Photo is of Naval Wargamers playing Fletcher Pratts’ rules in his NYC apartment in 1938. In Pratt’s game one estimates firing range; GQ3 does not require that.

Here are some ideas and play aids for new players of General Quarters version 3, GQ3, which was released fall 2006. You can buy the GQ3 rules at ODGW. ODGW has a forum where you can ask questions and download free accessories or purchase campaigns and What If supplements.

Note that GQ3 is an expanded edition taking advantage of new research and game design concepts that carry the game beyond its roots of GQ1 & GQ2 designed in 1970s featuring, respectively World War II and World War I. Got that? GQ1=WWII and GQ2=WWI (and the latter includes an update for WWII). Both of these vintage booklets are still available from Navwar in England.

When I considered collecting miniature ships, I wrote down a variety of  considerations and will follow it up with “what I decided”.

Having played Avalon Hill’s Jutland, Midway, Bismarck, War at Sea and Victory in the Pacific, I had always been interested in Naval Wargaming. One big advantage of miniature wargaming is that you can learn the rules once and then play different scenarios. And with Naval Wargaming, one doesn’t have much terrain (a blue cloth) and can start with few miniatures—like the four ships of the Battle of River Plate in 1939.

Part of my interest being about the Atlantic in World War II comes from how my father bought a surplus collection of World War II ship models during his finishing up in the US Army Air Corps. They were British and we were fascinated with these 1:1200 scale models but in the 1960s did not know of any rules to play games with them. I started to buy a few German ships and found a few rule-sets but they were not accessible to me then. Around 2008 I sold them on eBay.

Play Aids

Range Sticks: labeling a carpenter’s folding ruler

Preferring not to use measuring tapes and doing math for ranges, I made a PDF, RangeStickYardMarkers (click), for 3,000 yard range increments and Nautical Miles. Hardware store doesn’t have a folding ruler? Here’s a link on Amazon for a Swiss 2-meter ruler that’s about $14 or go direct to their US distributor for more options like black for night games:


You could spray paint it blue! And the embossed centimeter numbers/markings might still be visible. If you want to be sure, stick small round labels over them and peel them off carefully to expose the centimeter markings.

The labels from my PDF can be printed on paper, cut out and affixed via oversize Scotch tape that wraps around the ruler. Note that there are cheaper Chinese rulers but be sure you don’t accidentally buy a .5 or 1-meter long version.

These labels can be cut apart in pairs rather than single ranges and also be placed on dowels and the reverse side of the dowel will show the other end of the ranges (36,000 yards backs up 3,000 yards, 33,000 on back of 6,000 etc.)

Certain combat is “close in” and so you can attach the following on a wooden board (like 2x2x70 cms or .75x.75×27.5″), click for a PDF: GQ3_Torpedo&RapidFireRuler.


Move & Turn Ruler

I designed play aids for GQ3 when the game was about to come out. You can download these from the ODGW site once you have bought the game and have established a Log In and Password: (click below)

GQ3 has so many supplements for Campaigns, What If’s that they have a PDF just to describe all those that are available. The filename is: GQ System.pdf.

Note before printing: Sometimes the Adobe Acrobat Reader program can reduce or enlarge the size of the file. Then you ships will move more slowly or quickly than they should.

So be careful to double-check the measurement of the knots’ length before cutting it out or printing more. If 1 cm = 1 knot (100 yards) then the 40 knots should be 40 cms long. Or if .5 cm per knot, the 40 knots will be 20 cms long, or if .4 cms/knot then 40 knots=8 cms.

If the printed item doesn’t measure the full distance, your Page Setup or Print settings may have an option checked that causes it it shrink pages. Be forewarned, the .4cm/100 yard version has fairly small print even when printed correctly.

The 1cm=100 yard version may not be printable by most people with smaller printers that have Legal or Tabloid size as their maximum; it’s on 12×18″ (or larger) stock because the actual ruler is just over 17″. Why not make a ruler for the 1 inch per 100 yard scale (# 1 on the chart below)? It would be about 7.5″ wide & 44″ long and handling it would be about as convenient as a 2-handed sword!

I suggest you attach this ruler to cardboard or thin sheet styrene. Just be sure to use material that you can readily cut to make the rounded end—that’s how the ships turn!



The rules suggest a half dozen D12 & several D6 of different colors. Don’t forget some very tiny damage markers (D6): blue 5mm Dice and you can buy 50 for about $7 from Ebay and even Walmart sell Koplow 5mm dice. For larger sizes and shapes, there are lots of blue tones (& mottled combinations of colors) at

Additional Dice Note: if using my weather chart variant (below), you need 3D10 (or at least 1D10). I use 1D8 for wind direction.


Golf Tees to Mark Conditions

I produced a play aid for using Golf Tees as naturalistic markers, shell splashes, for various conditions. Actually the golf tees were cut off to be shorter with some putty on top and glued to a blue-painted washer for stability. The idea is to help you remember certain fire shift modifiers using tees that look like shell splashes. Better than forgetting or using square counters. Twice I tried to make more realistic looking splashes but it was a lot of work to end up with a mediocre product so I simplified and got an endless supply from China for $1.99 including postage!

The modifier shifts that are tracked this way:

  1. Following are where firer places tee before the ship:
  2. When fired at—firer places 1 tee, and so 1 penalty shift up)
  3. Firing with 2+ batteries on the same target—firer places 2 (or more) tees, and 2 penalty shifts up for firers
  4. Not fired at—no tees placed, provides a bonus shift down for your (targeted) ship’s fire
  5. Following are placed behind your ship: (all are penalty shifts up)
  6. Made a 4+ point turn (or turns totaling 4+ points)—1 tee
  7. Each DCT out, 1 tee each
  8. 8”+ vs. DD, 1 tee

Without a tracking system like this, it’s easy to forget about multiple battery fire and 4+ turns particularly.  Here’s the PDF:

Jutland ShellSplash

Weather Chart Variant

For your first games, you could ignore weather changes; just note the starting weather to determine maximum visibility. Weather is a major factor in many battles though. So once I got going I found the GQ3 Weather Roll times easy to forget since it only comes up every 5th turn. So I just figured out how to reduce the chance and now roll every turn so it’s part of the routine.  80% of the rolls, nothing changes at all. The roll also incorporates what happens so there’s no need for a 2nd roll to determine that. The downside of my approach is that weather could change faster than the game indicates—but from reading battle account, that may be realistic.

Ship Labels

Initially I was thinking of labeling the little 3x6mm tabs on the back of 1:6000 ships like this:

  1. Blue background, white type
  2. Ship Type/Initials/Knots
  3. Axis ships underlined & Allied ships “over” lined (accomplished by resetting the preferences of the underlining feature in InDesign)
    Example: CA GS 26 = Graf Spee or CL Exe 32 = Exeter

But when do the Ship Classes matter at a glance, if ever? If not important to see, is there any other bit of info I should add? If not, then I’ll just spell out more of the name. I assume the speed is the most important thing since every new player wants to know “how fast can I go?” I’m still thinking of adding a little dot for nationality on the underline (leftmost German, center Japanese, rightmost Italian etc.)

What I Decided: responses from the GenQuarters Yahoo list is that the name and nationality are the only important details to try to include. Speed changes anyway and type (CA, CL etc.) isn’t generally significant. Data like speed and type is found on the ship’s log. I underlined the Axis ship names so that distinguishes them. I do not like flags or other giant (in relation to the ship) symbols.

1:3000 ship names worked into the “wake “of the ship counters. The photo being enlarged and the glare of the flash takes away from the look so I provided a screenshot of the wakes as an inset. Notice how the long Italian ship name is underlined (for being an Axis ship), abbreviated and condensed.

I made the wake in the art program Illustrator and then used as background art for a full-sheet label of ship wakes, adding the names later on. Being a clear base, it would have been better if I could have glued the wake underneath the plexiglas but that would have been messy and I was eager to try this. It works for me. Maybe you could make a nicer-looking version.

What do ship wakes look like? Actually, the answer is “it depends”.

Graf Spee Scenario

The Battle of River Plate is a great way to test out General Quarters 3. Only 4 ships are needed and only uses the gun fire portion of the rules.

  • Here is the scenario and Game Reference Chart that has just segments of the rules related to this scenario—so a condensed version that allows you to focus without distraction: GQ3_GRC1
  • This is a new page 11 for the above GRC which has so ruler markings for a 30″ Torpedo yardstick if using where 1 cm. = 200 yards …or  enlarge to 200% if your scale 1 cm. = 100 yards (and you will need long paper then in the printer): GQ3_GRC2_rulers
    Note: it says GRC2 but that is the only thing changed from the 1st version GRC. I just haven’t gotten around the making a full 2nd version yet.
  • To help you and your prospective players get into how the game works, click on this: GQ3BeginnersIntro

Ship Logs

While you could use the ship logos from the ruleset, I made an oversized 3×5″ version and you can download it here:

  • River Plate 12/13/39 featuring the Graf Spee, the 3 British ships & Cumberland as a possible reinforcement. But with 4 ships after her, the Graf Spee has little chance; but that was Admiral Harwood’s original plan: RiverPlate5ShipLogs 
    these are the same ship logs as found in the GRC1 in the previous section with the addition of the Cumberland which showed up at the battle area late. With 4 British ships, Graf Spee is very likely to be a hulk quickly… so the competition is to trade sides and see which British player has the least damage.
  • The following is if you want to play a “what if” game where the Graf Spee and Altmark were caught by the British navy: AltmarkShipLog.

Miscellaneous Play Aids

  • Here is a chart if you need randomizing when you want to find which gun is hit and here are 2 or more: GQ3_HitAssignment
    Note: most people play that if the same turret (or other item) is hit again, it just “bounces the rubble” meaning it’s a wasted outcome—seems to make sense that this could happen. A few people play it that an undestroyed turret must be hit instead and so you randomize between remaining undestroyed turrets; no bouncing the rubble.



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