WAR AND PEACE is a strategic simulation of the series of 19th century European military conflicts that are known collectively as the Napoleonic Wars, 1805 to 1815. This game was designed by Mark G. McLaughlin and published in 1980 by the Avalon Hill Game Co (TAHGC).


At 8:00 am on 2 December 1805, near the small Moravian hamlet of Austerlitz, the 85,000 soldiers of the Third Coalition army threw themselves forward in a determined attack against the 67,000 Frenchmen of Napoleon’s Grand Armée. This combined army of Russian and Austrian troops, commanded by Tsar Alexander I, massed almost half of its strength in four large columns and advanced through the morning fog to crash into Napoleon’s weak right flank near the villages of Telnitz and Sokolnitz.

The winter battle seemed to begin well for the attackers as the French troops slowly gave ground in the face of the powerful enemy assault. Those officers and nobles commanding the Russo-Austrian Army were confident that they would soon break the French flank and sever Napoleon’s communications with Vienna. But even as the Allied advance appeared to be gaining momentum, the 7,000 French troops of Marshal Davout’s IIIrd Corps, after having force marched a distance of some seventy miles to reach the battlefield, arrived on Napoleon’s right just in time to reinforce its wavering line. The Russo-Austrian commanders, fixated on continuing their attack, stripped more and more troops away from the coalition center on the Pratzen Heights in order to reinforce their left.

At 9:00am Napoleon unleashed part of his reserve from the fog-shrouded valley just below the heights to smash into the Allied center and seize the high ground. As the French began their assault, the “Sun of Austerlitz” finally broke through the haze and lit the heights. The conflict would continue with bitter fighting well into the evening, but Napoleon had, for all intents and purposes, already won the battle once his troops captured the Pratzen heights and broke the Russo-Austrian center.


WAR AND PEACE is a strategic level simulation of the complex and shifting military and diplomatic conflicts that raged across Europe from 1805 (the year of the great French victory at Austerlitz) to 1815 (the year of Napoleon’s final defeat at Waterloo). The ten year period covered by the game is one of virtually constant military campaigning for Napoleon. From Spain to Russia, and from Italy to the Channel Coast, French armies march back and forth across Europe against one enemy coalition after another. Revolutionary France is surrounded by reactionary enemies and, in an era before “total war,” Napoleon must repeatedly prevail on the battlefield if he is to convert military success into political advantage. If he fails to crush his enemies’ armies or to disrupt their alliances, then he will suffer his final defeat at the hands of one or another of the hostile coalitions that constantly reemerge from the ashes of their previous failed wars. And at the center of it all, Napoleon must constantly attempt to block the perfidious machinations of France’s most implacable and least vulnerable enemy: Great Britain.

WAR AND PEACE is played in a series of symmetrical game turns, each of which represents on month of real time. Each game turn can be divided into two player segments: the French player segment, followed by the non-French player segment. Both player segments are composed of five identical turn phases. The player phases, in order of execution, are: the Attrition Phase; the Alliance Phase; the Reinforcement Phase; the Movement Phase; and finally, the Combat Phase. Each player must complete all of the operations required by one phase before proceeding on to the next. The WAR AND PEACE game system focuses on four basic aspects of Napoleonic warfare: speed, mass, leadership, and supply. The player who can move purposefully and fast, and who can concentrate his forces for battle accompanied by his best leaders; the player who can threaten or cut the enemy’s line of communication, while still protecting his own, will usually win in this game.

Many game options are available. Typically, players will only have to use two of the four available map sections, unless they are playing the “Grand Campaign Game.” The mounted game maps are functional and easy to read, but surprisingly bland. I suspect that this choice was intentional on the part of the designer so that the brightly colored counters would stand out in contrast to the game map. In any case, depending on the scenario, players will control either the forces of France or those of one of the many hostile monarchies that Napoleon faced throughout his career. WAR AND PEACE, although primarily designed as a two player game, also includes multi-player scenarios in which as many as six players can command one or more of the Great Powers of Europe: France, Great Britain, Spain, Austria, Prussia, or Russia. The game offers nine comparatively short scenarios that each covers a different campaign, and one very long scenario that encompasses virtually the whole of the Napoleonic Wars. Two or more players can opt to refight the 1805, 1806-07, 1809, 1812, the two Peninsula campaign games, or the 1813, 1814 or 1815 campaigns. Players who are particularly ambitious may choose to participate in the Grand Campaign Game which begins in 1805 and continues all the way to the bitter end in 1815. In addition, to enhance historical realism, the game’s designer has listed a number of “optional rules” that can be added individually or together to the standard WAR AND PEACE rules package. These “optional rules” include: The Tactical Matrix; the French Imperial Guard; Russian Patriotism; Demoralized Combat; and Limited Intelligence.


WAR AND PEACE is a decent game, but not a great game. On the plus side, it is almost unique in that it allows players to simulate the whole of the Napoleonic Wars, but does not require a huge amount of table space. Moreover, the 'naval' rules, while abstract, are pleasing enough and do add a little something to the larger simulation. The main problem with this title is that it really offers nothing that is new or innovative. It is basically “move and fight" with forced marches, attrition, and leaders. At least, given its simple game mechanics, it is relatively easy to learn. The main issue that most frustrates me with this title is not a consequence of some serious design flaw, it is a function of the map scale and of the “strength points” approach to combat units used in this simulation. Maybe it is just me, but despite the place names on the maps, the 'period' military silhouettes on the game pieces, and the generals’ names on the leader counters, the game just doesn’t 'feel' that much like a Napoleonic simulation. All of the usual Napoleonic game design elements are present in WAR AND PEACE, but the finished package just doesn't deliver when it comes to the innate drama and historical pedigree of its topic. In the final analysis, I suppose, everything about the game just seems a little too “small,” particularly given the scope and historical sweep of the era that it attempts to describe. This is not a fatal flaw in the game, but it is a serious one, nonetheless.

Design Characteristics:

  • Time Scale: 1 month
  • Map Scale: 40 miles per hex
  • Unit Size: abstract strength points (each infantry or cavalry strength point represents 5,000 men; each fleet strength point stands for six vessels)
  • Unit Types: leader, infantry, cavalry, fleets, transports, and information markers
  • Number of Players: two to six
  • Complexity: medium
  • Solitaire Suitability: medium
  • Average Playing Time: 2- 25 + hours (depending on scenarios)

Game Components:

  • Four 11” x 16” hexagonal grid, hard-backed Map Boards
  • 1040 ½” cardboard Counters
  • One 8” x 11” Rules Booklet (with Scenario Instructions and Terrain Effects Chart incorporated)
  • One 11” x 16” Player Aid Reference Card (with Force Pool Boxes, Naval Table, and Production Track incorporated)
  • One 11” x 16” Player Aid Reference Card (with Turn Record and Combat Loss Chart; Combat Results, Attrition, and Forced March Tables, and optional Tactical Matrix for Field Battles incorporated)
  • Two plastic Map Board Clips
  • Two six-sided Dice
  • One 8” x 11” Avalon Hill Games and Parts List
  • One Avalon Hill The General Advertising Insert
  • One 5½” x 6½” 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 I strongly recommend for those visitors looking for additional historical background.

Recommended Artwork

Here's a Giclee print map of the battle of Austerlitz available in various sizes that is great for a Napoleonic themed game room's wall.


  • Clearly you have a different opinion, but this is the game that got me interested in that period for the first time. That was in my last year of high school; four years later I was writing my honours degree essay on Napoleonic warfare. Not that I've actually done much with my degree, but damn, I did have a lot of fun researching it.

  • Greetings Dave:

    Thank you for visiting; I appreciate your interest.

    If I had not already played a number of other Napoleonic games that each, in their own way, attempted to model many of the same elements presented in WAR & PEACE, then I probably would have liked the game a bit more. Unfortunately, although its graphics presentation was much better than these earlier titles, it just did not stand up well when compared to SPI's LEIPZIG, LA GRANDE ARMEE, or 1812. This judgment may be a little harsh, I know, but it is how I saw the game then, and it is still how I see it today.

    Best Regards, Joe

  • While this game definitely has its flaws, such and imbalance, etc., I spent many a holiday weekend with my friends enjoying the social aspect of the Grand Campaign Game. I usually played the British since I was the only player in our group that understood the strength of naval power and amphibious operations. The player that played the French was so intimidated by my fleets that he often scuttled his own and placed a strength point of French infantry on every coastal hex he controlled to keep out my invasion forces, thus weakening his armies for the other players. I had little chance of victory in the broader competition for production cities, but my strategy guaranteed the defeat of that pesky Napoleon.

  • Greetings Steven:

    Thank you for visiting and for sharing your thoughts on this title. As I indicated above, this game never really "floated my boat," but I did find that the naval rules added something that was missing from most other simulations of the Napoleonic Wars.

    Best Regards, Joe

Post a Comment