Sailing to Victory on the Seas of Glory
Having said that, there have been a few complaints that, though the ships' hulls, decks and masts [the latter a curious yellow] are beautifully painted, the spars [like the sails themselves] are left a plain white. For me this was a minor detail, but if you're a miniatures aficionado it may irritate more and you may wish to paint those details. Not being a dab hand with any sort of brush, I have been happy to let mine remain as received.
Each ship also comes with its own individual deck of manoeuvre cards, a Ship Mat and its own Ships Log, both in very sturdy cardboard and attractively designed and coloured - more about these later. Rounding out the package are a Wind Gauge, two separate Wind Indicators, one for each player, some terrain in the form of four full-colour islands and six reefs, two cardstock measuring sticks and shed-loads of damage markers and action markers.
The final essential item to mention is the rule book. At approximately 27 cm x 15 cm, it is a curious size, with just over 60 pages that at first sight might seem surprisingly long. However, DO NOT BE PUT OFF - these rules cater for both the absolute beginner to the player wanting a fairly detailed and accurate depiction of naval warfare in the Age of Sail with miniatures. Consequently they are divided into 4 sections:- Basic, Standard, Advanced and Optional. Basic really couldn't get more ... er, well basic! Despite taking up 16 pages of the rules, they are very simple, introducing four Phases : Planning, Movement, Combat, Damage and Reloading.
So, why such length? Mainly because of the wealth of illustrative photographs to make each simple point abundantly clear.
Generally, you will place the Manoeuvre card in front of the ship and advance your ship until its stern touches the tip of the movement line on the card. Sometimes [when your ship is Taken Aback], you will have to align the card with the stern of the ship and then follow the same procedure. The only other thing to consider is whether two ships might collide. If there is that potential, then a simple rule determines which ship moves first and then the other ship is moved until its base is in contact with the first ship. Surprisingly neither ship takes any damage for colliding! That really is it for Movement and Combat is even easier.
Each side of the ship has a Loaded marker face down in its Broadside box and can fire once after Movement, if there is an enemy ship in range. Use the measuring stick, which for this simplest level of the game refers purely to short or long range. Make sure there's nothing in the way - sorry you can't fire through your own ships or islands [what a surprise!]. Choose randomly from the appropriate lettered pile of damage markers [either A or B in the Basic game - they are also distinguished by colour, so it's really easy when setting up the game and the current strength of the ship firing tells you how many markers to draw. Allocate the damage to the enemy and, if the ships are close enough, there will be a round of Musketry fire following exactly the same process, but drawing from the pile of E markers. And REMEMBER - all firing is simultaneous.
Finally, turn the Loaded marker face up to show that you have fired this turn.
Last but not least are the four generic scenarios [plus one solitaire], perhaps the weakest element in the package, as they are very straightforward. Nonetheless, they do give you the typical main naval encounters. Their titles are self-explanatory: In Shallow Waters, Force The Blockade, Against The Outpost and Supplies Are Coming.
Just in case you are left in any doubt, this game totally gets my thumbs up. It is real value for money whatever your chosen level of play. Excellent as an introductory level game and engrossing if you do want depth. I have only one proviso. As the game comes, you can only play two ships on a side, so, only small engagements and fairly generic ones. In one way this is no problem, as there are many additional ships that you can buy, but a single player would still be hard pressed to manage more than three ships, particularly if you are using the Advanced rules.
For larger battles, I think the cardboard world of say Flying Colours has to be turned to, but for accessibility, feel and atmosphere and detail too, if you want it, this is my choice.
[Voices echo eerily: Now where's that Grog counter?.......Can't find a cat o' nine tails anywhere.....Where's that little guy with an eye-patch?...........Mind the - SPLASH!]