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This is my first naval combat game.....so my point of view is that of a *new* naval gamer.




Overview


Serpents of the Seas is a stand alone game for 1-4 players simulating frigate actions from the American Revolutionary War era and the War of 1812. Game design by Mike Nagel.




Components

You get:

- 23 page indexed rulebook

- 32 page play book containing scenarios, duels, campaign game and detailed example of play.

- Two folding player aid cards.

- Two full sheets of counters with over 100 ships.

- Three 22" x 34" maps (paper.....you'll need a plexi).

- Deck of 55 initiative cards.





I was happy with the components......if you dig GMT war game quality stuff then you'll be happy with what comes in the box. The counters are colorful and sturdy. The box art is the nicest I've ever seen from GMT. There are a few problems here though.

Right off the top I have to say that SotS is absolutely crying for a Historical Notes section. There is some background included in the scenarios but I enjoy a beefy historical write-up about what the game is trying to simulate.

The "In Irons" counters are actually printed with "In Chains" (minor but annoying)

The player aid cards have a lot of information on them but there isn't enough room for all the charts you need so in addition to the player aid cards you have to reference charts on the back of the rulebook. This doesn't bug me but it might rankle some.

Plus....for all you vassal guys this game has a great module that runs without a whole lot of horsepower.....you can download it here....

http://www.gmtgames.com/t-GMTVASSAL.aspx


Rules

I'd consider this to be on the "Light Medium" side of games, experienced wargamers should have no problem learning this game. I taught this game to someone who could be considered a "slow adult" and he picked up the basics in minutes. (the slow person in question learned playing the duel rules. He has played CC and PoG so the initiative cards were a breeze for him.

I feel that the rulebook is a little on the jumbled side....information needed to perform the Ship Status Check near the end of the turn is located in the Damage Effects area of the rule book for example. But the rules are fairly short and everything is in there so I had no problems with the rules that kept me from playing the game.



Gameplay

Sequence of play

I. Wind Adjustment Segment (every 5th turn)

II. Command determination (Figure out what ships are in Command and what ships aren't) Ships in Command can do all kinds of stuff, ships out of command are almost useless)

III. Initiative Determination (Find out who activates the first command)

IV. Activation Cycle (players take turns activating their ships....this is where the guts of the game are.....move and shoot)

V. Melee Combat (If you are lucky enough to grapple an enemy ship this is where your marines have a chance to board an enemy ship and take her as a prize)

VI. Ship Status Phase (check for the status of things like ship fires, drifting, striking. and sinking.)

VII. Victory determination




This game has a lot of "wooden ships sailing around blasting the crap out of each other" flavor. I really don't know much about naval stuff but almost everything I have heard of is represented in this game....

Just a few of the things covered......

- Rakes

- Grappling

- Boarding actions

- Targeting rigging or the hull

- Sailing in formations (or not)

- Cannonades

- Fancy naval movement like Tacking and Making Sternway

- Ship fires and explosions

- Striking colors

- and lots more!

Fire combat is a little clunky when you first start to figure it out.....but it is pretty much after someone expends a movement point they can fire.....there are defensive fire rules as well.


Boiled down firing sequence



Figure out the range

Figure out the firepower

Choose whether you'll target the hull or the rigging......

Roll on the CRT

Apply damage


(This is a very simplified breakdown of firing......there are a lot of modifiers to every shot that require a fair amount of referencing a few simple tables.....I love this sort of chrome....some may not....believe me when I say it starts to come quickly after a game or two.)

SotS also comes with a deck of "Initiative cards" that can be used as an option for fleet engagements, and that have to be used in the "Duel" version of the game.....they can be used in a number of ways....special ammo, events, and for initiative in the duel game. They are nice and have lots of cool events on them. I find they enhance solo play quite a bit.


A quick shot showing some initiative cards and a ship on fire with some damage just to give an idea of counter density (I trail 'em behind the ship where there is room)




The "Duel" is like a mini-game where instead of two fleets with full command rules (commanders) you play one or two ships each on a special map that has the CRT and a bunch of tables printed right on it. It's fast....it's fun. The duel scenarios are worth the price of admission alone.






The Bad


I've mentioned some of these through the course of the review..

- somewhat clunky rules

- could use more historical notes

- "In Chains" counter

The other often heard criticism of this game is the amount of counters that build up on the board. This does happen....ships acquire markers in this game like crazy.....from three types of damage, to counters representing things like Full sails and fired broadside markers.

It's not bad and there are a number of off board solutions to the problem....I like them on the board though....makes it easier at a glance to see what is going on. The medium counter density and clunky rules don't bother me a bit and I'm sure it won't bother most wargamers.

The only thing that really bums me out about SotS is that they didn't even include a single large ship.....it would have been nice for us Flying Colors newbs to have one. (I know I know......SotS is about small ships....I knew what I was getting into)


The Good

This game was pretty quick to learn, very quick to teach, loads of play out of the box. It really gives me the feeling that I'm commanding Age of Sail ships that are blasting each other to pieces. There are no solo rules for this game but it plays solo better than any game in my collection ...... I can't put my finger on exactly why, so take that with a grain of salt.



Conclusion

I really enjoy this game .....despite having what I considered to be a slightly jumbled rulebook. I feel any one who considers themselves a wargamer could easily learn and teach this game.

Bottom line.......this is what I consider to be a very "under the radar" kind of game I don't often see discussed. It's a great game and I think you should try it.







Odds and Ends

Download the rules and playbook here
http://www.gmtgames.com/p-232-serpents-of-the-seas.aspx

What does "naval rating" mean?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rating_system_of_the_Royal_Navy

How did ships fight back in the day?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naval_tactics_in_the_Age_of_Sai...


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Aaron Silverman
United States
Halfway between Castro and Mickey Mouse
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TonyClifton wrote:
The "In Irons" counters are actually printed with "In Chains" (minor but annoying)


How is that possible?!?!?! The counters in Flying Colors had that problem 5 years ago and they issued replacements in the expansion (and, IIRC, in C3i)!

Did they simply reprint the original marker sheet?
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Rob Doane
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Believe me, Mike and I were appalled when the "In Chains" markers showed up again. None of us who looked at the proofs are quite sure how that happened since we all swore that we saw the correct In Irons counters.

The good news is that a set of corrected counters is included in the current C3i Magazine published by GMT. If you don't want to order the magazine you can also contact the GMT office folks and they will send you the countersheet insert from the magazine at no cost. But I would heartily recommend getting the magazine anyway....lots of great stuff in there!
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Rob Doane
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Nice writeup Tony. Do you have the FC reprint on preorder? That should scratch your big ship itch!
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M·ANTONIVS·M·F·M·N
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rfdoane wrote:
Nice writeup Tony. Do you have the FC reprint on preorder? That should scratch your big ship itch!


I can't wait till it comes out.
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Adam Osborn
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How did I miss this? Nice review.
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Kevin Davidson

Livonia
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Late to the party, but well done sir. Only went to this write up now, because I am playing a game this coming weekend.

Cheers
zhodani
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M·ANTONIVS·M·F·M·N
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zhodanicommando wrote:
I am playing a game this coming weekend.



If you are going to be the British, keep your tailpipe covered if that weirdo Bustamente is around.

Good luck with it.
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Kevin Davidson

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TonyClifton wrote:
zhodanicommando wrote:
I am playing a game this coming weekend.



If you are going to be the British, keep your tailpipe covered if that weirdo Bustamente is around.

Good luck with it.


Lol! Thanks matearrrh
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Owen Thomas
Wales
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Tone... WTF are you doing producing professional informative reviews??! Youve let yourself down here buddy!
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