Naval Rework - Melee Naval Combat

Naval combat is severely lacking in depth and a variety of new mechanics such as melee boarding attacks, better ranged and charged attacks, and better terrain interactions could greatly improve aspects of the strategy and fun of naval battles.

Melee Attacks

Melee attacks for ships could provide greater depth to naval combat. It could be a high-risk, high-reward combat stance that allows ships to deal more damage at the expense of also taking more damage.


A melee attack that would allow the capture ships below a certain health threshold.

  • Mercenary Ships (Pirates) have a chance of capturing ships below 1/2 health and have a resistance to being captured themselves
  • Medium Ships (Caravels, Galleons, and equivalents) have a chance of capturing ships below 1/3 health
  • Small Boats (Canoes and Catamarans) have a chance of capturing ships below 1/6 health
  • Large Ships/Canoes (Frigates, War Canoes, and Long-Range Bombarding Ships) would not have a melee stance for boarding but would also have a resistance to boarding

The attack animation would be with grappling hooks.

Melee ship attacks would snare their targets.


A unique charged attack that replaces the Broadside for Galleys. The attack would increase the ship’s speed and damage received, but inflict a large amount of melee damage.

Ranged Attacks

Reduce Overkill

There is a big mismatch in fights between large ships and smaller boats due to concentrated fire being wasted as large amounts of overkill. This could be solved in a couple of different ways:

Faster ROF - Reducing damage and increasing the ROF would cut down on the excessive overkill (this would be applicable for more generalist ships like Caravels and Frigates)

Burst Fire - Splitting attacks into multiple shots per attack similar to organ guns would give a more efficient spread of damage (this has the drawback of being hard to distinguish from the Broadside charged attack)


Auto-Broadside - This should be the default with the option to toggle to manual control. 90% of the time, you’ll want Broadsides to fire automatically like they do for Sloops. The automatic firing makes no sense as a unique feature and all ships that have Broadsides should use them automatically unless a player toggles it to manual control.

Clearer Indication of Damage - Right now, the UI gives no indication of the number of shots per Broadside and it varies widely from ship to ship. This should be displayed more like Organ Guns or Gatling Guns (attack strength x number of attacks). That might necessitate making it a burst attack, but it is functionally the same so it would just increase clarity.

Long-Range Bombardment

This attack is fine as is

Other Mechanics

Stealth for Ships

A unique type of ship with a new ability. These could be melee-only ships that specialize in boarding.

There are a few approaches to how this could be done:

  • Actual stealth similar to what is in AoE4. Stealth could be restricted to only when near coasts so that units that reveal stealth could actually counter it.
  • Diversion/Concealment similar to Quaker Guns where the ship could appear as something else (East Indiamen (from trade routes) or bluff as a more powerful ship)

Small Boats Entering Shallows

Would allow better use of fishing boats and canoes/catamarans as detailed in my previous post:

A hold position stance (anchor)

New Civilizations Dedicated to New Mechanics


Boarding and capturing ships would be perfect mechanics for the Haida since they captured dozens of European and American ships. Their original method of naval attacks was hurling large stones at their enemies, so shorter range or melee ship attacks would also suit them. They eventually incorporated swivel guns and sails on their canoes so they would still have options for Long-Range Bombard attacks.


Boarding enemy ships was also done by the Maori:


Barbary Pirates operated out of Morocco and were constantly raiding and capturing slaves. Morocco could also share the Galley unit and have access to ramming ships.

Other Maritime States

Many more maritime states such as the Omanis, Javanese, Norwegians, or Koreans could also have unique mechanics

Naval Updates for Current Civilizations


Add a second type of boat. The Chincha Raft has to do all the heavy lifting for the Incan navy, and this leads to all kinds of gimmicks and balance issues. A smaller boat such as what is pictured below could take on a Canoe equivalent role and free up the Chinch Raft to have a more defined and restricted role.



Add the Battleship mercenary unit (possibly toned down a bit). Ships of the line were the most powerful ships of the era and it would be great to have one in the game. The Swedish card Vasa could be altered to send a heavily damaged Battleship instead of a Frigate


I also want the fishing boats of the American and European civilizations to have manned fishing boats.

Being able to recycle the fishing boats once the fishing is exhausted I think it would be more profitable than eliminating them.

Captura de pantalla (436)
The ‘admiralty’ card should reduce the price of warships.

Give the Galleon the multi-shot ability.

Artillery upgrades should affect ships, just as projectile upgrades should improve Native American craft.

The larger ships should be able to garrison the fishing boats.


Ramming tactics were not often used in the timeline of aoe3, except for a brief period of time when ironclads and wooden ships coexist.

Ship boarding could be interesting, but how do you handle the ship build limits?

1 Like

Ramming wasn’t common at the time, but it was plausible for Galleys and makes more sense than a Broadside charged attack since their artillery was concentrated on the front and they were vulnerable from the sides. The description below makes it sound like colliding head to head and then boarding was the primary fighting style but colliding/ramming into the side or rear of another vessel would be very advantageous.

The weak points of a galley remained the sides and especially the rear, the command center. Unless one side managed to outmaneuver the other, battle would be met with ships crashing into each other head on. Once fighting began with ships locking on to one another bow to bow, the fighting would be fought over the front line ships. Unless a galley was completely overrun by an enemy boarding party, fresh troops could be fed into the fight from reserve vessels in the rear

Maybe just a charged ability that’s a speed boost from the oars similar to the Full Steam ability that Steamers have would be better. Better melee fighting ability could synergize with that.

I think it would be reasonable to allow exceeding build limits by capturing ships. You can already exceed livestock and Chinese Disciple build limits in similar ways.

I think the fishing boats look fine as is so I’m kinda indifferent from a visual standpoint. That being said, it would be a good way to convey visual information that fishing boats take up population space.

A way to upgrade fishing boats into other ships could be a way to recycle them.

Admiralty should definitely discount ships, right now it’s pretty much useless.

The Galleon’s ability is troop training, so I don’t think it needs the Broadside ability

There aren’t many generic artillery upgrades so I don’t see this making much of a difference.

I think garrisoning in docks is enough. Garrisoning is ships seems somewhat of a stretch.

I also think that ships should be able to anchor (hold position). Many times they are drawn into danger because the enemy provokes them.

Only some improvements, like those of the armory or the cards.


A hold position stance is a good idea, they do like to follow enemy ships way too far.

The Arsenal upgrades are all very land specific and the Dock upgrades are mostly ship specific.

  • Carronade (Dock upgrade) is a type of naval cannon without a Trunion (Arsenal upgrade)
  • Heated Shot (Arsenal upgrade) was only used from shore batteries and actually against Royal Navy regulations

There are a few cases where consolidated upgrades might make sense:

  • Howitzers (Mortar upgrade) and Ship’s Howitzers (Monitor upgrade) are pretty redundant sounding
  • Rawhide Covers (Haudenosaunee ship upgrade) could be applicable to Mantlets and Rams
  • Flaming Arrows (Lakota ship upgrade) could be applicable to Cetan Bowmen
  • Advanced Artillery (Card) should also enable Monitors in addition to Mortars and Horse Artillery
1 Like

There could be new cards and technologies in this regard. It would be interesting. For example the Jesuit ‘smokeless powder’ technology could affect warships as well.

The Aztecs could also extend the range of their canoes when they have arrow knights garrisoned on the ships. Giving them a bonus against buildings.

I once wrote a lot on this type of mechanic hoping Boarding would be put into place for AOE4. Ramming works better there, but for a few select ships it could be appropriate.

Here is how I saw it working…

essentially each ship has a boarding power bar, as 2 or more ships meet the boarding power bars begin to drain until the ship that depletes first becomes the enemy ship, and then the boarding power remaining from those ships engaged split between the 2 ships, making them both more vulnerable to boarding, until the power bar replenished (either while at a dock, or siting idle a slow build up)

The boarding power bars may be different for each ship, for instance a frigate, would have a healthy strong boarding power, lets say 100 points, but would give those points out very slowly. while a Galleon might have 50 points but give them out 2x as fast. Canoes might only have 20 points, but as soon as they hit the ship they want to take over the points deploy instantly (one thing to consider is the premise of natives taking over a galleon and being able to control it, we can just imagine they hold knives to the remaining crew who are cowards and do as they say)

Canoes could be “boarded” attacked by larger ships but end up becoming scuttled instead of captured. So using large ships to board canoes would not be as advantageous, once a Canoe hit on a large ship and used its boarding party points would have 1 point remaining to still operate as a ship until shot down, or the large ship capture it and immediately scuttle it.

captures would work a lot like casting a fishing net. The animations is really already there, but a grappling hook instead of net might look better.

Ramming does not really fit as well, and I think should be skipped for AOE3 timeline. The galleons were built quite strong (made of hardwoods not soft woods like Roman triremes that needed to be dry docked so they would not rot. Those ships were actually so light and buoyant, they were very slow to sink) and harder to ram, and also without oars to get to proper speeds and directions without need of wind just makes it more of a specialty thing unless its a specific ship meant to do that.

My preferred approach is to link the capture chance to health instead of another power bar. Any ship with above 50% health is going to have a healthy enough crew to be fully immune to capture from boarding. However, with a weakened crew, they would then become vulnerable to having the ship boarded and taken by another ship attacking in melee combat. With only being able to capture weakened ships, it would make power swings from captures less dramatic and frustrating.

Ships could be differentiated into more roles with some excelling at melee combat and captures, having a high resistance to capture but only capable of ranged attacks.

In trying to capture ships part of the point is to not spoil the prize.

Here is the problem I see with using HP.

If you have 2 cavels vs 1 frigate and you want to board the frigate to take it over. In my view, the 2 caravels, could rush the frigate and try to take it over, it would be an almost equal trade of man power to do this. They are also going to be taking fire from the frigate or supporting units while doing this. Likely in taking over the ship they get so badly wounded from support fire that the trade off is sinking 2 caravels and gaining a frigate, that would have very little man power so could easily be retaken with a smaller boarding party, or quicker with multiple ships.

If they have to get the frigate to low health first, then 1 of the caravels is going to perish, and the other caravel, is going to take hits to get to it, and also put itself in danger (if it wasn’t already low on HP before) by getting up close and boarding it, taking hits from enemy fire from surrounding ships. Basically it trades 2 caravels for 1 badly wounded frigate, that could still easily be taken over again since it too would be at low health.

So it just seems there would be less incentive to try to take over ships and would be much harder to do. You would have to sacrifice lower HP units in the chance to take the ship over when you could just be maxing out its potential in ranged fire. instead of drawing close to enemy lines, or having a good player micro the half damaged ships away and drawn into a trap of ranged fire.

If they are all at full health, then retreating a ship would not work, as the whole armada would have to retreat because it would not matter that a low health ship could be microed away the caravels would just target the closest ship that was not microed away.

By having it linked to a boarding power, then certain ships can have special abilities, as to the rate of which they can use that power, so if a ship has 100 points like a frigate, it might only be able to draw off another ship, 5 per sec. a caravel, might have 50 points, but draw from other ships, 10 per sec. where as the Canoes, use all their 20 boarding power, but then drop 50% health, or sink all together. Then special upgrades could make canoes leave more boarding power on the ships they take over.

So some problems I do not see addressed, is what if both ships are 50% damaged? are they just not able to board? does a boarding ship need to be above 50% and the boarded ship need to be below? this would make it really complex and risky. In my view, with a power level, after the board was complete there would have to be a surplus of manpower split between ships, or it would be a failed board and the ships would just fire at each other. (essentially 2 types of crew, there is the operational crew, and the soldier crew) So if even 2 caravels were boarding a frigate, and 1 caravel sinks before it can fully give its boarding power, then the frigate actually would win vs the other caravel, and lose the boarding war, split its boarding power between the 2 ships. This would create some interesting dynamic and risk/ reward scenarios.

It also seems harder to give ships specific boarding roles if there is no mechanic behind the system other than HP, I think more explanation is needed as to how this would work.

Some possible Upgrades of this system, could be boarding resist, extra boarding power, speed at which boarding power can be drained, extra minimum boarding left on captured ships (to prevent reboarding) Ship speed boost to aide capture. Boarding power regenerate while stationary (vs healing at a dock)

Galleons should be able to create troops without going to shore. That is to say, the units that he creates, accumulate inside.


I hadn’t thought about that, but it would be a nice buff to the unit. They are seldom used since they are not efficiently good at attack, and having to be on the shore puts an expensive unit at risk, and gives away the strategy.

Perhaps they would train slower at sea, and normal speed on the shore to not put anything too out of balance.