Last night I tried out the Age of Sail rules "It Is Warm Work" which I purchased from Wargame Vault for the tidy sum of $5.95 I'd been on the lookout for a good set of Age of Sail rules for awhile now that hit a "sweet spot" in terms of their ability to play a large battle in a reasonable amount of time, and still deliver on that "Aubrey -Maturin" series or "Hornblower" saga feel that you get from the novels or screen.
My objectives? The rules would need to be simple enough for a land-lubber like me to "learn the ropes", and yet still be satisfying and engaging, and play well solo. So no counting bilge rats in the lower galley, or rolling to see how long it takes Sailor's Mate Corcoran to fix a sail, I want the experience to meet my expectations for a naval game from the Age of Sail, be authentic, engaging, and suitable for fleet actions. I think I've finally found my white whale!
Our action today takes us to the Caribbean, somewhere off Hispaniola in 1805. The French are escorting a Spanish ship holding an "item of the utmost importance" back to Europe, and must slip past numerous Royal Navy patrols. The Royal Navy have strict orders to intercept and destroy the Coronado. Let's get to the action!
|Sails Ahoy! The British lookouts spy 3 masts closing fast!|
|R to L: French Frigate Duquesne, Spanish Ship Coronado, and French Frigate Carillon - all French ships are 38-gunners, and the merchant ship Coronado is armed.|
The objective of the French is to cross the table and exit off the far corner. They must protect the Coronado at all hazards! This mission has the attention of the Emperor himself, so whatever is on that Spanish ship, it must be important! By the way, ships are RISK pieces and at $30 for 60 ships, an outstanding deal.
|The Frigates HMS Ulysses and HMS Serapis, 40 gun frigates, attempt to close with the French and destroy them!|
The first few turns are spent moving. Given their mutual positions on the table, all ships are able to move their maximum distance relative to the wind. IIWW has a handy gauge you can cut out that is placed over the ship model which tells you the movement distance allowed based on the ships position. Our ships in this game are headed towards each other quickly!
Another aspect I like is that you roll for initiative at the beginning of both the movement phase, and the fire phase. So it's not a given who will move first or fire first. I like this aspect and it made for some tense rolls throughout the game.
|Turn 3 all ships are still moving quickly. Note my cool "wind" marker :) I forgot I had a marker set for the Osprey "Age of Sail" game which would have worked great for this engagement.|
|When your sailing positions are favorable, you can move up to your max distance, which for Frigates is 10". Note here the Duquesne pulls away from the group while the Carillon provides cover for the Coronado.|
The Royal Navy Frigates see what is up and maneuver to keep pace with the French who are racing to the northeast!
Once the 2 x sides begin to close into firing range (10" long range, 5" short range) they slow a bit in order to maximize their ability to get a shot in.
|While you roll lower for movement initiative, you must roll higher for firing initiative. The French win the initiative and the French guns open up!|
|Duquesne fires on HMS Ulysses and scores a hit!|
|In the return fire, HMS Serapis hits Carillon but at long range, only "6s" count. British ships are allowed to re-roll a single miss, which I missed, until the second or third turn of shooting, so I didn't use that rule for this game.|
Maneuvering priority now is to get the best shots off on the enemy, and for the French to continue to move the Coronado off the table.
|Ships maneuver into close range - Ulysses and Serapis on the right, and Duquesne, Carillon, and Coronado on the left|
|HMS Ulysses and Duquesne prepare to exchange broadsides!|
|I used the cotton puffs to show who fired.|
|This is going to be ugly! Duquesne prepares to rake Ulysses|
|Duquesne scores a hit against Ulysses on the right, and Carillon scores 2 sixes against Serapis!|
It Is Warm Work uses a system where it tracks hits which reduce your firepower score. 38 Gun Frigates have 3 boxes - a "2" "2" and "1" box. When all boxes are checked you roll to see what happens to your ship. The Royal Navy frigates are slightly upgraded (40 gun) and have 4 damage points "2" "2" "1" "1". Both the Ulysses and Serapis are in trouble with both of their "2" boxes ticked off!
|A confused, swirling fight!|
|The Ulysses turns to get a raking shot against Duquesne while the Serapis (far right) moves to fire a broadside into Duquesne.|
The French have definitely gotten the upper hand in the engagement and the British ships are in big trouble with a box left each, and firing only 1 die. Their movement is reduced to 1/2 movement regardless of position. The Coronado is making good progress towards the table edge as well. While the French ships are damaged, the Royal Navy ships are close to striking!
|A final broadside into Serapis|
|note the white puff in the background as Ulysses fires a raking shot against the Carillon!|