Aaron Danis, 15 June 2023 ~ #UnboxingDay
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I wrote a college paper on Frederick II, aka Frederick the Great, in 1981 on an electric typewriter for a class I had on military history (I still have the paper, but not the typewriter). I earned an “A” on that paper, and I always have wanted to buy the then 7-year-old game by SPI published in S&T 49, nine issues before my S&T subscription began. Avalon Hill (AH) would purchase the game from SPI and in 1982 publish it with up-colored graphics and a mounted map as SPI sold off some of its more popular games (such as Panzergruppe Guderian) to its competitor in a failed last gasp effort to raise capital to stay afloat. I recently acquired a “cherry” copy of the original S&T version with magazine for a great price from Dean’s Fine Games, so here I am “unbagging” it.
Frederick the Great (FtG) is a two-player operational game that puts players in the shoes of King Frederick and Prussia (and its ally Hanover), or the anti-Prussia alliance of France, Russia, Austria, Sweden and Saxony, depending on scenario. Each Game-Turn represents fifteen days of real time; each Combat Strength Point represents about twenty-five hundred troops. A total of four Scenarios, each based on an annual campaign, are included, each taking 18 or more turns to play.
FtG has the S&T standard 200 ½ inch one-sided counters. The Prussians have 36 combat & 7 leader counters, Hanover has 17 combat and 3 leader counters, France has 36 combat and 6 leader counters, Russia has 20 combat and 3 leader counters, Austria has 30 combat and 7 leader counters, Saxony (Empire) has 9 combat and 1 leader counters, and Sweden has 7 combat and 1 leader counters. The remaining 23 game markers for the game turn, supply depots, and demoralization. The counters are thin and are falling out of the frame (not a surprise considering their age). The counters and the 22×34 inch map are basic shades of blue, white, black, and grey. Although spartan and lacking contrast, they are effective. The later AH version added some yellow and green to the counters and brown and red to the map.
The rap on this game is that is largely a game of maneuver warfare that theoretically can be won without combat, which was costly to states in this era. There are rules for forced marches, along with the importance of leaders, morale, supply, and fortresses/sieges. While researching this I discovered there is quite a player divide over something known as the “Frederick plus 5SP” anomaly, where Frederick attacking with 5 strength points and another leader can easily defeat much larger enemy forces. There is a heated two-page thread about it on BoardGameGeek, and no less than former SPI luminary Mark Herman weighs in extensively in defense of designer Frank Davis (who doesn’t weigh in, unfortunately). I don’t think a couple of grognards getting wrapped around the axle about a unique rule that appears achieve what the designer intended is a showstopper, as other players adamantly state there are plenty of ways to defeat Frederick.
I am looking forward to getting this vintage game on the table someday. I need to read Frank Davis’ accompanying article (and re-read my old paper) and see if I can achieve the same results as Frederick’s original campaign. That was the intent of S&T, to read the history and try to relive it. Based on the stellar reputation of this game, this should be a vehicle to do just that.
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With trembling hands and eager zeal,
I unbox a wargame with great appeal.
Countless components I behold,
Strategies yet to unfold,
In this box, a battlefield surreal!