Game 005: 1864
In the Americas where I grew up (NYC), the Second Schleswig war is unheard of. I would not be surprised of less than .0001% of people were aware of it’s occurrence. This makes a bit of sense taking into account the American Civil War and the enormous impact it would have on industrial warfare to come. The Danish war of 1864 on the other hand had more implications for the balance of power in Europe, implications that Napoleon III of France blatantly ignored directly leading to the rapid fall of the Second French Empire in 1870. As recently as a year or so ago, a major Danish TV series on the war won international acclaim as it chronicled the demise of Denmark as a regional European power. Prussia and Austria would shortly be at each others throat in 1866 during the Austro-Prussian War over supremacy in Germany after which Prussia reigned supreme. After Bismarck had masterfully goaded Napoleon III into giving into French public pressure to advance into Germany on the offensive, the German world united and bypassed the French army on it’s flanks, threatening the French rear right at the outset of the war.
At the outset of the design process for this game, I had decided that I wanted the game to straddle 2 scales, operational and tactical. The reason for this being is that at either scale by themselves, the war as a simulation struggles as a game. For one thing, the theater of war is relatively tiny, the only other game I know of to cover the war, Blood & Iron by Mike Benninghoff/Pacific Rim, does so as a tiny scenario that only uses a small portion of the map. Hence it becomes limiting to attempt at an operational scale as there is little opportunity for maneuver. Tactically, the battles themselves were in many ways very straightforward. The Danish would entrench, rely on fortresses, and attempt to use their Naval supremacy to transport men in order to threaten the German rear isolating both German armies as in the First Schleswig war. The German armies on the other hand would seek out the Danish flank and press them continuously, along with using heavy artillery to decimate Danish fortresses and entrenched positions. This pattern repeated itself throughout the entire war.
My solution design-wise to the challenges inherent to the conflict in regards to simulation was two-fold. My two objectives were to 1, allow players to gain some insight as to the challenges and tactics used during 1864 and 2 to provide enough player choice and variation that players weren’t railroaded into a predetermined narrative. In order to do this, I drew inspiration from an old and quirky Chadwick game, Crimea which deals with the Crimean war during a similar period and using a similar scale. In that game, whenever units end up adjacent after a strategic movement phase, it scales down to a separate action phase in which goes on as long as units remain next to each-other. This seemed like the most complementary approach as it gives both sides plenty of opportunities at a scale of 2.5 miles per hex. The second part of my design drew inspiration from Eric Lee Smith’s recent Battle Hymn from Compass Games, given that it presents a very interesting way to represent tactical combat at a brigade level, splitting Strength Points into adjacent hexes depending on enemy Zones of Control. This led to me creating separate battle maps to resolve combat with a scale of about 700 yards per hex. On the battle maps, players engage in a sequence of steps called an action phase, and resolve the effects of each battle on the map, ending once no enemies remain adjacent.
What results is probably my most complicated game yet, not so much because the processes themselves are complex, but they are unique to a few games that are unique in themselves and possibly counter-intuitive to some gamers. Those who stick it out though will be rewarded with an original, quick playing, enjoyable and accurate simulation of one of military history’s most neglected conflicts.
I’ll be putting this up for pre-order hopefully around this weekend.