Set Sail with Ares Games’ Sails of Glory! Game Review
SAILS OF GLORY STARTER SET and EXPANSIONS Game Review. Publisher: Ares Games Designer: Andrea Angiolino and Andrea Mainini Starter Set $90.00 Extra Ships run from $10 to $15 per ship
Passed Inspection: Beautiful pre-painted minis. Easy to learn rules. Stunning components. Easy to play solitaire.
Failed Basic: Nothing
Sails of Glory is Ares Games’ line of miniature combat rules which cover the Age of Sail. The Starter Boxed Set features rules and 4 miniature ships from the Napoleonic Wars of the late 18th Century to the early 19th Century. The box is filled with tons of content and the 4 mini ships which are included all contribute to deliver a visually stunning shot across the bow of the gamer!
Sails of Glory utilizes an adaption of Ares Games’ award winning card based movement system which is featured in their Wings of Glory World War I and II airplane combat system. And like their other mini game systems, the player is able to purchase additional mini ships which feature a control card as well as a fully painted 1:1000 scale miniatures. The first four ships in the starter set are the Courageuse (1788), HMS Defence (1763), Genereux (1785) and the HMS Tersichore (1785). Right out of the box this gives the gamer 1 frigate and 1 ship of the line for both the British and French.
Each ship is rated for hull points based upon the ships size known as its “Burden”, the ships 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 which can fire as well as other actions that the crew can perform in a turn), cannon loaded/unloaded status, number of sails raised (for speed) and whether the ship is at anchor or not.
There are colored counters for combat results damage which are very reminiscent of the damage counters used in Wings of Glory’s World War II game. Damage shown on the counters go from 0 (a total miss) to hull point damage, sail damage, crew hits and even a hit that starts a fire on your wooden sailing ship! Counters are also provided to keep track of wind (very important to ships which used sails), types of ammunition used in the cannons (solid shot for damaging the ships’ hull), chain shot (for taking out sails) and canister shot (for killing crew), and other actions.
The rule book is very complete, nicely illustrated and logically laid out. It is written in a programmed layout which takes the player from a basic game to a standard game and then advanced rules with tons of alternate rules all broken down by difficulty level. The rules cover all aspects of 17th and 18th century sea warfare. Subjects covered are different types of sail rigging (no sails, battle sails, full sails), different types of ammunition load outs for the cannons, musket fire, boarding actions, wind speed and shifting, rum (I love this rule!), islands, reefs, shore fortifications and shore based artillery, ship board fires, collisions, repairing the ship while involved in combat actions, and more. Extra optional rules are posted as PDF files on Ares’ website and include supplements for captain and crew experience (adding a role playing aspect to the game) and ship’s capabilities as expressed through a point system to help balance player created scenarios as well as a PDF of new scenarios.
When playing the game, each game turn is divided in to the following phases: Planning, Actions (in the advanced game), Movement, Combat and Reloading (in the basic and standard game).
The Planning Phase starts with the players determining from which direction the wind is blowing or has shifted if using the wind shifting rules. The direction of the wind 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 which they will use and turn the card face down in front of them. In the basic game, 1 maneuver card is played and in the standard game, the player plays a maneuver picked last turn and then picks a maneuver card to use next turn.
The Action Phase is used during the Advanced Game. In this phase, you plan actions for your crew based upon a rating for the crew of your ship and modified by whether the crew has taking casualties or is of a low or high skill level. Possible actions include loading the cannons, repairing damage to the ship, putting out fires or pumping water out of your leaking ship, preparing for a boarding action, raising or lowing sails, readying muskets for close attacks or even passing out rum to the crew to motivate them to fight harder and not give up the ship!
The ships are actually moved during the Movement Phase. The previously picked maneuver card is placed in front of the ship then the ship is moved so that the arrow on the back of the ship’s base matches up to the arrow on the movement card much the same as in Wings of Glory.
The Combat Phase happens if the ships are close enough to fire their cannons. The range is measured using a range ruler much like the type used in Wing 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 “crossing the enemy’s T”. After guns are fired chits are randomly drawn by the target player and damage is assigned.
If the ships are close enough, their crew may even be able to fire their muskets at the other ship’s crew. If the ships’ bases touch, they may collide and become entangled or, if the players are very bold, the ships’ crews can perform a boarding action and go at it with guns, swords and fists!
Different types of ammunition used in your ship’s cannons include solid shot (for doing hull damage to ships and the type of ammo with the longest range), chain shot (for taking out sails and possibly killing lots of crew) and grape shot (little deadly balls, rather like a shot gun shell, which mow down the crew causing massive injuries).
In the Reloading Phase, the ships guns which fired on the previous turn may be reloaded for action next turn. You have to plan your shots well in this game since you are usually working 1 turn ahead.
Thoughtfully, rules are included for playing the game solitaire! This is a great bonus for those of us stuck on an island or lost at sea.
The four beautifully crafted miniature French ships included in the box set are the frigate Courageuse/Unite and the 3rd rate ship of the line Genereux/Aquilon. The two British ships in the box set are the frigate HMS Terpsichore/Meleager and the HMS Defense/Vanguard, a 3rd rate ship of the line. The models are simply stunning and highly detailed. Cannons, sails, ships boats and such are all clearly visible and modeled in full color. I only wish that a brief write up on the history of each ship was included in the box. But, as it is, these four ships will keep the player busy for quite a while. They are very well balanced against each other and each ship has its own particular feel.
When playing the game, the player has many choices. Do you keep at long or medium range and hope for some lucky shots? Do you close and take the chance of taking high levels of damage? Do you try and boarding maneuver and attempt to capture the other ship? Do you load chain shot and try and immobilize your foe? It is these extra tactical dimensions which add so much to the war at sea during the age of the great sailing ships. The added dimension of having to plan for the number of sails to raise in order to catch the wind that makes the game so engaging. If the players add the rules for shifting wind, the old adage of the best plan failing in the face of combat is something to constantly plan for.
In one game I played, one ship was sunk and the other three tried to engage in close combat. But all three ships became entangled and couldn’t move. Then the combat degenerated in to a crazy melee action between the crews.
Ares has already come out with more packs of ships, maps for playing and individual terrain packs and fortifications including American ships for Revolutionary War/War of 1812 actions! This game system could easily be expanded to include pirate ships, ironclads and such. I personally am hoping for a hypothetical mini of Captain Nemo’s submarine the Nautilus from “Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea”!
Many new ship classes have been released and each ship miniature represents two ships of either French or British or Spanish ownership. Here is a partial list of available ships:
14-gun Swan Class Ship-Sloops
32-gun Concorde Class Frigates
32-gun Amazon Class Frigates
40-gun Hebe Class Frigates
74-gun Temeraire Class Ships-Of-The-Line
74-gun Bellona/Elizabeth Class Ships-Of-The-Line
100-gun First Rate Ships-of-the-Line
118-guns Ocean Class Ships-of-the-Line
Special ship packs include the iconic HMS Victory and the USS Constitution.
The tactics involved in sailing each class of ship is a little different. Sloops don’t have much hitting power but can sail quickly and maneuver tightly. Use them to harass and maybe to draw in an enemy frigate or ship-of-the-line. Frigates are a nice balance of fire power, defense and speed. These are your cruisers – ships for any occasion. The first and second rate ships of the line, those three and four deck behemoths, are slow but can dish out massive amounts of fire power. If they get in to a boarding action, with a crew of nearly a thousand people, the boarding parties can easily take over another ship with a prize crew unless very unlucky.
The selection of ships is very nice. With these, almost any type of fleet action can be created. It would be nice if Ares offered several freighters and, maybe even, pirate ships to expand the scope of the scenarios. All of the miniatures are beautifully sculpted and painted. My favorites of the new sculpts are the HMS Royal George and the French Imperial. Both are 1st rate ships of 100 guns and 118 guns, respectively, and both are exquisitely painted.
Each ship is written up with its history and notable battles on Ares Games website. It’s a shame that a small card with important history wasn’t included in the ship packs as this would have been a nice added value for the products.
In addition to the new ships, Ares Games has released some wonderful “Terrain Packs” and a game mat.
The Coastal Battery Terrain Pack contains six different modular, cannon armed fortifications which are printed in full color on very heavy card stock. Each fortification’s arcs of fire are clearly marked and control panels are included to plot damage and cannon load status for the forts.
The forts can be used in conjunction with the Coast and Shoal Terrain Packs to create islands, shore lines, etc. The six modular coasts, sand banks and shoals add some very challenging terrain to the battles. At least once, in many battles played, I have misjudged my course and beached my ship on the coast line which is, of course, embarrassing, unless you make the claim that “That was part of my strategy!”
Ares Games support for Sails of Glory has been amazing! In addition to what I’ve reviewed, Ares offers additional Counter Packs, Ship Control Mats and even bags to put damage counters in. Also, their web site (http://www.aresgames.eu/games/sails-of-glory-line) includes additional optional rules, ship point values and even scenarios.
Sails of Glory is a stunning game and is one of my all time favorite game systems. So get ready me hardies to raise sail, load the cannons and cast off to adventure!
Armchair General Rating: 100 %
Solitaire Rating: 5 (for special scenarios)
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)!