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Posted on May 1, 2018 in Boardgames, Front Page Features

Will You Unify Germany?  A Review of Turning Point Simulations’ The Sadowa Campaign Board Game

Will You Unify Germany? A Review of Turning Point Simulations’ The Sadowa Campaign Board Game

By Rick Martin

The Sadowa Campaign 1866 AD Game Review. Publisher: Turning Point Simulations Designer: Jim Werbaneth Price $32.95 (ziplock) or $37.95 (boxed)

Rick Martin

Passed Inspection: concise expertly written rule book, easy to learn, dynamic play, great solo experience, excellent value for the money

Failed Basic: flipping the counters to show that they have acted gets old fast especially with the small hex size and stacks of 4 or more counters

The Austro-Prussian War is a subject that I knew next to nothing about until I started my research in order to review Turning Point Simulations game “The Sadowa Campaign 1866 AD” (Sadowa). If one sign of a good game is that it challenges the player to learn more about the subject then Sadowa is not only a good game, but a great game!

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Why is Sadowa considered a “turning point in history”, you may ask, I couldn’t put it any better than in the description on Turning Point Simulations’ web page regarding The Sadowa Campaign:

“… one could make the case that Sadowa is the single most significant battle in the entire book (Twenty Decisive Battles of the World), with ripples that had enormous impact over the next century. If the Austrians had won at Sadowa, it is unlikely World War 1 would have happened as it did. Take away WW1, and is there a WW2?

Backing up this bold statement, remember that 1866 sees Prussia as a rising German state among still scattered principalities. Austria and France were both uneasy at Prussia’s growth. If there was to be more German unification, the Austrians expected to be the central player, and in fact the French made an ultimatum to Prussia and nearly joined in this war on Austria’s side (probably better for them if they had!).

Once the war began, history watched fast-moving Prussian formations defeat or outwit stumbling, hesitating Austrian forces. Oddly enough, the Austrian overall commander was one person in the country who did not want this war, moving slowly (too slowly to support his Saxon allies, who were quickly knocked out of the war) and placing his superior forces into defensive positions where they still suffered defeats. He suggested to the government that they needed to make peace ASAP, then misinterpreted the response as a direct order to “make a stand.” He selected favorable terrain, up against the Elbe between Sadowa and Königgrätz (the two names the battle is known by). And waited.

Outnumbered nearly 1-2, the Prussians attacked anyway. While the Austrian artillery was far superior, the Prussians were using breech-loading rifles and infantry tactics that supported both movement and prone firing. Though they took heavy losses, attacking kept the initiative out of Austrian hands, and when Prussian reinforcements evened the odds, the battle was over. A series of bold Austrian cavalry charges allowed the army to withdraw (it was still that kind of warfare) but the war’s outcome was only a matter of time. Prussia ended up stronger, the French more envious, and the seeds of 1870 were planted.”

The game’s designer is Jim Werbaneth who also brought us “Britain Stands Alone” and “Rommel at Gazala” Jim is a multiple winner of the Charles S. Roberts Awards plus The General’s Editor’s Choice Award. Armchair General will be printing an interview with Jim later this month.

Sadowa comes packaged either in a zip-lock bag or in a box. The box is slightly more expensive.

The game includes:

One full color, 11” x 17” mounted map board
100 full color, die-cut counters
12 page rulebook
1 Player Aid Chart

You will also need two six sided dice which are included in the boxed edition but not in the zip-lock version.

Each turn in the game represents 3 days from June 19 to August 15, 1866. Each unit represents a corps, cavalry reserve, garrison or headquarters of a named leader.

Each unit is rated for either committed or uncommitted combat factor while a handy chart lists movement ability for the unit.

An important and unique concept is that a unit starts uncommitted but as it moves and fights, it begins to degrade both in combat effectiveness, stress levels and moral. A unit can act multiple times in the turn but after the first time, it is flipped over and its movement and combat effectiveness go down when it tries to act after being “committed”. This allows the player to push the unit past its breaking point if needed and nicely simulates how people act when pushed too far. To show that a unit is going from uncommitted status to committed status, the counter is flipped over and the combat factor goes down.

The counters and map are easy to read and visually pleasing. My only wish is that the counters (and subsequently the hexes on the map board) were a little bigger. As you move units, stack units and flip units, it’s too easy to scatter a stack of counters across the map or gaming table. Fortunately, the low counter density helps with this.

The goals of the campaign are as follows – the Prussians must try and capture as many Austrian cities (especially Prague), strong points, roads and railroads as possible. In addition, if the Prussians bring in their General Head Quarters which is comprised of King Wilhelm, Bismarck and other high level leaders, they get bonuses to their initiative, attack and defense and morale for all units but, it is a “final stray” so to speak as by having it enter the battle, the Austrians gain victory points and, if the Prussian GHQ is captured, the Austrians automatically win! The Austrians must defend their territory and attempt to cut the Prussian supply lines but they also get points for Prussian casualties and for counter-attacking North in to Prussia.

Initially, the Prussians have the advantage as to moving their units as they have more railroad lines then the Austrians have. In addition, at a certain point, the Prussians may find their supply lines too drawn out and can resort to issuing a general order for units to forage for supplies. If this happens, the Austrians gain victory points as the foraging tends to inflame the hatred that the Austrian populace has for the Prussian invaders.

Sadowa’s turn sequence is as follows – Supply Phase, Initiative Phase, Operations Phase, Siege Phase, Reinforcement Phase, Recovery Phase and the End Phase. From turns 10 and on, rules for a general Armistice are defined.

Combat determination is fast and, like everything in this game, eloquently designed. First determine if the attacking and defending units are Committed or Uncommitted by looking at what side their counter is flipped to. Use their Combat Factor and add in any bonuses from HQ units stacked with or adjacent to the units. If the Prussian GHQ is activated and on the map, it provides further modifications. Take the Modified Combat Factors of the Attackers and the Modified Combat Factors of the Defenders and fraction them out to get a standard combat ration (1:1, 1:2, etc.) and roll a die. Add in any modifiers and get results from retreat to losses, to disrupted to surrender. Sieges are just as easily handled except that as sieges go on from turn to turn, the level of the besieged city or garrison may increase which brings that city or garrison closer to surrendering.

The flow of the battle and initiative in the game teeter totters back and forth. Sieges are commenced, forces move in to relieve the siege, cities are taken and then liberated, etc. The game is exquisitely balanced so one game result may be different the next time around.

The core strategies and decisions are tough and can be decisive to your victory – as the Prussians – do I push quickly towards Prague or work in a more indirect way to capture less well defended areas? As the Austrians – do I defend everywhere and spread my forces thin or do I split my forces to counter-attack in to Prussia in order to relieve the attack on Austria?

While not designed to be a solo game, Sadowa is very easy to play solo as the low counter density and ease of play makes it very approachable and enjoyable. The small footprint of the game makes it quick and easy to set up and play. My review game took about 3 hours.

All in all, The Sadowa Campaign is a great game with tons of replay value. I recommend it highly!

Armchair General Rating: 96 %

Solitaire Rating: 4 (1 is not suitable, 5 is perfect for solo play)

About the Author

A college film instructor and small business owner, Richard Martin has also worked in the legal and real estate professions, is involved in video production, film criticism, sports shooting and is an avid World War I and II gamer who can remember war games which came in plastic bags and cost $2.99 (he’s really that old)!

2 Comments

  1. Thanks for a very interesting review! I’m certainly interested now!

    • Glad you enjoyed the review. I hope you like the game!

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