Balkan Wars IV (pb07)

by Fred Davis

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BALKAN WARS I was designed by Charles N. Reinsel in 1974. BALKAN WARS II, a five-players game, has vanished without a trace. BALKAN WARS III was Fred Davis’ first modification of Reinsel’s game, to improve the map and rules, in 1986.


BALKAN WARS is set in the period immediately prior to the outbreak of the Great War, when several local conflicts involved the newly-independent Balkan states and the waning Ottoman Turkish Empire (Turkey in both DIPLOMACY and this variant), as they fought over territories like Thrace and Macedonia ( which is disputed by Yugoslavia, Greece, Bulgaria and Macedonian nationalists – who want an independent Macedonia today ). Italy became involved as a mediator, and picked up the Dodecanese Islands for themselves (presented here by the province of Rhodes).

For playability, certain liberties have been taken with the Balkan map (after all, Montenegro is missing on the standard mapboard). For example, Rumania owned Bessarabia between the two World Wars. In Reinsels’ original version, there were just 21 land spaces – all home supply centres. This lead to a hopelessly clogged board. In the third version of the variant, several ordinary provinces, such as Croatia, Macedonia and Transylvania were added, but there were still no neutral supply centres. In the fourth version, five such centres have been added: just enough to make things interesting without greatly increasing the size of the game. A lot of negotiation will be needed to settle the distribution of such centres.

All three Greek centres are now located on the mainland, which gives Greece a better chance of survival. In some cases, more modem names have been used for provinces in both the third and fourth versions – such as “Skopje” for Uskub – to make them easier to identify. A few names have even been invented. “Arda” is the name of a river near Adrianople, and an irresistible pun ( the old NAVB publication was called ARDA). “Mt. Jara” is the abbreviated name of the tallest mountain on the Albanian-Serbian border.

Finally, note that Albania and Montenegro are played as a single power.


1.    The standard rules of DIPLOMACY apply unless otherwise specified.

2.    The seven powers and their starting units are as follows:

ALBANIA:    F(Tirana); A(Montenegro); A(Valona) but see Rule 6

BULGARIA:   A(Sofia); F(Varna); Choice of A(Plovdiv) or F(Plovdiv)

GREECE:     Choice of A(Athens) or F(Athens)*; A(Salonika); F(Patras)

ITALY:      F(Rome); F(Sicily) ; A(Trieste) or F(Trieste)

RUMANIA:    A(Bucharest); A(Galati); F(Constantsa)

SERBIA:     A(Belgrade); A.(Nish); A.(Skopje)

TURKEY:     A(Constantinople); F(Izmit); F(Smyma)

*Athens has only one coast due to the Corinth Canal – as with Kiel.

3.    There are 26 supply centres (21 home and 5 neutral ). The victory conditions are EITHER ownership of 14 supply centres OR a majority of units on the board at any time ( there are only six inland supply centres unreachable by fleets).

4..   A power may build new units in any unoccupied supply centre s/he owns. Fleets must be built in coastal supply centres. In addition, SERBIA may build fleets in Croatia when s/he owns that space, as Serbia does not have a sea-coast.

5.    The first turn is Spring 1911.

6.    Optional Albanian starting places allow for Albania to start it’s initial fleet from ANY of it’s home supply centres, with armies in the other two.

7.    Fleets in Bessarabia or Contstantsa may move or support, via the Danube river, into Galati and vice versa. Fleets may be built in Galati. The Danube is not a space. Fleets remain in the regular provinces.

8.    Winter builds are made secretly – neither the location nor type of unit(s) built are revealed. In postal play, the Winter and Spring seasons are played together. However, if a player NMRs on an Autumn turn, the GM may call for a separate Winter season while obtaining a standby player.

9.    Unordered retreats after the Spring move will be handled by Just’s Right-Hand Rule (the GM retreats the unit to the first vacant province, starting with the space immediately to the right of the province from which the attack came, then the first to the left, etc. ). Retreats following Autumn moves will be handled with Winter orders. Retreats take precedence over builds. Players may write potential retreat orders with their orders to avoid the application of the Right-Hand Rule.

10.   There are several Direct Passages across narrow bodies of water which may be used by both armies and fleets, without interfering with the passage of fleets between adjacent sea spaces. Fleets may also “‘jump” between the Ionian and South Adriatic Seas, and between the Central Mediterranean and Cyclades, but may not convoy armies directly between those two sea spaces. 


There is a rule of thumb in the design of DIPLOMACY variants that not more than 50% of the spaces should be supply centres, and preferably less. In BALKAN WARS III there were 21 centres and 23 non-centre provinces. In BALKAN WARS IV I’ve added five new neutral centres, two new ordinary spaces, and two new sea spaces (Cyclades and the Eastern Med.), so there are now 26 centres and 26 non-centres. This was the best I could do in a very restricted area, which could not be expanded either without totally getting away from the concept that this is supposed to be a Balkan scenario. 

It is hoped that the newly added spaces will provide enough manoeuvring room for a good game, while preserving a balance between the various powers. Note that Bessarabia now borders Cluj and Transylvania 

It bothered me that Serbia is land-locked. Eventually, Serbia could build fleets in captured centres, but I wanted another option. By allowing the player to build fleets in Croatia (which is not a supply centre), I have allowed Serbia to build a fleet without first having to over-run Greece or Albania. This makes an alliance between them possible. The GM will have to keep a note about who owns Bosnia. 

With Galati accessible to fleets via the Danube, fleets can now reach all but six of the centres (5 home and 1 neutral). Therefore, nearly every power will have a use for fleets. 

With such a tight board, this is going to be a deadly game. One error or NMR could ruin a player, and much diplomacy will be needed to enable powers to work together for success – no one will get very far on his or her own. At least by raising the victory criteria from 11, the possibility of a sudden quick win is less likely, and most players will get to handle a few more units than was possible in BALKAN WARS III. 

Incidentally, between 1919 and 1945 Italy owned the entire Istrian Peninsula, as shown her in the Trieste space, so Italy really was a Balkan power in those days.