Designer: Neil Fawcett & Mark Sims
Publisher: Spartan Games
Number of Players: 2-4 players
Playing Time: 90 Minutes
Category: Miniature, Fantasy, Naval, Wargame, Dice
Mechanics: Variable Player Powers, Dice-Rolling
In Brief: Naval Warfare has never been the biggest money maker in the tabletop wargaming world. Older games may fondly recall the hours spent decifering the complex rules and charts of Games Workshop's Man'o'War; a few of you may have tried some of the Ancient or Napoleonic Naval rulesets out there; but in the last year, Naval Wargaming has become vogue in a way never previously seen. Dev Sodagar investigates Uncharted Seas, the game that has brought about this revolution in wargaming.
Spartan Games emerged onto the miniature wargaming scene in June 2008 with Uncharted Seas, a game that sees you take command of a fleet of ships from one of 5 different fantasy races including humans, orcs, elves and dwarves (there will eventually be 12 races to choose from with the next race - The Undead - expected in the next couple of weeks). Uncharted Seas was an instant hit with demand massively out stripping supply.
What was it about this game that caused such a rush from a new company with no previous releases? There are several reasons. Man'o'War was hugely popular and since Games Workshop ceased support, prices of the game and related miniatures have sky rocketed. Mark Sims is a superb sculptor with his own range of miniatures in his Crusader Miniatures line and Neil Fawcett is well known in wargaming circles as editor of Wargames Journal. Not least of all, it is a fabulous game with excellently sculpted miniatures.
Spartan Games have introduced a game mechanic that allows games to run very quickly. Movement is a standard measurement in inches and turning implements templates to reflect the turning arcs of ships. Shooting, Ramming and Boarding is based on rolling a number of D6s determined by the range & cannon power/hull points/crew respectively all dice hit on 4,5,6 and if the number of hits match or exceed the damage rating, damage is done. A natural 6 (a 6 on the dice without modification) counts as 2 hits and allows you to roll another dice. There is very little to calculate and very few modifiers to confuse the dice rolling. This rule mechanic will be implemented in future Spartan games which are expected to be released in the next year (these games will include Firestorm: Armada - space naval combat and Death or Glory - flexible skirmish rules). The game also has a deck of cards for each race that can be played with if desired these decks comprise 26 cards (13 are common to all races, 13 are unique to each race). These cards are entirely optional and are included in the starter fleet packs or can be bought seperately. The cards introduce aspects such as magic (which can be countered), events and luck.
The rules come in a perfect-bound full colour 83 page glossy book of the highest quality for £15. The book provides all the rules you will need to play, however you will need miniatures (available from Spartan Games), dice, tape measures and gaming space. The book has quite a few errors in early editions that have resulted in quite a comprehensive FAQ section of the website however even with these errors the majority of the rules have always been clear and easy to work. Far from being a problem, this has demonstrated one of the greatest strengths of Spartan games, their ongoing dedication to making good games great, the forums are very active and any question you might have, usually within a couple of hours. The rules are very much a living ruleset with updates occuring frequently some examples include the changing point scheme and the orc fleet being fundamentaly changed as they proved to be a little overpowered. All of these updates are available for free on the website along with added background materials about the races of the Uncharted Seas. There is still no real campaign system in the rules and it would certainly benefit the game.
The miniatures Spartan Games have released alongside Uncharted Seas are of the highest quality resin hulls with metal sails and turrets (for the versions with rotating turrets). The resin requires no filing or prep work at all, although they are delicate and occasionally come chipped, Spartan Games will replace any damaged parts. The metal components are highly detailed but do have a lot of flash and some mould lines to be cleaned up. The price of a starter fleet ranges between £14 and £26 and the starter fleets really do provide a complete fleet with no need to build on these to play the game to its fullest.
Uncharted Seas is one of the best miniature wargames out there. Rapid play and simple rules ensure that games are action packed with the card decks adding some detail to the play that makes games into events, generating stories that will spark 'remember the time when'-s and 'when I...'-s. This game is not only a must buy but a must play, must live and must breathe. This game will get under your skin in a way you can't prepare yourself for.