Sport of Kings (SOK) covers the campaigns of the War of the Austrian Succession in the German theatres of Silesia, Moravia, Bohemia, Bavaria, and the Rhineland, beginning with the outbreak of war in 1740 and running until 1745, when Prussia withdrew from the conflict and the emphasis shifted to other theatres. From December 1740 to 1748, the War of the Austrian Succession raged on the continent of Europe. The rising state of Prussia, under her soon to be famous king, Frederick the Great, sought to obtain a place in the sun at the expense of her southern rival, the Habsburg Empire. In uneasy league with Prussia was France, with no territorial ambitions, but with the complementary desires of keeping the Habsburgs humble and establishing a strong political buffer zone in central Germany.
Roped into this three-way split were most of the powers of Europe, big and small. France fought as the auxiliary of the Bavarian Elector, Charles Albert, bidding to replace the Imperial Habsburg dynasty with his own Wittelsbach. Britain backed the Austrian Habsburgs, following her traditional balance-of-power mantra - but her king, George of Hanover, favored the Bavarians. Saxony, caught in the middle, ran from side to side, always managing to back the wrong horse. Hanover and the United Provinces after much arm-twisting, supported Britain. Lesser participants included the states of Pfalz (a Wittlesbach realm), Denmark, Hesse, and many of the 300+ states of the Holy Roman Empire. Spain and Russia, although not present, influenced decision-making with their actions elsewhere.
SOK is a two- or three-player operational study. One player is the French, one is the Allies, and a third may play the Prussians (under French control in a two-player game). The Allied army includes contingents from Britain, Hanover, Holland, Austria, Hesse, and Denmark. Saxony is a potential ally, but could join the Franco-Prussians instead. Under French command are Bavarian and Pfalz troops. The forces of the Empire are available to the side that can demonstrate the greater strength.
The game system is essentially the same as CoE. A number of important changes have been made to deal with the fact that there are three sides. Map scale is still 8.5 miles per hex. The counters are brigades. Units are rated for Strength (in battalions), Effectiveness (a combination of morale and training), and Movement. Turns are equivalent to months. Each turn is broken down into several phases - supply, operations, admin, etc. There are scenarios for the 1st and 2nd Silesian Wars, the Austro-Bavarian War, and the Dettingen campaign, plus a huge Campaign Game covering the entire period.
A few key concepts include Operations Points, Campaign Plans, Prestige, and Auxiliaries. Operations Points are accumulated during periods of inactivity, in order to be spent during the course of active campaigning. If a player is unable or unwilling to spend OPs, his forces suffer attrition instead. The further forces are from their base of operations, the more severe the penalties will be. Whoever has the most OPs also has the initiative.
The heart of the game is the Operations Phase, where the players alternate moving their formations, laying siege to fortresses and engaging in battle with the enemy field forces. The players have a degree of flexibility in what they do with their forces, but they are constrained by the Campaign Plan or plans that they choose. These dictate what objectives (usually fortresses) must be taken. A successfully completed plan will garner Prestige for a player. At the end of the game, the player with the highest prestige wins. In addition, bonuses can be won for victory in battle, and these may be used to buy rewards that improve a player's chances, or be used as influence.
Auxiliary counters represent support troops and irregulars who had a major impact on operations, but cannot be adequately represented as traditional game units. Instead, a player might have a pontooneer auxiliary that he can play onto a stack to help it cross a major river, or a converged grenadier auxiliary that provides a morale bonus in combat.
Leaders have an important role to play, as befitting an era where personal command was critical. They are rated for skill or effectiveness, personality, and influence (i.e. the chance they have of retaining command despite their incompetence).
In addition to the concepts above, the supply system has been streamlined while keeping to the basic elements of foraging in tandem with the use of pre-positioned depots. River and canal movement has been taken into account and will prove as critical to success as the use of rail lines in more modern games.
The combat system has a tactical feel - while not a full sub-system with battlefield maps, it addresses the key issues of frontage, reserves, and supports, as well as firepower and morale. Winning a battle will bring you the acclaim of your noble peers, but may not gain you any strategic advantage; losing a battle can be catastrophic.
• Ten 12x18-inch full-color maps representing all of Central Europe, from Metz to Cracow and from Berlin to Vienna. They were derived from a mix of modern cartography and period maps dating from 1715 to 1750. While the maps are hex-based, players will find themselves keeping to the historical invasion routes most of the time - but they have the option to try alternates.
• Thirteen countersheets, including six of combat units, two of leaders, and five of markers.
• A set of charts and tables on 8.5x11-inch cardstock, plus three 11x17-inch HQ display cards.
• A series rulebook (called the King's Regulations and Orders, or KR&Os) of about 40pp, a game-exclusive rulebook of about the same length, three order of battle pamphlets, and a 50pp commentary.