Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Uncharted Seas- Simple Naval Miniatures Game
The miniatures gaming world has dozens of sets of rules for playing out battles at sea. Typically the rule sets suffer from a few common issues- they may be excessively detailed, they may be historically flawed, or they may be simply dull. Sea Krieg, for example, is an insanely detailed rule set that we found almost completely unplayable. On the other hand, Victory at Sea has historical flaws that make it mildly to very irritating to players looking for realism. One solution to this issue is to create a game set in a fantasy world and make the rules simple and fast. Spartan Games sets out to do just that with Uncharted Seas.
In a game of Uncharted Seas players lay out miniature ships on a table or felt cloth and then "sail" them around a board attempting to sink their opponents. Rather than playing Swedes against Russians the players take the sides of elves, dwarves, humans, and other fantasy beings. This allows the publishers to avoid some issues of realism and historical accuracy. It does leave the question, however, of whether Uncharted Seas is actually fun.
Happily Uncharted Seas is actually a fairly fun game. Individual ships have a set distance they can move, which in some cases is modified by wind direction or some other variable. Ships also possess various weapons which they can fire or they may just choose to ram an opponent. Different ships and races have strengths or weaknesses which differentiate them. Dwarves use steam power to move their ships and while they move slowly they can ignore the wind. Humans use sails and so they may zip along or get stuck if the wind is blowing in the wrong direction. The ships of the orcs fire best straight ahead, the dwarves like to ram, and the elves can launch dragons to make aerial attacks.
Speaking of attacks, the combat system in Uncharted Seas is simple but not overly so. Players roll dice to "hit" an enemy and if they score enough hits the attack penetrates armor and does some damage. Larger ships require more hits before they suffer damage but may be easier to hit while small ships are hard to hit but fragile.
Finally, each player in Uncharted Seas has a deck of cards which give certain special abilities or bits of good luck. You have several of these cards dealt randomly to you and they may give you a bonus attack or defense or allow better movement. Primarily the cards add a random factor to the mix and while they aren't realistic they are exciting.
Uncharted Seas is sold as a stand alone set of rules and additional fleet boxes. Each box gives you enough ship models to play a good sized game. The models are made of resin (see photo to the right) and the samples I have seen are of good quality. They do need to be painted so this game is not ready to play instantly. The models also need to be glued together- again, this is not an instant play sort of game. I was not completely blown away by the models' art design but while the sculpts are not fabulous they do paint up nicely and look good on the board.
I found Uncharted Seas to be a fun and simple naval battle game. It's not groundbreaking, it's not artistically a masterpiece, but it is a very fun and playable game that's easy to get started and has good variety. I got my fleet at the Hobby Bunker- they were selling out so call ahead if you have an interest and see if a new shipment has come in.
Pros: simple, fast, fun
Cons: models require painting
Beyond the basics: Just the entire world of naval miniature gaming...