Blue Water Navy covers the war at sea, air, close-ashore and low-earth orbit from the Kola Peninsula in Northern Russia to the Mediterranean Sea and West over the Atlantic Ocean to the United States and Cuba. The game models the full order of battle that could be expected in 1980's wartime, from multi-regiment Soviet Tu-22 Backfire bombers to multiple US carrier groups. The game is card driven, with each card providing points to move units or trigger special events such as 'KGB Assassinations' and 'Space Shuttle'. There is also a reaction mechanic where most cards can be used in the other player's turn to perform a spoiling event such as 'Raid Aborts' and 'Friendly Fire'. The heart of the game is detection. Task Forces can only be attacked once detected. By contrast, land air-bases can always be attacked - their enemy knows where they are. The race to detect opposing Task Forces begins as soon as they enter potential striking range of units such as the formidable Soviet bomber formations, or perhaps the Soviet's submarine fleet which, whilst it has considerable strength, cannot effectively detect enemy forces without help from its comrades.