Category Archives: Uncharted Seas

Uncharted Seas – The Bone Griffons Review

Following on from the first post regarding the Imperial Navy I thought I’d branch out and continue onwards with a brief review and discussion of the first fleet that I actually bought. I’ve enjoyed no more success with these guys than my Imperial Fleet (lost both games played with this fleet so far) but I can at least give you a run down of things.

First of all, no other fleet has brought about as much controversy as the Bone Griffons have. They were one of two new fleets released a while after the original batch (the other being Shroud Mages but I’ll leave Servitob the opportunity to wax lyrical about the evil stunties). However, they are also the only fleet that has the option to customise the weapons load out of their Cruisers and Battleship. This along is not the cause of the furor over their ships, it is the weapons themselves that are the cause of much disharmony among a very passionate community.

The Bone Griffons are Undead, a people long thought consigned to the history books after they were cursed by a virulent plague and their society sunk beneath the waves. Many generations later they return to wreak havoc upon the world, due to their time playing Atlantis their ships are a little “behind the times” technologically. Their Frigates comprise Undead Whales, possibly one of the coolest things going in the game as far as I am concerned, you may have guns but I’m going to slam several tonnes of pestilent Orca down your throat. They don’t have any guns on them which you’d expect but can cause damage via ramming and their nasty Krill breath! The Cruisers and Battleship both come with choices, they can be armed with a typical array of broadsides or the far more rage-inducing Trebuchets. Each cruiser in a squadron can have one of either, so you end up with a squadron normally composed of all Broadsides or all Trebuchets. The Battleship has three “hard-points” that you can equip with either a Broadside or Trebuchet, however, taking less than a full load out of either kind of gimps your ship horribly so normally you’ll just go all one way or the other.

In Uncharted Seas, as I have already mentioned, gun ranges are measured in 8″ bands up to range band 4. With all fleets firepower increases the closer you get to the target, after all, cannon balls lose power the further they go. Now, the Trebuchets on the other hand are designed purely around chucking lumps of masonry huge distances, this means that the fleet has immense long range firepower, you effectively have the same power at range band 4 as most fleets get when at range band 1. Due to the fact that the Battleship has oars it can anchor and then swivel on the spot to keep their 45 degree fire arc focussed on the enemy. No other fleet can do this once anchored. Also, Trebuchets do not require line of sight to fire, although they will scatter if you fire indirectly like this, again, no other fleet can do this. You can’t fire cannon through an island but you can, apparently, chuck stuff over it. This ability to load out on long range firepower has led to claims of the fleet being overpowered as you can plink away at the approaching enemy, reducing their effectiveness before they get close in when you lose all your advantage of range. It has also been noted that a player that sits back and just launches projectiles the size of Churches at you is boring to play against. I could point to many armies in other games that use just the same kind of tactics and are just as derisively talked about though. If you get up close and personal with a Trebuchet fleet they have no firepower at all with which to fight back so they are not without their weaknesses. Many players consider the Bone Griffons unbeatable, as I have already stated I have lost both my games, the first was down to poor planning on my part and the second was a lot of luck to my opponent. Yet I don’t consider them to be unbeatable neither do some of the other players. But putting this issue aside, let’s look at the fleet itself and how it’s made up.

As with all starter fleets you get 2 squadrons of 3 Frigates, 1 squadron of 3 Cruisers and 1 Battleship. You get enough parts to arm your Cruisers and Battleship with Trebs or Sails for Cruisers or Broadside decks for the Battleship. More than any other fleet this one has a plethora of special rules to go with it. All the ships have their own rules regarding some aspects of their operation. Due to their configurability they will play differently depending on your weapons load out.

Orcus (Frigates) ignore command radius rules, have no ranged weapons but can submerge and travel underwater. They pass under all obstacles like this but are also then harder to hit and slower than any other Frigate in the game. Even when on the surface they only move 9″ and are still among the slowest of all Frigates. You want to keep them close to your other ships to support them with rams, you can link their ramming in the same way that you can link fire from a squadron when firing. They also have a red ram rating meaning that any damage becomes a critical hit. However, due to the fact they are ramming it is more than likely they will be taking damage themselves so don’t expect them to last all that long. The Cruisers are affected by the wind, however, if you use Trebuchets or use Oars instead you can move 7″ rather than the usual 9″. The Battleship always moves 6″ but ignores wind, this gives your fleet an incredible manoeuverability. Not as fast as Elves nor as tough as the Dwarves they aren’t a push over either.

Bone Griffons also have the highest Crew ratings of any ships in the game, this lends them towards a policy of ramming and boarding other vessels, now, if you’re armed with Trebuchets this seems counter intuitive but it helps to think of softening the target up at range before closing in and trying to board them while weathering some of their return fire. Due to the customisation of the fleet it is possible to change your strategy and tactics quite extensively though.

In support the card deck lacks any of the big spells that some other fleets get, this may be down to compensating for the extreme range that you can get out of the Bone Griffons stadium lobbing gun decks, but you do get a lot of support spells. You won’t get any magic attack spells and there are very few counter cards, but normally you will find a card that makes something you do better in some way. You can improve your shooting (setting that flung masonry on fire), or power up your boarding actions. There are also a couple of cards to replenish lost crew and repair your ships. Your cards benefit you more than hurt your opponent which again makes them stand out as a bit different to the other fleets.

I have yet to try out a pure broadsides fleets and I haven’t tried Trebuchets on the Cruisers, all I know is that at least one of my opponents doesn’t like Trebuchets as it makes the game “boring”. Personally I think it adds an interesting dynamic to the game that makes everyone have to think a bit harder but understand that in certain scenarios they can be a little over the top.


Uncharted Seas – The Imperial Navy Review

Over the weekend was my third game of Uncharted Seas and my third loss. The encouragement is that in the past two games it has been the lack of grace from Lady Luck that has been my undoing. I am probably not nearly as gracious in defeat as I should be either…

My purpose today is to give an overview of one of the Fleets that is available in the game, but before I do that I’ll give an overview of the game world so that you can get a feel for things. This game is a fleet based naval combat game, you roll initiative each turn and then whoever wins gets to move a ship or squadron of ships and fire with them before the opponent does the same, this goes back and forth until everything has been used and another initiative roll is made for the next turn. The rulebook has scenarios in it and we are currently just playing the “I am going to kill you” one while we learn the rules. I can see all kinds of interesting campaign play and scenearios in the future though as the game is a solid system. Everything works off D6’s and the line of sight system is easy to understand. As we are using broadsides, Cannon in most instances but some races have magical weapons, this being a fantasy setting after all, most attacks get more potent the closer you get to the enemy. Everything is of a Galleon style but you have the traditional fantasy races fulfilling their stereotypes here;

Humans are loaded with guns all over. Orcs want to get up close and personal. Dwarves (both kinds) have tough steam ships brimming with guns. Elves are lightning quick. Bone Griffins (Undead) are slow but tough to kill. Dragon Lords are a kind of Human/Elf cross though.

You roll an amount of dice that varies with how far you are away from your target in range bands that are 8″ each, anything further than range band 4 (32″) is out of range, most ships don’t have weapons that will reach that far anyway. Wind can slow anyone that sails into it by half their speed, but this doesn’t play too much of a role in the game and it just something else that you have to consider, some fleets by their nature ignore the wind and therefore end up with a slight tactical advantage although this also tends to mean that they are slower than anything powered by sails.

So, the Human fleet, I played it on Saturday so what’s it all about?

Well, I suppose the best way to start is to say that the Humans are really kind of middle of the road. They have attacks available in almost all of their fire arcs with the number of attack dice increasing in line with the size of the vessel. Getting up close with the Imperial Navy Battleship is not something to be taken on lightly as they chuck out a horrendous amount of firepower up close which can often be supported by cards in their deck that provide bonuses to these attacks. They are also effective out to Range Band 3. The Humans are not long range, nor are they short range masters, they are very capable at both and this is where their strength lies. No matter what is coming at you the starter set you play with (2 * 3 Frigates, 1 * 3 Cruisers and 1 Battleship) gives you enough to counter whatever come across at you. The Cruisers are very capable of putting out some hurt as they close in, softening targets for the Battleship.

Playing as Humans you’re also not faster or slower than anyone else. Outmaneuvering is not really going to be something you’re going to achieve very well but this is compensated again by the amount of guns you have. Also, you will not want to be doing any ramming as the ships are not built for it, neither in the strength of their hulls nor the number of crew on board to fight in boarding actions. Yet, anyone wanting to ram you is going to have to brave a hail of fire as they try to close, meaning the potential for lost crew that will make that subsequent boarding action even less effective.

The card deck that accompanies the fleet is fairly mundane also, you have a number of damage repair and shooting buffs/debuffs. The two standout signature cards are a ranged 8AD (8 attack dice) attack that can hit any ship on the table and my own personal favourite “From Hell’s Heart I Stab at Thee”. The first card can be used to soften a target before you really let rip, the latter is used to changed the result of a sinking. All ships in the game have two ratings, a Damage Rating and a Critical Rating. When you attack a ship you roll the dice and count up how many hits there are, if you beat the Damage Rating then the ship suffers one hull point of damage, if you beat the Critical Rating you roll on the Critical table and this will see at least two hull points of damage caused but normally you will get a secondary effect that will hinder the ship. The Critical Chart has number from 2 to 12 and everyone normally hopes for a 2. If this happens the ship’s magazine has been hit and the whole thing goes nuclear spraying an 8″ area with flaming debris, normally meaning you can take the enemy with you as the most effective gun fire normally takes place inside 8″ as you’re at Range Band 1. Your ship doesn’t have to be destroyed by a critical though, once it has lost its last hull point down it goes. Cruisers and Battleships of all fleets are classed as Capital ships, what the aforementioned card allows you to do is when a Capital ship is destroyed it has the same effect as if that double 1 had been rolled on the critical table. If you have this in your hand (as I did on Saturday) this makes the destruction of any of your more powerful ships a potential issue for your opponent. Now, as this was the first game I had played with this fleet this was an unexpected trick that came out, the only problem being that the 16AD it generated meant I only hit the enemy’s Battleship three or four times… way lower than averages would declare and that pretty much sealed my fate, his battered Cruiser squadron sank though as did a Frigate squadron of my own.

The Human fleet therefore is pretty dependable, you know what you’re going to get out of them. Being sail ships they are affected by the wind and you need to account for this but you’re going to be chucking out firepower on the way in to soften up your targets before unleashing hell once things are up close and personal. Also, just because someone manages to sink you doesn’t mean you are out of options for striking back. They are a solid fleet and I had some fun playing with them. I just need to go ahead and finish their construction and add them to my painting schedule.

They should be ready sometime around 2064.

Dwarves Can’t Swim and Other Facts

In the navy you can sail the seven seas, so said the torrent of wisdom that was the Village People.  For us mere mortals who are too old for square meals, yard arms, scurvy and other nautical delights games of ‘The Uncharted Seas’ will have to suffice.

And good they are too.  Spartan Games have come up with a really smart little navy themed gem.  Those of you old enough to remember the delights of a game called ‘Man-O-War’ by the powerhouse Games Workshop will roughly know the premise of ‘The Uncharted Seas’.  Sail your fleet into combat and hope you don’t end up sleeping with the fishes.

Game mechanics are simple, quick and intuitive, and play flows smoothly.  Regular combat is worked out with dice, with magic combat decided by a card system.  Games are not too long and the pace is sharp.  This keeps the interest high from start to finish, with fun to be had with every turn.

Myself and ZombiePirateXXX have played a good few games so far, with Shroud Mages (dark/chaos dwarves if you were wondering) dominating.  Their hideously ugly steamships excel at going very slowly, but are difficult to sink and have magic cards guaranteed to amuse and annoy any opponent in equal measure.  Expect future updates of our rum swilling and keel hauling exploits as we get more experienced in this promising game!

Conventions in Gaming – Dice

From my history page it’s clear that I have grown up with Games Workshop, therefore this post will present a pretty clear bias to that fact, historical gaming isn’t my forte and I’m sure old man Servitob can chime in with some extra points once I’m done.

Classic board games and pretty much every tabletop war game I’ve seen all use dice. Varying quantities of dice to be exact. You can get by with a mere 6d6 if you’re playing Privateer Press games whereas in 40k you can easily end up rolling over a hundred. I remember reading a copy of White Dwarf where the author of an article describing the new War of the Ring game was using the fact that you got to roll an ill-fated Southampton built cast iron behemoth load of dice to decide combats. One of the things that can help you pick out closet gamers is the fact that, more than likely, there are various boxes of dice scattered around their house and the odd errant wanderer lodged under a TV cabinet of sofa.

So, why are dice used? Normally this is to add in an element of chance that exists in the real world, just because you line up a perfect head shot doesn’t take into account that at the last minute a random gust may take the bullet off target, or the mark may find some extra cover to protect themselves. Dice naturally represent the vagaries and random elements that can and do take place in normal real life activities (not really just talking about actual combat here, I have much more experience with the virtual kind and am thankful to not have had to experience it in real life). Yet some games let you roll way more than others, some people also seem to be unlucky at certain kinds of rolls. Personally I struggle with Instability tests with my Chaos Daemons and Power Klaw attacks from my Ork Nobs. Servitob has a reputation for unerring accuracy with a blast template too. While obviously the dice do not favour one person over another, we see patterns in the fate we receive. But surely, there can be other mechanics that we can use other than dice? I like dice and sometimes there is something sadistically satisfying as getting a full mob of Orks into combat and then rolling enough dice to reconstruct the Hanging Gardens of Babylon in 3d, however, is this the best way to do things or just an accepted part of our hobby?

We’ve already talked about how different games require different numbers of dice, I’m pretty certain that if there was a game where you just compared the stats of one thing to another  Top Trumps style, it’d be a pretty crummy and boring game (just like Top Trumps). This is why I’m so interested currently with Malifaux, it forgoes the use of dice and instead uses a pack of 54 cards, being a money making venture of course you can buy official faction themed Malifaux decks, but there are rules in the main book that cover using a normal deck of cards, you just need to have two Jokers in there as well. With cards you need a slightly different mechanic than with dice, but just as dice can be re-rolled due to certain rules, in Malifaux you get rules that allow you to add additional cards to a total as well as having a hand of cards that allow you to “Cheat Fate” by swapping the card you drew with one you possess in your Hand. With dice you’re completely at the whim of chance as to whether your re-roll is higher than the previous, but with the mechanic in Malifaux if you really need to cast that spell or win that combat, if you have the cards in your hand then you’re in a much better place to predict the outcome of the action.

I don’t know whether you can call it lazy game design that leads a lot of our games to rely on dice, after all, dice have been in use as games in their own right for millenia and now we use them to add that randomness to our games. Is being able to control things using cards better than the pure random chance of a dice roll? Well, that’ll be down to personal preference and I’m not leaning either way, it’s just nice that someone has come up with another way to play and I believe it to be a nice change of pace from the staple that I’ve seen over the past almost 20 years of war gaming.

As long as whatever system is developed is non-intrusive and doesn’t detract from the ebb and flow of a game I’m all for trying out something new. I’ve played dice games and I’d played card games. I’ve even played card games that have used dice, but I do think that while it’s easy to fall back on using dice as Malifaux demonstrates, using something a little “out of the box” can add an extra dimension to a game that makes it stand out against the ever increasing crowd.

Uncharted Seas

The thing about blogging is that you need to write posts. I have been on holiday for the past two weeks and even though the second of those weeks was spent at home I have failed to add anything here.

Well now is the time to try and sort all that out.

During my holidays I got to try out Spartan Games‘ Uncharted Seas. It’s a maritime game that pays homage to Man-o-war if you’re old enough to remember that. Although I’ve managed to lose my first two games I’ve also had a lot of fun playing it and getting used to the system. You can buy a starter fleet that is a viable fleet straight out the box and get change from £30 which is really good. The models are also made of resin rather than metal or plastic which allows for some really nice detailing.

The game is simple enough to play and follows normal D6 rolls for everthing. There is also a card deck included with everything that allows for extra actions to happen throughout the game that keeps you on your toes.

It’s a game I’d recommend to anyone looking for a break from the usual tabletop fare, I’m hoping to get some more games in soon.