Roman Seas

Just before I moved from College Station, one of the gamers there had purchased some of the 1:300 Roman Seas paper ship models from Hotz Artworks. I got to see some of the finished models, which looked really nice, but never got to play in any of the games. I decided to get some of these and to make getting a Roman naval game my 2008 Historicon Project.

I purchased the regular Roman Navy set as well as the Rome versus Barbarians set. The Roman Navy set includes most of the ship types used in the Republican and Early Imperial eras. The Rome versus Barbarians includes more ships of lighter type that became ubiquitous in the later Imperial Roman navy as well as Saxon and Veneti ships.

While casting around for an engagement to base my game on, I started building a prototype ship, choosing a Roman Trireme, in order to get the hang of working with paper models. One of the nice things about this project is that it’s very portable. I can bring my cutting board and a little glue out into the family room and cut out and glue up ships without needing to sequester myself away at the painting desk. The assembly guide provided with the models is straightforward and even my first ship out of the gates turned out OK and would be usable on a gaming table.

For the Historicon game, I’ve decided to represent a naval action between Rome and the forces of the rebel Carausius circa ~288-289 AD. Carausius was a general and admiral who had made a name putting down marauding bands of rebels in Gaul. He was then given command of the Roman fleet based in Gaul and ordered to stop the raids by Frankish and Saxon pirates. He did this quite effectively, but appears (at least in Roman sources – Carausius’ side of the story has not survived) to have chosen to intercept the raiders after their incursion and to keep the captured booty rather than return it or turn it over to the Imperial treasury. For this he was ordered to be executed, but instead fled to Britain and established a break away empire that lasted for several years, included parts of the coastal regions of the continent, and even minted coins that were superior to any other in circulation at the time.

Around 288-289 AD, the Romans assembled a fleet and sent it against Carausius. The Romans record that the fleet was destroyed by storms, but it is just as likely that it was destroyed by the naval forces of Carausius. This is the battle that I am choosing to base the game on. Roman fleets of the time were composed almost entirely of Liburnians, smaller ships with two banks of oars, and some smaller scouting vessels. As a convention game this works out well as it makes the forces involved fairly homogeneous, so a player will not need to keep the capabilities of many different ships in mind. The smaller ships should also make for more decisive actions and encourage maneuver more than if each side had larger ships that could get into protracted slogging matches. That’s the thought anyway.

My goal is to have at least 20 ships on each side, which should make for a nice spectacle. I’m going to get some Baccus 6mm minis to put marines on the decks. For rules I have purchased Salamis ad Actium written by David Manley. These look to have plenty of flavor but also to play fast enough for me to give each player several ships and still have the game move fast enough. As I work on the game to get it ready and arrange playtest games with the locals, I’ll post reports here.

Tags: , , ,

5 responses to “Roman Seas”

  1. Alex Hazlett says :

    Your finished ship looks good — it inspires me to make a new fleet of my own. I will have to look up those rules for my own fleet actions.

    Alex h

  2. Ray Sams says :

    Brian, your first ship looks good, easily usable on the gaming table. One suggestion, take a felt pen and ‘lightly’ go over all the cut edges of your card stock in the colour which edges the cut. I have built several of the Carthaginian ships and have done the same thing, it really makes the ships look more finished.
    Ray, in Calgary

  3. Bruce Moore says :


    Hey, Your ships are looking great! I’m also going to be taking some ships to Historicon. Hopefully, I’ll get busy and have enough wrecked ships to replace those that get holed. There are a couple of pictures posted on Eric’s site of what I have finished to date.

    I’m looking forward to meeting you in July.


    Good idea regarding the coloring of cut edges. I am using a thinned gray wash applied with a paint brush.


    Bruce – Ohio

  4. Brian Cantwell says :

    Thanks for the comments guys. Definitely looking forward to July. I’m really hoping I can meet my own ambitious goals for the game.

    I am also touching up the edges. I have mixed colors to match the colors on my printouts and I’m using those to touch up most of the glaring white edges. Others will be touched up using a black pen as Ray describes.


  5. Eric Hotz says :

    Please take pictures of your games! I’d love to post other people’s Roman Seas games to our website ( … and yes, still working away on the Roman Seas rules… real life work has been encroaching on my Roman Seas work… but we are still making progress.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: