Happy New Year everybody!
To kick off 2016, I thought we would start with a review of the new Sails of Glory starter set game by Ares Games (which won Game of the Year in 2015). This was following a recent trip to the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and seeing the amazing HMS Victory. It was an awesome experience and we wanted to try and recreate an epic Napoleonic battle.
The box itself is quite a work of art and very sturdy. The starter set comes with four ships. On the French side is: Courageuse 1778 and Genereux 1785. On the British side is: HMS Terpsichore 1785 and HMS Defence 1763. We chose to play with HMS Defence 1763 and Genereux 1785:-
We start at opposite ends of the game mat and decide to play with basic rules (the rule book is 63 pages long so thought would start off easy!)
Each turn consists of four phases:
The unusual thing about this game is that you do not use any dice. The planning phase consists of selecting a manoeuvre card from your deck of cards and planning your move dependant on the direction of the wind (green, orange or red) - we stuck with a westerly breeze for this game to keep things simple - so just planned for if the breeze happened to hit our ship in a green, orange or red section of the base.
The first two turns consisted of just planning and manoeuvring which was helpful to get a feel for how the opposition may move and just how slowly you actually would manoeuvre in the high seas dependant on the wind and which way you are facing.
As we got closer, we started to feel the pressure as to who would fire first, and make it count, as the turn after firing would be just for reloading the cannons (unless you are able to do a 180° turn and fire from the other side of the ship).
By the 3rd movement phase, we were close enough for our 1st combat phase. We were able to hit each other using our broadside cannons at 'long-range A'.
Due to my french ship having superior firepower, Nicky had to draw 7x 'chits' (tokens) and I only had to draw 6 of them. Nicky was lucky enough to draw 4x 0 damage, and unlucky enough to draw enough hits to fill one-and-a-bit boxes - meaning the effectiveness of his ship dropped by one out of 9 boxes.
Out of the 6 tokens I drew, I had 3x 0 damage (misses), 1x crew loss and 4x damage - not bad, but not enough to diminish my ship, monsieur!
The 4th and 5th manoeuvre was more like a game of cat and mouse with each trying to frantically turn in a clockwise circle in order to be able to fire again.
I was able to get a full broadside hit off to Nicky's ship, meaning he had to draw 7x chits which resulted in 3x misses, 1x dead crewman and 3x hits that knocked his shields effectiveness down by another 2 boxes, bringing him down to 6.
I, too, got hit broadside, losing another crewman and losing one box of effectiveness (sorry, not sure of the technical term for it, 'hull points' perhaps?!) but having 4x misses.
The 6th turn had no firing as we were both busy reloading and fighting the wind. I had sailed head first into a sudden squall (as indicated by the red 'taken aback' section of the base of my ship). This meant that I now had a bad attitude to the wind (of course, I was French after all!) so I had to use one of my red manoeuvre cards and make a sharp move to the right (starboard?):
The next turn found me still battling against the wind and carrying out a 180° turn, but I now found myself in a more favourable position and facing Nicky head on!
Although, Nicky has asked me to add that, if we had been using advanced rules, my ship would have been severely damaged as, in reality, sailors tend not to recklessly drive into tornadoes at sea and come out the other side ready and happy to fire at the enemy without the odd loss of life or parts of the ship missing... I would like to hastily retort that this was a friendly game using basic rules and that WE'RE NOT REALLY AT SEA!! *rolls eyes, moves on*.
During this turn though, Nicky was able to manoeuvre his ship closer and take a broadside shot at me, really hurting my ship that turn! He destroyed another hull of mine and got away with no damage to himself as he was out of range to me! Zut alors!
The 8th turn saw Nicky trying desperately to run away from me as he couldn't fire due to reloading (you better run!). I moved in on him and got him in my sights at range 'B' (which stands for "Bol**cks, that's close and hurts more") but couldn't fire as he was out of range! why, oh why would you not have a cannon at the front of the ship as well, dammit? At that range I could have blown him to the moon!
By the next turn we both ended up next to each other, not as close as before, but within range 'A'. I had to draw 5x chits which resulted in 2 misses but enough hits to almost take out my 4th hull (leaving me with just over 5 fully working slots left). As my ship was (just about) still superior, Nicky had to draw 6x chits this time (you go down in fire power as you lose effectiveness/ slots) but he took no ship damage, just 3x misses and 3x crew hits:
Gutted with my next turn as I was left facing Nicky, in range but unable to fire as my stupid crew take so long to reload a few cannons (probably off watching Netflix and chillin'...)
We're on to move 11 now and I try to manoeuvre behind Nicky to get a good close up shot but Nicky didn't move fast enough and I drove/ sailed/ crashed straight into him! (no Nicky, it was tactical, not because I'm a 'woman driver' - tsk!)
Nicky, again, would like to add that we could have had some hand-to-hand combat if we were playing the advanced rules, but as we were not, we had to rely on our musketeers (sailors with muskets staying on their decks shooting at each other) which means drawing 'E' chits/ tokens to determine how many crew get shot. Apparently we can also fire our cannons as well after the gun fight! Yay!
Nicky fired first: I drew 3x 'E' tokens which resulted in 1x miss, but 2x crew dead. He then fired his cannon at (extreme) 'B' range (you only use range 'C' and 'D' if playing advanced rules) so I had to draw 5x 'B' tokens which had 2x misses but a total of 7 hits! That hurt and now I only have just under 5 working hull/ slot things.
I fired my muskets and managed to kill 3 of his crewmen so now 5 of his 9x crew slots are full - ship starting to look a bit empty, eh Nicky? ;-) As a grand finale, I fired my cannon into Nicky. He drew 5x 'B' tokens and he took 3 hits - he now only has 4 slots left...
LEARNING CURVE ERROR!! After the above turn, we realised that the sneaky French had made Nicky draw too many 'B' tokens (mwah ha ha) - out of the 3x cannons on the side of the ship, the middle one has greater fire power than the ones either side. As you can see from the above picture, I shot Nicky with the front, port side cannon (front left) as Nicky was apparently out of range for the middle one, so, he should have only drawn 3x 'B' tokens. Sorry Nicky, I'll let you off one or two later...
On to the 12th round... Run away! Run away! But, uh-oh, Nicky's attitude to the wind seems to have taken a turn for the worst and he's in the red 'taken aback' danger zone! You can tell by using a wind marker to indicate the wind direction and pointing the tip toward the main mast of the ship - he was just about in the red zone.
13th round now and Nicky is still having difficulties moving his ship around due to the pesky wind so cannot fire. I fire at him with a long-range broadside shot and could have caused a lot of damage but, being the merciful French captain that I am, and to make up for my previous faux-pas, I allow him to only take 2x tokens instead of 5. This results in him only having 1x miss and 1x 3 damage.
Next turn: both just moved this time - na-naah, out of firing arc Nicky!
The next round was again just playing cat and mouse and neither could fire. By the 16th turn, Nicky had moved to the aft (rear) of my ship and decided to broadside me at range 'B'. I had to draw 4x 'B' tokens; only lost 1 crewman but took 7 damage, leaving me with only 3 effectiveness slots left.
I retaliated by firing back from my rear right cannon leaving Nicky with just under 3 effectiveness slots to protect him.
At this point we thought we would take a snapshot of our ship log and ship mat. When each of the slots are filled up, you turn the tokens over to show A, B, etc.. You keep the 0 (misses) tokens that you have drawn and place them in the '0 Tokens Box'. For the basic rules game, you keep the marker on the 'battle sails' icon in the 'Sail Settings' box but can move these about as you play in more advanced games. You also get markers to show which side of the ship you have fired from and turn them over when you are in the midst of reloading. I am glad we started out with the basic rules as there is a lot to remember and I work much better at basic and then gradually add extra parts in. For our next game, I know Nicky is itching to get stuck into the advanced rules and take extra actions, but I think I will take it slow and maybe just introduce the moving of the masts or have the wind change direction every now and then...
But, back to the game! We are now in the 17th turn and I find myself in a bad wind again and end up having to turn 90° - no shooting though as both reloading:-
18th turn: I round on Nicky (who is getting dangerously close to sailing off the edge of the world) and we both fire at each other at range 'B'.
I draw 3 tokens, lose another crewman and take 4 damage (nearly lost my 7th slot now, dammit).
Fortune favours the French today though as Nicky draws 4 tokens which results in 12 DAMAGE! He now has 8 slots filled. One slot to go Nicky, get ready to say hello to the sharks...!
19th round: I can smell victory (not HMS Victory, we didn't use that ship in this game! sorry, sad joke...) but I am not silly so I try desperately to get out of Nicky's range, but, what is this? Nicky has moved off the board! He has actually run away, that cowardly custard!
Nicky, again, would like to interject and add that he is not a cowardly custard. It was, in fact, a tactical move as he only had the equivalent of one hull point left so it was a realistic thing to do in real life. But the fact remains that I am left feeling robbed of my grand finale that would have resulted in fireworks, total annihilation and a shark feeding frenzy (yes, they had sharks there, I imagine, lots of Great Whites, all humming the Jaws theme tune as they happily chowed down...)
This is a really interesting and well put-together game. I am sure we inadvertently messed up a few times or misunderstood a couple of the rules but it was the first time we had played it and it was fun!
I had watched a few tutorial videos (as the rule book looked scary) but then we decided to just go for it. I am still a little sketchy on how the whole crew-thing works as the card for my ship says I have 693 crew but how does this equate to the crew damage track of 10 slots on my ship log? I guess all will become clearer when we next play and become more proficient...
Oh well, the important thing to remember here is that I won! I WON! For the first time ever I beat Nicky so this is now my new favourite game...
The Sails of Glory Starter Set is available at Creation Nation here.