Borodino 1812 – New from Columbia Games



Columbia Games, a long-established publisher of games on military history and other topics, has released in November 2012 its latest title, Borodino 1812, part of its Great Battles of History series.  This game is based on the famous battle between Napoleon’s Grand Armee and the Army of Imperial Russia under Kutuzov on September 7, 1812, immortalized by Leo Tolstoy in War and Peace.   2012 marks the 200th anniversary of this battle, the single bloodiest day of the Napoleonic Wars, and one of the most significant conflicts in history.   Borodino 1812 is available directly from Columbia Games for $69.98, and also through many game and hobby retail stores.

The historical battle of Borodino was a French victory, leading to the fall of Moscow to Napoleon, but a strategic defeat.  Losses were terrible on both sides, but the Russians could replace theirs.  One week after the battle Napoleon occupied an undefended Moscow, hoping to impose a peace, but after four weeks was forced to retreat home with calamitous results.   By December 1812, Napoleon was driven out of Russia, and of the more than half a million men that had invaded Russia with him in June 1812, only a handful remained under his command after the disastrous withdrawal in the Russian winter.

In the game, the players command Napoleon’s Grand Armee or the Russian Imperial Army.  To win the game you must outperform history.  The French player has several possible lines of attack, and the Russian player must try to counter them all.  The historical battle involved wave after wave of frontal attacks by both sides, focusing on the Russian redoubts, with tremendous artillery bombardments.  However, the game shows all the options available to Napoleon and Kutuzov, including some not attempted historically.

Movement and combat in the game are resolved within areas.  The game plays using a fast-paced Move-Move-Battle sequence seen in Columbia’s previous Shiloh game, but this game stands on its own and does not require knowledge of any other Columbia title.  In the game, players activate corps leaders to command divisions of the same corps, or army leaders to command a limited number of divisions from any corps and army reserves.  Units of the two armies are represented by wooden blocks, with information about the type and strength of the units hidden from the other player until a battle takes place.  This “fog of war” system, commonly used in Columbia’s games, helps to preserve the uncertainty faced by real commanders. The game also captures the flavor of Napoleonic combat, emphasizing the tactical interaction of Napoleonic infantry, cavalry and artillery, including cavalry charges and infantry squares.   This makes for exciting and tense gaming.

The Borodino 1812 game has two scenarios, a shorter Shevardino one covering the preliminary fighting around the Shevardino redoubt on September 5, 1812, and a longer one covering the main battle of Borodino on September 7.   The main Borodino scenario takes about 3-4 hours to play, while the Shevardino scenario can be played in about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.   The two scenarios can be linked into a campaign game covering both days of the battle.

Columbia has published on its website,, more historical information about the battle and dramatic photographs taken at the annual reenactment of the Borodino battle on the historical site in Russia.   One of the designers of the game has twice visited the battlefield site, and had the opportunity to watch the annual reenactment involving many hundreds of infantry, cavalry and artillery in historical uniforms.   The game map and pieces similarly reflect attention to historical accuracy and detail.   The release of Borodino 1812 should be of great interest both to gamers and those intrigued by Napoleonic history.

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