Today I played Pericles for the first time, so it’s game on! This is the first of a regular set of notes that I will pen and post on InsideGMT and on my Blog. So, what is Pericles?
Pericles: The Peloponnesian Wars is the sequel to my recently published Churchill: Big Three Struggle for Peace. Although Pericles is the second in my Great Politicians Series, it is its own design that does not follow a formula from its predecessor, yet borrows the conference mechanic to simulate how City State strategy was formed and executed in 5th Century Greece. Unlike Churchill, Pericles is a wargame, although a light one. So, let me frame my design for you.
Pericles is a four player game, although in the final version it will also play with 3, 2, or solo. The four players are arrayed as two teams of two Athenians versus two Spartans. The Athenian players are either the Aristocrats (e.g., Pericles et al) or the Demagogues (e.g., Cleon et al). The Spartan players represent the two royal houses (Eurypontid and the Agiad). To win the game, a player’s side has to win the war and they have to be the incumbent government when victory is declared. So, the game challenges you to both cooperatively work to defeat your City States enemy, while dominating your domestic opponent. I have played with this player arrangement for a couple of decades using my old Peloponnesian War design with the US military and I have found it creates some very nuanced strategic decisions. That said, if your view is all victories should go to the player with the most points, you will probably have issues with the subtle strategies of City State politics.
I have designed the game as a ‘sandbox’ representing the period from ~455 BC to 400 BC. The Peloponnesian war covered in my old Victory Games design and most others I am aware of cover the second Peloponnesian War (431 to 404 BC). Yet even this conflict chronicled by Thucydides/ Xenophon shifted between war and peace and back. Significantly, the early part of Thucydides history covers the first Peloponnesian War, which my Pericles design will include. As a team you will find yourself shifting between war and peace, setting your teammate up for failure, while trying to have your City State win the war of prestige as you write your own history to dominate Greece.
The overall structure of the game is this: after an Aristophanes card is drawn and resolved (more on that in a moment), each player draws 5 cards from a common Athenian or Spartan 30 card deck. Each card has different named personages aligned with one of the two factions and particular issues. Players then conduct a Boule (Agenda) phase where four issues are nominated. Issue resolution then occurs where the players alternate naming one of the nominated issues for their side and then all players ‘debate’ the issue by simultaneously playing one of their cards. This continues until all cards are played and then the issues are resolved.
The issues cover a wide range of topics to include war to peace or peace to war, offensives, change of government, leadership, ostracism, taxation, tribute, levies, public works, Festivals, Games, and peace missions. One of the critical byproducts of issue resolution is the acquisition of general tokens that are used for military operations. You can also acquire additional generals through the play of your Leader card, which I will cover in more detail in future Delian Diaries.
The game map (see photo for a peek at the designer’s prototype) has two city displays (Athens and Sparta) with theaters of operation such as Naupactus, Aeotolia, and the like. When you are at war, you deploy naval and army units to theaters where conflict is resolved based on the amount of forces and secretly deployed generalship tokens (no dice). Control is based on fortified bases that can be constructed or captured by siege. Ultimately, you win by controlling theaters of conflict and City State prestige, with the ultimate winner the leader of the winning faction.
The last piece I will cover in this Delian Diary is the Aristophanes cards. At the beginning of each turn you draw a card that represents one of Aristophanes’ plays. Over much of this period, Aristophanes entertained Athenians with satirical political commentary that often illuminated dimensions of the war that are not covered in Thucydides history. Akin to the conference cards in Churchill, the Aristophanes cards focus on an issue or two that were parodied in the play titled on the card and are interjected into the debates.
I now have a month or so of work to do as I polish the design, tighten the rules, and conduct focused playtests. I would expect to go to blindtest and P500 offering in the early spring with production determined by P-500 performance and the GMT production schedule.
Baxter Building, NYC