Last year, GMT Games announced a new game in their Monthly Update email called Baltic Empires: The Northern Wars of 1558-1721 from a new designer Brian Asklev. The game was described in that announcement as “…an approachable 2-5 player strategy game about conflicts between the states of the Baltic region during the early modern era, a transformative period of religious conflict, large scale warfare, and constant struggles for power. Players will have to develop their economy, strengthen their administration, secure trade hubs, and finally build armies to become the dominant power of the Baltics”.

I don’t know about you guys and gals but when I read that a wargame includes all of those elements in one box I sit up and take notice. Any war must be supported by a robust economy as well as by great commanders leading well trained and disciplined troops on the battlefield. They go hand in hand but are so often overlooked or not included in a good wargame. Not to mention that my father’s maternal line comes through Lithuania as my grandmother’s family name was Orlak and I have roughly 33% Baltic DNA in my makeup. All of this combined to get me interested in this one and I reached out to Brian Asklev, through his Developer Joe Dewhurst, and Brian was more than willing to provide information on the game.

Since that time, we have agreed to provide a home for this series of quick articles on the History Behind the Cards involved in the game, which are called the Dramatis Personae Cards, as the design continues to move through development and playtesting. Each turn, 5 Dramatis Personae Cards are randomly drawn from the deck and become available for purchase by the players in the Production phase. These cards have a wide variety of effects, but can be broadly divided into 4 types: those that have permanent effects, those that have one-time effects, those that affect victory conditions, and those that provide a special leader unit. We appreciate Brian’s effort in putting these together and we look forward to sharing them with you over the next few months.

*Note: The cards and their text, as well as any pictures used showing any of the various components, are still in their final design and are intended to be illustrative at this point. Also remember that card effects and text might still change prior to final development and publication.

History Behind the Cards – Thomas Roe and Markus Fugger

#28 Thomas Roe (1581-1644) – Permanent Effect

Roe was an English diplomat whose voyages ranged from Central America to India, and who worked as ambassador in the Mughal Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Holy Roman Empire. During the Thirty Years War (1618-48) he brokered a peace between Sweden and Poland and strove to get Denmark and Sweden to join the Protestant anti-Habsburg coalition.

Thomas Roe is one of a few special cases among the Dramatis Personae Cards, as his card is more a representation of the effects of British diplomatic and economic pressure in general and less of Roe’s individual achievements specifically. Having Roe in your Court represents having close diplomatic and economic ties with England, and in game terms this increases your Mercantile Hegemon Track level by 1, and also gives you a very useful leverage over the Maritime Trade Phase: each round you can choose a Power and limit their trade to a single Good for that phase. For Powers whose economy is not varied and thus depend heavily on maritime trade this can be quite devastating (Poland-Lithuania, with their huge grain production, is the prime example of such a power). Even in those rounds where you don’t have any direct enemies you want to hurt economically Roe is a useful addition to your Court, as he gives you more weight in the general diplomacy table talk with the ability to threaten any Power’s trade.

#37 Markus Fugger (1529-1597) – Permanent Effect

Markus was a German politician and businessman of the famous German Fugger banking house. Upon his father´s death in 1560, he and his brothers Hans and Jakob, jointly managed the family business before splitting it up in 1575, with Markus taking the northern division. Besides his work as a banker, he had a keen interest in church history and was a patron to artists as well as a collector of books and antiques, and was famous for his sumptuous parties with hour-long fireworks displays.

Just like the Thomas Roe card, Fugger’s inclusion as a Dramatis Personae Card in the game represents more than Markus Fugger’s exploits specifically, and should be thought of as a representation of the importance for the states of the early modern period of maintaining good relations to the banking houses. Having Fugger in your Court increases the length of your loans by 1 round. This might not sound like a lot, but in a game with 8 to 16 turns (depending on scenario) it can be absolutely crucial, allowing you to make longer-term planning instead of living in constant fear of bankruptcy. The improved financial state of your realm and closer economic ties with the German markets is also represented by boosting your Mercantile Hegemon Track rating by 1.  

Next up in the series will be a look at Janusz & Boguslav Radziwill (1612-1655 & 1620-1669) and Louis de Geer (1587-1652).

If you missed the previous entries in the series, you can catch up on the posts to date by following the below links:

#41 Tsar Boris Godunov and #33 Corfitz Ulfeldt

#29 Joachim Frederik Blumenthal and #6 Bohdan Khmelnytsky

#27 King Sigismund III Vasa and #9 Maurice of Nassau

If you are interested in Baltic Empires: The Northern Wars of 1558-1721, you can pre-order a copy for the special P500 price of $65.00 from the GMT Games website at the following link:

We also published an interview with designer Brian Asklev and if you are interested you can read that at the following link: