Naval War of 1812 – Boardgame Review
Passed Inspection: Handsome components. Easy and fun to play. The information on the cards makes learning about the War of 1812 extremely enjoyable.
Failed Basic: Some graphics problems in the rules. Minor rules clarification needed.
With the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 that began last year and will run through 2015, an influx of 1812-themed games have arrived on store shelves. Now, Worthington Games jumps into the mix with a new, family friendly game based upon the 1812 war at sea—Naval War of 1812 200th Anniversary Limited Edition.
The game comes in a handsome, simulated wood-grain brown box with a stunning piece of cover artwork. Upon opening the box, players find two decks of 27 maneuver and tactics cards (one deck for the British and one for the Americans), colorful plastic ships, blue and red counter chips, a full-color rulebook, dice and a beautiful mounted game board.
The ship miniatures are in several different colors—red for British warships, blue for American warships, white for American merchant ships and gray for British merchant ships.
The cards show a number for ship fleet movement, a tactic that may be used for that specific side’s movement, a colorful picture and, for added flavor, text that gives historical notes about the naval war of the time.
The rulebook is, for the most part, logically laid out, easy to read and understand and filled with plentiful examples and illustrations. My only complaint is that some of the graphics were printed too dark and are somewhat difficult to read. Additionally, a few of the rules such as the rule for ships “crossing the T” need some additional clarifications. More specifically, for crossing the T maneuvers, does the defending warship (the one whose “T” is being crossed) get to damage the attacking ship? This could be argued each way based upon the vagueness of the rule. We opted for not allowing the defending ship to damage the attacker in that specific situation, but deciding how to handle it did stop the game while we argued the point.
The game system is very simple and easy to learn. The object of the Naval War of 1812 is, very simply, to sink more of your opponent’s warships and merchant ships than your opponent sinks of yours. Each enemy warship sunk is worth three points; each enemy merchant ship sent to the bottom is worth two points; sailing your own merchant ships safely off your side of the board gives you one point per ship.
The Americans start with a fleet of four fast warships and four merchant ships while the British start with three heavy warships and six merchant ships. Each ship is rated for speed, hull strength and combat ability.
After setting up the ships on the mounted game board, each side draws five cards. The number shown on a card dictates how many movement points you have when you play the card. The tactics listed on the card can be used along with the movement rating listed—unlike most card-driven games in which players use the card for movement or for its special abilities, but not both. The cards influence everything from helping you get control of the weather gauge, adding speed for all warships, increasing the training of your crew on the cannons, setting up blockades and even arming your merchant ships so that they can damage attacking warships.
Each turn is made up of both players playing a card face down. After the cards are revealed, the player with the slowest movement rating gets to move his ships up to the movement points shown on the card. Then that player attacks. After the slower player moves and attacks, the faster player moves and attacks.
Combat is based upon the type of ship you have and the tactics on the card you play. Ships can only attack from their port and starboard sides, so ship maneuvering is critical. If you can “cross the T,” that is to say bring the side guns of your ship to bear perpendicular to the front or rear of your target, you get to roll additional dice in the attack. Figuring out who damaged whom is based upon getting the highest number on the dice. If both sides tie, neither damages the other. Counter chips are used not only to keep track of the number of victory points each side has but can be placed next to your ships in order to track how many hull points of damage they have taken.
After both sides play a card and move and fire, players play the next card from their five-card hand and repeat the steps. After both sides’ hands are depleted, the next turn starts. After five complete turns, the game ends and the player with the most victory points wins.
This is simplicity itself—but those who want more detailed ship combat will have to play another game, as Naval War of 1812 represents the war in abstraction. The game is targeted at families, new wargame players and those who want a nice “beer and pretzels” game to pass an hour or two with.
The game is infinitely enjoyable when taken on its own terms, and the young lady who played the British during our review play said that although she is not interested in wargames in general, she would “play this game again in a heartbeat.” For each card we played, we even read each other the historical information so that we could learn more about the war at sea during that time period.
The Naval War of 1812 game is limited to 812 copies so if easy to learn, abstract games are your cup of rum, get yours soon before it becomes lost at sea!
Armchair General Rating: 94%
Solitaire Rating: (1 is low, 5 is high) 2
About the Author:
A college film instructor and small business owner, Richard Martin has also worked in the legal and real estate professions, is involved in video production, film criticism, sports shooting and is an avid World War I and II gamer who can remember war games which came in plastic bags and cost $2.99 (he’s really that old)!