The Lace Wars & the Lace Wars Series
The name Lace Wars derives from the struggle between rival monarchies (and a few rogue republics) for control of the lucrative texile industries of the Low Countries, Central Germany, and the Po Valley. Mechelin lace was a highly prized commodity and the fortress town of Mechelin (Malines), on the border between Belgium and Holland, changed hands many times over the course of the 17th and 18th Centuries.
Commodities such as lace and woolens were seen as critical components of the new mercantilist economies of Western Europe. The wealth and power of kings was to be based on good stewardship of their realms, and access to a comprehensive array of resources: peasants to till the ground and harvest the food of the kingdom; skilled artisans to produce everything the kingdom needed for its own consumption; merchants to carry surplus produce and goods beyond the kingdom's borders and bring back the wealth of one's neighbours; adventurers to explore, plunder, and open up distant lands as future depositories of the burgeoning trade and population; ministers and bureaucrats to organise it all and ensure that the State received its due share; clergy to see to the spiritual needs of the king's subjects and to educate them on his Divine Right to rule over them; and soldiers... Soldiers: the unwanted and idle of the lower orders, led by an aristocracy with a birthright to wage war, and to consume that wealth so hardly won by the peasants, artisans, merchants, and adventurers, to such a degree that the king himself, his kingdom wracked and groaning under the taxation required to pay his army, might be reduced to penury. Thus the need for new markets, and soldiers to conquer them...
The intent of the Lace Wars games is to examine the conflicts of Europe from the late 17th to the middle of the 18th Century at an operational level. We've had some debate as to whether they should be called "games" or "operational studies". They are games, not pure history, with sufficient abstraction of detail to make them playable; at the same time you canŐt drink beer as you play and expect to win. The rulebooks are generally between 30-50 pages long and not all the rules are intuitive (although we tried to make them so).
So far, four games have been published in the Lace Wars series, and one module. The four games deal with the War of the Austrian Succession, a little-known conflict that was in many ways was a foretaste of the wars to come. Each game covers one theatre in a war that covered much of Europe and involved most of her states:
Volume I is Cockpit of Europe, covering the campaigns of the War of the Austrian Succession in the Flanders theatre between 1744 and 1748.
Volume II was actually our first game, Charlie's Year, now in its third rendition. This game forms a bridge to a second Lace Wars subject, the Jacobite Rebellions (it was the last such rebellion, but at the same time served as a diversion for the French against the British during the war). Associated with the game are two modules: The Highland Quorum (1715 Rising) and Perdition to King George! (1719).
Volume III, Sport of Kings, deals with Germany, an active theatre from 1741 to 1745. A vast area (the game map measures 3 feet by 5 feet), SOK really incorporates three theatres of operation: the Danube (France and Bavaria vs. Austria), Silesia (Prussia vs. Austria), and Bohemia (everyone against Austria). This is where the Prussian King, Frederick the Great, made his reputation, but there were many other able generals, famous in their own day - and many duffers, too. Up to three people may play.
Volume IV, Queens' Gambit, covers Italy from 1742-1748. Fighting continued here even after the main peace treaty was agreed to at Aix-la-Chapelle. This game pits a fairly decent Spanish-Italian army, allied with the French, against the Austrians and their ally, the King of Piedmont-Sardinia. Up to four people may play.
Volume V, Türkenkrieg, starts a new war, the Russo-Austro-Turkish War of 1735-1739. This little known conflict led to many things: it cemented an Austrian-Russian working alliance not broken until the Crimean War; it fatally weakened the Tatar Nation, allowing Russia to acquire the Ukraine; it led directly to the War of the Austrian Succession and Prussia's rise because of the disasterous effect it had on Imperial Austria; and, though the Ottomans temporarily reversed the verdict of Prince Eugene's war in 1618, it also contributed to the creation of the 'Sick Man of Europe'. There were two theatres of operation, the Balkans and the Ukraine; this game examines the first, pitting the the Turks' finest army against the might of Imperial Austria.
Volume VI, Heirs of the Golden Horde, looks at the other half of the Russo-Austro-Turkish War of 1735-1739 – the Ukraine. Here, Russia's masses of infantry face off against the nimble swarms of mounted Crimean Tatars, allies and clients of the Ottoman Empire, and last remnant of the famed Golden Horde.
Volume VII, Remember Limerick!, begins a new chapter in the Jacobite saga, and also serves as a lead in to the Nine Years War or War of the League of Augsburg. In Remember Limerick! James II, King of England, Scotland, and Ireland, has just been done out of his kingdoms by his nephew and son-in-law, William of Orange. With French backing, James takes the war to Ireland, widening a religious divide that has still to be bridged.
Volume VIII, Kabinettskrieg, is a grand campaign module for the games Cockpit of Europe, Sport of Kings, and Queens' Gambit, covering the entire War of the Austrian Succession in Europe. New maps replace the originals and a set of battalion scale counters represent every unit that fought in the war. The module contains multi-player rules plus updated basic rules and charts.