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Posted on May 30, 2019 in Boardgames, Front Page Features

“A ship in port is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.” ‘Sails of Glory 2018 Ship Pack Expansion’ Miniatures Game Review

“A ship in port is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.” ‘Sails of Glory 2018 Ship Pack Expansion’ Miniatures Game Review

Rick Martin

Sails of Glory 2018 Ship Pack Expansion Miniatures Game Review.  Publisher: Ares Games   Game Designer:   Andrea Angiolino and Andrea Mainini   Price  $13.00 to $20 depending on the ship

Passed Inspection –   beautiful, fully built and painted ships ready to set sail using the Sails of Glory game system

Failed Basic – not a single thing

“A ship in port is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.”  When the legendary Rear Admiral and computer scientist (think COBOL) Grace Hopper made this statement in which she was re-quoting John G. Shedd , she was not talking about sailing ships from the 1700s and 1800s but her statement is completely apropos to ships of that time period which is the focus of Ares Games’ brilliant Sails of Glory.


In late 2018, Ares released 12 new ships for the game. With the addition of these ships, the total number of ships available is now 58 ships including ships of the line, frigates, sloops and merchantmen.  Each fully painted and assembled ship miniature is 1/1000 scale and includes ship stats and data, a base which includes stats and firing arcs, ship cards and maneuver cards.

The new ships include 34-guns Mahonesa Class Frigates, 64-guns Ardent / Intrepid / Inflexible Ships-of-the-Line, 80-guns Bucentaure/Tonnant Ships-of-the-Line and Bonhomme Richard / Ex-East Indiamen ships.  You must have the Sails of Glory Starter Set in order to use these new ships in a Sails of Glory game.

For those new to Sails of Glory, I’ll recap from my review of theSails of Glory Starter Set, Sails of Glory utilizes a modification of Ares Games’ award winning card based movement system which is featured in their Wings of Glory World War I and II airplane combat system as well as in Ares’ Battlestar Galactica Starship Battles game.  And like their other miniature based game systems, the player is able to purchase additional ships which feature a control card as well as a fully painted 1:1000 scale miniatures.  Each ship is rated for hull points based upon the ships size known as its “Burden”, the ships maneuverability known as its “Veer”, its crew size and its number of cannons and their respective firing arcs.  Each ship’s data card also includes indicators for damage accumulated (and how that damage affects both the crew casualties and the number of guns which can fire as well as other actions that the crew can perform in a turn), cannon loaded/unloaded status, types of ammunition loaded on the cannons on each side of the ship, number of sails raised (for speed) and whether the ship is at anchor or not.

When playing the game, each game turn is divided in to the following phases: Planning, Actions (in the advanced game), Movement, Combat and Reloading (in the basic and standard game).

The Planning Phase starts with the players determining from which direction the wind is blowing or has shifted if using the wind shifting rules.  The direction of the wind affects not only the speed of the ship but the possible maneuvers it can perform.  Based upon this information, the players pick the maneuver card which they will use and turn the card face down in front of them.  In the basic game, 1 maneuver card is played and in the standard game, the player plays a maneuver picked last turn and then picks a maneuver card to use next turn.

The Action Phase is used during the Advanced Game.  In this phase, you plan actions for your crew based upon a rating for the crew of your ship and modified by whether the crew has taking casualties or is of a low or high skill level.  Possible actions include loading the cannons, repairing damage to the ship, putting out fires or pumping water out of your leaking ship, preparing for a boarding action, raising or lowing sails, readying muskets for close attacks or even passing out rum to the crew to motivate them to fight harder and not give up the ship!

The ships are actually moved during the Movement Phase.  The previously picked maneuver card is placed in front of the ship then the ship miniature is moved so that the arrow on the back of the ship’s base matches up to the arrow on the movement card much the same as in Wings of Glory.

The Combat Phase happens if the ships are close enough to fire their cannons.  The range is measured using a range ruler much like the type used in Wing of Glory.  Proper maneuvering of your ship will bring most or all of your guns to bear on the target while leaving the target unable to respond with its own broadside “crossing the enemy’s T”.  After guns are fired chits are randomly drawn by the target player and damage is assigned.

It’s a fast, fun system with multiple levels of game play from casual to grognard.

Let’s talk about what we mean when we say a ship is “third rate” or “fifth rate”.  These rating systems were used by the British navy and adapted by most other navies. 

A “first rate” ship of the line had three decks of cannons for a total of around 100 or more guns and a crew of around 850 to 875.  These first rate ships were big, deadly top of the line combat vessels.

A “second rate” ship of the line had three decks of cannons as well but only carried about 90 cannons and had a crew of around 700 to 750 sailors.

A “third rate” ship of the line had 2 or sometimes three gun decks for a total of around 60 to 80 cannons and a crew of about 500 to 650.  These were the most common ships of the line.

A “fourth rate” ship had 2 gun decks for about 50 to 60 cannons and a crew of about 350. It was considered a frigate and was not actually considered a ship of the line which just means a ship that was expected to fight in a line formation with all the other larger ships.

A “fifth rate” ship had one or two gun decks and carried from 28 to 40 cannons.  They had a crew of about 200 to 300.  These ships were also referred to as frigates.

A “sixth rate” ship had one gun deck and carried around 20 to 25 cannons. Their crew numbered about 150.

A “sloop” had one gun deck and less than 20 cannons.  They had a crew of 90 to 125 and were very maneuverable and fast.  They could also be used in shallower water than the larger ships.

These 12 new ships help even out the type of ships available and take different types of captaining skills to play up their strengths while attempting to minimize their weaknesses.  There are Spanish ships, American ships, British ships as well as Royal French ships and French ships used during the Napoleonic Wars.

The French navy gets two Bucentaure class ships and one Tonnant class ship.  The  Tonnant class ships have a crew of about 780 and were third rate ships of 80 guns.  The British also get Tonnant class ships which they captured from the French including the “HMS Tonnant”, herself.  The Royal Navy also gets the Ardent Class Ships including ships which took part in the sea battles of the American Revolutionary War and the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars – the HMS Agamemnon and the HMS Raisonnable.  These third rate ships of the line are the “work horses” of the navy and combine good firepower with decent maneuverability and speed.

The Intrepid Class ships include the HMS Polyphemus and the HMS America.

Also included is the HMS Africa, an Inflexible class ship which fought in the American Revolutionary War and the Battle of Trafalgar during the Napoleonic Wars.

The Mahonesa Class fifth rate ships are known as the best frigates in the Spanish navy.  They are armed with around 34 cannons and a good force to screen your heavier ships with.  They are also good for going after merchant ships and sloops.

The ships known as “Ex Merchant East Indiamen” are large merchant ships which were used by the East India Company and flied the flags of various nations.  They were used to transport goods and passengers and were armed with a few cannons for protection.  The famous Bonhomme Richard is a legendary American ship of this type which was gifted by the French to the American Navy.  Commanded by  John Paul Jones beginning in February of 1779, she was upgraded by the French and the American navy to around 40 cannons.  She’s fast and very maneuverable but can’t take a lot of damage.  During her year of service under Jones, she captured 16 British merchant ships before being sunk by the HMS Serapis later that year.  It was during her fight with the Serapis that the Serapis’ captain gave Jones the chance to surrender.  Jones answer became famous the world over when he told the enemy captain “I have not yet begun to fight”.  Then Jones and his crew left the sinking Richard and boarded and captured the Serapis!

There really is something in this set of ships to please everyone.  The challenge comes in learning how to effectively use these different types of ship in battle.  The first time I captained the Bonhomme Richard I damaged the HMS Raisonnable but then I overestimating the damage I did to her crew and in trying to board her I ended up getting captured myself and lost the Richard to the British.  But, hey, that’s what ships were built for right?  If I wanted to stay in port the Bonhomme Richard would have been safe but, in doing so, I would have betrayed the spirit of my vessel.  “I have not yet begun to fight!”

Armchair General Rating: 100 %

Solitaire Rating: N/A for the ship packs – some of the scenarios in the game are solo such as attacking a fortification while others require at least two players

About the Author

A college film instructor and small business owner, Richard Martin has also worked in the legal and real estate professions, is involved in video production, film criticism, sports shooting and is an avid World War I and II gamer who can remember war games which came in plastic bags and cost $2.99 (he’s really that old)!  Rick is also the designer of Tiger Leader, The Tiger Leader Upgrade Kit and Sherman Leader.

4 ships in their boxes
boarding parties prepared
Bonhomme Richard
British have the Richard exactly where they want her
HMS Raisonnable
HMS ships ready for battle
Ville de Varsovie