Sea Lords is a series of games examining operational naval warfare in the Age of Sail. The series developed out of the Lace Wars™ operational land warfare series. But, while a number of rules are similar to those found in the Lace Wars, the change of environment necessistated a different treatment for most aspects of the rules.
As with the Lace Wars series, the games can be dignified as "operational studies" although they are have sufficient abstraction of detail to make them playable; the players may find some of the systems are quite novel.
The focus of the games is on fulfilling orders handed down "from above", in order to win prestige – i.e. score victory points. Typical orders might be: "cruise" (i.e. patrol a line of coast),"escort", "blockade", "show of force", "support the army". Orders are assigned to naval formations, which are composed of squadrons – the basic combat units. These formations are commanded by leaders (admirals and commodores) who influence the effectiveness of their formations. Squadrons are composed of Sail (ships), which act as strength points.
Movement is governed by the wind. Coastal travel is conducted "point-to-point", along lanes that cost a variable number of movement points, depending on the weather. Movement in open water is by "zone", also affected by the wind. Attrition plays a major role – even ships in port suffer wear and tear. An important part of the game is skilfully cycling squadrons between conducting operations in pursuance of orders and "fitting out" (repairing).
Combat is not covered in detail – this is an operational-scale series – but the key issues are featured: the effect of leadership, holding the weather gauge, deciding on the intensity of the battle, matching up opposing squadrons on the line of battle. Attritional damage is inflicted, which may lead to the sinking of "sail"; on occasion a ship may be sunk outright. The opportunity to take prizes is not omitted.
As in real life, the opposing forces are not always visible to each other; "searching" is an important part of the game. Reconnaissance and other special assets, like frigates, fireships, and bomb ketches, are represented by special counters, played against the enemy or on target locations.
The games are played in a series of turns, each representing one month. Each turn is divided into four operational impulses and an administrative phase. The impulses are broken down into single movement point increments, allowing "simultaneous" movement without the need for a written plot..
Each game has a set of minor scenarios, usually covering a single year, and one or more campaign games covering the whole war or a large portion of it.
To read about and order the individual games, use theSea Lords Series pull-down menu above.
Historical information can be found under Resources.