Sails of Glory24 Mar 2014 0
Sails of Glory is Ares Games? new line of miniature combat rules which cover the Age of Sail. The Starter Boxed Set features rules and 4 miniature ships from the Napoleonic Wars of the late 18th Century to the early 19th Century. The box is filled with tons of content and the 4 mini ships included all contribute to deliver a visually stunning shot across the bow of the gamer!
Sails of Glory utilizes an adaption of Ares Games? award winning card based movement system which is featured in their Wings of Glory World War I and II airplane combat system. And like their other mini game systems, the player will be able to purchase additional mini ships which will feature a control card as well as a fully painted 1:1000 scale miniatures. The first four ships in the starter set are the Courageuse (1788), HMS Defence (1763), Genereux (1785) and the HMS Tersichore (1785). Right out of the box this gives the gamer 1 frigate and 1 ship of the line for both the British and French.
Each ship is rated for hull points based upon the ships size known as its ?Burden?, the ships maneuverability known as its ?Veer?, its crew size and its number of cannons and their respective firing arcs. Each ship?s data card also includes indicators for damage accumulated (and how that damage affects both the crew casualties and the number of guns which can fire as well as other actions that the crew can perform in a turn), cannon loaded/unloaded status, number of sails raised (for speed) and whether the ship is at anchor or not.
There are colored counters for combat results damage which are very reminiscent of the damage counters used in Wings of Glory?s World War II game. Damage shown on the counters go from 0 (a total miss) to hull point damage, sail damage, crew hits and even a hit that starts a fire on your wooden sailing ship! Counters are also provided to keep track of wind (very important to ships which used sails), types of ammunition used in the cannons (solid shot for damaging the ships? hull), chain shot (for taking out sails) and canister shot (for killing crew), and other actions.
The rule book is very complete, nicely illustrated and logically laid out. It is written in a programmed layout which takes the player from a basic game to a standard game and then advanced rules with tons of alternate rules all broken down by difficulty level. The rules cover all aspects of 17th and 18th century sea warfare. Subjects covered are different types of sail rigging (no sails, battle sails, full sails), different types of ammunition load outs for the cannons, musket fire, boarding actions, wind speed and shifting, rum (I love this rule!), islands, reefs, shore fortifications and shore based artillery, ship board fires, collisions, repairing the ship while involved in combat actions, and more. Extra optional rules are posted as PDF files on Ares? website and include supplements for captain and crew experience (adding a role playing aspect to the game) and ship?s capabilities as expressed through a point system to help balance player created scenarios as well as a PDF of new scenarios.
When playing the game, each game turn is divided in to the following phases: Planning, Actions (in the advanced game), Movement, Combat and Reloading (in the basic and standard game).
The Planning Phase starts with the players determining from which direction the wind is blowing or has shifted if using the wind shifting rules. The direction of the wind affects not only the speed of the ship but the possible maneuvers it can perform. Based upon this information, the players pick the maneuver card which they will use and turn the card face down in front of them. In the basic game, 1 maneuver card is played and in the standard game, the player plays a maneuver picked last turn and then picks a maneuver card to use next turn.
The Action Phase is used during the Advanced Game. In this phase, you plan actions for your crew based upon a rating for the crew of your ship and modified by whether the crew has taking casualties or is of a low or high skill level. Possible actions include loading the cannons, repairing damage to the ship, putting out fires or pumping water out of your leaking ship, preparing for a boarding action, raising or lowing sails, readying muskets for close attacks or even passing out rum to the crew to motivate them to fight harder and not give up the ship!
The ships are actually moved during the Movement Phase. The previously picked maneuver card is placed in front of the ship then the ship is moved so that the arrow on the back of the ship?s base matches up with the arrow on the movement card much the same as in Wings of Glory.
The Combat Phase happens if the ships are close enough to fire their cannons. The range is measured using a range ruler much like the type used in Wing of Glory. Proper maneuvering of your ship will bring most or all of your guns to bear on the target while leaving the target unable to respond with its own broadside ?crossing the enemy?s T?. After guns are fired chits are randomly drawn by the target player and damage is assigned.
If the ships are close enough, their crew may even be able to fire their muskets at the other ship?s crew. If the ships? bases touch, they may collide and become entangled or, if the players are very bold, the ships? crews can perform a boarding action and go at it with guns, swords and fists!
Different types of ammunition used in your ship?s cannons include solid shot (for doing hull damage to ships and the type of ammo with the longest range), chain shot (for taking out sails and possibly killing lots of crew) and grape shot (little deadly balls, rather like a shot gun shell, which mow down the crew causing massive injuries).
In the Reloading Phase, the ships guns which fired on the previous turn may be reloaded for action next turn. You have to plan your shots well in this game since you are usually working 1 turn ahead.
Thoughtfully, rules are included for playing the game solitaire! This is a great bonus for those of us stuck on an island or lost at sea.
The four beautifully crafted miniature French ships included in the box set are the frigate Courageuse/Unite and the 3rd rate ship of the line Genereux/Aquilon. The two British ships in the box set are the frigate HMS Terpsichore/Meleager and the HMS Defense/Vanguard, a 3rd rate ship of the line. The models are simply stunning and highly detailed. Cannons, sails, ships boats and such are all clearly visible and modeled in full color. I only wish that a brief write up on the history of each ship was included in the box. But, as it is, these four ships will keep the player busy for quite a while. They are very well balanced against each other and each ship has its own particular feel.
When playing the game, the player has many choices. Do you keep at long or medium range and hope for some lucky shots? Do you close and take the chance of taking high levels of damage? Do you try and boarding maneuver and attempt to capture the other ship? Do you load chain shot and try and immobilize your foe? It is these extra tactical dimensions which add so much to the war at sea during the age of the great sailing ships. The added dimension of having to plan for the number of sails to raise in order to catch the wind that makes the game so engaging. If the players add the rules for shifting wind, the old adage of the best plan failing in the face of combat is something to constantly plan for.
In one game I played, one ship was sunk and the other three tried to engage in close combat. But all three ships became entangled and couldn?t move. Then the combat degenerated in to a crazy melee action between the crews.
Aside for the small complaint about background material, my only other concern is the initial high price of entering in to the game. If the box set could have been priced in the $50 range, I think the game would be more accessible to the casual player but, none-the-less, the player does get a ton of bang for the buck since the starter box is so full of high quality components and playing pieces.
Ares has already come out with more packs of ships, maps for playing and individual terrain packs and fortifications. Other expansions coming later this year include American ships for Revolutionary War/War of 1812 actions! This game system could easily be expanded to include pirate ships, ironclads and such. I personally am hoping for a hypothetical mini of Captain Nemo?s submarine the Nautilus from ?Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea?!
Sails of Glory is a stunning game and I?m sure will be an all time favorite game of mine. So get ready me hardies to raise sail, load the cannons and cast off to adventure!
Publisher: Ares Games Designer: Andrea Angiolino and Andrea Mainini $88.00
About the Author Richard Martin has written film and game reviews for over 20 years and has been playing war games and role playing games since the days of Ogre and Basic Dungeons and Dragons. Additionally, he writes screenplays, games and works in the legal profession. (Don?t tell anyone but Richard prefers writing games and movies to law work any day.)