Naval Thunder at Rock-Con


The scenario I ran at Rock-Con, an annual convention in Rockford, Illinois, was one I created myself using historical ORBATs from several late-war battles in the Pacific during WWII. The rules used were Naval Thunder: Battleship Row, which I found to be a great and easy-to-use naval ruleset.

The goal for the Japanese was to do significant damage to an American island base without losing their important cruisers and battleships. The Americans had to defend their base and hopefully sink or seriously damage Japanese ships.


There were 20 American ships and 16 Japanese ships on the table by the time the US reinforcements showed up divided into several divisions. At the start of the game, the Americans had three battleships — Tennessee, California, and Pennsylvania — on the board, as well as two light cruisers, Omaha and Milwaukee. Six destroyers made up the remainder of their fleet, divided into two division of three ships each.

The Japanese entered the board with the powerful battleships Yamato, Musashi, and Nagato leading their fleet. They also had 7 heavy cruisers: Kumano, Suzuya, Chikuma, and Tone in one division, and Takao, Haguro, and Myoko in another. Finally they had 6 destroyers spread out in front of their heavy ships as a scouting force.


Turn 1 - The Japanese entered the table in the corner opposite the US base and immediately their battleships turned to bring all their guns to bear on the base. The cruisers continued ahead with their destroyers to put themselves in front of the valuable battleships. The American destroyers charged at the enemy line while the American heavy ships turned to bring all their guns to bear as well. One American destroyer was sunk by Japanese cruisers during the shooting phase.


Turn 2 - The Japanese battleships blasted the island again and were rewarded with something blowing up. The battleships all missed each other as did the cruisers. The destroyer skirmish was inconclusive as well. All players were confused as to why they were getting virtually no hits. At the end of the turn more American ships came onto the board.

By the Japanese appeared the large cruiser Alaska leading the cruisers Baltimore and Canberra onto the board. Next to the island 6 American ships appeared. The battleships Indiana and North Carolina are a close match for the Japanese super-ships, while the cruisers Wichita, Minneapolis, Vincennes, and San Francisco are additional welcome relief to the beleaguered Americans.


Turn 3 - The Japanese were slowly moving toward the island while their cruisers and destroyers moved toward the American ships to screen their battleships. This turn the shooting was a lot more exciting. Kumano got hammered by Alaska and lost several turrets. Myoko started flooding. Yamato and Musashi used their secondary turrets to blow several destroyers out of the water, but they had already launched their torpedoes. Omaha and Milwaukee ganged up and sunk a Japanese destroyer. Suzuya was sunk by torpedo but the American destroyers were out of torpedoes at this point.


Turn 4 - The Japanese turned to escape, feeling that their mission was complete. The Americans didn't try fancy maneuvering, they simply charged the Japanese. Several ships were damaged in the new exchange of gunfire, including the last surviving American destroyer. The American battleship commander wished he could actually do some real damage to the Japanese as his older battleships couldn't even penetrate the armor of Yamato and Musashi if he hits.


Turn 5 - The last turn of the game. The American cruisers continued to accomplish little, and Baltimore barely avoided being torpedoed. Alaska finally sank Kumano after hammering it all game. Two more Japanese cruisers sank to gunfire from the older American battleships, while North Carolina finally hit Musashi and, amazingly, took out all three main battery turrets with three hits. All players were amazed by this and wondered if main battery hits should be more rare.

After this turn the victory points were tallied. The Americans sunk three Japanese cruisers for three victory points and destroyed the main turrets on Musashi for another three points, bringing them to six. But the Japanese destroyed the island's airfield, the tarmac, one ammo dump, both fuel storage farms, and one set of barracks. They get eleven victory points and score a victory, having met their objectives.

All the players enjoyed the game and had suggestions on how to make the scenario work better. If I run this one again, there will be fewer ships involved and they will be closer together at the beginning so some hits can actually be made. Nothing really happened for the first three turns until finally some real fighting took place. I might try to make my next scenario a knife fight in a phone booth in the dark, just for giggles and the sheer violence of it all.

— Mike, Chicago Skirmish Wargames club member


2 responses to “Naval Thunder at Rock-Con

  1. This looks like a lot of fun. I've been interested in naval warfare for a long time, ever since watching Sink the Bismark and Midway as a kid. Always been very intimidated by the rules though, so maybe this is the set to try.
    Excellent report, and great ending:
    "I might try to make my next scenario a knife fight in a phone booth in the dark, just for giggles and the sheer violence of it all." Count me in.

  2. I finally got around to reading this one. How much time did playing the game take?

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