Board game reviews, strategy tips & session reports
No. of players: 2-6
Amount of time to play: 80 min
Age requirements: 6+
Set-up time: 5-10 minutes
Admiral puts you in command of a fleet of sailing ships. You must master the winds and complete the scenario based goals to beat your opponents.
The ships you start with in Admiral depend on the scenario you are playing. There are four types available in the game, the brig, 28-gun frigate, galleon, and 100-gun first rate ship. The game comes with six miniatures of each ship type (or a total of 24). Each ship has its own stat card and the rules include an informative write-up about each ship type in the game.
After choosing a scenario you must set up the map. You may need to add forts, islands, reefs or ports which are included with the game. The initial placement of your ships is also determined by the scenario.
Each turn the starting player determines the wind direction and speed. There is spinner on a weathercock divided into eight regions, N, NE, E, SE, S, SW, W, and NW. Each directional region is dived into three colors, red, white and blue. The colors determine the wind strength. Red means a storm, blue means a fresh breeze and white means dead calm. Each ship type can move a certain number of spaces when sailing with the wind. In fact you must move with the wind if in a storm. Many ships cannot move in dead calm and even those that can move very slowly.
In a fresh breeze you can choose to move in a direction different from the wind. Ships move further orthogonally with the wind than they do diagonally with it. For each region of variance from the wind direction for must subtract one speed. For example, if the wind is blowing SW in a 1st rate ship you can go 4 spaces in that direction. You can go 5-1=4 spaces in S or W, 4-2=2 spaces in SE or NW, and so on.
Your ships may fire before or after it moves. Each ship has a different range and rate of fire. If your ship can fire more than once per turn, it may fire before and after it moves. You can also shoot enemies with your forts. If you are adjacent to your target only a 2 is a miss. If further away a 1, 3 or 5 hits and a 2, 4 or 6 misses. After a ship’s hull takes too many hits it sinks. You can also attack your foes by turning one of their ships into a fire ship It takes two turns and explodes damaging all adjacent ships. Lastly you can board an enemy ship. This is a high risk, high reward endeavor as there can only be one winner and the loser forfeits their ship. Ships can be repaired at forts and even forts can be repaired.
Some scenarios give you access to mines. You have the option to detonate a mine anytime a ship enters its space.
There are more advanced rules that allow for greater maneuvering, slows damaged ships, makes longer distanced shots harder, and other rules. You can choose to add all or just some of these advanced rules to spice up your game.
The scenarios vary from total war to treasure grabbing missions. There are variations for team play and even a pirates vs the Spanish Armada scenario.
Admiral gives a realistic feeling of commanding and controlling a fleet of sailing ships. You must deal with the wind and try to reach your goals or eliminate your opponents. The game is kid friendly, but some youngsters will need help with the movement rules.
The components for this game are very good. The miniatures are nice and the art looks very good. Everything keeps the feel and theme intact. The history and information about the ships shows the creators are very knowledgeable about sailing ships. The ship stat cards are magnetic and you mark what actions you’ve taken with colored magnet dots. This keeps things in place even if the table gets bumped.
I like the way this game simulates the wind and how it effects movement. This can be frustrating when you just need to move a certain direction but the wind doesn’t allow for it. It is also a bit complex when you start to move against the wind. After some practice you get used to it, but kids may need help with this all the time.
The stat cards and magnets are very clever as well. I am surprised I have not seen this system in a game before. I really like it.
Lastly I like the variety of scenarios and the fact you can add more advanced rules. This lets you toggle the difficulty to the level and experience of specific players.
There is a good bit of randomness in the game. A lot of what you can do and how you can move is based on a spin. I am sure this is realistic when dealing with sailing ships but it makes the game seem random. Between fresh breezes in the wrong direction or dead calm winds that allow for little movement you might spend a few rounds doing nothing.
Admiral is for you if you enjoy games with a naval theme. It is fun for a variety of ages but be aware that some kids might need help with the movement rules. If you like miniatures games or like sailing you should at least try this game out.
Score and synopsis: (Click here for an explanation of these review categories.)
Strategy 3 out of 6
Luck 5 out of 6
Player Interaction 4 out of 6
Replay Value 4 out of 6
Complexity 4 out of 6
Fun 4 out of 6
Overall 4 out of 6 (this is a definite 5 if you like sailing or naval games)