My first proper naval miniatures wargame, yay! I've been wanting to get me some age of sail action for a long, long time, and the host of http://landandnavy.wordpress.com/ gave me the opportunity to participare in one of his games at Warcon. Note that all the pictures in this article are of models in his collection so do pay his blog a visit!
Signal Close Action goes a bit more in the way of realism than say.. Trafalgar does. Ships are not that easy to put out of action and manoeuvering is more complex. Where the system really shines is the command and control system. If you're commanding a squadron you have to signal all orders to the ships in the fleet using orders which would be historically plausible. Also, if there is no LOS between the flagship of the fleet and the ship it is trying to send orders to, the command will not get through unless relayed by another ship.
Playing a naval wargame such as this is very different from land based games and requires a change in the way you think. You have to consider the direction of the wind and the relative positions of the fleets to it. Ships cannot turn (unless tacking) directly into the wind and cannot move directly upwind. This means you can't just "drive around" the table as you would with tanks. Also, your speed changes with your attitude to the wind and depends on your sail setting.
We got the hang of it eventually and probably learned enough for our first game. We played through the approach phase and a bit into the firefight between the ships until things started getting chaotic. I didn't take any notes and the photos are sporadic so I can't really give you a blow by blow. Suffice to say, a British fleet met with a French one, and at the end, the British weren't doing all that well. Two British ships had crashed into their French counterparts and the Englishmen had lost a boarding action that ensued.
All in all, it was a real treat of a game. Right now, I'm participating in a PBEM Kriegspiel test game hosted by http://landandnavy.wordpress.com/, and it is proving to be an interesting experiment indeed.