Sunday, 21 August 2016

Sails of Glory: Game Review

Sails of Glory: Gaming in the age of Sail

To play a game of Sails of Glory, you will need a flat surface, roughly 36 inches by 36 inches square. You won’t need terrain, as naval warfare tends to happened on the open sea (the most terrain you might need would be the odd wreck... if the scenario is set in shallow waters... or perhaps a coastline: so you can include some gun batteries, beach assaults, Pirate raids and smuggling excursions.... à la mode Poldark style).
 
Mark the boundaries of the playing area, however, as ships leaving the board are deemed to be out of the game. You can purchase a Sails of Glory play mat, which is simply gorgeous: its amazing, very good quality... is well made, and will enhance the feel of your games no end. It makes play a little bit easier too, because of the fine lines ingrained into the map: this will help you no end when it comes to determining the all important wind direction when sailing your miniature ships.
The down side of this is, the map ain`t cheap. It’s actually bloody expensive; selling for roughly £32, which is just over half the price of the game itself  (the game sells for about £59 quid). You don’t need it, but if you DO invest in the map... if the idea of playing naval battles in the age of sail appeals to you, if you can recover from the pain of opening the wallet that wide, you will not regret it. I can`t emphasise enough just how beautiful this map is, nor how much better your games will look if played upon one of these sleek beauties. But all importantly, I reiterate YOU DONT NEED TO BUY THIS OPTIONAL EXTRA.
A Plain Blue cloth, or sheet will suffice just fine to represent the playing area.

Once you crack open the box, marvel at all the
fine and wonderful `toys` contained inside (you won’t be disappointed, this baby has an elegance to it which feels mature and graceful, like an expensive vintage wine),  then you will no doubt eventually have a crack at the rules book. Here you will be delighted to learn the game is broken down into four parts: very basic, intermediate, leading all the way up to advanced, then with lots of optional extras at the end. Best still, it offers some truly excellent rules for playing the game solo. This means you can theoretically have the box open, read the rules, and be playing within an hour.


What is so addictive about this game is the way you actually feel like you are the real captain of your very own ship and crew. Each of the four (each unique) ships that come with the core game, controls and runs very differently from the next one. You literally have to micro manage your crew, the sails.... and wow navigating obstacles (if you include shallow waters, jagged rocks, wrecks and coastline) plays a big part, and wind speed and direction don’t help you at all hahaha.
Playing solo when you first get this core set and play your first tentative game or five... don’t bother (at first) playing one of the scenarios that comes with the game (you can always make your own scenarios as well), just play about with a single ship, and try sailing it round a sandbank, or round a wrecked ship, through a narrow channel up an estuary... or oh GOD, try tacking and coming about before crashing into the cliffs, or smashing headlong into another ship. Its amazingly good fun just learning how to man and steer your ship without mishap: how do you set your sails, where do you allocate your crew, when do you load the cannons for a broadside... and what kind of shot do you loads them with? It’s all super fun; and the first time I got my ships out and tried all this, I never even got round to trying out one of the simple basic scenarios. Before I knew it, the afternoon sun was vanishing behind the hills, and I had somehow lost four hours of time, and this was just messing about trying to steer my bloody ship through an estuary mouth, up the spit, and then... oh GOD...  trying to turn the thing about and head back the way I had come.... back out to sea. This all had me sweating buckets... these old sailing ships steer like bricks on ice, and the wind has the most annoyingly frustrating way of changing speed and direction just when you are in the middle of a most complicated, intricate manoeuvre - such as turning the damn thing round to make it go in a different direction haha.

Then you have the more advanced combat stuff, like boarding parties, taking enemy ships as prizes of war, allocating your crew to sails, putting out fires on deck (sluicing down the sails to prevent fires breaking out), fixing ropes and clearing the deck for broadsides against the enemy, and all this with a diminishing crew, as casualties mount up from enemy fire. I love the way the solo scenario rules (mostly all free to find on line) take care of enemy ship movement for you. That moment of sheer panic when you realise you`ve slipped right into the raking path of a French 72 gun privateer man o war, and grit your teeth, waiting for incoming... that’s when the casualties and damage soon mounts up.
What’s clever about the game is the lack of dice throwing. Instead you have hundreds of counters which go into cups, and without looking you pull the counters from the cups (like you would roll dice) and lay them out beside your ship(s) This will indicate the casualties and the type of damage done to your precious warship.... sails, mast, deck, hull, anchor, fires, crew, and so on. And you will take the damage counters and put them on the relevant sections of your thick card ship rosters. So there is no paper work. All this is cleverly taken care of for you, by the use of rosters and counters. Wonderful ain`t it.



Once it is determined how the wind will influence the ship, the player’s select a manoeuvre card (or cards) from their card deck (each ship has its own unique deck of cards). If the attitude measure points to the orange or green boarders of their Ship miniature, the player can select any manoeuvre cards that has a blue dot. If the attitude measure points to the red, only manoeuvre cards with the red dot can be used. If the attitude points between two different colours, the player can always use either of the two, but it is their choice.

Once the manoeuvre card is selected, it is placed face-down on their Ship Log until it is their phase to move. At which point the card is used as a template for actually moving the ship on the battle mat. All very clever stuff really: unique in fact. Each ship card of course, has different instructions of movement depending on the speed the ship, the set of the sails, and wind direction and speed (most of this is covered in increasing depth, throughout the advanced rules, which you can add in at your own pace and leisure... everything is optional: allowing you to cherry pick what you want in your games and what you simply wish to ignore).





The base box set... the core game, comes with four ships, each pre-painted to an impressively lovely standard: but still leaving room for keen modellers to add more detail of their own if they like), and each of the ships has two completely separate rosters, so effectively each ship model comes with two names and two entirely different sets of fighting statistics. This gives you 8 models just in the base game alone. Additional ships (complete with stats for two variations)) can be purchased separately, from between $15 and 20 pounds a time, not bad really as these pre assembled and pre painted models are truly exquisite.


I give this game a solid 10 out of 10 on components, aesthetic beauty, and for the box (all the game components fits away nicely in the sturdy box between games... and each additional ship purchase also comes with its own box, for storage between play). I give a 10 out of 10 for ease of play: and for re-playability 10 out of 10... which hardly seems enough here: suffice to say, if you enjoy naval games of this sort, well...  there`s potential here to play and expand and enjoy your gaming for years to come. Just be warned though, it may well make you want to get out all your old Hornblower, Alexander Kent, and Master and Commander books and start reading like mad.. not to mention watching the DVD`s.

The game is well supported (another 10 out of 10), and the official forum “The Anchorage” is informative, friendly, and helpful to new players joining the ranks.

All in all Ares games have proven that the Italians are a force to be reckoned with, within the gaming industry. I eagerly await their new Sails of Glory kickstarter: which rumour has it, will be all about Pirates and Privateering.


I wanted to write a battle report for this game, but in the end I decided a quick review was probably needed first, to whet the appetite, and gauge interest... with a promise of more to come, if anyone is interested in seeing this game in closer detail, actually in action and put through its paces on the high seas. Let me know if so.


I hope you enjoyed this mini review.
Article by Stephen Gilbert




22 comments:

  1. As you know Stevie, I`ve done a lot of sailing in my life (a lot of it in my youth long.. long before I knew you), and it is a pastime I really enjoy; so much so that it might, at one time, so easily have become a real life passion. So yes, this game of yours is one I actually really enjoy watching you (and the boys) play. I`ve never asked for a game of it though, as I am sure to run aground one of your lovely prize sloops or frigates, or entangle the anchor in the lines, or something equally as daft. But from all I see of this game set up and in action, the more I realise how accurately it depicts sailing ships (I was once on a big ship sailing course, as part of a 50 man/woman crew). It feels like the real thing, but does so in a way that looks and feels fun. I can only assume the fighting bit is as accurate as well, though simplified enough to be enjoyable to play on the table. Sailing, pirates, French Spanish, British, Colonialist Americans, what more could you ask for, from any budding Hornblower reader, and potential naval warfare gamer.

    I enjoyed your review because it was easy to follow, made the game look attractive and rather moor-ish
    .
    Nice read. Thank you.

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  2. Nice review, Steve and +1 for a batrep please. Although it is not really my cup of tea I couldn't help be carried along by your enthusiastic review. Oh, and if I ever did get the game, I'd definitely want to buy the gaming mat as well, especially if its made of the same material as my Battle Systems Urban Terrain mats or my Deep Cut Steppe Terrain mat. I've become a huge fan of these very durable mats. They may be expensive but they are well worth investing in, in my humble opinion.

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  3. Thanks Bryan, I`m glad you enjoyed it. It can be a great little game (I say little because you can just stick with the core game and bingo!! You got yourself a nice game to play on a quiet afternoon at home... yet `buy into` the system and it can get as BIG as you want... so big you could play the entire of Nelson`s Battle of Trafalgar of you really wanted... over 50 ships hehe).

    As for the mat, yep I`m totally with you. I know the ones you mean and I can only say.. Bryan, hard as it may be to believe, the Sails of Glory one is even NICER. Its thicker material, rolls up nicely, is crease free, and just look amazing. Has a nice feel when you touch it too.

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  4. Interesting. This is so not game I would normally even look at on a shelf of games, but it does look interesting the way you talk about it.

    So tell me: this is basically Napoleonic I`m thinking. You talk about Nelson and Trafalgar .. 1805, right? But could you use it in, say, your new American War of Independence games project?

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  5. Interesting you should mention that Tar`. The answer is basically..... yesssssss.

    If you look at each of the ship info cards which come with the game and with each ship, you will notice it tell you the date the ship was commissioned, and the date it was de-commissioned, was sunk, captured, or what not. You will quickly see that many, many, many ships of the Napoleonic era (about 1792 to 1815) were actually put to sea between 1750 to 1780. This puts us right back to the American War of Independence and the Seven Year War. Mmmhmmm, yep... that’s right, most these same ships saw action first, during the American Wars; so they were actually veterans long before the Napoleonic wars. One of my ships, I can`t remember which one it is.. maybe the Hermione (or was it the Bellona) was responsible for first carrying news of the outbreak of the American Revolution to the British Admiralty at Plymouth, and to the fearful general public.

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  6. Very interesting, Steve. My only experience with tabletop sail combat is "Pirates of the Spanish Main", but I spent several enjotyable evenings trying (and failing) to out-manouevre my mate with the dinky little plastic ships. I believe I may still have them in a box in the loft somewhere - there were quite a few. This seems a lot more complex, yet more 'realistic' and I too would like to see a batrep - especially if it results in the French getting thoroughly trounced!

    Funnily enough, the idea of resource management for ships, albeit starfaring ones, is the 'mystery' rules I was teasing you about. The initial scratch-built starship for this can be found is my most recent post - although I may have built a couple more since then. That's right, home-brew rules AND scratch-built spacecraft - cheapass gaming at its finest! Now, if you'll excuse me, there appear to be some Klingons off the starboard bow... ;-)

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  7. Star Trekkin' across the universe,
    On the Starship Enterprise under Captain Kirk.
    Star Trekkin' across the universe,
    Only going forward 'cause we can't find reverse.

    Lt. Uhura, report.
    There's Klingons on the starboard bow, starboard bow, starboard bow;
    there's Klingons on the starboard bow, starboard bow, Jim.

    Analysis, Mr. Spock.
    It's life, Jim, but not as we know it, not as we know it, not as we know it;
    it's life, Jim, but not as we know it, not as we know it, Captain.


    There's Klingons on the starboard bow, starboard bow, starboard bow;
    there's Klingons on the starboard bow, starboard bow, Jim.

    Star Trekkin' across the universe,
    On the Starship Enterprise under Captain Kirk.
    Star Trekkin' across the universe,
    Only going forward, still can't find reverse.

    Medical update, Dr. McCoy.
    It's worse than that, he's dead, Jim, dead, Jim, dead, Jim;
    it's worse than that, he's dead, Jim, dead, Jim, dead.


    It's life, Jim, but not as we know it, not as we know it, not as we know it;
    it's life, Jim, but not as we know it, not as we know it, Captain.

    There's Klingons on the starboard bow, starboard bow, starboard bow;
    there's Klingons on the starboard bow, starboard bow, Jim.

    Starship Captain, James T. Kirk:
    Ah! We come in peace, shoot to kill, shoot to kill, shoot to kill;
    we come in peace, shoot to kill, shoot to kill, men.

    It's worse than that, he's dead, Jim, dead, Jim, dead, Jim;
    it's worse than that, he's dead, Jim, dead, Jim, dead.

    Well, it's life, Jim, but not as we know it, not as we know it, not as we know it;
    it's life, Jim, but not as we know it, not as we know it, Captain.

    There's Klingons on the starboard bow, starboard bow, starboard bow;
    there's Klingons on the starboard bow, scrape 'em off, Jim.

    Star Trekkin' across the universe,
    On the Starship Enterprise under Captain Kirk.
    Star Trekkin' across the universe,
    Only going forward, and things are getting worse!

    Engineer, Mr. Scott:
    Ye cannot change the laws of physics, laws of physics, laws of physics;
    ye cannot cahnge the laws of physics, laws of physics, Jim.

    Ah! We come in peace, shoot to kill, shoot to kill, shoot to kill;
    we come in peace, shoot to kill; Scotty, beam me up!

    It's worse than that, he's dead, Jim, dead, Jim, dead, Jim;
    it's worse than that, he's dead, Jim, dead, Jim, dead.

    Well, it's life, Jim, but not as we know it, not as we know it, not as we know it;
    it's life, Jim, but not as we know it, not as we know it, Captain.

    There's Klingons on the starboard bow, starboard bow, starboard bow;
    there's Klingons on the starboard bow, better calm down!

    Ye cannot change the script Jim.
    Och, #!*& Jimmy.

    It's worse than that, it's physics, Jim.

    Bridge to engine room, warp factor 9.

    Och, if I give it any more she'll blow, Cap'n!

    Star Trekkin' across the universe,
    On the Starship Enterprise under Captain Kirk.
    Star Trekkin' across the universe,
    Only going forward 'cause we can't find reverse.

    Star Trekkin' across the universe,
    On the Starship Enterprise under Captain Kirk.
    Star Trekkin' across the universe,
    Only going forward, still can't find reverse.

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  8. Wow what a cool blast from the past.... here's the link if you wanna hear it hehe.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FCARADb9asE

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  9. Ooo that's an oooooold boardgame, and a classic. One of the first.. if not THE first true war strategy boardgame ever. Bet you had fun playing that. I know I would.

    Woohoooo, about your space faring game. I`m looking forward to seeing it in action..

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  10. Thanks for that trip down memory lane, Tarot, although surely you're too young to have been around when it was first released?

    And the game I was referring to was the "constructible strategy game" from Wizkids, which was first published in 2004 - that doesn't strike me as that old? Are you confusing it with something else? "Buccaneer", perhaps? (which is a cool boardgame in its own right.)

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    Replies
    1. Doesn't help that she's been MENSA tested with an IQ of about 157, so a knock on effect of this is, if she sees something once she can remember it almost word perfect, ever more *grrrrr*

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  11. LOL she`s been raiding our vinyl collection again.... uuugh! what have you started Jez. Second Hil started singing: "There's Klingons on the starboard bow, starboard bow, starboard bow" tar` fished out the album and has been playing it non stop.... LOUDLY (and on full quadrophonic speakers too).

    The game I was talking about was called Pirates of the Spanish Main. Hre`s some details on it:

    Description

    Pirates of the Spanish Main is the world’s first constructible strategy game. In Pirates of the Spanish Main, players make fleets of ships to sail to different islands looking for treasure. This booty is obtained in one of two ways: commanding your salty dogs to dig it out of the ground or sending your opponent’s ships to Davy Jones’ locker! Either way, game play is fast and fun, and the built-in damage tracking system makes Pirates of the Spanish Main the game of choice of wannabe-buccaneers everywhere. (From the official press release)

    Pirates of the Spanish Main includes numerous different collectible pieces, including ships, crew, treasure, and famous (and infamous!) personalities. It sells in booster packs that include all materials required for play ("A game in every pack"), which typically consists of two ships, an island, crew, treasure, a small six-sided die, and complete rules for play.

    WizKids officially renamed the entire product line "Pirates of the Cursed Seas Pocketmodel Game" in 2008.

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  12. We were thinking about the same game. I guess it didn't realise it was one of the first saying strategy games. I might have to dig them out now. I can't remember if I managed to get any of the ghost ships...

    And I think I've solved your basing problem...solution on my blog in reply to your last comment.

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    Replies
    1. *smiles*

      I will stick to my tried and tested cut out cardboard disks for my Victorian Colonial and American Colonials and British... but I like the idea of tiddly-winks for my other smaller projects :)) cool thank you, nice idea that.

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    2. No problem, Steve. It opened my eyes to just how much companies charge for wargaming bases = even laser=cut MDF, which I assumed would be quite cheap. Shame they don't do giant hole punches, as it would make your job less labour intensive.

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    3. No problem, Steve. It opened my eyes to just how much companies charge for wargaming bases = even laser=cut MDF, which I assumed would be quite cheap. Shame they don't do giant hole punches, as it would make your job less labour intensive.

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    4. {{"Shame they don't do giant hole punches, as it would make your job less labour intensive."}}

      Meh, I don`t mind, really. 15 minutes to cut out 40 or so bases (a week or two`s worth of painting for me) is nothing, gives me time to listen to my music and my graphic novels, which I listen to while I`m working away at my minis.

      Cutting the bases out of cereal packets, and sticking my minis to them, by the time I have added all the nice stuff to the bases to make them look special... stones, small rocks, helmets, bits of grass and so on, makes me feel good, and gives a sense of achievement at the finished thing.

      But, having so many soon to paint, I was willing to forego this pleasure for the due expediency of time: shaving off a few minutes here and there all helps when you have so much ahead of you to do. I WILL do it, no worries there, but I am monitoring every move I make to ensure I don't lag behind. Painting two periods at once (that's four armies, as I always collect both sides as I am a proud solo gamer) is no mean feat, but I do intend to have everything finished within 10 months, without it interfering with my (other) normal games in any way what so ever. Then the fun will begin.

      Mind you, I say that, but I will have fun all along the way anyway. Not only the fun of painting, but for me, the biggest fun is and always will be the gaming itself.... so as soon as I have half a dozen minis per side painted, based, and purity sealed, my `skirmish and narrative games and campaign journals will begin to take shape, and these games will grow and grow as time goes on (like Andy`s Bushido ones do).

      I think I will use "Colonial Gothic" a lot for the framework of all I do in the AWI genre. Its waaayyyy too pro Patriot for my liking, but then again... I love to tinker, so that isn't a problem.

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  13. "Sailing" not saying. Bloody predictive text...

    And could you add the Flying Dutchman to Sails of Glory?

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    1. don't see why not, she`s late 18th century so the time span would be right. Ghost ships in Sails of Glory... hmmm, sounds intriguing.

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  14. Batrep please Steve, this game looks really interesting to me, I know some of the other Nerd Herd were interested in a sailing game too, so seeing it in action would be useful ;-)

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  15. okidokie Andy. Will do. Was thinking of doing The Great War "Tanks" expansion next, but will maybe now do a ship batrep instead. I may give an excerpt or two from my on going naval campaign journal as well.

    Bryan is writing the next article or two, so you will have to wait a tiny weeeeee while mate :))

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