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Back when I was young and I could count the number of games I owned on one hand with fingers left over, we all read the rules on how to play our games. However, times have changed. I now own a ridiculous number of games, and when I get together with friends it seems we are almost always playing a game that only one person has played before. As such, teaching games has become a more important skill than I believe it was in the past.
Although the game has thankfully received many kind words from players and reviewers, a few of the ambivalent reviews of Pericles have made two points. First, that the game is more complex than the average Euro-gamer can tolerate. Second, that it requires a dedicated group to become proficient at the game, and unless you are willing to put in the time, beware. With all due respect to these respected reviewers, I believe that they have lost the forest for the trees.
What I am going to do in this short article is offer a very simple method for teaching Pericles. Using this method, you can play Pericles often or sporadically and still play well. I have been playing wargames for over half a century, so I think I have earned my stripes enough to know a mechanically simple game with complex strategy from a complex game with complex strategy. Pericles is the former, so mechanically it is fairly straightforward, but understanding what to do is where the fun lies. For a reviewer who plays a game once, though, the game’s deep strategies are the source of their view of complexity.
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“At my signal…unleash Hell…”
One of the interesting things that occurs when a new game is released is that members of our tribe try to push the rules to the extreme, then immediately conclude that there is a problem. The purpose of this strategy piece concerns the redeployment rules. Redeployment in Pericles is very broad and allows for very aggressive force concentrations that, when first seen, can surprise the other side with thoughts like, ‘you can do that?’ For today, let’s consider not that you can do this, but rather what should you do about it when someone, like in Texas holdem, goes ‘all in’.
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For me having a new design enter the gaming fray is like XMAS where everyone else gets to open the present. I opened a new copy yesterday to check that it was packed correctly and I was struck by that new game smell. I love that smell… far superior to what I usually smell in the NYC subway. As I have done in the past, I thought it would be helpful to pen a short piece on strategy beyond what is already well covered in the game’s playbook (page 35). I would also like to reiterate at this point that I strongly urge you, even if you have been gaming like myself for over 40 years, to make use of the games training regime (14.01). It will only take about an hour and the War in the Aegean scenario is quite fun, short, and interesting history. If you follow this sequence, you will come to 14.01 F, where you take the training wheels off and play a two turn scenario that I consider the tournament scenario for this game.
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Pericles’ ‘Bots at War
In my first Peloponnesian War design, circa 1991, I had a mechanic for an Auguries die roll. In this regard it appears that Pericles: The Peloponnesian Wars has been successful in its appeal to a higher power when I got this note (republished with permission):
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Pericles Strategy Guide
This installment of my Delian League Diaries is intended offer deeper insight on how Pericles lets you experience Thucydides’ epic history of this long ago war. I thought it would be interesting to discuss some of the key mechanics and their impact on strategy options.
Pericles Playtest Map. Note that all components shown in this article are playtest components, not final art.
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During a recent session of Pericles, JR Tracy (host and ASL expert) and myself represented Athens versus our worthy Spartan opponents, Roberto and Nate. We played the 1st Peloponnesian War scenario, which can last from 3 to 6 turns, ending when Peace is declared. In keeping with the history, this one ended up being a true death match and went the distance, as no one wanted to declare Peace.
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The First Peloponnesian War
Pericles is now starting its public testing with my favorite gamers, the 1st Minnesota. This means that Pericles is now officially launched and from early responses doing very well. I am now getting a breather where I sit back and see how things are going, modify stuff that needs improving and so on. However, the design is finished and I cannot stop playing, which is my key metric for any of my designs.
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As I write this, the Yankees just lost to Toronto and I just lost the first full playtest of Pericles to my wife. We played the Pentecontaetia scenario, which is the beginning of 1st Peloponnesian War and the Campaign game, and covers the period from 460 BC to 400 BC. The way you win the game is your City State (Athens or Sparta) wins the war and of those two players the one with the most Honor (Timē) wins.
Carole and I played the two player version. Before you ask, the game can be played with one, two, three, or four players, ultimately with ‘Bots for each faction. While Pericles uses a variant of my Churchill conference mechanic this design is not a clone of its predecessor. I will also say that the rules should clock in at around 8 pages of rules without diagrams.
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.