Sunday, 5 January 2014

Which it is a Sails of Glory review

'I do not think there is any more futile observation,' he said aloud, 'than talking about what should be done in a battle at sea until you know the direction and force of the wind, the numbers on both sides, their relative positions, the state of the sea, and whether it will take place by day or by... By God, Stephen, I could swear I smelt toasted cheese.'
Patrick O'Brian, The Commodore

I am an unabashed Aubrey-Maturin fan, and was with child for Sails of Glory: Napoleonic Wars (SGN) as soon as I heard about it. It was Kickstarted in April 2013, and arrived this week.
"Hurry up, Kickstarter!", urged Jack.
My PO'B bona fides

SGN is from Ares Games, and transfers their successful Wings of War WW1 fighter game mechanisms to the Napoleonic naval genre. Each player controls a ship or two and plans actions in advance. Movement is then simultaneous. A card with a manoeuvre arrow is placed in front of the ship, and the ship sails along the arrow. Different ships have different speeds and turning abilities, and the wind will appropriately affect manoeuvres. Combat is also simultaneous, with the number and type of damage chits being allocated depending on the range, aspect, and type of ammunition used.
Pre-production mock-up showing ship base card and movement

What's in the box?

You get two French and two British ships; a frigate and a ship-of-the-line for each side. Each has two different names available, depending on which inlay card you choose. These are plastic pre-paints in 1:1000 scale. The sculpting and painting are adequate, but the painting is not quite up to X-Wing standards. There's a solid in-fill between the mast and sails, which has disappointed some, but I can live with it. There's no rigging or pennants, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. The sails and masts might benefit from a touch-up and a thin brown wash to pick out the detail.

They come on very thick plastic bases, with clear plastic covering an inlay card showing firing arcs and how the vessel responds to the wind direction. It's not the most aesthetically pleasing, but once the game's underway you need to have all the info there and I quickly overlooked it as the action heated up. I think it could have been thinner, though. Also, the ships don't fit securely in the bases- you can't hold them upside down or move them vigorously without risking them coming off.
HMS Meleager or HMS Terpsichore

HMS Defence or HMS Vanguard

Aquilon or Généreux

Courageuse or Unité
The ships fit securely in the original box.
A key component is the 'ship's log', which tracks your orders, your crew's actions, sail settings, and your damage. All the pieces are good quality card, with a nice period aesthetic.

Ships log in action
You also get some islands and rocky outcrops, which have nice artwork. You don't get a playing mat, but there is a 2'x3' one available. A 4'x3' playing area is required for half the scenarios.

There are two range rulers, two 'attitude indicators' (to see how you are sailing compared to the wind direction), and a wind direction/ strength gauge. The wind has three strength states, and eight directions.

And, of course, all the order cards, action counters, ammunition markers, and weather and damage chits.
Wind gauge, range ruler, attitude indicator, and some of the scenery.
The rules have Basic, Standard, and Advanced rules depending on how hard you want your Captain's job to be. The more complex rules add all the factors like wind strength and changing weather, changing sails, ammunition types, pre-planned orders, crew actions, raking shots, double-shotting, aiming high, and shore fortifications, to mention only a few. There are six scenarios with variants and solo rules suggestions.

For the rules overview official videos, see here.

So, putting it all together...

Captaining a ship is hard work. You have to plan your sailing a turn in advance, and if the wind changes you could literally be taken aback. You've got to plan your firing as it takes a turn to reload, and you'll want to have your opponent in optimum position rather than wasting a shot. And you'll have had to make sure that you've preloaded the best type of ammunition- ball, chain or grape- because you can't change your mind! After the firing starts and you're taking damage, you've got to allocate your crew to firing, reloading, changing sails, and fighting fires and plugging leaks. That's before the enemy sweeps your deck with grape and musketry and sends the boarders! I think I'll struggle to manage more than two ships at once!
And what's the first thing muggins does with his new toy?

For my first battle report and some subsequent thoughts, see here!


  1. Hmmm! - I agree with having to de a little repaint! - On your reccommendation I may have to give this a go!

    Thanks for the review!

  2. To be honest, won't be getting these, as they don't reduce the actual work much. The hardest and most time consuming part of building Langtons little beauties is doing the rigging, and I would have to do it on these. Painting and basing the hull etc takes very little time by comparison. But thanks for the report. the mechanics do look interesting - I use Langton's Quick Play set and they work well, but could do with some more flavour.

  3. Etched steel ratlines will be available as official accessories soon.
    But basic rigging with fishing line or cotton.nylon thread has to be done manually.

    1. I'm in two minds about whether to do this or not. I'll see how other people go. Thanks for the heads-up about the ratlines!

  4. My ships stay in their bases when shaken upside down.

    1. I wish mine would... I don't shake them upside down very often, though!

  5. My copy showed up on Saturday; I haven't had the chance to crack it open yet, though.

    How do you plan to store the ships?

    1. At this stage I'll keep everything in the boxes, the plastic clamshell material holds them securely.

  6. For painting or enhance of this ships look here: