I got the starter set for Christmas a few years back. I think it's cool so I'm keeping it, but it doesn't hit the table very often.
It borrows a lot of mechanics from Ares' other game, Wings of Glory, if you're familiar with that. I find that managing more than one ship gets very time-consuming and fiddly. But for one-on-one ship duels it's pretty fantastic.
The best way to add more ships is to add more players, which works great because of simultaneous moves.
Ships are pretty small though, making them difficult to tell apart. If I were them, I would have scaled them up a bit.
They're pre-assembled and pre-painted, which is nice.
If you pick it up, check out the Anchorage fan page. They do solo campaigns which is a great way to get more plays in.
Other similar options:
Oak & Iron by Firelock Games (the Blood & Plunder 28mm pirate guys). Larger scale, earlier time period, pirate themed, optimized for more ships per player. Coming out this fall. Assembly/painting required.
Black Seas by Warlord Games. Borrows mechanics from Cruel Seas (haven't played, so I don't know how many ships per player is best). Larger scale, same time period. Also coming out this fall. Assembly/painting required.
If I recall correctly, it's pretty flexible. The official game mat is 67 x 98 cm (26 x 39 in) so that gives you a rough idea of the table size they are expecting in order to let you maneuver around obstacles and stuff.
That sounds very reasonable! Thanks for the feedback.
The last War at Sea game I played was done on a 5’x8’ kitchen table and took a week to play out. But it was a lot of fun. Used every CA, BB, and CV that I own. I could only do it because my wife and kids were out of town.
A 5x8' table is plenty of room for a game. I own a considerable amount of the game, but don't get to play nearly as often as I would like. I find it strikes a nice balance between playability and realism. If you can get the starter, many of the expansion ships are still pretty easy to find.
I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast; for I intend to go in harm's way. - Captain John Paul Jones
There’s lots of availability on eBay for very decent prices. Most of my interest in the time period would be putting the Constitution up against 1-2 frigates or a frigate and 4th rate from various nations, so I think I could satisfy a lot of my desires with just the starter and the Constitution. The majority of the frigates are under $15 on eBay, so it’s much more affordable than WaS, and the scale of combat would be massively reduced.
I really enjoy both the game play and the models in Sails. The only problem I have with it right now is that my playing partners (my kids - at least the ones who are interested in this kind of game) are too young. They would break the fragile little masts on the tall ships. I do have about eight ships or so, though. I've never met anyone else who plays. That's the problem...