Chestnut Lodge Wargames Group

Nine Years War Strategic Onside

I ran a design session on the strategic elements of the Nine Years War at CLWG in September. I have a little background on what happened, the key outlooks, and that I wanted to focus on the sort of decisions that Kings and their privy councillors would make. Things that would support their political objectives rather than straying into operational detail of how the wars were fought.

Government in Late 17th Century

In all of the countries that I’ve looked at government is pretty small. All central government really covers is court expenses and military spending. In England this is about 3.5% of GDP, in France it’s closer to about 10%. In all the countries it also grows across the period of the Nine Years War and through the 18th century, largely paying for more wars and better revenue protection for the increases in taxation.

Government doesn’t think about managing the economy, much less trying to grow it. There are state monopolies granted in many of the states. Even the East India Companies in England and the United Provinces are a way of preventing competition. So there’s a limit to how much innovation governments might get up to with their spending.

Strategic Decisions

There are a handful of these to be made. There’s the direction of the main effort in the war, decisions about increasing or decreasing the capability of fleets and armies, and how to get the money to pay for it all.

In terms of the last one there’s a political dimension to it. Taxes come from people who may or may not be supportive of the Crown. Every nation has factions amongst those that would be the Ministers of the Crown and carry forward the royal policies. None of those people want to pay taxes. Many of the middling sort, who run the commerce and industry, have a say via elected assemblies. The lower orders simply can’t afford to pay taxes, many of them are at subsistence level, or lower.

Design Suggestions

A mock-up of the strategic Finance for national level decisions. This shows what France might look like if every token represents £1m. (photo: James Kemp)

The main focus of the discussion was about developing a dashboard that would allow a rapid view of where the money was going. We mocked one up on a piece of paper and played with it a bit as we discussed. I mocked one up a little later on the computer (see the pic) and played with it.

I think I’d use this as a cabinet meeting for a few minutes at the beginning of the turn, and then the cabinet ministers could go off and spend the rest of the game either politicking or fighting the war.

I’ll customise the sheets for each nation, and also make it so that increasing, or decreasing, taxation had other consequences that mirrored the actual effects experienced in those states or the worries that the states had about it.

Lastly the capability level for the navy, army and forts need to be worked into a campaign system.


What the British version might look like, with gold coins representing the loans used to fund the war. (Photo: James Kemp)

Debt represents the interest payments, there wouldn’t be discretion not to fund it, at least not without significant issues on future borrowing. Each time the country raises a loan the treasury will be credited with a number of gold coins (depending on the interest rate). These coins can be put on the expenditure mat, but will be used up every turn.

When the gold coins run out it’s either time to cut spending, borrow more, or put up taxes.

Loans can be repaid, but it’s unlikely that anyone wuld be able to do this within the course of a game. They’d need to raise taxes and cut other expenditure to pay back enough to make a difference. That’s what happens in the periods of peace between the wars!

Next Steps

I’m going to bring this back to the Conference in October to move from a Cabinet decision into the campaign system. So still a design session, but with a bit of playability to try it out.

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