A Life On The Ocean Wave – Sails of Glory (P)review


There seems to be a bit of a rise in the number of tabletop skirmish titles available in recent years. Whether you prefer the science fiction flavours of Star Wars X-Wing or putting together little squads of orcs and dwarves in Dungeon Command, the amount of pre-painted figures and vessels hitting tabletops around the world has been on the up. One of the longest running is Ares Games’ Wings of Glory (previously known as Wings of War) which we’ve already looked at here on The Little Metal Dog Show… and now they’re taking the system back through time and onto the ocean blue with their new title, Sails of Glory.

(A caveat before we launch into the meat of the piece; this is all based around the prototype that Ares were kind enough to send on over to me, and it’s only looking at the basic rule set. The game is on Kickstarter until April 16th, so if you want to get involved, get in quick.)

If you have any experience of games like X-Wing or either of the Wings releases, you’ll already have a headstart on the mechanisms that drive Sails of Glory. Set in heyday of naval warfare, you’ll control some of the finest Napoleonic-era vessels that history has to offer… and all you need to do is wipe out the enemy. Between two and four players can take to sea, and with various scenarios available in both team-based and last-sailor-standing modes, there’s plenty of replayability even in the base set.

So, how does the game work? Well, you’ll choose your ship and corresponding mat and cards that give you all the details you need to know about your fine craft. A stack of Maneuver Cards are the next things you grab, matching the letter shown on your ship card. After separating the bucketful of tokens and damage counters and determining the play area, you’re good to go.

Turns comprise of four phases and players will do each one simultaneously before progressing to the next.

First, it’s Planning. This is all about making your decision on where you’re going to head towards. Unlike something along the lines of X-Wing, it’s not just a matter of saying “Oh, that’s where I’m going”. In Sails of Glory, you must consider the wind direction too. Ships’ bases are segmented into different colour sections and, depending on where they’re facing and which one the wind is hitting, your chosen Maneuver Cards could give you a very different selection of movement options. Once everybody has selected one, it’s time for Movement.

Cards are flipped at the same time and ships are moved along the line corresponding to its ‘attitude’ to the wind. Simply slide along the line and remove the card, putting it back in your deck. Of course, if you’re working with small playing area, there’s a lot of opportunity for collision – you’re not speeding around in three-dimensional space – and in this case the larger ship takes precedence with the smaller coming to a stop when their bases touch.

Oh man, it's so pretty!

Oh man, it’s so pretty!

Next up, combat – everyone gets to Fire! If you’reable to reach an enemy ship (decided by using the included range ruler) you can either shoot with artillery or muskets. Firing arcs are marked on your ship’s base, the best of which are your broadsides. Shooting from the front or rear means a less powerful attack but hey, any offense is a good idea in Sails of Glory. You’ll also have to consider line of sight – no firing through your own vessels, of course – and should you hit, you’ll do some well deserved damage either on the enemy ship, crew or (hopefully) both. Should enough be added to the ship’s mat, it’ll surrender and will be removed from the game.

Finally, Reloading only happens if you fired artillery on the previous turn. Muskets are always available (though are much weaker) but the decision to use your heftier firepower should not be taken lightly… Once all four steps are complete, you’ve either won the game or go back to Planning.

And really, that’s about it. Having had a few plays with the prototype there’s little more that can be said than it’s a very solid ruleset. That’s far from surprising considering the amount of time that Ares Games have had to refine and improve them since the first days of Wings of War, but I’m still pleased to see that the game has been able to transition into a whole new world. As I’ve had previous experience of other games using a similar engine I found Sails of Glory a joy to pick up and play, but any gamer will pick it up in no time. I’m intrigued to see how the rules will be expanded when the final product is released.

Will it appeal to everyone? Well, with the Kickstarter campaign currently at over seven times their funding target and still five days on the clock I’d say that things are looking pretty good. Ares Games have done great when it comes to supporting Wings of Glory so the signs are great for their water-based adventures. I can’t wait to check out the miniatures that they put in the retail pack (as I am a tart for that kind of stuff) but have a lot of faith that they’re going to look great – the game is certainly very entertaining and well worth supporting.

Sails of Glory is an Ares Games project on Kickstarter until  April 16. If you’re interested, a Starter Set pledge will cost you US$80 with copies due to ship to backers by August. Thanks to the guys for letting me check out the prototype!


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