Sails of Glory – Miniatures Game Preview
Sails of Glory is Ares Games’ new line of miniature combat rules that cover the Age of Sail. This first set will feature ships from the Napoleonic wars and includes vessels from the mid- to late-1700s. This is a preview of a prototype set and does not necessarily reflect the rules and components that will be included in the final version of the game. Advanced and optional rules were not included in the prototype.
Sails of Glory utilizes an adaption of Ares Games’ award-winning card-based movement system that is featured in their Wings of Glory World War I and II aerial combat games. Each ship will feature a control card as well as a fully painted 1:1000 scale miniature. The first four ships in the starter set are the Courageuse (1788), HMS Defence (1763), Genereux (1785) and the HMS Tersichore (1785). This preview copy of the game didn’t include the miniatures and used large ship counters that are the same size as the minis will be.
Each vessel is rated for hull points based upon the ship’s size, known as its “Burden”; its 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 that can fire), cannon loaded/unloaded status, number of sails raised (for speed) and whether the ship is at anchor or not.
There are colored counters (chits) that are drawn randomly to determine damage results from combat, similar to the damage counters used in the Wings of Glory aerial combat games. Damage shown on the counters goes from 0 (a total miss) to hull point damage, sail damage, crew hits and the dreaded fire counter! Counters are also provided to keep track of wind (very important to ships that used sails), types of ammunition loaded in the cannons, and other various and sundry things, some of which were not explained in the prototype game. For instance, there is an interesting-looking counter featuring “RUM.” All of us who played the prototype for this preview want to know what this will do for a ship’s crew in the final edition of the rules. The types of ammunition for the cannons include solid shot for damaging a ship’s hull, chain shot for taking out sails, and canister shot for killing crew (think of giant shotgun shells—very nasty indeed).
Each game turn is divided into the following phases: Planning, Movement, Combat and Reloading.
The Planning Phase starts with the players determining what direction the wind is blowing, which 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 that they will use and turn it face down in front of them. In the basic game, one maneuver card is played; in the intermediate game, two are picked.
During the Movement Phase, the previously selected maneuver card is placed in front of the ship; the ship is then moved so that the arrow on the back of its base lines up with an arrow on the movement card. This is very similar to the Wings of Glory movement system, but in Ships of Glory the number of sails a ship has will affect its speed and which movement arrow to use for maneuvers. Rules for what effect sails have was not in the basic rules provided with the prototype.
The Combat Phase happens when opposing ships are close enough to fire their cannons. The range is measured using a range ruler much like the type used in Wings 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. A lucky or skilled captain may even be able to “cross the enemy’s T,” i.e., place a ship perpendicular to the enemy’s bow or stern. After guns are fired, the target player randomly draws damage chits and damage is assigned. If the ships are close enough, their crew may be able to fire their muskets at the other ship’s crew; different damage chits are drawn for damage from muskets rather than cannon. Boarding-party actions are promised in the Advanced or Optional Rules.
In the Reloading Phase, a ship’s guns that fired on the previous turn may be reloaded for action next turn. Since you are usually working one turn ahead, you have to plan your shots well in this game, both in terms of your planned maneuvers and the type of ammunition that will be most effective if the maneuvers put you into firing position.
The prototype game plays very well and is a blast! We played a four-ship slugfest in about 2 ½ hours and the players rated the game very highly. Sails of Glory, which Ares hopes to release in August 2013, looks sure to please even the most ardent landlubber.
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 that came in plastic bags and cost $2.99 (he’s really that old)!