Great War at Sea series

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The Great War at Sea series of board wargames released by Avalanche Press features operational and tactical-level naval combat in the period of the early battleships and dreadnoughts (various titles cover from 1898 to 1930). Each game in the series comes with a common rule book and tactical map, as well as game-specific operational map, counters and scenarios.

There have been nine games in the series to date, and it was the basis for Avalanche's spin-off series the Second World War at Sea, as well as a proposed new series dealing with ironclads. It has proven very popular, with the third game being Avalanche's sixth best selling title.[1] Also, two of the titles have received Origins Awards.


The focus of Great War at Sea series games features two levels of play: the "operational" game, where fleets move and conduct missions on a map of the area where the game takes place (this map uses "staggered squares"—technically a hex grid—presumably to save space as the squares are exactly the same size as the fleet counters, and only a few counters are on the board at a time); and the "tactical" game, where the individual ships maneuver and fire on a generic open sea tactical map.

Turns in the strategic segment are about 3 hours, and fleets are given missions when they set out. With many missions, the entire route and actions must be pre-plotted at the beginning, with some more flexible assignments (usually raiding or searching) only requiring two turns of planning. Each force is represented on the map with a single counter, so the composition is not known to the enemy. Raiding forces are not placed on the map until they do something (like attack merchant shipping), or is found by searching enemy forces. So, much of the game is spent with forces going about pre-determined missions while reaction forces attempt to find them and force them to battle, or to abort their mission.

Once two forces do find each other, combat is resolved by means of a light tactical system. Each ship bigger than a destroyer has its own counter, while destroyers and smaller vessels have counters that can represent one to three ships.

There is a certain amount of record-keeping in the system, with hits from combat being recorded against gunnery, hull or speed factors. Fuel is also tracked, with provisions for refueling in port as well as at sea. For combat, ships are primarily rated as having primary, secondary and tertiary gunnery factors, which have different ranges and ability to penetrate armor to do damage.

Boxed Games[edit]


Mediterranean was the initial release in the series, and has been released in a second edition.

Northern Waters/Jutland[edit]

Originally released as Great War at Sea: Northern Waters, Jutland was released in December 2006 as a second revised edition of the original title.

U.S. Navy Plan Orange[edit]

The first of what would become a popular 'sub series' Plan Orange received the 1998 Origins Award for Best Historical Board Game.[2] Studying the actual plans of the United States Navy and Imperial Japanese Navy, Plan Orange attempts to recreate what a war in the Pacific would have been like in 1930 if there had been no Washington Naval Treaty.

Set later than any other game in the series, it includes extra rules for dealing with air-to-air combat, and aircraft carriers. The operational map covers from Formosa (Taiwan) to Kyūshū and the northern Philippines.

The counter mix provides many of the forces that would historically have been available in 1930, as well as some of the battleships and battlecruisers that had been canceled due to the Washington treaty, while those that had been converted to carriers because of the treaty still appear as such (except for the battleship Kaga, which appears as such, and the Amagi which was canceled after being wrecked in an earthquake, appears as a carrier).

Plan Orange is out of print and was planned to be released in a new version sometime in 2007 or 2008, but has since been postponed indefinitely.

1904–1905: The Russo-Japanese War[edit]

Covering the naval portions of the Russo-Japanese War, this volume received the 1999 Origins Award for Best Historical Board Game.[3]

U.S. Navy Plan Black[edit]

U.S. Navy Plan Black was based on the plans developed for a conflict against Germany should she emerge victorious in WWI. It includes many ships canceled by the Versailles Treaty, and an operational map covering part of the Caribbean. As Plan Gold features a larger map covering the same area, Plan Black is out of print, and will not be reprinted, short of a major revision.

1898: The Spanish–American War[edit]

Detailing the naval actions of the Spanish–American War. The first edition of this game was a "cadillac" version, mounted operational and tactical maps, and battle and operational scenarios using in some cases maps and counters from GWAS Plan Orange, 1904, and Mediterranean. Second edition will be released in December 2010 as a game in a book format.[dated info] Corrects the major problem that the tactical scenarios for the first edition had set up instructions for the standard tactical map, but the mounted tactical map was smaller by several hex-rings and couldn't be used with the set up instructions as printed. The 2nd edition, entitled Remember the Maine, will have 12 scenarios, all playable without components from other games.

U.S. Navy Plan Red[edit]

Based on hypothetical War Plan Red for fighting the Royal Navy, and possible actions in Canada. Now released in a second edition, same map and counters, 21 new scenarios. This title has also been supported by the books Sea of Troubles (additional scenarios and duplicate countersheet) and South China Sea (additional scenarios and Plan Orange map for operational scenarios).

Cruiser Warfare[edit]

Cruiser Warfare is about merchant raiding in the early parts of WWI as practiced by long-range cruisers. Instead of a normal operational map, it features a world map, with different areas to move between.

U.S. Navy Plan Gold[edit]

Based on hypothetical plans for fighting the French Navy, Plan Gold features an operational map of the Caribbean. It was produced under Avalanche's Classic Wargames (preorder) program and was released in mid-2006.

Cone of Fire[edit]

Cone of Fire contains both Great War at Sea and Second World War at Sea pieces for South American nations. It was produced under the Classic Wargames program and was released in March 2008.

Pacific Crossroads[edit]

Pacific Crossroads is the new introductory game for Great War at Sea and covers a conflict between the United States and Japan during the early part of the 20th century. It uses a small box size and comes with a new edition of the series rules and shares a sheet of counters with Coral Sea.

Future Games[edit]

Three future Great War at Sea boxed games have been mentioned in the Gold Club Insider for inclusion in a future Classic Wargames round. The April 2008 Gold Club Insider also mentions an introductory Great War at Sea game to be announced sometime in 2008. This introductory volume was released in May 2010 under the title Pacific Crossroads. It features 6 battle scenarios and 4 operational scenarios, all set in 1919. A supplement book, Plan Scarlet, contains 25 additional scenarios using ships from other releases and will be out sometime in October 2010.

Downloadable games[edit]

U.S. Navy Plan Crimson[edit]

U.S. Navy Plan Crimson was announced on October 22, 2008 as the first free downloadable game for Gold Club members. Plan Crimson covers a fictional conflict between the United States and Canada in the 1920s and features many "lake battleships". The game is only available to Gold Club members as a free download.[4]


Great White Fleet[edit]

Great White Fleet was an early supplement to the series, with 20 new operational scenarios generally set from 1898 to 1908. They all require multiple products to play (usually the operational map from either 1898, 1905, Plan Orange or Plan Black, as well as counters from one or more of those and Northern Waters). It has a more detailed battle system for pre-dreadnoughts (emphasizing command and control issues), as well as new (unmounted) counters on the back cover, and an operational map covering the southern Philippines (meant to connect with the Plan Orange map). As Plan Orange, Plan Black, 1898 and 1904 are all out of print, Avalanche has let the book go out of print with no plans of making it available again.

Great White Fleet second edition was released in 2009 with new scenarios utilizing fleets from Plan Gold and Cone of Fire among other in-print titles. 25 scenarios total, many focusing on the Great White Fleet fighting enemies everywhere it goes.


Dreadnoughts is another supplement for the entire line of Great War at Sea games, with counters for new ships, scenarios, and advanced rules for tactical combat. Dreadnoughts focuses on the South American dreadnoughts, such as Brazil's Minas Geraes-class battleships, the Brazilian battleship Rio de Janeiro, Argentina's Rivadavia-class battleship, and Chile's battleships. Several Austrian warships are also included, such as an aircraft carrier, the Projekt V-class fast battleships, the Projekt VI-class light battlecruisers, some more cruisers, and some other battlecruisers. Spain's second and third generation dreadnoughts are also included, as are some Russian cruisers and Turkish battleships.


Zeppelins is a supplement released in July 2007 with new 2/3" by 113" counters for various airships of different countries. It includes articles about airships, new rules for the use of these new airships and new or modified scenarios from previous games using the counters.

The success of Zeppelins led to the release of a comb-bound supplement with additional scenarios entitled Airships.

Sea of Troubles[edit]

Sea of Troubles is a new version of the old Plan Red game, but is set in the Caribbean Sea and uses the Plan Gold map. It was announced on November 19, 2007 and is scheduled to be released in December 2007.[dated info] It contains the same pieces as the original game, including British G3-class battlecruisers, N3-class battleships, and the American 1919-class battleship.

Future Supplements[edit]

Avalanche Press has stated that it would like more Great War at Sea supplements to be available.


  1. ^ "Valhalla of Games". Avalanche Press. 
  2. ^ "List of Winners Presented at Origins 1999". Archived from the original on October 31, 2007. 
  3. ^ "List of Winners Presented at Origins 2000". Archived from the original on May 5, 2009. 
  4. ^ "Great War at Sea: U.S. Navy Plan Crimson". Avalanche Press. 2008-10-22. 

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