Friday, September 22, 2017

Post Captain AoS rules review (and small batrep)

Opening ramblings:

As I said before, I went a little nuts on buying AoS rules, which in the long run could be a waste of money, because if you buy a set and then never play it....  However, it's hard to get an idea of what rules are good; which is completely down to personal tastes.... so this is just more thoughts from the AoS rookie.

Some general advice from what I've found in starting AoS gaming; first decide if you want a hex based game or a non hexed base game... hex based games will make maneuvering easy but limit you to moving in 5 directions...(not 6, because one hex side will be where the wind is coming from 'an ya can't sail into t' wind').  Non hexed games will have much more freedom but be a bit fiddly due to the use of wind gauges, measuring movement, and turning gauges.  So far, I have liked NON hexed games better. you feel more like a sea captain! you play on the open sea!

for open sea games I have Kiss Me Hardy by TFL, Post Captain by ODGW, Form Line of Battle by David Manley, and Captaincy by Cursd Captain (John Carnahan).  And I'm kind of playing them in order of my comprehension.

KMH left me like I had just eaten mediocre pizza; it wasn't bad, but wasn't great either. So I was very excited to play Post Captain (review below). I passed on FLOB as it's more of a fleet game and on Captaincy as it's a complicated rule set.

So with 2 ships complete (did you see the pretty ships in the previous posts?) and 2 other stand ins... I asked my friend Dai (check out his blog, found in the blog roll over there why not ----->> ) to a game.  Since he down for anything (and I mean any-thing! chuckle-chuckle-snort) he was most obliging.  Also with  him being an avid gamer he had the necessary D12s which I don't have in my collection (because I haven't played an RPG in 15 years..)

I didn't take any pictures of the Post Captain game, so enjoy these pictures stolen from the internet.
They're actually pretty close to what was happening anyway (in my mind's eye).

PC Batrep:

Dai took the French and I the British.  The forces were roughly equal with the French having the 120 gun Orient and the 80 gun Bucentuare, while the British consisted of the 100 gun Queen Charlotte and the 74 gun Spencer.   The squadrons started just 30" apart.  The French had the weather guage, and the Brits on an intercept course.

Played out like this:

Can you follow that?  basically each arrow equals about the same game turn, roughly.  It's a very rough map drawn from memory.  This process will likely improve over time.

Here's a rough summary of each ship in order of excitement...

The Orient sailed in a semi circle firing broadsides as they bore, and ended the game in pursuit of the Queen Charlotte.  The Queen Charlotte managed to sail in between the Orient and the Buc, firing off both broadsides and pounding the Buc somewhat roughly, BUT suffered a critical hit to her wheel (which makes you sail straight ahead) and basically spent the last half of the game sailing away to nowhere as slow as possible trying to fix the damage.  The Spencer was setting up to cross the Buc's bows early in the game when the wily French captain suddenly turned toward the Spencer, so they exchanged broadsides as they passed.  The Spencer then tacked and chased the Buc, firing at her and receiving fire from the Buc in return as well as the Orient.  The Spencer lost it's Mainsail yard (and attached sail), and then a critical hit shot away the jib boom, which sprung the foret'gallant mast, and a turn later both the Foret'gallant and Maint'gallant masts went crashing into the water (failed rigging and sprung mast checks), and left her drifting until the wreckage could be cut away.  The MVP of the game was the Bucentuare; who out maneuvered the Spencer, and exchanged broadsides with both British ships.  She also suffered wheel damage but managed to repair it quickly, to continue the fight and even do a victory lap around the dismasted Spencer before setting course to support the Orient versus the Charlotte.

So at the end of the game (as we called it there); on the British side the Spencer was dragging two masts, and the Charlotte had a damaged wheel so both were in pretty bad shape.  The French were alright, with the Orient only loosing a couple of guns and the Buc handled roughly but serviceable.  Victory for the French!  Good game Dai, lots of fun.

For those of you keeping score at home, the French are 2-0 so far....

POST CAPTAIN wargame rules review:

Short Version: Game is awesome, go buy it.  Moderate complexity, a fair amount of book keeping is involved.  Probably best suited for 1-2 ships per player.  Interesting decisions to make during the game besides which way to steer.

A more in-Depth Review: unlike KMH which has several in depth reviews already online, I could find very little on PC before I purchased it, so I'll now endeavor to write one.  This of course only my opinions, which I naturally find to be infallible but really are just my personal tastes....

PC is one of those games where it looks more complicated than it actually is, and plays rather smoothly.  The rule book contains everything you need to play, and comes chock full of ship cards, deck logs, QRS's, and charts, Charts, CHARTS!  One new thing to me is that the game uses a scale, so 1/1200 scale ships (as my Langton ships are) has a scale measurement of 100 yds = 3".  I'm more used to games that use a measurement; for example will give a range of 12" (as in "the range of X gun is 12") but PC will say 400 yds instead of 12".

The book is also very newbie friendly with sections on models and observations of the Age of Sail in general.  Also very much appreciated there is a glossary of game and nautical terms in the beginning for those of us that don't know a yard from a spar, or a top sail from a t'gallant sail.
there's also a bunch of freebies and scenarios available online from ODGW.  Including some top-down ship counters for those who want to play but lack the ships.

A game turn basically goes through a movement phase, a repair phase, and then a command phase.

Movement: Each game turn movement phase is broken into 3 'tactical phases' labeled Red, White, and Blue and each corresponds to about 1 min of actual time; so in 1 game turn a ship will move 3 times.  the order the ships move will be determined by who has the weather gauge when far apart and a die roll for initiative when close.  Each side moves one ship at a time.  The tactical phases are also the way that the game tracks time, so actions that take some time to do (like reloading  or repairing the rigging) will take a number of tactical phases.

How to move: Depending on what sails a ship has deployed a ship has a number of Movement factors, and naturally more sails = more movement factors.  This number is fairly static as one doesn't change sails much while in battle.  Next, take a 'wind gauge' and line it up with the ship to determine it's speed: either Slow, Medium, or Fast.  You then use the corresponding turning and movement gauge that matches that speed to pilot the ship.  Now here's the clever part; the movement factors on the S, M, and F gauges are NOT the same size so a ship will travel more distance if moving on the F rather than the S.  

This IS slightly fiddly but after a turn easily understood.  There are of course rules for turning, tacking, etc... though a ship may turn slightly as any time but more pronounced turns require the ship to go straight first. 

Firing: Ships can fire broadsides from loaded cannons at any time, doesn't matter who's actually moving.  After firing it takes a certain number of tactical phases to reload.  French and Spanish take longer to reload than the British and American.  I actually REALLY LIKE this aspect; as after a ship shoots at you, you know that there is now some small time to maneuver / jockey for position before she can fire again.  In general a ship can only fire once per turn but in 12 tactical phases (12 minutes time) a British ship will fire 4 times to a French 3.  Gunnery modifiers are what you would expect with the initial broadside, better crews, and getting really close make for better shots.

Boarding: is something that didn't happen in my game but the mechanic is somewhat complex.  You get two ship diagrams that are broken up into 3 areas, and assign the crew and marines to each section as boarding parties represented as counters.  When ships are in contact, you see who boards who, and the boarding parties fight it out every Blue tactical phase, with the goal to capture the enemy's upper deck.

After the three tactical phases the action pauses for the next two phases.

Rigging and repair phase: In this phase you first roll to see if any weakened masts fall down.  There are a bunch of rules of what happens when a a mast falls depending on which mast and which part, all are easy to understand.  You then roll to see if any repairs you attempted to fix are complete.  This is when you also assign crew factors to repairs to be attempted next turn. More on this later when I talk about crew management. 

Command phase: In this phase you assign marines and crew to boarding parties (to be available next turn) and also take any morale tests needed if a ship is damaged enough.

Crew Management: in the rigging & repair and the command phases are also when you manage a ships crew.  A ship has a number of crew and marine factors on board at the beginning of the scenario.  .  Of these, a certain amount (a very small amount) will be needed to sail the ship, the rest tend to work the guns.  This is potentially a very book keeping intense part of the game.  The authors are clear that their intention is not that one should assign every crew factor to a task for every turn, but it is important that the limited resource of manpower be tracked, especially as casualties mount.  The book provides a little aid / cheat sheet for quick assignments but it DOES get complicated when you start to do many necessary things:  X number to sail the ship. X number to repairs; do your marines help work the guns or off to the fighting tops to fire musket volleys, form any boarding parties? so how many does that leave to work the guns?  (and if a gun isn't being worked then it can't be reloaded as makes sense).   It's also annoying that the guns often take fractions of crew factors which makes the math difficult.  for example, a 32 pound gun box takes 1.75 crew factors.. which makes the lower deck of a first rate ship requiring 8.75 crew factors.  I find fractions difficult.

In my game, we found that doing what the authors suggest worked fairly well:  on the cheat sheet at the beginning of the game, you have worked out how many crew factors are working each gun deck, and as crew get pulled out to do other stuff (or due to casualties) you know which guns go unloaded.  Marines can help fire the cannons while the seamen go off to do other sailor stuff.

After the rigging and repair and Command phases, a new game turn starts with movement, and the 3 tactical phases...

Overall:  All of this makes for a very enjoyable game where commanding a ship feels like commanding a ship, being the captain and making decisions.    But a lot goes into that so unless one knows the rules very well I suggest 1-2 ships per player.  2 would be ideal; though ships can take a fair amount of damage 1 lucky hit can effectively knock out a ship for the short term so having another ship to play with would keep a player involved.    Maneuvering and managing the ship are the essence of the game.  This is not a fleet game, but more about ship to ship actions.

I really enjoyed this game.  I hope this review will be helpful for anyone looking into the rules for their AoS gaming.


  1. I am not an AoS gamer but have frequently thought buying a set of naval rules to augment my War of 1812 land games. For example; the battle of Plattsburg, September 1814 has a naval and land compnent that arguably affect each other.

    To that end I narrowed my rules selection to what I thought was the best set of rules for small ship actions. I found that the description of ODGW Post Captain fit the requirements. Now thanks to your excellent review of Post Captain, I am now certain that these are the right set of rules for my situation.


  2. Your welcome. I am very glad that something that was meant to be helpfull actually was.

  3. Interesting review, have you looked at fighting sail from Osprey, one of their wargames, inexpensive but it might be more fleet orientated.
    Best Iain

    1. I did take a look: it's more of a fleet level game and, to be honest, had a large number of we'll say 'mixed' reviews that I passed on purchasing it.

  4. I liked the rules well enough. Fiddly, yes but with a player to run one through them during the game i felt i cottoned quickly.
    Felt dirty to both play the french and win no less... my grandfather rolled over in his grave no doubt!
    Thanks again for a fun gane stew, cant wait to see those other ships painted up and full of sweet rigging!

  5. Thanks Dai. You did well as the test case. You definitely knew how to sail a ship in the game by turn 3 or so, which I think is a plus for the rules.

    Anyway, the second British ship is nearly painted and the second French started. After both are painted then the plan is to rig both at the same time.