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Wooden Ships & Iron Men - Newbies' Guide

Wooden Ships & Iron Men Newbies' Guide


This guide gives players new to Wooden Ships & Iron Men a basic understanding of the game rules and common tactics used by experienced players.

There are two versions of the game on YouPlay: Simplified and Basic. The main difference between the two is drifting, boarding parties and melee (to capture ships) are available only in the Basic version.

First Things First

This is a checklist of things you might want to check or set when a game starts. All of these are explained in more detail in this guide.

  • The wind. Check your attitude and decide upon the best way to approach the enemy. Think about how he will approach you.
  • Some games start with ships already in range to fire (maximum range is 10 hexes). Check this or be surprised.
  • Set your unfouling (probably to all or friendly).
  • Some players like to preserve their initial broadsides for a better shot. Do this by setting the Fire if HDT is at least pulldown. Don't set it too high or you'll miss a good shot -- 2 or 3 is usually good enough. The disadvantage is that you have to remember to reset it after your initial broadside has fired. Beware: this is per ship, not per broadside! So you have to decide if setting it higher to preserve an initial broadside could miss a good shot on the other side that has already fired.

The Wind

The wind is the single most important factor in the game. If you don't understand how it works, you won't understand the game at all because it determines your movement allowance for the turn. Learn it!

This is how movement works. Each ship's movement allowance is determined by its attitude to the wind and rigging damage (see the chart below). Each turn or hex moved into counts as one movement point. In the picture to the right, the wind is blowing from the top. The movement allowance for an undamaged SOL (ship-of-the-line) in each attitude is:

  • Attitude A: 3 hexes
  • Attitude B: 2 hexes
  • Attitude C: 1 hex
  • Attitude D: 0 hexes (can always turn)

This is also the maximum number of hexes a ship can move while in any particular attitude during the turn. For instance, if a ship starts in Attitude A, it can turn to Attitude C (one movement point), then move straight ahead (second movement point). It cannot move again in Attitude C even though it has only moved two of its three movement points because the movement allowance for Attitude C is one. If the ship has a turn ability of 2, it can turn again.

Similarly, is a ship starts the turn in Attitude C, it can either turn or move straight ahead one hex (or stay still). Even if it turns to Attitude A, it started the turn in C, so it only has a movement allowance of one.

Carefully check your ships and the enemy's, because this will determine what you and he can do. Knowing what's possible is half the battle. Use the wind to your advantage by staying with it, and avoid going against it, so stay in attitude A whenever possible because it gives you the most flexibililty and speed. The game will tell you if you attempt an illegal move, so don't be afraid to push it.

Who's Closer?

The second most important tactical consideration to know is that a ship MUST fire at the closest enemy ship. Even if a more damaged one is in range, even if a rake opportunity lies just one hex farther away, the closest ship is the ONLY one you can fire at. Equally important: if a friendly ship is closer, you can't fire that broadside. REPEAT: Friendly ships block your field of fire!

Use this to your advantage by moving healthier ships in between badly damaged ships and the enemy. Try to maneuver so enemy ships are closer to each other than you so they can't fire.

To the right, Duc Bougogne can't fire at America because Romulus is closer.

Wooden Ships & Iron Men is a complex game. To keep this guide reasonably brief, it's presented in three other parts. It's not necessary to know all the rules to start playing, but you should be familiar with the basics on this page. A more in-depth introduction is presented on these pages:

Introduction Continued
  Use the HDT
  Avoid Rakes
  Note Damage
  Turn Allowance
  Avoid Collisions
  Look for Collisions
  Hull or Rigging
  Check the Log
Advanced Maneuvers
  The 120
  Rakeless Corner
  Advancing Toward the Enemy

  Staggered Line
  Blaze of Glory
  The Wedge
  Swinging Gate
  Team Play


This guide was created by Longneck.

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