Sails of Glory Game Review (prepublished version)

Please Take Note: This is a review of the game’s final prototype. The art, game bits, and the rules discussed are all subject to change. The game is being reviewed on the components and the rules provided with the understanding that “what you see is not what you might get” when the game is published. If you like what you read and want to learn more, we encourage you to visit the game’s official web site or visit the Kickstarter campaign. Now that we have all that disclaimer junk out of the way, on with the review!


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The Basics:

  • For ages 5 and up (publisher suggests 13+)
  • For 2 or more players (in teams)
  • Variable game length

Geek Skills:

  • Active Listening & Communication
  • Counting & Math
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Pattern/Color Matching
  • Strategy & Tactics
  • Risk vs. Reward
  • Visuospatial Skills
  • Cooperative & Team Play
  • Hand/Resource Management

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Moderate
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • Reenact historic naval battles or create scenarios of your own in this naval miniature wargame

Endorsements:

  • Gamer Geek pending!
  • Parent Geek approved!
  • Child Geek approved!

Overview

The great sailing ship cuts through the water like a wooden behemoth. Below deck, cannons are being cleaned and prepped as the officers above deck look to the horizon for signs of their adversary. At first, nothing but the blue upon endless blue of the ocean. Then…yes! There! Look to starboard! A black spot! For a moment, all is still as if the ship is holding its breath. “Prepare to engage the enemy, Mr. Smith”, the captain calmly states. Moments later, the ship bristles with guns ready for war.

Sails of Glory, by Ares Games, will reportedly be comprised of 4 fully painted and highly detailed Ship miniatures, 4 Ship bases with card inserts, 4 Ship cards, 4 Ship Logs, 4 Ship mats, 4 Maneuver decks (one per ship), 2 combat rulers, 2 attitude measures,  1 wind indicator, and an assortment of counters and markers to help the players keep track of certain aspects of game play. For example, damage to the ship and ammunition. As this is a review of the game’s prototype, we will not comment on the game component quality, nor can we state that what we have listed so far is the complete list of what will be in the game box. However, if Sails of Glory is anything like Ares Games’ Wings of Glory, the models will be excellent.

Game Set Up

To set up the game, you are going to first need a flat surface that is roughly 36 inches by 36 inches. Don’t worry about terrain as most naval warfare happened in the open sea. Do mark the boundaries of the playing area, however, as ships that leave the playing area are out of the game.

Second, choose the scenario to be played. This is important as the scenario establishes a number of ground rules, such as additional game set up and what ships to select.

Third, each player collects the Ship miniature, the Ship mat, the Ship Log, and the Ship card for the ships they have decided to captain. Each player should also collect a complete set of Manuever cards that match the maneuverability of their selected ship. This is noted on the Ship card, as well as the base of the Ship miniature and Ship Log. For the Basic game, remove Maneuver cards with black dots (these are only used during Advanced games).

Fourth, each player takes and places their Ship Log on the designated location on their Ship mat, placing their Ship card next to it.

Fifth, divide the damage counters into 5 different groups (determined by the letter on the back of the counters). For the Basic game, only the damage counters “A”, “B”, and “E” are used. Place these three different groups into small cups for easy use. All remaining damage counters are removed for the duration of the game.

Sixth, find and separate the crew loss special damage markers from the other damage markers as these are the only ones used in the Base game.

Seventh, for each ship being controlled, the players will take 2 standard ammunition counters, which are placed face-down on the  left and right broadside spaces noted on the Ship mat. When placed face-down, it indicates that the cannons are loaded and ready to be fired.

Eighth, place the wind indicator as noted by the scenario. This indicates the direction the wind is blowing.

That’s it for game set up, minus any additional set up that might be needed for the scenario, such as initial ship position and possible additional starting resources. Time to play!

Naval Warfare

The following game review and summary is for the Basic game only. Sails of Glory will have Standard rules (more complex than Basic) and Advanced rules (which provides a great deal of realism to the naval combat). Also to be included with the game, but not discussed here, are Optional rules that can be used to enhance different scenarios or introduced into game play as needed.

The game is played in rounds with each round comprised of 4 specific phases that all the players take part in simultaneously. Each phase is summarized here.

Phase 1: Planning

The first phase is all about taking a good long look at the battle in front of the players and then deciding how they will act and react. As these are giant wooden vessels that are powered by the wind, the first thing any player should do is see in which direction the wind is blowing in relationship to their ship. This is refered to as the wind’s attitude (as in position, not its behavior). The wind indicator, attitude measure, and the base of the Ship miniatures are used to determine this. Surrounding the four sides of the Ship miniature are three different colors. These are red, green, and orange. Depending from which direction the wind is blowing, the ship can either be taken aback, beating, reaching, or running.

Each player will take and place an attitude measure beside their ship that is pointed in the same direction as the wind. Through simple observation, the player will know how the wind is currently influencing their ship by noting the color that is being pointed to.

Example of how players will determine their ship's facing to the wind

Example of how players will determine their ship’s facing to the wind

Once it is determined how the wind will influence the ship, the player’s each secretly select  a single Manuever card from their deck of Manuever cards. If the attitude measure pointed to the orange or green boarders of their Ship miniature, the player can select any Manuever cards that has a blue dot. If the attitude measure pointed to the red, only Manuever cards with the red dot can be used. If the attitude pointed between two different colors, the player can always use the best of the two, but it is their choice.

Once the Manuever card is selected, it is placed faced-own on their Ship Log. Note that players cannot take any measurements or move their Ship miniature during this phase of the round.

Phase 2: Movement

The second phase has all the players reveal their Manuever cards at the same time and then place the cards next to their ship. Manuever cards with the blue dots are placed directly in front of and touching the front portion of the Ship miniature base. There are lines on the base of the Ship miniatures and on the Manuever cards to help.

The Manuever cards show three different movement lines. Each line represent’s the current state of the ship’s sails. That being “full”, “battle”, and “backing”. For the Basic game, only the “battle sails” are used. To move a ship on these movement lines, the player simply picks up their Ship miniature and places it down on the Manuever card so the back of the Ship miniature’s base is touching the colored arrow that matches the current wind attitude.  The orange arrow represents a ship that is beating or running and the green arrow represents a ship that is reaching.

Example of how a ship is moved using the cards

Example of how a ship is moved using the Manuever cards

If the ship is taken aback, movement is done with the the Manuever card being placed at the rear of the Ship miniature’s base. Red dot Manuever cards will show movement lines with 1 and 2 sunglass icons. In the Basic game, only the manuever line with the double sunglasses are used. Once lined up with the rear of the ship, the player repositions their Ship miniature so the base  of the Ship miniature is now lining up with the  movement arrow.

It is very possible that two or more ships might be so close together that their maneuvers will cause them to run into each other. When this occurs, ships with the highest burden value move first, followed by the other ship. If the movement causes a collision, the ship is moved along the movement line as much as possible until the Ship miniature base touches another Ship miniature base. This continues until all the ships have moved.

If at anytime a player’s ship should leave the playing area, that ship is out for the duration of the game!

Once all movement is done, the Manuever cards are placed back in the player’s Manuever deck.

Phase 3: Combat

The third phase is when the player’s blast away at each other with their cannons. In the Basic game, players can use artillery and musketry attacks, and like movement, all attacks happen simultaneously.

For artillery fire, each ship has 2 sets of cannons (one on each side of their ship), which is also indicated on the Ship Log. Along side each of the ship miniatures are firing arcs. The firing arcs in the middle of both sides of the ship represent a full broadside attack (the best possible). The firing arcs to the front and to the rear of the ship represent less than optimal firing positions, which also result in less damage. Range and distance is all relative in Sails of Glory. To help facilitate quick and easy combat, the combat rulers are used.

When attacking, the player will take a combat ruler and place one end  on the white dot of the firing arc. The ruler is then pivoted on this point within the firing arc. If the combat rule touches or goes beyond the base of the targeted ship, the enemy is within range! But cannons cannot be fired unless they are loaded and at the ready. If both cannons are loaded and ready to fire, the player can fire from both sides of their ship.

Each combat phase can be summed up in as little as 3 steps.

  1. Chose a Target: Only one ship can be targeted per cannon.
  2. Check Line of Site: The combat ruler must be able to touch the base of the targeted ship without touching the base of any other ship (be it friendly or not).
  3. Determine Fire Power and Range: This one deserves a bit of explanation…

Firepower determines the total amount of damage that can be inflicted on a target. The more damage dealt, the more damage counters will be drawn. But the amount of damage a ship can hope to inflict is dependent on the overall “health” of the ship, too. The more damage the ship takes, the less effective it becomes in combat. How much damage that can be inflicted is based on three numbers on a track comprised of squares on the Ship Log. The three numbers indicate the amount of damage a front , full broadside, and rear firing arc can inflict.

Range is determine by using the combat ruler, as already described. Where the base of the targeted ship lands on the combat ruler will determine if it’s within short or long-range. After determining the range and firepower, a player will know exactly how many counters to draw and from what pile they should be drawn them from.

Musketry fire is only possible if the base of the targeted ship is at a distance equal to or less than the width of the combat ruler. Musketry fire is always available (does not need to be reloaded) and can target the same ship being hit by cannons or a different ship. In this way, an enemy ship that is ridiculously close can be fired upon by full broadsides and full Musketry fire. Of course, the enemy ship can do the same. Like the artillery fire from the cannons, damage counters are pulled, but how many is determined by the current state of the ship’s crew.

Once all the players figure out who they are going to hit, everyone fires at the same time. When hit, the player draws a number of damage counters of a specific type, as indicated by their attacker. These are shown to their opponent and then assigned to the player’s Ship Log. The damage counters drawn will either show a number, the silhouette of a sailor (representing the ship’s crew), or a combination of the two. Numbers represent damage to the ship while the silhouette of a sailor represents crew fatalities. If other symbols are drawn, they are ignored and only the number is used. These other symbols are used in the Standard and Advanced games.

Damage is placed in the Ship Log’s left most box in the appropriate row. Each box can hold one ore more damage counters and represents damage, but nothing that is causing the ship issues. When the sum total of the numbers in the box is equal to or higher than the ship’s burden value, the box is full (meaning no more counters can be placed) and enough damage has been inflicted to cause noticeable problems. When the box is full, all the counters in that box are turned face-down. Any stats in that box are now no longer available and the new states of the ship can be found in the box directly to the filled box’s right. Unlike the damage to a ship, a single hit to a sailor removes the sailor.

A ship can keep sailing and fighting (although not as well) for as long as it has crew and a willing captain to guide it into combat. But only to a point. If the ship damage row or the crew damage row are ever filled, the captain has no choice but to surrender their ship. When a ship is surrendered, all the damage counters are removed from the Ship Log and placed back in their respective piles and the ship is removed from the playing area.

In the Basic game, a captain need never go down with their ship.

Phase 4: Reloading

As stated, Muskets are always loaded. The same cannot be said for the artillery which take longer to load and make ready to fire. Artillery can only be reloaded on the turn following the one in which they were fired. This is kept track of by moving ammunition counters on the Ship Log. In this way, a ship that fires cannons on both sides of their ship during one round must spend the entire next round reloading and staying out of range from enemy ships!

Victory at Sea

All victory conditions are set by the scenario. Victory conditions could be anything from being the last ship floating to having control of a certain area for so many rounds.

To learn more about Sails of Glory and read additional rules (as they become available), visit the game’s official web site or visit the Kickstarter campaign. There is also a forum for enthusiasts that you can freely join and participate in.

Prediction

My prediction for Sails of Glory, if you’ll forgive the pun, is going to be a bit shallow. It must be understood that I don’t have the full game. All I was provided was the Basic rules and enough game components to play the provided scenario. The intent of what I was provided was to allow me to play Sails of Glory with a group to get a solid impression of what will be released. Ares Games has most certainly done just that. The Basic rules provide all the details necessary to fight epic battles on the high seas. What is missing is everything past the Basic rules, however, leaving much of the game a mystery.

For the Child and Parent Geeks, I don’t think this is going to be an issue. In fact, I predict Sails of Glory will be approved by both the Child and the Parent geeks because the Basic rules are basic and allows for casual game play.  It’s the Gamer Geeks I am concerned about. While I can see families and Child Geeks never getting past the Basic rules until much later, the Gamer Geeks will want to see the game in its entirety. They are used to difficult games with multiple variants and game options that are intended to inject complexity. The only level of complexity in the Basic rules is the difficulty provided by a superior opponent.

But this is all speculation on my part. We simply won’t know how Sails fo Glory will be viewed by our playing groups until we get them in front of it.

Teaching the Basic game is very straight forward and the longest time I ever spent teaching the game was no more than about 10 minutes. Like I said, the Basic rules are basic. Most of the questions were on how to properly play Manuever cards and how to use the wind, but the majority of players, including the Child Geeks, were already familiar with more complicated miniature games. The Basic  rules didn’t introduce much in the way that was new to them. All that now remained was to see if what we think we see in the rules is visible in the game play. And so, as I reset the provided introductory scenario, I asked my two oldest little geeks (who will be playing as a team against me) what they thought of Sails of Glory so far.

“I think I understand it and I’m pretty sure I’ve played more complicated games than this. Should be a lot of fun.” ~ Liam (age 8)

“I understand the wind, but am going to need help remembering the phases.” ~ Nyhus (age 5)

He very well might, but since there is nothing to read and it’s all simple math, Sails of Glory should be a game he will be able to quickly become familiar and comfortable with. I’m curious to see if my 5-year-old will let his older brother call all the shots or if he starts to challenge his older sibling’s authority. Honestly, I hope he does, and captains his own ship.

Let’s raise anchor and set sail to see if this game provides adventure on the high seas or is nothing more than a fancy looking dingy.

Final Word

The Basic game proved to be challenging for the Child Geeks, but well within their reach. There is a slight learning curve when it comes to combat and movement. While they were not as efficient as older game players, all the Child Geeks were able to sail their ships and engage their enemies. It should be noted that all of the Child Geeks we played Sails of Glory with had prior experience with miniature games. When all the ships returned to port, the Child Geeks only had two complaints. The first was that they really didn’t like playing with the provided paper ships. They all wanted the ship miniatures, as in “right now”. Second, they greatly disliked playing on just a simple table top and wanted to use a blue table cloth with islands. Despite these two complaints, they all agreed to give the game their enthusiastic approval.

My 5-year-old explains how is he going to attack to his older brother

My 5-year-old explains his attack strategy to his older brother

Parent Geeks who were non-gamers showed zero interest in Sails of Glory. No big surprise there. I was also not surprised when the Parent Geeks who disliked miniature games said “no thanks” to Sails of Glory, too. If you don’t like miniature games, Sails of Glory will bring little to the table to change your mind, unless you are naval history buff. The Parent Geeks that remained were very much  pleased with the game. Doubly so when the Parent Geeks were able to play the same miniature game with their Child Geeks. Surprisingly, the Parent Geeks didn’t think the game needed anything more, rule wise. For the casual gamer, the Basic rules worked great and were enough to provide a strategic and tactical scenario driven naval warfare miniature game that didn’t require charts, tables, or complex record keeping. Everything was done on the cards and tracked by markers. This really impressed and pleased the Parent Geeks because it made the game easy to play and very easy to enjoy. The Parent Geeks happily gave Sails of Glory their approval and looked forward to playing with the “real ships”.

The Gamer Geeks refused to say if Sails of Glory was a good game or a bad game. One Gamer Geek said it best when he stated, “How can you expect me to endorse a game I haven’t fully played? I feel like all I was given was a demo of the game. If this was all there was to it, sure, I’d approve it, but I know there’s more and I want to see it all before I say if it’s good or not”. End quote and a perfect summary of what all the Gamer Geeks and I felt. We all enjoyed our game play experience, but we couldn’t say we enjoyed the full game. As such, the Gamer Geeks all voted to refrain from providing their level of endorsement (which is a first for us) until such time they were able to play the game using the Standard, Advanced, and Optional rules. Not to mention playing with the wonderful looking ship miniatures.

While the Gamer Geeks wanted more out of the game, the Basic rules are perfect for Child Geeks and family play. Casual players will be able to sit down with the Basic game rules and have a great time. The scenarios make initial set up easy and the game play is fairly intuitive. The Basic game is a great introduction to miniature wargames and the Sails of Glory game system. Using just the Basic game rules, players have access to countless hours of fun reenacting historical naval battles and creating their own.

Despite my very positive gaming experience with Sails of Glory, I don’t feel comfortably giving it any sort of rating to suggest its overall value. Why? Because all I’ve been given and have played is the most basic version of the game. It’s like listening to a single song and then being asked to rate the music album it came from. You can’t because the value of the whole cannot be determined by a small portion of it. And the Basic game is very small when compared to all that is offered. So much of this game is based on the visual appeal of the miniatures that I do not have and there is an entirely different depth to the game I could not explore because of lack of rules.

Do I understand the game? You bet. Did I enjoy every moment of play? Without a doubt. So it must be a great game, right?

Too early to tell, but my gut tells me “yes”.

The Basic game is solid and entertaining. No complaints and I left each playing session pleased, but never satisfied. As a Gamer Geek, I wanted much more. The Basic game is just too basic for me, but it was perfect for the casual players and for my little geeks. Until I have an opportunity to fully explore all that Sails of Glory has to offer, all I can say is that this game has tremendous promise and I like what I see on the horizon. If the game is even half as good as it will reportedly be, then Sails of Glory will truly be a glory to behold!

This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.

About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children and wife the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....
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