Saturday 28 October 2017

Ad Mare Bellum

To War at Sea ! is where we now go with David Manley's  set of rules from Long Face Games.

I bought these as a PDF download for a fistful of dollars .i.e. 1 dollar per finger from Wargame  Now 7 dollar I think. This is crazily cheap for the effort it takes to make a set of rules. One can buy them without deliberating too long. The format is not what you get for a hardback full colour tome but neither do you expect it. There are some colour illustrations....

I reviewed the initial appearance of the booklet HERE. I have now done some test games. I did them with card printouts because I do not have 1/1200 models.

Some oddities here. A Five(quinquireme) could have 120 fighters on deck and gets 6 as its combat factor viz. deck fighting. A Three(trireme) could have max 40 men on deck but usually 12 or so - this gets 4 deck fighting factors ... The Five can shoot but the Three gets no missile capability..a bit odd. Fours and larger were by definition closed ships so designating them C-cataphract is a bit redundant and then they only get a minus 1 in shooting as a benefit.. .
Anyway, it is traditional to quibble with the data tables in a set of rules and they can alway sbe amended to one's own liking so this is no real problem.
Then the characteristic of 'Stoutness' - not a very ancient term, could equally be called 'Bottom'. Why not plain old 'Strength' or 'Defence'? Maybe DISPLACEMENT is a good alternative, an indication of the bulk and strength of the hull.

Early optimistic formations - need to be tighter
No real fleet lists but, rather, suggestions for proportions of types. It was also tnecessary  to decide if the whole fleet must stay within 10" of the commander or this means a squadron staying within 10" of its commander - must mean the latter. (page 6). No points system.

A small metre square table is envisaged with shallows, rocky shores and sandy shores. Terrain advice is minimal. I used a small table with no terrain features.

Card sequence - scary if enemy gets his cards in a row
Each side gets three impulses randomly mixed and sequenced by using cards. I could not really see why this is superior to IGOUGO on a dice throw, One problem is that if side A drew two or 3 of its cards then the other side  know for certain they have 2 or 3 successive moves to use uninterrupted. I tried dicing for the sequence and deducting 1 to the side which was  first in the last go. Uncertainty remains at all times. It may be possible to let individual squadrons move rather than the whole of each side without wrecking the game...even more exciting.

This game is not big on moving and manoeuvre. So much so that skilled nations get a +1 in combat for being good rather than any capability to do extra stuff in their physical movement. Sailing ships cannot sail within 60 degrees of windward and nor can they tack..They never turn at all ? Ships turn at the start of a move and half way through  but not at the end. I presume this is to stop sneaky stuff in getting in ram attacks at sides . The different classes do not seem to be suffciently different in capabilities. However - this is a justifiable trade-off one can make to give a more playable game with many ships. I used 60 ships without any problems. There are no special rules for diekplous and periplous. Ships back at half speed. Larger and smaller ships can turn equally well.

Plunging in to open formations gives a lot of beam attacks

There is no mention in the rules of formations or special rules for them. I ended up, after some games with a lot of sneaking-in beam rammings, with squadrons adopting tight phalanxes and the manoeuvre being in squadrons rather than risking individual ships doing heroic actions. This is a good feature of the rules - more realistic tactics get rewards in the game.

This was OK but a bit repetetive with the dicing formula. 'Engines' 'fire' in this game..aaarrggh.
With the number of dice I was throwing a simple score needed to do damage would have been nicer, but the results did not give too much carnage which was ok.

Maybe taking off a stone or arrow marker when an artillery piece has shot is better than adding a puff of cotton smoke - both have to be adjusted at the end of the turn . Engines only FIRE in one of the three impulses but there is no restriction on which one. Shooting arcs and LOS are rudimentary and a simple LOS allows all weapons to shoot at a target. Maybe the centre of the ship should be used.

Not much technical detail. Move to contact and you're in. No minimum run-up or speed necessary. Again this is an OK trade-off at this scale. A different formula for stern, beam and bow attacks makes a nice variation of results possible. Not too onerous and gives a spread of results. Does not equal the carnage of 'Poseidon's Warriors' unless very unequal types are clashing. Could easily be tweaked.

This could be done with small troop blocks in 1/600 or larger. In 1/1200 it is just dice and a few markers but relatively painless. The shooting allows for softening up a ship then nailing it with boarders. Again, realistic. Not much detail for the corvus or other boarding devices. Boarding inclined nations get a +1 for their art. Tweaking possible.

Multiple attacks - there is no advice how to adjudicate them.

General level of chaos and damage can be quite satisfying : essential to try and keep some ordered squadrons in reserve
The much-loved splintering of oars is not catered-for specifically  but ships can be 'DAMAGED' or 'IMMOBILISED'.  Simple collisions cannot occur.

The combat results are a bit uneven. Repeated 'halving' gives needless calculation when a subtraction would do the job, surely? A second 'CREW' hit in one phase does no further damage for some unexplained reason. Also the 'CREW' seems only to mean deck fighters. A 'Damaged' ship loses some of each of its boarding, shooting and moving capabilities - it seems to represent a mix of physical damage and crew casualties.

Fify percent rule. Modify it to taste.

There were some crucial clauses that were hidden away a bit but once found they were easy to remember. I may make a better QR sheet than the one provided.

The layout is more old WRG than decimalised heirarchical referencing but I prefer that. Just read and try them a few times to get to grips.

Make some nice markers if you have nice ships!

These rules seem to have been playtested. Others do not have that quality. They work well with a lot of ships. The action and results gives a flavour of a big galley battle even if the element of manoeuvre is somewhat lacking. If you use multiple squadrons and more than one line or try and sneak ships through in columns you can get some authentic tactics going.

There is no excess complication but most things are represented. If a certain aspect is your hobby horse then just modify the rules to your taste.

I would change the characteristics chart and make a 'fleet generator' table.

These rules beat the Sof A Corvus rules and Poseidon's Warriors in my opinion. They do not use a grid - great ! The enjoyable part of them is picking on a few enemy vessels with missiles then finishing with boarding or getting a squadron in on the flank and watching the enemyl line flee in panic.

Let's face it,  7 dollars and some ink and paper is not much for a galley-lovers' blood sweat and tears. The fact that they give a fun game that feels like an ancient galley battle 'em and try' em.
Let battle commence!

Now I think I will try some games with my 1/350 models.....and a big game.

And I put up a QRF same place as the Toblerone simple fleets.

Sunday 22 October 2017

New Book on the Stocks : Launched 30/10

Marc Desantis who wrote the title 'Rome Siezes the Trident' has another launch from Pen and Sword.

click HERE to visit
I will put a short review of each up soon. Pen and Sword have put out a lot of titles with ancient naval connections in the last couple of years. They are a very mixed bag. The format PandS choose: 300 pages, few maps, 10 or os sides of figures/fotos is a bit limiting. But no one else is putting much out....