Galley Warfare: Another Fine Plague Project


This is a Heptere from the Punic Wars, a truly huge beast that I’m actually not modelling.. but it looks incredibly badass.

Well, it should be no great secret that I enjoy naval wargames. (Man, I badly need to update that page. So many undocumented projects!). One of my earliest interest in that particular niche was ancient Greek and Roman (and Byzantine, and Viking and Medieval) naval warfare. Naval warfare was simpler back in ancient times. You avoided being out on the open sea for too long, you sailed close to shore, and when the enemy made his locations and intentions known, you pulled in sails and switched to giant banks of oars. The primary weapon of decision in this kind of warfare is the Ram, attached to the prow. This was usually a large piece of shaped wood, preferably a hard wood, but rather pointy– for punching in the sides of an enemy vessel. The preferable angle of ram attack would be broadside on, ramming home at 90 degrees to direction of travel. Having additional mass helped as well, as it would add to the force of the impact. Galleys ranged from small, fast and nimble dispatch style boats such as the Pentakonter or the Liburnian, to midrange ships like the Bireme or Trireme (both capable of lethal ram attacks, both big enough to mount towers and siege weapons), to massive ships like the Quadrireme, which had a large enough beam to add siege weapons, catapults, and massed archers on top of the deck. There were larger human powered ships, all classified and measured by the number of oar banks– from one to ten or more (although these monster galleys were expensive, heavy and slow to maneuver even in good weather).

Galley Warfare as a diversion I’ve played in some galley games before. I even bought some old Navwar 1:1200 galleys and did a decent job of making them presentable. My problem is I don’t really want to game at that scale now that I’m older and more crotchety, so I looked around for options to shift my collection from 1:1200 to something large and tactile, like 1:600 scale or even (gasp!) 15mm! Yes, it can be done.. See my entry about Big Danged Boats on the Naval Warfare Page. The problem is 15mm scale has its own scaling issue.. you need to attenuate something.. travel distance, range, or ship size to a larger battle on on standard 5 x 8 playing table. Galleys need some sea room, just like any other naval game. I’ve played in larger scale 15mm convention games, and the standard table was usually a 6 x 12 playing space at the very least– here are some pictures of an awesome 15mm scale Artemsium game I played at a NOVAG Winter Game day back in 2016. As you can see, the visuals are wonderful, but the playing space is immense.

Artemesium, using “Greeks at Sea” rules by Brian Dewitt, NOVAG Winter Game Day, 2016

Finding 1:600 Galleys So the scale is going to decrease, as I anticipated. 1:600 is fine by me, you can depict a lot of action in that scale, and it is one of the standards of naval gaming for games with fewer ships on the table. I’d never do it with a period more recent, then, say, the American Civil War, because later battles mean longer ranges faster ships and bigger fleet density on the table. So, ostensibly my first thought was… what is out there right now that I can buy? Skytrex has a small range of 1:600, for one. Not too expensive but also not exactly cheap. I do like their detail and the fact they are carrying smaller hulls that aren’t the usual ram warships, like Dhows, Merchant boats, etc. So a possible source but not to create a fleet with, more like some specialty ships for a specific scenario. Xyston makes some lovely galleys that are very well made, but they are NOT cheap, and I have always found their galleys to be on the small side of 1:600 scale, so they might not fit with other figures. Shapeways proved somewhat fruitless, but that did get me thinking about 3D printing. There weren’t any options that I could find on Thingiverse, but I did find an excellent choice on Wargame Vault. This was a set of “Ancient Navy” ship models, sold as a single STL file that were scaled to print in 1:600 scale, on purpose. I was intrigued, bought it… and forgot about it. I figured I’d print some test runs to see if it was worth my time (and five bucks). Then the COVID 19 plague hit, and suddenly I’m home, the librarys (where I do all of my 3D printing these days) are closed, so I forget about it again.. until recently, I got a notice that a 3D print job I submitted in February was available at the desk. The libraries were printing again! In the space of a week, I started submitting several print jobs to libraries around my county. They all came back rather promptly.

Quadriremes and Triremes, plus sails. Right off the printer.
The same batch, cleaned up a lot from flash and loose threads
A different library scaled the same run as the purple one down to 80% because it had a small printing area. Rather than be disgusted, I realized this could just be a different class of ship, like a Bireme vs. a Trireme.
The Smallest hull from the “Ancient Ships” STL files. I call this either a Pentakonter or Liburnian.
Ships from the last three print runs, compared for size.
As you can see, there have been many print runs now and although the color matches it’s really the size that discriminates with hulls. My fleet is increasing!
Here is, literally, everything I’ve done so far.

Suddenly, after less than a month of effort, I now have a pretty sizable collection. It’s my intention to keep increasing the fleet and paint them in a generic fashion. The basic models printed very well indeed, retaining lots of detail, and the resulting model is very solid. The only feature about “Ancient Ships” STLs that I find problematic are the sails. They retain that “threaded 3D print look” that I don’t particularly find authentic. It’s more noticeable on flat surfaces, like the sail, than on linear surfaces, like the planking. Still, a few coats of paint should cover many sins. Right now, I’ve primed everything you see above, and am starting by painting the hulls a dull umber color. I will lighten the interior of the ship and do light brown highlights and a thinned ink shading. I think this will be a great project when it’s done. I just wish there were little sail decals, I can’t resist the urge to get fancy with this.

Not mine, but you get the desired end result. I’m considering basing all of them if I could find nice material for it.

In general, I’m delighted with the results. I don’t know what I’m going to play galley warfare with but it will likely be simplistic. Perhaps Ram Speed by Metagaming, or something hex based like Trireme. Anything that could handle a smaller ship count and have easy mechanics will work.

2 comments

Comments are closed.