Blood, Bilge & Iron Balls resource page

BBIB FAQ’s & Additional Optional Rules

Q. Can I carry out repairs whilst involved in a boarding action?
A. Curiously, this is something that was missed in the rule book; one of those strange inexplicable oversights. Often, the only damage that will be of any concern during a boarding action will be fires, possibly command Star damage. A player may attempt to affect repairs to these or any other areas in the usual way during their Command Phase but, any crew star so used will not be available for boarding actions that game turn. A player must ask themselves just how urgent are the repairs? For example: Goliath has six crew stars available for the boarding action but the player is concerned by a fire nearing the automatic damage section of the fire control track. The player allocates two crew stars to the fire leaving just four crew stars available. One must be left to guard the ship meaning that Goliath has just three crew stars left to make the attack with.
In the next game turn, assuming that the player has dealt with the fires, or feels that the boarding action has become a little too pressing, repairs can simply be ignored to free up the crew stars for boarding. However, all fires will still progress along their tracks as if a repair attempt has failed; be warned!

Q. If, during my Command Phase, I successfully clear all damage to my Command Star can I still fire normal broadsides during my Firing Phase in the same Game Turn, or will I have to wait until the next Game Turn?
A. Yes, you can fire normal broadsides. As long as the Command Star is clear of all damage when the Firing Phase card is drawn a ship may fire normal broadsides.

Q. When a change of sail setting is ordered when does it take effect?
A. The setting will take effect when that players Sailing Phase card is drawn in the next Game Turn. The ship will continue at its current speed this Game Turn even if the Sailing Phase card is drawn after the Command Phase card. The altering of the sails is done by hand and takes time once ordered. If there is Command Star damage it may take even longer!

Q.  Is there any effect to a ship if the Gunner, Sailing Master or Carpenter has been hit once?
A. No. The first hit should be considered as a non incapacitating wound only. It is the second hit that will cause difficulties.

Q. On the Fire Control table does a fire progress up to the Fire Rages! box on the far right or on to it?
A. The fire will progress on to the Fire Rages! box.

Optional Rule for Spanish ships turning.
Due to their poorer quality crews during the Napoleonic Wars, Spanish ships have an increased turning circle compared to the ships of other nations. Spanish ships will need to make at least a one inch forward move before any turning and then one inch of forward movement between all points of a given turn during its Sailing Phase.

The Santa Maria needs to make a three point turn to port (having already made the required one inch of forward movement at the start of the Sailing Phase). The player turns the ship one point to Port, moves the ship forward one inch, makes the second point of turn to Port, moves the ship one inch forward and then makes the third and final point of turn to Port before completing any remaining movement allowance.

Spanish ships with 130 and 140 guns will need to make at least a two inch forward move at the start of the Sailing Phase and make a two inch move between each point of turn.
For players that wish to add another degree of difficulty I recommend that the Sailing Master Icon should be reduced to a single hit rather than the usual two hits. Historically better quality Spanish ships could retain the two hit icon.

Optional Rule for Double Shot Guns.
Whilst loading the ship’s guns with two rounds (either two round shot or a round shot plus any other type of round) is popular with Hollywood it was not as regular an occurrence in reality. However, it did happen and this rule will allow players to make use of it but within some constraints.

Loading - Unless the ship starts the game with Double Shot Guns (as part of a scenario) a specific order will need to be given to double load the guns during the players Repair Phase. This should be clearly announced so that all players are aware; players may also wish to add a small token to the relevant ship to clearly mark the order. It should also be clearly noted whether the order relates to one or both broadsides of the ship.

Firing – (1) In the next Firing Phase Phase the ship may fire at a target with Double Shot Guns but only with a Ragged Broadside. The guns that did not fire are lost and a new Double Shot order will be needed. (2) If the ship does not fire but waits until the second Firing Phase following the order, it will fire with a regular Broadside. (3) All ships firing with Double Shot Guns will do so with a -2 modifier to the To Hit score, all such modifiers are cumulative.

Damage – (1) All dice that hit will cross off three Crew Star points and add one point to the number of the hit card; i.e. a 6 becomes a 7, a King becomes an Ace. Note that an Ace will actually be two Aces however, a Joker will remain a Joker but the firer gets to choose which one.

(2) Any dice that miss from a Double Shot, be it from a Ragged Broadside or a normal Broadside, must be re-rolled. However, they will have a -3 modifier and inflict normal levels of damage. NOTE – when rolling for missed dice any unmodified score of 1 will destroy ONE gun and THREE Crew Star points from the firer’s ship. This is to represent guns exploding with the extra pressure the Double Shot causes. You can’t have it all your own way!

Optional Rule for Forts and Shore Batteries.
Forts and shore Batteries had far fewer guns than the warships but had certain benefits that made them powerful and a real threat. They had stable platforms to fire from which gave them greater range and accuracy, were able to safely heat the iron shot they fired to cause fires on the wooden ships and, given the strong fortifications they were housed in, very difficult for even the most powerful ships to seriously damage. They did have some drawbacks, mainly that they were unable to hit ships that were too close. Where ships were unable to elevate their guns enough to hit the high forts, so forts were unable to lower the barrels of their guns far enough to hit the ships too close to them.

In an attempt to keep things simple all land based guns will be considered to be in forts unless an historical scenario dictates otherwise.

The Forts
Forts can be Small, Medium or Large in size although the Large Forts should be reserved for the very largest historical precedents in a scenario. It is envisaged that most games will only require Small or Medium Forts. All Fort sizes will use the same guns and all such guns will have the same ranges and will inflict the same damage, it is only the number of guns available and their protection level that alters.

All forts will have a 180 degree firing arc that will be divided into four 45 degree sectors. Note that this means there is no one sector that is deemed to be facing ‘forward’.  All forts can fire at any one target within EACH of the four sectors; Small Forts have one gun per sector, Medium Forts two guns per sector and Large Forts three guns per sector. Each sector has a firing arc of the same 45 degrees and no gun can fire into the arc of its neighbour.

Fort Guns fire during their sides Firing Phase with a +1 modifier but have a minimum range; they cannot target anything at point blank or Close Range. Also, Extreme Range is extended for Fort Guns by six inches to a maximum of thirty inches rather than the usual twenty four. The Fort Guns may target a ship in any of the available range bands but must fire at the nearest ship in the chosen range band.

Fort Gun hits are dealt with as ordinary ship hits but will also inflict three Crew Star hits rather than the usual one, cause a fire and draw the usual Damage Card.

Forts are very difficult for ships to damage given the usually stone construction and generally higher position relative to sea level. This afforded them good protection and allowed their few guns to keep effective in a fight. Ships firing at a Fort must do so from a distance that allows their guns an adequate elevation but close enough to allow the shots to be effective; they will also need suitably heavy guns. Ships firing at Forts must Fourth Rates or above and be at Long Range but, they will only hit on a d6 score of 6. Any hits on the Fort will first silence the guns for a turn with excess hits destroying them. 

Firer rolls one d6 per available gun. 

One 6 = One gun in quadrant silenced for one turn. (Place suitable marker in/near that quadrant)

Two 6’s = One gun in quadrant silenced until cleared with roll of 5 or 6. (Place suitable marker in/near that quadrant)

Three 6’s = One gun in quadrant destroyed.

Four or more 6’s = One gun in quadrant destroyed and whole fort silenced for one turn

Fort Templates - please print off and reduce/enlarge as needed.


  1. Hi Alan, I have just seen your new rules, and ordered a set, am looking forward to them, as I still have and use your first set I have here that I got in 91 in Colchester, and still love them, thanks glen

    1. Hi Glen! OMG, I had no idea any of those original booklets were still out there, let alone being used! I remember getting them printed and waiting with my 18 month old daughter to collect them...she is 26 now. The new rules have been a slow seller but have always been well received. Hopefully you will like the new set just as much, you will have to let me know :)

    2. Hi Alan , will do mate, just one thing is it still 1,3000 ships or can you use 1/1200? as soon as I have played some games I will let you know , cant wait found the first set great fun all this time, best regards glen

    3. This set is geared more to the larger scale but it works with whatever you want, just tweek the ranges and distances. These rules actually come with cut out ships in the book, they can also be downloaded from the Pen & Sword website. see? thought of everything! ;)

  2. Hi Allan,

    We've just played our first game of BB&IB and thoroughly enjoyed it, although we do have a couple of minor questions:

    1) On the ship Damage sheet does the box with the word 'Hull' in it actually count as a hull damage box itself?

    2) What ship sheet would you recommend converting for a 36 gun frigate?

    Many thanks in advance

    1. Hi, Glad you enjoyed the game, I seem to get more commants now than I did when it was launched! To answer your questions - 1. No, that is just a header thingy :) 2. Ah, a bit trickier. Some people up gun a smaller frigate, others down gun a larger. If you know the history and design of the specific ship it becomes easier but, for more general ships, play around with these options and see what fits better for you. I would be more tempted to down gun a larger frigate. Hope that helps? So pleased you enjoy the game and took the trouble to get in touch :)

  3. Hi Alan,

    Many thanks for the speedy replies. By 'down gun', do you mean give a 38 frigate a -1 dice modifier when firing? I also meant to ask about the Sloop. It has 2 masts on the ship diagram, but '3M' on the Ship's speed chart. How do you apply damage effects?

    1. I am always pleased to help wherever possible :) By down-gun IO mean to remove a gun icon from each side of a vessel. This way, you get a model with the number of guns you need to represent a ship but with a slightly stronger hull. Conversely, By adding a gun icon to each side of a ship, you can upgrade and create a modified ship but one that retains the basic hull and superstructure; a more accurate representation of how such ships could be used in those times.
      As for the sloop chart...very sorry, this is a printer error and the wrong chart got printed. There should only be thge 2M on the chart not 3M :(

  4. Hi Alan,

    Been using BBIB since seeing a demo at Bay Point in Thanet. Great game, always loads of fun.
    Just one question....
    1) British Gunnery Training - must have a complete command star to use - Does this mean a ship without a complete command star can only fire in the normal British Firing Phase or can't fire at all. 'British ships do not fire twice in the same gun turn' - down our club we decided this meant All ships (the fleet) must fire in the same phase or not at all but could this mean individual ships may fire in either the Fire or repair phase but not both?

  5. Hello Simon, so pleased you like and use the rules. Let me see if I can sort out your querry!
    British Gunnery Training allows any ship with that trait to choose when it fires, either in the actually gunnery phase or the repair phase. Command star dammage means that the ship temporarily looses that trait and can therefore only fire in the normal gunnery phase; of course cammand star dammage can also have an effect on ordinary shooting too so keep an eye on the usual gunnery rules.
    The second part of your question concerning the trait and the fleet....individual ships may choose which phase they fire in, this is not a fleet-wide choice. Each ship with the trait makes its own choice to take best advantage of the local situation but cannot fire twice in a game turn. The use of cotton wool to mark ships that have fired during a game turn can make life a lot easier!
    I hope this has been of some help? Alan

    1. Thanks Alan that clears that up nicely.
      We are planning a campaign, just waiting to get some more Spanish ships. We want to bring in some of the optional rules.
      My book seems to have a misprint, page 34 both carronades and French targeting sails have a -2 modifier. Page 80 the reference sheet gives both a -1 modifier.
      Can you confirm which is correct.
      Many thanks in advance. Simon
      Oh saw your page on MHWC at Legion 2012, that's where I first saw the rules in play. I am part of the Red Knight wargamers.

  6. Hi Alan,

    An interesting point came up in a game yesterday. If the defender kill all of attackers during a boarding action, can extra damage be applied to the one star that the attacker must leave on the ship?

    If this is the case, can the Defenders then capture the ship?

    When you capture a ship, do you need to crew it by putting some of your crew stars on the captured ship?



  7. Hi Alan, we've only just discovered BBIB and really like them. One question, these comments above refer to "The Command phase" but this isnt in the rule book? Is this just another name for the repair phase?