Delian League Diaries #1

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mark-herman11 February

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.

Bust of Pericles

Bust of Pericles

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.

Phidias Showing the Frieze of the Parthenon to Pericles, Aspasia, Alcibiades and friends, by Sir Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema

Phidias Showing the Frieze of the Parthenon to Pericles, Aspasia, Alcibiades and friends, by Sir Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema

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.

Pericles: The Peloponnesian Wars playtest map

           Pericles: The Peloponnesian Wars early playtest map (Note these are NOT final game graphics.)

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.

Anon,

Mark Herman

Baxter Building, NYC

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4 thoughts on “Delian League Diaries #1

  1. Good Morning Mr. Herman,
    thank you very much for sharing information on the progress of your new project. I’m very interested in ancient history and vary appreciative of your great designs (I own WWa and EotS), so I was really looking forward to hearing any news about it.
    I’m going to seize the opportunity of this blog to ask you some questions on the game and express some considerations on the historical issues of the Peloponnesian War. My considerations are for discussion’s sake only and they are not intended to suggest any changes in your basic design assumptions.

    Question 1: You said that this will be a wargame, albeit a light one. Does it represent the essential asymmetrical nature of the first part of the war, according to Pericle’s stratagy, and how?

    Consideration 1: I would be interested to know more of your analysis of the internal politics of Sparta and Athens.

    I’m interested in one interpretation of this period which sees the Peloponnesian War in parallel with a real civil stife internal to Athens which opposed the supporters of democracy and oligarchy. Following this intepretation:
    1) The first group include both moderate (Pericles, Alcibiades in a first phase) and radical (Cleon) supporters of democracy. They shifted the focus of the Delian Lague from the struggle against Persia to the Atenian hegemony over Greece. Their imperial project was co-essential with fostering their political democratic experiment.
    2) The oligarchic faction included moderate (Cimon, Nicias, Alcibiades for a short period) and radical (Theramenes) positions too. They favoured friendship and even alliance with Sparta and replacing everywhere (begining with Athens itself) the democratic regimes they loathed with oligarchic governments, on the Spartan model. The oligarchs eventually succeeded but their regimes did not last long.
    3) The worst military blunders of the war can be seen as having their causes in the political internal struggle within Athens (which can explain the “hermai affair”, the defeat of Aegospotami, the execution of the generals after the Arginusae, etc).

    • These issues are already addressed in the design, but to your second question, this design covers the period from 450BC to 400BC, so it is more than a game about the 2nd Pelop War, it covers the period. The design is a sandbox, so while there will be a 2nd Pelop War scenario, it is a war about a fifty year on again off again series of conflicts. Even the 2nd Pelop War has periods of reduced fighting (e.g., Peace of Nicias), although Peace just means that Athens and Sparta cannot directly attack each other.

      The various individuals and their impact on the period are handle in the Personality cards akin to the Staff cards in Churchill. I am hopefully going to get everyone in the histories on a card, but information is what it is from the period.

      And yes the asymmetrical nature of the forces is built into the situation.

      I hope that broadly answers your questions.

      Mark

  2. Thank you very much for the kind answer and the clarifications.
    I’ll follow with keen interest the coming posts of the “Delian League Diaries”.
    Tristan

  3. Mr. Herman,

    My name is Kelcy Sagstetter, and I am a new history professor at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis. I am just finishing up a class on the Athenian Empire, where we are holding mock assembly debates and doing all sorts of re-enactments and role-playing. I am very interested in your game. I’ll be teaching the class again in the fall. Since that seems to be the time window in which you’re planning to iron out the kinks and conduct focus groups, would you be interested in having a group of midshipmen test out your game?