Factions in a multi-player Thirty Years War Campaign

I keep thinking about a multi-player Campaign for the Thirty Years War. Two of the big questions is how many factions and what are they? I take a quick look at board games for inspiration before taking a view. There are quite a few board games for the Thirty Years War. Many focus on simulating the entire war so I thought I have a look at what factions they have.

Factions for a Thirty Years War Campaign

Factions for a Thirty Years War Campaign


Thirty Years War: Europe in Agony, 1618-1648 (2001)

Thirty Years War: Europe in Agony, 1618-1648 (2001) is a two-player game with just:

  • Protestants: German Protestants, Sweden, Denmark, Hungary, France
  • Catholics: the Empire, Bavaria, Spain, and occasionally Saxony, which can switch sides during play!

Technically speaking of course France was Catholic. And, as far as I can tell, Hungary did have a protestant ruling class but the majority of the population were catholic. And Saxony was Lutheran. So the Protestant/Catholic divide falls down pretty quick when analysing the entire war.


With Fire and Sword: A Strategic Game of the 30 Years War (1983)

With Fire and Sword: A Strategic Game of the 30 Years War (1983) is a two player game:

  • Habsburg
  • Anti-Habsburg Coalition

That makes more sense to me. Hapsburg with German Catholics (Imperial, Bavaria) and Spain and occasional protestant supporters. Anti-Hapsburg Coalition with France and the most protestants (German, Danish, Swedish, Dutch).


The Thirty Years War (1980)

In The Thirty Years War (1980) the three players represent:

  • Austria starting with France (Calais, Paris), South Catholic Germany (Augsburg), Central Catholic Germany (Mainz), Wurttemberg (Heilbronn), Salzburg, Bavaria (Munich), Austria (Vienna)
  • Sweden starting with Denmark (Copenhagen), Mecklenburg, Pomerania, Brandenburg (Berlin), Saxony (Leipzig, Dresden), Bohemia (Prague)
  • Palatinate starting with Palatinate (Heidelberg), Upper Palatinate (Wurmberg), Dutch Republic (Amsterdam), Bremen, Hamburg, Magdeburg, North Catholic Germany (Cologne), Spanish Netherlands (Brussels)

I find some of this odd, particularly those bits were the religions/loyalties are mixed up. Just one example, giving the Palatinate the Spanish Netherlands and not giving them Bohemia is very weird.


Holy Roman Empire: The Thirty-Years War (2015)

Holy Roman Empire: The Thirty-Years War (2015) is a six player game but has options for 2-6 players. These align pretty well with the Hapsburg and Anti-Hapsburg Coalition divide used in With Fire and Sword.

Six players:

  1. Spain
  2. Bavaria
  3. Austria
  4. Palatinate
  5. Sweden
  6. France

Five players:

  1. Spain and Bavaria
  2. Austria
  3. Palatinate
  4. Sweden
  5. France

Four players:

  1. Spain and Bavaria
  2. Austria
  3. Palatinate choice of Sweden or France
  4. Remaining state i.e. Sweden or France

Three players:

  1. Austria, Spain and Bavaria
  2. Palatinate choice of Sweden or France
  3. Remaining state i.e. Sweden or France

Two players:

  1. Austria, Spain and Bavaria
  2. Palatinate, Sweden and France

As it happens I’ve previously looked at this game before for inspiration: Holy Roman Empire (HRE) Board Game and Mapless Holy Roman Empire Campaign.


Risk Thirty Years War

RISK Thirty Years War: A variant for Risk Europe has the most factions, with up to 10 options in any game. The players choose from the top of the following list. If there are N players they can choose from the top N+1 factions. For example, in a three-player game, any of the first four powers may be selected. The one not selected by a player becomes the Neutral Power.

  1. Austria-Bavaria: Lower Austria, Bavaria, Styria, and Upper Austria.
  2. Palatinate-Brandenburg: the Palatinate, Brandenburg, Hesse, Neumark, and Trier.
  3. Saxony: Wurzburg, Bamberg, Duchy of Saxony, and Electorate of Saxony.
  4. Bohemia: Bohemia, Lower Silesia, Moravia, and Upper Silesia.
  5. Spain: Flanders, Brabant, Franche Comte, Luxemburg, and Milan.
  6. Anglo-Dutch Alliance: England, Friesland, Holland, and Zeeland.
  7. Sweden-Denmark: Denmark, East Pomerania, Holstein, and West Pomerania.
  8. France: Ile de France, Burgundy, Champagne, Languedoc, Lyonnais, and Picardy.
  9. Transylvania / Ottoman Empire: Budin Eyalet, Banat, Egri Eyalet, Kanije Eyalet, and Zips.
  10. Poland: Kujavia, Great Poland, Little Poland, Mazovia, and Plock.

I like the detail of this but I don’t like the likely match ups.


Steven’s recommendation

Of the choices I like the simplicity of the With Fire and Sword model with Hapsburg and Anti-Hapsburg Coalition. And for something more complicated, with more players, then the scheme from Holy Roman Empire is sensible.

1 comment to Factions in a multi-player Thirty Years War Campaign

  • Julian Donohoe

    I remember playing With Fire and Sword in the late ’80s. Cost me three weeks of paper round money!
    Not a bad game, although we changed the RP a little (might have been 50% of last turn’s VP total) and used counters from another game to provide no name leaders as leader casualties were quite high and you could do nothing without them.

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