Coalitions is the ultimate diplomatic game for 1-6 kings, queens and emperors. Quick battles, exciting diplomatic maneuvering and back-stabbing, simple yet elegant rules and no downtime – the perfect game for a couple of hours of gaming with friends!

Coalitions is the ultimate diplomatic game for 1-6 kings, queens and emperors. Quick battles, exciting diplomatic maneuvering and back-stabbing, simple yet elegant rules and no downtime – the perfect game for a couple of hours of gaming with friends!

In multiplayer games of Coalitions, each player takes on the role of a leader or leaders of 1-3 major European nations (depending on the number of players). The initial setup and board side are determined by the chosen scenario, but the rules and elements for all scenarios are roughly the same. Players struggle for the domination of Europe by gaining Victory Points. Some are gained by victories on the battlefield, some are nation and Coalition-specific, but mostly it all comes down to controlling disputed territories. The one to reach a certain number of VPs is declared a winner, or if Paris is occupied by non-French forces, Britain achieves an automatic victory.

Each player controls their nation or nations, including its generals, units, battle cards and, of course, territories on the board. Original territories are invariably depicted in national colors (blue for French, red for British and so on), neutral are beige and disputed are striped: the colors of the stripes indicate which nations can claim Victory Points for that territory. All non-striped territories with a numbered value (1 to 3) generate income, but there’s a certain twist: capturing enemy original territories is always worth 1 VP and capturing disputed territories without one’s own stripe generates income instead of Victory Points and works perfectly as an area-denial strategy.

Nobody likes downtime, right? In Coalitions downtime is taken out of the equation, for at any given time each player has something to do. The entire turn order is based on an action roundel divided into six slices. When one player is collecting income, another one mobilizes his or her troops, buys cards and increases national determination, another conducts diplomatic realignment actions, another scores and yet another moves units and conducts battles. Regardless of the situation, downtime is further lowered due to the presence of a unique feature of Coalitions: the Activator system.

The Activator works its magic when it comes to moving your generals and armies. In most games, troops have a certain movement allowance when activated. While it is also true for Coalitions, that allowance is variable. All of your armies can move up to three spaces – one if moving to neutral or enemy territory or up to three if moving through and into a friendly territory. When the action roundel indicates it’s your time to move, you have to obtain permission from a selected, non-allied nation: the Activator. The first move is completely free and the Activator has no say whatsoever about it. However, when you want to activate your armies for the second and third time, that’s where the fun begins. The negotiations concerning the length and route of the moving armies, the concessions the player is willing to take to move that one additional step, are what makes Coalitions diplomatic aspect truly shine.

Activator isn’t the only diplomatic action in Coalitions. The game is after all named Coalitions. Each round Austrian, Prussian, Russian and Ottoman players will get to decide whether they want to join the British-led Coalition, the French alliance or remain neutral to some degree (there’s neutrality and there’s armed neutrality). But the willingness to join is one thing; for various reasons both the French and the British can decide not to accept the petitioning nation. It’s up to the players to negotiate between themselves what they can offer to remain or change their allegiance. For in Coalitions, nothing is more important than carefully choosing you allies – and enemies.

Solitaire module for Coalitions reflects the British efforts to topple the French Republic and later French Empire. The player takes control of all nations except France and tries to stop Napoleon and his compatriots from gaining 40 Victory Points before the Coalition amasses enough forces to enter France and capture Paris. Napoleon’s actions are determined by a set of 12 card – each represents a different historical campaign dictating where two or three French generals will appear with their armies. Battles are decided in a similar fashion as in the multiplayer game, but the player has to play all of the cards face-up and the French automata draws them randomly from the deck.

Solo mode is also perfectly suitable for cooperative gaming – up to 5 players can gang up against the French, each playing a different nation. And if you find the challenge of defeating Napoleon too easy or too hard, you can always change the difficulty to one of several recommended settings.

There are two basic scenarios or setups in Coalitions. Each scenario is played on one of two sides of the board; there are no changes in gameplay, but the values and status of various territories – original, neutral or disputed – may be different depending on the side of the board. Opening diplomatic alignments, disposition of forces and the overall balance of power also varies.

In the scenario depicting French Revolutionary Wars (First and Second Coalitions, 1792-1802), the French start in their own national territory, but without Napoleon (he can be deployed later in the turn). The Coalition includes Britain, Austria and Prussia, while Russia and the Ottoman Empire are in the state of armed neutrality.

In the second basic scenario representing the Napoleonic Wars (Third to Seventh Coalitions, 1805-1815) the French already control some territories in Italy and Germany, but their main forces are concentrated near the English Channel. Austria and Russia are members of the British-led Coalition with Prussia and the Ottomans in the state of armed neutrality.

France. Ruled by various revolutionary governments and later Napoleon Bonaparte, France is the main European continental power. With vast population, resources and a tremendous national zeal, it can easily overpower anyone, but it has to be wary of moving too aggressively – if the entire Europe moves against it and joins the British-led Coalition, France will almost inevitably fall. As befits history, France has one unique commander: Napoleon Bonaparte himself. He doesn’t ask for anyone’s permission to act, he just does what he wants, regardless of conventions and rules. He is the only general in the game who can move twice during the round, though not consecutively.

France is also exceptional in having seven generals, about twice as many as other factions, and its interests are scattered across the continent: from Spain and Italy, Greece and Egypt, to Poland and Denmark. France will almost always face at least two, if not three enemies – Britain and some combination of Austria, Russia and Prussia, if not all of them. It will require a lot of cleverness and bluster for the French player to persuade any of them to stay neutral. The Ottoman Empire may be the only natural ally of France, but only if Napoleon gives up his idea of conquering Egypt.

Britain. Firmly entrenched in its opposition to revolutionary movements and especially Napoleon’s continental dominance, Britain is the main maritime power not only in Europe, but in the entire world. Its armies are small, but with Royal Navy’s mastery of the waves, they’re capable of rapid redeployment and striking at various coastal regions of Europe and North Africa – and helping other allied armies do the same. But Britain’s true power lies in its wealth and the ability to entice other nations to its anti-French Coalition by offering substantial subsidies. There aren’t many who can resist the shine of the English gold…

All European powers derive their wealth from controlling various territories, but Britain is unique in having a special source of income: its maritime trade partners. All friendly or neutral European ports – and there are nine of them! – provide Britain with gold, so keeping them enemy-free is essential to British interests. But there’s something even more important. Whenever Britain subsidizes one or more Coalition members, it gets 1 Victory Point for each 3 coins spent. And in order not to enhance anyone’s position too much, Britain should always have more than just one ally.

Britain. Firmly entrenched in its opposition to revolutionary movements and especially Napoleon’s continental dominance, Britain is the main maritime power not only in Europe, but in the entire world. Its armies are small, but with Royal Navy’s mastery of the waves, they’re capable of rapid redeployment and striking at various coastal regions of Europe and North Africa – and helping other allied armies do the same. But Britain’s true power lies in its wealth and the ability to entice other nations to its anti-French Coalition by offering substantial subsidies. There aren’t many who can resist the shine of the English gold…

All European powers derive their wealth from controlling various territories, but Britain is unique in having a special source of income: its maritime trade partners. All friendly or neutral European ports – and there are nine of them! – provide Britain with gold, so keeping them enemy-free is essential to British interests. But there’s something even more important. Whenever Britain subsidizes one or more Coalition members, it gets 1 Victory Point for each 3 coins spent. And in order not to enhance anyone’s position too much, Britain should always have more than just one ally.

Russia. Stretching across the vast eastern European territories, Russia seeks to expand its dominion west and south. Its most powerful rival, France, is far from Russian borders, but with some diplomatic overtures in Austria or Prussia – not to mention joining the ever alluring British-led Coalition – Russians can quickly transfer their armies through allied territories to strike at French-controlled German states and ultimately its heartland, Paris. However, if they focus all their efforts in the west, be it against France, Prussia or Austria (all vying for control of Poland), they may be surprised by the resurgent Ottomans in Bessarabia.

Russia has to weigh its options very carefully. Its natural adversary lies in the south, but capturing Ottoman lands is rarely a good enough strategy to win the entire game. With four generals, Russia must look to the west – either to exploit Austria’s or Prussia’s weakness or to join the Coalition, especially if the French Empire seems to be on the verge of ultimate victory. The Russian player may also contemplate joining the French alliance as a counterbalance to the all-powerful Coalition; picking the right moment for it may really pay off.

Austria. A collection of lands under the rule of the Habsburg dynasty, Austria is in a precarious and unenviable position. It’s the first obvious target for any French plan of eastward expansion and it’s surrounded by three other potentially hostile nations. Austria may have four generals, but without easy to grab neutral regions across the border to reinforce its economy and therefore armies, it has to carefully consider its diplomatic options and more often than not be a part of the anti-French Coalition. But if any of the three neighbors make a misstep, Austria may be the first one to exploit it.

Austria is one of the most difficult factions to play in Coalitions, certainly not a power to be played by a beginner. The Austrian player will primarily have to decide what to do with its French nemesis – fighting it could take enormous effort and leave the southern border open to Ottoman incursions, and it would be vital for the Austrian diplomacy to convince other nations to join the Coalition. But there is a potentially very profitable, albeit risky alternative: ally with the French Empire and take on Prussia or Russia together. After all, Saxony and Poland are well worth the trouble.

Austria. A collection of lands under the rule of the Habsburg dynasty, Austria is in a precarious and unenviable position. It’s the first obvious target for any French plan of eastward expansion and it’s surrounded by three other potentially hostile nations. Austria may have four generals, but without easy to grab neutral regions across the border to reinforce its economy and therefore armies, it has to carefully consider its diplomatic options and more often than not be a part of the anti-French Coalition. But if any of the three neighbors make a misstep, Austria may be the first one to exploit it.

Austria is one of the most difficult factions to play in Coalitions, certainly not a power to be played by a beginner. The Austrian player will primarily have to decide what to do with its French nemesis – fighting it could take enormous effort and leave the southern border open to Ottoman incursions, and it would be vital for the Austrian diplomacy to convince other nations to join the Coalition. But there is a potentially very profitable, albeit risky alternative: ally with the French Empire and take on Prussia or Russia together. After all, Saxony and Poland are well worth the trouble.

Prussia. The smallest of all major powers, militarily weaker than France, Austria and Russia, Prussia seems to hardly be in any position to win the grand game of European domination. But its weakness may also be its greatest strength. While Prussians have the capacity to field only three armies, everything they could possibly seize is just a step or two away and skillful diplomacy – sometimes French-oriented, sometimes more Coalition-minded – and maneuvering between the Austro-Russian aspirations can do the trick.

The Prussian player has to be as crafty as humanly possible when dealing with its neighbors. Pretending not to be a major threat to anyone’s interests often works wonders, as Prussia can rapidly capture valuable territories right outside their borders. That approach won’t however save Prussia, if France decides to capture Westphalia and Denmark or if Russia sets its eyes on Warsaw. Therefore, Prussians will have to put all their diplomatic effort into convincing one or the other (and if possible both) to ignore Prussia.

Ottomans. Just a century and a half earlier, the Ottoman Empire was dreaded by half of Europe. While their power has declined in recent decades, the Ottomans still carry enough weight to turn history around. They can’t offer much to the British or the French, since their most coveted prize, Egypt, is also in their sights, and they have to be ever vigilant in the north, for Russia’s interests intersect with Ottoman Empire’s in Bessarabia. The Ottomans will also have to contend with Austria’s claims in Dalmatia. Two potential enemies in the north, two in the south, and just three generals – it’s a difficult nut to crack.

Ottoman Empire’s greatest weakness and at the same time its greatest treasure is Egypt. It’s worth 3 Victory Points, more than any other territory in the game, but it’s also situated in such a way that the Ottomans can rarely afford more than one army to protect it – and what’s just one army in the face of a powerful British or French invasion force? In most situations, the British player won’t even contemplate inviting Ottomans to their Coalition. The French might be interested in it, but there’s little incentive for the Ottoman player to join them – it’s better to remain firmly neutral and wait for an opportunity to strike north, and to maybe even have another go at Vienna.

 
 
 
 

Ottomans. Just a century and a half earlier, the Ottoman Empire was dreaded by half of Europe. While their power has declined in recent decades, the Ottomans still carry enough weight to turn history around. They can’t offer much to the British or the French, since their most coveted prize, Egypt, is also in their sights, and they have to be ever vigilant in the north, for Russia’s interests intersect with Ottoman Empire’s in Bessarabia. The Ottomans will also have to contend with Austria’s claims in Dalmatia. Two potential enemies in the north, two in the south, and just three generals – it’s a difficult nut to crack.

Ottoman Empire’s greatest weakness and at the same time its greatest treasure is Egypt. It’s worth 3 Victory Points, more than any other territory in the game, but it’s also situated in such a way that the Ottomans can rarely afford more than one army to protect it – and what’s just one army in the face of a powerful British or French invasion force? In most situations, the British player won’t even contemplate inviting Ottomans to their Coalition. The French might be interested in it, but there’s little incentive for the Ottoman player to join them – it’s better to remain firmly neutral and wait for an opportunity to strike north, and to maybe even have another go at Vienna.

 
 
 
 

Europe. Autumn 1792. It’s been over three years since the outbreak of the French Revolution. After a few months of continuous clashes with Austrians and Prussians, the French armies are beaten, tired and demoralized. The fate of the Revolution hangs in the balance, as a powerful Prussian army invades France and threatens to strike at Paris. But at a small village of Valmy, a miracle happens. Tattered French soldiers, half of them fresh and barely trained volunteers, face the fully professional and seemingly unstoppable forces of the enemy and unexpectedly defeat them. The Revolution is safe for now, but the Coalition Wars start in the earnest, to engulf not only Europe, but other parts of the world as well…

Coalitions is a story of both the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars, encompassing 23 years of near constant warfare, shifts of diplomatic alignments and political struggle and meteoric rise and fall of Napoleon Bonaparte. Players take on the roles of the ever-changing rulers and leaders of six major powers: France, Britain, Austria, Russia, Prussia and the Ottoman Empire, and vie for the ultimate domination of Europe.

Coalitions is a diplomacy & area control game for 1-6 players with little to no downtime, set in the age of the French Revolutionary & Napoleonic Wars and focused on diplomatic and military actions. Players score Victory Points for winning battles and controlling territories while trying to set up an advantageous alliance with either the British or the French, or remain neutral in a larger European conflict. In solitaire or cooperation mode players attempt to defeat Napoleon and the French using the resources of all other major European nations.

Coalitions has been designed by Andrew Rourke, an experienced wargamer from Surrey (United Kingdom), a former optometrist with extensive knowledge of the Napoleonic era and a sizable collection of various hand-painted Napoleonic armies. He recently sat down with us to answer a few questions about himself and his debut game, Coalitions.

How did your story with wargaming begin?

Like many people, my first exposure to wargaming in boardgames was through Milton Bradley’s Axis and Allies; I obtained my first copy in 1983 and played it to death. This quickly led me into the world of figure-gaming 15mm Napoleonics. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole process of collecting and painting lead figures as well as playing historic games and this enthusiasm soon expanded into all sorts of periods and scales.

What are your favorite games?

I love multi-player games that allow you to enjoy a day or an afternoon around a table with friends. For me that is what gaming is all about; being with your friends, interacting and ultimately, having fun. I have an eclectic taste in board games, though strategy and wargames are my favourite. I like Game of Thrones, 18xx, Axis & Allies WWI 1914, Root, El Grande, Here I Stand, Junta, Struggle of Empires, and for a two player experience I enjoy A few Acres of Snow.

 

You’ve mentioned 15mm Napoleonics, but I’ve noticed you’re into 28 mm wargaming as well. Could you tell us more about that aspect of your hobby?

The first set of wargame rules that I loved was Empire V Edition by Jim Getz and Scott Bowden by the Emperors HQ. I played them for years in the 1990s using huge Napoleonic armies in 15mm; the rules were at a massive scale with every battalion being represented down to the Grenadier and light companies having different élan’s to the centre companies. It was crazy; it took nearly a year playing once per week to refight the whole of the battle of Waterloo! More recently I’ve increased scale from 15mm to 28mm due to not being able to see the smaller figures anymore and I now use a rules system called Blucher by Sam Mustafa which are much more sensibly scaled at the brigade level. They have allowed me with my wargames club to re-fight the battle of Leipzig with fourteen players in one day!

When did you start designing games? What prompted you to move from strictly playing games to designing them?

Being a figure gamer constantly requires you to come up with scenario specific rules for recreating historical battles, so for over 35 years I have designed and adapted rules for my own use, to play with my friends. I am a long-established member of the Guildford WarGames Group. When, in 2017, I stopped working as an Optometrist, I could devote far more time into designing and that, coupled with my long established knowledge and love of playing board-games over the previous ten years, meant that the two came together at the right time.

Seems to me that you didn’t really have to think too hard about choosing the theme – the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars – for your first game. Am I right about that?

For 35 years I’ve read about and researched the Revolutionary and Napoleonic period. I have researched, painted and collected over seven thousand 28mm Napoleonic figures from every army involved in the wars. I’ve researched numerous battles for the purposes of re-fighting them, so when I needed a theme for a game it seemed the obvious choice as that is what I know.

What was the basic concept behind designing Coalitions?

With Coalitions I wanted to design a game that was fun and sociable, able to be played by up to six players, that had simple and elegant rules which were easy to pick up but deeply tactical and challenging. The game needed to centre around players’ decisions. I wanted them to negotiate and deal with other players, making their own decisions based on the situation as it appeared. When starting the design I laid out a few rules for myself;

  • The game should have no dice; I wanted to take luck out of it.
  • The game should not be card driven; I wanted all decisions to be based on the players’ interpretation of the situation on the board.

 

How did you come up with the idea of an Activator (previously called Enabler)?

I wanted one player to enable another player to do something, for which they would receive a reward. This generates a win-win situation which is great for negotiations. Even though both players are potentially winning out of the deal, each player needs to judge if their reward is equal to their opponent’s gain. Diplomacy within a game of this type is critical and this Activator mechanic allowed me to abstract diplomacy in a way that was open for all players to see, without the need for secret negotiations or written notes. A nation may not choose an Activator from their own coalition, thus you must deal with your potential enemies forcing the difficult choice of who is the least dangerous to deal with, which of course changes during the game as nations’ fortunes rise and fall.

How long did it take to develop Coalitions, from the first idea to showing the prototype to potential publishers?

Coalitions took me just under two years of constant work from start to finish. I came up with the original idea in August 2017 and very quickly built my first prototype, then with the kind help of my friends from the Guildford Wargames Club, we played every week through 2018.  I am very fortunate to have a daughter who is studying Graphic Design at Norwich University, so she helped me get the game ready to show publishers at UK Expo in May 2019 and I agreed a Contract with Phalanx in June 2019.  When I say finished, I mean ready for development to begin; design and development are two very different things and shouldn’t be confused. The team at Phalanx have taken my prototype and enhanced and polished the game into an attractive, accessible, commercial product that I am extremely excited to be part of.

 

Did you ever have any doubts about including The Ottoman Empire in the game? Most of the games concerning this period leave out the Ottomans.

The Ottomans were an important part of the formation of the Second Coalition in 1799. Napoleon was in Egypt and the Ottomans wanted him out! It was, therefore, a no-brainer for me that they needed to be part of the game, plus Napoleon needed to be able to invade Egypt, which; spoiler alert, he can.

What are you working on now, aside from fine-tuning Coalitions?

I am thrilled to be working on several other games. I have nearly finished a game about Napoleon’s Expedition to Egypt in 1798, as I am interested in exploring the effects of luck and skill on this pivotal period in Napoleon’s career. I am also very excited to be well-advanced with a tactical level Napoleonic game that is a cross between a board game and a figure game. It consists of a base game system, plus expansions for different campaigns and theatres of operations. Also just to be different, I have designed a short, interactive, fun, family game for all ages, based on a negotiations mechanic, themed on Blob Monsters from Mars!