BORODINO is a historical simulation of the three-day battle between the main French and Russian Armies on the road to Moscow in September, 1812. BORODINO was originally published as the insert game for S&T #32; later it was reissued as an independent game in the standard SPI flat plastic game tray format. BORODINO was designed by John Young, and published in 1972 by Simulations Publications, Incorporated (SPI).


BORODINO is a grand tactical (division level) simulation of the bloody, seesaw battle between the French Army, led by the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, and the main Russian Army, commanded by Marshal Prince Kutusov, on 7 September 1812, near the Russian village of Borodino. The Russians, approximately 120,000 strong, were deployed in powerful prepared positions astride the Moscow road and along the banks of the Kalotchka River. After a sharp clash on the 5th, between the French advanced guard and the Russian left at Schevardino, September 6th was relatively quiet; Bonaparte used that day to reconnoiter the Russian line, while the bulk of his army, some 135,000 troops, massed at the front. Fortunately for Napoleon, the Russian Army did not interfere with the assembling French troops, Kutusov choosing, instead, to make modest adjustments in his dispositions in anticipation of the impending French attack. That attack began with a massive artillery bombardment at 6:00 am on 7 September. This is the situation confronting the Russian and French players at the beginning of the 7 September Grand Battle game. The historical result of the battle was a tactical victory for Napoleon. But it was a strategic victory for Kutusov, since he was able to withdraw with the bulk of his army, approximately 90,000 men, still under arms. Napoleon failed to achieve the decisive battlefield victory he had sought since his invasion of Russia began in late June 1812; Kutusov missed his best opportunity on 6 September to defeat the French Army in detail. It is up to the players to see if they can do better than their historical counterparts did.

Each game turn in BORODINO is divided into two phases: the movement phase, and the combat phase. The French player is always the first player to act. Reinforcements, if called for, arrive at the beginning of the movement phase, and move normally on the turn of entry. Combat is mandatory between adjacent units, and all units adjacent to attackers must be engaged, either by direct combat, or by artillery bombardment. Artillery may attack enemy units at either one hex (adjacent) or two hexes (bombardment). Artillery may fire over intervening units, but terrain (forest, for instance) blocks artillery fire if the blocking terrain is in an intervening hex. BORODINO is a must own for anyone who likes the Napoleonic era. It is a great introductory game for beginners, and it is an even better "beer and pretzels" game for more experienced players who want a break from the bigger, more complicated titles.

BORODINO offers three short scenarios, and one extended game that combines all three days of the battle. The three short scenarios each cover one day of the battle. They are: the 5 September, Battle Game, which covers the French advanced guard's assault on the Schevardino Redoubt; the 6 September, Battle Game, which, historically, was a day of relative inactivity for both armies; and the 7 September, Battle Game, which simulates the climactic clash between the defending Russians and the fully assembled French Army. The Grand Battle Game combines all three days into one simulation. The longer game allows both players to refight the entire battle beginning with the opening clash at Schevardino. To simulate Kutusov's initial failure to recognize the danger to his left flank, in both the 5 September and Grand Battle Games, the Russian player may not move any of his units north of the Great Redoubt until the 1500 game turn. On the 1500 game turn, one Russian unit is freed to move. Thereafter, one additional unit is released from this restriction on each succeeding game turn.Two optional rules are included by the designer to increase historical realism, and/or improve play-balance: the Imperial Guard Rule, which limits both players in the use of their respective Imperial Guards; and the Moscow Militia Rule, which allows the Russian player to receive eleven Moscow Militia units as additional reinforcements. These militia units enter, one per game turn, on the east map edge beginning on game turn 11.

One final note: BORODINO is only one of a large collection of SPI titles designed by John Young that span the period from the Napoleonic Wars, through the American Civil War and Franco-Prussian War, and up to and including World War II. I confess that I am a big fan of Young's many games. His designs are almost always innovative, interesting, playable, and fun. Despite his tragic and untimely death many years ago, John Young leaves behind a library of some of the very best game designs that, in my opinion, SPI ever published.

Design Characteristics:

  • Time Scale: 1 hour per game turn
  • Map Scale: 400 meters per hex
  • Unit Size: brigade/division
  • Unit Types: infantry, militia (Russian only), cavalry, artillery, and information markers
  • Number of Players: two
  • Complexity: low
  • Solitaire Suitability: above average
  • Average Playing Time: 2½-6 hours (depending on scenario)

Game Components:

  • One 22" x 34" hexagonal grid Map Sheet(with Turn Record/Reinforcement Track, two Combat Results Tables, Terrain Effects Chart, (Optional) Moscow Militia Reinforcement Box, Destroyed French and Russian Units Boxes, Exited French Unit Box, and three Scenario Set-Up Maps)
  • 100 ½" cardboard Counters
  • One 6" x 11" map-fold Set of Rules (with Combat Results Table and Historical Orders of Battle incorporated)
  • One 8½" x 11" Errata Sheet (31 May 73)
  • One small six-sided Die
  • One SPI 12" x 15" x 1" flat 24 compartment plastic Game Box (with clear compartment tray covers)

Recommended Reading

See my blog post Book Review of this title which is recommended for those visitors interested in further historical background information.

Recommended Artwork

This map of the battle makes a fine wall decoration for the game room with a Napoleonic theme.
Buy at Art.com
Map Showing the Russian Positions at ...
Buy From Art.com


  • Joe:

    I acquired a used copy of this game about a year ago -- and aside from glancing at the mapboard for a few minutes, have never had the chance to play. I would be more than interested in any commentary you might care to post about the actual play of this title.

  • Scott:

    Interestingly enough, I have a few things to post yet first, but I have a game analysis of Borodino teed-up that will probably post sometime next week. - Joe

  • Dear Joe,
    I own this games from the original S&T magazine subscription, but have lost only the rules in the past 2 house moves. Is it OK to ask if possible to scan the rules and post/email? I'm trying to get my wife to play her first wargame, and the rules for this are nice and simple. Any help that you or a reader can provide is much appreciated! Thnks, John K.

  • Greetings John:

    You are certainly welcome to post your request for help on my blog, but for faster results, I suggest that you visit Consimworld.com and/or Boardgamegeek.com and post your request on one of their game-specific forums. Usually, it has been my experience that someone will volunteer to help with scans of rules, countersheets, or game charts within a matter of hours.

    Good Luck and Best Regards, Joe

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