THE CRIMEAN WAR is a set of four games each simulating a different critical battle in the war between the unlikely alliance of Britain, France, Turkey, and Sardinia against Russia during the Crimean War, 1854-1856. The four battles represented in this collection of games are: the ALMA, BALACLAVA, INKERMAN, and the TCHERNAYA RIVER. This collection of games, each with its own design and development team, was published by Simulations Publications, Inc. (SPI) in 1978.


The Battle of Alma
On 28 September 1854, the allied armies of Britain, led by Lord Raglan, and France, under General St. Arnaud, and accompanied by a contingent of Sardinian troops, finally made their way to the outskirts of Sevastopol and began the laborious preparations necessary for a major siege. The capture of this one Russian fortress and naval base had been, from the very beginning, the strategic focus of the entire Allied Crimean Campaign. On 17 October, the first Allied parallels were completed and an almost constant bombardment of the fortress began.

Sevastopol’s large Russian garrison was commanded by General Prince Menshikov with the assistance of his chief engineering officer, General Todleben. Because of the limited size of the besieging force, the entire naval base could not be completely encircled. So, much in keeping with the conduct of the rest of the campaign, the Russians continued to reinforce and resupply the naval base and its garrison using unblocked routes into the northern side of the fortress. This peculiar situation persisted through the entire duration of the siege.

Finally, on 8 September, 1855, the crucial Malakov defensive works on the southern side of the fortress fell, in spite of the gallant efforts of its defenders, to a violent French assault; and the Russian engineers, after inspecting what remained of the southern defenses, reluctantly declared that the fortress was no longer defensible. On the following day, Allied troops finally entered Sevastopol; they were unopposed. The higher than expected Allied losses incurred during the siege had, it turned out, resulted as much from disease as from enemy action. On the defenders’ side, casualties numbered over 54,000 killed, wounded, and missing; with as many as 3,000 Russian soldiers a day falling due to the constant Allied bombardment during the last stages of the siege.


The four games that make up THE CRIMEAN WAR utilize a similar mix of game components, and are designed around a set of Standard Rules that are common to them all. Each individual simulation also has its own short set of Exclusive Rules specific to that game. This design format makes it almost effortless to move from one game to the next without a lot of time spent learning a new game system with each new title. Thus, each title while similar to the others in this set, still offers the players a different and unique gaming experience. The simulations in this series are designed to be above average in complexity; and playing times will typically vary from three to five hours depending on the game chosen.


ALMA (20 September 1854)
is a tactical simulation of the first battle of the Crimean War. After landing at Evpatoria, the allied force of British and French regulars began their march towards Sevastopol. At the Alma River, they met General Prince Menshikov’s Russian forces in prepared positions on the south bank. This was the one and only clash, during the entire war, between the main armies of the three major powers: Britain, France, and Russia. The Russians, although outnumbered, occupied very strong defensive ground; the Allies, while numerically superior, suffered from severe organizational and command problems. A Russian victory at the Alma would probably have ended the war — to the enormous benefit of virtually everyone involved — before it had really even begun. ALMA is twelve turns long and was designed by J. Matisse Enzer.

BALACLAVA (25 October 1854)
is a battalion-level simulation of the Russian attack against the British supply base at the port of Balaclava. Today, this battle is remembered more because of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem: “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” than for what actually transpired there. This is unfortunate. Balaclava was a battle that illustrated, for anyone with eyes to see, that the British and Russian commanders were equally matched in their stupefying incompetence. Initially, despite the tactical bungling of the British commander during the actual engagement, the battle would make the Light Brigade’s commander, Lord Cardigan (perhaps the single worst officer, and this is saying something, in the British Army) a hero, while the British general who was ultimately responsible for the botched orders that led to the debacle, Lord Raglan, would deftly pass blame off to his second-in-command, Lord Lucan. In the end, however, Raglan's excuses would prove insufficient, and Balaclava would bring about more formal inquiries into the conduct of the British Army than any action before it. BALACLAVA is twelve turns long and was designed by Thomas Gould.

INKERMAN (5 November 1854),
also known as “the Soldiers’ Battle,” is a tactical simulation of the action between British and French forces and the Russians on Inkerman Ridge. The Russian plan was to attack and defeat the British force in the area of the ridge before reinforcements could arrive from the nearby French Army. Nineteen thousand Russians, under General Soimonov, began their assault on the British outposts at about 5:30 am, but a heavy fog hampered efforts to coordinate with General Paulov’s 16,000 men. With visibility limited to a few yards, the artillery on both sides was restricted to firing at the dimly visible muzzle flashes of the opposing guns. Even more important, whatever command and control existed prior to the engagement quickly collapsed, and the battle became a short-range clash between disorganized groups of soldiers stumbling through the fog. This battle was, perhaps, the Russian Army’s best opportunity to smash the exposed British; that the attack failed, was more a testament to the high morale and professionalism of the individual British soldier, than to the skill of the local British commanders who, characteristically for this war, seemed to have been almost totally absent from the fight. INKERMAN offers two scenarios: the Historical scenario, which begins on turn eight and continues until turn twenty-one (14 game turns); and the Russian Option scenario, which begins on game turn one and continues through turn twenty-one (21 game turns). INKERMAN was designed by Martin Goldberger.

Russians and French skirmish.
TCHERNAYA RIVER (15 August 1855)
is a tactical simulation of the last attempt by the Russian Army to defeat the Allies in the field and, thereby, relieve the siege against Sevastopol. A force of more than 65,000 Russians attacked the French and Sardinian Armies, with a combined strength of about 28,000, at a section of the allied line thought impregnable by the Allied commanders. In this particular instance, the Allied commanders were almost correct. The French and Sardinians occupied prepared positions on high ground shielded by the Tchernaya River and by steep slopes, both of which served as barriers to attack. In addition, an aqueduct ran along the length of the front; the presence of this man-made obstacle meant that any troops advancing across this ground would be completely exposed to artillery fire from the guns of both the Sardinian and French artillery on the heights. Nonetheless, the Russians attacked and achieved complete tactical surprise. The fighting that ensued came heart-breakingly close, after a series of desperate assaults, to bringing the Russians victory. In the final moments of the battle, however, with the Tsar’s troops seemingly on the verge of success, a surprise counter-attack by the French threw the exhausted attackers off the heights and back across the Tchernaya River. TCHERNAYA RIVER offers two scenarios: the Historical scenario which follows the actual Russian plan of battle and runs 15 turns; and the Non-historical scenario which lasts ten turns and assumes that the Russians had waited to better concentrate their forces so that fresh reserves would be available to exploit any success in the initial assaults. TCHERNAYA RIVER was designed by Steven Ross.


Charge of the Light Brigade by
Richard Caton Woodinville
The four engagements simulated in THE CRIMEAN WAR, and the campaign of which they were a part, are rarely examined by modern students of military affairs. This is probably unfortunate from a historical point of view, but quite understandable: although the Crimean War was, in many ways, a precursor to the modern wars that were soon to come, it is known today primarily for the almost unbelievable incompetence repeatedly demonstrated by the senior commanders of both sides.

Unfortunately, this incompetence was not restricted just to senior battlefield commanders. The supporting and administrative services of both the Russian and the British armies were, in many cases, little changed from the napoleonic Wars. Thus, while Russian logistical arrangements to supply Sevastapol, once it had fallen under seige, were primitive, to say the least; on the other hand, Russian medical services in the fortress actually showed improvement as better methods for classifying and treating the wounded were developed.. And if the British commander, Lord Raglan, couldn't seem to get anything right, he was in good company when it came to the officers responsible for supporting his army in the field. The complete breakdown in both supply and medical services to the soldiers manning the seige lines would reveal, yet again, that both the British army's quartermaster corps and its medical services were so backward and incompetent in their operations that they literally placed the entire British war effort in the Crimea in jeopardy.

Interestingly, the only army of a major European power to emerge from this debacle with its reputation relatively untarnished was that of Napoleon IIIrd’s France. Once the Allied armies actually reached the Crimea, the French transport, quartermaster, and medical services, it quickly became apparent, were everything that the British services were not: efficient, well-organized, and modern. In simplest terms: while the ordinary British "Tommy" froze in tents during the harsh Crimean winters and starved because of short rations; his counterpart, the French soldier, slept in dry, warm huts, had excellent medical services close to hand if he needed them, and, most important of all, ate well, even in the dead of winter. Unfortunately, all of France's many advantages could not save the army from battlefield casualties and disease. And French losses, mainly due to disease, would exceed, by the war's end, those of the British by a factor of almost five-to-one. Nonetheless, in virtually every way imaginable, the French military establishment demonstrated itself vastly superior to that of the British throughout the campaign. Unfortuantely, France's hard-won reputation for military competency would, all too soon, be wiped-away by her army's humiliating defeat in 1870, at the hands of a newly-resurgent and expansionist Prussia.

Game Components (for all four Games):

  • Four 17” x 22” hexagonal grid Map Sheets (with Unit Starting Positions, Turn Record Chart and Terrain Key incorporated; Inkerman also includes a Fog Visibility Table and a Unit Movement Table)
  • 400 ½” cardboard Counters
  • Two 8½” x 11” Standard Rules Booklets (with Terrain Effects Chart and Artillery, Fire, and Melee Combat Results Tables incorporated)
  • Four 8½” x 11” Exclusive Rules Booklets (with Scenario Instructions)
  • One 8½” x 11” Historical Background Booklet
  • One 8½” x 11” Crimean War Errata Sheet (19 May 1978)
  • One small six-sided Die
  • One SPI 12” x 15” x 1” flat 24 compartment plastic Game Box (with clear compartment tray covers) and clear plastic box cover with Title Sheet

Additional Information

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

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  • One of my all time favorite games.
    Nuff said.

  • Greetings Anon:

    This is not my personal favorite of the SPI Quads, but, like the 'GREAT WAR IN THE EAST' it does offer a nice mix of different situations and a solid, relatively nuanced game system. I guess -- for me, at least -- it falls somewhere between 'BLUE & GRAY' at the lower end and 'NAPOLEON'S LAST BATTLES' and 'MODERN BATTLES' at the upper end of my own spectrum of game preferences.

    Best Regards, Joe

  • I always enjoyed these quads. I appreciated that SPI went beyond the Blue and Grey system for these battles. NAW was a fine system, but it was tired by the time it was tapped for North Africa and island War Quads. They utilized a quasi Wellington's Victory system to give it more historical realism. I enjoyed the DG reprint A lot of game in a small package. I wish they would publish the other two games in the Quad because the entire quad is expensive on Ebay.

  • Greetings Lew:

    While I rather liked a couple of the games in the 'NORTH AFRICA' Quad, I agree completely when it comes to the 'ISLAND WAR' Quad. Not only did the games in this second package show a lack of development -- way too much in the way of critically important errata was necessary to make a couple of these games work -- but the game platform (as you note) just didn't seem to capture the feel of these types of engagements.

    Returning to 'THE CRIMEAN WAR' Quad, I think that the game situations in this collection were, on the whole, quite interesting; unfortunately, the conflict, itself, just didn't seem to be able to muster the same type of enthusiasm among players that could be counted on when it came to American Civil War or Napoleonic titles. Which, given the several really interesting Crimean War game designs that actually emerged during this period (I'm thinking of GDW as well as SPI, here), is probably too bad.

    Best Regards, Joe

  • Alma,Balaclava and Tchernaya River were my favorites with Inkerman last.I felt the Crimean War Quad system should have been made for other battles during this time period. Mexican-American War or the 1866-1870 c onflicts would have been good also.

  • Greetings Kim:

    I personally liked ALMA, TCHERNAYA RIVER, and INKERMAN; for some reason -- maybe it was my antipathy towards Lord Cardigan -- I just never developed much interest in BALACLAVA.

    By the way, I agree that, in retrospect, it would have been interesting if SPI had transferred this game system to the several battles of the Autro-Prussian War or to the War for Italian Independence (or Unification, if you prefer). I suppose that the Mexican-American War might have worked; unfortunately, given the general lack of player enthusiasm for -- what I consider to be a very good game -- 'VERACRUZ', I suppose SPI's development choices were reasonable. After all, the American Civil War and the Napoleonic Wars are virtually always going to have a pretty reliable audience; I'm not so sure about the wars of Napoleon the IIIrd.

    Best Regards, Joe

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