THE FRANCO-PRUSSIAN WAR is a strategic/grand-tactical simulation of the war that, in 1870, pitted the French Empire against the Kingdom of Prussia and the other member states of the North German Confederation. The game was designed by James F. Dunnigan with help from Phil Orbanes, and published in 1972 by Simulations Publications, Incorporated (SPI).


Napoleon III painting by Franz Winterhalter

On 15 July 1870, The French Empire of Napoleon IIIrd, provoked by a diplomatic slight from France’s long-time adversary to the east, declared war on the Kingdom of Prussia. And almost immediately, both countries began to mobilize their respective forces for the impending conflict. The armies of the two nations, counting available reserve formations, were large, and the military leaders of both countries each fully expected to take the offensive against their foe.

Needless-to-say, the long-simmering animosity between Berlin and Paris meant that the Prussians had been readying themselves for war with France for years, and thus, no military detail had been left to chance. The French, also spoiling for a fight and eager to take the offensive against their eastern neighbor, had formulated their plans more broadly, and had focused on political goals as well as military objectives in preparing for war against the Germans. Napoleon IIIrd and his advisors had convinced themselves that Austria might be persuaded to join in the war against Prussia, and even that several of the Kaiser’s German allies might be induced to defect. To unravel Prussia's fragile alliances with several of the smaller Germanic states, all the French Emperor believed that he needed was an early French victory on German soil.

The Prussian plan was not nearly as nuanced or as complicated as that of the French. Instead of a diplomatic victory, the Prussian Great General Staff (as it was called then) planned — by using railroads to transport their rapidly mobilizing troops — to concentrate near the French border and, once massed, to immediately drive into eastern France in search of a decisive battle with the enemy. To preserve maximum combat power during this advance, the Prussian General Staff was determined to maintain the concentration of their field armies as they marched forward; thus, they intended to avoid detaching any more formations from the main army than were absolutely necessary to invest or reduce the few key French fortresses on the Franco-German frontier that might threaten the Prussian Army’s line of communication.

Field Marshal Helmut Karl Bernhard,
Count von Moltke
On August 1, 1870, the Prussian army stormed across the French border in strength and any residual Gallic fantasies about galloping towards Berlin were quickly batted aside. Initially, several short but indecisive clashes were fought between the largely uncoordinated French forces and the advancing Prussians. Finally, on 1 September, close to the Franco-Belgian border near the French fortress of Sedan, the “decisive battle” strategy of Clausewitz was tested against the “diplomatic battle” strategy of the French. There, 200,000 Prussian soldiers, under General von Moltke, succeeded in closing with and then enveloping a French army of 120,000 men, under Marshal de MacMahon. After a sharp action — during which Marshal de MacMahon, himself, was wounded — the French commander was forced to surrender his entire army; and as a result of this defeat, 83,000 French soldiers marched into captivity. To add Prussian insult to French injury, among the newly-captured prisoners at Sedan was no less a prize than the Emperor Napoleon IIIrd whose personal capitulation represented a humiliating finish to a poorly-conceived and even more awkwardly conducted French military campaign.

Battle of Sedan
The defeat of the French field army at Sedan did not mark the formal conclusion to the Franco-Prussian War, but it did signal the end to any hopes of French victory or even of a military stalemate. French honor would compel the remaining French troops to fight on, at least for a time, but the fortunes of Napoleon IIIrd and those of France had been sealed barely a month after active hostilities began. The humiliating defeat at the hands of the Prussians in 1870 would bring about the fall of Napoleon IIIrd, the surrender of the French provinces of Alsace and Lorraine, and would also sow the seeds of a burning passion, on the part of the whole French nation, for revenge against its Teutonic enemy to the east. This French hatred for Prussia and all things German would smolder for over forty years before finally flaring up at the start of another, unimaginably more terrible war. In the summer of 1914, a generation of Frenchmen would march off to defend their country and to avenge the national shame of 1870; tragically, their initial enthusiasm would soon be wiped away by the mud, blood, and squalor of the trenches of the Western Front. One in seven French soldiers would perish in the First World War; however, even for those who were fortunate enough to escape death in the trenches, this war of "revenge" — when it finally ended — would leave vast numbers of the survivors with deep physical or psychological wounds that would scar them for the rest of their lives.


THE FRANCO-PRUSSIAN WAR is a two-player, corps-level simulation of the decisive period — 1 August through 2 September 1870 — during which the outcome of the Franco-Prussian War was militarily decided. Because the simulation only covers the first thirty days of the war, the hexagonal-grid, two-color game map displays only that part of Germany and Eastern France in which the decisive early maneuvers and battles of the war took place. The terrain hexes represented by the playing area are essentially restricted to six basic types: clear, forest, river hex-sides, ridges, railroad, and fortress. And, as might be expected, these different types of terrain, to varying degrees, directly affect both movement and combat. Each hex on the map is 7.5 kilometers from side to side. The matte-finished combat units in the game represent the historical formations that either played a role, or that could have taken part, in the actual campaign. Each combat unit in the game represents a single infantry corps. In addition, substitute counters of various denominations (all with the original unit’s historical designation) are included in the counter-mix so that each of the corps deployed on the map can be replaced, by the owning player, by a weaker or stronger version of itself, as soon as it is reduced due to combat, or built back up with replacements. Further, to illustrate the fundamental differences in the basic doctrines of the two opposing armies, the designer has made the Prussian corps generally less powerful (combat factor-wise), but more numerous than those of their French counterparts; however, this disadvantage, such as it is, has then been offset by providing all Prussian units (along with their German allies) with a basic movement allowance of eight, while, at the same time, saddling all French units with a basic movement allowance of six. Given the various movement costs called for in THE FRANCO-PRUSSIAN WAR game system, this is not a trivial difference. [Note: The special Dummy units that appear in the Standard Game are treated exactly like regular infantry corps for ALL purposes until their identity is revealed by an enemy action.] Along with its compliment of combat units, the game also includes two categories of non-combat units: EB railroad repair units; and information markers (e.g., entrained markers, rail break markers, fortress strength counters, and optional Standard Game unit “formation” markers).

THE FRANCO-PRUSSIAN WAR, as already hinted at in the preceding comments, offers two versions of the game: the introductory Basic Game, and the more complicated and challenging Standard Game. Both games are interesting and enjoyable enough to stand on their own, but the more advanced version is definitely where the real nail-biting action occurs. Nonetheless, each of the two games is different enough from the other to warrant their own commentary.

The Basic Game

The Basic Game mechanics of THE FRANCO-PRUSSIAN WAR are, as might be expected given the game’s label, comparatively simple and easy to learn. Essentially, this introductory game is included mainly as a painless way for new players to quickly familiarize themselves with the essential features of the game system. In the Basic Game, units are always deployed face-up and no Dummy counters or formation markers are used. Each game turn represents three days of real time and is further divided into a Prussian and a French player turn. The Prussian player is always the first to act. The (Igo-Ugo) turn sequence is simple, familiar, and intuitively logical. Each player turn in the Basic Game is composed of a Reinforcement Phase, a Movement Phase, and a Combat Phase. Reinforcements enter the game at designated “reinforcement entry hexes” as called for by the specific Orders of Battle being used in the game. Movement and combat, on the other hand, are different enough to require a bit of elaboration.

Movement in the Basic Game version of THE FRANCO-PRUSSIAN WAR essentially takes one of two forms. Thus, phasing units may move using conventional ground movement paying, where appropriate, additional movement point costs to enter certain types of hexes or to cross certain types of hex-sides; alternatively, however, combat units may also travel at an accelerated rate when moving along unbroken, friendly-controlled rail lines. The Prussians may move up to two corps by rail on any game turn; the French, only one. To move by rail, a unit must first pay three movement points to entrain; it may then travel along a friendly (unbroken) rail line at the cost of one movement point for each eighteen rail hexes (regardless of terrain) that it moves over while entrained. Once a unit reaches its destination, it must then pay two movement points to detrain. Units using this type of movement, it should be noted, may not pass into or through an enemy zone of control at any point during the rail movement process. At the start of the game, all rail lines to the east and north of the border that separates France from Luxembourg and Germany are Prussian-controlled; all railroads on the French side of the frontier are, needless-to-say, French-controlled. Enemy units may destroy (break) a friendly rail line by physically moving onto a rail hex. EB railroad repair units move along rail lines and may either repair a rail break in a friendly rail hex or, alternatively, they may convert enemy railroads to friendly use.

Oddly enough, although most of the game’s action will usually take place in France, the French player is not permitted to have more than three EB units on the game map at any one time; in contrast, the Prussian player, despite operating in an enemy country, may put into play as many EB railroad repair units as he wants, and, in fact, may conjure them up wherever and whenever he decides he needs them. Other than enemy combat units, the only other real obstacles to the movement of EB units are river hex-sides: every time an EB repair unit arrives at a river, it must roll and win a die-roll (a 50% chance of success) before it is allowed to continue its movement across the river barrier. [It should be noted, by the way, that unless the Prussian player is restricted to a single die-roll per riverline, the fact that he can create unlimited numbers of extra EB units means that this restriction only affects the French player.]

Zones of Control (ZOC) in THE FRANCO-PRUSSIAN WAR are “rigid” and units must pay movement point costs to enter and leave an enemy ZOC. Fortress units — although represented by game counters that are similar to combat units — do not exert a “conventional” ZOC (more on this later); in addition, the ZOCs of combat units do not extend into or out of fortress hexes. Stacking of combat units is unlimited; however, because of the game’s low piece density (the French player, for example, will typically be able to field only ten or so combat and three EB railroad repair units, even after all French reinforcements have entered the game), stacking actually tends to occur infrequently, if it happens at all. In those rare instances when stacking does occur, combat units (only) must pay a movement cost both to stack and unstack with other friendly units. The supply rules are relatively straight forward and, for the most part, are pretty standard fare. Supply paths must be traced either directly to a supply source or, alternatively, to an unblocked friendly-controlled railroad that then connects to a friendly supply source. Combat units may be in one of three states of supply: Supplied, Unsupplied, and Isolated. As might be expected, the capabilities of units are directly dependent on their supply states and being unsupplied or isolated seriously degrades the offensive combat power of affected units; moreover, combat supply is determined at the instant of combat. Supply sources for the French include friendly fortresses as well as any hex along the southern or western map edge in France that is unblocked by Prussian units or their ZOCs. Interestingly, the Prussian supply situation is much more tenuous; which is to say: for a Prussian unit to be in supply, it must either draw supply from a friendly fortress in Germany or Luxembourg, or, alternatively, it must be able to trace an unblocked supply path to a friendly rail line that then connects to the SINGLE rail hex in the absolute northeast corner of the game map.

Combat in THE FRANCO-PRUSSIAN WAR is voluntary, and battles between adjacent opposing units are resolved using one of six different “Split Result” odds-differential Combat Results Tables (CRTs). Interestingly, the specific CRT used for each individual battle is determined by the combat strength of the defending unit involved in the battle. The actual results of combat, because of the historical era being simulated in the game, are attritional in nature; what this means is that the attacker and the defender — except at very high or very low odds — will both suffer strength losses (that’s where the “split result” part comes in). These battlefield casualties are taken as “step-losses”, and regular toe-to-toe slugging matches will almost always be both bloody and inconclusive. One pleasing and very welcome feature of the game is the inclusion of “Replacement points” (think Dunnigan's 1914 or Dave Williams’ ANZIO) which both players can use to rebuild those friendly combat units that have been reduced by combat, but are not currently in contact with the enemy.

Siege of Paris, popular French print
Fortresses, as already mentioned, play an interesting and surprisingly active role in THE FRANCO-PRUSSIAN WAR. All fortress hexes that have not fallen to the enemy serve as sources of supply for friendly combat units; also, each fortress possesses its own specific defensive (only) combat strength and conveys a defensive advantage to any combat units that actually occupy the fortress hex, itself. In addition, these defensive strong points also directly affect enemy logistics; that is: if left unmasked by enemy forces, fortress hexes — although they negate conventional ZOCs — nonetheless exert a “zone of interdiction” in their immediate vicinity which blocks enemy supply routes. Like regular combat units, individual fortresses can be reduced by steps through combat; however, unlike regular combat units, eliminated fortress strength points (like eliminated EB railroad repair units) do not count towards either side’s victory point levels.

Sites of Franco Prussian War major engagements.
Victory in THE FRANCO-PRUSSIAN WAR is determined, on the basis of the opposing players’ final victory points totals, at the conclusion of the last game turn; moreover, because of the different strategic objectives of the two sides, these points can be amassed through the capture or occupation of geographical objectives, and through the destruction of enemy combat strength points. It should also be noted that victory, in this game, comes in several different “flavors”; hence, different levels of victory ranging from Marginal to Decisive are all potential outcomes. Finally, it is also perfectly possible for neither player to win and for the game, instead, to end in a Draw. Both the Basic and the Standard games are ten turns long.

The Standard Game

Seige of Paris, painting by Messioner
The Standard Game is the real focus of THE FRANCO-PRUSSIAN WAR game system, and players are encouraged to move on to the more advanced version, as soon as they have mastered the game mechanics introduced in the Basic Game. In the Standard game, the turn sequence — because of the introduction of “limited intelligence” (inverted units and dummy counters) — becomes more complicated. Each player turn proceeds as follows: the Reinforcement Phase; the Movement Phase, which is further subdivided into the “First Movement Segment,” the “Probe Segment,” and the “Second Movement Segment;” and the Combat Phase. In addition, the comparatively simple supply rules introduced in the Basic Game are modified in the Standard Game to further limit the combat capabilities of unsupplied units, and to also include turn-by-turn attrition losses for isolated units.

The key feature of the Standard Game rules system and the thing that most sets it apart from the Basic Game is its introduction of “limited intelligence”. The Basic Game presents the opposing players with an interesting strategic puzzle. The French commander will usually anchor his left on the fortresses of Longwy, Thionville, and Metz while he attempts to give up as little ground as possible in the center and south without, hopefully, allowing his back-peddling right wing to be outflanked. The Prussian player, on the other hand, will usually advance into France in a sweeping sickle-like arc, using both his advantage in numbers and his corps’ superior speed to pin the French center while his left wing attempts to envelop the slower-moving units covering the southern end of the French line. Everything changes with the Standard Game’s addition of dummy counters in concert with the introduction of inverted combat units; these two factors completely transform the dynamic tempo and flow of the game. Now, the Prussian player no longer knows whether the French fortresses (especially Strasburg and Colmar) are garrisoned by infantry corps or by dummy counters; or whether the French center is held in strength, or defended by phantoms. The uncertainty for the French player is just as great as it is for his Prussian adversary. With all of those inverted Prussian counters swarming across the game map, the French commander can never be sure, short of launching probing attacks (which will, if unsuccessful, cost victory points), whether the units covering the Prussian center are real, or whether the forces racing south and west actually represent the main body of the enemy army. And while concealed unit values and dummy counters definitely increase the challenges for both players, they are not the only elements of the Standard Game’s rules package that can increase the game’s “pucker factor”.

For example, players who either want to further increase the game’s uncertainty or who just want to adjust play balance between unequal opponents will find that the Standard version of FRANCO-PRUSSIAN also offers twelve different Orders of Battle (OoBs) — six for each side — all of which, it should be noted, will vary somewhat in their individual combat strengths and will also typically call for the use of alternative mobilization areas. These alternate OoBs, and the variable mobilization areas that go with them, are — according to the designer, at least — based on possible pre-war strategies that were actually considered by the belligerents. And finally, for those players who really want to cultivate an ulcer of their very own, the Standard Game also offers an optional rule to allow for "extended" (halved combat strength, but with a ZOC) and "concentrated" (full combat strength, but without a ZOC) unit formations to further complicate both the strategic and the tactical picture for both sides.


French surrender.
James Dunnigan’s THE FRANCO-PRUSSIAN WAR — now that it is pushing forty years of age — is admittedly getting a little “long in the tooth”; nonetheless, of the several different titles that have attempted, over the years, to simulate this somewhat obscure conflict, this game still remains my personal favorite. A number of other treatments have appeared since 1972, and a few of them have even been interesting, but I still keep returning to this one. That being said, there are, I think, three reasons for my continued affection for this somewhat eccentric simulation. First, I like the physical presentation of the game’s map and components. This may seem a little odd, particularly since THE FRANCO-PRUSSIAN WAR can be described in several different ways, but visually striking is probably not one of them; nonetheless, the graphic design of the game: clean, unambiguous, and oddly attractive in a two-color sort of way, just works for me. Second, it is both exciting and relatively fast-playing: a typical game of THE FRANCO-PRUSSIAN WAR — even when using all of the Standard and "optional" rules — can, when both players are experienced, usually be brought to completion in about two hours or less. This means that players can experiment with several different strategies in a single sitting; and considering that there is a pronounced “puzzle” aspect to the play of this title, this feature — in my view, at least — is a very big plus. Third, the clear-cut doctrinal differences that separate the two opposing armies make for a very interesting strategic contest. The Prussian army starts out with the initiative and is both more numerous (in terms of numbers of corps) and faster than that of Napoleon the IIIrd; however, the individual Prussian corps are also, on a unit for unit basis, much more brittle than those of its foe. The French army is slower-moving, smaller in numbers, and forced by the game situation to react to Prussian moves for much of the game; the French army’s one advantage is that its component infantry corps — while significantly out-numbered by those of the enemy — are nonetheless individually stronger and hence, have a lot more combat staying-power than the smaller, more nimble Prussian corps.

In addition, besides this simulation’s overall success as a playable, challenging, and enjoyable game, it also appeals to me on another, more abstract level. This comparatively uncluttered SPI design represents, I think, the return of a more mature, more accomplished Dunnigan to his game design roots. Thus, Dunnigan’s use, in THE FRANCO-PRUSSIAN WARof limited intelligence (inverted and dummy counters), railroads, and step-reduction (both for combat units and for fortifications) is, when viewed in terms of the designer’s choice of a historical topic, all very reminiscent of his ambitious design effort, four years earlier, on Avalon Hill’s 1914 (1968). In the case of THE FRANCO-PRUSSIAN WAR, however, Dunnigan seems to have approached his project with far more modest simulation goals than those that guided him in 1968; and the end result, at least in my opinion, is a much better, less-contrived, and more playable game than 1914. Granted the newer game, because of its simpler design architecture, does not have the simulation “chops” of its World War I predecessor; nonetheless, many of the same design elements that combined to stifle interest and choke off repeat play in the case of the earlier game, seem to have come together perfectly in THE FRANCO-PRUSSIAN WAR to produce, at least in my view, a game system which — then and now — offers players both a surprising range of strategic variability and, at the same time, a manageable amount of realistic operational detail.

Interestingly, although THE FRANCO-PRUSSIA WAR was only modestly well-received when it was first published, the innovative strategic/grand-tactical game system that it introduced was nonetheless successful enough that it led to two additional SPI titles: THE WILDERNESS CAMPAIGN (1972) and LEE MOVES NORTH (1973); both of which used this game system to good effect to simulate different campaigns during the American Civil War.

Finally, a general word or two about play: new players will often find that playing the Standard Game of THE FRANCO-PRUSSIAN WAR — or any of the other titles in this series, for that matter — can, and usually will, be a nerve-racking test of cunning, nerve, and intuition. What this means is that, in most cases, the player who is cautious and unoriginal in this thinking will almost always find himself at a disadvantage when pitted against a more audacious, intuitive, and aggressive opponent. For this reason, playing this game can be a very humbling experience: players will quickly realize that, just as was the case with their historical counterparts, it is exceedingly easy to look stupid when the wrong judgment is made about their adversaries’ intentions or strength. Believe me, when it comes to this game, I am speaking from experience!

Design Characteristics:

  • Time Scale: 3 days per game turn
  • Map Scale: 7.5 kilometers per hex
  • Unit Size: corps
  • Unit Types: infantry, fortress, railroad repair, dummy, and information counters
  • Number of Players: two
  • Complexity: average/above average (depending on version)
  • Solitaire Suitability: average (Basic Game); below average (Standard Game)
  • Average Playing Time: 2-3 + hours

Game Components:

  • One 22” x 28” hexagonal grid Map Sheet (with Turn Record Track incorporated)
  • 400 ½” cardboard Counters
  • One 8¾” x 11½ ” book-fold style Rules Booklet (with Scenario Instructions incorporated)
  • Two 11” x 14” back-printed combined Combat Results Tables and Terrain Effects Charts
  • One 8½” x 11” Errata Sheet (as of 31 October 1973)
  • One 4” x 8½” SPI Order Form
  • 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 game Cover with Title Sheet

Recommended Reading

These titles provide additional historical background on the Franco-Prussian War.


  • Thanks for this review. I have been looking for a cheap copy of this game for some time, and it always eludes my grasp. I'm also interested in Lee Moves North (and thanks for the review of that game too).

  • Greetings Itmurnau:

    Thanks, as always, or your kind words.

    Interestingly, I also have a rough version of my review of the third game in this series, 'THE WILDERNESS CAMPAIGN', tucked away somewhere; unfortunately, I just haven't gotten around as yet to lining up the illustrations necessary to post it on my blog.

    Best Regards, Joe

  • I have the game as well as "Lee moves North". I still remember a game where the French had the "Railway collapse" and the German "Austrian Intervention". With hidden pieces and dummies we had a tense play with few battles and a lot of maneuvre and deception. Your review make me younger...

    Best regards,

    Fabrizio from Italy

  • Greetings Fabrizio:

    Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on this under-appreciated gem. Yes, the various alternative "OoBs" can make things interesting; unfortuantely, because of the different mobilization areas called for by the various French alternatives, it is virtually impossible for the French player to conceal which of the six he is actually playing with -- a problem which, fairly or unfairly, the Prussian player typically does not share.

    Still, I like the potential for deception and surprise that the game offers. And because of the small number of units in play at any given time, an individual match usually takes two hours or less to complete. The nice thing about this "fast-playing" feature is that (in my view, at least), if things have gone badly for a player in one game, he usually has time for an immediate rematch with the sides reversed.

    Thanks Again and Best Regards, Joe

  • Joe, I've been divesting myself of a lot of older SPI "flatbox" games recently but this one is a real keeper. Thanks for doing such a thorough review of it.

  • Greetings Eric:

    Thank you for taking the time to visit.

    As we discussed previously, I still think that DG could accomplish a lot with only a few minot "tweaks" to what is otherwise a very clean, almost glitch-free game platform. A number of other (well-regarded) designers have revisited this topic since 1972, but none of the newer titles that have emerged in the intervening years succeed -- in my view, anyway -- in combining the same blend of deception and bluff, with the fast-paced playability and pure cleverness of the Dunnigan design.

    Best Regards, Joe

  • Hello,
    Thanks for brining this game up. After recently playing this game a few times it all boiled down to that wacking French victory condition rule about having a supplied French unit in as deep as you can get it into Prussia that kind of spoils the game. Fifty victory points for each hex into Prussia. That puts a lot of pressure on the Prussians to drive to the Southeast corner of the board to prevent the French from securing a lot of victory points. Even through the Prussians can drive West it's tough to put pressure on the Southwest part of the board. Granted the Prussians have a lot of units but their strength and the combat results table puts them at a disadvantage. Hopefully somebody has a good Prussian strategy to counter this French tactic.

  • Greetings Bob:

    Thanks for visiting; I appreciate your interest.

    Although it seems like the French should either be able to skulk in Strasburg or Colmar and then make an "end of game" dash into Prussian territory in order to pick up some easy victory points; this strategy is usually a bit more difficult than it looks, whether one is playing the 'Basic' or the 'Standard' versions of the game.

    In the 'Basic' game, the Prussians have enough units to invest any French garrisons that attempt to hide out in one of the frontier fortresses; particularly because the French disadvantage in unit count makes it much easier to envelope the French right, if one or two French corps are placed out of action by being stuck in one of the two eastern fortresses.

    In the 'Standard' game, the Prussian situation is a little more interesting. The prospect of concealed French combat units and dummy counters would seem to make things tougher on the Prussian player, but the fact that the Prussians can, so long as they have at least one real combat unit in an area, ressurrect dummy counters as soon as they are revealed and eliminated, usually makes it fairly easy to put solitary French raiders out of supply the minute that they make their run for Prussian territory.

    This is not, by the way, to say that the threat of a last minute French raid should be discounted; but only that it is often a lot more difficult for the French player to bring off successfully than a quick look at the game map might suggest.

    Best Regards, Joe

  • Joe

    Excellent review as always.Franco-Prussian War I played and enjoyed back in the day but it even got lost in the glut os SPI games back then. Still I do pull it out from time to time to look it over.I do like it better then the DG game on the subject.

  • Greetings Kim:

    Thanks, as always, for the kind words.

    My only problem with SPI's 'FRANCO-PRUSSIAN WAR' is that, once I started playing the 'Standard Game', I kind of lost interest in the 'Basic Game'; this wasn't really an issue until I moved away from my regular opponents. Unfortunately, the 'Standard Game' is virtually impossible to solitaire and I no longer have any local opponents who are familiar with the game. So it goes, I suppose ...

    And yes, I tried Joe Miranda's simpler S&T treatment of the Franco-Prussian War; and while it was a lot more colorful than the older game, and even had a few interesting design ideas, it just never really caught my imagination like the older, Dunnigan game.

    Best Regards, Joe

  • Very well done revisit of a gem of a golden oldie!

    I agree on all points. Any grognard worth their salt will easily bypass the Basic game and jump whole hog into the Standard game.

    A nudge towards dusting off yet another SPI classic for a grand whirl. Thanks Joe!

  • Greetings Ray:

    Thank you for your kind words and for your interest.

    Maybe I'm just getting old, but games like 'THE FRANCO-PRUSSIAN WAR' seem more and more appealing to me as I continue to examine batch after batch of newer, supposedly more realistic titles. Dunnigan's game didn't include lots of die rolling for morale or other factors, but -- at least, based on my own study of the war -- simple as it was, the old SPI game's historical narrative seemed to really work.

    Nowdays, between 'chit draws" and event cards, and way, way too much die rolling for run-of-the mill game operations that -- one would assume -- should actually tend to even out between two contesting armies, I find myself returning again and again to the older, simpler games.

    Even designers whose work I admire have resorted, of late, to adding cards to their more recent designs. Kevin Zucker, for example, added random event cards to his 'HIGHWAY TO THE KREMLIN' and to his remake of 'NAPOLEON'S LAST BATTLES' for no compelling reason (in either game) that I could discern. I suppose he thought that these additions would make his newer game designs more fashionable. For my own part, I'll stick with '1812' and the original version of NLB -- if I want to play cards, I'll play poker; I guess that you could say, with a few noteable exceptions, that most of the newer games, dazzling graphics or no, just leave me cold.

    Best Regards, Joe

  • Hi there,
    Yes another excellent review motivating me to track down a golden oldie.

    Just a quick comment about graphics as, personally, I tend to lean towards the 'clean' Redmond A Simonsen approach. It just seems more evocative than the jazzier modern approach that is currently in vogue. Just as important as the game system and the scenarios to 'hook' you on a game.

    Regards, Paul Breslin

  • Greetings Paul:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    Yes, I have to agree with you when it comes to Redmond Simonsen's varied and important contributions to our hobby. As regular visitors to this blog know, I may not think very highly of Simonsen's game designs, but he was a true genius when it came to wargame graphics -- particularly when you remember that he and SPI were operating on a veritable financial shoestring for virtually the entire time that the publishing operation was able to limp along. Not every one of SPI's games was a keeper, but Dunnigan and company still managed to put out a lot more winners than losers; something that several of our current publishers really cannot claim.

    Best Regards, Joe

  • I enjoyed this game until I figured it out. But figuring it out was a lot of fun.

    The basic idea for the Prussians is to zip around the French after tieing them up in a ZOC. Since they have more units, they can isolate the French. So I would lose every battle (to enter the ZOC if needed) but win the war. Combat was almost not needed.

    The basic idea for the French is as stated above, get into Germany, which means the far south east of the map. Once the French pile on in this area, they can leave the rest of the map mostly empty, just keep some key forts alive long enough to run out the clock.

    Don Johnson

  • Greetings Don:

    While I agree that the French player has to be very careful not to let his right wing be enveloped by the more nimble Prussian corps in the "Basic" game, this is not a challenge that -- in my experience, at least -- really comes up that often in the "Standard" version of the game.

    Actually, drawing on my many playings of this title, many are the "Standard" games (that I have played as the French) in which I have given the Prussian player a nasty surpise in the center or on the left by attacking his weaker corps until they either had to withdraw or risk destruction.

    The eastern French fortresses (e.g., Strasburg and Colmar) seem like they should offer the opportunity for the French to launch a last minute raid into Germany, but in the "Standard" game, the availability of "dummy" counters mixed with real combat units tends to make this strategy problematic, at best.

    In any case, thanks, as always for sharing your thoughts on this great old game and

    Best Regards, Joe

  • Would this game benefit from mounting the counters onto blocks? I did this with Grunt because there were so many dummy units, and it improved the game greatly.

  • Greetings Gideon:

    Thank you, as always, for visiting.

    Unfortunately, to make either a Columbia Games style "block" or a "counter stand" (a la some newer versions of 'A HOUSE DIVIDED', for instance) format work with this title would probably require more effort that interested players would get in return. Not only would the counters (in the case of "blocks") have to be modified, but the map would have to be substantially enlarged to make space for either blocks or counter stands.

    All in all, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with your idea except that it probaably wouldn't return enough increased play value to be worth all the extra work.

    Best Regards, Joe

    Best Regards, Joe

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