Thursday, 6 March 2014

Fleet Admiral Volume 1 - A Review

Bill Madison is a name that may be familiar to some of you as the creator of the Russo Japanese War Society, and author of  "Dawn of the Rising Sun", the RJW variant of CoA’s “Fear God and Dread Naught” WW1 naval rules. Bill has now realised a long standing dream of his and released “Fleet Admiral”, the first in a two volume release of naval rules covering the period. Volume 1 covers the period 1890 to 1924 and has just been released. Volume 2, covering the remainer of the period up to the end of WW2 is hot on its heels.

FA comes as a rather nicely laid out PDF of some 142 pages. Bill’s experiences with CoA is apparent as the formatting is clearly reminiscent of the older rules. And as a result it is clearly laid out and very well presented.

As the title suggests, FA is designed for large scale games, but works just as well for squadron actions. Indeed, the example scenario that is used to illustrate various facets of the rule is the battle of Coronel.

The Order of Play is fairly conventional in its arrangement. Players write orders for movement and gunnery which are then executed. The Detection Phase follows, following which ships not previously ordered to fire may do so at newly spotted targets (this is the point at which those “late unmasking” threats are engaged).  The turn ends with damage control and book keeping.

The rules themselves are comprehensive but actually deceptively simple (not simplistic, there is a great deal of effective subtlety to them which manfests itself as a very straightforward system). There is also a weath of detail applied at points where it matters. For example, the number of fire control positions or directors is critical and so is well represented (something missing from most other rules of the period). Yet done so in a manner that fits a fast flowing game system.

Firing is resolved by broadsides, with various factors for guns firing, the environment  and tactical considerations combining with a d100 roll to give the number of hits. Each hit is them rolled for individually to see what effect it has had. The key principle of the damage system is that each damaging hit is, in effect, a “critical hit” (i.e. it will cause some discernable damage effect), so there is no gradual damage point loss, but rather a succession of well described damage effects.  Torpedo attacks are pre-plotted and resolved after a suitable delay, but otherwise are similar in their resolution to the gunnery rules.

The main rules cover a mere 20 pages after which you are ready to fight a normal surface battle. The next 20 pages cover more detailed aspects such as aerial and submarine warfare, mines, communications and weather. Again, comprehensive in coverage but straightforward in application.

There then follows ten pages of scenarios, all of which will be familiar to aficionados of the period and covering the Sino Japanese War, the Russo Japanese War and WW1. The last 90 pages cover game tables, aircraft and weapon tables and ship data cards for the example scenario.

Finally, Bill has set up a website to support the rules, which can be found at:

Here you will find all sorts of additional game resources, downloadable ship cards, scenarios etc. and previews of Vol 2. Oh, and a “learn to play in ten minutes” summary which is based on the battle of the River Plate.

All in all a very nice set of rules which I’m looking forward to getting to grips with in earnest following my recent introductory skirmish. So you can expect to see further posts on the rules and games here soon. Highly recommended J


  1. Thanks for posting the review. I'm thinking about getting a copy, but also wondering if I need another set of rules.

  2. David,
    Thanks for posting this. Hopefully a few Gents will take interest and maybe a future review article for BF would be of order.


  3. Hi David,

    Thank you for this most excellent review.


    PS. Dave S. Of course you need another set of naval rules!

  4. BTW, it is all the fault of Dave S. anyway, as he was the gent who gave me the chance to get into the rules field by taking me on to work with him on Mighty Midgets many many moons ago!


  5. David,

    Any updates on this? Bill's website is down. Thanks!