Sunday, August 22, 2010

A break for something a little different

In addition to naval gaming, I also enjoy a good bit of air gaming. So it is always exciting when I get a chance to see warbirds and modern aircraft up close. I had a chance to do that this weekend.

On Saturday I attended the Tolling of the Boats memorial ceremony for my local group of submarine veterans (you can see some more about that on the submarine veterans blog link to the right). After the ceremony I took a trip down to Boeing Field (where the Museum of Flight is located) to take a look at one of the newest fighters in the US Air Force, an F-22 Raptor.

While it was behind a chain-link fence, it was close enough that I could get a good look and a few pictures.
Here is a shot of the nose of the F-22, with the F-15 that accompanied it into town.
Here is a nice side-view of the fighter.
The rear-quarter view, with a little more of the F-15 in the background.

And a little more of the tail end, with a portion of the chain-link fence.

I am really lucky to live in a place where one week I can be looking at Navy ships in the bay, while watching the Blue Angels, and then a couple weeks later getting a glimpse at one of the most advanced fighters in the world.

Now back to your regularly scheduled naval gazing.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Looking at Rules: Limeys and Slimeys

In the final installment of my rule overviews, I'll look at the Limeys and Slimeys rules. (I wanted to include a photo of the rules cover, like I did with the other overviews, but there really isn't a cover. So, enjoy this picture I found while searching for sailing ships on the Internet.)

Limeys and Slimeys
Limeys and Slimeys is an older set (copyright 1990) of quick-play naval rules. I think they were originally included with ships from the miniatures line of the same name. You can still get the rules, crews, and some ships from GFI Minifigs in the US (look under the 15mm Renaissance heading for the figures and rules). The rules are about four pages in length and there is a two-sided quick reference sheet. The rules do have some suggested values for hull, rigging, and crew sizes. In addition to the play area, miniatures, measuring devices, you will need a number of six-sided dice, and a way to record hull and rigging damage. Unlike the other rule sets I've been looking at, the small crew sizes in Limeys and Slimeys let you use 1 figure for each crewman (the largest ship they suggest is a 14 gun ship with 24 sailors and 4 officers, to which you could add in 8 Marines with a Marine officer).

The turn sequence is pretty easy: Roll to see who moves first, First player moves, shoots, and resolves boarding, and then the next player moves, shoots, and resolves boarding.

Movement is done in two legs at a rate of 3 or 6 inches per leg (depending on how you are facing with the wind). Turning is done in increments of 45 degrees after a movement leg and there is a rule for tacking through the wind (with the chance of getting hung in irons). One interesting twist is that you can actually gain speed after your turn if you put the wind at your back.

Gunnery can happen any time during the moving player's turn (no opportunity fire here). Guns are basically classed a long guns or carronades. Long guns shoot out to 24 inches and do one point damage for each hit. Carronades can only fire to Short range (6 inches), but do double damage when they hit. There are three basic range bands: long (24 inches), short (6 inches) and Point Blank (3 inches). When a player is ready to fire, they roll one die for each gun firing, check for hits, and then roll damage for each hit. When a ship loses all of its Hull boxes, it sinks. I couldn't find a rule for morale checks, but the reference sheet mentions that a ship must make a morale check (1-3=strike, 4-6= fight on) when all the officers are killed.

Boarding is handled by closing to Point Blank range and trying to grapple with an enemy ship (they get a chance to un-grapple). If the grapple is successful (or the ships were fouled in some other way), you can send any crewmen not involved with the grappling to the boarding party. Both sides add up their figures, with Marines and officers adding two points and regular sailors adding one. Then a die is rolled, the number is multiplied by the total for the crew, and then divided by ten. The side with the lower score loses that value in crew, Marines, and Officers. The loser is pushed back one 'deck' with ships usually having two decks. If a crew loses the last deck, the ship is captured. If the attacker loses any round they are pushed back to their own ship.

Limeys and Slimeys also includes rules for anchoring, repairs, and small boats.

Overall it packs a lot of information into the four pages of rules and it looks like it would play nicely. If you want a quick play set of rules, these look like a good way to go. Here is a short list of the pros and cons I saw with the rules.

Pros: fast playing without much bookkeeping and the rules enough period flavor to work. Probably a good set of rules for convention games.

Cons: Not much differences between guns and it seems like ships may be sunk pretty easily, but that is just my impression without playing.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Looking at Rules: Away, Boaders!

In this post I'll be looking at the Away, Boarders! rules.

Away, Boarders!
Away, Boarders! is a free set of rules from the War Artisan website. The rules cover naval warfare on the Great Lakes during the 18th and early 19th Century. The rules don't really give a scale, but are meant to be used with the 1/300 scale paper ships, although the author does say they can be used with any scale. The rules are about 13 pages long (including instructions for creating your play area) and the zipped download file comes with the rules, markers, and tables. There is a separate zipped file for the ship displays for the Battle of Lake Champlain in 1776 (probably better called the Battle of Valcour Island so it isn't confused with the battle during the War of 1812). In addition to the play area, miniatures, and ship displays, you will need a number of six-sided dice (the rules recommend a half-dozen).

The rules start out by explaining how you set up the field of play by putting points (dots) on the play area in a basic hexagonal pattern. The distance between the points is based on the size of the largest ship model in your game. The rules then explain the layout of the ship displays and how to use the markers with displays.

The sequence of play is: Crew Assignment Segment, Action Segment with three Action Phases, and Crew Task Segment.

During Crew Assignment players move their crew markers to different sections of the ship display to show the actions they are taking (working with sails, loading guns, repairing damage, etc.). Then each ship determines its current speed, based on the ship rating, sail setting, and facing compared to the wind. Movement and gunnery are done in the three Action Phases. The Action Phases are basically movement impulses with ships taking zero, one, or two movement actions depending on how fast they are moving.

After moving, any ship can fire its guns and all damage is recorded simultaneously. Ships can choose to aim high or low with damage based on the number and size of the guns, the range to targets, and gun load (standard shot, double shot, grape shot, or chain shot). Guns in range will basically always hit, with the number of hits (damage) being varied by a die roll. After determining the number of hits, you roll to see hit location. When a ship loses all of its Hull boxes, it sinks. I didn't see any morale rules in Away, Boarders!

Boarding happens after movement when ships grapple or are fouled. If boarding occurs, only the crew members assigned to board/repel boarders count during the fight. Boarding is resolved by adding up the number of crew assigned (officers count double and the rules don't cover marines) and rolling a die. The side with the high total wins and the losing side places one crew marker in the casualty box. If the boarding party outnumbers the remaining crew by 3 to 1, the ship surrenders.

One interesting aspects to these rules is that when the crew takes hits they are placed aside as crew casualties and instead of being eliminated they can be returned to action by the ship's captain rallying them. This rule and the crew assignments gives Away, Boarders! a different feel than most rules where you don't really care about what is happening with your crew. I sort of like this aspect of the game, since ordering your crew actions seems like it should be more important with the smaller scale actions.

Overall the game seems like it will be pretty easy to play. There are a some aspects to the gun damage that I not too sure about (the shot weight is a modifier for damage, but the modifier can't exceed the number of guns firing. So a single 32 pound gun would do the same amount of damage as a single 6 pound gun, which seems odd). But there are aspects of the rules I like and I'm looking forward to giving them a try. Here is a short list of the pros and cons I saw with the rules.

Pros: ship displays and markers, crew assignments and handling, guns are differentiated by size/weight and boarding actions are quick and easy.

Cons: uses point-to-point movement instead of free-movement, no rules for changes in wind direction/speed, and no information on how to come up with ship displays for ships not included in the Lake Champlain file.

Next up Limeys and Slimeys

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Looking at Rules, Prevailing Winds

I've been looking through several rule sets for my 15mm Age of Sail miniatures and I'm currently focusing on three sets; Prevailing Winds, Away, Boarders!, and Limeys and Slimeys. I'll do a quick overview for each set of the rules

One note about these overviews, they are based on the just reading through the rules and some solo walkthroughs of the rules. I haven't contacted any of the authors with questions and haven't tried a real game.

Prevailing Winds
First off I'll cover the Prevailing Winds rules from Thoroughbred Figures. This set of rules looks to be specifically made for Thoroughbred's 15mm Sea Eagle line, but the rules say they can be used with 1/600 scale ships by halving the distances (range and movement). The rules are about 10 pages long (there are more pages in the booklet, but the rules are really only about 10 pages) and include 3 cardstock reference cards, 1 addendum sheet, and 16 prefilled ship logs for the Burlington Races battle on Lake Ontario during the War of 1812. In addition to the play area, miniatures, measuring devices, and ship logs, you will need a number of 20 sided dice (these are used for most die rolls in the game), a couple 4 sided dice (for resolving boarding actions) and a deck of cards.

The turn sequence is: Check weather (both direction and strength), Receive new cards (each ship has two or three cards), Captain's Conference (Captains get 5 minutes to plan for the turn), Fight Fires and take fire damage, Allocate crew actions, Place and reveal cards (high card moves/attacks first), Movement/Gunnery, Repair Damage, and Check Morale.

The deck of cards is used to determine the movement/gunnery order for the turn. Each ship gets a hand of two or three cards at the start of the game and players select a card from their hand for movement/gunnery with the high card going first. Ships move in two legs during the turn, with the distance moved in each leg determined by base speed for the ship, sail setting (it can be full, battle, or furled), facing to the wind, and wind speed. Movement scale is 1 knot = 2 inches of movement. Turn are done in increments of up to 45 degrees with square-rigged ships getting one turn per leg and fore-aft rigged ships getting two per leg. There is a minimum distance ships must move between turns and turns cost 1/4 ship speed to complete. Ships turning through the wind (tacking) have to check to see if they are able to complete the turn or if they get hung in irons. Movement seems pretty easy, but there is some calculations required to determine your initial speed.

Gunnery can happen anytime during movement and ships that aren't moving and haven't fired are able to shoot at moving ships. Gun ranges and hit chances are broken up into Long, Effective, Short, and Point Blank categories with different size/type of guns having different ranges. For example a 24 pound long gun has a long range of 96 inches, while a 24 pound carronade has a long range of 30 inches, and a musket has a long range of 8 inches. Gunnery execution is pretty simple, you measure the range, roll one twenty-sided die for each gun firing, add in any modifiers, and comparing that to the range. If a cannon hits, the amount of damage done depends on the hit location for the gun load (shot, double-shot, bar/chain, grape, or canister) and size of the gun. Damage is marked off on the ship log and you check for critical damage each time the ship loses 1/4 of its hull or rigging. The crew checks morale each time the ship loses 1/4 of the crew or if all the officers killed. If the crew fails the check, the ship strikes.

Boarding can also happen during movement, if the moving ship can get into grappling range (4"), successfully grapples, and the defender does not un-grapple. If boarding occurs, each side allocates crew to the action, adds up the numbers for the allocated crew (Marines, officers, and attacking Barbary corsairs are worth double normal sailors), rolls a d4 modifies the roll and multiplies the modified die roll with the crew numbers to come up with a total. The totals for each side are compared and the loser marks off crew equal to the difference. Additionally the loser is pushed back one 'deck' with ships having a different number of decks based on their size. If a crew loses the last deck, the ship is captured (attacker are repulsed back to their own ship). As you can see, boarding might get a little complicated.

That about covers the basics of the rules. Prevailing Winds also has rules for rowed ships, ships boats, and a few other things.

Overall Prevailing Winds seems like it covers all the important aspects of naval warfare in the late 1700s - early 1800s. The rules seem to fit in with my needs for fighting out small ship (frigate and smaller) actions, while showing the differences between various ships and guns. I'm looking forward to trying them out. Here is a short list of the pros and cons I saw with the rules.

Pros: Differentiates between the sizes and types of guns, crews have a function in the game, and differently rigged ships have different sailing characteristics.

Cons: Might be too bookkeeping heavy for some gamers, no information on how to come up with ship logs for ships not included in the rules, and some of the errata/addendum information is a little confusing.

Next up the Away, Boarders! rules.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Analysis Paralysis

Other, non-miniatures, projects have been taking up a lot of my time lately. But, I have been able to do a little work on my Sea Eagles kits - putting them together and figuring out how I'm going to attach the masts. The kits are going together smoothly and are just about ready for priming.

I also decided to go ahead and order some more items from Thoroughbred (well, I talked my wife into letting me order the kits). I ordered the one-gun schooner, Mediterranean Felucca, a couple packs of Tripoli Pirates, and a copy of the Prevailing Winds rules. I do want to commend Toby Barrett at Thoroughbred for his good communications and for getting my order out very quickly. I'll be posting some pictures and reviews of these over the next few weeks, along with updates on the kits I'm currently building.

I actually meant to post this information earlier, but I recently found out that Blogger is testing out a new feature that tracks stats for your blog, such as the number of page views, where viewers are coming from, and some general audience information (like which countries the viewers are from). I am sort of stats guys and love looking at numbers to see if I can figure out some pattern or fun facts, and the Blogger stats pages have sucked up the time that I was going to use to post new information (I know that sounds pretty pathetic, but I think it is fun to see where the people that are looking at the blog are from). I thought it was interesting that I got a hit from Google Uganda (I just wonder what they were looking for) and I've gotten several hits from people looking for information on North Korean torpedo boats. The picture below is a quick view of the Page Views by Country over the past few weeks.

I will try to curb my stat searching (although I'll bet there are a few of you out there that share my fascination with statistics) and get some real posts up.