HISTORICAL BACKGROUNDA Hunt in Honor of Charles V at the Castle of Torgau, painting by Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1544, Museo del Prado, Madrid
The Emperor had ruled over his people for almost four decades; however, his sudden death from an unlucky fall, while hunting stag, had unexpectedly thrown the Empire into turmoil. With no undisputed heir to the now empty Crimson Throne, four ambitious rivals hurriedly prepared to press their claims for the Imperial crown: King Ronalf of Arcadia; King Zog of Hrvatska; King Leonardo of Bravance; and King Ludwig of Argozia. Each of the four rulers saw himself as the natural and obvious successor to the Emperor, but each also knew that the imperial prize could only be gained through a combination of diplomacy, subterfuge, and warfare. Moreover, all four rivals knew that their long-term goals would have to be subordinated to short-term threats. King Ludwig’s territorial holdings were, by an accident of geography, particularly well positioned to support a successful early military advance into the heart of the old Empire; thus, if his three rivals were to have any chance at grabbing the imperial crown for themselves, they would have to put aside their mutual distrust and immediately unite to block the Argozian usurper before he could seize the throne. In short, Ludwig would have to be deceived and then lured into a trap.
With the onset of good campaign weather, all was ready. When spring at last arrived, the Argozian King’s troops began to advance south into the Imperial heartland with the still unsuspecting King Ludwig at their head; at the same time, three enemy armies marched out of winter quarters to intercept them. A battle was coming, and King Ludwig and his veteran troopers would soon unexpectedly find themselves attacked by enemy armies each approaching from three different directions.
A player wins SOLDIER KING when he controls (through capture or rule) four of the seven ‘electoral’ cities — those marked with a crown — on the game map. To be counted for control, all four cities must be held against all comers for one complete non-winter game turn.
A PERSONAL OBSERVATION
Interestingly, despite a game system that is virtually errata-free, SOLDIER KING never managed to garner the kind of long-term interest that led to the extensive post-production design improvements that fans like Alan Emerich lavished on A HOUSE DIVIDED. This is probably too bad. The addition of STRATEGO type counter-stands to hide unit strengths (to create an element of the ‘fog of war’), and even the addition of a few leader counters might have added significantly to the excitement level of this game. A more interesting game map, and nicer unit counters probably wouldn’t have hurt the game either. In any case, none of that happened; so SOLDIER KING remains the same today as it was when it first appeared, twenty-eight years ago.
- Time Scale: 3 months (one season) per game turn
- Map Scale: (irrelevant) point to point movement system
- Unit Size: division/corps (10,000 to 15,000 infantry; 7,000 to 10,000 cavalry)
- Unit Types: levy/veteran/guard infantry, levy/veteran/guard heavy cavalry, levy/veteran light cavalry, and information counters
- Number of Players: two, three, or four (best with four)
- Complexity: average
- Solitaire Suitability: average
- Average Playing Time: 3- 5+ hours
- Two 17” x 22” point-to-point Map Sheets (with Turn/Season Record and Army Maximum Size Track incorporated)
- 320 ⅝” back-printed cardboard Counters
- One 8½” x 11” SOLDIER KING Rules Booklet (with Set-up Instructions and Examples of Play incorporated)
- One 8½” x 11” back-printed Advanced and Optional Rules Sheet
- One 4” x 6” GDW Customer Survey Card
- Two six-sided Dice
- One 9¼” x 11½” x 2” bookcase-style Game Box