds up play and eliminates the need for clumsy “turning circles” or other methods relying on the false precision of 45 degree turns for example.
  • Shooting is a fast and easy process.  Each type of ship has a base target number (6+ for a battleship for instance.)  To this base target number are added modifiers for range, rate of fire of the gun (if you’re close enough), evasive maneuvers, concentration of fire, and so forth.  By adding +1 here and +1 there you add up to the final target number you need to hit.  Since almost all the modifiers are additive, there’s no confusing back and forth on the target number so calculating what you need to hit takes only 1 or 2 seconds at most.
  • You then roll 1d10 for each gun being fired and compare it against the target number.
  • Each gun has a base penetration value listed.  For each shell that hits, roll 1d10 and add the base penetration value with a modifier for range.  If the result exceeds the target’s armor value you inflict full damage and roll to see if any systems were knocked out (secondary or primary turrets, fires starting, flooding, engine room, etc.).  If the result is less than the target’s armor value you inflict half damage and no system damage.  If you cannot penetrate the target’s armor at all, you inflict no hull damage, but may still damage less well armored superstructure components.  Therefore, you can shoot all the 4” shells you want at a dreadnought, and you may savage the upper works eventually, but you will never sink it.
  • Shooting and damage resolution is fast, furious, and fun.  A player who has played at least once, can resolve the shooting for an entire division of dreadnoughts in only a couple minutes.
  • Torpedo attacks are resolved in a similar fashion with every torpedo hit automatically causing full damage and a torpedo critical.


  • Naval Thunder can be played using historical orders of battle, or by using built to a certain point value.  Every class of ship are assigned a certain number of points that can be used to compare that ship’s effectiveness against other ships of the same role, and to measure the strength of one fleet against another.
  • No scenarios are included in the core rules, however a supplement has been announced that includes both scenarios as well as a WWI campaign system.


The game is designed to be easy to learn, and contains a detailed table of contents, with diagrams and examples of play explaining the rules where appropriate.  You can open the book and start playing within minutes.

One unique feature of Naval Thunder is the optional rules system.  The basic game produces fast paced, historically accurate naval combat.  However, a long list of completely modular optional rules are provided for players wanting to add more detail.  The optional rules include crew and captain quality, poor quality British shells, poor ammunition handling procedures resulting in catastrophic cordite flashes, wind direction, smoke screens, night battles, submarines, and much much more.  Each optional rule is stand-alone so you pick and choose which to add and which to leave out.  Also included are optional rules for shortcuts to the already fast shooting and damage resolution system that make large fleet battles like Jutland easy and fun.

Naval Thunder manages to capture a granular level of ship detail, down to the destroyer level.  For example, one light cruiser is not pretty much essentially the same as another the way many other fast play systems handle them.  Differences in speed, armor, and armament can be significant and have been thoroughly researched.

Data cards for 80 classes of ship are provided, representing hundreds of historical vessels.  A roster showing all the ship names for each class and the year of their availability is provided in the back of the book.


The game is fast paced and exciting.  The essence of victory in Naval Thunder is the same as it was in the real battles, crossing the T, achieving local firepower superiority, target selection and engagement strategy, screening of heavy units by light units, effective formation maneuvers, and so forth.  The number 1 comment people make when playing the game for the first time is, “Wow!  This is fun!”

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