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Soldier Kings:
Toothless Lion of the North
By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
November 2014

Have I really been at war with the Swedes?
— Frederick of Prussia, to Swedish diplomats requesting peace.

By the time of the Seven Years’ War, Sweden had most definitely lost her Great Power status, and her 17th-century title as “Mistress of the Baltic” was on its way out as well. The kingdom still ruled Finland and Pomerania, but otherwise was confined to its modern-day borders. That small economic and population base did not yield the resources for a struggle against much larger nations at a time when war was becoming as much an economic as a military contest.

Non-Swedish historians often mark the death of Charles XII in 1718 as the end of Sweden’s aggressive, expansionist stage. The kingdom went to war three more times in the 18th century, each time as an unprovoked aggressor.

The only real man
in Sweden?

In 1741, the Swedes attacked Russia at the request of their French allies, in order to divert Russian aid from Austria’s cause. In 1757, with the Seven Years’ War under way, they attacked Prussia, again at French behest and over the strenuous objections of Queen Luisa Ulrika, who favored the Prussian side due to family loyalty (she was Frederick’s sister), and who launched a failed coup to restore royal power and bring Sweden into the war on her brother’s side. In 1788, King Gustav III launched an attack on Russia all on his own, hoping to take advantage of the diversion offered by Russia’s war with Turkey.


In Soldier Kings, our multi-player game of the Seven Years’ War, Sweden has one fleet and three armies. The ground forces are about right: Sweden had a regular army of 50,000 men, of which about 15,000 operated in Pomerania against the Prussians. They stumbled about for four years, fighting several small battles against the Prussian army and winning a galley battle among the Pomeranian islands. After the untimely death of Tsarina Elizabeth of Russia in early 1762, the Swedes sued for peace on the terms of “status quo ante bellum,” which Frederick gladly accepted after delivering his famous insult.

While the army pieces provided in Soldier Kings are reasonable, Sweden receives no leaders. The most notable of an unnotable bunch was Gustaf David Hamilton (1699-1788), who led the army out to seek battle and was promptly defeated at Fehrbullin in 1758. Hamilton was the grandson of Hugo Hamilton, a Scottish mercenary officer in Swedish service, and son of Malcolm Hamilton, who Charles XII tabbed to lead the abortive Swedish expedition to aid the Jacobite Rising of 1715 in Scotland. Make Hamilton available as a new leader in all scenarios.

In the game, Sweden receives one fleet, a fairly weak 2-1 unit. This understates Swedish seapower potential. Though the Swedish Navy was at a low ebb during this period, Sweden maintained the potential to build up her forces relatively quickly and in the 1788 war sent very large forces to sea. Even so, the Swedes had up to a dozen ships of the line in operation, and it appears a number more lay hulked at Karlskrona and available for re-activation (though their condition may have been questionable).

Add the two new fleet pieces to Sweden’s available forces in all scenarios. They may be built like any other minor country piece.

Sweden maintained two separate forces at sea during this period: the Navy itself, and the “Army Fleet,” or Skärgårdsflottan. In 1756 this became a separate military branch, finally re-uniting with the Navy in 1823. The Skärgårdsflottan operated traditional galleys and gunboats, as well as some unique types the Swedes designed for in-shore use like the “Archipelago Frigate,” a shallow-draft, two-masted vessel bearing heavy cannon in a broadside. The Army Fleet operated among the many islands of the Finnish and Pomeranian coasts with considerable success. At the outbreak of the Seven Years’ War, this fleet numbered about 60 vessels of all types, and was greatly strengthened during the war with new construction. The Swedes had two squadrons, one based at Stockholm, the other at Sveaborg in Finland.

In game terms, add the two Swedish galley fleets (the 2-2 pieces with the smaller ship image) to Sweden’s initial forces in all scenarios. A galley fleet may not intercept enemy fleets in sea areas, but may be intercepted itself. It may only initiate combat in a coastal area. The Swedish galley fleets may only enter the Baltic and coastal zones adjacent to it.

Download the new Swedish pieces here!

Send the Swedes into action! Order Soldier Kings right now.

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.