The primary reason for involving Mark was that he was supplying all the ships for the game. I think he started scratch-building the ships in mid-2010 and finished them up earlier this year. The 1/600 scale models are the ships available in 1812 and 1813 on Lake Ontario, which will covers the main battles on that lake during the War of 1812. Mark did a great job with these ships. The ships look really great and are very sturdy (the masts are brass tubing). For rules, I was introducing my own heavily modified version of the Prevailing Winds rules from Thoroughbred Miniatures. While I liked the gunnery in the original rules, I didn't like everything about the movement rules or very much of the boarding rules. So, I changed the things I didn't like and added some new stuff to come up with the rules.
The game was taking up a slot in the "Truants" gaming schedule (this is the group educators and other absconders that Kevin and Mark started to play games on Fridays during the summer, Kevin posts more about their games on his blog). I wasn't really sure how many people were going to show up for the game, so I had plans for a small scenario, with about 10 ships, and a large one with 16 ships (the Battle Off Burlington AKA the Burlington Races). We had 9 people show up for the game and because of all the players, everyone thought the bigger battle was the way to go, so we started setting up for that. Admittedly I had a few misgivings about going with the larger battle, since I didn't think that many of the players had experience with Age of Sail games, but I went ahead with what the crowd wanted (which may have been a mistake, but more about my mistakes later). After quickly going through the rules, we were ready to start the battle.
|The front portion of the British line. (L to R: Earl of Moira, Royal George, and Wolfe)|
|British center (L to R: Lord Melville and Earl of Moira)|
|The front of the American line (Gov. Tompkins in the foreground, with General Pike towing Asp)|
|The American fleet ready for battle|
|General Pike opens fire!|
|The action drawing to a close|
Overall, Mark's ships were a hit, the rules worked okay, and most people seemed to have a good time with the game. There are some items I need to revise/change in the rules, along with some minor corrections and cleaning up. Some of the major items are: I need to change how the order of movement is determined, make the turning rules clearer, clean up the crew rules, and tone down some of the critical hits. I also need to look at making the ship records a little easier to read. We didn't get a chance to try out the boarding rules, so I'm not sure if they work. But boarding was really meant for smaller actions (gunboats vs. gunboats and other small ships).
I did make several mistakes setting up and running this game. The first was going with the larger scenario. I think the smaller one would have been better since none of the players were familiar with the rules and some weren't familiar with Age of Sail games. The second was not going over the rules better with the players to make sure they understood how to move their ships (there seemed to be a lot of issues with turning and tacking in the game), how crew manning worked, and the various advantages/disadvantages of their ships. My other mistake was getting into a couple small tiffs with some players about the rules. This put me in a somewhat negative mood during and after the game, making the whole experience less enjoyable for me and probably the for the other players too.
The positives are that it seems like there are only small changes needed for the rules and the gunnery worked pretty well. Now I just need to get to work finishing my ships, so that I don't have to borrow Mark's!