Light at the End of the Tunnel for The Great Northern War: Dread Poltava's Day

In my capacity as staff developer for Turning Point Simulations, I'm on my fourth development assignment. With that, the company should be ready to offer its first year's worth of titles.

The game is The Great Northern War: Dread Poltava's Day, and it is by new designer Jason Juneau. As far as I know, it is the first game to cover the entire conflict from beginning to end, and it does so on a grand strategic scale. One player takes the side of Sweden and its allies, and the other takes the role of a Coalition consisting of Saxony, Denmark, Poland, Russia, and others. It is a contest of quality, in the form of one of Europe's most fearsome and aggressive armies under Sweden's young warrior king, against quantity, especially in the form of the emerging Russian Empire under Peter the Great.

In 1709, an ill-fated adventure in Ukraine resulted in the destruction of the Swedish army, and Charles XII's flight to Turkey, in an event that decided Sweden's fall from Great Power status and the establish of Russia's. Yet he was able to continue the war from there for thirteen more years, and thus the game too can go on to 1722.

There is a lot to The Great Northern War. Armies maneuver across a map of Europe that stretches from central Germany to the heart of Russia, and Scandinavia to Ukraine. For a war in which land power was decisive, naval power is extremely important, as Russia works to build a navy and contest the status of the Baltic as a Swedish lake. As in the historical conflict, the Coalition usually has to take the war to Sweden itself in order to win, and for that Peter needs a fleet.

To make sure that he can keep that fleet, he needs a permanent presence on the Baltic, and the only way to do that is to move his capital from Moscow to a Baltic port. He can pick an existing one, such as Riga, or take smaller town and build a city in its hex, as he did historically at St. Petersburg. This takes time though, years in fact, and Russia had better not lose its new capital in the meantime or else it will be stuck in Moscow, and its seapower imperiled, for the rest of the game.

The Great Northern War plays quickly and smoothly. Players alternate activating forces, moving and fighting until all have done so, or both have passed. Combat is resolved on a traditional odds-based table, but with a twist: It is always the Swedes who attack. In the real war, the Swedish army was pathologically aggressive, even rash, resulting in both impressive victories and incredible defeats. In no case though is passivity part of their tactical playbook.

Playtesting is wrapping up now, and I'm proofreading the rules for final submission to TPS. Like the rest of the first year's offerings from Turning Point -- Covering Tours, Stalingrad and Joan of Arc's decisive campaign at Orleans -- I expect players to find a combination of education, fascination and fun in The Great Northern War: Dread Poltava's Day.

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Comment by Maxim Shevchenko on August 8, 2008 at 4:43am
Anybody who interested in Poltava may visit their local community: Poltava Forum.
Comment by Jim Werbaneth on April 22, 2008 at 9:01pm
The game has been officially submitted to TPS, as of a few minutes ago. I think that you will all be happy with the results.
Comment by Jim Werbaneth on April 22, 2008 at 7:19pm
I just sent in what I hope is the final version of the rules to TPS this afternoon, just before dinner. The rest of the game will be submitted shortly as well. With that, not only will The Great Northern War: Dread Poltava's Day be done, but so will the development for the the first four games in the TPS games.
Comment by Jim Werbaneth on April 19, 2008 at 2:04pm
I don't know what exactly the graphics are going to look like, as that's a different department. But Against the Odds has a pretty good record so far, and I expect TPS to keep it up.
Comment by Ola Palmquist on April 19, 2008 at 2:01pm
Graphics for the northern war game? We do not want the same mistakes in uniforms colours that decision games made in their otherwise good game on the Finnish war of 1808-09.
Comment by Jim Werbaneth on April 19, 2008 at 1:26pm
John, there's a whole lot more too.Andy Nunez' game on Joan of Arc is going to break new ground subject wise, and Richard Berg has yet another new system for Dark Ages warfare for his tactical game on the Battle of Tours. Hjalmar Gerber's operational game on Stalingrad has an interesting system too, so players have a lot to look forward too. Working on the first year's installments for TPS has been an exciting experience.
Comment by John Kranz on April 19, 2008 at 1:19pm
Jim, this title sounds very interesting, and from a new game designer to boot. I'm looking forward to seeing it. Nice to know you are on board with TPS to usher in some exciting and playable game titles.
Comment by Jim Werbaneth on April 19, 2008 at 9:00am
It usually starts with a bad day in Denmark too.
Comment by Ola Palmquist on April 19, 2008 at 8:58am
And even when the war is all but lost against Russia we can still slap the invading danes silly!
Comment by Jim Werbaneth on April 19, 2008 at 8:33am
Ola, I think you'll be pleased with the results. Sweden has a lot of advantages in the game, starting with a warrior king to beat all the rest, and the advantages of the Indelta system are fully represented; Indelta regiments can be rebuilt from the ground up, whereas most others are gone for good when they're eliminated.

One of the biggest disadvantages for Sweden is Russia. All Russian land units can be rebuilt as though they were Indelta, so unless it's forced to sue for a peace, a defeated Russia probably isn't going to stay that way. The Russian army is just going to get bigger, Peter is going to find more and better generals, and as you say, the brilliant but dogmatic and inflexible Charles is going to find himself all alone.

I should point out too that this occurs in a very small and manageable package. The map is 11" x 17" and the counter density is very low. This way players can get a very good, high-level overview of the Great Northern War, and what decided it, without investing huge amounts of time and table space to it.

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