War Galley – Boardgame Review
War Galley is the seventh volume in the multi-award winning Great Battles of History (GBoH) series, but the first to venture entirely into the waters of the Mediterranean Sea. It is also the first historical boardgame published, in two decades, to address galley warfare. As such, GMT’s War Galley is almost a complete history for this era of war at sea.
What is best about War Galley is how easy it is to play– the rules are about half the length of the usual GBoH game– and that means that most battles can be complete in several hours, at the most. The battles themselves, cover all aspects of galley tactics, from the line against line of big ships at Salamis (Cyprus), to the Chase, Turn, and Fight of Chios, to the Line Astern vs. Line Abreast at Side, to probably the most unusual of all ancient battles, the Roman arrowhead against the Carthaginian Lines Astern at Drepanum in 249 BC.
The wars and battles covered by War Galley are: Ionian Revolt – Lade, 494 BC Peloponnesian War – Arginusae, 406 BC The Silician Wars – Catana, 397 BC The First Successor War – Salamis, 306 BC (Cyprus) The First Punic War Ecnomus, 256 BC Drepanum, 249 BC Aegatian Islands, 242 BC The Macedonian Wars – Chios, 201 BC The War with Antiochus Side, 190 BC Myonessus, 190 BC The Civil War Tauris, 47 BC Naulochus, 36 BC Actium, 31 BC.
COUNTERS – 560 colored 1-inch, double-sized, Galley counters; and 560 color 1/2-inch counters representing Transport ships, Leaders, and Information Markers.
MAPS – Two full-color mapsheets; one devoid of land, the other depicting land and sea.
Fourteen different Galley types from Biremes up to the giant Dekares. Thirteen naval battles, virtually all of the major naval engagements of the era. All the great admirals, from Demetrius and Ptolemy, Adherbal to Agrippa– even Hannibal and Cleopatra! Most scenarios playable in several hours. A maneuver-oriented play sequence, with galleys rated for Crew, Manpower, Speed and Ram capability. Special Rules for tactics such as Diekplus and Anastrophe, plus weapons such as Flame missiles, Corvus, and Harpax.
In the summer of 2006 GMT released a second printing of War Galley – a game that thoroughly examines tactical naval warfare in the ancient world. I’m not entirely sure why the term “Second Edition” wasn’t appropriate – the game comes with a revised rulebook and a new map that has larger hexes than the first printing. But whatever you think it might be should called (for me it already has the word “Classic” written all over it) it’s definitely good for the hobby to have this game back in print.
Roger MacGowen’s artwork on War Galley’s game box and counters is aesthetically appealing – as usual. Mr. MacGowen’s high-standard in game artwork is something that over the years I’ve grown accustomed. GMT is fortunate to have such a talented artist who has supported the gaming industry for so many projects.
The top of my game box is slightly bowed. Personally, this isn’t so much a of a big issue, but then I began adding additional materials to my game (such as copies of Fleet Records Sheets and additional scenarios) and it soon became apparent that the bowed box top was responsible for depriving me of some box-space that would have keep my overly-filled game from now looking like it was slightly pregnant.
The War Galley second printing map was made on a thick sturdy-gauge paper; however, the map was also cut so it has an actual split down ¾’s of its middle – lengthwise. The split-cut in the map does not prevent the game from being used; never-the-less, lining up the divided halves of the map can be awkward if you don’t also use a piece of Plexiglas on top of it. The split-cut in the map also makes the possibility of accidentally ripping it in half (or at least getting a tear…reference the second time I opened it. Grrr!) a real possibility. Just be careful when you are opening or closing the map. GMT has since stated that this split-cut map design was not intentional and that it intends on not repeating the same mistake again – though this debacle also affected a few other game maps which were printed at the same time.
There is also a problem in the increased hex size of the new map. The hex size of the larger map do not line up correctly for the Salamis Grand scenario (which is sold separately as an expansion) along with the battle of Artemisium. The Salamis Grand scenario map still uses the smaller-sized hexes. There hasn’t been an official statement of when, (or if) GMT intends on doing anything about the conundrum – just a “Oops.” The packaging of the Salamis scenario seperately from War Galley also rubs me the wrong way. The press for War Galley states “virtually all of the major naval engagements of the era” [are included] while it fails to include arguably THE most important naval battle from antiquity – (Salamis). My guess is that virtually every purchaser of War Galley will buy also buy Salamis. Cha-ching!
The War Galley Rule Book states that the game comes with two player folios. It doesn’t; it comes with one. For me this was no small matter because it quickly became obvious that both players will be referencing the heck out of the folio simultaneously many times throughout the course of a game. Of course, the easy rectification is simply to run off a copy of the folio for yourself, but the fact that the second folio was left out sets the buyer up for a let down and you‘ll soon be pondering the fact that a “real” second folio really is a necessity – just based on principle. The folio that was provided is constructed from a superior-gauge card stock and will undoubtedly last a very long time. If the reason why two folios wasn’t supplied was cost, I wonder why a lighter-weight (cheaper) material wasn’t chosen so GMT could have afforded to put each at least two copies of the folio in each game?
Play using the standard map and with counters.
A couple of other snafus occurred with at least the initial shipment of the second printing. The necessary two six-sided dice weren’t included – a ten-sided die was. I think that the single ten-sided die is standard issue for GBoH games, so someone obviously just failed to look over the game’s requirements during the games “build“ phase. War Galley was also released without the Fleet Record Sheets which is an optional way to keep records of what is going on with galleys in play. The sheets may now may be down-loaded from GMT’s web page for War Galley. So, throw in a “Oops, Oops” on top of the few other “Oops” with the game’s components.
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