My dad has this concept for a board game based on sailboats that he talks about once in a while. He has a tiny sailboat, fits about 2-3 people. We spent a lot of time on it as kids, and I always have great memories of days at the lake. Though, one time in college I took the sailboat out on my own with my now husband and we got stuck and had to have another boat tow us back- but, that’s another story. Anyways, we’ve spent a lot of time on ships in my D&D campaigns, and my dad’s board game inspired me to create a sailing mechanism for game play. I wanted to create a good system for moving ships of different sizes so that you could play a fleet and simulate pirate battles. I wanted the equivalent of a car chase scene on the open seas! So, I set up the system based on two different sizes of ships that move at different speeds. I bought a ring from CritSuccess that chooses a random cardinal direction, and I use this to change the direction of the wind during play. Each ship has a speed, the wheels tell you how many spaces on the board the ship can move in a given direction. You orient the arrow to point in the direction of the wind, and then rotate the wheel on top such that the diamond points in the direction you would like to move. The diamond opening tells you the multiplier that the ship moves times it’s speed. I created the whole wheel system, but the images I used are just from google. I should really find them again to cite the source- I’ve put this on my to-do list.

The tallship has square sails and they’re oriented perpendicular to the ship. In order for the tallship to move forward, the wind has to blow directly into into the sails, parallel to the ship. This makes it difficult for the ship to move laterally or against the wind, but it’s larger with more sails so when the wind is right it can move quickly. So, if you move in the same direction as the wind, the sails have full power and you can move 2x the ship’s speed.


But, say you want to move 45 degrees ahead and to the right, then you can only move 1x its speed. Or, if the wind is parallel to the sails (perpendicular to the ship), there’s no transfer of energy and the ship does not move forward at all. Ultimately, the tallship has a lot of momentum, so it can really move if the wind is right, but otherwise it is less efficient than a smaller ship. It also takes a full square of movement to change the direction it is moving.

The second type of ship is a caravel with triangular sails. These ship can move and turn faster, but don’t go as far. I should say, I’m really not an expert on ships, I just really enjoy the physics of how the different kinds of sails work. So these ships move by transfer of energy from wind moving perpendicular to the sail, a shear force. Unlike the square sails, you get no transfer of energy when trying to move in or against the direction of the wind.


But if you move perpendicular to the wind you can go full speed, or you get a boost if you’re at an angle from that. These ships are smaller, so they ultimately can’t move as quickly in ideal situations, but in less ideal scenarios they are more adaptable. They can change directions at no cost.

Anyways, these are really fun for seafaring scenarios, and good for ship-chases! I’ll put up printable pdfs to make them, and instructions for using them in-game when I get a chance! If you want them before I get to it, ping me on twitter or email.

Note: I’m missing citations for the images of the ships I used, if you can help please get in touch!