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Subject: Does Flying Colors work for command control in practice? rss

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Seth Owen
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Flying Colors is GMT's attempt to make a workable two-player fleet action game for the age of sail.

There can be little doubt that the most satisfying way to play any tactical naval game is with as many individual ship captains as possible. Even in the data-linked modern era of Harpoon or the TBS-equipped World War II era it's better to have each ship controlled by one player, or at least have each player control no more than a couple of ships. It's the best way to explore the command and control issues involved.

But you can't always get a bunch of folks together for a multi-commander game of Close Action, so Flying Colors attempts to mimic the command and control of age of sail fleets with two rules. One is a simple command span rule, which lets players move ships freely so long as they are within the command range of a leader. This is a tried-and-true wargame rule. Except for a few rare and talented folks (such as Nelson, Hood and de Grasse) this range is inadequate to control the whole fleet. That brings in the second rule, formations, which allows an admiral to command all the ships that face the same direction and are within 4 hexes of at least one other ship in the same formation. This would seem to encourage historical formations. Is it enough? I haven't played enough to judge, but I'd be interested in hearing from those who have.

From my game blog at http://pawnderings.blogspot.com
 
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Mark Buetow
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I would answer "yes" based on several plays (including Trafalgar).

There are probably two schools of thought: those who want to simulate historical tactics and those who want to "go right at 'em" like Nelson said.

In the first set of rules, out-of-command ships took their turns last. I believe that's been changed so that you can activate a command or ooc ship when it's your turn to move.

I never liked the rule that ooc ships could not fire unless fired upon, as if the preponderance of captains were reluctant to engage. Let's face it: there were lots of naval battles that were "draws" or "skirmishes." I don't play age of sail games to recreate an inconclusive result but to to mix it up and go full bore, boarding ships and sailing down to the last uncracked spars! Perhaps you could say that naval combat in boardgame form begs for more aggressive play than reality.

In any case, FC sacrifices individual ship detail (a la Close Action) for the ability of one player to actually control the whole fleet.

My preference is for Close Action but with our usual number, that limits us to small engagements. If we wanted to play a full lineup of ships for a major battle, we could easily do it with Flying Colors.

Recognize that in a game like Close Action, the main "unit" is each ship. In Flying Colors, the main "unit" is the fleet or portions of the fleet at once. Individual ships. Meaning, CA is designed to simulate ship detail but does so with the requirement of no more than a few ships per player. FC simulates fleet detail so that an individual player can control as large a fleet as desired.

FC is a very good game. I haven't gone through the latest edition of the rules, though to see everything that's changed. There may be some tweaks made that shore up the realism of the command rules.
 
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Mark McG
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wargamer55 wrote:
There can be little doubt that the most satisfying way to play any tactical naval game is with as many individual ship captains as possible. ..... It's the best way to explore the command and control issues involved.



I have doubts on this. I think it is true is the players are reasonably proficient in their ability, but often with Close Action you have more to fear from your comrades than the enemy, and indeed I've seen reasonable attacks fall totally into disarray because of one player.

So Flying colors differs totally from Close Action in that it assumes the proficiency of the captains, and concentrates maneuver in the Admirals hands.

That being said, the command mechanics do work, but can be manipulated to a certain extent. There are some important errata about Out of Command ships that make it more sensible to keep movement order (rather than have to move around Out of Command Ships, and to not count OOC ships in the turn sequence (so no using multiple OOC ships to save the key formation for the final movement.)

Once into close melee, Command radius becomes the predominant command formation, since ships tend to maneuver for position wily nilly.

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Minedog3 wrote:


I have doubts on this. I think it is true is the players are reasonably proficient in their ability, but often with Close Action you have more to fear from your comrades than the enemy, and indeed I've seen reasonable attacks fall totally into disarray because of one player.

So Flying colors differs totally from Close Action in that it assumes the proficiency of the captains, and concentrates maneuver in the Admirals hands.




Well said, and more succinctly than my own comments.

It is worth exploring the relative benefit of traditional versus "radical" tactics in either game. It seems to me that when traditional line of battle tactics were used, either the battle was inconclusive or came down to a decision on weight-of-shot.

It's when things don't go "old school" that you see battles like the Nile and Trafalgar. I know when we play, we play aggressively, as Nelson did. Of course, part of his success was owing to the overall superiority of the British crews, something that is simulated rather directly in CA but more abstractly (audacity, admiral stats, ship rates) in FC.

Good thread.
 
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Mike Nagel
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Excellent thread indeed!

One clarification for those who have never played the game: Mark B indicates that Out of Command (OOC) ships cannot fire until fired upon. This is not strictly correct. OOC ships can act as if they are in command by passing a command check (basically rolling against the quality of the Fleet Admiral), ergo Captains under Nelson will be able to do pretty much anything most of the time. Captains under Arbuthnot ... not so much. In addition, OOC ships can always fire when starting adjacent to the enemy.
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Seth Owen
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Minedog3 wrote:
wargamer55 wrote:
There can be little doubt that the most satisfying way to play any tactical naval game is with as many individual ship captains as possible. ..... It's the best way to explore the command and control issues involved.



I have doubts on this. I think it is true is the players are reasonably proficient in their ability, but often with Close Action you have more to fear from your comrades than the enemy, and indeed I've seen reasonable attacks fall totally into disarray because of one player.

So Flying colors differs totally from Close Action in that it assumes the proficiency of the captains, and concentrates maneuver in the Admirals hands.

That being said, the command mechanics do work, but can be manipulated to a certain extent. There are some important errata about Out of Command ships that make it more sensible to keep movement order (rather than have to move around Out of Command Ships, and to not count OOC ships in the turn sequence (so no using multiple OOC ships to save the key formation for the final movement.)

Once into close melee, Command radius becomes the predominant command formation, since ships tend to maneuver for position wily nilly.



Wargamers will tend to be more aggressive than real-life captains -- they don't have to answer for shot-up ships and mangled bodies -- and less disciplined than professional naval officers, so it's not merely a question of proficiency.

Having taken part in a number of CA games, I've come to appreciate that the "Fighting Instructions" may have had more merit than is oft supposed. While it's true that they constricted the talents of a Nelson of Rodney, the truth of the matter is that few admirals or captains are a Nelson or a Pellew.

I rather suspect that if one could actually get a bunch of CA players to have enough discipline to follow orders and follow the fighting instructions they might have considerable success against the usual disorganized mob. A good tight line of battle that stayed in line no matter what would be hard to break. The superior crew quality of British ships covers up a lot of bad tactics.
 
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mpnagel wrote:
Excellent thread indeed!

One clarification for those who have never played the game: Mark B indicates that Out of Command (OOC) ships cannot fire until fired upon. This is not strictly correct. OOC ships can act as if they are in command by passing a command check (basically rolling against the quality of the Fleet Admiral), ergo Captains under Nelson will be able to do pretty much anything most of the time. Captains under Arbuthnot ... not so much. In addition, OOC ships can always fire when starting adjacent to the enemy.


Apologies for that. As I said, it's been awhile since I played. (We're getting ready to participate in a giant online CA Chesapeake...perhaps we'll do some "research" by playing the VA Capes in Flying Colors!)

 
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