Naval units or "ships" in Imperialism are, unsurprisingly, used on the sea and are named after types of ships that were built in the 19th century.


Two or three models are available at the start of every game; others must wait for specific technology to be researched/purchased. All are usable in the turn immediately after the one in which they were ordered.

Types and constructionEdit

Naval units are either merchant ships or warships. All ships are built in your shipyard, a building in the top right quarter of your city screen, at no monetary cost but with varying amounts of resources and/or materials (and for warships arms) depending on the precise model of ship. Early models use a lot of lumber and some fabric, for sails, but later models tend to replace the fabric with coal and steel. There is no ongoing maintenance cost (by contrast with army units).

Merchant shipsEdit

Merchant ships are needed to carry items you sell or buy, and are never actually seen, though you will see where one has been deemed to be when you find a battle report about it. Some have armor, some have speed advantages, and therefore not every merchant ship that sails or steams through a blockaded sea zone gets caught.

Merchant ships are needed for international trade: generally one cargo hold for each item you buy or sell. However, when the trade is with another great power, it will use its own ships for anything it buys from you. You see how much capacity you have, in the form of a number below a ship icon, at two stages in the game: on the "Give Trade Orders" screen you see the total number at top right, and when considering other nations' offers for sale you see the remaining number near bottom right and can see every GP's remaining total if you check any of the item tabs on the right at or below the item currently on offer.


Warships require armaments as part of their construction; for example, the frigate takes three units and the Ship-of-the-Line takes five. Warships first appear in an area of sea just outside the "anchorage" area associated with your capital next to your capital or to its river mouth, but in game terms they are in that anchorage area, which is a separate one-tile sea zone. You can move them from one sea zone to another or direct one to do one of a few specific things in the sea zone it is in.

The number of arms that went into the construction later becomes significant, because it is the number that determines the force size that can be landed at a beachhead on hostile soil in one turn. Apart from moving to another sea area or establishing a beachhead, a warship can be ordered to patrol (attacking any enemies found), or to blockade enemy merchant ships, or to escort friendly merchant ships. The presence of any of your warships in any sea area allows the estimating of the composition of ground unit forces in any adjoining province; estimates are unreliable.

Table of unit statisticsEdit

See page 41 of the Manual for statistics and subsequent pages for more detail.

table under construction

Listed in approximate order of availability, but you can use the triangle icon at the top of a column to sort by that column

The Manual has an additional factor "BATT MV", speed in battle; varies from one-third to two-thirds greater than the "Speed".

Ships in Imperialism
power (FRP)
Range (RNG)Armor (ARM)HullSpeedCargoFab-
ClipperStreamlined Hulls000250(??!)426----

See alsoEdit