Pericles: The Peloponnesian Wars 460-400 BC Price: $85.00
COMPONENTS: 1 Mounted Map 88 Cards 180+ Wooden Pieces (Cubes, Disks, and Sticks) 1 Counter sheet (130 counters) 1 Rulebook
1 Playbook 4 x Play Aid Cards 4 Cardboard Player Shields, two sided four color (one for each Faction) 1 twenty sided die 1 six sided die
Articles on Pericles in InsideGMT:
- Delian League Diaries #1, by Mark Herman
- Delian League Diaries #2, by Mark Herman
- Delian League Diaries #3, by Mark Herman
- Delian League Diaries #4, by Mark Herman
- Delian League Diaries #5, by Mark Herman
- Delian League Diaries #6, by Mark Herman
- Pericles: Strategy in the Archidamian War, by Mark Herman
- Unleashing Hell: Redeployment Rules in Pericles, by Mark Herman
PUBLISHED: 2017 DESIGNER: Mark Herman DEVELOPER: Francisco Colmenares MAP ART: Knut Grunitz
COUNTER & CARD ART: Francisco Colmenares and Knut Grunitz PRODUCTION COORDINATOR: Tony Curtis
PRODUCERS: Andy Lewis, Mark Simonitch, Tony Curtis, Rodger MacGowan, Gene Billingsley
Another GMT game in the Great Statesmen Series
Like most tabletop board wargames PERICLES will mainly appeal to players with a knowledge of the major conflicts between Athens and Sparta, aka the Peloponnesian Wars. Most people without historical knowledge of these wars have only heard of Sparta from the movies "The 300" and "The 300 Spartans" but the famous Battle of Thermopylae occurred 480-479 BC several years (about 50) prior to the beginning (431BC) of the Peloponnesian Wars. Pericles himself was born around 495BC and so was about 15 when the Spartans under King Leonidas fought bravely against the Persians led by Xerxes.
The author, Mark Herman, has put his knowledge of the era plus his thoughts, opinions and beliefs into this game about the 60 year Peloponnesian Wars period, ensuring that it is as near to historical accuracy as any game can be. It certainly captures the mood of that period as far as we can tell from history books, the internet in general and of course, Wikipedia. This was a time of diplomacy, debate, Honour and fierce belief in military might. Pericles was a Greek Statesman and Military Strategist (there is some intellectual dispute as to whether he was a General or an Admiral) and he was also a patron of the Arts, having the Parthenon built on the site of an ancient Temple in the Citadel of the Acropolis, under his direction during his tenure as Leader of Athens, but don't expect to be building the Parthenon when you play this GMT game of Pericles: the Peloponnesian Wars, you will be far too busy planning and strategising.
PERICLES has two booklets, a 24 page Rules booklet and a 44 page Playbook which together contain all the necessary rules, including a walk through a Turn, and required details for the debates, scenarios, strategies and a campaign guide, along with several pages of designer notes. It also has a beautiful map and a lot more wooden pieces than it has card counters, PERICLES is more than just a game of battles though, it is also about political conflict. Winning a Senate debate can be the difference between winning and losing a battle.
Although playable by one to four players PERICLES is decidedly a multi-player game, 4 players being the optimum number. The solo play is really more of a way to learn the basics and have some idea of what to expect when your opposition is human. For this you select one of the four Factions (Aristocrats/Demagogues for Athens, Eurypontid/Agiad for Sparta) and leave the other Factions to the game's Phormio (Bot) system (Phormio being an Athenian General/Admiral of the Peloponnesian War). This Bot system is also used in two player and three player games. The way it works is quite a clever idea that is well documented in the PlayBook. Mark Herman has thought of just about everything when designing PERICLES, even if with two players they both want to play the same side, and the "Brasidas" variant can speed up a one or two player game if you feel that a situation is slow. For the record, I have played both two player and solo but have not used this procedure as yet so cannot comment on its effectiveness, though I will say that every other aspect of PERICLES that I have used has played out perfectly.
The first thing to learn when beginning to play PERICLES is the way the left side of the board works. This is very important as amongst other things this is where the players can see which Faction is currently favoured by the Assembly. This side of the board has two City State Faction tracks for each City State (one for each of the four Factions). On this side the debates take place, not as you might expect between the two opposing sides, Athens and Sparta, but between the two Factions on each side. This means in any game where a Bot is controlling a Faction the human player will be debating against the game system.
On the right of the board is the World map though the actual map is there just for aesthetic reasons as it is covered by the Battle Theatre spaces (plus Persia) which are named and numbered 1-20, to be randomly decided for solitaire play, Blue Borders meaning Naval and Brown Borders for Land. Military movement can be made from Theatre to Theatre via the connecting lines. There are four types of coloured connecting lines, Dark Blue, Light Blue, Double Brown and Double Blue; wooden units are sized and shaped to determine what units they are: Cube = Land, Stick = Naval, Disc = Fortified Bases, Hexagonal = Strategos Token, Hexagonal with a ship printed on an end = special for Athens only, Round Cylinders = Controlling Faction and other display etc, Meeples = Black/Alcibiades (Persia is only brought into the game if it is indicated as part of the scenario. Alcibiades generally begins each scenario in Athens but may be moved by a card to Persia, in which case Sparta can build bases there), Red/Spartan, Black & White Pawns = War & Peace issues and Blue & Red pawns = Will of the Assembly.
If you are an experienced games player or coming to this game as a newbie (you really shouldn't be coming here as a newb unless you have an experienced tutor as your opponent) it is advisable that you play through the first selection of scenarios played out of printed order from 14.01B which should take less than two hours total (all 6 scenarios) to play including all set up and break down times. The first scenario: The Ostracism of Thucydides, is a mini training scenario that will take you less than 15 minutes that is played as a single hand. It is the beginning of your political journey. The second mini scenario is also for political training and once again is a single hand. The third and fourth scenarios introduce War, the fifth is an interesting one Turn scenario and the sixth and final tutorial scenario uses the same setup as the 2nd Peloponnesian War scenario and uses the whole map. By the time you have played through these you should have a good idea of how the major scenarios can be played.
The three decks of cards, Athens, Sparta and Aristophanes, are shuffled separately ready for the strict sequence of play; the author emphasises that the Sequence of Play be adhered to: Aristophanes Phase; Assembly Phase; Political Phase; Theatre Phase and End Phase. All phases apart from the Assembly Phase have one or more segments which are close to if/then actions. The strictness of the play sequence ensures that the effects of every card brought into play should be completed as far as possible before the next card enters the game.
After the Assembly has been debated and the results resolved then the Theatre Phase begins and players place issue markers face down in the chosen Theatres. They are placed in a single stack in Honour order, with the top one then being then flipped over and resolved before the next one is flipped over, thus each issue is concluded one at a time. With rare exception the markers raise issues in the Theatre where they are placed, though the player who placed them can decide not to activate those issues when they are flipped face up. To resolve a Military issue the player must have Strategos tokens, without them the issue has no effect. Strategos tokens are also needed for other actions, such as moving units between Theatres. Strategos are basically a currency that is used throughout play for various actions and purchases. The object of debating with your ally is that you want to do the best as you see it for your side whilst trying to ensure that your Faction eventually gains the most Honour. There's a good bit of give and take in debating and I have played in games where the players have been happy to get a victory for their side and have worked together without any attempt at scoring individually; the game works just as well and generally prevents minor squabbles over issues defeating what should really be a joint effort to win.
Land and Naval battles are conducted in a fairly similar manner, the main difference being the type of units in the conflict. Only the Expedition Theatre is contested and a battle must be decided there. The value of all units per side are totaled adding in any Strategos tokens committed plus the value of the top card from each player's Battle Deck. Subtract the value of the losing (lowest value) side from the total of the winning (highest value) side to determine the combat differential and then check for actual losses on the Combat Losses Tables. Victories bring Honour which is recorded on the numbered track around the board. Setup each scenario according to instructions in the Playbook and make sure you take note of any special rule inclusions. Each scenario has specific Victory Conditions which generally mean that the side with the most Honour wins, though there are often certain other conditions that must also be in place.
PERICLES: The Peloponnesian Wars is a complex game. There are many small pockets of separate rule mechanics that at first seem like they are going to make the game too complicated, and a lot of comment about the political aspect which makes it sound like it is going to be yet another diplomatic game where players are expected to talk a good war. In fact it is a well thought through look at the structure of war, with decisions being made at State level before being implemented by the Military. Although there may be some small stacking of counters during play it isn't one of those wargames where you are forever picking up counter stacks to see what is in them before making your move. Decisions are carefully considered at Assembly and one Faction, by careful play, will come out with a slight advantage, but not always one that defeats their enemies in the field; as they say "you may win the battle, but lose the war". This is not a game of taking turns to move units across a map in attempts to conquer Cities or take tactical vantage points; this should be obvious from the fact that there are very few counters in comparison with many wargames.
Apart from the Leader's card the Sparta and Athens deck's cards are dual sided. By this I mean they are split in half by colour and Faction and have text that is viewed so that one half of the card is the correct way to the person who played it and the other half of the card is the correct way when viewed from the opposite side. When you play these cards they will give you bonuses of some kind, perhaps Strategos or maybe assistance in your debating, diplomacy or battles.
Although this is a game that could be played by an inexperienced or novice gamer it isn't one I would recommend for players without wargame experience unless they are students of this particular era in history. New players playing alongside experienced players will pick up the basics reasonably quickly, if not the strategies, but they may find themselves beaten in the Assembly debates because of their inexperience. It is times like this that playing for a side to win rather than have an outright single player victory makes a lot more sense, plus it gives new players a sense of achievement and more of a likelihood that they would want to play again. GMT themselves give it a 6 rating in complexity which puts it in the highest spot of the medium range, personally I would have thought it more a 7, just into the difficult range, just so that it interestes players who are going to get more than a few plays out of it. Mind you, being honest, with an $83.00 price tag it isn't very likely that an inexperienced player is going to pick this up on a whim. The price of the game reflects its value, and in the case of PERICLES it is not just in components and production/publication costs, it is in the detail and research that has gone into creating it. Being fair to GMT, there is far more game here than the price tag suggests.
PERICLES isn't a standard wargame. It is a game that should become a classic strategy wargame amongst gamers, joining the ranks of Diplomacy, ASL, Kingmaker and Fire in the East (plus a few others)
Sometimes an email or two gives a warm feeling of satisfaction. The following came from Boardgamegeek's email system:
This message was forwarded to you from the BoardGameGeek MessageCenter.
I appreciate the time and thought that went into your Pericles review.
Chris: Thank you Mark
I've read your game review and it's very well written but for a little history inaccuracy.
As the he Peloponnesian war happens to be my favourite history subject (I practically own every boardgame on the subject), I have to tell you that it started some 50 years after Thermopylae - not 20 - and it lasted 27 years, with some sort of peace time (Nicia's) in between, so it started in 431 BC and ended in 404 BC.
I'm sure you just got tangled in numbers in writing such long piece.
Chris: Thanks Alberto. Edits made.
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