Saturday, June 4, 2016

Wind & Turning

I think I've solved the wind problem.  My copy of Wooden Ships & Iron Men (WSIM) refers to a "Wind Effects Table" that is supposed to explain the effect of various windspeeds on ships.  That table does not exist anywhere in the rules booklet.  I downloaded the pdf booklet from Hasbro and nope, not there.  Publisher error.

So I've built my own.  This enables me to get a different number of knots for ship movement under full sail and battle sail, running, reaching or close-hauling the wind (it's always zero against a headwind).  Here's my table for my basic ship types:

I have it sorted out that I can expand this table if I want to add more ships (ketches, bigger frigates, galleons, whatever).

I'm adding "yare" (a ship's speed and ability) in order to establish what the crew is fighting against with regards to moving the ship from one direction to another.  If I go back to the Broadsides link (I really have no other source at all), I find this description under Commands: Turn to Port:

"Ship turns to port after a delay of 10 seconds to 8 minutes of game time. For the Arcade version the delay is 50 seconds. For the Tactical version the standard delay can be set anywhere between 10 seconds and 8 minutes. See sections 5.3 and 2.4 for more informa tion. Excessive damage to the rigging or hull will slow a ship's turning speed (over 50 hull points lost or 50% rigging damage). Additional damage will continue to slow a ship's turn rate."

We can just say the minimum time, 10 seconds, equals 1 round.  Using my system, 8 minutes is equal to 40 rounds.

We can then couple this information with the five melee strengths from WSIM's system:  Elite, Crack, Average, Green and Poor.  A ship wants to make a port turn: the order is given and the crew jumps into action.  How long does it take?

We can establish a "poor"crew as one that takes 21-40 rounds to succeed in making the turn.  Then, in turn, we can say that a "green" crew takes 11-20 rounds, an "average" crew takes 6-10 rounds, a "crack" crew takes 4-5 rounds and an "elite" crew can do it in 1-3 rounds.

We can overlap these: poor, 21-40; green, 11-22; average, 6-13; crack, 4-7; elite, 1-4.  Or whatever adjustment to those numbers that works for us.

The yare of the ship can then affect these numbers.  We can establish a yare of A as 60% of these numbers we've already given; a yare of B at 80%; a yare of C as 100%; and a yare of D as 120%. That gives us this potential table:

That is simple enough.  It's going to take about the same amount of time for a crack crew to drag the frigate around than an average crew with a yawl.  There's enough play in the comparison, even between a green crew that could get lucky with a sambuk or a yawl to outmanueuver a crack crew with a frigate - remembering that if a yawl, a baghla or a sambuk can get their attitude to the wind right, there's no way a frigate can catch them at any speed.

On the other hand, if that frigate - with even an average crew - is bearing down on a yawl with a poor crew that's already close-hauling into the wind (see image below), that's a full turn the yawl has to make before it can sail faster than the frigate.  If the frigate is coming at it more or less head on, the yawl has to swing around 180 degrees - which is three full ship turns: somewhere between 39 to 72 rounds, during which time the frigate can cover a distance of a mile and half.  How is a frigate going to catch a very fast ship?  Coming from around a headland or in bad weather, picking its target.

But, all this is to propose a question.

Everyone hates having to keep track of this sort of thing in a game.  The ship is going to turn in 9 rounds?  Jeez.  Annoyance, much?

Should I just change the above table to a set of percentages?  A yawl with an average crew has a 1 in 7 chance of turning a ship this round; a caravel with a green crew has a 1 in 22 chance.  And so on.  Then there's no tedious record-keeping.  The characters roll and if the roll comes out, the ship turns.

It isn't "better."  In a lot of ways, it's way worse.  Injecting luck to this degree into the system will mess with it in a number of ways.  But it is far, far easier to manage in game.



Maxwell Joslyn said...

I think the tension of having the die roll each round, not knowing if it's going to be a quick turn or a slow one, is only made to seem tense by the pre-existing tension introduced by the external factors (such as a frigate bearing down on the party's little ship.) And even if it were somehow special, it'd be equalled or bettered by the "countdown to turning" clock that the roll-a-number-of-rounds approach has (i.e. the approach outlined in the last table you've posted here.) As a player I'd rather have something to look forward to, and sweat over (knowing the turn will happen in X rounds) than sitting there just tossing a die over and over. It wouldn't feel the same, I think.

Steven Grover said...

Alexis, there was a separate page of ‘Advanced’ Game Tables (with Hit Determination, Wind Effects, Melee, Fouled Rigging, Grappling, and Critical Hit Tables). If you want a copy let me know and I'll PDF it up and send.

Ozymandias said...

If you use a 1-in-x die roll, you'll face the perception that the chance of success is not worth the investment or effoet. (Granted, your players are accustomed to your way of gaming, so this comment may not apply.) If I'm looking at my options for the round, a 1-in-22 chance of success is low, at first glance, but when compared to other elements of naval combat, maybe it isn't. After all, it's not like I can say, well, let's just attack because a little damage now is better than a lot of damage later.

What if you had a variable, incremental timer each round? To execute Y maneuver, you need X points which you accumulate by performing a series of actions that grant you 1dZ points each turn. That way you have a rough idea of how it'll take to get the sction done but the player has the benefit of lucky rolls and taking other sctions to impact the roll they make each round.

Tim said...

You could have both, in a way, by capping the number of turns needed. So if the chance is 1 in 7, after some number, say 7, rolls you make the turn anyway even if the past 7 rolls all failed. It requires a teensy bit of recordkeeping but conserves the chance for luck to give an edge. It's parallel to rolling hits and damage, I suppose: you could even have a higher chance of success than 1 in 7, but that success needs to be achieved X times before the turn is made.

Alexis Smolensk said...


Ah, I bought a used version of the game and it doesn't have it! And the pdf from Hasbro doesn't either. Yes please - send it to

Shelby Urbanek said...

Is the time to turn (in light of your latest developments) different between Full Sail and Battle Sails? If the purpose of Battle Sails is to make the ship more maneuverable, would turning times be extended (doubled?) for Full Sail?

Alexis Smolensk said...


Following this comment from Jeremiah on my Sailing Questions, I'm satisfied that every turn can be judged as complicated as any other:

I probably will have to make some rule about ships being 'caught in irons' - when I understand it.