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"The Biggest Danged Game I've ever SEEN, Borodino 92." Topic

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WaltOHara01 May 2014 8:20 a.m. PST


A while back I wrote a piece for my blog on "the big game that kind of got me into organized miniatures gaming", which would have been Borodino 92, held on Labor Day 1992 at Fort Meade, MD. I didn't mention it on here because frankly I didn't have any pictures of the event and it lacked a certain visual pizzazz, I guess. Then an odd event occurred-- a Mr. Gary Jones contacted me after reading the post and mentioned that he had been passing by the event that weekend and had stopped in, shot about a half roll of pictures and been on his way. Would I be interested in them?

Well, of course I would! So, without further ado, a revised and now, ILLUSTRATED narrative of "The biggest wargame I've ever seen, Borodino 1992": link

Very likely there have been bigger and I might even have seen larger games (the Arnhem game at Fall IN 2003 comes to mind). Yet, this is the one that registers with me when I think about the hobby. A lot of very well known names were present for that weekend! And here I was, the noob amongst them.

I think Borodino 92 probably kicked off the Monster Game craze that was around for a while in the early 2000 convention games. Possibly. So what do you think? Were you there? I can't recognize myself in any of the photos but I was definitely in some of the crowd shots. I know I'm in the bleachers shot (second photo) but I'm obscured. I think (THINK) that might be the side of my head covered by the Empire II rules the umpire is waving at me at that moment. The glasses look right.


as always, thanks for your time and attention.

6mmACW01 May 2014 8:29 a.m. PST

I've heard legends and rumors of this Borodino event, but never seen any photos of the game. Wow. Thank you for helping uncover these! It's even more impressive than I imagined.

cavcrazy01 May 2014 8:30 a.m. PST

That looked and must have been awesome.
I would love to play in a game on that big of a scale.

Personal logo Bashytubits Supporting Member of TMP01 May 2014 8:44 a.m. PST

Thanks for sharing. Looks like a very fun event.

Murvihill01 May 2014 9:40 a.m. PST

I was one of Davout's division commanders. We were held in reserve facing the village of Borodino until the afternoon of the second day, when we were thrown into the battle. Just as I arrived at the front line they called the game because so many people had a long drive home. I don't think I took a single casualty.
IIRC they initially planned on using the actual unit strengths for the game but had so many people ask to play that they changed all battalions to full strength and added the wing armies to the game (hence the Austrians on the right flank). I also remember a line of artillery something like 8' long on the table edge of the French table and another line of Russian artillery on the edge of the center table, and players having to shuffle back and forth, trying to figure out the range to their targets land if the 6' gap between tables didn't exist.

jeffreyw301 May 2014 9:43 a.m. PST

You'll be glad to know that while they drained the swampy area, it's still a mess when it rains.

Dark Knights And Bloody Dawns01 May 2014 9:47 a.m. PST


WaltOHara01 May 2014 9:51 a.m. PST

Murvihill, you were directly to my left for most of Saturday at any rate.


Where is the damn password01 May 2014 10:28 a.m. PST

We were held in reserve facing the village of Borodino until the afternoon of the second day, when we were thrown into the battle. Just as I arrived at the front line they called the game because so many people had a long drive home. I don't think I took a single casualty.

Yeah, that was my friend John's experience, also. He actually left for a while, bought a book in a bookstore, and came back and just sat there and read the book, because he had nothing to do in the game.

But experiences like that are probably the reason why the monster game craze began to die out.

If anything, I think we've now reached the opposite extreme, in which the most popular games require about a dozen figures on a tiny space, and are over in one hour.

WaltOHara01 May 2014 10:45 a.m. PST

If anything, I think we've now reached the opposite extreme, in which the most popular games require about a dozen figures on a tiny space, and are over in one hour.

Amen to that! Maybe the worst Monster Game offender for me was an epochal LORD OF THE RINGS game put on at a HMGS Cold Wars convention by a certain VIP gamer famous for creating great set piece games with a masterful touch for scenery. The scenery was lush, there were tons of figures (old fashioned, but painted well). I had a Nazgul and a legion of orcs. During the course of the day, yes, it took all day, I moved my unit exactly two feet to the left. Beautiful, but one of the most boring games ever.

And thus, I never really took to the Monster Game craze much, as I mention in the OP.


tuscaloosa01 May 2014 10:59 a.m. PST

Looks very nice. I recall hearing about this one, but couldn't attend.

Biggest game I played in was Leipzig (Napoleon's Battles), put on by a local Northern Virginia club about 15 years ago. Lot of fun. But it is a challenge, getting everyone involved. I believe Leipzig worked out better as far as action across the front and few units left out.

Actually, in college we played a game (Empire III?) about 30' x 60' on the floor of a large conference room. A British landing, fighting their way inland. With much smaller forces than the terrain available, so you had the complete experience of a corps marching forward, and battles gradually developing as there was a point of contact, and columns marching up.

We allowed light cav to be broken down into scouting squadrons, so they carried out a very historical purpose. Very enjoyable, and interesting in that you had to think in terms of the big picture, where to join in on an existing battle, or how to withdraw gracefully if losing.

jefritrout01 May 2014 11:33 a.m. PST

I remember playing in a monster game at Historicon in Lanham, MD. I was in charge of the French Grand Battery and had about 5 minutes of dice rolling every two hours. I ended up playing in 3 other games that day, but let them know I would have to run away to shoot at Russians for a couple of minutes then I would return.

My job at Borodino was to make sure Wally Simon and Fred were well supplied with food. Even though they as commanders gave out orders, it seemed that every general wanted to fight their own battles under their own direction, not the overall strategic plan. So Wally just wanted a good bite of food.

elsyrsyn01 May 2014 12:03 p.m. PST



ratisbon01 May 2014 12:23 p.m. PST

The affair was supported by the Potomac Wargamers. While it's impossible to mention them all, they were one of the finest bunch of fellows I've ever met and had the honor to be a sometime member of.

The game was in the Ft. Meade field house (gym), thanks to the efforts of PW Gamer, Tony Figlia who also made a room in the Officer's Club available for the dinner.

HMGS sponsored the event and provided an honorarium for David Chandler who, as I recall happened to be in the US. He gave a talk the night before at a dinner at the officer's club and made himself available in uniform for the game.

The terrain was compliments of Rich Hasenhauer, another PW member and author of Fire and Fury. The rules used were Empire II, which was odd as Empire III had been on the market for years.

Wally Simon played Kutusov. His HQs was in an adjacent room. With nothing to do after he finished eating (none of the gamers were paying the least attention to him) he fell asleep on some gymnastic mats.

I didn't play but attended the dinner and game as a member of the HMGS board.


Bob Coggins

Ditto Tango 2 301 May 2014 12:30 p.m. PST


Sparker01 May 2014 7:40 p.m. PST

Wow! Thanks for sharing this impressive piece of wargaming history. I've organised what I though was a pretty impressive Borodino megagame myself, but nothing on this scale! And it does mean I appreciate the sheer amount of work and effort involved..

Long Valley Gamer Supporting Member of TMP01 May 2014 8:13 p.m. PST

I was there along with a friend who supplied the Poles. I think we moved 2 feet in 2 days. It was an event though….

Sparta02 May 2014 2:06 a.m. PST

I find megagames wonderfull and a thrill to watch and participate in. I truely enjoyed your description of this historic event.
My own first experience was a big 25 mm Montmirail 20 years ago with about 20 gamers. I, as a newcomer, obvously got Richards small division, the only french line unit in the game :-) The guard attack bogged down in front of the russian artillery, and me and another newcomer with some young guard dragoons flanked the russian position from the south and took lots of prisoner – en avant!!

My experience as a desinger of large games since, has been, that there are two general type of wargamers:

1) Those that enjoy being part of a large battle. They regard themselves as part of a team, and they like seeing a large plan unfold, even if it does not mean that "their" units are in action.
2) Those that see their units as a small brigade game, and donīt care about the rest – they want to fight and roll lots of dice.

It is important to recognize the player types and give them the correct roles. At our club games, we have become quite good at letting type-2 gamers have temporary command functions in committed divisions/corps, so that their mind does not wander. The gamer type probably also have an impact on the type of rules people prefer – but that is another discussion :-)

Ben Lacy Sponsoring Member of TMP02 May 2014 2:47 a.m. PST


It was in Timonium, MD in 2003. The entire Market Garden Operation in 20mm. It was stunning!

comte de malartic02 May 2014 3:48 a.m. PST

I played in Borodino 92 and Borodino 02. The French won in 92 because the Guard crossed the river and broke through the Opolchenie that I commanded. The only regular troops that I had under my command was a battery of 12lb guns.

Lots of reinforcements had been sent, Cossacks only, and slowed down the French but couldn't stop them--the players commanding them put up a good fight and did receive kudos.

I had hoped that regular Dragoon units would have been sent to my flank as well as the Russo-German Legion. Neither moved from reserve.

But it was a memorable experience.



14Bore08 May 2014 3:45 p.m. PST

Didn't see a mention on how many figures. Looks like a once in a lifetime event.

Mad Guru Supporting Member of TMP08 May 2014 10:56 p.m. PST

The opening line of the article about the game in the Baltimore Sun says half-a-million.

Murvihill09 May 2014 9:32 a.m. PST

IIRC it was something like 20,000. they tried to get Guiness Book of World Records to verify it as the largest miniature game ever played but they didn't come.

ECWCaptain09 May 2014 11:02 a.m. PST

Hey, I can say "I was there!"

Ah, the memories…

I was in command of a Light Cavalry Brigade (four small units of Polish battle cav/lancers) under Prince Poniatowski. I ended up facing all the Russian cav in the world (starting with a slew of Cossacks) near Utitza, with only my four small units, all game.

The French infantry was in squares behind me, and in the end, I beat/routed over 20+ units of enemy cavalry (including the Queen's Dragoons) by myself.

Now, here's the interesting part. I remember the player playing Poniatowski (Richy) complaining to Napoleon (via Murat) that he could not get his infantry corps into the fight due to my cavalry blocking the way, and that I had to clear off. So, I got an order from Murat to withdraw, but I replied, "I humbly request that you come see the situation, as it is dire if I were to withdraw".

Thus, I got a visit by Murat in person (figure rode over to my figure) to look at the situation and chat. I showed him the field before me and said, "look, do you really want me to move and unleash all the enemy cavalry that I have been keeping at bay?" He said, "let me go relay this to HQ (Napoleon)".

Once Murat reported back to HQ, Napoleon (Randy) decided to move forward with his own figure so that he could justify getting off the raised dias what was the HQ in the rear of the room, just to see what was going on.

I remember Randy saying as he looked from the third table onto the second/middle table, "Gee Bob, looks like you have a bit of work to do". I replied, "Yes, if allowed to finish". He said, "No problem, stay where you are and make us proud."

In the end, I won a Marshal's baton, and was voted as Best French Player for the game. Pretty nice!

I also remember having a few chats (while the turns dragged on once my combat was over that turn) with David Chandler, about English Civil War, gaming and re-enacting. Great fun, and a very nice memory.

WaltOHara11 May 2014 6:26 p.m. PST


I only had a vague notion of who you were way back then, yet I remember that moment, when you got a "field marshal's baton". It's odd, it was just a silly honorific but I was kind of touched to get the "Legion d'Honor" at one point.


Maxshadow12 May 2014 12:09 a.m. PST

Brilliant! Thanks for sharing!

MarescialloDiCampo16 May 2014 10:46 a.m. PST

I wonder if there are any plans or people who would like to try to organize such an undertaking in the future?

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