Friday, 12 November 2021

Manoeuvre: A review

A couple of Sundays ago, my old friend and fellow member of Wargame Developments, Russell K explained to another old friend and member of WD (John B) and me how to play MANOEUVRE … and I must admit that I was impressed by the simplicity of the rules and the sophistication and subtlety of the way they worked.

I will be writing a detailed review of the game in a forthcoming issue of THE NUGGET, but here is a short description of the game and a few of my initial thoughts about it.

Game components

As I outlined previously, the basic game contains the following:

  • 8 x 8 sets of national army unit counters (Austria, Britain, France, Prussia, Russia, Spain, Turkey, and the USA)
  • 12 geomorphic 4 x 4 square gridded map sections (each gridded map square is 14cm x 14cm, and each grid square is 3.5cm x 3.5cm)
  • 8 x 60 nationality cards
  • Two player aid cards/quick reference sheets
  • A twenty-page rule book
  • 4 D6s, 4 D8s, and 4 D10s

Each of the national armies is made up of eight units, but the spread of unit type depends upon the nationality. For example, the Russian Army has:

  • 1st Cavalry
  • Black Sea Cossacks
  • Russian Guard Infantry,
  • Lieb Grenadiers
  • Kexholm Infantry Regiment,
  • Orlov Infantry Regiment,
  • Moscow Infantry Regiment
  • Koursk Infantry Regiment

This makes an interesting comparison with with the Ottoman Army which has:

  • Regular Cavalry
  • Ali Pasha’s Cavalry
  • Irregular Cavalry
  • Arab Cavalry
  • 1st Janissaries
  • 2nd Janissaries
  • Albanian Feudal Infantry
  • Greek Feudal Infantry

Each unit has a two-sided counter, the front showing its starting strength, and the reverse showing its strength after it has suffered casualties.

The front of the counter is shown on the left and the reverse of the counter is shown on the right.

The geomorphic gridded map sections are all 14cm x 14cm, and each is divided into sixteen (4 x 4) 3.5cm x 3.5cm grid squares. Here are four examples of the gridded map sections:

These can be randomly arranged to give a wide variety of battlefields over which the players can fight, for example, the four gridded map sections shown above can be used to create the two follwing battlefields:

The nationality cards are  unique to each nation and comprise two types of cards:

  • Five unit cards for each unit (which make us forty of the cards in each pack e.g. 5 x 8 = 40)
  • General manoeuvre cards (of which there are twenty in each pack)

The individual unit cards contain the information players require when they decide to use that unit in combat:

  • Three individual unit cards state the unit's Attack capacities (i.e. the number and type of dice that it can throw and its Defence power when under attack
  • One individual unit card includes this Attack/Defence information plus the range and number of dice that are thrown if the unit fires a Volley at the enemy
  • One individual unit card includes this Attack/Defence information plus the range and number of dice that are thrown if the unit bombards an enemy unit

An example of a set of individual unit cards is shown below:

The number and type of general manoeuvre cards are also unique to each army as can be seen from the following table:

The player aid cards/quick reference sheets cover all the basic rules the players require.

How the game works

Before the game starts, each player places their units anywhere in the first two ranks of squares on their side of the battlefield, and then shuffles their deck of nationality cards. The top five cards are taken and form their starting deck of nationality cards.

One player is designated to be the First Player, and they go first each turn.

They then go through the following phases of the turn sequence:

  1. Discard Phase: The player discards any number of nationality cards from their deck, and these are placed face down in that player’s discard pile.
  2. Draw Phase: The player draws as many nationality cards as they need to bring their deck up to five cards. They may not look at the cards before they draw them.
  3. Movement Phase: The payer may move one unit (All movement is orthogonal).
    • Infantry move one square
    • Cavalry move one or two squares
  4. Combat Phase: If the player has a unit card for a unit that can engage an enemy unit in combat, they may do so.
  5. Restoration Phase: The player may be able to use one of their general manoeuvre cards to restore a unit that has been degraded by enemy action or to build a redoubt ... but their opponent might be able to stop this by playing one of their relevant cards!

Once the First Player has gone through these phases, it is the Second Player’s turn to do go through these phases.

When both players have gone through the turn sequence, the turn is over, and the next turn begins.

The battle ends when:

  • One side has destroyed five enemy units or
  • Day ends (i.e., when both players have completely gone through their respective decks of nationality cards. If one player gets through their deck of cards before the other, they shuffle the discard cards and deal themselves a new hand of cards. It is only when both players have gone through their decks of cards that the game ends).

Some thoughts about the game’s design

On the face of it, this looks as if it is a very simple design, and it is easy to imagine that wargamers who have not played it would probably consider playing it once, but probably not twice ... but they would be very wrong.

Although there is not a lot new in the various elements that make up the design, the way they are combined means that each wargame is going to be different from its predecessors. For example:

  • The fact that there are twelve gridded map sections to choose from means that the battlefield has numerous combinations
  • The different balance of troop types in each army brings with it a degree of unpredictability, and this is further enhanced by the nationality cards, which give a recognisably national flavour to each army.
  • Combat is resolved using a very simple factor + dice throw comparison results system that will be recognisable to wargamers who have played boardgames and/or any of the DBA/HOTT rules.

The real core mechanism that makes this game stand out is the resource management element, at the heart of which are the individual packs of nationality cards. Because each player is only able to hold five cards in their hand at any point in the game, the options available to them are limited and they are constantly having to balance the situation on the tabletop with what cards they have in their hand, knowing that discarding a card means that a particular option will be lost to them … probably just before they will need to exercise it!

Final judgement

I look forward to playing this game again, although I have yet to discover if I can play it solo. That said, I will not be turning my back on the PORTABLE WARGAME, which will remain my ‘go to’ wargaming system for the foreseeable future. What MANOUEVRE will be is the game that I can bring out whenever I have a wargaming visitor and we want a quick, easy to set up battle.


  1. BOB,
    I've only ever played two Board Games - 'Kingmaker' and 'Isandulwana'...In 1976 my mate Richard and I played Kingmaker at our flat at Coogee NSW - an excellent game which we both enjoyed greatly...sadly my mate Richard Wallis passed away several year ago- I think of my old school- university mate almost every day. Best Wishes to you there in London.

    1. Kev Robertson (Kev),

      I have a few boardgames, but having no regular opponent creates problems. ‘Kingmaker’ is an excellent game, and can provide a good basis for a campaign.

      Keep safe and keep well,


  2. Thanks for the review Bob and it does indeed sound an interesting game. Not sure how easy it would be to play solo, but not insurmountable by the look of things.

    1. Steve J.,

      I’m trying to devise a system that will enable solo play, which will make this a great game for me to have available when the mood takes me and I don’t have the space or inclination for a figure game.

      All the best,


  3. Great I have this boardgame and this post is useful since the boardgame was creating dust in the wardrobe....

    1. Storm,

      I hope that you get your copy out and get some fun with it!

      All the best,


  4. Nice review, Bob. I agree with you in all respects. It's probably been ten years since I played it (and then only a couple of times with a friend), but I wish I'd grabbed a copy of my own.

    1. Prufrock,

      There are a few copies on sale on the second-hand market, and I think that company has a list you can sign up on to indicate that they should republish it. I think they want 500 people to commit to buy a copy before they will republish it.

      All the best,


  5. Very interested in reading your eventual thoughts on solo suitability

    1. Tim Spsnton,

      I have a few ideas whirling around in my head that I want to test in due course.

      All the best,


  6. It sounds like the terrain cards, at least, would be useful for laying out a Portable Wargame table.

    1. Jennifer,

      They are … and should give enough variation to satisfy most players.

      All the best,


  7. That's very interesting, Bob! A possible alternative to Command and Colours, perhaps? Quite tempted by this! It would be interesting to see your report of a game played..( hint 😄 )

    1. David in Suffolk,

      I think that the resource management aspect of the rules is better than the equivalent C&C card system.

      I hope to write up a battle report once I’ve sorted out a means to play the game solo.

      All the best,



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