help me play with my model ships.
May 18, 2012 10:55 AM   Subscribe

[gamefilter] Best, fast to play, naval or space miniatures (tabletop) simulation? Supports lots of players, time period irrelevant, won't take all night. Fussy details inside.

At last year's Winter War, I feel in love with little miniature ship battles. I didn't play, but it awakened a desire that I never had about Warhammer 40k.

Features I want:

1) fast to play. (<= 1 hour after knowing rules)
2) simple (enough) rules. I don't mind some math, but I would prefer that rules stay in my pencil box.
3) lots of players. Think "Close Action" or Wooden Ships & Iron Men. I want 10 people involved :) It should scale to the complexity of the local neightborhood, not in O(number of players)
4) Simultaneous resolution? I like commanders of ships 'lost in the fog' and sailing past each other.
5) Actually available to buy! (Most of these seem to be either out of print, or have no pdfs. I don't mind paying money)

The genre could be space fantasy battle, or flying gryphons or gundams or whatever :)

I have: Wooden Ships and Iron Men ('74). If there are hacks on that or, something like 'buy Close Action (at some link) and only keep rules X,Y,Z" those are great :)

Something like JRient's "Fleet Captain" idea is also right up my alley in terms of tone.
posted by gregglind to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The Hunt for Red October board game might work, although the "miniatures" or made of cardboard. The rule book is a book, but it's mostly a collection of starting scenarios. Unfortunately I've never gotten to play my copy with anyone else, but games supposedly run around 60 minutes, depending on scenario. Re-enacting Global Thermonuclear War will take a while :)
posted by mkb at 11:08 AM on May 18, 2012

Traveller (an SF RPG) had a set of rules for space combat, High Guard. That may work. (I was more about close combat.)

Steve Jackson Games' Ogre is undergoing a comeback. It's land-based, but the idea is similar.

I think the closest to what you want is Starfleet Battles. IIRC, there were miniature as well as hex map rules.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:17 AM on May 18, 2012

You could check out Wings of War (I'm not linking because there are about 10 000 different versions with different airplanes). It is airplanes, either WWI or WWII, but it's easy to play and quick to figure out and fun. It can play as many people as you have ships, but it does recommend team play. And the little planes are so cute!
posted by AmandaA at 11:17 AM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Never mind me. Hunt for Red October is a two player game, although having two teams might actually make it more manageable.
posted by mkb at 11:38 AM on May 18, 2012

Most of those wargames take a long time to play. AmandaA beat me to Wings of War, which is pretty fun, short and casual for the genre. Steambirds is essentially a flash game version of it, see if you like it. Your best bet it you want to keep it strictly ship based though would probably be Heroclix Star Trek. Casual, plays under an hour, I haven't played it, but I haven't heard anything bad about it. But I'm going to give you more suggestions below, because I can.

Battlefleet Gothic is suppose to be pretty good, though it's set in the 40k universe, so it might not excite you, though I've heard it described as 'Civil War era Naval Combat IN SPAAAACE'. The Babylon 5 game, A Call to Arms is pretty fun, though it's a bit on the complex side. It has a pretty big fan community. Both of those are a bit longer than 1 hour though.

In slightly off topic suggestions, Battlestations is a lot of fun. It's fun and tactical, can be co-op or competitive, has RPG elements. It's more of the crew of a few ships fighting though. Warmachine/Hordes is fun and small battles really do only take an hour or so to play, though if you play with more than two players it takes longer. Heroscape is nice and casual, and building terrain can be fun. But the last two are skirmish level wargames that don't involve ships, in space or otherwise. You might want to browse board game geek for board games with that theme though, see if anything catches your eye there. They're more likely to fit in under the 1 hour time requirement.
posted by Garm at 11:54 AM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Pirates series of constructable card games might work for you. Pretty simple rule set, quick games depending on how big a point total you're using to construct your fleets (the four player, 500 point game I was in some years back took a couple days), and easy to construct, relatively cheap miniatures. I've never had more than four or five players in a game, but with enough playing space it should scale up easily. Not sure how common the packs are anymore, haven't played in several years, but they used to be everywhere.

The biggest issue I found with the game was that after buying a half dozen packs or so of any given series you started to end up with a bunch of doubles of ships, which were basically worthless as you can only have one of each ship in a game.
posted by Jawn at 1:42 PM on May 18, 2012

Starfleet Battles is probably not what you want for a couple reasons.

1) It takes a while to play - each turn is divided into 32 impulses and if you're moving fast enough you move on ever impulse. It takes three turns to arm a plasma torpedo and two to arm a proton torpedo so unless you're running a scenario where you go in hot, there it's 96 impulses before some ships can fire their heavy weapons. Allocating damage (once you've bunched through someone's shields also takes some time).

2) While I could explain the basics to you pretty quickly, the game includes enough optional and obscure rules to choke a horse. If you all can agree on what rules you are (and aren't playing with) then it isn't quite so bad. Between that and the 100 or so pages of scenarios in the back, the rule book is pretty intimidating.

4) It does simultaneous movement, but not exactly well.

All this said, I've had some great times playing the game, but it sounds like you're looking for something more beer and pretzelsish than SFB would ever be.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:49 PM on May 18, 2012

Flying Colors is a bit like a streamlined Close Action, but it doesn't scale the same way. It's kind of geared towards each player controlling a larger number of ships, as opposed to the one-or-two-ships-each approach in CA, so there's less to do for each ship. That said, I've played some individual frigate actions and had a good time, so it might be a good starting point.
posted by makeitso at 8:01 AM on May 19, 2012

Fleet Captains, maybe? 2 or 4 players, turns go quickly, easy to learn.
posted by xedrik at 10:01 PM on May 19, 2012

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