Wednesday 26 October 2011

Trafalgar & 1:4800 Sailing Ships

Another Warhammer Ancients 50% ruleset.  Interestingly, although the book is shiny and very nice to look at, the cover broke off the book while I was reading it in bed.  A bit weak, considering the handling and usage most rulebooks receive.

 My rulebook fell apart on the first read through.  Maybe that's why they're selling them so cheap - or is that just my cynicism talking...

Ignoring the 90 pages of fluff, charts, illustrations and historical info, there are about 30 pages of rules and they seem modelled after Battlefleet Gothic (which is not a bad thing as, like any discontinued GW line, they are quite good).

I suspect they would make a Napoleanic nerd froth at the mouth, but they  have a simple enough movement system, and I like the idea where the ship upwind has the initiative -a simple but realistic idea.  Ships can reach, run and beat into the wind at varying speeds. They can raise and lower sails which I suspect may be a bit irritating to track in practice. Ships use command checks (i.e. pass a target number on 2d6) similar to Battleflet Gothic/Warmaster to perform moves like tacking.

Gunfire is simple (buckets of dice hitting on 4+ on d6 with a few modifiers) using different coloured dice for light and heavy cannons and carronades.  Ships can fire at any point in their move which is good as it avoids ships teleporting past enemies unscathed. 

There are rules for boarding, shore batteries, mortars, collisions, ship's boats, fireships and other age-of-sail quirks. 

My only complaint is record keeping. Naval and spaceship games are cursed by always incorporating millions of hit boxes and Trafalgar is no exception.  It does have a clear, intuitive layout but there is no way you would refight Trafalgar without a lot of friends, and a complete weekend to spare. 

Verdict: I have yet to play it through properly, and it probably doesn't count the rivets as much as historical gamers might like, but the game system has a sound base in BFG so far as playability is concerned.

1:4800 Ships? Really?
Basically I am a cheapskate and was attracted by the $20-for-a-fleet idea. 

I have test-painted a ship or two but as my camera is not handy I will rather lazily link you to the excellent SteelonSand blog, as my paintjob is rather similar.  The model is rather blocky and I found I needed to rely on drybrushing a bit vaguely to kind of suggest detail, which worked a bit better than it sounds. 

The "Forged in Battle" 1:3000 scale looks a little better with $50 for the entire British Trafalgar fleet

1:2400 has improved detail but the rigging is a little weird. You can't ignore it like 1:4800 and the cast-on rigging is a little bulky. There is a comparison shot here of Hallmark, TD and Old Glory.  Individual ships for Tumbling dice are around $3 each which is still affordable. 

1:1200. These are for the serious modeller. And the seriously rich. Langton is the acknowledge boutique line and come in at about $70 for a squadron of 4 ships, which would set you back $1000+ to play Trafalgar 1:1.  
 Although not as detailed as Langton or GHQ, Skytrex are less than half the price and at $6 each seem the best price/detail ratio of any 1:2400 or 1:1200 ship. I am considering a "test order" of a dozen ships or so if the 1:4800 games are a success.

Now I'm off to listen to my Pirates of the Carribean soundtrack again...


  1. I bought this when it first came out, as I was very excited to try something that wasn't by Spartan Games. It was a fun game but didnt hold me at all (in fact, I bought an issue of Wargames Illustrated, I think, that had house rules for it, like preventing the near-impossible damage under the waterline from collisions).

    I did buy the 1/4800's from Old Glory, as they had 100+ ships from the British, French and Spanish for about $100. Havent done much to paint them.

    The REAL naval buffs at our FLGS play Signal Close Action by Langston ( They play in 1/1200, but Ive heard it scales down?

  2. Most naval games seem obsessed with rivet-counting and record-keeping to the nth degree. I don't like my chances of finding a fast playing sail ruleset.

    I have got the pdf rules for "Fire as She Bears" and the TFL's "Kiss Me Hardy" - both card activated games.

    "It is Warm Work" "Fleet Actions in the Age of Sail" and "Flying Colours" seem the best bets for a reasonably swift game but I have yet to look through them properly.