Nic Wright's forthcoming Galleys & Galleons rules are certainly raising a lot of interest and just before Christmas my friend Ian and I finally got round to a couple of playtest games ourselves.
I can only apologise for the photos. The ships are wearing just their undercoats and look like ghost ships, and the photos were taken very inexpertly in the heat of battle. But, hey, it's a playtest. (Ghost ships are actually covered in the rules in a fantasy supplement at the end.)
The seascape in our first game was a little overcrowded with islands and shallows. They were cunningly placed by my piratical opponent, forcing me into a very awkward starting position. Eager to teach the pirates a lesson they would not forget, my ships sped ahead leaving the boats behind. All measurements are made using the coffee stirrers.
Unfortunately, I subsequently failed to activate the larger ship and lost the initiative, with the result that the ships ploughed ahead towards an island opposite and the shallows surrounding it. In a bid to manoeuvre out of trouble, my ships collided and my larger ship hit the shallows as well! A wind gauge is lined up with the compass (out of view) to determine speed. Different sail patterns respond differently to wind direction.
The pirates, meanwhile, were bearing down on me in a very unsporting attempt to take advantage of my predicament. Covered with ignominy, I decided to concede the game, purely in the interests of accelerating the playtesting...
In our second game we resolved to start with a completely open sea. Here the ships of my gallant Royal Naval expedition have learnt to leave each other more room.
My friend Ian unleashes his rascally pirate force of brigantine, schooner and jacht.
This time I have the drop on him and his schooner is soon consigned to a watery grave, now marked by an MDF base signifying a wreck. OK, I will develop some proper wreck markers in due course. I also apologise for the dice sitting on the base of my sloop. It indicates the loss of one of its three damage factors.
My sloop (right) suffers more damage but so does Ian's brig (lower left). My frigate passes at the top.
My boats, meanwhile, attack the pirate jacht (left). One boat element is forced to strike but the other gallantly captures the jacht and puts a prize crew aboard (optional rule). That is before the whole group were overwhelmed as a result of a magazine explosion! My frigate also caught fire at one point, but managed to extinguish it, despite this being an outside chance. This was the decisive turning point of the game, my frigate gradually but inevitably degraded the enemy brig and victory was mine.
Coping with the wind was quite fun, if a little tight, on my relatively small dining-room table. I might try smaller measuring sticks or be forced to deploy boards which give me a 6' x 4' playing area.