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PAX BALTICA - Great Northern War 1700 - 1721
DESIGN: Stefan Ekström and Göran Björkman      
DEVELOPER: Scott Muldoon
ART DIRECTOR: Rodger B. MacGowan
MAP & STICKER ART: Charles Kibler
PACKAGE ART: Rodger B. MacGowan
PRODUCERS: Andy Lewis, Gene Billingsley, Mark Simonitch, Rodger MacGowan, & Tony Curtis

COMPONENTS

   

72 Wooden Army Unit Blocks   (examples above)

22x34 inch full-color map board (above)        

LIVING RULES

ONLINE RESOURCES

From the Box Cover (rear):

It is 1700, and a youthful Karl XII has recently come to power as King of Sweden. Rivals around the Baltic Sea seize the opportunity to get their hands on Swedish territory. An alliance is struck between Denmark, Saxony-Poland, and Russia, the last under the vibrant leadership of Tsar Pyotr. This coalition mobilizes to take advantage of the untried King, and break Swedish dominance in the Baltics forever... Thus opened the Great Northern War, ravaging Northern and Eastern Europe for over two decades at the beginning of the eighteenth century. By the end of the war, one nation would lose its status as a Great Power, while another would rise to dominate the region for centuries onward.

PAX BALTICA is a two-player wargame covering the entire Great Northern War (1700-1721). Published first as a limited “guerilla” edition in 2009 by Three Crowns Game Productions of Sweden, this new enhanced edition has been revised and upgraded by GMT Games in conjunction with the original designers.

Over twenty years of fighting span the map from Norway to Turkey, Saxony to Finland. Units are represented by labeled wooden blocks, which are stood upright to conceal their identity and strength from the enemy, allowing players to dupe and outfox each other on campaign. Action points are spent to maneuver on the map, but also for reconnaissance, replacements, or a roll on the treacherous but lucrative National Politics Table. Straightforward rules account for lines of communication and forage, as well as time-consuming sieges, adding to the period flavor. The fast-paced and exciting combat system captures the aggressive "charge with cold steel" tactics that Sweden used to defeat her enemies in succession at the start of the war.

Players are subject to a host of influences and distractions that will hinder their plans at every turn. An elaborate plan will be at the mercy of a poor action roll or sudden plague, while other events shape strategy with historical motivations and deterrents. Players must prepare for the worst, but be open to fleeting opportunities.

Special rules capture simply the unique events and circumstances of the Great Northern War, including:
• Russian army reforms
• Ukrainian Cossack uprisings
• Intervention by the Ottoman Empire
• Polish royal politics
• Attrition of Swedish manpower
• Founding of Sankt-Peterburg

Four scenarios are included with the game: a short tournament scenario covering the Swedish invasion of Russia that led to the Battle of Poltáva; two scenarios that simulate the first and last half of the war; and a “grand campaign” scenario that refights the entirety of the Great Northern War, a first in wargame publishing. Turns typically take no more than a couple of minutes, ensuring a fast pace of play. Swings of fortune ensure that no two games will turn out the same.

Complexity: 4         Solitaire Suitability: 3            Scale: Strategic. 1 turn = one season; units are armies, regiments, and fleets; 1 strength step = approx. 1500 troops or 6-8 fighting ships
Players: 2                Time to Play: 1-2 hours for the shortest scenario, 7-14 hours for the grand campaign

From BoardGameGeek.com:

Original Three Crowns edition:  Great Northern war, a 21-year long war lasted from 1700 to 1721 and ended Sweden’s period as a major power in northern Europe and started Russia’s domination of Eastern Europe. An intriguing conflict that is often considered a side-show of the War of Spanish succession. Nevertheless the former had probably greater impact of the developments in Europe during the 100 years to come than the latter. The effects of the war are in fact still seen today.

Pax Baltica. Probably the first board game ever covering the entire Great Northern War. The game includes five different scenarios with a varying playtime between two hours and a day. The units in the game are blocks which give a great flexibility in taking steps and differentiate the quality and strength of the troops. The high quality map is divided into provinces which you have to conquer in order to take control over a country. This dynamic conflict covers large parts of northern and eastern Europe. From Bremen in the West to Smolensk in the East. From Trondheim in the North to Bender in the South.
Playable nations are Sweden, Russia, Turkey, Denmark and Saxony. Other countries represented as minors are: Great Britain, Poland, Ukraine, Prussia and Hanover. The game, packed in a book case, includes a A2 full color map, 60 high quality wooden blocks, 4 dice, various markers and rules including 5 scenarios.

 

GAMES GAZETTE REVIEW:
Although this is a 2-player game it is possible to include your friends by allowing them to play the possible Allies you may be able to bring into play - luck (die roll) plays a major part in whether you get these Allies into the scenario/campaign or not. Obviously you have more chance to get Allies if you play the long campaign game (7-12 hours) whereas opportunities are limited in the 1-2 hour scenarios.

One Player commands the army of Sweden (the Blue Blocks) and its possible allies - the British Fleet, Ukraine and the Ottoman Empre - while the other Player counters with the coalition that tried to force Sweden from its lofty perch. This coalition is mainly made up of Russia (Green Blocks)  allied with Saxony and Denmark plus other possible minority countries.

On the map (playing board) Northern European countries are colour coded, those countries that fight or may fight have Blocks of the same colour as depicted on the board. The countries are split into Regions, and each Region has a Garrison (a piece on this shows who controls the Region) a name (of the Region) and a Supply number.

Pax Baltica plays by the usual rules of GMT Block games with minor revisions for the time and situation. Allies can only come into play if a 6 (straight or modified) is rolled on a D6 and these units come onto the map at specific points. While I am mentioning that I should also point out that Blocks that are defeated and removed from the board may come back on later as Replacement Units and once again they have specific Regions where they can enter the War, thus there is no RISK style sudden appearance in an adjacent (to you) Region of a mass of troops.

There is a Replacement Point Level Track on the board that handles Replacement actions admirably well in clear format. Starting point values are shown on this by coloured dots that represent each Country. These points are mainly spent by being assigned to Blocks already in play on the Board. You will lose points if you lose Battles/regions etc.

Players get a number of Actions each Turn. The D6 is rolled and the Chart on the Map Board is consulted to see how many Actions are available. Actions that can be taken are: Reconnaissance, Movement, Siege Declaration, National Politics and Replacements. If you roll a "6" you do not get any Actions, instead an Event occurs.

Under the Actions Chart there is a Battles heading. Battles take place between Blocks on the board (obviously) and the order in which the units are activated is determined by the number on the Block; A's go first, then B's etc. The number next to the letter is the number to hit requirement. Not all Blocks can enter all Regions; it depends on the where and the who (site and Nation).

The game has a fast turn rate, as in it doesn't take long for each player to actually take their turn, but the movement and decision making prior to the actual Action taking is what slows the game a little; but not too much.

I played this game as a tactic and strategy Block wargame with very little knowledge (as in none) about this campaign prior to playing and I enjoyed it. I think part of my enjoyment was that I really like the Block Game style of play.  I often mention Tri-Tactics when reviewing Block games because the basic premise is the same In Tri Tactics you are allowed to march Infantry across the sea as a bluff. Here you are able to, encouraged even, to bluff with your Blocks - seeing as they are facing you so that your opponent doesn't know what is facing them until combat occurs - though you cannot bluff quite as amusingly against reality as you can in the older game.

 

 

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015