EMPIRES - NAVAL RULES
The rules under discussion on this page apply to all versions of the game.
IMPROVEMENTS TO NAVAL RULES
At present the rules for building ships and making them ready for sea are a bit of a mish-mash. The names of the actions are hard to remember, and some of them don't work quite as they should. These are some simple changes to tidy things up.
The RECOVER action is to be replaced with the GATHER action. This will work the same, except that you must control the sea space that is the entrance to the naval base where you're trying to gather your ships. The reasonf or this is that the action is concerned with gathering and making ready ships that have been dispersed to other harbours, anchored in river mouths and estuaries etc - but you shouldn't be able to collect these ships in ports that are blockaded.
The FLEET action is to be replaced with the READY action. The action is concerned with manning, arming, rigging and provisioning ships, to make them ready for sea, so we'll give it a name that's more suitable. The READY action will be sticky, so that a report on an enemy naval base will show you how many ships are ready for sea this turn, and how many are available to be made ready for sea next turn.
Your blockading force should only need to be large enough to cover the ships that are ready for sea, but at present you need to cover all the ships, including the ones that aren't fit for action. With the change, if the opposing fleet is made ready for sea, then this will be visible in your game report. It's something you can see and react to, rather than something that happens before you can think about what to do.
Naval bases are currently too easy to capture. No-one ever seems to be able to spare enough troops to protect them. The change I figure to make is that to capture a naval base you must have more troops than the number of population AND ships (maybe including the ones that are laid upm but probably not). That's instead of the current rule, where to capture an area at the end of a battle you must have more armies than population. All that changes is that ships count as well (they don't fight in the batle: they just count extra in the "control phase" - see 8.14).
LESTER LEE GAYTON - SEA MOVEMENT
When it comes to the navy I disagree that two opposing fleets in the same area would always engage in battle in the Napoleonic period. In much earlier periods they would as ships in those days hugged the coasts, so two opposing would easily find each other. In later periods the ships have radar, sonar, air reconnaissance and intercepted radio communications so that finding an enemy must be a lot easier.
During the Napoleonic Wars fleets do not have the technology to find enemy ships, they could look along regular supply lines and try to steal intelligence but is more likely pure luck and chance that two forces could engage each other unless they were specifically looking.
Plus French ships on rare occasions managed to sneak past British ships that were blockading them in the port. Even if two fleets are in the area then there should be a chance they miss each other or appropriate actions HUNT to find enemy ships in an area or SNEAK to avoid enemy in an area to increase or decrease chance of finding and engaging in battle.
If the game was strictly a naval campaign game, then I'd agree (it's also something I'd very much like to be working on, but time and money are too short). A search routine with a random element would be important and appropriate in a game about war at sea (I've got the rules already written in draft...). But I know what would happen with a system like that in this game, when a player has done everything right and a random chance turned the result to nothing.
I can see in the long run we might need actions that did allow fleets to pass through areas controlled by other navies, at least at operational levels, but it's not really appropriate at the stategic level we're concerned with. It also doesn't fit with the current system. You can have ships only in areas you control.
Actually in later periods it isn't easier to make contact with an enemy. You simply end up covering a larger search area (today a single task force can block the whole of the North Atlantic, while sixty years ago it took three to cover it when hunting the Bismarck, and they didn't cover it very well).
LESTER LEE GAYTON - NAVAL BATTLES
Another area I think you could improve is under the present rules each side loses one third of the number of ships on the other side and the weaker side takes a further one third loss. In the Napoleonic era ships were destroyed but this was a rare occurrence it is much more likely a ship would surrender or be captured therefore I think that the weaker side which loses that extra one third of ships should not be destroyed but captured by the victorious player. The captured ships would be placed into the victor's naval reserve as this would represent the ship being damaged and needing to be repaired before being sent back to sea.
On the other hand, the rate of losses in a formal line of battle should be quite a lot lower. The decisive fleet actions of the period occurred only after the Royal Navy had acquired a very large advantage in quality, experience and morale (in our game that advantage is only be represented in the number of ships - but it's another argument in favour of higher loss rates and having ships captured instead of destroyed).
In Star Chase I've already introduced a slightly different system, where a proportion of battle losses are dispersed instead of being destroyed. I think we could easily change the battle routine in Empires to do something similar, and for games set in suitable periods have ships captured simply by adding them to the naval reserve of the winner instead of the loser.
On obvious question, though, is who is the winner? The stronger side? Or the side left in control of the area at the end of the action? They're often not the same.