Thursday, 19 January 2017

The Copenhagen Interpretation of Galley Battles

We finished refighting Actium last night, or to be more accurate we decided that we didn't want to carry on any further. As I said when I posted about the first night's play I have a nostalgic fondness for a bit of galley action, so it's disappointing to have to report that I didn't really enjoy this game.

On the plus side, I am more convinced than ever that hexes work very effectively for a game that is basically about manoeuvre and contact. A less clear cut question is the use of two hexes per ship rather than one as in the original paper and cardboard version. On balance I think it makes sense - beyond the obvious physical constraints of the size of the models - because not only are ships longer than they are wide, but they also move forwards so during whatever time period is meant to be represented by a turn their path should be harder to cross in a perpendicular manner than it is to avoid them head on.

The command and control also worked reasonably well. I like the random nature of squadron activation including the use of jokers. It may be that further friction could be introduced by adding more tokens to the bag. We didn't really use the double activation option much, so I'll reserve judgement on that.

So what doesn't work? I'm afraid I have a bit of a list:
  • Visual differentiation between ships: This might just be me, but beyond the obvious fact that some are bigger than others I really can't tell the difference between them let alone which ones have towers and engines and which ones don't. The knock on effect of this is just to make every other aspect of the game - moving, shooting, ramming, raking, boarding - painful to calculate. Funnily enough it's very easy to identify crew quality even though crews aren't modelled at all.
  • Shooting: There is far too much of it, and it's far too complicated.
  • Burning: Seems much too easy to set ships on fire and then ships sink very quickly while on fire.
  • Grappling: This seems very difficult to do, although there was a view that I was just rolling badly. In common with everything else in this game, it's somewhat complicated.
  • Boarding: Calculation of casualties is more complex than it needs to be. I also don't understand why it isn't possible to split marines between the original ship and the captured ship, especially as one can split the fire of marines on the same ship between different targets, thereby increasing the complexity if that exercise even further.

James has already made some suggested changes with which he intends to finish off the game solo. These are intended above all to simplify shooting and reduce the number of ships sinking because of burning. Personally I'd go for a bucket of dice approach and get rid of all the tables; the game it most resembles on the table is actually X-Wing, and it works there. Interestingly he has also taken the view that a floating ship is more likely to be able to keep a sinking ship afloat than a sunk wreck is to be able to drag down a floating ship. Maybe it would, maybe it wouldn't. Perhaps what is actually needed is a quantum approach, a sort of Schrodinger's galley, whereby one doesn't know whether a fouled ramming ship has sunk until it disengages.

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