On TMP (yes, I spend some time on TMP, especially at work while it is slow), David Manley informed us all that August 6th was 'International Naval Wargame Day.'
Who knew this was a thing?
But what an excuse to play an Age of Sail game (AoS) and play test some rules. As I've already stated, I'm newly getting into AoS gaming and went on something of a rule acquiring spree... and now have more rules than I need.
It's one of the dilemmas of starting a new genre; while there is no real reason to stick to one set of rules, in actuality you will only play 1 or 2 of them regularly and the rest will just sit on the shelf. Yet to know which rules you like you have to do research (which only takes you so far, as most research are just people telling you 'yay' or 'nay') and ultimately end up buying multiple rule sets because you don't know what you like yet....
So far I've gotten:
(Games that use Hexes)
Wooden Ships and Iron men (free online)
Beat to Quarters (free online, but really is just a hex version of Form Line of Battle)
Bloody Broadsides ($$)
Form on Admirals Wake ($)
(Games without hexes)
Kiss Me Hardy ($)
Form Line of Battle ($)
Post Captain ($$$)
And let's say that each $ represents around 10 dollars (some more, some less) then I've already shelled out around $100.... Hopefully I'll get around to writing a detailed review of these rules for other gamers.
But since I was family-less that day, I put out a call for an AoS game at my place, and choose to play KMH, mainly bc the rules seemed simple and I'm familiar with TFL. It should of been FLOB because those are the rules that Mr. Manley wrote, but I chickened out as I hadn't read them all the way through yet.
I got some takers, and was all set to throw down a sheet and print up some top down pictures of ships for miniatures (IE, very low key) but Mr. Martin volunteered to bring his 1/2000 ships, which no one knew he had and are apparently over 20 years old. This meant I had to go get something ocean-y because a white bed sheet would not do. I went over the Joanne's and bought some blue-toned sheets of fabric; two combined to cover a 5 x 6 area. Looked like this:
|sail away, sail away, sail away|
There's shot of my lone ship sailing by itself..... anyway, the fabric will do for now.
|My ship is bigger than your ship....|
|Ships in the back are French, foreground the British|
For the game, I devised a scenario where: a British blockade has been blown off station and before they could come back, the French ships inside made a dash for it, attempting to make it to the next port to combine their strength in the channel with other French. Sounds good yes? That could be the whole plot of a Hornblower novel....
Because I know KMH favors the British (as for the time, the British navy was very dominate) the victory conditions were that the French, starting in one corner, had to sail to the other corner across from it, and hurting any British ships on the way was a bonus. The British were to stop as many ships as possible. This encourages the French to stand away and shoot at rigging at long range, and the British to get in close and disable the ship...playing to the strengths of each in the rules. The French also had more ships.
French Squadron 1: 120 gun 1st rate, and two 74 gun 3rd rates.
French Squadron 2: three 74 gun 3rd rates.
British Squadron 1: 100 gun 1st rate, one 74 3rd rate
British Squadron 2: two 74 gun 3rd rates.
We rolled for crew skill, resulting in the French having mostly average and one elite and the Brits being Elite with some average.
SIDE NOTE: I learned that San Cullottes means "without underpants." A strange name for French sailors but funny.
So the Brits in one corner and French in the other, the wind coming down the length with everyone having 'Wind off Quarter' destined to meet in the middle... which is generally what happened.
|Now French (bottom right) are making the get away.|
|A very cluttered table in the end.|
What did I think about the rules, it being my first time playing KMH....Well first let's agree what makes a rule set good is very subjective and a manner of opinion. Opinions are like... well you know, so here's some on mine....
Negatives (these will make more sense if you've read the rules): The rules are FULL of vagueness. I don't expect rules to cover everything, but there are several parts that are unclear, contradict, or just not explained fully. I personally find this irritating. Here's some examples: Rules in the beginning state that a 'determined' crew is less likely to strike so adds +10% but under strike tests this is a negative modifier (ie, to make it less likely you subtract 10%). In the beginning it says the 'boarding party' characteristic means it may double lowest die in a boarding action, but in the boarding action section is states that boarding party is +1d6 and makes no mention of the doubling (so which is it, or both?). In the special damage chart, when you loose a mast, it says 'loose 3 speed points and 5 DPs' but there are no such things as speed points, there are speed boxes - two types actually- so which is meant? Ships also loose a speed box for every 5 DPs, so it that a total of 4? There are others but I don't mean to belabor the point.
I also thought boarding actions really favored the Brits, so much that if playing Brits I would almost board right away, as I get +2d6 over the French just for being JJT.
Positives: It was a fun game. Rules were simple and everyone understood what they were doing pretty quickly (which for me is a positive as I like convention type games). Firing was easy, and I liked the card mechanics / alternate activations. Book keeping was just enough to track what was going on with a ship but not too much to be a chore. Everything players wanted to do, was in there.
Other observations: it helps to have a marker for when a strike test needs to be taken at the next strike test card (otherwise you forget). Game play I think is suited for each player having 2 or 3 ships, especially as some of the special damage can be quite nasty and disable a ship early. As each player moves and shoots one at a time, 4 players I think is a good maximum to minimize down time between turns (and it's fun to have a sentence with maximum and minimum in it).
Overall: A decent game, fun, but needs a lot of work ahead time clearing up vagueness and deciding what is what. You can go on forums and the yahoo group for answers, which are forth coming, but ultimately you get a lot of 'we do it this way and it works for us.' the end product then will be my unique version of KMH, which will be different from your version. The rules were good, but not good enough for me to say "now these will be the go-to rules for AoS." I definitely want to try out the others. Of course, since being new at this, after a few more rule sets I might come back and say KMH is the best ever.
More AoS to come, but I'm still waiting for my next ship to arrive.