Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Flying Colors: Cape Ortugul scenario

The last couple of weeks have seen a re-acquaintance with play-by-email boardgaming with my old mate Andrea, whom I have gamed with on and off for about ten years now. We've never actually met in person, but after squaring off during the early Commands & Colors: Ancients online tournaments, we've kept in touch and he has always been a great fellow to play against and yarn with.

The game this time was Flying Colors by Mike Nagel and published by GMT games. It's an age of sail game and although I've had it on the shelf for quite some time I am still a novice.

I won't go into great detail (which would only expose my shameful ignorance regarding warfare of the period), but do want to say that it makes for an interesting game with plenty of difficult decisions.

The turn sequence is as follows: roll for initiative, move and fire (and suffer defensive fire), and then pass play to the other player who moves, fires, and endures defensive fire in turn. If it's a large game with more than one command on each side, players will alternate command activations until all commands have moved, and then the end of turn things are done, such as checking for morale failures, wind changes, on-board fire effects, etc.

The early stages as the English close in on the French and their ailing flagship.

Fire can be aimed at the enemy's rigging or at his hull, with the former when taken to its conclusion resulting in a dismasting, and the later in a sinking. There is also the chance to board enemy vessels and capture them (or not), but we were both too cautious to venture into that in our game.

Thankfully, there are no critical hits, but things like fire or hits on marines are factored into the firing tables.

After eight turns of fairly frenetic action we had the three English vessels dismasted, two of the French ones very badly damaged, and both admirals wounded.

Mid battle: all very messy and close-quartered.

In the end the French limped off too weak in the face of withering defensive fire to close in to land the weight of shot that would be required to damage the English ships. For their part the English, lacking masts, could not manoeuvre as needed to target and finish off the more vulnerable of the French vessels.

The French depart.

As I say, I'm no expert on this period but I thought the game was gripping and the actions quite evocative of the age of sail fiction I've read. I'm not well enough versed to enjoy this solo, but I certainly hope to play some more against Andrea or other opponents.

There is a small problem with this game PBEM in that the VASSAL module seems to have a few bugs in it, which produced misunderstandings and do-overs (to be honest, the do-overs were probably more due to my rules ignorance than the fault of the module!), but the annotated movement we ended up using reduced confusion and seemed to work OK.

The verdict? A good, solid game. Not sure about how it relates to the reality, but it plays well, gives you a bit of a thrill, and has me reaching for some Patrick O'Brien again.


  1. PBeM is an enjoyable way to carry out a long distance game. I have not been involved in PBeM in years but I have many fond memories of PBeM and PBM from decades past. I found PBM to really improve play. Aaron, do find PBeM improves the quality of the game?

    1. Good question, Jonathan. I think it probably does improve the quality of the play. You have more time to think about your moves than you do when playing face-to-face, and there's more incentive to find ways to outwit your opponent than there is when playing solitaire...

      I find it's a very good way to learn new rules, actually. You learn step by step, so you avoid the overload factor, and things seem to stick better. You also have an opponent going through the same processes, so you tend to pick up each others mistakes and end up getting a decent grasp of the game quite quickly.

      Inevitably, real life means that time for PBEM is limited, so I prefer shorter duration games that you can charge through before something comes up in the real world to distract you!


  2. Excellent game Aaron, a bit different than good ole WS&IM but a good one none the less. I like the expansion Serpents of the Sea (probably because a lot of the battles happened just around the corner for me).


    1. Cheers, Kevin. I agree - it is a good game. I don't have Serpents of the Seas, but do have the Ship of the Line expansion. I'm very glad I picked it up when I did!

  3. Nice to see this one on a table! Somehow I missed the change to get my hands on Flying Colors, but you have ivoked my interest on it again. Not because it would be the bes of naval games (that said, it does appear quite good), but rather because it may fill the bit that is very hard to come by: fleet management in reasonable time. Only game so far that has managed to do that is Signal Close Action Fast Play (big brother of which is perhaps accurate but _very_ long with any sizable fleet) but that is miniature one and the entry cost is not acceptable to many.

    Close Action on the other hand would need substantial crowd to have fleet game, and then again it suffers from very long playtime.

    Now if I only would come by with copy ;)


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