pic of ALW box

A Lesser Wrath

Volume IX in the Lace Wars series

By order of her Imperial Highness, by the Grace of God, Empress and Autocrat of All the Russias, you are hereby appointed Generalissimo of all imperial troops currently serving in Finland. Your instructions are to carry the war to the enemy in the manner you best see fit, but not so as to endanger either the realm or the royal purse. If you fail, there will be... displeasure. Your duties commence at once. Do not return without victory.

In 1741, while the rest of Europe involved itself in yet another interminable succession war, Sweden and Russia squared off in yet another of their own squabbles for dominance in the Baltic. The Russian monarchy was unstable, and a cabal of Swedish hawks - whose party was known as the Hats - sought to replace the current empress with one friendly to Sweden. France, Sweden's paymaster, encouraged the plan, hoping to distract Russia from affairs in Europe. The Swedes would claim some of the territory taken from them during the Great Northern War. Either the new empress would grant them the land out of gratitude for their aid, or their armies would simply take it. It was a daring plan, and one beyond Sweden's means. And yet it came very close to success. The coup went off as planned, but the Russian Army, led by one of Europe's best marshals - Peter Lacy of County Clare - struck first, upsetting the Swedish timetable. Instead of the Swedish army managing the palace coup from the Winter Palace, it was floundering in the snows of Karelia when the new regime took power. Now, unable to acquire the territory they desired through negotiations, the Hats foolishly challenged the full might of Russia to a trial of arms...

The Russo-Swedish War of 1741-1743, otherwise called the Hats' War or the War of the Hats, has to be the most obscure conflict Red Sash Games has tackled so far. Measured by the butcher's bill, it was hardly a minor one, however, with something like 50,000 casulties. Historically, it was a fiasco for the Swedes, but partly this was due to bad luck - an epidemic ravaged their fleet - and partly due to internal politics. Surely, as the Swedish generalissimo, YOU can do better? If you choose to play the Russians instead, you will have many, many troops, and excellent commanders to lead them, but you will be faced by deadlines as the dilpomats are already discussing peace terms. Will you be able to make a name for yourself before they pull the curtain down?

The Game

ALW is a two-player operational study of the War of the Hats, fought between the Swedes and the Russians in the years 1741-1743. Included in the game is a set of the latest basic rules, charts, and tables (version 3.75) for the Lace Wars system.

A few key concepts in this system include Operations Points, Campaign Plans, Prestige, and Auxiliaries. Operations Points are accumulated during periods of inactivity, in order to be spent during the course of active campaigning. If a player is unable or unwilling to spend OPs, his forces suffer attrition instead. The further forces are from their base of operations, the more severe the penalties will be. Whoever has the most OPs also has the initiative.

Map scale is 8.5 miles per hex. The counters are battalions and regiments. Units are rated for Strength (in battalions), Effectiveness (a combination of morale and training), and Movement. Turns are equivalent to months. Each turn is broken down into several phases - supply, operations, admin, etc.

The heart of the game is the Operations Phase, where the players alternate moving their formations, laying siege to fortresses and engaging in battle with the enemy field forces. The players have a degree of flexibility in what they do with their forces, but they are constrained by the Campaign Plan or plans that they choose. These dictate what objectives (usually fortresses) must be taken. A successfully completed plan will garner Prestige for a player. At the end of the game, the player with the highest prestige wins. In addition, bonuses can be won for victory in battle, and these may be used to buy rewards that improve a player's chances, or be used as influence.

[In this era, decisive victory was beyond the grasp of most nations' war effort, despite their grandiose plans. It is thus more realistic to expect the players, as theatre commanders, to use the war to further their own ambitions. The campaign game ends when the diplomats choose, but as they are beyond the players' control, player victory is based solely on personal performance.]

Auxiliary counters represent support troops and irregulars who had a major impact on operations, but cannot be adequately represented as traditional game units. Instead, a player might have a pontooneer auxiliary that he can play onto a stack to help it cross a major river, or a converged grenadier auxiliary that provides a morale bonus in combat.
[Playing cards could have been used instead of counters, but there are production issues involved, and besides, some of the auxiliaries' functions are hard to indicate with cards. In essence, however, auxiliaries are that kind of game asset, not "pawns" like the combat units.]

Leaders have an important role to play, as befitting an era where personal command was critical. They are rated for skill or effectiveness, personality, and influence (i.e. the chance they have of retaining command despite their incompetence).

In addition to the concepts above, the supply system has been streamlined while keeping to the basic elements of foraging in tandem with the use of pre-positioned depots. River and canal movement has been taken into account and will prove as critical to success as the use of rail lines in more modern games.

The combat system has a tactical feel - while not a full sub-system with battlefield maps, it addresses the key issues of frontage, reserves, and supports, as well as firepower and morale. Winning a battle will bring you the acclaim of your noble peers, but may not gain you any strategic advantage; losing a battle can be catastrophic.

Components

1) 3x 12x18 inch full colour maps representing the region of southern Finland. (Northern Finland is included as an off map display.) The maps were derived from a mix of modern cartography and period maps dating from 1715 to 1750. While the maps are hex-based, players will find themselves keeping to the historical invasion routes most of the time - but they have the option to try alternates.

2) 480 counters representing the forces of Sweden and Russia. Almost all of Sweden's Army is represented; the Russians have only those forces used in the campaigns - perhaps a third of their entire Mobile Army. The Swedes are evenly matched.
[NB sample counter images are low-res].

picture of game

3) A set of charts and tables, plus several 8x11 and 11x17 inch display cards.

4) A series rulebook - version 3.75 - called the King's Regulations and Orders (KR&Os), and a game-exclusive rulebook that includes scenarios.

The game is available both as a digital download (PDFs, not software) and as a boxed game with die cut counters. The boxed version comes packaged with RSG's companion naval game (Sea Lords system): Somar Skrala. The two games can be combined (for up to four players).