Black Seas, Profiles

Focus: Third Rates (1770 – 1830)

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3rd Rate vessels formed the bulk of a Navy’s fleet, a perfect compromise between size, power and manoeuvrability. We look at their role in Black Seas.

Focus: Third Rates

The Rating System

Britain’s Royal Navy introduced a system of rating the ships of its fleet based on the number of guns they carried. This rating system takes its name from the capability of a ship to withstand a line of battle (Ship of the Line). Initially introduced by Samuel Pepys in 1677, the rating system underwent numerous revisions until the late 1800s. After its introduction, the other nations also adopted very similar systems to categorise their ships. The French, for example, classified their ships into 5 ranges.

In Black Seas, we are for ease of purpose, exclusively utilising the British classification system. 3rd rate ships count as large ships in the game.

Third Rates

HMS Bellepheron

HMS Bellepheron, a 74 gun 3rd Rate ship of the line.

A 3rd rate ship, as defined by this system, was a ship of the line which mounted between 64-80 guns. Usually, this would mean two gun decks. Despite their relative size and power compared to the larger 1st and 2nd rates, it was considered that 3rd rates maintained an effective, perhaps even superior balance between sailing ability, firepower and cost.

3rd rates would thus become fairly common as the seventy-four gun ship folded neatly into this categorisation. It was the most popular size of ship for several navies of a number of nations; being cheaper to operate and easier to sail than 1st or 2nd rates, but still maintaining enough offensive capability to take on most single opponents (with the exception of three-decked ships).


The French Téméraire class was built from 1782 onwards. Ninety-seven of these seventy-four gun vessels were completed between 1782 and 1813. No other class of battleship of a single design was produced in this quantity.


Battle between the Téméraire-class French warship Droits de l’Homme and the British frigates Amazon and Indefatigable, 13 & 14 January 1797.

Officially, these classifications continued until the conclusion of the Age of Sail in 1862. However, at the end of the 18th century, ships began to be categorized directly by their number of guns. I.E a 74 gun 3rd rate would simply be referred to as a 74-gunner.

In the Game

3rd rates are likely to make up the bulk of the power in your fleet. They are not limited in the same way that 1st or 2nd rate ships are.  In creating your Black Seas fleets you are able to make a distinction when selecting 3rd rates; they can be defined as large (74-gun) or small (64-gun). Though both are broadly categorised as large ships, the larger 3rd rate benefits from an additional broadside carronade, and a light cannon on the stern. Both varieties are nimbler than the larger 1st and 2nd ships with a quicker rate of knots and are able to turn at tighter angles.

The Kits

The 3rd rates plastic kit is designed to be highly customisable, with choices of Figurehead and stern allowing you to represent 3rd rates from any nation.


Take to the Black Seas!

Begin your seafaring adventures with the Black Seas starter set. You’ll receive a selection of brigs and frigates; giving you the makings of a fine fleet.

Master & Commander Starter Set


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Dan Hewitson
Dan can often be found contemplating the mound of unpainted minis building up under his desk. He has a tendency to roll lots of ones. He also has a tendency to complain about rolling lots of ones.