Ship Combat

Combat Sequence

  • Declaration: The captain of each ship declares which specific maneuver his ship will follow.
  • Initiative: The captain of each ship makes an Initiative Test using the ship’s Maneuverability step.
  • Resolve Actions: In descending order of initiative, each captain resolves the maneuver chosen in the Declaration Phase. As soon as a ship succeeds in its declared maneuver, no other ship may complete a maneuver against it that turn.


When two or more ships meet, one or more may try to engage another in battle. If one of the ships wishes to avoid combat while another wishes to engage in combat, the ships desiring combat must begin pursuit. The rules below only apply to ships of the same type. Airships have an advantage over riberboats because they can fly – hence they can almost always escape a riverboat attack without using the rules below. Riverboats usually can’t escape airships for the same reason.

Pursuit consists of a series of Speed Tests made by each side in the combat. Every turn, each ship that is either pursuing or being pursued makes a Speed Test, rolling its Speed Test against a Difficulty Number equal to the opponent’s Speed step. If there is more than one ship on each side, the difficulty number for the pursuer is the lowest Speed step among the ships he is pursuing, while the difficulty for the fleeing side is the highest Speed step among the ships on the pursuing side.

The first side to make three successful Speed Tests wins the pursuit; the victorious pursuing ship initiates combat or the fleeing ship evades combat. If the two sides achieve three successes in the same turn, the first ship to score one more success than its opponent wins the pursuit. When there is more than one ship on each side, the gamemaster may apply the results of the pursuit to all ships. Once an airship successfully engages another, it is considered to be roughly 500 yards away from its opponent – the maximum distance at which airships can engage in

If the fleeing ships evade their opponent(s), the pursuer can make another Speed Test after an hour has passed. If this test succeeds, the pursuer may begin pursuit once again using the rules above. If the test fails, the quarry has escaped.

Combat Maneuvers

Ships may use six different maneuvers in combat (described below). Each maneuver has a Failure Modifier, which is a modifier that all opposing ships receive on their tests against a ship that failed its declared maneuver.

Alter Distance

Failure Modifier: +2
The Alter Distance maneuver allows the ship to close or extend the distance between it and an opposing ship. The captain makes a Speed Test for the ship against the Speed step of the opposing ship. Each result level allows the captain to alter the vertical or horizontal distance between the two ships by 50 yards. The distance can be split in increments of 50 yards between the vertical and horizontal as desired. This maneuver is only available against opposing ships of the same type. Closing range with stationary targets does not require an Alter Distance maneuver.


Failure Modifier: +4
A successful Boarding maneuver brings a ship up alongside another, so the crews of the ship may battle directly. In order to board and storm an opposing ship, the attacker makes a Maneuverability Test against the defender’s Manueverability step. If successful, this maneuver allows the attacking crew to engage the enemy crew in hand-to-hand combat in the next turn. This maneuver can only be attempted against ships within 100 yards (riverboats cannot board airships).

Boarding actions can be accomplished in two ways, the ship initiating the action decides which way is used. In the first, the boarding crew grapples their ship to the one they are boarding. Because they are grappled together, both ships suffer a -4 to each of their Maneuverability and Speed steps. The second method of boarding involves sending a wave of attackers over, using Great Leap and similar talents in conjunction with the initial boarding maneuver.

Both ships remain free to maneuver without the grappling penalty while their crews slug it out. However, in order for the attacking ship to get its boarding parties back onboard, it must at some point make another boarding maneuver, at which point its crew returns to their ship.

Break Off

Failure Modifier: +2
A ship that wishes to Break Off from combat must make a Speed Test against the highest Maneuverability step among the ships in the opposing fleet. The fleeing ship must succeed at this test in three consecutive turns before it can break off the combat and run. Because a ship cannot act against another ship that has successfully performed its announced maneuver, any successful Maneuver against the ship trying to break off resets the count – breaking off is hard once engaged in combat.

In order to break off from an enemy that has successfully board and grappled, a ship must achieve an Excellent or better result on the first Speed Test for the Break Off maneuver. If this happens, the enemy crew is assumed to have returned to its own ship. A grapple broken once is considered to be broken for following turns, except if enacted again by an opponent.

Riverboats can’t use this maneuver against an airship. Airships using this maneuver against a riverboat must succeed at a single Speed Test instead of three.


Failure Modifier: None if attacking single ship; +1 for each additional ship attacked
The Fire maneuver is used when a ship attacks an enemy ship with its weapons. The captain of the attacking ship can split the Firepower among his weapons to attack any number of opponents, provided that the sum of Firepower for all his attacks adds up to no more than his ship’s Firepower step. Each attack requires a separate Attack Test using the designated Firepower step against each separate target’s Maneuverability step. The captain may only make one Attack Test against each target. On an Excellent Success, the attack results in an Armor-Defeating hit.

If a ship attacks a single target, the Failure Modifier does not apply. However, if attacking multiple ships, the ship suffers a +1 Failure Modifier for each attack that fails to hit each additional target after the first. The effect of the weapon attack (usually damage) is equal to the ship’s full Firepower Effect step, -2 for each additional target.

Called Shots may be made against a specific ship Attribute – targeting the mast to reduce a ship’s Speed, for example. Such an attack is made at a -3 penalty, and damage is applied normally. However, if any damage gets past the ship’s Armor, the specified Attribute suffers a Critical Hit (which does not affect any other Attributes). If the damage suffered actually causes a Critical Hit from reaching or exceeding the Critical Threshold, the targeted Attribute is reduced by -2 instead of -1.

Ground Assault

Failure Modifier: +2
In a Ground Assault, the captain attempts to bring his airship’s weapons to bear on a target on the ground. The idea is to swoop in for a swift pass over the target, then veer off sharply to prevent retribution. A riverboat using this maneuver swoops in toward shore, fires at targets on the shore as it passes, then sharply veers away from shore to avoid return fire. If tests for firing are required, the rules for the Fire maneuver apply.

To use this maneuver, the captain makes a Maneuverability (5) Test. If the test succeeds, the ship may fire its weapons as described for the Fire maneuver, but at ground targets. If the test fails, the ship is unable to achieve the correct angle for an attack and cannot fire effectively. This maneuver can only be attempted against targets within 200 yards. Airships can use this maneuver against riverboats only if the riverboat is stationary.


Failure Modifier: +6
A ship that wishes to Ram its opponent makes a Speed Test against the target ship’s Maneuverability step. If the test succeeds, the attacker has struck the enemy ship, and makes a Damage Test using its Ramming step. This damage is reduced by the target’s Armor as normal, but the Speed Test can result in an Armor-Defeating Hit.

The Ram maneuver can only be attempted against targets within 100 yards. This maneuver is only available against opposing ships of the same type.

Ship Combat

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