The Seven Years War: Frederick’s Gamble “Goes Electric” (with a New VASSAL Module!)

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When Designer Greg Ticer and I began our partnership to bring The Seven Years War: Frederick’s Gamble, henceforth referred to as 7YW:FG,  into published form; we could not anticipate nor imagine the great outpouring of enthusiastic support and encouragement of so many gamers, the play test team (from West Coast to East and to the UK), and of GMT itself.  This has been an exciting and gratifying experience as we watched 7YW:FG P-500 “make the cut” in its yet-to-be completed journey to print.

Printed form, of course, is not the only way GMT Games are today played.  Michael Arrighi is an already known and established talent with taking games into VASSAL form.  He was so enamored of Greg’s design, which results in a fun, fast-paced, and exciting game for play after play, that he volunteered to transition 7YW:FG so it could be played via computer with VASSAL.

As you’ll read and see in the ensuing article; what an excellent job Michael did! We hope this piece provokes your interest in the game, as well as patronage through a P-500 order, if you’re so moved.  The entire 7YW:FG Team appreciates any interest and support, as well as questions/comments regarding this presentation.

The “Magic” of VASSAL

When  Michael Arrighi approached Greg and myself, offering his considerable talents to “translate” 7YW:FG into VASSAL form, we were thrilled.  Over the past months, Michael’s initial efforts have blossomed into what we can now share with this InsideGMT article.

When converting a play test version of 7YW:FG into VASSAL; Michael and I had to confirm each and every component of the game with exactitude: e.g. counters & cards of all types, so they’d be faithfully replicated.  This validation will serve in good stead when it’s time to submit a final list of components to GMT when the happy event of confirming that information is finally upon us prior to printing.

Greg, with the excellent computer graphic assistance of his son Alex, focused on the map and used the opportunity to review and update its graphics with eye pleasing results.  Here’s an image of the latest play-test map in its VASSAL form with related informational fields around its perimeter.  This map is an image of the 1757 set-up for playing 7YW:FG.  It does not portray individual pieces other than Leaders.

The Seven Years War Vassal Module Map

What this map image can’t convey is the fine job of creative programming Michael did in facilitating game play with VASSAL… which is, to those of you unfamiliar with VASSAL, a means of duplicating the physical game electronically.  That was no quick and easy task replicating the game’s map, counters, Headquarter Cards, the 110 deck of CDG cards, and electronically emulating Tables such as 7YW:FG’s ‘Honors of War’ holding area or its Field Combat and Siege Tables.  To Grognards such as myself and Greg, who came up in the hobby using solely traditional physical games for decades (in my case it was Avalon Hill’s D-Day 1961, stumbled upon while exploring a closet during a family Thanksgiving get-together oh so many years ago: that’s what started my journey in our wonderful hobby of war gaming); Michael’s VASSAL accomplishments seem like wizardry… and maybe in a way it is.

Players still need to reference the rules as they would were they playing the game’s printed form.  Rather than go on with this explanation; Michael’s contact information, should you be interested in learning more or joining an upcoming VASSAL play test of 7YW:FG is presented at this article’s conclusion.

What’s next are examples of how VASSAL facilitates 7YW:FG play.  To best appreciate these in a broader context of what the game offers, readers should reference other material now posted within the game’s P-500 site, particularly the “Tutorial”.

Example: Montcalm’s 1757 March from Quebec into British Territory   

Here’s an example using 7YW:FG’s North America map insert.  It is late during the 1757 Turn, France plays a card, the last in its hand, Poor Recon, for its Command Points (CPs): 3. The units in Quebec, comprising Montcalm’s full strength Army, is selected for movement.  Note how the French Player is making the most of his unit mix by having 2SP European French, 1SP Colonist, and 1 SP of Native: this means that in Field Battle, this Formation benefits from the French +2 Nationality Bonus.

The Formation marches from Quebec to Montreal, expending the Card’s first CP, then to Ft. Niagra, for its second CP, and finally invades British territory through entering the Duchy of N. Allegheny using its third and final CP. The British player chooses to forgo the option of Evading with the 1SP of Colonists in N. Allegheny, a problematic decision considering a two dice modified roll of 9 or more is required for success and the 1SP British Fort would then be left to its fate.

As the terrain between Ft. Niagara and N. Allegheny is Mountain Pass, the French Formation undergoes Attrition before resolving a Field Battle against the British Colonist SP and Fort SP.

A die is rolled for each susceptible SP and Leader. The French have something of an advantage in that the Native SP, being familiar with the terrain, does not risk Attrition in this situation. A total of four dice are rolled with 6, 2, 3, 1 resulting. A unit is eliminated for “6” die. The French Player elects to lose 1 Colonist SP.

The French Formation enters N. Allegheny with Montcalm, 2 Regular SPs and 1 Native SP.

Then, to the French Player’s surprise, the British play one of their three remaining Cards: it is a Response Card, Land or Sea, which allows one friendly Formation, up to 2 Duchies distant, to attempt an Interception.

In Albany, two Duchies distant, is a British Army Formation lead by Abercromby, a 0-4 leader, with 1 British Regular SP and 1 British Colonist SP as well as a 1SP Fort.  The Fort, being immobile, cannot Intercept, but the remainder of the Formation can certainly try.

A 7YW:FG Interception requires a modified two dice roll of 9 or more, with the only modifier in this situation being a plus 1 for attempting to intercept into a friendly Duchy (Abercrombie, as a Leader, has a lamentable “0” Battle Rating). The British roll two dice, a 2 and 6, for a total of 8, which is modified to a 9. Abercromby’s Army, to the delight of the British Player, successfully intercepts into N. Allegheny.

The French Formation under Montcalm, 2 Regular SPs and 1 Native SP, now face a British formation led by Abercromby with 4 SPs: 1 Regular European SP, 2 Colonist SPs, and 1 Fort SP. A Field Battle then ensues.

Let’s presume the French prevail in this Medium Sized Field Battle, losing none of their own strength, and forcing the British Army to retreat after losing the immobile N. Allegheny Fort.  Abercrombie’s Army retreats to Fort Oswego, leaving the French occupying the still British Flagged N. Allegheny Duchy.

When the opportunity to play a Card returns to the British, they have an interesting opportunity.  Montcalm’s Army has a tenuous Line of Communications back to a source of supply: Montreal or Quebec.  If the British enter Montreal with their final 1757 Card Play and either Flag it or remain in the Duchy with any unit, Montcalm’s Army will be cut off and compelled to take Attrition twice during the Interphase leading into the 1758 Turn: once for occupying an unfriendly Flagged Duchy, N. Allegheny, and a second for being unable to trace a Line of Communications back to a friendly Home Supply Source.

Such an Attrition resolution would not include Montcalm’s 1 Native SP, for they can “live off the land”, but the 2 European SP and the Montcalm Leader piece itself would roll six (6) dice of Attrition with a unit being eliminated with each “6” result.  N. Allegheny would be French Flagged thereafter, but Montcalm’s Army could find itself in a bad way indeed.

Example: A Fierce Wilderness Battle in North America

Let’s do an example of a Field Battle in N. Allegheny using a variation of the preceding North America example using the 7YW:FG map insert.  It is between a French Army Formation, led by Moncalm (2-4) with 3 SPs: 2 European Regular and 1 Native.  It is attacking a British Formation, led by Abercromby (0-4) with 4 SPs: 1 Regular, 2 Colonists and 1 Fort.

This Medium sized Field Battle (6-1 SPs engaged) begins with an examination of the DRM (Die Roll Modifiers) influencing it.  This example has the French (attacking) with a plus 2 DRM for their Leader, the formidable Montcalm, and a plus 2 DRM for the French Nationality Bonus, as half or more of French SPs are European Regulars, for a total modifier of +4. The British do not gain their Nationality Bonus as only 1 SP of their 4 are British Regulars. However, the British do gain a plus 1 DRM for defending in Friendly Duchy and an additional +2 DRMs for the French attacking through a Mountain Pass to enter the Battle location. The Vassal Module includes a window to track DRMs.

The French, being the attacker must declare any Battle Card first. The French Player ruminates a bit but then chooses to play a Battle Card: Refuse the Flanks to gain an additional plus 3 to the three dice roll.  It is kept face-down until the British Player decides whether to play any Battle Card(s).  The British elect not to play a Battle Card. Readers should note Response Cards, as indicated in the prior example, may be played at any time.

The final modifier for this Field Battle, prior to the dice rolls, are 7 for the French and 3 for the British, which net the French dice roll a +4 DRM.  The British dice roll will not be modified.

The French roll 3 dice: 5, 3, 1 with a +4DRM for a modified total of 13. The British roll 3 dice: 5, 5, 1 for a total of 11. The French player smiles as victory is his … but, wait, the Prussians, who are in the British Camp, The Coalition, play a Response Card.

The Prussian player allows the his British Ally to roll an additional die and the British roll a 2, the modified British dice result is now 13 and it is the Britain, not France, who wins the battle!  This is because in 7YW:FG; if the dice roll is tied, the defender wins and the attacker must retreat back to the adjacent Duchy from which it entered Battle.

Losses are determined. The total number of SPs in the Field Battle was 7: a Medium sized Battle. The British have the potential to inflict casualties from the 4 dice rolled, which includes the additional die roll allowed by the Response card. The die rolls of 1, 2, 5 and 5, on the Winner’s Die Roll Column of the Field Battle Table inflict casualties in the amount of 0, 0, 0.5 and 0.5 SPs, for a total of 1 SP inflicted upon the French. The French die rolls of 1, 3 and 5, on the Loser’s Die Roll Column, inflict casualties of 0, 0 and 1 SP for a total of a 1 SP loss inflicted on the British.

Each side therefore takes a loss of 1 SP each.  The British win and hold the ground while the French Formation must retreat, returning to the Duchy from where it entered, Ft. Niagra. The French player eliminates 1 Native SP to HOW (Honors of War Box) and the British eliminate the level 1 Fort (a good tactic for Colonial warfare since a Fort is easier to replace than any other playing piece).

The final situation, as illustrated below, has Montcalm and 2 Regular SP in Ft Niagara (the 1SP Native piece is about to be removed into the Honors of War Box), where they join the French Level 1 Fort already that Duchy. The British triumphantly hold N. Allegheny with Abercromby and 3 SPs: 2 Colonists and 1 European Regular.

Example: A Russian Siege Assault on the Lonely Wind-Swept Prussian Fortress of Königsberg

Now to move the action to Europe using the playtest version of 7YW-FG’s Vassal module! The below illustration is a low resolution screen shot of the latest map graphics showing the game’s 1757 setup within the overall VASSAL gaming environment.  Not all playing pieces are shown.  With VASSAL, a click of your computer’s mouse will reveal all the pieces within a Duchy.

Here’s an example of a Siege is using the Module’s graphics.

The Russians have invaded East Prussia!  A Russian Army of 4 strength points (SPs) led by Apraxin (2-4) is located in Intersberg, which is now Russian controlled.

The Russian Player plays a 3 Command Point (CP) Card for its CPs. Using 1 CP, the Russian Army Formation announces a move into Jägersdorf. In the Königsberg level 2 Prussian Fortress Key is an Army Formation led by Lehwaldt (0-4) with 2 SPs. The Prussian Player, keen to keep the Russian invader at bay and away from this important Fortress; announces an interception attempt. The Prussian Player rolls two dice needing a modified result of 9 or higher.  He gets a total of 7 and the interception fails (a “Battle/Failed Intercept” Marker is placed on Lehwaldt’s Army).

The Russian Army therefore moves unimpeded into Jägersdorf and with a second CP flags Jägersdorf as Russian (this is an important consideration in 7YW:FG: since to depart a non-friendly flagged Duchy causes Attrition). The Russian’s 3rd and final CP is to move into Königsberg.

At this point, the Prussians are forced to make a choice: they may seek to evade from the Duchy, fight a Field Battle, retreat into the Fortress with up to 2 SPs and their 1 Leader, as Königsberg is a level 2 Fortress, or conduct some combination of those options. The Prussian Army of 2SP’s and a Leader retreat in its entirety into the Fortress as garrison and the Russian Player places Königsberg under Siege.

This is allowed as the Russians have fulfilled the conditions for a Siege: they have more SPs than the Prussians, 4 to 2: as Leaders and the intrinsic Fortress garrison do not come into the calculation.  Furthermore, the Russian Formation can trace a Line of Communication back to a Home Key, in this case Riga. This ends the Russian Player Turn… a dramatic one of advance and Apraxin’s investment of a crucial Prussian Fortress: Königsberg!

During the Prussian Player’s next impulse, the Prussians do not (or are unable) to do anything to impact the Siege. Although the Russian Player has no Cards in his hand, the Russian Player is allowed to resolve a Siege assault during a “Pass” Impulse (note use of a “Siege Reminder” counter).

For this, each side is allowed to play Battle Cards stipulating use in a Siege: the Russians have no Cards and the Prussian Player declines to play any. The Siege Assault is resolved. The Russian’s have 4 dice to roll: 2 dice for Apraxin’s Battle Rating of 2 and 2 dice for the 4 SPs (at 1 die per every 2 SPs Siege Assaulting a Fortress with at least one enemy SP within its garrison). The Prussians have 3 dice: 1 for the intrinsic garrison of the Level 2 Fortress and 2 for the defending SPs, at 1 die per SP (Lehwaldt, having a Battle Rating of zero, contributes narry a die). The Russians roll: 3, 6, 4, 1, inflicting 1 hit on the die roll of ‘1’: the 2SP Prussian piece in is reduced to 1SP.  The Prussians roll a 4, 2, 6, inflicting no Russian casualties. The Siege Assault is unsuccessful but the Siege is maintained.

During the Prussian impulse, the Prussian Player spends their Turn Reserve Resource Marker to draw a Card hoping to draw a “Kleiner Krieg” Card and disrupt the Russian Line of Communication by changing a Russian Flag, for example in Insterburg, back to Prussian. For in 7YW:FG, if a besieger can’t draw a line of friendly Duchies back to a Home Key, a Siege assault may not be resolved (a very 18th Century Siege warfare concern).  A Card is drawn but is not the hoped for “Kleiner Krieg” Card and the Prussian Player has no other Cards with respect to the Siege.

During the Russian Player’s next impulse, another Siege Assault is resolved. The Russians have 4 dice and roll, 1, 3, 4, 5, to the Prussian’s 2 dice roll: 3, 6. The Russians inflict another SP loss on the Prussians, which eliminates the last 1SP within Königsberg while the Prussians inflict no loss on the besiegers.

During the Prussian impulse, no Cards are played with respect to Königsberg’s Siege… it drags on.

As the Prussian’s have no SPs in Königsberg, only the Lehwaldt Leader, therefore, the Russian Siege Assault now gets 1 die for each SP (a significant change… which shows the importance of having at least 1SP as garrison) for a total of 6 dice but roll only a single ‘1’: 1, 2, 2, 5, 4, 3.  The Prussian roll 1 die, roll a 1 and inflict a hit. The Russian’s needed two 1’s to eliminate the Prussian Leader and the intrinsic garrison. The Prussian Leader is eliminated.  Elimination of Lehwaldt (0-4) triggers a “Loot” die roll… but the Russian Player roll a 3 and there’s no loot for Lehwaldt, who along with all eliminated SP pieces is placed in the Honors of War Box..

The turn ends and the Russians, being in a hostile Königsberg Fortress Duchy, have to face attrition, with 5 SPs and 1 leader, the Russian Player rolls 6 dice for: 6, 5, 1, 3, 6, 4. The Russians lose 2 additional SPs (yikes!) and now have but a single SP besieging Königsberg under Apraxin (2-4).

During the Interphase, a tight Siege is not possible to maintain and the beSieger may reinforce. During the interphase, the Prussian lost sufficient SP’s to bring 1 of those SPs and the Lehwaldt Leader out of the Honors of War Box into Königsberg to reconstitute the garrison.  There is nothing the Russians can do to stop this.

Additionally, after returning those pieces from the Honors of War Box, the Prussian player may build the Interphase’s Reinforcements..  The Prussian builds 4 SPs of reinforcements in Königsberg, therefore bringing their total SPs to 5.  This triggers a Field Battle between Lehwaldt’s 4SP full strength Army (the 5th SP is beyond Apraxin’s Command Capacity of 4).  Apraxin’s 1SP Formation, makes its evasion dice roll and retreats to Jägersdorf after surviving a two dice Attrition roll for departing a non-friendly Duchy.

During the Interphase the Russians have been busy as well.  They move Fermor (2-6)’s full strength Army of 6SP into Jagersdorf.  Apraxin (2-4) with his 1SP joins him and that’s the situation for the upcoming turn.  What will the Russians do next?

The below illustration shows this example’s end situation.  The Russian Fermor (2-6) Leader is not shown.

Want to Learn More or Play a Game of 7YW:FG in Person or Using its New VASSAL Module?

7YW:FG is ready for another wave of play testing: This time through its wonderful new VASSAL Module.  If you’re interested in learning more regarding 7YW:FG’s VASSAL edition; every bit as fun and exciting to play as the physical version… save you can get very 18th Century planning with your Coalition partner or trash talking the opposing Camp in writing… with the beneficial speed and swift gratification of a computer (something  period Generals would have found akin to wizardry or perhaps witchcraft).

If interested, to obtain details, kindly reach out to Michael at hmarrighi@gmail.com .  There’s more on his VASSAL Group home page: https://groups.yahoo.com/group/7YWFG_Playtest and/or Group email address: 7YWFG_Playtest@yahoogroups.com.  Please note this is a restricted group, i.e. it is not public.

For those traditionalists, such as myself, who are more comfortable in a face-to-face setting for a demonstration or playing session of 7YW:FG: with colorful dice and cards in hand, the tactile feel of a stack of pieces… e.g Frederick’s Main Army maneuvering upon on a gorgeous printed map, and the ability to immediately glower and imprecate the lords of gaming for a good dice roll or card pick… well, there’ll be opportunities.

Sat., 2/25/17, I’ll be at PrezCon in Charlottesville, Va. for a 12 Noon starting demo/playing session of 7YW:FG.  Greg and Michael will have a play-test set at GMT’s “Weekend at the Warehouse” in Hanford, Ca. while I’ll attend, with Mark McLaughlin, the guy who started it all with his The Napoleonic Wars design, at GMT East in White Plains, NY.  Then there’ll be WBC in Pennsylvania.

Stop by and “say hey” and take a look at 7YW:FG even if you don’t have time for more than a walk-by.  Thank you for your interest!


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5 thoughts on “The Seven Years War: Frederick’s Gamble “Goes Electric” (with a New VASSAL Module!)

  1. Congratulations from a fellow 18th century game designer! I love the integration of all theaters of the Seven Years War in your concept (North America, India, Europe). The Vassal looks awesome.

  2. Pretty cool! I really want to P500 this game… I can’t tell you how much. But I (like quite a few others) am mostly a solo gamer. Having some cities’ text one way, with some rotated 180 degrees, is not cool. Didn’t “Madison’s War” have it BOTH ways? I would suggest either keeping all text facing one way… or else having ALL text facing BOTH opposite sides. Whichever way you think works for your ideal purchaser. But to have it the way you do now makes it tough for solo gamers… of which there are plenty of us out there. Have a thought for us… do the changes (annoying though they may be)… please… because this is such a cool-looking game. I really want to P500 it. (And I know I’m destined to play it solo… even on Vassal!) Cheers!
    P.S. I live in Ottawa, so perhaps I could play “Madison’s War” with designer Gilbert someday? And maybe your (revised) copy, with text facing both ways, if I’m lucky??? 🙂

    • Hi Keegan, Note that the VASSAL version of the map shown with this article has all Duchy names facing the same way. So contact Michael to join a VASSAL group and help our play-testing 7YW:FG Face-to-face play testers to date like that “enemy territory” has the place names facing towards their opponent(s). Art work has yet to be finalized; so “da jury is still out”. Thanks for your interest in 7YW:FG!

      • Hi, Fred, Thanks for your response! Whatever choices you make, this game is already sure to be a winner! (And I’m sure I’ll get it no matter what, truth be told: How could one resist the 7 Years’ War?). 🙂
        I’m a Vassal neophyte (and a bit reclusive still), so I’ll have to pass on your offer–but I sincerely appreciate it. And I am truly grateful for your accomplishments on behalf of us grognards. Thank you.

  3. I am one of Greg’s SoCal playtester’s. Just want to point out a couple of minor error’s in Fred’s siege example (sorry Fred!). The Russian’s have 3 SP’s and a leader at the end of the turn so should only roll 4 dice for attrition. Then, once the Prussian’s reinforce, totaling 5 SP’s and Lehwaldt, in Konigsberg, it is Lehwaldt’s command capacity, not Apraxin’s, that determines the number of Prussians that can engage in combat.

    Other than that I would just like to add my recommendation to all. This game started as an ‘offshoot’ of the ‘Napy Wars’ system, but with the addition of the world theatres and evolved combat system it has changed the feel of the game considerably. First, this is a time period before there were true national armies with widespread conscription and so there are limits on the number of troops that can be raised (and lost). Also, always an important consideration for gamers, is forcing the players to make decisions regarding where to apply their resources and this game takes this a step further than the pure ‘Napy Wars’ system with the addition of the world theatres and the limits on ‘trained troop’ availability. Much as I like the original games (Napy, Wellington, Kutusov) I have come to like this game even more. So this is my pitch to encourage you all to P500 this game! And certainly take advantage of the Vassal invitation that Fred posted above.

    Game on!