Flash of Steel header image 2

A pleasant surprise at sea

August 30th, 2009 by Troy Goodfellow · 1 Comment · Matrix, Napoleonics, Wargames, Western Civilization

I’ve been playing Crown of Glory: Emperor’s Edition over the weekend. It’s still a bit of a mess of a game interface wise, though better than it was. (Why doesn’t right click move units?) I need to study the economy a little more. And I still think the land battles are a distraction. I think there is a good wargame engine there now, but they interrupt the strategy level too much to overcome my qualms about ceding control to an AI general.

On the plus side, CoG:EE has naval battles now, and they are surprisingly captivating.

One problem with Age of Sail naval battle games in general is the question of momentum. You can’t have ships able to turn on a dime, but you also want to give the player the chance to move his ships into a good tactical position. If things move too easily, you get a dismal game like Salvo! that never quite felt right. If you surrender too much to the wind, you get the plodding real time battles of East India Company. How do you capture momentum and inertia in a turn based game?

West Civ has the wind determine the potential drift of your ship before you get to spend action points. Therefore, you may sail into enemy gunsights before you can take control. You also have a few options in turning a ship – a move to “turn” hexes costs more than simply sailing straight forward. As your ship gets more damaged it becomes harder to control your direction, so you may see a wounded vessel drift for its entire turn. You can repair ships to fix things, but you better get out of harm’s way first. The chance of drift means that you have to plan for it a turn or two in advance, using the direction of the wind and currents to save on action points you might want to use for repairs or boarding actions.

It takes some time to get used to the different types of ships and an outnumbered fleet needs to do some deft sailing to really get things going in your favor. This is made easier by letting you choose at what distance you want to engage. An outnumbered fleet might want the extra turns to get its ship in an optimal position. If you have the advantage, it might work in your favor to start closer. (How does this work in multiplayer? No idea. The manual doesn’t say.)

Ships explode, can be boarded, face fires, can surrender, can lose captains and therefore efficiency, etc. There is a general “will to fight” rating that keeps battles from going to the bitter end, but you might suffer unrealistically high casualties in any case. This isn’t that different from many naval games, sadly, or wargames in general.

Though I’ve yet to really warm up to Crown of Glory, I would certainly play this naval wargame if it were available as a separate package. It’s simple and it’s clear but it doesn’t feel tacked on. It’s still not clear, unfortunately, how control of the seas can be used to strangle France, but that’s part of the economic system that has been revised. I need to get up to speed on that, I think.


One Comment so far ↓

  • spelk

    Troy whats the cream of the crop with regards games covering naval battles, I’m positively gagging to play out a Spanish Armada scenario or Trafalgar, but I’m just not sure where to start really. Turn based or real time.