Following up on our Sails of Glory review, we caught up with the games' designer Andrea Angiolino and Andrea Mainini, and Roberto Di Meglio from Ares Games Production, for a chat about designing Sails of Glory and how players should look to expand their collection.
This article forms part of our Nautical Tabletop Month that's running across all of November. We're going to look at different nautical wargames and board games, as well as interview developers about capturing the sea feel on the tabletop. We'll also look at nautical factions in popular wargames along with tabletop accessories that are available to keep your hobby ship-shape. You can see all the articles here on the hub. So come aboard as we set sail and celebrate all games nautical in nature.
TechRaptor: Sails of Glory follows a very successful model that you have for a few games. At its core, pre-painted miniatures and an individual movement deck for each ship. Why do you think these characteristics are so appealing to gamers?
Roberto Di Meglio: The individual movement deck allows you to play immediately without too much effort: you just take your cards, choose the one you want for that turn, and play. Your ship is more or less agile than others, quicker or slower, without any need for you to manage points, special rules, charts, diagrams, and tables as in a classic simulation game. It is the core of a design approach that we call "hidden complexity". We did not give up detailing and differencing ships (or planes, or spaceships, in Wings of Glory and Battlestar Galactica Starship Battles), for playability's sake. All the differences between each ship class are there but hidden in the shapes and lengths of the arrows on the cards. So the game is very easy to learn and play.
Pre-painted miniatures have a great visual impact and make a great wargaming experience easy for everybody, even people who have no time nor skill to paint their armies. You can play well even with very few miniatures, so there is no need to spend great sums of money, and nothing has purposely been made obsolete with time to force people to buy more stuff, so these games are not a money trap. If somebody loves painting, offering pre-painted miniatures is not a limit: some of our players love to personalize their miniatures, giving them a personal touch repainting and rigging them. Or, with airplanes, giving them a completely new paint scheme to feature different pilots. Players loving the hobby side of painting can also build scenario elements such as islands and coast traits - some photos you can see online of scratch-built terrain by our players are great indeed.
Overall, both individual movement decks and pre-painted miniatures allow players to learn the game quickly and play it immediately, without all the tedious study and preparation that many other wargames require. Then, if you want, you can still devote your time to advanced and optional rules, or use your painting skills to make the game pieces even better.
TR: Sails of Glory was built from the Wings of Glory game system. There are similarities to how aircraft and ship games play, but what were the big changes that had to be made to accommodate a game set on the sea?
Andrea Angiolino and Andrea Mainini: We did not want a game that just felt like an aerial dogfight rethemed, so the very first change has been in movement to consider the effect of the wind. Our publisher received a couple of proposals by other designers for a sailship-themed Wings of Glory, before we did our own, and both gave up taking wind into account, due to the difficulty to do it. But these games did not feel right at all. They could have been car or rocket games, for how the pieces moved. We took the challenge to make a system where the wind is a fundamental factor but gameplay is smooth and easy to handle anyway. And we think we succeeded in it.
Collisions have also been a delicate point. We could not imagine that overlapping ships were at different levels, as with planes, and leave them one on top of the other. This was probably the trickiest part to design: solving collisions in an easy, smooth, and realistic way.
TR: Were you fans of nautical wargames before making Sails of Glory? Did you use any other games for research during production?
AA & AM: Well no, not really. Andrea Angiolino is a long-time wargamer so he played some Wooden Ships & Iron Men, Dreadnoughts, and Bismark in the past. He also played and edited the second edition of Posto di Combattimento, a tabletop WW2 wargame by professor and naval historian Alberto Santoni. Andrea Mainini had no experience of naval wargaming, but he is a sportsman and has real-life sailing experience, so his direct experience has been very useful. We researched more on books, such as Mark Adkin's great The Trafalgar Companion than on other games.
TR: Sails of Glory includes 4 levels of rules to bring players in, Basic, Standard, Advanced, and Optional. What has the feedback been for this from the community? Which level do you think is the most popular to play?
AA & AM: Probably the standard one, with some optional rules. The basic set is very useful as an introduction, especially with kids or at a demo. The standard level is easy enough but feels more complete. All our games are very modular, players may find the balance they want between complexity and realism, with the level of rules and the mix of optional ones that better suit their tastes.
TR: Sails of Glory was funded very successfully through Kickstarter a few years ago, as well as a few of your other titles. How do you find the Kickstarter method of funding projects?
RDM: It was successful indeed. When Kickstarter opened in Italy a few years ago and one of the main Italian newspapers did a report on previous Italian projects, Sails of Glory was revealed as the most successful Italian Kickstarter project up to that moment. Not only for games, in general.
Kickstarter is very interesting, not only for economic support. In its original spirit, it allows direct contact between an author and his public. So good ideas that do not find a space in the current industrial process have a chance anyway of reaching their public. But it's interesting also when publishers use it for risky projects or special ones, like the giant Wings of Glory bombers or the Tripods & Triplanes sci-fi spinoff, that funded successfully while they could have been quite at risk as a regular release directly in shops. Sails of Glory itself benefited a lot from Kickstarter: not only was it released as a full range of set, ships, mats, terrain expansions, and such, but it was also shaped by the advice of the public during the campaign. The double-sided cards that allow each model to be used as two different ships of the same class, for example, were suggested by backers while the campaign was on.
TR: Sails of Glory has a great value and very new player friendly starter-set that works for 2 to 4 players. What would you advise players as their next purchase for 2 players and 4 player games?
AA & AM: Probably some big ships, like Orient, HMS Royal George or Santa Ana. They add to the fun. And if you take HMS Victory or USS Constitution, you also get Captain cards and Skill cards that further add variety to the game. With 4 players, a couple of 74-guns could also be good so to be able to have games where there is a balance between each ship, not just between opposite sides.
TR: Sails of Glory doesn’t feature any pirates and focuses on the more historical ships that featured during Napoleonic Wars. Was this a conscious decision to keep the focus on realism?
AA & AM: We like to make historical games, as Wings of Glory, but we are also fond of fictional settings especially when they are rich and have a lot of lore already. For example, we wanted to make a Battlestar Galactica: Starship Battles game that is as faithful to the TV series as much as our historical games are to actual events. We started with Napoleonic battleships, but a line about the golden Age of Pirates is under development. We want it to be a careful mix between what actual pirate ships were and all the legends that surrounded them.
TR: Which is your favorite faction and ship for Sails of Glory?
AA & AM: Actually we do not have one. We like to play with any of them. We would like to feature Italian ships sooner or later, but they were not meaningful at the time of Napoleon. If the game were to 'move' into another era, as at the times of the Maritime Republic of Genoa, Venice, Pisa, and Amalfi, it would be great.
TR: What’s next for Sails of Glory? Are there more releases planned? Will we see another edition of the rules?
AA & AM: There is a set of Captains and Crew skill cards that could be released any time soon, to variate the abilities of each ship. It will be a good complement for the points system to balance armies that you can already download in PDF.
Then we are working on the 'Pirates' line. The first ships are already being sculpted. The rules will be mainly the same and we do not look forward to a second edition of the Napoleonic rules. We hate when a new edition unnecessarily makes the previous one obsolete. We want people not to lose value with the stuff they bought and we struggle to keep every new release compatible with all that has been released so far. Nobody will regret buying something because it will become useless in the game and lose value on the second-hand market. maybe it's not the aptitude for our business, but we think that it's due respect to customers and players.
TR: There was mention of Sails of Glory being used for other eras of sail. Will we see the Middle Ages or WWII Sails of Glory?
RDM: It would be great, but in the short term only the 1600-1700 era is planned. In any case, it will be easier to expand toward the Middle Ages or Antiquity: Roman triremes could also be a lot of fun. There is much potential. But the core system of Sails of Glory is focused on maneuvering. After the arrival of dreadnoughts and long-range guns, at the start of the 20th century, maneuvers lost their prominence in naval tactics so our system is not probably the best one for that era. Maybe a version with the smallest WW2 ships could be intereting, anyway. Some of our fans may go in that direction before us, sooner or later. Our fan base is always ahead of us, and several innovations in our games have been pioneered by them. The most lively community of Sails of Glory players is here, consider paying them a visit.
TR: What’s next for Ares Games? What projects are you currently developing and planning?
RDM: There’s always a lot going on here. We are continuing to support and develop our ongoing game lines, Wings of Glory, War of the Ring, Sword & Sorcery, but also looking forward to diversify our range of thematic games. In 2021 we will have games entirely “made in Ares” - such as 2 new titles designed and developed by Ole Steiness and Paolo Mori, and the new edition of the cult classic City of Chaos, as well as new releases developed together with partner studios, such as Igrology (in 2021, we will release Masters of the Night and Orconomics with them) and Pendragon (first Diabolik, an innovative hidden movement game inspired by a popular Italian comic book, then The Thing, based on John Carpenter’s movie version of the story).
TR: Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us. It's awesome to hear that Ares Games are so community-focused.
If you are looking to expand your games, Sails of Glory has a whole range of products available.
- Ship Packs expand your fleet, with each one coming with the stats cards and maneuver deck for use as 2 different ships
- Dice Bags, a set of 5 dice bags, each marked A to E for the different damage counters in Sails of Glory
- Sails of Glory game mat, a 26x39 inch gaming mat with faint grid lines marked on to help with assessing wind direction
- Terrain Pack: Coasts and Shoals, contains 16 terrain pieces to decorate your seascapes
- Terrain Pack: Coastal Batteries, contains 6 scenery elements and 5 batteries logs, like the ships logs for fixed gun batteries which are great for solo games
- Additional Ship Mats, if looking to play with more ships beyond the starter-set in the same game, sets of 4 ship mats are available to expand into larger games
You can check out our review of Sails of Glory as part of the Nautical Tabletop Month here.