Mike Nagel is back with an age of sail ship duel boardgame called Captain’s Sea. We’re going to run through 6 reasons to check out Captain’s Sea because…why not? The game is currently in the final stages of CPO over at Legion Wargames, so if you dig these 6 reasons, sail over there and let em know you’re interested in getting your swabbie hands on deck for this one.
1 – Ship Duels
Flying Colors, Mike’s other long-running naval wargame in the age of sail deals with fleet actions. Though Serpant of the Seas added the ship duel mechanics, it’s limited to what can be done within the core rules and component restrictions of the Flying Colors series. The ship’s wheel and bosun’s whistle are yours in Captain’s Sea though.
This time around you’ll see a focus on the fledgling American navy with scenarios that cover:
Constellation vs. L’Insurgante
Constellation vs. La Vengance
Constitution vs. Guerrier
President vs. Belvidera
United States vs. Macedonian
Congress vs. Galatea
Constitution vs. Java
Congress vs. Curlew
Chesapeake vs. Shannon
President vs. Endymion
Anyone who played Wooden Ships & Iron Men has a deep love for the Constitution vs. Guerrier already.
2 – Read & Play
This is an opportunity to re-read, or pick up for the first time Ian Toll’s incredible book Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the US Navy. All six ships are featured in the game with their engagements and you can bring the personality of those fights to life by reading a great book that’s tailor-made alongside what looks to become a fantastic tactical age of sail title.
3 – Squares Not Hexes
One of the critiques of Nagel’s Flying Colors game has been the use of hexes. Personally, I don’t understand the criticism since you’re looking at a fleet scale game, the six-degrees of movement afforded by the game are more than sufficient. However, at the tactical level, I’m thrilled that Nagel went with an eight degree of navigation system.
At the tactical level, even small adjustments can be a big deal. It means the difference between getting raked and taking a shot of your thick port or starboard sides. Furthermore, it means the wind plays an even more important role because there are more angles where your ship is dead in the wind as it tacks. As a result, the approach to battle becomes just as important as it was in the era.
If you’re looking for a great book on those tactics, be sure to snag a copy of Fighting At Sea in the Eighteenth Century by Sam Willis.
4 – Crew Management
Why were some ships successful and others merely flotsam following a battle? Simply put, crew and captain skill. Captain’s Sea provides you with an opportunity to manage your crew on a ship detailed ship data card that tracks not only crew assignments, but also their morale, gun readiness, rigging state, and ship damage. Ensuring your crew is one step ahead of the battle by assigning them appropriate tasks will be the difference between success and failure in Captain’s Sea.
5 – Less Complicated Version of Close Action
Close Action, designed by Mark Campbell, and published by Clash of Arms has become the gold standard for hex and counter tactical age of sale gaming. However, it is massively complex and though it can handle larger scenarios, requires many players, often one person per ship or perhaps two. The sheer amount of recordkeeping and rules familiarity (which are often supplemented by additional rules in larger convention games) makes it daunting. It’s also rarely in print and to get a copy of it right now is $85 on BGG.
Captain’s Sea, on the other hand, seemingly strikes a balance between the gritty paperwork accountancy at sea of Close Action and say something even more generic like Enemy in Sight. Instead, Nagel carves his own path that’s informed by what worked well in Flying Colors and customizes it further here to work within a new context as its own game.
Like Tank Duel, everything is on the data card for the ship and the game is supplemented by a multi-dice attack/defense system that is reminiscent of miniature tactical age of sail games. It seems like scenarios can be played relatively quickly and the game can be taught to new players with a minimum of fuss. Likewise, the system could easily be adapted to multiplayer engagements provided the components warrant such an arrangement which is very cool too.
6 – Card supported
That’s right, there’s a bridge deck of cards that comes with Captain’s Sea. These cards come in both “Hold” (you can play when the card’s text allows) and “Play Now” (play after drawing). These cards add nuance and depth to the game without adding a bunch of overhead to the rules.
As an example, you might pull a play now card that causes an explosion on a ship that’s on fire, you might have to discard all your cards, or the wind might change. Held cards cover things like stealing the initiative from your opponent, adding to your crew morale with “Rum Courage” or adding a +2 modified to your strike roll so you can famously… “Don’t Give Up The Ship.”
Hopefully, these six reasons get you excited for the Legion Wargames coming release of Captain’s Sea or at least get you to take a closer look at it!