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Subject: Close Action or Wooden Ships, Iron Men? rss

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Joe Hill
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What's better and why?

Looking for a good Naval Sim game. Doesn't have to be 19th century.

Any others that are better than both?

I've played Wooden Ships, Iron men once. Never played Close Action.
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p55carroll
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Here's a GeekList that may have your answer:
http://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/27996

I've only played WS&IM myself (and not for many years), so I'll be interested in the replies in this thread too.

I believe Flying Colors will be a contender. I've read good things about it.



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Brandon Pennington
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From what I have read and that isn't much, but Close Action is really more about ship to ship battles and actually maneuvering and running your ship. Flying Colors seems to be more about fleet command and tactics. Again, I haven't ready much about them until recently. The person I play wargames with recently acquired Close Action so I am hoping to play it soon.

I am pretty interested in the fleet command aspect so I am going to pre-order Flying Colors most likely. I know that doesn't answer your question about Wooden Ships, Iron Men, but I don't know much about it.
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I think that they are both good.

For 1-2 players I'd stick with WS&IM. Very good well written scenarios, and a campaign game. There are two editions, Not sure of the differences, probably mostly rulebook. Because there is a lot of bookkeeping, and is incremental for each additional ship. I think that WS&IM is best for small encounters.

If there's a chance you'll go 3+ player I'd steer you to Close Action. There's more Grognardy detail, particularly in assigning damage, much more table lookup, and rules for multi-player communication. That said as long as one person knows the rules well, it's simple enough that people can get 20-30 minutes of instruction and go. While it adds flavor all the table lookup could cause the game to bog down, particularly with all new players.

Close Action seems to really be designed for multiplayer action. My one experience - session report here.

No experience with Flying Colors.

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Richard Maurer
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I've heard good stuff about Flying Colors too, but I've never played it before. I would go with Wooden Ships considering I watched a game session and it seemed interesting to play.
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I was looking into Wooden Ships & Iron Men too, and learned about The Uncharted Seas, which comes with cool looking minis and seems to require less bookkeeping. I haven't played it yet, but it's been described as the new Man O' War. Not sure if that appeals to you.
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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From what I've read, people who simply want to game enjoy Flying Colors, but those who favor simulation don't care for it.
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David
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For a fun 'simulation' I would go with Close Action. The best way to enjoy CA is when each Captain controls a single ship. This way you are the master of your own fate, at least until you an attempt to tack and find yourself 'in irons' while your opponent has the weather gauge and is bearing down on you for a stern rake!! Do you take crew from the guns in an attempt to make that life or death maneuver or do you keep pouring shot into your enemy and hope that your winds hold and carries your bow through. With CA you get to micromanage your ship and crew which is really fun and gratifying.

CA also works well with almost any size engagement, the more the merrier I have found. I also enjoy the simulated communication system that is used between the captains and the admiral, it makes for what I think is a fairly realistic fog of war.

Also the author has poured a TON of historical information into CA in both the way the game plays and in the scenarios so the game really does impart a feel for what it might be like to captain an age of sail warship.

I have not played WS&IM and have only played CA as a miniatures game so I cannot give any insight into which would be better. I think that if you give CA a try you will not be disappointed if a simulation is what you are looking for.
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I have played all three.

Wooden Ships and Iron Men

The Game that is the father of BOTH Flying Colors and Close Action.

It has a si-move plot system. The ships are rated by speed, turning ability, number of guns, hull boxes, crew sizes, and similar details.

It lacks any command system. Due to its level of detail and si-move, the game is great for single ship actions to about 4-6 under one person's command.

Flying Colors - think of it as a the WSIM basic game simplified - all the ships turn at the same rate being the big change. All the ships have the same speed is the others, so ir lacks maneuver differences between ships.

The movement system is alternating groups. Admirals control groups of ship in range or in linked formations, with each turn being an initiative roll to determine who has the 'right' to decide who movers first in a turn.

The damage system is simplified, not different, than WSIM. Collisions have been made rare, and melee actions less likely.

I enjoy playing Flying Colors for what it is. It is an Age of Sail game focused on fleet actions - it is easy to do Trafalgar, and enjoyable.

Think of it also as WSIM Basic game made more basic.

Close Action

WSIM Advanced game more advanced. Well, it is fighting Agoe Sail battles on the deck level. You are not commanding outside the ship - you are on it! You get into the details of running crews, sails, weapons, and so much more. The rules are well written, the game solidly developed, and it is fun - but the focus is on commanding one ship. You have your hands full at controlling 2 well.


It depends on what you want to accomplish in your Age of Sail gaming.

Casual, not too often, getting feel for it? Not really planning to join the Royal Navy?

WSIM Basic or Flying Colors is the answer. If I want to fight large battles in 3-6 hours, Flying Colors is really your only choice. The fleet management command system is what makes that work so smoothly.

It can be easily retrofitted to WSIM.

WSIM, because it can be Basic, Intermediatte or Advanced, really captures about anything you might want to cover in the Age of Sail, so it too would be a solid purchase.

Close Action - well, do you want to be Horatio Hornblower? Are you excited about getting the most out of your ship? Do you prefer smaller actions? Do you wnat to really know the nitty gritty details of Agoe of Sail warfare from the viewpoint of the deck?

I play all three, simply because they are three different games, ubt if I had to choose 2 of 3 - Flying Colors and Close Action. The old WSIM rules are a bit messy, and the product is OOP.

If I had to choose one, it would be WSIM. Does that make sense, it not being in the 2 of 3? Yes, considering its scope.

If someone asked me today to play an Age of Sail battle, and wanted to go for Trafalgar - Flying Colors. It is an 'operational level' coverage, and doable while being thoroughly enjoyable.

Constitution vs. Guirrere? Close Action.


-----------------------

Others I have played - SPI's Frigate - not too bad; PanzerBlitz meets WSIM Basic.

The most detailed system I have ever played - Beat to Quarters. Exhausting individual ship detail and movement system - outdoes Close Action in ship detail.
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I really like Admiralty for age of sail. It has the added bonus of being free.

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Mark Luta
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Wooden Ships & Iron Men is overall a good game as mentioned for small numbers of ships in action, and the scenarios are well-done (they are actually play-balanced a bit in most cases, intended to be more even battles than historic).

The biggest problem it has is there is too much incentive for the side which starts to take more damage to grapple and engage in boarding actions, turning it more into 'Trireme' style rafts of grappled ships. A suggested fix for this which works reasonably well is to double all the shot ranges (i.e., a range of '1' on the chart becomes 2 hexes, range '2' becomes 4 hexes and so on), to allow more damage from close range gunfire without ending up directly adjacent. Effectively this sort of means the distance scale is changed by a factor of 2.

Another issue is the roll of one die for a wind change every 3rd turn, which is perhaps a bit too frequent, particularly for open ocean scenarios. I prefer to roll two dice every turn, with both dice needing to show the scenario-specified change number to effect a wind change. So a '6' means wind changes on double six, a '5-6' means both dice have to show either a 5 or 6. This tends to both reduce the number of wind changes but still allows it to happen, and get rid of the gamey aspect of setting up every third turn for the possibility of a wind shift.
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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Wilhammer wrote:
I have played all three.


Excellent, informative post Bill! Of the three, I've only played WS&IM, and you certainly described it well.
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Elwyn Darden
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I am a fan of Flying Colors, Wooden Ships & Iron Men and Close Action. I think most of the comments I have read in this forum have been fair and accurate.

I offer a few arguments in favor of Flying Colors over Wooden Ships for fleet actions.

As much as I like WS&IM, every sizable fleet action I have ever played in WS&IM has generated a wooden island of ships fouled and grappeled together with boarding parties surging from ship to ship like rival street gangs.

WS&IM also presents the problem of wooden walls where a line of ships is inpenetrable. The actual tactics of some battles are impossible to replicate unless you assume that one player allows his line to be crossed or doubled.

Also, turning through the wind in WS&IM necessarily involves being in irons and drifting. This is too restrictive. Tacking in succession is not even a bad option, it is a non-option for the fleet.

Flying Colors seems to be more successful in encouraging fleets to maintain something resembling a line. In WS&IM "mixing it up" does seem to be the norm (though this necessarily resolves the problem of the wooden walls seen above).

I don't mean to pick on WS&IM. I love it and would be pleased to participate in a game today.

If I am playing a whole fleet action I would prefer Flying Colors; if a squadron as part of a fleet action, Wooden Ships and Iron Men; and for ship on ship, Close Action.
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Yes, the grapple thing seems rather out there, except considering what did happen at Trafalgar or any other battle Nelson was in.

Nelson was the 'gameyest player' of the Real Age of Sail.

-------------------

Yes, I have seen it go from the classic firing lines to large melees, but that was a valid tactic, so to totally pan the game for it is just wrong.

The actual melee combat system needs some tweaking, and mods exist for it.

Historically, they tended to be short, sharp actions, won not by numbers alone, but by determination and ferocity with training.

Flying Colors goes into the opposite direction to facilitate not having boarding actions.

Close Action strikes what I think is the proper balance.

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Yes, but what is really vital information is... which one has a scenario involving Gráinne Ní Mháille (c. 1530 – c. 1603) "Granny O'Mally, The Sea Queen Of Connaught"?

Sorry, a local Irish music group around here does a fabulously kickin' bawdy sea shanty they call "The Pirate Queen" (unrelated to the Broadway show by that name) which they refuse to record on CD. I have oft considered offering to pay them to teach it to me, it is that good.

Oh, wait, that is really of no help or interest to anyone is it, well, there I go again...
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edarden wrote:

As much as I like WS&IM, every sizable fleet action I have ever played in WS&IM has generated a wooden island of ships fouled and grappeled together with boarding parties surging from ship to ship like rival street gangs.


I corresponded briefly with the designer of Close Action (Mark Campbell), and he recalled a game of WS&IM that he ran long ago, where one player asked if he could put cavalry on his ship and charge an enemy ship in melee! And Mark said the guy was serious.

According to Mr. Campbell, WS&IM has some significant problems with accuracy, which is why he designed a game of his own.

I had a lot of fun with WS&IM and rate it among the best wargames I've ever played. But I don't think I'd be interested in it, or any game like it, today. My tastes have changed too much.

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John Bobek
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In The Games of War, there's Line of Battle Naval Rules (pps 199-202) for large fleet actions. It's fast and gives a good result with fast turns.
 

There's also Cannon and Cutlas (pps. 202-205) for ship to ship action with emphasis on crew action.

The bonus is that there are 37 other rules sets, including 7 more sets of naval rules!
I just hate being ignored!arrrh
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Joe Hill
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Jesus, You guys are awesome.

That's some fantastic information.

I think I will keep pushing my buddy Jeff to play WS&IM with me and also pick up a copy of Close Action.

I was really expecting you guys to say they were virtually the same game. I'm glad that isn't the case.
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Dan Owsen
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I've played all three and pretty much agree with Bill's assessment. To be honest though, I wouldn't bother with Wooden Ships & Iron Men. I had fun playing it long ago, but it was totally gamey. Close Action is just much better. It does play better and faster with a game master who knows the rules and can keep things moving. Very fun with more people. There is always some rube who writes "port" when they meant "starboard" when plotting their moves, and hilarity ensues. (Though lots of landlubbers just write left or right...)

The other great thing about Close Action is there are two expansions with tons more scenarios, also worth getting.

I wasn't a huge fan of Flying Colors (not enough detail for me), however, I am looking forward to Serpents of the Seas just because I'm interested in the battles on the Great Lakes.
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Joe Hill
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mummykitty wrote:


I wasn't a huge fan of Flying Colors (not enough detail for me), however, I am looking forward to Serpents of the Seas just because I'm interested in the battles on the Great Lakes.


That sounds very cool actually. I'll look into that one.
 
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Can't offer any new details, just offer my opinion: for the effort, I still prefer WS&IM. I like Flying Colors, but the game gets chit-intensive once the shooting starts and I simply don't care for that.

Tastes and tolerances vary.
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BradyLS wrote:
Can't offer any new details, just offer my opinion: for the effort, I still prefer WS&IM. I like Flying Colors, but the game gets chit-intensive once the shooting starts and I simply don't care for that.

Tastes and tolerances vary.


I like the chits a heck of a lot more than all the pencil scribbling you do in WSIM.

It is faster, usually you have room to put chips beside the ships, and you can easily see who is getting beat up in a glance.

WSIM could benefit from some simple house rules - like formation rules.
 
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Elwyn Darden
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Wilhammer wrote:
Yes, the grapple thing seems rather out there, except considering what did happen at Trafalgar or any other battle Nelson was in.

Nelson was the 'gameyest player' of the Real Age of Sail.

-------------------

Yes, I have seen it go from the classic firing lines to large melees, but that was a valid tactic, so to totally pan the game for it is just wrong.



I thought I had made it clear that I had no intention to "totally" pan the game. I am sorry if I gave that impression.

Large melees are certainly a valid battle tactic and were, in fact, the favored tactic of the greatest Captain of the age. But, his results were atypical, and decisive, because most actions were fought in a manner that astounded friend and foe alike.

"If I had been censured every time I have run my ship, or fleets under my command, into great danger, I should have long ago been out of the Service and never in the House of Peers."

It seems obligatory to denounce the Fighting Instructions as unimaginative and incapable of producing decisive results (google "fighting instructions" and see), yet every nation had its version of a standard tactical doctrine that involved engaging on parallel lines of battle (which derived from the practical necessity for effective communications). Yet though Wooden Ships and Iron Men was intentionally designed to represent the world of the (British) Fighting Instructions (Designer's Notes), it is possible to play WS&IM for 30 years and never have seen any sizable fleet action where parallel lines were maintained.

While every gamer may seek chaos in order to emulate Nelson, it is worth recalling that chaos was no friend to Villeneuve and Gravina, so your odds may be no better than 1 in 3.

"Firstly you must always implicitly obey orders, without attempting to form any opinion of your own regarding their propriety. Secondly, you must consider every man your enemy who speaks ill of your king; and thirdly you must hate a Frenchman as you hate the devil."
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edarden wrote:
Wilhammer wrote:
Yes, the grapple thing seems rather out there, except considering what did happen at Trafalgar or any other battle Nelson was in.

Nelson was the 'gameyest player' of the Real Age of Sail.

-------------------

Yes, I have seen it go from the classic firing lines to large melees, but that was a valid tactic, so to totally pan the game for it is just wrong.



I thought I had made it clear that I had no intention to "totally" pan the game. I am sorry if I gsave that impression.

Large melees are certainly a valid battle tactic and were, in fact, the favored tactic of the greatest Captain of the age. But, his results were atypical, and decisive, because most actions were fought in a manner that astounded friend and foe alike.

"If I had been censured every time I have run my ship, or fleets under my command, into great danger, I should have long ago been out of the Service and never in the House of Peers."

It seems obligatory to denounce the Fighting Instructions as unimaginative and incapable of producing decisive results (google "fighting instructions" and see), yet every nation had its version of a standard tactical doctrine that involved engaging on parallel lines of battle (which derived from the practical necessity for effective communications). Yet though Wooden Ships and Iron Men was intentionally designed to represent the world of the (British) Fighting Instructions (Designer's Notes), it is possible to play WS&IM for 30 years and never have seen any sizable fleet action where parallel lines were maintained.

While every gamer may seek chaos in order to emulate Nelson, it is worth recalling that chaos was no friend to Villeneuve and Gravina, so your odds may be no better than 1 in 3.

"Firstly you must always implicitly obey orders, without attempting to form any opinion of your own regarding their propriety. Secondly, you must consider every man your enemy who speaks ill of your king; and thirdly you must hate a Frenchman as you hate the devil."



What are missing are reasons to not destroy the opposing fleets; or a 'mission'.

Some might call these dummy rules, but absent a campaign, some campaign rules are needed.

Perhaps:

1. Your side wins if it gets more VPs than the others for damage, but if you lose 25% of your own VP value, you can't win. Entirely possible both sides will lose - your own Admiralty will demote you, post you to a worthless station, or even do the Byng.

There are very good reasons not to go for broke - it took 50 years of planning to build a battleship back then. They are expensive. Crews are hard to come by. Loss of a fleet can lose a war.

2. Fix the melee rules in WSIM - Close Action is the best set. The issue with WSIM, first and formemost on this, is that the whole crew is available for your use. Not close to being real - it was impossible to get everyone from below decks to the melee in 3 minutes, and besides, you would want to almost always keep men below to keep the guns ready and to maintain sailing/sea keeping capacity.

----------------

Flying Colors, because of its built in aversion to collisions and thus grappling and fouling, is fully supportive of the Battle Line tactics, and thus can serve to make RN tactics near impossible to carry out.

Close Action, in my opinion, is the most correct game of the three - it just takes time, but none of it is really difficult.

I also own the module 'Monsoon Seas' - absolutely superb.

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Wilhammer wrote:
What are missing are reasons to not destroy the opposing fleets; or a 'mission'.



Very true.
 
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