When the White Dog Games email hit my inbox advertising VON MOLTKE'S TRIUMPH Fall of the Second Empire 1870, I was excited. But then I saw Master and Commander (M & C). All thoughts of Von Moltke the elder disappeared. M & C is perhaps Miss Katie's favorite movie, so with that, I asked Michael Kennedy about it. I had never got into any of the same themes games such as Wooden Ships & Iron Men. Never looked at them. Never played them. Never owned one. But considering Peter Schultze was involved with it, and the last White Dog Game I got was such a blast and I never had dipped my toes in this aspect of the gaming waters, I said why not? After playing a number of scenarios...I'm still happily afloat!
Components M & C comes in a thin attractive and sturdy box case style box. The cover states “Quick Play Naploeonic Naval Combat”, and they're right! Within the box you will find two counter sheets, one of the two opposing sides ships, rendered in either blue or green. They are quite attractive. In addition you have the other game markers that add more flavor to the game such as coppered bottoms, Marines, crew quality and other aspects. The two maps are simply clear white hexes. I do wonder why they didn't chose to make them some shading of blue however? In addition, the edition I received was the American War of Independence Edition with over 20 pages worth of additional combat scenarios. I would strongly suggest purchasing that in conjunction with the game. The Rules Fifteen minutes. I repeat fifteen minutes, that's all you will need to capture the essence of how to play. It's a lower end game as far as rules. The rules were clean enough that I had no questions whatsoever.
Game Play It was different for me to play this game for I hadn't a lot of experience to go with it. Sadly, I had my knowledge from watching the movie “Master and Commander” than any game experience. So I thought about it from the stand point of Jack Aubrey - what would Jack do? I came to the conclusion the first lesson is if I'm superior to the other ship or fleet stay away and if inferior, move close in to equalize the disparity. It should not have been, but this was a slight gaming revelation to me, truly putting myself in the way of a broadside (shudder). Ships are rated from 1st to 6th. Think of the 1st being a dreadnought, as it has a firepower of 10 but it is the slowest at a rate of between two to five. I was unaware of such a disparity in the value of these ships. The Fire Combat Table is pretty simple to use. It is the ship's rated firepower minus the distance to the target. The fire combat coverage illustration neatly defines and answers any possible questions. A hit leads to a step loss. Each turn you can fire from both the port and starboard side during your phasing or moving phase and then again when not phasing. I came to realize that in a fleet action (the self generated scenarios) I would choose to lead with a ship of lesser value. However, what was hardest for me to get was understanding the importance of the wind gauge and how to play it to your advantage. It costs 2 movement Points (MPs) to move into the wind, but only 1 MP to move with it or to move obliquely to the wind. I suspect you will not want a collision either, which means staying abreast of your movement points. It would seem to me if that event happens you would foul your entire line. I then learned to analyze the strengths of the two sides in a fleet type action. Sheer numbers are often simply that. That's where the game's aspect of crew quality matters so much in terms of impacting game play. There are five different crew types, ranging from elite to the sum of the earth dragooned from somewhere poor, that possibly modify an individual ship's firepower and movement rate. That elite crew with a +1 modifier to both movement and firepower is a huge impact. Often I look at scenarios in terms of their greater training value, what can you learn from it? The Battle of Lissa is one such scenario. Upon first glance, you have to wonder about inclusion of such a disparity of forces: three 5th rate veteran British ships and one 6th rate and six French & Venetian 5th rate, with either poor or green crews. It's simply a nightmare for the French Player because in order to win they must have the only ships on the map.
Conclusion Light, fluffy, fun and addictive of the where you say, ah, you know, we have enough time to set up and bang out a small scenario. Lot of value here with M&C in terms of sheer number of solid scenarios and some very fun if perhaps unbalanced ones. Surprisingly, for such a "light" game, it captures and well reflects the key tangible lessons of sea combat of the Napoleonic period. It's the first sea warfare game of this period of naval warfare I have played and I cannot think of any better introduction, says this experienced gamer who has now got his feet "wet". Recommended.