top of page


Cold War Naval Battles was originally published as Modern Naval Battles, a series of three boxed card games for two to six players based on (then) present day sea power with an emphasis on action. It was introduced in the late 1980s by 3W, Inc. of Cambria, California.


The rights to the game's design have long since reverted back to designer Dan Verssen, and Rodger B. MacGowan has always retained the rights to the graphic design. Meanwhile, Alan Emrich, who did the development work and co-designed the series, continued to receive email from its many fans asking if copies could still be obtained (even though it was long out of print).


In their quest for good gaming karma, Dan, Rodger, and Alan agreed that they would re-release the game, renamed (more accurately) Cold War Naval Battles, as a free download for personal use only (i.e., not for resale) on the internet. It is their hope that the fans of this wonderful game series will continue to find hours of enjoyment in it well into the future.


This web site represents the official support center for Cold War Naval Battles on the Web.


There are a lot of cards available for Cold War Naval Battles, between the ship deck, the action deck, and a pack of ancillary air war cards. To avoid having to print out everything, professionally printed decks are available from Wargame Vault, with the kind permission of Dan, Rodger, and Alan. In order to cut down on costs, the action and air war decks are available as "mini" cards, while the ship deck cards are standard "poker" sized. This means that each deck is available as a separate purchase in Wargame Vault. The entire set is $90 and includes 725(!) cards. Here are links to each:


CWNB Ship Deck

CWNB Action Deck

CWNB Air War Deck


MNB-GW is Dan Verssen’s new version of the venerable Modern Naval Battles. It’s an update to the original system, that varies from the more classic approach of CWNB. It also hosts really tremendous graphics. You can get more details on it by clicking here or by visiting Dan’s site at DVG Games (link provided to the right).


by Alan Emrich


The rather unimaginative title of Modern Naval Battles is of my own devising. The only redeeming feature it had is was it really said what the game was about when it was published in the late 80s. One problem that it caused was when the words "Card Game" were left off the box. Ah, the joys of production problems and obvious oversights. With this updated version of the game (which incorporates all the errata and adds some rules and graphics refinements here and there from the old 80s version of the game), you get the equally unimaginative updated game title of Cold War Naval Battles. Times change, and game titles occasionally change with them.


The thought behind the graphic utility of the game was a real team effort. Rodger MacGowan, Dan Verssen (the designer) and I are, simply, a hell of a team. Rodger is a great guy to work with because he really listens to creative ideas and suggestions that will help the graphic utility of a game. The Action card sidebars and symbology were my idea, but they'd mean a lot less if I wasn't working with Rodger. He really knows how to translate a raving developer's graphic "vision" into a fine working product.


For Cold War Naval Battles, I made a few refinements to some of the gross ergonomic utility of the game. For example, on the face of the Action cards, the text reads 'facing in' instead of 'facing out' (as it did in MNB). That's because most people are right-handed; right-handed people hold their cards in their left hand and play them using their right hand. When you're passively holding your cards in your left hand (i.e., down near the table), your left wrist tends to turn in. Thus when you glimpse your hand at that time, now the text will read right-side-up instead of upside-down. (I know, how anal-retentive can you get, right? Well, these little things matter to us lazy gamers.)


The Rules


I take full responsibility for any complaints about the first edition rules. I did them all, and it was my fault! This being the first complete set of rules I'd ever written (Dan tends to give me rules orally or, at best, in a sort of outline format), I used another set of rules as a guideline. This was probably a mistake, but not as bad as it could have been.


The rules format I emulated (or "ripped off," depending on who you work for in this industry) was from Avalon Hill's Enemy in Sight (the Napoleonic naval card game). I like the bold rules numbers and the capitalized-italic headings. Even most of the organization I could handle. Unfortunately, this created rules written for wargamers, and not "the people." Still, a lot of the great unwashed learned Modern Naval Battles despite the wargame-style rules, so maybe some good will come out of this when they move on to their second wargame.


By the time the second edition of MNB came out, it was too late to change the rules organization. Volume II in the series (The Campaign Game, which really is a wargame) builds upon the rules, progressing them in sequence from Rule 15 to Rule 30. Volume III (The Expansion Kit) goes even further -- from Rule 31 to Rule 47. In other words, there's a "big picture" here that the Basic Game rules had to conform to. The method to my madness becomes clear when seen in the light of the complete trilogy.


For Cold War Naval Battles, I scrapped the whole 'trilogy' concept and consecutive rules numbering thing for a new paradigm. With each 'upgrade' package, you get a completely new rules booklet with all of the rules up to that level built right in. In addition, the 'new stuff' from the previous upgrade is highlighted for quick and easy reference when learning 'what's new.' Since the Campaign Game is its own bird, it will have its own rules booklet, but it will include all of the basic game rules still in use and be much easier to digest therefore.


The Deadline


I would have loved to put a glossary of symbols into the rules book, but that's not how things worked at 3W. You see, with their production schedule, the finished components (not the playtesting, thank God), were rushed out at the last possible second to meet an Origins '89 release deadline. The game had been ready for months, mind you, but we all know how, if it weren't for the last minute, nothing would ever get done. Modern Naval Battles is a classic example. The finished stuff lingered around the office before 3W finally got them off to the printers. Oy!


Anyway, the rules were finished before Rodger MacGowan ever had a chance to complete the final artwork on the cards. Yaquinto (yes, the Yaquinto), who did the printing of the cards, rushed us some B&W shots so we could paste up what illustrations we had in the rules, again, at the last possible second before they were sent off to the printers. If you ever want a lesson in 'haste makes waste,' Modern Naval Battles' production management would be it. We could have put a lot of nice graphic touches in if only management hadn't kicked into gear just a few days before everything had to go to press.


When doing Cold War Naval Battles, I gave everything a 'fresh look,' and decided that twenty years of playing history indicates that the cards 'speak for themselves.' Although I added a nice graphic example of the table layout to the rules booklet, I removed all of the pictures of the various cards because, frankly, the didn't seem necessary. The game is kind of a 'self-teacher.'


Number Crunching


Dan Verssen had a formula for creating the Point Value of a ship. As I recall, it went something like this:


    The Hits to Sink rating;

    +1 per gun, missile, or torpedo platform, if the ship had more than two of these;

    +1 per point of Air Defense

    +3 per Air Strike

    +1 per special advantage (that some of the subs have)

    +2 if a submarine

    = Ship's Point Value

bottom of page