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.
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.