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Louis XV George II Frederick II Maria Theresa Elizabeth
The Seven Years War In Europe, 1756-1763
Clash of Monarchs lets two to four players recreate the titantic struggle that raged across Europe and the world, pitting Frederick the Great’s Prussia and its Hanoverian allies against Maria Theresa’s Coalition of Austrian, French, Russian, Saxon, Swedish, and Holy Roman Empire forces. Each player directs the effort of one or more of the major powers, plus their minor allies, using the card-driven operations and point-to-point movement system of many of GMT’s most highly-regarded games. The cards help players enact Frederick’s pre-war invasion planning, Austrian minister Kaunitz’s diplomatic triumph in the 2nd Treaty of Versailles, the operational ascendancy of Prussian and Hanoverian light troops, formation of the Austrian General Staff, huge financial loans, court intrigue at Versailles, Vienna, and St. Petersburg, and dozens of other key political, economic, and military events. COM also uses split decks, which foster play of each power’s events in two phases -- Early War (usually through mid-1758), and Wider War (1758 to conclusion) – and allow a multi-player game to use exactly the same rules as a 2-player contest. COM augments the CDG system with a Colonial Conflict sub-game, a fully-integrated treatment of light unit operations, and a Fortunes of War chit pull, which varies the occurrence and/or timing of events beyond players’ control each year -- severe weather, desertion, attrition, possible deaths of English king George II, Empress Elizabeth of Russia, et al, and Madame Pompadour’s political influence over the French commanders, to add further uncertainty and drama to the campaigns.
Prussian and Coalition forces maneuver in Saxony
Yet COM’s overall feel leans in a more traditional wargame direction; card events are important, but players’ fates rest squarely on their operations in the field, using rich battle and siege subsystems. The armies are colorfully articulated, with line infantry strength points, and distinct line and light cavalry, field and siege artillery, and light infantry units. Over 50 leaders are rated for initiative, movement, and offensive/ defensive skills, and their willingness to drive their armies to endure horrendous combat losses. Forces clash in battles that are influenced by commanders’ abilities, artillery strength, cavalry superiority, entrenchments, fortifications, supply state, and a wide array of over 60 Tactics chits, historically suited to each power and war phase. Players must accrue as many battlefield advantages as they can, but the wide variety of combat outcomes and effects always makes battles risky. Measured and Intense battle Combat Result Tables generate relatively light casualty battles between conservative commanders, and often severe losses when determined commanders like Frederick, Marshal Daun, or Marshal Saltikov face off. Sieges can become a subgame in themselves, dependent on fortress class, siege artillery, defensive commander, besiegers’ supply status, and the lurking opportunities for quick Coup attempts (exhilarating when successful, bloody in failure). The Hanoverian and French players must also contend with each other overseas, using Royal Navy and French Fleet “home cards” in their efforts to gain the upper hand in America and India. These operations are abstracted on the Colonial Conflict Track, where success abroad can have significant effects on the enemy’s treasury, will to fight, and ultimately Victory Points.
The war was characterized by intense light unit operations in both the strategic and tactical arenas; over 100,000 Hussars, Cheveaulegers, Freikorps troops, Croats, and Cossacks were in action by war’s end, yet previous SYW games have virtually ignored these forces’ critical impact. COM features a fully integrated “Kleiner Krieg” subsystem that effectively captures light troops and their brilliant (or notorious) commanders' effects on field operations and the enemy’s supply lines and economy. Players use their light units on map to aid in Intercept and Withdrawal attempts, and increase friendly battle Tactics' chances of success -- or aid in thwarting enemy Tactics. When used in the three Kleiner Krieg Theater boxes (the German Empire area, the Border between Prussia/Austria, and the Northern areas along the Baltic coast), light troops can raid against enemy army supply lines, or ravage enemy domains. "KK" raids are crucial to wearing down a foe's economy and will to fight.
A sampling of COM Light Units
Battles and sieges are predominant causes of concern for all, but players will find keeping their armies supplied and financed will bring further unique challenges. Players must learn to operate within the limits of 18th century supply chains, or suffer higher attrition and desertion, and reduced battlefield performance. To move Forward Depots, set sieges, or help rally demoralized armies, they must spend Supply Actions, which they can either finance -- by spending precious Ops cards -- or earn as plunder through Kleiner Krieg raids. Players will fight battles, or attempt to avoid them, as a means to capture enemy fortresses or guard their own, as these represent (and control) the regions’ wealth.
Each power’s willingness to continue the war amid successes and reverses is reflected by its Monarchial Will (MW). MW can increase due to a few major political events and Major Victories in battle, but players will find their powers’ MWs inevitably deterioriate as devastated areas, enemy control of key political cities, Colonial Conflict events, economic embargos, and Major Defeats take an inexorable toll. Though the allure of the MW consequences of Major Victories (+1 MW winner, -2 MW loser) may constantly beckon, players can't ever count on getting the “Big Win,” and must avail themselves of political events, Kleiner Krieg raids, and economic war to reduce enemy MW with less risk of disaster (each time a power goes “in the red" for troop recruiting or maintenance, it loses MW as well). As MW declines, powers grow War Weary and draw one less card each campaign season, hindering their efforts further. On map and off map reverses also have their due effect on treasuries, and each power’s financial resources and dependencies are accurately rendered in a thoroughly researched economic subsystem. In 1763, the monarchs came to the peace table because they couldn’t afford to continue fighting without risking complete financial and even dynastic collapse; the COM campaign game often ends for the same reason. Some observations and aspects of play for each main power are outlined below:
Prince Henry Keith Seydlitz Winterfelt Zieten
The Prussian player is the most powerful on the map, and the most threatened. He must meet an Austrian army nearly equal in size and capability, and a tenacious Russian army seemingly impossible to keep down. These two foes may be further augmented by Imperial and Swedish troops, and, if the Anglo-Hanoverian player falls on bad times, a French corps or army. To hold off these foes, or defeat them, the Prussian player must adroitly use his many strengths; Frederick and Henry, two of the three best leaders in Europe (Ferdinand is the third); superior initiative junior leaders with better march rates; the most powerful cavalry (and cavalry Tactics chits) in Europe, showcased by the superb dual-use Prussian Hussars, whose value cannot be properly conveyed outside the game! J; strong and versatile artillery; a true host of 23 light units that can wreak havoc on Coalition domains and precarious Russian supply lines; a central position between slower moving foes, and an excellent fortress/Depot network.
Austria/Holy Roman Empire (and Saxony):
Daun Hadik Hildburghausen Nadasdy Loudon
The Austrian/Empire player has an evolving role in COM – avoid losing to the Prussians in Early War, and then beat the Prussians in Wider War. To do so, he must stave off early disasters at the hands of the more powerful Prussians in 1756-58, find opportunities to play event cards that confer military improvements (Austrian General Staff event, artillery unit builds, promoting General Loudon, etc), and make fullest use of his early (and, if his foes are smart, waning) Kleiner Krieg advantages. With Frederick’s first surge blunted, the Austrian armies, in concert with the Russians, can exert superior pressure from 1758 on, but must gain the upper hand in Victory Points before the dramatically surging Prussian raid capability drags Austrian MW down to Exhaustion levels. The Austrian player’s strengths are more subtle, and require a steady hand and patience to fully bring to bear; among them are Marshal Daun, the best defensive commander in the game, a daunting 600 gun artillery corps, and the only Coalition line cavalry that can meet its foes on equal terms.
Ferdinand Hanoverian Infantry Granby The Erbprinz
The Anglo-Hanoverian player faces a foe often fielding twice his numbers. He must usually accept his first commander, the Duke of Cumberland, falling in defeat to the initial French invasion. After this mishap, he must play event cards to get the dynamic Ferdinand of Brunswick appointed as the army's new commander in chief, with revitalizing effects. Ferdinand will then be faced with the challenge of retaking lost fortresses, moving the war into the Empire and France itself if possible, and preventing the huge French army from applying further pressure against the hard-pressed Prussians (or making the French pay dearly if they do). The Hanoverian army is qualitatively superior to the French -- with excellent cavalry, better light troops, and Ferdinand, a superb commander, as its CIC -- and must take advantage of its central position to deal with superior French numbers. The Hanoverians will win most battles, but rarely with decisive effect; judicious efforts on the Colonial Conflict Track will be needed to secure Hanoverian victory.
France/Russia (and Sweden):
Broglie Soubise Castries Russian Shuvalov Howitzer Russian General Fermor
France and Russia have separate turns in COM (just like the other major powers), but are played from the same deck and hand. The Franco-Russian player must work within his armies' very different limitations in a role that affords a great game challenge. The French army is enormous, but often poorly led, with weak cavalry, facing a nimble opponent in Ferdinand. Its few good commanders (D’Estrees, Broglie, Castries) aren't often main army commanders, and when they are, they’re still vulnerable to Pompadour’s schemes. So players must walk a fine line with the French army, accepting its shortcomings, but using its modest and sometimes transient strengths when opportunities appear. The French may lose many battles, and their main army may often seem ineffective; they must use superior numbers to make gains while Ferdinand’s attention is fixed elsewhere. The Russian army is always formidable in battle, but getting it to the battlefields and keeping it supplied is no easy task. Russian leaders are competent, and General Saltikov ranks among the best. Though its cavalry is weak, Russian infantry and artillery are top-notch, especially in a defensive role, and its Cossack light units are exceptionally adept at Kleiner Krieg destruction. Coalition players may find the Russian army the key to victory against Frederick.
Clash of Monarchs is, arguably, the most comprehensive board game of the Seven Years War in Europe yet, but an entire campaign game can be played in 16-18 hours -- half the time or less than any of its predecessors. Players can jump into the war at three start points (1756, 1757, 1759), with scenario play times ranging from one hour for the 1756 2-player learning scenario, two to three hours for 1757, and six hours for two year scenarios (1756-58, 1757-59). COM delivers an accurate historical feel for Seven Years War military operations and their political/ economic drivers, while offering great game challenges and fun for two to four players.
Game Design: Bob Kalinowski