GDW, CRIMEA (1975)

CRIMEA is a grand-tactical level simulation of the Crimean War (1854-56) between Russia and the unlikely alliance of Britain, France, Turkey, and Sardinia. Today, the Crimean War is remembered chiefly for the mind-boggling incompetence of virtually all the senior commanders on both sides. It should also be noted, however, that it was the first modern war; and that many of the lessons ignored in the Crimea would finally have to be relearned, at terrible cost, first in the American Civil War, and later in the Franco-Prussian War. CRIMEA was designed by Frank Chadwick and published by Game Designer’s Workshop (GDW) in 1975.


CRIMEA is a detailed division/brigade level simulation of the Crimean War from the allied landings at Evpatoria (September 1854) through the fall of Sevastopol (September 1855). Chadwick’s design choices for CRIMEA are both unorthodox and really quite clever. He has divided the game map into five sections, so that players can examine individual actions or aspects of the whole campaign; at the same time, he has made it possible to unify the different map sections for purposes of the advanced campaign game by offering a logical and easy-to-use Line of Communications Chart.

The actions taken by the players in any given game turn of CRIMEA are unusual enough so as to warrant a fairly detailed discussion of the turn sequence. The player turn is divided into three discreet segments: the first is the Fortification construction segment; next comes Strategic movement; the third and last segment is the all important Action segment. The Action segment goes into effect whenever enemy units move adjacent to each other, or whenever the allied player, at the end of his Strategic movement, declares his intention to fire siege artillery. This segment may consist of several Action turns, each of which is divided into the following sequence of phases: the Simultaneous fire phase; the Siege fire commitment phase; the Disrupted defender movement phase; Attacker movement phase; Siege fire resolution phase; the Fortification repair phase; the Hold fire resolution phase (defending units which did not fire during the first phase may now fire at adjacent enemy units); Attacker melee phase; the Defender undisrupted movement phase; the Attacker’s hold fire phase; and finally, the Defender melee phase. This ingenious set of game mechanics allows the simulation to stay within the requirements of the longer-duration strategic campaign cycle, while still allowing battles to be fought on a much faster-paced, more realistic tactical time scale.

CRIMEA is really many games in one. The Basic Game uses only the Sevastopol map section, and allows players to concentrate on the critical action of the investiture and siege of Sevastopol. The Advanced Game ties all the map sections together in a simulation that allows for far greater strategic flexibility on the part of both players. In both the 23 turn Basic and Advanced Games, the objective is the same for both players: capture Sevastopol before the end of October 1855 for the allies; hold Sevastopol at game end for the Russians. The Battle Games are short, fast-playing snapshots of the campaign that allow the players to fight one or more of the major engagements of the Crimean War in the tempo of the Action segment. The seven Battle Games offered are: the Battle of the Alma (September 20th 1854); the Battle of Balaklava (October 25th 1854); the Battle of Inkermann (November 5th 1854); the Battle of Evpatoria (February 17th 1855); the Battle of Tchernaya (August 16th 1855); Storming the Malakov (September 8th 1855); and a “micro-game”: Into the Valley of Death (the Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaklava, October 25th 1854). As a means of adjusting play balance, and in order to introduce more game variation, the designer includes two additional scenarios (with altered victory conditions) to expand the players’ strategic options further: Russian Free Set-Up; and Napoleon III’s Plan of campaign. For those players who think that a pair of trained seals could have done no worse than Lord Raglan and General Menshikov, this game offers the opportunity to refight the entire campaign, without the incompetence of the senior commanders or the deadly buffoonery of Cardigan.

Design Characteristics:

  • Time Scale: 2 weeks per game turn (winter turns: 1 month per game turn)
  • Map Scale: 1 mile per hex
  • Unit Size: division/brigade/regiment/artillery battalion/artillery battery/naval squadron
  • Unit Types (a GDW trademark is unit variation, and hence, this partial exposition): headquarters, infantry, cavalry, marines/naval troops, dragoons, artillery, horse artillery, siege gun, siege mortar, naval squadron with attached merchantmen, gunboat and information markers
  • Number of Players: two
  • Complexity: above average/high
  • Solitaire Suitability: average
  • Average Playing Time: 3–40+ hours (depending on whether a Battle Game, the Basic Game, or the Advanced Campaign Game is being played)

Game Components:

  • One 22” x 28” hexagonal grid multi-section Game Map (with Turn Record Chart incorporated)
  • One 8½” x 11” Lines of Communication Chart (with Allied Ammunition Supply and Cumulative British Losses Tracks incorporated)
  • 480 back-printed ½” cardboard Counters
  • One 6¼” x 9¼” Rules Booklet
  • One 8½” x 11” Campaign Game: Russian Order of Battle
  • One 8½” x 11” back-printed Basic & Campaign Games: Allied Orders of Battle
  • One 11” x 17” back-printed Basic Game: Russian Order of Battle/Order of Appearance & Campaign Game: Russian Order of Appearance
  • One 8½” x 11” Allied Unit Composition Chart
  • One 8½” x 11” Russian Unit Composition Chart (with enlarged diagram of Sevastopol and Fortification Repair Table incorporated)
  • One 8½” x 11” back-printed Battle Games: Introduction
  • Two 8½” x 11” back-printed Battle Games: Orders of Battle (one each Allied & Russian)
  • One 8½” x 11” back-printed Terrain Effects Key & Unit Identification Chart
  • Two 8½” x 11” identical back-printed combined Combat Results Tables
  • One 8½” x 11” sheet of Errata (September 1975)
  • One “Ziploc” Bag (original packaging)

Additional Information

For additional information on the Crimean War, see the following title

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  • Oh how I thought this game as hard to learn but the review by Ralph Vickers in F&M #7 got me to look at at more closely and then I found how great it was. Rules could have used a much better development job

  • Good Again Kim:

    Yes, like a lot of the early GDW games it took a little work to figure it out. After awhile my gaming group just got into the habit of mailing off "rules questions" to GDW on a regular basis. The record for us, however, was DNO/UNT: we ended up sending the boys in Normal over thirty type-written pages of questions before we were finally satisfied with our understanding of the game. I always thought that the guys at GDW must have dreaded seeing yet another thick envelope with a Portland postmark come into their office

    Best Regards, Joe

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