UPDATED NAVAL RULES
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This page is a quick outline of the changes to the naval rules in the new version of Empires. The rules are basically the same as in Dark Age and Barbarians at the Gate, since people who played these games as well as Empires preferred them. There are several differences in Empires, though, as we've got rules for naval bases and rules that require you to place new forces on the map the turn before you use them.
Ships (and armies - see later) can now move around at sea in much the same way armies move around at land. This means things move much more slowly at sea than they did before. You have to cross the seas a space at a time, instead of whisking direct from one coast to another.
Sea battles are now simple. They happen at sea instead of on the coast, whenever you try to move ships to somewhere that someone else already has some. There's no modifier for distance from bases or the like, and it's a straight fight between the ships that are visible on the map. Armies don't count in naval battles (even though they probably should in Medieval Empires).
There are two ways of moving armies at sea. They can move normally through sea spaces if the sea spaces are occupied by your ships (at least as many ships as armies). They can even move from one sea space to another (if there are enough ships in both spaces). Ships and armies can also move together, both at sea and between the sea and your naval bases.
Attacking from the is simpler as well. All you have to do is get your ships and armies to the sea space you want to attack from, and then order the armies to make an atack the same way as they would on land.
Your naval reserve now works the same way as your army reserve. It's just a way of collecting up the strays that get dispersed and paying some of your ship building costs ahead of time. All you can do with ships in your reserve is place them in naval bases. You can't drop them in the middle of the ocean somewhere (this is different from Dark Age and Barbarians at the Gate).
In Dark Age and Barbarians at the Gate you don't have to consider where your ships are based. In the days when a warship was just a boat full of fighting men they could be based in any river mouth, bay, beach or island. In later times the location and defence of naval bases became a key aspect of naval strategy, so I've kept them as a central feature of the rules in Empires. If we used the Dark Age rules in World Empires, for example, then a country on one side of the world could place a fleet on the other - a Japanese fleet in the North Sea, or an Italian fleet in the Pacific.
Under the new rules in Empires you can build a naval base anywhere you can reach with your armies (and your armies can reach anywhere your navy can be found). So it's still possible to sail all the way way around the world, but you'll have to do it one space at a time. When you build a new base you can't use it until the next turn, and the number of ships you can build in it each turn is limited. Then there's another delay until the next turn (at the earliest) before the ships can move.
In the meantime your opponent can see what you're doing. By the time your fleet is ready to sail, there might be an enemy fleet sitting outside the entrance of your naval base. Each base has a single entrance, so that someone else can sit outside and blockade you if they wish. You can't sneak off down the coast or pop out somewhere unexpected.
COSTS, SUPPLY & DISPERSALS
Although the location of your naval bases no longer has any effect on naval battles directly, they will affect your ability to get your ships to where they're wanted. The cost of a sea move is increased by the distance of the ships from their base (the one they came from, not the nearest one). The further you go, the fewer BPs you going to have left over to spend on other stuff. The supply cost for ships at sea at the end of the turn is also increased by the distance from their base.
If ships can't trace a route to their base (because it's been captured or closed) then they suffer dispersal instead (not just at the end of the turn, but on every sea move they make as well - and the dispersal also applies to any armies they're carrying). On the other hand, if they can trace a route then they don't disperse at all.
You can operate your ships a long way from their bases, and you can keep your ships together when they're far from home. But it's a lot more expensive, and you'll find your navy is a lot more cost effective if there's a base nearby.
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