Category Archives: Sails of Glory

Clear for Action

He closed his telescope with a snap. “Very well Mr Oaks, beat to quarters and clear for action.” Within ten minutes of the drum’s urgent tattoo HMS Zealous was cleared for action. Sand had been spread across the decks and water stood ready by every gun. She was ready…

Friday evening Jon and I caught up for an overdue game using Sails of Glory. After some discussion we decided to use the advanced rules. These mainly focus on the use of crew actions and special damage. In my view they add some additional challenge to the game where crew casualties create limitations on ship options. However the additional complexity slows the game and with even two ships per side, which we used, combined with a late start there was a real risk of running out of time. Indeed, that is exactly what happened.

All four ships were new or had not previously been used, in due course they were unwrapped from their packets and deployed. Jon provided the French fleet which comprised the Imperial, a 118 gun 1st Rate and Genereux a 74 gun 3rd Rate. I provided the English fleet which comprised HMS Victory, a 100 gun 1st Rate, as well as HMS Zealous, a 74 gun 3rd Rate. In Sails of Glory a ships broadside is divided into a front, central and rear, each comprising all or most of the guns of the broadside. Interestingly the full broadside of the Genereux, is not that much different from that of the Victory. I was surprised by this and as a result a little nervous from the start. The English fleet was outgunned.

The two fleets converged with the wind blowing from the west. The French held a southwesterly course with Imperial leading followed by the Genereux, as shown above. The English meanwhile, held northwesterly course with HMS Zealous leading followed by HMS Victory. It soon became apparent that the French were gaining a slight advantage by holding a more westerly position. With the French potentially crossing our bow the English ships started to swing to a northerly course. The aim was for HMS Zealous to pass around behind the stern of the French ships while Victory held off and drew the French ships on a more southerly course. 

Unfortunately as HMS Zealous hauled around she came into extreme range of both French ships. As such she was forced to exchange fire. Below HMS Zealous in the centre engage the French. HMS Victory is in the front left. Imperial is in the distance followed by Genereux.

HMS Zealous poured broadside into Imperial causing fires and leaks. With no crew allocated to counter fires initially these raged causing considerable damage to Imperial. Alas, in this initial exchange HMS Zealous lost two masts and a leak. With little option her captain ordered her on a northeasterly course placing distance between her the French while her crew worked on emergency repairs. Eventually leaks were repaired and one mast repaired providing a degree of control.

HMS Victory remained well out of range and while the crew of Imperial were distracted with their repairs Victory moved to a northwesterly course and a position to put her behind the French vessels. However as the ships manoeuvred the wind shifted. While originally blowing from the west it moved to coming first from the northwest and later from the north. By the time the crew of the Imperial had extinguished the raging fires and repaired leaks she and Genereux held a generally eastern course. In contrast HMS Victory was holding a southerly course and soon would press the aft quarter of Genereux. Eventually, as the ships manouvred and the range closed they excanged fire. 

Above, HMS Victory in the distance holds a position upwind of the French vessels in the foreground, from here she would pursue the French. Below, HMS Victory at full sail closing on the French.

Meanwhile HMS Zealous, having completed basic repairs, held a generally westerly course and was closing on the French with the advantage of wind.

As light faded the ships engaged for one final exchange, with French struggling against the wind. Imperial managed to fire a number of her guns at HMS Zealous though with little impact. She was now taken aback and fell out. As she did HMS Zealous emptied a full broadside bow raking Genereux causing terrible damage. This should have been supported by a stern rack by HMS Victory. Unfortunately she had come around too much and Genereux escaped a second broadside.

Above, HMS Victory on the left, Genereux in the centre heading into the wind with HMS Zealous in the distance as she delivers a broadside. On the right is the Imperial, with the bow visible, she has been taken aback.

This was an excellent little encounter and my second in two weeks. In this engagement the shifting wind provided some real challenges while the special damages, especially fires and the loss of masts caused some anxiety to both commanders. Fortunately both Imperial and HMS Zealous were not engaged while the crews returned the ships to a reasonable fighting state. Without this time the vessels would likely have taken crippling damage. 

Constitutional Encounters

Yesterday we thought it time for a small Sails of Glory encounter. Given Alistair had recently purchased a model of the USS Constitution it seemed fitting to try an encounter between the Constitution and two British frigates, commanded by Jon and myself.

  

The Constitution, rated as a 44 gun heavy frigate, often carried over 50 guns. As such she greatly outgunned the individual ships making up British squadron opposing her. The squadron comprised HMS Amelia, a 38 gun frigate, and HMS Meleager a 32 gun frigate. The small British squadron, travelling in line abreast, held a northeasterly course approached the Constitution who was to  starboard, and who held a northwesterly course. The wind blew generally from the south. 

HMS Amelia, commanded by myself, was first to break position swinging hard to starboard in an effort to position herself behind the American and potentially upwind. Moments later Captain Isaac Hull (Alastair), commanding the Constitution, ordered a move to port which resulted in the Constitution moving to a position between both British frigates but down wind of the Amelia.

HMS Amelia and the Constitution now engaged in a series of broadsides and while the initial exchanges were in the Constitution’s favour HMS Amelia inflicted some damage. The captain of HMS Meleager (Jon) had unfortunately miscalculated and while unleashing one broadside HMS Meleager soon found herself out of range and down wind, effectively isolating her from the battle for some time.

HMS Amelia and Constitution continued to manoeuvre for position with each trying to gain the advantage. The Constitution having the wind moved north, while the Amelia who was following the Constitution, moved across the wind in a southwesterly direction. Unfortunately for the Amelia, the Constitution managed to gain some advantage in these manoeuvres and unleashed a broadside which bow raked the Amelia at long range. 

  

Above, the view from the Constitution with Amelia about to be bow raked. In the far left HMS Meleager can be seen, well out of the engagement. In Sails of Glory terms seven damage counters were drawn, of these six inflicting heavy damage on HMS Amelia.

While HMS Amelia responded in the ensuing minutes her broadside was now so limited the damage on the Constitution was of little consequence. HMS Amelia broke off the action and limped out of range.

Captain Hull now bought the Constitution around and focussed his efforts on the HMS Meleager who remained down wind. The resulting action was, as expected, an uneven affair. Meleager while trading broadsides with the Constitution, was unable to inflict significant damage. Below, USS Constitution exchanges broadsides with HMS Meleager, including one full broadside at close range, again with devastating effect.

  

If the withering broadsides were not enough, being down wind HMS Meleager was unable to manoeuvre effectively. With damage mounting her captain also ordered the Meleager to break-off.

An interesting and enjoyable game, but one that the British ships were clearly both outmanoeuvred and outgunned. Plans to combine the fire of the British squadron quickly evaporated as the vessels manoeuvred for advantage. Individually the lighter British frigates stood little chance against the heavier vessel who manoeuvred well throughout the encounter. 

Naval Action in the Mediterranean

This few weeks has been full of gaming with a particularly focus on Ancients with events such as the Pokeno Invitational and Warclouds as well as several week night DBA or BBDBA games. However, last Friday Jon and I caught up for a game of “Sails of Glory”.

We settled on a scenario pitting two French frigates, Courageuse and Le Succes, against two English frigates, HMS Concorde and HMS Terpsichore. As has been the practice of late we opted to use the advanced rules.

The action began with the French advancing from the east while the English closed from the west. With the wing blowing from the north, each fleet attempted to gain the advantage of an upwind position. While the French deployed battle sail the English set full sail and slowly started to secure an upwind advantage. However, with the English focussed on gaining the best position the small French fleet turned to port and Courageuse opened fire on HMS Concorde.

Aware of a risk of shifting wind change the French fleet now continued to swing to port, while the English held course. The result being both English ships were able to stern rake the Courageuse. To compound matters further the port turn of the Courageuse was too tight and Le Succes collided with her. The result of both enemy fire and collision meant significant problems for the Courageuse. Indeed with fires, leaks and one mast suffering damage she was in a bad state. Crew losses now meant manning guns was impossible and instead her captain focussed on emergency repairs and survival.

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Above, the French are shown in the foreground with Courageuse on the left and Le Succes on the right. As the French ships continued to port the English ships swung to starboard in an attempt to position port guns for firing. However, the French were on the move and placed distance between themselves and the English frigates.

As the afternoon progressed the two fleets manoeuvred back and forth each trying to gain some advantage with a series of long range shots all of limited effect. The Captain of HMS Concorde was particular focussed on positioning himself to deliver further broadsides on Courageuse.

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Above, HMS Concorde (centre), prepares to engage Courageuse (right), while Le Succes (left foreground) prepares to deliver a broadside herself. However, with damage on both French ships limiting the effect of her cannons, even in such favourable positions, the French commander determined on escape. As dusk closed in the French ships damaged, but still seaworthy, broke off the action and made good their escape.

Another excellent game using “Sails of Glory”.

Sails of Glory

During July Alastair introduced us to “Sails of Glory” a game from the stable of “Wings of Glory” which recreates naval battles in the Napoleonic period. I rather enjoy Wings of Glory, especially as a low stress multiplayer game at the end of the week, yet I must admit I suspected that Sails of Glory would have limited appeal, being limited to a two dimensional game. As it turned out I was wrong.

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In our first game we deployed a couple of frigates and took to the high seas. The manoeuvre system took a little getting used to but we soon started to get our heads around manoeuvring and the impact of wind on these manoeuvres. The system uses card movement, as with Wings of Glory, with the speed of ship movement is modified by the relationship of the ship to the wind and the sail settings. Advanced rules modify the movement further due to damage to the masts.

The combat system is particularly well designed. Fire is conducted at different ranges, much like Wings of War, however different cannon loads modify which damage deck is used. These include normal shot, double shot, chain shot and grape. The type of ammunition must be defined when loaded well prior to firing and different loads target different parts of the vessel more effectively than others. I found I needed to clear my guns after loading the wrong ammunition at one point. At close range musket fire can be used to inflict damage, and if the ships grapple boarding actions can take place.

Anyway after some training in the frigates, which are reasonably nimble, the other evening we deployed some ships of the line. These vessels were far less nimble but their ability to both dish out, as well as receive damage, was impressive.

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Above, the British third rater Vanguard prepares to engage the French frigate Unite and ship of the line Genereux, both visible in the distance.

So what do I think of Sails to Glory? Well, it is a great system which captures the feel of naval warfare in the age of sail. While players are not lost in charts and record keeping the games have considerable depth. While I tend to think Wings of Glory works best with four or more players Sails of Glory produces an outstanding game with just two two players and two ships. I look forward to the next game…