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Subject: Review for When Lions Sailed - S&T 268 rss

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Lewis Goldberg
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Introduction

When Lions Sailed (WLS) is the latest - as of this writing - game from Strategy & Tactics Magazine, Issue 268. Like typical S&T games, this one has one 22x34 inch map, 200 half-inch counters, and just under 13 pages of rules. The last time I hurried to get an S&T game to the table within a week of receiving it was probably back in the sub-100 issue numbers, so this is why I felt I had to do a review right away as well. This is also the first time I have ever reviewed an S&T game, so let's get into it...

Why the Excitement?

Like many of you, I'm sure, I have over a couple-hundred wargames, so big deal if another shows up, right? I've got dozens in my mental to-play pile. But when I pulled the game out, unfolded the map, and surveyed the counters, the little voice in my head (you have one too, right?) started telling me how much fun this looked like. Map of the world, sailing ships, famous explorers, soldiers, forts, gold, and pirates ... what's not to like?

I began to read the rules, and by the time I got through the sequence of play, I had decided to punch and clip the counters, as well as keep my eye peeled for information that begged for printing and laminating for use during play - my wife got me a laminator for Christmas, and it has become my favorite device.

Quote:
So as a side note, if you decide to play this game, it helps to have a sheet with all the Campaign Marker descriptions on it, as well as the country setup and info cards. You'll need a record sheet to keep track of Gold income and expenditures as well. I will make sure to upload all my goodies to the Files section, so check there before you play.


Now, S&T has had some other global, multi-player type games in the last few years, or various eras, and while they looked neat, the complexity (perceived, if not real) kind of put me off. So they sit in their plastic bags waiting for attention, and as I plan to play wargames until they plant me, I figure I have time (and if I don't, then I won't care!) But WLS not only looked neatly done, it looked like a heap of fun too. So we played the game...

We Played the Game

My two volunteers to play were my 12 year old son Peter, and 10 year old daughter Erin. Peter has played several wargames: Panzer Blitz, SPI Leningrad, Kingmaker ... probably one or two others I can't remember. Erin has played AH Waterloo. Both have played Axis & Allies and Attack!, so they both get the whole "multiple phases where you do lots of stuff" routine.

I played the Dutch, Peter took Britain, and Erin got Spain. There is room for a fourth player: France, but France is out if you have a three-player game. Turns represent one year of real time, and a complete game is 20 turns. This is the only game that I know of that has incorporated in to the rules the instruction to decide how many turns you will play in advance. You can literally make the game as long or short as you want (within the 20 turn framework). We liked that, and decided on 10 turns initially. Ended up being 8 by mutual agreement. Two kids and a Dad playing a wargame can end up being an exercise in "silliness during gameplay", so we were taking upwards of two hours per turn (too many Pirate jokes). A group of adults playing this will bang it out considerably quicker.

How it Works

No better way to describe it than by going through the turn sequence, so here we go:

1. Initiative Phase

Simple mechanic to determine who goes first. The player with initiative gets the advantage of being able to bid on Campaign Markers first, buy stuff first, and move first, which is important if you're trying to get to an unoccupied Treasure Fleet Port.

2. Exchange Phase

There are markers called Campaign Markers, which inject all sorts of good, historical randomness into the game. Things like:

Gunners: makes your ships fire more accurately.
Raking Attack: helps you gain the advantage in naval combat.
Coffee House Chatter: lets you steal one of the enemy's Campaign Markers
Salt & Pork Biscuits: lets you do an operation for free

There are over 25 of these markers, and they make the game really sing. Without the Campaign Markers, all the action would be pretty predictable. In the exchange phase, a quantity of markers equal to twice the number of players is randomly pulled out, and the players bid on them. Lots of markers get used every turn, so there's no worry of shortage.

3. Negotiations Phase

Any players may make negotiated arrangements. They have to be out loud, so that all can hear. If you break your deal, there are penalties.

4. Outfitting Phase

This is where you get to buy stuff, like ships, regiments, forts, repair damage, build colonies, etc. At first, there's not a whole lot you can do, but after a couple of turns, if you do your job right, the gold starts coming in big time.

5. Operations Phase

This is where you get to move your counters, have combat, sail your treasure fleets back home, and maybe meet some pirates!

There are two ways to meet pirates. One is by rolling doubles on movement. Doubles are bad in this game, and if you roll doubles, there is an events table to check to see what happens. Pirates is one of the outcomes, after which you roll on the Pirate table to see how big their force is.

You can also purposely attack a Pirate port. Defeating the Pirates earnes you gold, so there's a reason to do it (plus, it's just fun!)

Other events that you can get when you roll doubles:

Your force can be "becalmed"
Storms may cause damage or disorganization of your fleet
Scurvy can cause damage points or elimination of troop transports
Mutiny can delay your plans or cost you money
Or your fleet may make a discovery, which nets you more Campaign Markers

WLS has a satisfying variety of things that you can do with your ships and men. You can simply concentrate on hauling gold back and forth brtween your home port and colonies. You can attack your fellow players and reduce their capacity to bring the gold home - but remember that they can do the same to you! The focus of the game is on bringing the gold in, and likewise maintaining the prots that supply it, plus the other colonies, which provide both income and a place to repair/build ships.

6. Revenue Phase

Pretty self explanatory. This is where you determine how much gold your Treasure Fleets bring in. It's a random figure, depending on a chart that indicates the number of dice rolled for each Port. So Manila gets 4 dice, Java gets 7 dice, and so on. There are 10 Treasure Ports on the map.

Players also get revenue from all the ports they control, plus a fixed amount of Inland revenue. The total TP's collected added to your Treasury after all your expenditures for the turn have been subtracted gives you your starting amount for the next turn. There are Campaign Markers that affect TP collection, as well as some special tidbits, like the Netherlands gets an extra die roll of TP each Revenue Phase if they control Amsterdam.

Tempo of the Game

The first 4 phases are somewhat mechanical and quick, but once the Operations Phase is entered, therein is the meat of the turn. Players go around and around performing operations. You spend an amount of Treasury Points (TP) from 1 to 4 depending on where you start, to sail your ships and also use your regiments in the ports in which you land. When you finish your operation, the next player takes his turn. The Operations Phase ends when everyone passes, which usually happens when all the Treasure Fleets capable of being brought in have been brought in.

The Revenue Phase takes a little time - you don't want to short yourself any gold! After Revenue, there's a Sudden Death Victory Check, and an End of Turn Phase, which are both very quick. Victory is determined by counting victory points. VP are gained by controlling Ports and building your Treasury. He who has the most at the determined end point wins - unless a player has achieved their country's sudden death victory condition earlier.

Summary

WLS is not a true "simulation" of any aspect of the Age of Exploration, but it is a very good game, and that's what I liked about it. It has enough detail in it to do that you feel like you are making decisions that affect global exploration at a very high level, but none of it is burdensome. A lot of the mechanics across land and sea combat are similar, so not a whole lot of poking through the rulebook every three minutes. Once you played through two turns, you should "get it", checking rules only when doing something for the first time (which is pretty normal), like first time pirates show up, or first time you use shore bombardment. But it all makes sense.

I rated the game a 7, because it was a fun game, and I want to play it again. WLS has a perfect amount of historical flavor that even non-wargamers should find appealing. Read the historical article in the magazine before you play, and you will even learn a thing or two.
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Phil Garland
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Thanks for the review--I've been considering getting this one myself, but like you, there've been few of the post SPI S&T games that I've actually played. I think you've pushed me into the "get it! get it now!" category.

With the gold hauling it sounds the slightest bit like Conquistador. So, have a geekgold to haul home.

Now if only it could incorporate the Swedes and Danes fighting over the Baltic...
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Lewis Goldberg
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OneTinSoldier wrote:

Thanks for the review--I've been considering getting this one myself, but like you, there've been few of the post SPI S&T games that I've actually played. I think you've pushed me into the "get it! get it now!" category.


My evil plan worked!

OneTinSoldier wrote:

With the gold hauling it sounds the slightest bit like Conquistador. So, have a geekgold to haul home.


Thanks so much! Yes, it does remind one of Conquistador. But the balance of play effort on that game was tipped to the land-based units, with the sailing part being more abstracted. WLS's focus is the opposite. In fact, there is no inland movement at all. You have regiments to garrison your ports (which may be the ones printed on the map, or built and marked with a counter ("Colony"), but they cannot move

OneTinSoldier wrote:

Now if only it could incorporate the Swedes and Danes fighting over the Baltic...


You can dream Or ask Joe ... who knows.
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Tyrone Newby
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I'm looking for a game that fullfills my need for a Grand strategy naval game between 1700 to 1800----so when the naval counters of the Grand strategy game meet on the map I then can go to my tac games of "Flying Colors" and "Ship of the Line",and then fight it out tac wise ,using FC & SL game.In your opinion do you think that "When Lions Sailed" would work for me(do the counters represent several ships and does it list and name the ships).Thanks in advance for anybodys help on this(thinking of buying the game for the reasons I put forward).P.S---I think I'II also post this as a new posting in the Forum section.
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Lewis, could you comment on the optional rules and tell us which method of combat rules you prefer and which combat results table you use?
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Lewis Goldberg
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jbredenour wrote:
Lewis, could you comment on the optional rules and tell us which method of combat rules you prefer and which combat results table you use?


I have not made use of Ty's apocrypha yet. The game plays well without added complication, which is what the optionals appear to be. YMMV.
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Nigel Twine
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lgoldberg wrote:
jbredenour wrote:
Lewis, could you comment on the optional rules and tell us which method of combat rules you prefer and which combat results table you use?


I have not made use of Ty's apocrypha yet. The game plays well without added complication, which is what the optionals appear to be. YMMV.


Hi Lewis. Where may these "Optional Rules"/"Apocrypha" be found?
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Lewis Goldberg
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Nigel66 wrote:
lgoldberg wrote:
jbredenour wrote:
Lewis, could you comment on the optional rules and tell us which method of combat rules you prefer and which combat results table you use?


I have not made use of Ty's apocrypha yet. The game plays well without added complication, which is what the optionals appear to be. YMMV.


Hi Lewis. Where may these "Optional Rules"/"Apocrypha" be found?


There's another Forum thread with a link to it here:
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/6593848#6593848
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Nigel Twine
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Thanks for the prompt reply, Lewis thumbsup
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