First Game

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Well, when I finally got all the counters, ships, cards arranged on a 4 ft by 4ft table, that left about a 3 ft by 3ft play area. My dining room table was built in 1905 by the Robbins extending table Co of Ososso, Michigan. The reason I include that info is the the table can actually extend up to 12 ft long! As my ships raced before the wind crossed each other's "T", I simply kept adding leaves. I'm not crazy about the rule that says if you leave the area of the board, it's game over. In my first game, I actually had to either bring a ship about until it was taken aback in order to avoid a default loss. Then I got the bright idea to just extend the playing surface. I kept it simple in the beginning, I chose the first scenario but used only the two frigates. The Aquilon and the HMS Vanguard. The Aquilon was upwind of the Vanguard and heading west while the Vanguard was downwind heading east. As the game started it seemed natural to sail each ship towards the other and then turn to port as the ships came within range, the Aquilon running and the Vanguard beating. Aquilon turned quicker and fired a broadside at the far end of the A range in a raking fire as the ships came about. The broadside was devastating, Vanguard taking 8 hits of damage! I shuffled those A counters really well before plucking out two 4's and two crew damage counters! Meanwhile, Vanguard was taken aback, stopped on a dime and veered to port, bringing her guns to bear on the quickly speeding Aquilon. A full broadside with B counters brought 4 damage to the Aquilon. Here is where both ships started running before the wind. Aquilon had farther to turn to bring her Starboard guns to bear and Vanguard tried to cross Aquilon's tee to bring her Starboard guns to action. Aquilon is a much faster ship than Vanguard and was able to catch her in two moves. Another exchange of broadsides left the Vanguard in pretty bad shape, with special rudder damage and a leak in her hull. Vanguard reduced sail in order to let Aquilon get ahead of her and then turned to port to fire a broadside rake into the the aft of the Aquilon, which then turned hard to starboard to come about and bring her guns to bear. The Vanguard crowded on sail and veered slightly to starboard due to rudder damage. Aquilon, now taken aback, tried desperately to come about but was unable to bring her guns to bear and Vanguard raked her aft again at B range with ball. This dismasted the Aquilon., Vanguard sailed off to come downwind about while Aquilon completed her tack and fixed her mast. The ships were now hurting for loss of crew and loss of movement. This slowed the game down considerably. And after one hour and a half into the game (most of that double checking the rulebook), I suspended it. My first and foremost impression is that the damage is unrealistic and fluky (at least in this first game). I then began to wander just what the difference between A counters and B counters was. There are 36 "0" counters in the "A" batch, and only 19 "0" counters in the "B" batch. So, all things being equal at 90 counters each, is should be much harder to hit with A counters than B counters. Except it wasn't for this scenario (In real life, no one fired at long range, it simply was just a loss of ammo. Crews on the British side were pressed into service and flogged if they failed to reload fast enough. The french did away with flogging in the 1790's. This gave the british the advantage over the french at this time. They could reload their cannon twice as fast as the french could, simply because their crews were literally slaves controlled by the lash. I remember reading about an American sailor impressed into the british navy during the war of 1812 who requested to not have to fight against his own country. His request was denied and he was killed in action by his own countrymen. But I digress. Using counters for damage creates a problem. What happens when all the damage tokens are used up and nothing is left but zeros? If a first lucky shot draws two 4 damage counters, there's only one 4 damage counter left, and then, it would be folly to attack long range knowing that only zeros, ones and some twos are left to draw from. Better to get in close and fire away, except the same rules apply for the "B" counters. Every shot you take should have a little better chance of doing damage in this era, but in this game, every shot does worse because the big damage shots are taken out of the game leaving only smaller shots. If the opposite occurs, long range shots only get better. You can play the odds easily when you use one time only counters. A better system is purely mathematical, meaning you could draw the same counters every time you fire a broadside. I'm sure there are guys already dominating this game simply by counting how may "4's" are left in the bag. What finally happened to the Aquilon and Vanguard? I will reveal in my next blog entry.

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  1. 7eat51's Avatar
    I, too, am not a fan of sailing off the mat resulting in a loss. I think, though, that can create a problem, conceptually, when one of the objectives is to sail a ship from one side off the other, e.g. convoys. Conceptual accuracy and game objectives do not need to be completely aligned, IMHO. I am not sure how I will handle such things when running any form of tournament.

    As for damage, we had a lively discussion or two on this. I use laminated ship logs, replacing the chits after recording the damage. I also use multiple sets of chits. The probabilities remain the same, but in any given turn, there are multiples of each present as a possible draw.
  2. Kentop's Avatar
    I think that is an excellent solution. Simply replace the chits after recording the damage. I scanned all the counters in before I burst them, so I will just make duplicates for the sole purpose of recording the damage and return the actual chits to the pile to be drawn again.

    A ship base is three inches long and will travel at least the 1 to 1/2 times that length every movement turn. That means that a ship on average will cover one foot of distance (if sailing in a straight line) in about 4 movement turns. The game mat they sell is only 26" wide by 39". I think that's pretty cramped for most scenarios, especially if it involves giving chase. In reality, square riggers of the napoleonic era probably averaged around 10 miles per hour under full sail and moderate winds. That translates to about 8 or 9 hundred feet per minute. HMS Victory was about 230 feet long, which means in one minute under full sail, it would travel about 4 times it's length. So the scale of travel in SOG isn't very accurate. It might be worth experimenting with longer, more accurate movement cards and using a large space like a floor to simulate real sailing speeds and turns, But I like the "feel" of ship movement in this game as is. I will play around with realistic travel distances after I have played a few dozen games in order to see if it plays better with more realistic travel.
  3. 7eat51's Avatar
    I would enjoy playing a larger scale, or playing surface, game one day. I think with a couple of ships, having such space available could make for interesting tactical choices. I think when playing on the game mats, players mentally adjust to the smaller space without realizing it, never considering other options that being on the open sea could induce. I imagine, though, that such a game would require very patient players.

    At Origins, the use of the laminated ship logs was well received. It made running the games easier; players were able to carry them around the table as desired; set up and tear down was quicker; there weren't concerns about bumping the table or dragging one's shirt across the log when trying to reach the middle of the game surface. I will never go back.
  4. Union Jack's Avatar
    I use Langton 1/1200 ships and rules, at present, on a standard width of 40mm and the longest base being 85mm. At the club we just fought a 14 ship engagement (7 each side) on a 6x4 table. Movement at full sail was an impressive 180mm, down to 90mm at easy sail. We fought a close engagement from 7.30pm ending at 10pm. French down 4 ships to the British 2. We tacked, turned gave broadside and rake and not one ship left the table. Max gunnery range is 700mm, so well in excess of 2 feet.

    With cards for movement I would expect/presume it would be easier. Perhaps I'm wrong ?