Ever since the first humans ventured forth on the water, maritime vehicles have lent themselves to mankind’s warlike tendencies. We know that the Ancient Egyptians did battle upon the sea as did numerous ancient seafaring societies. The ancient Polynesians traversed the treacherous Pacific and colonized numerous islands, as well as making war amongst themselves.
In the modern age, mastery of the seas has spelled military superiority for those countries involved. The strength of the British Empire came from its monopoly on the seas, and its successor state, the United States boasts the largest navy in the world today. Put yourself in Admiral Horatio Nelson’s shoes and have a look at the best naval battle board games.
🏆 Our Top Picks for Best Naval Battle Board Games
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#1. Close Action: The Age of Fighting Sail Vol. 1
Play Time: 240 minutes
The British Empire achieved a mastery over the seas that led them to become the greatest empire in world history, spanning one-quarter of the Earth’s surface. This was due in large part to the strength, size, and precision of their navy. “Close Action” puts players in the shoes of those great British captains and lets them recreate the greatest sea fights of the Napoleonic and later eras.
The game comes with 70 ship markers, however, dedicated players and enthusiasts have been known to employ their own fleets of handcrafted ship miniatures! Seeing actual ships sailing across the board adds another level of realistic gameplay for the most serious players.
Players maneuver across the seas while making alliances with friendly captains and avoiding or doing battle with enemy captains. The game lends itself to a huge number of players where each can control one ship or a whole fleet!
#2. Pacific Victory: Pacific Theater of WW2 (2nd Ed)
Play Time: 180-300 minutes
The Pacific Theater in WWII was the most large-scale naval war in the history of the world, as Axis and Allied forces vied for control of territories. This monstrous conflict lends itself perfectly to gameplay and includes wooden blocks, representing the Japanese, American, ANZAC, and Chinese fleets.
The game is broken down into specific campaigns and a grand battle style focusing on all fronts of the Pacific theater. Gameplay time may sound long, but the deliberations can be long and each player must fight to cut off the enemy from reaching friendly waters. True to history, Japan is given an advantage for the first two turns before favor shifts to the allies.
#3. Silent War
Play Time: 120 minutes
Silent War recreates the most fearsome submarine battles of the WWII Pacific theater and focuses on the US versus Japanese navy. The board covers a huge swath of the Pacific Ocean from the Aleutian Islands to Australia and from the Sea of Japan to Samoa.
For true WWII buffs, patrols across the pacific can be directly recreated with only the outcome remaining unknown. Players begin the game by sending fleets from Brisbane or Pearl Harbor into the harshly contested waters of the Pacific. Success is the only option for the intrepid players who will either claim victory or be reassigned to a shameful desk job back at headquarters.
#4. Harpoon 4: Modern Tactical Naval Warfare
Play Time: 150 minutes
Harpoon 4 brings the world of naval board games into the modern era by focusing on post-WWII era sea skirmishes. The modern era of naval warfare was largely inaugurated by the sinking of the Israeli ship Eilat in 1967 by the Egyptian navy. Players have the chance to recreate this event and try to fix the mistakes of the past.
Scenarios feature all aspects of naval warfare including, surface, sub-surface, and air. Aircraft carriers are also involved in battles and show us whether the ships are strong tools of war or sitting ducks in the face of modern warships. Gameplay is detailed and players can even detect incoming missiles from enemy craft and maneuver to avoid them.
#5. War Galley
Play Time: 360 minutes
War Galley is the perfect game for those interested in the ancient warfare techniques of galley warfare. The game begins with the Ionian Revolt of 494 BCE up until the Roman Civil war and the war of Actium in 31 BCE.
Players have the chance to take up Mark Antony’s fight against Roman Emperor Octavian, with Cleopatra and Egyptian forces on his side. We know that Antony and Cleopatra did not survive the conflict, but perhaps players will succeed in rewriting history.
Going further back into history, those who are fascinated by Rome’s triumph over Carthage in the Punic Wars can pit themselves against Hannibal and his naval forces. Only true seamen will be able to declare victory and recite the iconic phrase “Veni, Vidi, Vici!”
#6. Endeavor: Age of Sail
Play Time: 60-90 minutes
The European Age of Exploration saw European countries traversing the globe by sea and bringing their civilizations into contact with local rulers and cultures in faraway locales. Endeavor puts players in the driver’s seat of imperial expansion and colonization.
Although not technically a battle-focused game, Endeavor gives players the chance to expand their influence around the globe, establishing trade routes, cities, and cultural institutions, and create stories that give authenticity to their actions.
Constructing the cities with materials from around the empire’s shipping routes puts the player into the mindset of a benevolent ruler. Cities can include numerous buildings such as fortresses, city halls, guild halls, universities, palaces, and theaters. Power is attained through economic and cultural influence as opposed to purely militaristic prowess.
#7. 1805: Seas of Glory
Play Time: 480 minutes
Europe in 1805 was in a state of upheaval with the powerful French Grande Armee turning the traditional balance of power on its head. Napoleon was posed to dominate Western Europe and all that stood in his way was the poetically named “wooden walls” of England, the Royal Navy.
Considering how narrow the English Channel is, it is a miracle that Napoleon was unable to cross and finally land French troops on English soil. Napoleon ultimately was never able to invade England, indeed none have been successful in this endeavor since William the Conqueror in 1066.
1805 gives players the chance to change the facts of the actual war and potentially overrun England with French troops. The game forces the British player to contend with wind and resource problems, while French and Spanish ships can strike England from almost anywhere.
#8. Axis & Allies: War at Sea
Play Time: 60 minutes
Axis and Allies provides players with truly remarkable gameplay and includes 64 realistic miniature maritime vessels that bring the game to life. Set during WWII, players can command ships from the various combatant navies, including the German Battleship Bismarck, the Japanese Yamato, and the USS Enterprise.
The miniatures are reason enough to acquire Axis and Allies and seeing the pieces laid out on the board transport the players right into the Pacific or Atlantic theater. The included craft are made up of destroyers, carriers, battleships, aircraft, cruisers, submarines, and more.
Some fleets are much larger than others, but players may find it interesting to put the British Navy against their Italian counterparts and see who comes out as the winner. For those who want a more evenly matched pairing, they might consider putting the US Navy against the Japanese and see if the Land of the Rising Sun can steal back the victory.
#9. Modern Naval Battles: Global Warfare
Play Time: 90 minutes
Modern Naval Battles brings us into the present day and highlights battles that are still within the living memory of many people. The game features Cold War-era battles and even ones taking place after the year 2000.
The navies of nine different nations are represented, and players can choose to play as the US, UK, USSR, China, Taiwan, Norway, France, Argentina, and Japan. The inclusion of Argentina means that players can rehash the 1982 Falkland Islands war and see if Argentina can reclaim its disputed territory or if it will remain under British dominion.
Players can even simulate a showdown between nuclear powers the USSR and the US and see who comes out ahead, although such a confrontation never actually occurred.
#10. Naval Battle
Play Time: 10-20 minutes
Naval Battle differs from the other games mentioned because it transports the player to a completely fictional world where naval conflicts are not determined by human history or geography. Much like the game Battleship, this one is designed for the young fantasy lover who dreams of sailing the high seas and becoming captain of a ship.
The game is perfect in fitting with a younger person’s attention span and having relatively simple goals. Players must sink the other’s lead battleship or capture the home port of their opponent. Miniature ships are also provided in bright colors to spark the imagination of players of all ages.
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We hope you enjoyed our list of the best naval battle board games. The desire to take to the sea has always attracted adventurers and those seeking riches and the scope of war has inexorably moved from land to sea in the unavoidable human tendency to conquer all.
Have you tried any of the games on this list? Did we miss any of your favorites? Drop a comment below and let us know what you think! We’d love to hear from you.