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Sailing to Victory on the Seas of Glory First from Ares , there was Wings of War which later became Wings of Glory .  If you know eit...

Sails of Glory by Ares Games: Review Sails of Glory by Ares Games: Review

Sails of Glory by Ares Games: Review

Sails of Glory by Ares Games: Review

Sailing to Victory on the Seas of Glory

First from Ares, there was Wings of War which later became Wings of Glory.  If you know either previous incarnation of this game, you will have some idea of what to expect in Sails of Glory.  Moving from aerial dogfights in WWI, this game's subtitle spells out the shift back in time to the Napoleonic Wars and that time of British naval supremacy typified by the phrase "the Nelson touch".

So, it's lashings of rum and lashings with the cat o' nine tails,
hard 'a starboard, avast ye lubbers and "Every man expects!"
- sorry, got carried away there!

With Sails of Glory, Glory's the key word for me, as this is truly a glorious production from first catching sight of the evocative box artwork of a naval engagement at its climax: ships with billowing sails, wreathed in the smoke of thundering close-range broadsides.  Unlike its WWI counterpart, which began purely with cards representing the planes and only later did exquisitely painted models follow, Sails of Glory lures us immediately with four detailed and superbly painted warships.  These are on display through the clear protective cover, as they nestle in their moulded hollows that form part of the large plastic insert that holds all the game contents.

The box in all its Glory

Delving further into the box, you encounter a host of other quality components.  First of all, each ship comes with its own ship card with a full colour picture of the ship and its stats and an oblong plastic base into which fits a deep blue base card with bow, stern and full broadside firing arcs marked in grey, over which fits a plastic overlay that both protects the card and contains a hole into which the ship's locating peg fits.  It is simple, elegant, practical details like this that give the game its finished look of polished quality.

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. 



Though the terminology is suitably nautical, with words like Running, Reaching, Beating and Taken Aback introduced, understanding and determining which applies to your ship at that particular moment couldn't be easier. As mentioned earlier, each ship sits on a base card that indicates firing arcs, but the card is also edged in three different colours: red, orange and green.  Just line up the Attitude indicator with the central mast of your ship and look at which colour the indicator crosses.  In the Basic rules, you then choose a Manoeuvre card from the ship's individual deck of cards depending on what colour the Attitude Indicator passed through on the edge of the card.


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.


The last action of each turn is first to take any facedown Loaded marker from the Reloading box and move it back into its Broadside box.

Then move any face-up Loaded marker from the Broadside box, turn it face down and move it into the Reloading box.

You now know all that is necessary for playing the game at its simplest level and frankly the next stage Standard Rules add so little more that I would be tempted to say that most players will add these in immediately.

But, before moving on to this next stage, there is probably one question those of you reading this review are asking.  Where are these different markers for each ship placed?  Well that's where each ship's combined Ship Mat and Ship Log come in.

Below is a photo of such a combined display set up for the first turn of a Standard level game to begin.

The Ship Log seen here is for HMS Terpsichore and is made up of the three interlocking sections which sit inside the Ship Mat frame.  The top row is where you place damage markers allocated to the hull of your ship and the bottom row is for damage markers allocated to crew of your ship.  When either of those rows is full of damage markers, a ship surrenders and is removed from game play.  When one side has lost all its ships, the other side has won.  To quote that ubiquitous meerkat :


So, what does this next level add.  Instead of planning one Manoeuvre card each turn, you start the game by planning Turn 1 and Turn 2's Manoeuvre cards putting them into the slots on the Ship Mat.  On Turn 1, turn up the first planned  Manoeuvre card, carry it out. move the 2nd card into its slot still face down and plan your next  Manoeuvre card to go into the second slot.

Which Manoeuvre card can be chosen will depend on the ship's Veer capacity [the number in the photo next to the wheel symbol].

Remember collisions , well now two friendly ships colliding do damage to each other.  Strangely an enemy ship and a friendly ship colliding don't do any damage.  Weird, that's one minor point I don't understand.  For me, it's House Rule time - an enemy ship and a friendly ship colliding do damage each other.

In Combat, ship's can now choose between three different types of ammunition: Ball, Chain and Grape.  If you know your Hornblower novels [or more youthful players may know the TV series], one type's for the hull, one's for the sails and one's for the crew.  Each time you reload you can choose whichever of the three you like.  The final addition is that if your cannons fire directly through the bow or the stern of the enemy ship, then additional damage tokens are drawn.

Again, that's it!  I think you can see why my advice is just jump straight in with the Standard rules.

And so we come to the real meat of the rules...


Even here the physical length of the rules is only 6 more pages!  The most significant area of change is in Planning.  To the simple plotting of two manoeuvre cards is added the planning of crew actions and this is where the other 210 markers start to make an appearance in the game..  On the Ship Mat there are 4 spaces for placing concealed action markers.  As your ship takes hits on the Crew that number of actions will decrease.  A list of some of those actions will give you a flavour of what is introduced.  Raise/Lower sails, Pump Water, Load Left/Right Broadside, Reload Left/Right Broadside, Musketry Fire, Repair Damaged Rudder, Extinguish Fire etc.

All of these introduce new elements.  First of all the icons on the Damage markers at last play a part and, as you can imagine from some of the actions mentioned in the previous paragraph, damage now can be very specific: the mast may be broken, the rudder shot away, fire breaks out or the ship begins to let in water.  As the situation becomes tense, can you afford to load the guns or must you concentrate on putting out the fire first.

Next sailing your ship becomes more complex, as the Raise or Lower Sail actions introduce the fact that on the Manoeuvre card you choose, there are three different possible lengths of movement for your ship depending on whether your sails are set at Full, Battle or Backing.  On your Ship Mat you will now have a Sail Status marker to move along to show just how your sails are set.

That brief description gives you the gist of the these Advanced rules, but how you put them into effect does take considerable careful reading of these very compact additional rules.  For some, they may be a step too far and, if so, just go back happily to the Standard level of rules.  For others they will be just the extra depth required and hugely enhance the feel of this game.

If, like me, they are what you want, then a worthwhile bit of pimping your game is worth the time and effort.  At this level of the game your Ship Mat and Log can get fairly crowded and I'd strongly recommend making individual plywood templates to glue each Ship mat onto.  That way you can easily pick them up and put them on one side when you've completed your planning or added current new damage markers and not risk disastrous dislocation of the layout.

As you can see in the picture below a simple oblong of plywood, sanded and varnished is all you need to glue your display onto.

The final section of the rules are the Optional ones.  What I like about these are that they aren't just a final level of complexity.  Some can be used in conjunction with all three levels of rules.  Indeed, the very first Optional rule is just such a one: Let The Men Drink, this uses the Grog counter.  All it does is let you cancel a damage marker once in the game.  I'm sure those of you so inclined can make up an addition to this rule that forces you to swig something appropriate! [Do I hear some of you wanting this to be allowed to happen more than once in the game?  Or is it just my wishful thinking!]

Similarly, an Entanglement rule can replace the collision rule at any level of the game, as do Continuous Fire and First Broadside, with virtually no cost in effort.  However, a few provide substantial and significant new additions;  among these are Boarding and the use of Terrain.  The latter will allow you to use the reefs and shoals that come with the game, but if you want the full benefit which is the introduction of Coastal Batteries, then for a little more money you'll need to buy the Coastal batteries and terrain expansion.

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!]