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Wednesday, 14 July 2010

HLBS Floating Castles Rules Review

As promised, here's a quick review of Floating Castles by Chris Peers which, until recently, were published by HLBS.

The rule book is in the usual HLBS format and consists of 32 pages of comb bound text, with a few black and white pictures but little in the way of colourful presentation. This is fine with me as it keeps the price down to a very acceptable eight quid!

The rules cater for any scale with distances measured in yards and speed in knots, converted into inches or fractions thereof e.g. 1/2400th = 1 inch : 100 yards / 1 knot : 1/2 inch per turn.

You'll need D10's as the rules are based around percentage rolls for most outcomes.

The sequence of play is straightforward and is based on alternate moves, with each player moving one ship at a time based on an intiative roll. Shooting is simultaneous but torpedoes and ram attacks have their own placing in the sequence.

There are rules for weather and stability, with a die roll at the start of the game to determine the conditions of play.

Movement is measured in inches, with variable manoeverability depending upon the speed and size of ships involved. Turning is in increments of 30 degrees but there are no turn templates provided as, 'they are always a nuisance on a crowded table' (?), so you might want to make your own.

There are no rules for movement under sail.

There are, however, rules for ramming and accidental collisions, which is handy, given the absence of any turning templates!

Shooting is determined after movement has taken place, which is a neat way to simplify gunfire and should avoid slowing down the game i.e. ships which move are considered to be 'fleeting targets' so can only be engaged at the end of the manoevere phase.

All shooting depends upon arcs of fire although, once again, there are no templates provided. If a target is in range and inside a firing arc at the end of the movement phase, it can be fired upon.

To hit a target, a D10 is rolled for each gun requiring a base 'to hit' score depending upon range. There are, in a addition, a small number of +1 modifiers for sea state, angle of fire etc.

If a hit is scored, a percentile roll is made to detemine damage, with various hit locations and effects. Armour penetration is dealt with by averaging out the actual armour protection of a target across the whole ship, with each vessel classified as either light, medium, heavy or super heavy. Armour penetration depends upon a D10 roll based on the weapon fired and the strength of the armour, modified by range.

There are additional straightforward rules for spar, locomotive and towed torpeodoes, mines, ramming and boarding. These are dealt with after the movement and shooting phases have been resolved.

At the end of the rulebook there are 13 comprehensive page of data tables for virtually every fleet that you might wish to deploy, with stats for both minor nations and the major powers. There are also details of the formulae used to calculate the stats for each ship, so you can always fill in the blanks for those vessels that aren't listed.

No index or contents page is provided and, being a Chris Peers rule set, there is no play sheet at all. If you're used to it, fine, but it might be a bit disconcerting if you're not. Having said that, it wouldn't be difficult to knock up a cheat sheet and some templates if that made things easier.

In summary, I think these rules would be excellent for fleet actions using small scale ships rather than skirmish type engagements in larger scales. The emphasis is clearly upon simplification of the turn sequence rather than detailed, time consuming number crunching.

There is also a leaning towards 'what if' scenarios, which is a positive spin from my perspective, given my current Anglo-French naval project in 1/2400th.

The rules can be purchased from a number of traders including the following, although you might be able to track down a set on ebay:

http://www.empiregamestore.co.uk/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=246_254&products_id=4013&zenid=6mradcqq30jj1s6fu2hcu469v0

http://www.brigadegames.com/mm5/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Store_Code=BGAHSL&Product_Code=HL-BP1123&Category_Code=

http://www.milminusa.com/hlbs/HLBS.htm

3 comments:

  1. Thank you for the overview - I might just track down a set!

    ReplyDelete
  2. We own the license with a partner (Rattrap Productions) and they are VERY AVAILABLE -

    http://www.brigadegames.com/mm5/merchant.mvc?Screen=CTGY&Store_Code=BGAHSL&Category_Code=WRSL

    ReplyDelete
  3. Sorry, my mistake.

    I didn't think Rattrap would be interested in this sort of thing, being more of an RPG / skirmish game publisher.

    I've added the Brigade link to the post for you.

    ReplyDelete