Saturday, February 24, 2018

Post Captain Conventions Modifications

Post Captain (slight) Modifications:

As stated before, I really like these rules, and one can read my review HERE.  And as I say in that review the only thing that annoys me is the crew management aspect.  Not that you have to manage the crew, that part I like, it's that the crew assignments use fractions, and everyone hates doing math with lots of fractions. Even simple math like addition and subtraction gets complicated when you throw in a .75 here and a  .50 there.  Plus, I want to run this game at a convention sometime, so imagine the math being done by over-caffeinated, perhaps slightly drunk, definitely hopped up on sugar, sleep deprived gamers.   Actually that description can apply to me nearly all the time....

Also I want a gamer to run 2 ships at a time, to minimize the effect of a lucky shot taking out a ship early in the game and leaving the player with not much to do.

Now usually I am not much of a tinkerer with rules, I tend to just play them as written and use common sense when needed, but in this case I see a need to be filled and felt inspired, so here goes:

Two 3rd rate ships square off!
The French ship Scipion and the British ship Spencer

Fractions fractions everywhere:

(I know that this will only be of interest to a very small audience (those that have PC and those that hate fractions, imagine the Venn diagram! ), though still, read along if you wish for fun nautical terms.)

in PC. a 32lbs gun box requires 1.75 crew factors; which makes sense in that each crew factor is 24 men, it took 14 men to work a 32lbs cannon, each gun box is 3 cannons, so 3 x 14 = 42 men / 24 = 1.75 crew factors.  A lower deck, where the heaviest guns would be,  is typically 5 gun boxes, so what's 5 x 1.75?  can you do that in your head easily?  I can't.  It's 8.75.  how many for 4 gun boxes?  4 x 1.75 = 7.  (I can't do that in my head either).  To work 3 gun boxes needs 5.25 crew factors, 2 gun boxes needs 3.5 crew factors, and of course 1 gun box needs 1.75 crew factors.  This sort of fractional math is repeated on all the gun decks, and it all becomes rather messy.   Lets take an example and examine the crew requirements for a 74 gun third rate ship the HMS Spencer (because I really like the name Spencer, because it sounds terrible!).  If you have the rules you can look at the ship card and follow along..  The Spencer has a lower deck of 32lbs, a middle deck of 18lbs, and an upper (or weather) deck with one 18lbs, one 18lbs cannonade, and two 32lbs cannonades.  It has 21 crew factors (504 men).  So to work and fight the ship the basic crew layout is:

8.75 - Lower Deck (32lbs)
6.25 - Middle deck (18lbs)
1.25 - Upper deck 18lbs long cannon
1.50 - Upper deck cannonades (both of the 32lbs and the 18lbs)
2 - To sail the ship at battle sail
1.25 - surplus crew members
21 total.

That's 5 fractions to keep track of; which is a lot.  Maybe you think I'm making too big deal of this and you're right; I'm not in a state of nerd rage or anything.  The rules are also specific in that the intention is NOT for the player to keep track of every crew factor every turn, but only when it's important.  However I've found through playing that it's important more times than you think.  There are some critical times when you have to decide; how many crew to work the guns (and which guns), how many to sail the ship, what are the marines doing (working guns or firing volleys), how many crew for repairs, boarding parties (though that is rare), complicated by subtracting losses of crew, marines, and gun boxes.  Yet there are several times when a ship will take a crew casualty in the Red phase, and the player must decide from which deck / task the loss come from, (the effect of the loss is applied immediately), which then will effect the blue and white phases and perhaps the rigging / repair and this needs to be apparent.

A solo game of PC, that I did because I was BORED at home and wanted to test stuff out.
The ships are in their starting positions, the wind is from the right.

This pic gives an idea of how far ships move in one turn.  Close to a foot.

Rounding is Easy

So step one is easy and just round everything to it's whole number (you can fudge it a bit if ya want).  I also just combine the Upper / weather deck into one category as well to make it easier to track and this deck is filled with the lightest guns anyway.  And now have:

9 - Lower Deck (32lbs)
6 - Middle deck (18lbs)
3 - Upper deck (18lbs long cannons, and the 32lbs and the 18lbs cannonades)
2 - To sail the ship at battle sail
1 - surplus crew members
21 total.

People just grasp whole numbers easier, and one can honestly say that while the layout with fractions is more accurate, the one with whole numbers is much easier and faster to understand.
Added bonus! using whole numbers make it easy track when you use Marines to sub for crew.  (2 marines equal 1 crew for manning the guns in PC).

Here's a table for the actual crew numbers rounded to whole numbers for the most common cannons lbs.

crew numbers for 5 gun boxes of 32 lbs, 24 lbs, ad 18 lbs cannons.
(12lbs cannons are the same as 18lbs cannons BTW)

But One Change Produces Others...

SO this means we have to change (slightly) the way that we track crew assigned to guns, as the standard rules still require fractions.  This again is easy enough:  the first loss of 1 crew should reduce 1 gun box from being worked (reloaded)  and and then at a ratio going down keeping as close to the original numbers as possible.  sounds more complicated than it is.  let's continue with the Spencer and the lower deck:

9 crew = 5 gun boxes  (fully manned)
8 and 7 crew = 4 gun boxes
6 crew = 3 gun boxes
5 and 4 crew = 2 gun boxes
3 and 2 crew = 1 gun box.

--This creates a minimum number of crew factors per number of working gun boxes.  I then figured it out for ALL types of cannons for all decks on ships.  this makes it very easy for the player to know how much crew is needed to fire which guns.  I then put this info into a table for each type and you can see it here....

For example: to reload 5 gun boxes of 24lbs, you need at least 7 crew factors.
 if one has only 5 crew factors working the 24s, it's 3 gun boxes.  

For the weather deck, which usually has the carronades and the lightest guns which require 1 or .5  crew each, just add it up and round as appropriate.

It's really just the same info as above, but in this way a player can immediately see how many gun boxes can be worked by looking at how many crew factors the player has assigned to the deck.  I'll provide a better example below....

Putting it all Together

The deck log that comes with PC is pretty good as is, but as I'm messing about with the crew numbers and providing additional information / tables regarding how the crew and guns interact; I also made a table laying out all the crew assignments.  This is essentially the same as the deck log:

The initial crew assignments of the Spencer in whole numbers.
Multiple columns to the right are there to provide space to do new assignments.  

Now, using power point (power point is your friend, you can do cool wargame stuff with it), I took an image of the ship card, my gun tables, my crew assignment table, and any other info I think is important to be handy (like when to take a command check) and put it all on one sheet.    Here is the Spencer in all her glory:

This ship goes to the Captain

I also added little numbers next to the gun box rows so players can more easily ID which is which.

Overall what this does is make the math easy, and put all the info in one place.  Now when a crew factor is lost, a player can cross it off the ship card, and remove it from the crew assignments, and easily know just how much man power is remaining to sail and work the ship and when a ship needs a morale test.  

(This is NOT close range.) 

You still need the standard deck log to track MFs, reloading, and repairs.  But since a deck log can track two ships, a player only needs to have a deck log and 2 enhanced ship cards to play.  Which is the same sheets of paper one would likely need to play anyway without modifications.  

Here are a few other examples:

You get the idea..

An Example:

So here is the enhanced Spencer Ship card with some damage marked off...

Add caption

So over game play Spencer here has taken 2 hull damage, 3 crew losses, 2 rigging, and a marine loss (Just enough damage to be worrisome).  The crew assignments table clearly shows that the Lower deck has 8 crew, the middle 5, the weather 1, sail 2, 2 assigned to repairs (these are in hash marks  and probably assigned to repair the rigging and the hull, that's what I would do), and with the 3 losses.  The idea with the crew table is that as one column gets messy, just move over to the next.

using the tables on the bottom of the sheet, the player instantly knows that:
8 crew on the lower deck will work 4 gun boxes.
5 crew on the middle deck will work 4 gun boxes
and 1 on the weather deck will work 2 gun boxes (probably the 32lbs carronades).

And since Spencer still has 5 gun boxes on the lower and middle deck (good for it!), the player uses 2 marines each to work the gun boxes (as 2 marine factors equate to 1 crew factor).  The player notes this by drawing a line under the marine factors and just writing M or L under it to mark their assignments.  If the Marines move (or die), then these can be erased.

Other Small Game Play changes:

BUT wait!  there's more!  after doing all this work to avoid fractions it make sense to modify the instances in the game when damage is halved, just to continue to have whole numbers.  Fortunately, there's only 2 instances where a ship would receive half damages:  Bow rake and Volley Fire.  

Bow rake produces an effect of  EDR (damage rolls)  x 1.5.  so 2 EDRs would produce 3, and 3 would produce 4.5.  Easy, just round  round up or down to the nearest whole number depending if you want more carnage or less.  Rakes are pretty rare anyway...

Volley Fire:  the table has some instances with 1/2crew or 1/2 marine.  just modify these to be misses or 1 damage as you see fit.


The Cannon CRT table has sections of "1/2 PRG"  In a convention setting,  I would have players ignore this option; ie, don't roll, it;s not a shot.  It's kinda long odds anyway that the shot would result in significant damage, and I think taking the shots will ultimately result in players just watching each other miss.

The Star of our examples, the Spencer.

The French 74:  the Scipion


That's it.  I hope that was useful to someone.  PC is a great AoS game for small actions.  These mods are not at all necessary to play, but I think are good tweeks / streamlines for a wargame convention to make the game more accessible.


  1. Great post Stew and full of pretty pertinent and sensible suggestions when considering tournaments and conventions etc. Haven’t we all been brain dead at a show when demonstrating a game we’ve put time into come mid afternoon?

    1. Too true! I’ve had that moment: day three of a convention, running an evening game, players looking at me expectantly, I start to explain the rules and half way through realize I’ve messed it all up

  2. Quite a lot of inside baseball talk there, but I can take your word for it. ;)

    Always useful to think about how to explain the game to others either at a convention or to a new player. Otherwise you will be playing the game by yourself.

    1. Yes it was, but thanks for playing along! πŸ˜€

      But the point is true: especially with niche within a niche genres like AoS, you’re almost always going to be teaching the rules.

  3. Stew,
    I really like the ideas about eliminating the crew fractions for convention games. In fact, you should probably consider that idea stolen by me for future use. I also really like putting the command check reasons and modifiers next to the ship card itself. That's one of those things I always forget about.

    However, I'm not quite as sure about eliminating the half damage rules. There are times when that 1/2 damaged box can be quite important. Hull damage is a good example here, as that 1/2 box could be the difference between staying dry and having to start manning the pumps. In the same vein, since flooding accrues at 1/2 Hull box per turn, by rounding that up you're denying the ship captain an initial chance to start making repairs or limit the severity of the problem.

    1. Hello Brain! I’m very glad that you liked it and glad you found the post. I was hoping to get a response from you, as you’re my AoS mentor. πŸ˜€

      Please steal away! I steal all good ideas I find on blogs (but isn’t that why we post them πŸ˜‰) If you like the examples that I’ve shown, I can email you the PowerPoint that has several ships on it, if you like. No big if not.

      Now you are right about the hull flooding and that should be kept to half damage, I’d actually forgotten about that bit. Keeping it at half will give the captain time to intervene and also keep that sense of slowly approaching doom.

    2. Stew,
      Sorry for the late response, but we did some volunteer work that took us away for a few days. By all means yes, please send me the PowerPoint. I think there's no such thing as too many references when you're working on stuff.

    3. No problem! I've send you an email through you're 'contact me' thingy on your bog. : )

  4. Interesting post, eliminating most fractions make sense, most of us can cope with 1/2 though!
    Best Iain

    1. I’m sure You could do it, other gamers though... not so much. πŸ˜€

  5. Thanks Stew, a very interesting post - I too like the enhanced ship cards. I will probably stay with the fractions as I will be playing solo or just with my regular group - but will use the indivudual gun table ideas.

    1. Thanks for leaving a comment Dave, appreciate it. Glad the post was helpful in any way. If you want a copy of all the ship cards I’ve made just shoot me an email through the contact me. πŸ˜€

  6. Nice idea. I wonder if another approach would be to multiply crew factors by 4. Each crew damage kills 4 crew. Then there are no fractions. Each heavy gun box needs 7 crew

    1. I confess I haven’t thought about it in awhile. That could work too. πŸ˜€

  7. Thank you for this clear explanation. Enjoying it!