Ships ‘n’ Ships

A year or two ago I had my nieces & nephews over (I think it was a birthday party) and at one point the kids all went downstairs to play with my figures.  If you told me ten years ago that I’d let any kids handle my figures, I’d have laughed myself apoplectic, but I guess I’ve mellowed.  The oldest came up with some rules for playing a ships & sea monsters game, and wrote down some notes titled Ships ‘n’ ships, but it was nothing I could quite figure out.

Out of the blue a couple of months ago, my daughter wanted to break out the ships again, and seemed to suddenly have a lot of recall about what the rules were (much more than she remembered the morning after the original game; go figure).  From her memories and my interpolations, we came up with a workable if somewhat simple game that engaged all my Man-o-War ships (well, the less breakable ones, and a bunch of card ships I’d been hoarding) as well as the sea monsters.  The goal of the game was to land on an island with a lighthouse, that was guarded by two vampires; defeat the vampires and you win.  Along the way you might be attacked by sea monsters and sunk and/or capture additional ships.

The original game had most of the players running ships and one player serving as the adversary (” the Merpeople”) who controls the sea monsters, but for two players I suggested we just take turns  moving the sea monsters, so that it played a bit like Zombies!!!

We used a large blue battle mat one of my players brought over for D&D, and that was the board; wargame hills served as the starting island and goal island; the lighthouse is from a decoration; a few small islands were marked with flat cards.


The mouse was not part of the game. I didn’t even realize it was there when I took the picture.

We set up with the two player ships touching the ‘start’ island, and all the ghost ships and sea monsters were off-board until placed.

The turn sequence was:

  1. Move your ship (or 1 of your ships if you have more than one)
  2. Place or move a ghost ship
  3. place or move a sea monster

If your ship comes in contact with a small island, it can beach there and be safe from sea monsters.  If it comes in contact with the lighthouse island, you have to fight the two vampires in succession (one per turn) to win.  If your ship contacts a ghost ship, you claim it for your fleet.  If a sea monster contacts your ship, you have to fight it.  If you contact another player’s ship, you can fight it as well.

Sea monsters and ghost ships may be taken from the ‘reserve’ pile and placed anywhere on the board, but they must be at least 9 squares away from any player’s ship(s).  If there are none left in the reserve piles, you can only move ships or monsters already in play.

All movement is d6 squares, except that the sea monsters that take up more than one square can always move at least their base’s length.

Combat is just a roll-off of d6’s (high roll wins; re-roll ties).  Defeated player ships are returned to the start island or to the stock of ghost ships; defeated monsters go to the sea monster pile; defeated vampires are just removed from play.

A game took 15-20 minutes, and was actually pretty fun in a simplistic way.  Maybe some day we’ll add event cards to spice things up.

For want of other entertainment, I uploaded the above picture to Google Drive and inserted the rules in some text boxes and voila, a one-page minis game.  I’d LOVE to see more games like that which

  • fit on one sheet of paper
  • are suitable for playing with young kids
  • use a picture of a set up game to provide examples/diagrams/explain the rules

I don’t know if there would be enough interest to do this properly but what I’d like to see is a one page game contest or something. Any takers?  Surely you can do a better job than this: Ships’n’ships (link is to pdf file).

Published in: on May 13, 2013 at 10:08 pm  Comments (3)  
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Man o War

This week the DM has some parenting duties so we played an old GW game: Man o War!

It came out in the early 1990s and like many GW games, went out of print after a few years. (It still has a strong cult following, with at least three Yahoo groups, and earlier this year GW released a new game very similar to MOW, called Dreadfleet, which had a slightly bigger scale and a deluxe set of components…but I don’t think it sold too well, priced at $115.  It looks gorgeous but…there will never be any additional models or expansions for it.)

The ship models for MOW were very nice looking but expensive, so I only bought a few ships beyond the basic galleys that came with the rules, but then I made a bunch of home-made models in the same scale because we used the game along for ship to ship fights in a long-running GURPS swashbucklers/fantasy campaign (and also because it was fun to build the ship models and sea monsters!).

This week’s game pitted the Empire against Bretonnia.  The forces were:

Imperials: three Greatships and three squads of War Galleys, three MOW cards (975 points)

Bretonnia: two Galleons, two squads of Buccaneers, one squad of Corsairs,  two Shore forts, and two MOW cards (1000 points)

The Imperials would have three players versus Bretonnia’s two, offsetting the slight points advantage.

In the end, only three players were able to make it, so I scrapped the initial scenario and instead had everyone choose 300 points of ships and we had a free-for-all.  We had to tweak a few things to make it a four-player game, since the rules are really set up for a one on one battle.

Richard & Matt each chose a Great Ship and a squad of Wargalleys; John chose a squad of Corsairs; and I took a Galleon and two squads of Buccaneers.

Back when I first played M-o-W in the 1990s, I thought the Empire ships were a lot better than the Bretonnians, and I’d still affirm that view. 

The ‘one squad or one big ship activation per turn’ gave a slight edge to smaller fleets, because with three units, I found that I could not really keep up with more than one foe; meanwhile John with just one unit could zip pretty quickly despite having the wind against him.  I had the wind at my back in the beginning which did not make my fleet any faster, but really slowed down Matt and John; Richard could sail with the wind abeam most of the time so the wind had little impact on him.

I was kind of expecting my little Buccaneer squads to be fragile, but hoped they would do some damage; in the end they were spread far too thin (I sent one squad after Richard and one after Matt, and in both cases their galleys had every advantage, being able to sink or disable my squads with very little loss.  Meanwhile with my Galleon I hoped to rake Richard’s Greatship, but he was able to take a broadside without effect and board, taking the galleon practically without a shot!  My bad for getting close.  Looking objectively at the Galleon versus the Greatship in Man-o-War, the Galleon has an edge in speed (sailing 9″ with wind abeam or astern while the Greatship sails 6″ abeam and 9″ astern) and broadsides (4 versus 3 dice) but the Greatship’s large crew, fore and aft batteries of 2 dice, and slightly better saves were telling.  Both Greatships took an immense amount of firepower and time to be destroyed.  The Wargalleys were an excellent buy at 150 points too, being able to ram, row, and fire.  One squad of them would probably have been a better choice than my two squads of Buccaneers.  If I hadn’t lost my Galleon so early in the game, I might have a different opinion, but it seems terribly vulnerable to boarding, which is not really what you expect with one of them. 

Richard took a pretty heavy beating, having to fight some of my ships and all of John’s in succession; he complained bitterly about that for a while, somehow taking small solace in the fact that he tore through most of my fleet in the first three turns. But we all had a lot of fun.

I think that if I run this again, I’d like to see how shore forts and sea monsters affect the game.  I think a ‘destroy all monsters’ game would be fun, and have gotten a few other ideas from some helpful members of the Yahoo group.

Published in: on December 8, 2011 at 12:32 pm  Leave a Comment  
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