In Victory at Sea, it is only after all ships on both sides have had the opportunity to move that they get to unleash their firepower upon one another. From the torpedoes launched from fast attack boats to the immensely powerful main guns wielded by the largest battleships ever to sail the oceans, there are many different ways in which you can destroy your enemy. Thus armed, we’re looking at the basics of the all-important Gunnery phase of Victory at Sea.

Basic Principles

The most basic principles of shooting follow the two following criteria:

  1.  The target must lie within the fire arc of the weapon system that is firing;
  2.  The target must be within range of the weapon system.

You must also nominate targets for all of a ship’s weapons BEFORE firing- there’s no waiting to see what damage is dealt individually to maximise damage output. That said, each weapon may be fired against an individual target.

Additionally, vessels have a maximum visual range of 30″. This is not to say that shots may be attempted beyond this distance, as under certain circumstances, and with the supervision of Observation Flights, it is possible to make Beyond the Horizon attacks – though even in perfect conditions, the accuracy of such attacks is poor at best.

Weapon Systems

There are several types of weapon systems used in Victory at Sea, though not every ship will possess all of them:

An IJN fleet heads for open waters.

Main Gun
These are the main turreted weapons that made battleships famous. They are noted in ship descriptions as being mounted on turrets.

Light Gun
These represent the multitude of smaller weaponry that ships commonly carry. They may be used to attack any target in range, on any heading.

AA Battery
Anti-aircraft batteries are the only defence a ship has against aircraft. Anti-aircraft batteries may target any aircraft within range and will fire at the start of the Gunnery Phase, before either player gets a chance to do anything else.

Mounted mainly on cruisers and destroyers, as well as some aircraft. Torpedoes are designed to attack ships below the waterline, where they are most vulnerable.

Carried by aircraft, some bombs are capable of smashing right through armoured decks to explode within a ship’s most vulnerable areas.


Each ship’s card shows all the weapon systems available to it, with all the relevant associated stats for convenience. When firing a weapon, a number of d6 equivalent to the weapon’s AD score is rolled. Every attack dice that scores a 4+ counts as a hit subject to a list of attack dice modifiers.

Factors that can cause a modifier to affect the to-hit score include the range of the target, the class of the target, the speed of the target and the weapon system being fired.

American and Japanese fleets set about one another.


For each hit scored, after modifiers, you use the weapon’s DD stat to determine how many D6 will be rolled. The weapon’s AP value is added to each of the results and compared to the target’s Armour score. Results that exceed this armour score result in a point of damage being deducted from the target’s Hull value.

Additionally, if a damage dice ever rolls a 6, the attacker gains the opportunity to inflict additional critical damage which can result in some damning and persistent game effects for the unfortunate target vessel.

Damage Modifiers

Plunging Fire

Shells fired at longer ranges by main and light guns do not travel in a flat line to their target – instead, they are fired upwards and travel in an arc to dive down upon their target. This means shells fired in this way do not usually strike the thick hull armour mounted on the side of ships, but instead tend to plunge down toward their much weaker deck armour.

Main guns and light guns fired at a target within the weapon system’s long or extreme range gain +1 to their Damage Dice results.

Heavy Armour

Some of the biggest and toughest ships afloat have an Armour score of 7. This means they can only be damaged by weapons that have a bonus added to their Damage Dice, such as from plunging fire.

The mighty Bismarck brings her guns to bear, even whilst the Royal Navy rains shells around her.

Launch Your Fleet

That’s the basics of the Gunnery phase, but there is so much more to discover. The Victory at Sea rulebook contains the complete rules for fighting naval battles, including the use of aircraft, submersibles and coastal defences. Within, you’ll find exhaustive fleet lists for all the major belligerents, providing game statistics for hundreds of unique ships, submarines, aircraft and MTBs, detailed background notes on the progression of naval warfare through WWII, and 28 historic scenarios, covering every theatre over the span of the whole war.

The Admiralty Edition of the Victory at Sea rules has an exclusive monotone design, silvered page edges, page ribbons and end papers with ship recognition designs. With only 200 total copies printed, very few remain.

Order either version of the rulebook direct from the Warlord Games webstore and you’ll also receive a special edition Noshiro model.

Our starter fleets are composed of a balance of ship types (and aircraft), giving tabletop admirals a wealth of weapon types with which to engage the enemy and learn the nuances of tabletop naval gunnery.

1 comment
  1. I’m confused. In the rulebook the attacker needs to equal or exceed the armor value of the target, but in this article you say it needs to exceed the target’s armor value. Which one is it? Also, in regards to light guns, are you including DP guns in that category? Thanks!

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