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Subject: Never underestimate a heavily armed Frigate! rss

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T. Wesley
United States
Mechanicsville
Virginia
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I've had a copy of WSIM for years - probably close to 15 or 20 years - and never had the opportunity to do more than look at the pieces and read through the rules. I find the rules for this game rather ... dense, even for a relatively simple Avalon Hill game. Now that I've played a couple of rounds though, the rules make a lot more sense.

I found a local gamer, Rob, who was willing to take on a newbie at the game. I later found out that WSIM is one of his all-time favorites, and though he hasn't played in several years, he played the game quite a bit in his younger days (late teens/early 20s).

Rob had the board set up and plenty of extra space ready when I arrived; I brought my rulebook, Advanced Game Tables card, and Ship's Log Pad with me so we wouldn't have to share resources (I find it speeds finding info in the rules when both players have a rulebook to scan).

We started with a one-on-one mini-battle to refresh his mind (he didn't need much) and school me in the basics. We played a 23-turn round which ended after I grappled his ship (we both had Class 3 ships) and the resulting melee came down to the last block of crew for each of us. He rolled low on the last melee roll, I rolled high. Before that he had concentrated mainly on rigging shots, while I went for hull hits. I discovered his hits were much more effective at affecting my ship's performance.

After that, we decided to take on a more robust game. Not finding (at least quickly) a scenario that suited us, we decided to play a DYO with a 100-point limit.

Rob suggested I take the British and he take the French; I agreed. I chose a 120-gun SOL (Class 1) with an Elite crew, a an 80-gun Class 2 SOL also with an elite crew, and an 50-gun Frigate (Class 3) - again with an Elite crew. This used up 99 of my 100 points.

Rob used his 100 points to float 4 ships, 2 Class 2 SOLs and 2 Class 3 Frigates, all with Elite crews. We spent some time filling out the stats on our Log Pads, set the wind direction, and all ships entered under full sails from opposite sides of the board.

By about turn 3, Rob split his force into equal groups, a Class 2 and 3 in each group. One group he moved slowly, letting it lag behind just a little, while the other group he swung round towards my right flank. I set up my little fleet with my Class 1 in the middle, the Class 2 on its left, and the Class 3 big frigate on the right.

We closed gradually and by turn 8 started shooting. I sent my Frigate directly into the midst of Rob's front group, splitting the sea between them. I learned the lesson of shooting at the rigging from our one-on-one round and fired relentlessly at his ships' rigging. I rolled high on the Hit Tables and unfortunately Rob rolled low a couple times, not doing much damage to my ship.

By the time Rob finally forced my ship to strike its colors by ravaging its hull, the damage had been done - my heavily armed frigate tore up the rigging on both of Rob's ships in that group as he entered battle under full sail, resulting in crippling double damage from my shots. My struck ship began to drift, very quickly fouling with one of Rob's ships.

Across the waves, my two SOLs took on Rob's other group, firing at maximum range and wrecking the rigging. Over the next 30 turns or so, I concentrated mercilessly on Rob's rigging, steadily grinding his ships' maneuverability and speed into so much fine salt spray. I kept my Class 1 SOL at maximum range, using its heavy gun advantage to consistently fire on higher Hit Tables than Rob could. I used my Class 2 SOL to sweep around behind Rob's ships, close range, and keep up the steady fire. I even managed to work in a Double Shot ... uh, shot, doing terrible damage to what was left of one of Rob's SOLs.

Unfortunately for Rob, after those ships fouled, I engaged in an all-out offensive boarding party, capturing the ship. I was unable to unfoul my Class 2 SOL for the remainder of the game, but by then I didn't really need it anyway.

Thanks to a timely and lucky wind shift in my favor, not long after Rob lost his first Class 2 SOL, my Class 1 SOL blew up Rob's remaining one (see my rules post on "exploding ship"). By that time, my rigging hits left his frigates adrift, and the Rob surrendered the French force before I could gain position to rake his remaining ships.

I did get in some lucky shots throughout the battle while Rob unfortunately could not take advantage of multiple critical hit opportunities. The only time he got a critical hit result was in about turn 20 on my Class 2 SOL - he severed the anchor line. No help to him and no harm to me. Certainly my "your ship explodes on a roll of 6" critical hit was much more effective.

My impression of WSIM after finally getting to play it after all these years is - cool game, but somewhat dense rule set! I'm excited to have learned it and am eager to play it again.
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Gerald Todd
United States
Severna Park
Maryland
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Sometimes I think we gamers loose sight of what's trying to be stuffed into a game.

When the American squadron, lead by the frigate President, arrived off Tripoli to relieve Preble, he sailed out to meet it in the frigate Constitution. A quirk in the wind caught one ship aback and caused the other to surge forward, before anyone could react, the ships collided severely damaging Constitution's bowsprit and tearing off her figurehead of Hercules. (edit:George Washington was the President's figurehead)

WS&IM is an attempt to stuff all the complexity of handling sailing combat fleets into a playable game - which it does an excellent job of.

If you want detail and historic accuracy look to Close Action: The Age of Fighting Sail Vol. 1 - where WS&IM is a game, CA is a simulation.
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