I've searched through these boards, and there's a lot of good stuff about battles at sea, but I've still got a couple of issues I'm trying to sort out before I run my group's first major naval combat next Friday.
Positioning Commanders and Sub-Commanders
I'm considering allowing commanders to attach themselves to warship units and retain the ability to issue orders, much as they are able to do with personal guard units. I can't really see any other way of placing them on the battlefield that makes sense to me in-game.
Non-Warship Units in Naval Warfare
In coastal engagements, non-warship units, particularly those with long-range Marksmanship attacks, are still useful, but handling other units on the open sea is a little vague. My main quandary is whether a warship's Marksmanship and Fighting attacks are representational of a contingent of troops on board or of the ship's combat abilities in and of itself. Would Fighting tests be ships ramming one another or hand-to-hand combat after a boarding? Assuming the warship stats represent the capabilities of the vessels themselves, I'm thinking that each warship can carry one additional unit occupying the same square and moving with the ships. I'm unsure of whether these units should take damage and suffer disorganization/routing equally along with the warship unit, or be treated more like attached characters, taking some damage when the ships are attacked successfully but able to be attacked themselves as a separate target.
Here's the real meat of it.
If a ship has a unit of troops stationed aboard, I'm trying to think of ways a boarding attack could go. As I said before, I'm not sure if the warship unit's Fighting would represent the combat abilities of the crew and any fighting men stationed aboard, or if they are solely those of the ship itself. The fact that a Wealth point invested in Fighting damage raises the unit's damage beyond that of any footsoldier unit seems to suggest that it's not meant to be a boarding party.
With my idea for "attached" units aboard warships, I think it'd be feasible and cool to allow boarding actions to play out similarly to a battle on land. Boarding a ship is much more difficult than simply defeating it in battle, requiring the attacking commander to first successfully execute the Envelop advanced order (Discipline difficulty +6), followed by a reskinned version of the Scale Walls (I'm calling it Board Vessel) advanced order (Discipline difficulty +3). If both of these Warfare tests and the boarding unit's Athletics test required by the Scale/Board order are successful, then the attached unit enters into battle.
I'm still sorting through the specifics (and would love input), but here's how I'm thinking it would play out.
The square occupied by both warship units is treated as a sort of mini-battlefield with the following terrain features: Cover (+1 Defense), No Cavalry, No Siege Weapons, No Movement.
The difficulty to issue an order to either warship unit is increased by +6, as the melee abovedecks renders the usual method of relaying commands unreliable at best. If the defending warship has no attached units to engage the boarders and the crew must see to the defense themselves, the difficulty increases to +9 instead. Both warships can still be targeted by attacks from other units outside of their engagement, with successful Marksmanship attacks made against either unit dealing damage to both as per the Envelop order's effect. Attached units involved in the boarding action on either side also take damage as normal.
If the defending warship is successfully issued an order to retreat or disengage, the attacking warship gets a free attack according to the standing Envelop order, with an additional +1B to their Fighting test for the particularly close quarters involved. Withdrawing in such a manner is risky, but successfully ends the boarding action. The attacking vessel withdrawing likewise ends the boarding action, calling back it's forces.
If the defender has no attached units to repel the boarders, treat the defending forces as having a unit of Sailors at one training level lower than that of the warship unit itself (if the warship unit is Green, treat them as having 0 XP and 2's in all abilities). This unit is merely representational - outside of boarding actions, they effectively do not exist as a unit, being part of the ship's' usual complement of seamen (hence the additional difficulty in issuing orders to the defending warship when part of the crew is so engaged). If the attached defending unit is destroyed, these Sailors can also be called upon the as last line of defense (raising the warship's Discipline difficulty as normal). Routed defenders take no actions, but must be destroyed in order to end the engagement.
If the attacking unit is routed, they return to their ship. However, if they are rallied before the defending vessel successfully disengages, they can return to the boarding action. Routing the attackers reduces the added difficulty to issue orders to the defending vessel to +3 and removes the extra +1B from the attacking warship's free attack from the Envelop order if they withdraw.
If all units aboard the defending vessel are defeated, the defender's warship unit and the attacker's boarding unit are both removed from play, and the defeated ships may be salvaged and captured by the victor (more on that in a moment).
They're the same cost as Infantry, with less conventionally useful Abilities. Would it be too much to grant them an additional +1B to all tests at sea?
This came up during the planning session last week. The PCs would like to take as many ships from the enemy fleet as possible during the engagement. Since a battle at open sea doesn't give them the ability to seize Defense, Land, or Wealth holdings, I figure it would be fair to allow them to try. At the end of a naval battle, I'm going to have them roll the standard Survivors check as normal for any enemy units that were destroyed or successfully boarded. Any result that would not cause the defeated unit to be destroyed grants the winning side 7 Power which can only be invested in a warship unit - however, that unit cannot be fielded unless additional Power is invested in the Training for a crew.
I'm not quite sure how Health should work for warship units. Not being able to increase Endurance seems to not fit; certain ships are built sturdier than others, and a maximum potential of 6 Health is not very much at all to represent 5 combat vessels, especially considering the damage output of siege weapons. Having Armor Rating of 5 with no Armor Penalty to Combat Defense is pretty damn good and serves to boost warships' durability, and with an equipment upgrade, that raises it to AR 10 (which really is hands-down the biggest boon granted by any Wealth point invested in a unit's equipment, especially as it still doesn't increase the Armor Penalty). That might handle the issue there... I don't know, just putting it out there.