Saturday, February 27, 2016

Product Review: Sails of Glory

(Sails of Glory core rule set)

I've loved playing Age-of-Sail games ever since my brother brought home Wooden Ships & Iron Men, back when we were pre-teens.  While all the boardgames were certainly fun, I yearned to play similar table top battles with miniatures.  GHQ has had a line of 1/1200 scale Napoleonic Micronauts available for years.

However, I never invested in them because painting such figures was--and still is--a daunting task for me.  Fortunately, Ares Games alleviated the painting chore for me with their Sails of Glory game.

Of course, I didn't just buy the core rule set, which consists of two French and two British warships (a ship-of-the-line and a frigate each). 

Thanks to The Miniature Market I was able to afford over a dozen ship packs, and accessories, not to mention qualifying for free shipping over the course of two or three orders.

The supplemental packs feature ships from America, Britain, France and Spain.  In addition to the ship miniature, each pack contains a segmented cardstock ship log (for tracking the ship's status during battle), a ship card (with firing diagram and ship name), and a small pack of maneuver cards.

Here's my Sails of Glory order of battle (links are to the products available from The Miniature Market, which gives a short bio of each ship):

1. The 13 Colonies/America--

(American ships)
--Thorn/USS Atlanta
--USS Constitution

2. Great Britain--

(Ships of the Royal Navy)
--HMS Sybille/Amelia
--HMS Swan/Fairy
--HMS Cleopatra/Iphigenia
--HMS Orpheus/Amphion
--HMS Concorde/Unite

3. France--

(French Ships)
--Alligator/Le Fortune

4. Spain--

(Spanish ships)

Board Game Geek has a complete list of ships and accessories.

Speaking of Accessories, I picked out the following--

(Some of the game accessories available)
--Additional Counters
--Coastal Batteries Terrain Pack
--Coast and Shoals Terrain Pack (two of these, actually)
--Damage Counter Bag

The pre-painted, wargame-quality ship figures are made of plastic and are mounted on thick plastic bases, which measure about 2" x 3" x 1/2".  Each base contains a clear cover to hold the ship card in place.

Most models are dual-named with some possible adjustments to their game statistics.  For example, this British frigate can put to sea as HMS Orpheus...

...HMS Amphion.  Or both can put to sea, if you buy two identical ship packs.

I haven't played the game yet, but the size of the miniatures and other components in Sails of Glory strikes me as being best suited for single-ship battles, or actions between small squadrons. 

Now this doesn't mean fleet actions aren't possible.  Last year, in the waning hours of our regional Enfilade convention, several gamers were playing out what I think was the Glorious First of June on an extra-long table.

I'm happy that I've finally obtained some Age of Sail miniatures.  I haven't acquired every ship in the Sails of Glory line--yet.  Right now I'm focusing on frigates and sloops of war (often called corvettes by the French and Spanish).  I only have one, or two ships of the line from each nation, except America, although the USS Constitution (Wikipedia link) comes pretty darn close.

About the only issue I have at this time with Sails of Glory is an aesthetic one.  The bases used to mount the ships are thick and sturdy.  Ship miniatures are held in place by a peg found on the underside of the ship's hull.

While the ship bases are highly functional, they don't blend-in well with the surrounding seascape.

So I came up with a cunning plan.  I bought two extra frigates, HMS Orpheus and the Prosperine, at The Game Matrix.  When I brought them home, I snipped off the tabs and then took some staged photos.

Here's one of HMS Orpheus:

I love how the ship looks, especially when place on the Ocean F.A.T. Mat that I bought several months ago.  I look forward to playing Sails of Glory and using any waterline versions of ships in my after action reviews.
A few words of caution are in order when making "waterline" versions of these ships:
First and foremost, BE CAREFUL when handling the ships.  The hard plastic makes them rather fragile.  When snipping off the tab of HMS Orpheus, I broke off part of the bowsprit.  Fortunately, it broke in a spot that was easy for me to jury rig it back together with a dab of super glue.
Second, the ships are very light, and without the base they easily tip over.  This is okay if you're thinking "cinematically" like I do and are taking staged photos.  But if you plan on using waterline versions in a wargame you may want to find some thin miniatures bases, or some other thin strips of metal, and superglue them to the undersides of each ship.  If the metal strips are wider than the ship's hull, it may help to paint them in appropriate ocean colors.
Finally, the undersides of a ship's hull may not be completely flat.  In this case, sanding the underside or scraping it with an exacto knife may be necessary to keep a ship from listing.

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