EMPIRES IN ARMS is a grand strategic and diplomatic simulation of the Imperial period of the Napoleonic Wars, 1805 to 1815. EMPIRES IN ARMS was originally designed by Harry Rowland and Greg Pinder (Australian Design Group); this 2nd edition version was developed by S. Craig Taylor, Jr. and published in 1986 by the Avalon Hill Game Co. For the gamer interested in exploring both the political and the military events of the Age of Napoleon in a multiplayer 'monster game' setting, this title is a MUST OWN!


EMPIRES IN ARMS is a strategic (corps-level) simulation of the military and diplomatic struggle that raged across Europe, with very few interruptions, from 1805 (the year of the great French victory at Austerlitz) to 1815 (the year of Napoleon's final defeat at Waterloo). Each player controls one of the Major Powers of Europe: Great Britain, France, Spain, Austria, Prussia, Russia or Turkey. Many game options are available: different scenarios can require as few as two or as many as seven participants. In addition, players may select a scenario lasting only a few turns, or instead, opt for one that requires hundreds of hours to complete. If players choose the full campaign game, then 1805 begins with France, the beneficiary of Napoleon's brilliant generalship, as the dominant military power in Europe. But revolutionary France is surrounded by reactionary monarchies and, in an era before true 'total war', Napoleon must repeatedly succeed in converting military success into political capital or suffer his final defeat at the hands of one or another of the hostile coalitions that constantly reemerge from the ashes of previous failed wars. And through it all, Napoleon must constantly seek to block the machinations of France's most implacable and least vulnerable enemy: Great Britain.

EMPIRES IN ARMS, although primarily designed as a multi-player game, also offers challenging two player scenarios in which each player commands either the forces of France or those of one of the many coalitions that Napoleon faced throughout his career. Two players can opt to refight the 1805, Peninsula, 1809, 1812, or 1813-14 campaigns. The multi-playerscenarios can begin at any of three historical junctures: 1805, 1809, or 1812. The 'Grand Campaign Game' begins in 1805 and continues all the way to the bitter end in 1815.

Purely from the standpoint of its appearance when set up for play, EMPIRES IN ARMS is a veritable knockout. The map sheets are colorful, but not too bright, and the game counters are superb. The effect of the various corps markers spread across the playing area is really quite a treat for the eyes. The richly-detailed game system, while complicated, is intuitively reasonable. When starting out, if the players stick closely to the 'sequence of play instructions' during the first player turns, the various game operations should quickly become more natural and much easier to remember as the game progresses. Moreover, virtually all of the information that players need is either printed on the map sheets, or plainly recorded on one of the several handy game reference cards. Obviously, EMPIRES IN ARMS is not for the novice or even for the casual gamer. However, if a player is interested in the Napoleonic period, and if he has both the space to set up and the time to play this title, he could do far worse that this exciting, attractive, and innovative game.

Design Characteristics:

  • Time Scale: 1 month
  • Map Scale: area movement
  • Unit Size: corps and fleets
  • Unit Types: leader, infantry, cavalry, fleets, garrisons, and information markers
  • Number of Players: two to seven
  • Complexity: high
  • Solitaire Suitability: low
  • Average Playing Time: 2-200 hours (depending on scenarios)

Game Components:

  • Two large area Map Sheets (with Terrain Effects, Forage Supply and Manpower, and Revenue Charts incorporated)
  • 1008 cardboard Counters
  • One 8½" x 11" Rules Booklet
  • Seven 8" x 11" National Reference Cards
  • Two 11" x 16" Player Aid Reference Cards
  • One Forms/Status Card (for photocopying)
  • Two six-sided Dice
  • One Avalon Hill Games and Parts Catalog (February 15, 1986)
  • One Avalon Hill The GeneralAdvertising Insert
  • One Customer Response Card
  • One 8½" x 11½" x 2" bookcase-style Game Box

Recommended Reading

See my blog post Book Review of this title which is recommended for those visitors looking for additional historical background information.


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