Sunday, 5 February 2012

It's Warm Work Playtesting 'It Is Warm Work'

Having tried out Grand Fleet Actions In The Age of Sail, I decided to try a set that involved throwing more dice for damage – maybe it's a throwback to my GW days, but I much prefer the feel of a system that uses 3+ dice to one that relies on one die with modifiers. A lava lamp for gamers is what someone on TMP called it, but you can't deny that a Force on Force attack has a more engaging feel than a DBA one.

So anyway, what set did I pick? A mix of good reviews and cheap price led me to It Is Warm Work, a naval set by Frank Capotorto, and published by Crookedhead Games. The name comes from a quote of Lord Nelson's, spoken at the Battle of Copenhagen: “It is warm work; and this day may be the last to any of us at a moment. But mark you! I would not be elsewhere for thousands.

IIWW is a simple system, with very little record-keeping (score!), variable number of dice depending on weight of broadside (score!), and with a fair bit of period flavour with windage, fouling, critical hits and boarding actions all accounted for (score again!).
It all sounds good on paper, but how does it play? Ahead of my Navwar arriving, I whipped out the old Pirates of the Spanish Main ships for a quick match-up between British and US forces. The US, under Commodore Johnson (I watched Blazing Saddles last night), had four ships – the 74s Albany and Kentucky, the 50-gun frigate USS James Madison and the garishly painted USS Vermont. I broke one of her masts assembling her, so I think I'll be binning her.
Seriously, Wizkids? That's awful.
Archangel turned up right before the game, and being a huge Hornblower fan, he opted to join in, taking the part of the Royal Navy's three ship squadron – HMS Royal 74, HMS Lord Walpole and Concorde 64s.

The game started slowly, with both flags in the van. They crossed quickly and started the Albany's run of bad luck with a terrific exchange of fire. The Kentucky made up for it by grappling and boarding the Concorde. Unfortunately, they couldn't get their grapples unhooked for ages, which took them out of the battle for ages. Luckily the Royal hung around waiting for them to unhook so that she could destroy them without hurting her sister ship, which left the Albany and both frigates to take on the Lord Walpole without interference.
And lucky it was, because the Lord Walpole turned out to be death machine. With exquisite gunnery and sailing, she chased down and sank the Albany – nearly destroying both frigates into the bargain.
It all looked like a wrap-up for the Royal Navy until the Kentucky got loose and unleashed three devastating broadsides against the Royal, sinking it completely with rolls on the critical hit and ship's fate tables. At the same time, the last dregs of the Madison and Vermont's gunnery crews stiffened their sinews and blasted the Walpole with such a shocking volume of fire that she struck her colours.

A bloody bash all told then, with both flagships, the Albany and Royal, sunk. Both of the other Royal Navy vessels had struck their colours after severe batterings, and the American squadron had taken an awful pummelling as well.

So what do I think of It Is Warm Work? I really liked it. It has minimal book-keeping, but with a lot of period flavour nonetheless. All the rules for fouling, grappling, boarding et al make a lot of sense, and it all flows very naturally just with the QRS. For three quid and twenty-eight pages, you can hardly ask for more! It's actually easier to play than Grand Fleets and has a lot more character too. Then again, it is designed only for 1740-1815 rather than 1530-1830, but since SYW and Napoleonics are my prime interest in this area it's not a great loss.

Man of the Match: The Kentucky, which took the Concorde and sank the Royal.
Un-men of the Match: The Madison and Vermont. They spent valuable turns fouled with each other, being ridiculous. Idiots. At least they finally blasted the Lord Walpole into submission.

EDIT: Having done some idle e-Bay research, I've found that it will actually be cheaper to build fleets in 1/3000th metal than from Wizkids' Pirate ships. Impressive work, Navwar!

No comments:

Post a Comment