Game: Ships of War
Publisher: Mongoose Publishing
Review Dated: 27th, February 2002
Reviewer’s Rating: 7/10 [ Good ]
Total Score: 7
Average Score: 7.00
“Oh, I see. More boats!” That’s pretty much what I thought as I sat down with Ships of War. Then I opened the book. The picture of the war gallery with the striking lightening bolt had already soften me up but full colour picture of a mighty whale armed with spear like ram and transport dome rising up from the deep blue of the ocean was enough to upgrade my initial impressions to “Oh, wow!”
Traveller’s Tales: Ships of War really is about the boats though. The whale (Ëar’Mellon) is not alone in the ranks of weird and wonderful nautical additions though. The gnomes seem to have the inclination to build strange looking boats, most of them too strange for my tastes but when you review the offerings from the dwarves and the goblinoid races then you’re sailing safe. This book actually comes after Ships of the Goblinoids and Ships of the Elves but is more of a generic offering, concentrating on the warships of various races. You really do need Seas of Blood, though, since it’s that book which introduces Mongoose’s d20 ocean combat rules and basic boat stuff.
The Open Mass Combat Rules, of which the ocean combat is a sub-set, that Mongoose Publishing have put forth are both good and simple. As each extra book from them adds to the range of troops or ships the urge to sneak a mini war game into your campaign increases. In fact, unless you’re gearing up for some full blown war you might struggle to find a lot of use for Ships of War in your game. Pirates, though, let’s not forget pirates.
It’s important not to ignore the deck plans at the back of the book. If you don’t have a war then you can still set an adventure onboard a war vessel. Not every ship has their own deck plan (why, the dwarf floating castles would probably need a whole book of maps) but there are three whole sides of squared maps. I can’t but help imagine a scene where a player is caught having to duck and fight his way around a loaded and incredibly powerful ballista. This mental picture was no doubt encouraged by the inclusion of extra nautical weapons in the book. Along with the new weapons (of magical and mundane nature) there’s also are two new subtypes of ship – the ironclad and the enchanted. Subtyping is the system that allows you to cobble together your own design of ships or provide sensible game mechanics for any ships that your players design. Both ironclads and enchanted ships deal with different ways to protect your vessels from either magical or mundane forms of damage.
There’s also the standard list of quick NPCs along with their gold cost per month to hire included too. Hidden away in this section you’ll find extra rules for morale and hit point bonuses for those ships that are lucky enough to be crewed by a majority of veteran war sailors. All the crewmen templates are, I think, human. I suppose that’s a fair and neutral place for the templates. The start of the book finds room to discuss the general tactics of the major races though. Elves use hit and run tactics, counting on their agility and grace, whereas the goblinoids normally rush to board the enemy vessel as soon as possible.
The book is very fairly priced – less than $10 for 32 pages. There is very little filler in the book. I don’t generally mind the inclusion of atmospheric text in even the smaller style of RPG supplements that Ships of War belong to. There are two large “grey boxes” of story (and of course, one page always has to go to the legal print) but the rest of the book is entirely given over to hardcore gaming. I read a recent rant in Gamig Frontiers about d20 companies trying to skimp (or having to) on the artwork. Mongoose Publishing is certainly not guilty of this. If my introductory comments about the double whammy of colour pictures were not clue enough you might be surprised to discover that every single ship mentioned as a companion picture.
I think this is Alejandro Melchor’s first book for Mongoose Publishing. It was certainly a hard book to write but I’m glad he did. Ships of War seems to cap my collection of Seas of Blood supplements and give me a decent taste of what Alejandro might give us in the future. There is a rather sly mention in Ships of War of rumours of distant seas where strange golem ships slowly cruise the waves. On a rather interesting coincidence I noticed that Alejandro has his name attached to Encyclopaedia Arcane – Constructs (as well as The Quintessential Elf).