Saturday, October 15, 2011

Uncharted Seas with Pirates PocketModels

Highpoint in the game: see that chinese ship on fire (cruiser) in the middle?  I maneuvered my 3 frigates (triangle sails-below) close for a killing shot, except it "magazine exploded" spectacularly taking out my entire frigate squadron.  Holy crap!   Used a blue plastic party table cloth under my transparent hex grid for a nice ocean effect.
I saw these Pirates PocketModels being sold as a massive discount of 20 pack for $10 at Target, and I thought to myself, what a great deal - what game could i play with it?   =)   Naturally, Uncharted Seas came to mind as a fleet-level naval combat game which needs lots of ships, and i've been meaning to try out the game mechanics as a proxy for applying Firestorm Armada to my Star Wars Starship Battles figures.  Read on for my conversion and review!
The Deal
PocketModel is series of games produced by WizKids where you punch out stryrene cards and assemble 3D models of ships.  They also did a starwars pocketmodel of ships and ground vehicles which is neat too.  Since it's printed graphics, you end up with some actually pretty nifty looking ships for dirt cheap price, since the company is out of business and all their pocketmodel stuff is on clearance left and right.  Each pack comes with 2 ships, a terrain piece (island) and tiny dice, so if you get the value re-pack of 20 for $10 (only at Target), you're getting 40 ships at a quarter each.   So I set about seeing how many starter sets of Uncharted Seas I could make (which each has 10 ships).  Last time I checked my local Target a few days ago, they still had some re-pack boxes left (individual packs also available on Amazon), so if you act fast you can get in on this as well.

Although I could figure out most of the rules based on reviews and quick-play sheet on Spartan's website, I figured I'd buy their rulebook to support their company, plus it was only ~$20, which is cheap as rulebooks go.   Also picked up some of the faction specific game cards since it's supposed to add a lot to the gameplay, and they were not bad at $3.50 each.   Note: due to Spartan releasing updated models, currently you can get the rulebook/cards for even better price (try miniature market). 
The Conversion
The Pirates Pocketmodel game comes with ships of varying strength determined by the number of masts it has (2, 3, 4 and rare ships have 5 masts).  Since Uncharted Seas has ships of small (frigates), medium (cruisers), and large (battleships), i made it simply:
Small (frigates) - 2 masts
Medium (cruisers) - 3 masts
Large (battleships) - 4 masts
special Large (Flagships, max of 1) - 5 masts rares.
special small troop ship or martyr ships - 1 masts rares.  

Each starter has a 6 frigates, 3 cruisers, 1 battleship breakdown, although for total point equivalence, some fleets need an extra frigate.  

With a 20 value pack and about 5 packs of Pirates of the Carribbean set (i got these previously, also clearance but no longer available), i was able to put together 4 complete starter sets of ships organized mostly by ship style and/or color.   Plus a few rares i could use as Flagships (2) or specials.  
Billow-cloud sails - Orcs
Sleek, triangle sails - Elves
Sleek, rectangular sails - Imperials
Asian ships - Ralgath

It is also enough for 2 fleets of basically any composition beyond the starter + flagships.  

Rules modifications
Since the pocketmodel ships are about half the size of the official resin models, and since my dining room table is only 3' wide instead of the 4' recommended, i scaled the distances accordingly.   
Range bands are in 5" (changed from 8").
Command radius is 3" (from 4").
Exploding radius is 3" (from 4"). 

Move is same, although i used a 1 inch hex grid, where small ships take up 1 hex, medium = 2 hex, large = 3 hex.  
Instead of the turning game aid, ships must move forward at least 1 hex before turning for small, 2 hex for medium, and 3 for large, turning on the forward hex.   (similar to firestorm armada, except with grid).    

To track hull damage, used the hit/burning clip-on tokens from the star wars pocket model game, works perfectly with this game and it's a nice visual indicator!  crew point damage by tiny d6 dice although that was somewhat rare in our first game.  
Frigates (small) / Cruisers (medium) / Battleships (large) take up 1/2/3 hexes respectively. Some "hit" counters from starwars shown below.  Check out the cool monsters on the right, giant crab!

Gameplay Review
So I introduced this game to a pirate-loving friend, and she liked it!  (probably because she won)  Now, she had never played any sort of miniature game before, and even though this is supposed to be a simplified - what Spartan calls "beer & pretzels" depth of game, she still thought there were a lot of rules.  But i think it was manageable with starters, because there are only 3 different ships, so you can quickly figured out some basic tactics.  Since your are activating groups of ship at a time, the game pace is pretty good.  And with the exploding D6 mechanic, i think this would work fairly well for Star Wars fleet-level space, except i would have starfighters be frigates.  You can tell that the game is a simplified version of Full Thrust which is a good thing, because with Full Thrust you could only have a max of 3-5 ships per side due to complexity.  

In conclusion, the Pocket models work great as a cheap, space-efficient, and fast setup proxy alternative to the official models.   You also get a nice variety of terrain (islands, rocks, reefs, whirlpools, fogs) and some of the sets come with sea-monsters (which Uncharted Seas has rules for as well).  The basic gameplay is pretty good and we'll try playing with the gamecards next time.  An improvement my friend suggested was to make the game more "epic", i.e. give it a storyline so that you're not just winning by destroying each other's fleets.  Something like who can grab the most treasure from islands or something more scenario-based for flavor.  The rulebook is pretty light on scenarios, more of which would make especially a "beer & pretzels" game a lot more interesting.  

1 comment:

Tim said...

Yay! A new blog post!

Game nights grow ever bigger... ;)