The Potato War:
I approved Soldier Kings for production back at the turn of the century as a fun little multi-player game based on the Seven Years’ War. It comes with a campaign game scenario for two to eight players and seven smaller scenarios (one for each year of the war) for two players.
Soldier Kings: The Potato War expands that to three more wars, or maybe two and a half. The 1778 War of the Bavarian Succession, also known as the Potato War, pitted Austria against Prussia in a test of strength that went little beyond the testing stage. It had little chance of spreading to the rest of Europe: Russia and the Ottoman Empire had just concluded their own war and lacked the resources or will to fight again. France had made the decision to go “all in” on supporting the American rebels against the British crown, and declined to support her Austrian ally. Britain shrugged off the Prussians even more rudely.
We also cover that conflict, known in France (and our scenario book) as the American War. This is combined with the Potato War into a world-wide conflict much like that of the Seven Years’ War: parallel wars being waged with the possibility of crossover. In the actual events this did not happen, as the French concentrated on their American commitment rather than trying to fight both on the continent and overseas (and, not coincidentally, seeing success when they focused their resources on just one conflict).
The American Revolution by itself doesn’t really fit into the Soldier Kings framework: the 13 colonies are represented by just three areas at this scale. Soldier Kings is a game of world-wide conflict, and the world map has a world scale. The game system would work very well in a dedicated American Revolution game, but this one’s not it – instead, we put the conflict into its world-wide context amid the Potato War in Europe and the First Anglo-Maratha War in India. So the American War scenarios are pretty much the Potato War writ large: everyone can play, and the war can spread around the globe.
It’s a slightly larger world; the scenario uses the extension map actually created for the Russo-Ottoman War scenarios, but its use makes both the American/Potato War and Seven Years’ War scenarios more fun – both Turkey and Russia lose a good bit of the corner-fortress effect and now have to worry about a long, open flank. That changes play of both countries considerably; we highly recommend using the extension in play of the Seven Years’ War scenarios from the parent game, too.
The Potato War is just for two players (Austria and Prussia) and takes place just on the Europe map (plus the extension, because, why not?) while the American War is for two to seven, though it’s best at four (Britain, France, Austria and Prussia). The Netherlands (which we called “Holland” in Soldier Kings in a fit of stupidity) is no longer a Great Power in either scenario set.
Play in Soldier Kings is driven by cards; every player has a hand of them and can slap down a card at any moment to add to the chaos. The new scenarios use the cards from the game, with some of them dropped from the deck and a few with altered effects to reflect the new reality of these different conflicts. I didn’t want to force players to keep track of too many changes, so some I just didn’t use rather than make up a lengthy chart of what the cards really mean in the new scenarios.
The balance of power is somewhat altered from that of Soldier Kings. Austria has spent the past fifteen years rebuilding her armies and reforming her economy to pay for it, in what will later be called enlightened despotism. Prussia, with a smaller population base and a resource-poor territory, has not been able to keep up. France has rebuilt her navy after the devastating losses of the Seven Years’ War, and adopted a Britain-first strategic focus. Russia likewise has built up her forces, while British arrogance in the wake of the Seven Years’ War has cost her friends in Europe as well as America.
The Russo-Ottoman War of 1768, by contrast, opens only five years after the conclusion of the Seven Years’ War rather than fifteen. Russia remains strong, having replenished her financial and manpower losses from the Seven Years’ War. The Ottoman Empire, having sat out Europe’s recent bloodletting, also stands at peak readiness (by the standards of 18th-Century Turkey, anyway).
The rest of Europe remains battered from the war. Austria had faced bankruptcy at the war’s end, and has only just begun the rebuilding referenced above. Her ally France likewise faces financial hardship and can offer little aid; the aging King Louis XV faces outright defiance from several of the regional parlements over new taxes levied to rebuild the fleet after its near-total destruction. Britain has entered a phase of ill-considered austerity aimed at quickly repaying her war debts (the creditors either sitting in Parliament, or controlling those who so), while Prussia not only has been cut off from British funding, but seen her lands devastated and armies wrecked.
There have been some changes in the diplomatic alignments of the late war. Austria is willing to ally with Turkey, having even signed a short-term defensive pact with the Porte in 1764. Britain has cut Prussia loose, feeding King Frederick’s resentment. Russia has broken her own alliances with France and Austria, and attempted to move closer to Prussia. The Russians have hatched new plans for dominance in the Balkans and even a scheme to seize Corsica, antagonizing Paris and Vienna.
The Russo-Ottoman scenarios are written for two to seven players, but unlike the Seven Years’ War (or the American War) where four players really drive the action, in these scenarios it’s down to just two (Russia and Turkey) as the others have been so badly weakened.
In terms of mechanics, the new scenarios play exactly like those of Soldier Kings. In actual play, the games unfold much differently than Soldier Kings, with all of the differences in relative economic and military power between 1756 and 1768 or 1778 and often in strategic goals. In addition, the National Aspirations and National Attributes, added to Soldier Kings in the Enlightened Warlords book as variants, are mandatory here – some territories are more valuable to one ruler than they are to another, and not all Great Powers have the same powers (it’s a new set of Aspirations and Attributes – you don’t need Enlightened Warlords to play The Potato War, but you really should pick it up if you haven’t already).
All of that adds up to pretty much triple the play value of Soldier Kings.
Click right here to order The Potato War.
Mike Bennighof is president of Avalanche Press and holds a doctorate in history from Emory University. A Fulbright Scholar and award-winning journalist, he has published over 100 books, games and articles on historical subjects.
He lives in Birmingham, Alabama with his wife, three children and his dog, Leopold.