Kris Van Beurden(Tegarend)Belgium
While this was not exactly the time of the grand sieges, there were still some famous ones going on, so a Siege mechanic could not be omitted from Sparta!
We have already seen (in the blog post on the Action Round) that the resolution of a Hoplite or Trireme deployment may entail remaining in order to siege the space (in which case the Trireme is replaced with a Hoplite). The first thing to remark is that a siege will always be accompanied by a Hoplite miniature and as such will always be a valid target for a LAND battle (which can thematically either be a sortie from the besieged city, or the arrival of a relief army).
For each siege a player has ongoing during their Prosecute Siege step of their Action Round, that player may decide to spend 2 Talents in order to Prosecute that Siege (once per siege per Action Round). Note that it is not mandatory to Prosecute Sieges and that it is perfectly permissible for sieges to last for the duration of the game (denying control over the besieged space).
To prosecute a siege, the besieging player rolls an amount of custom dice as follows:
-One base die
-Plus one die for each adjacent friendly-controlled Ally or City space
-Plus one die when besieging Sparta (famous for not having walls)
-Minus one die when besieging Athens (likewise famous for its “Long Walls” connecting it to its own harbour, Piraeus)
-Plus one die for exceptionally high Hoplite and/or Navy strength
To a minimum of zero and maximum of three dice.
If at least one failure is rolled, the besieging player loses 1 Hoplite Strength. For each success rolled, one influence is removed from the besieged space. If the final influence is removed, the siege is removed, the Hoplite returns home, and the besieging player gains Talents equal to the space’s Autonomy and places a control disk in the now newly-uncontrolled space.
Note: Sieges are an expensive and uncertain way of gaining control over spaces, but the reward and plunder is greater than when using diplomatic means!
Finally, maintaining sieges costs manpower. For each siege ongoing during the Hoplite Reset step, that player receives -1 Hoplite Strength.
SPARTA! Designer blog
A Designer's blog on the design of Sparta! Struggle for Greece.
Sparta! Struggle for Greece - Sieges
24 Aug 2022
Wed Aug 24, 2022 7:08 am
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Sparta! Alea Iacta Est
23 Aug 2022
Alea Iacta Est
A short blog post for today.
I have already mentioned the custom dice from Sparta! before, but without showing them, or saying what is on its sides (or even how many sides it has).
The box contains 6 dice, 3 in Spartan red, 3 in Athenian blue. Each die is six-sided, with each die having 1 “failure” side (marked with a skull), 2 blank sides, and 3 “success” sides (marked with Athena’s Owl or the Lambda from Lakedaemon).
What are dice generally used for in Sparta! ?
As we already saw before (in the blog post on battles), each player rolls one die at the end of a battle to see if their leader is permanently eliminated (on a “failure”) or gains experience (on a “success”). Dice are also used in the resolution of the Olympic Games (as seen in the blog post on the Olympic Games). Additionally, dice are used for Sieges (to be covered in a future post).
Tue Aug 23, 2022 4:17 pm
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Sparta! Most Rewarding
22 Aug 2022
We have already spoken a lot about what to do with favour, assets, and talents, but not a lot about the regions and allies in the game where these rewards originate. Let’s look at them all.
First a small aside - each of the three factions in the game (Sparta, Athens, and Thebes) has a special, inalienable, State Income printed on their player mat, available to them during each reward phase. For all three, this State Income provides three talents, plus a special reward. Sparta’s reward is the Sparta Elite asset, the reward for Athens reward is one Favour each turn, and Thebes receives one Battle card draw per turn.
The two biggest provincial rewards, and thus treated together here, are Attica (the hinterland of Athens) and the Peloponnesos (Sparta’s backyard, minus the surroundings of Corinth, which I split off from the Peloponnesos and named the Corinthian Isthmus). Attica provides three talents and the Athenian Cavalry asset, while the Peloponnesos provides three talents and the Peloponnesian Elite asset.
Attica provides a Cavalry and three Talents, while the Peloponnesos provides an Elite and three Talents
The next group of regions are the Agricultural or Mining regions: Sicily, the Hellespont (gateway to the Black Sea grain from Crimea), and Chalcidice. Each of these regions give three talents.
Three regions providing three talents each
The next five regions each give one talent and one asset: the Cyclades and the Corinthian Isthmus give an Allied Fleet asset, while Thessaly and the Ionian Coast give a Cavalry asset, and Boeotia gives an Elite asset.
The final region is Aetolia, which provides no talents at all, but whose owner receives a Skirmisher asset as well as an Allied Fleet asset.
Three of the Ally spaces provide one talent and one asset each: Thrace and Macedonia give a Skirmisher asset, and Megale Hellas gives a Cavalry asset (the famed Tarantine cavalry). The final two Ally spaces give two assets: Crete provides two Skirmishers, and Persia one Cavalry and one Allied Fleet asset.
Thracian and Macedonian Skirmishers were welcome additions to the Greek city-state Peltasts. The Tarantine Cavalry were elite cavalry from Taras, a rare Spartan colony on the Southern Coast of Italy. Cretan Archers were famous as the best contemporary archers. The Achaemenid Empire of Persia would never support any of the warring Greek city-states with their full potential might, but even a little support from a Satrap on the Western edges of the Empire could provide his ally with substantial Persian Cavalry and Ships.
Mon Aug 22, 2022 8:37 am
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16 Aug 2022
As we have seen before, battles are initiated during the deployment step of the Action Round, and are resolved during that same Action Round’s battle step. Multiple battles can be initiated in the same turn, and are executed in the order of the phasing player’s choice.
Battles use the following list of steps to resolve them:
Each player with fewer than three Battle Cards in their hand draws a Battle Card.
Players alternate playing Battle Cards (or passing to do so), beginning with the phasing player, until both players pass consecutively. Battle Cards can have one or two events printed on them. The ones with two events printed on them give a choice of which event to use, never both. Regardless, each event will indicate in which type of battles they can be used (hoplite, naval, or any), and provide a certain benefit during the battle (or occasionally outside the battle).
Printed on the gameboard are several displays for military assets. These assets are gained through player mats, regional or ally control rewards, Battle Cards, and occasionally Action Cards. Each asset has a type (Elite, Skirmisher, Cavalry, or Fleet), and each display is unique to one type. Each asset is double-sided, with one side called the regular and one side called the experienced side.
Whenever a player has more assets of a type than their opponent (with experienced assets counting double), they are said to have the advantage for that type (e.g. if Athens has 3 regular Cavalry assets, and Sparta has 2 experienced Cavalry assets, Sparta would hold the Cavalry Advantage). Additionally, the player with the highest current hoplite strength (in land battles) or highest current fleet strength (in naval battles) is said to have the larger force advantage, and the player who currently holds the regional control tile for the region in which the battle spaces lies is said to have the home ground advantage. Each advantage is worth a single Battle Strength point.
Battle Card events will usually affect assets involved in the battle and/or add to one side’s Battle Strength.
Once both players pass consecutively on playing battle cards, the player with the highest battle strength is the winner of the battle, who is awarded one diplomatic Favour. In the case of ties, neither player is the winner of the battle.
Each player makes a roll with a single custom die. On a Failure, their leader in the battle is eliminated. On a Success, that leader gains Experience (if not yet experienced, they are flipped to their experienced side. If already experienced, the owning player draws a Battle Card).
The base Pericles and experienced Pericles leader side by side. Generally, experienced versions of leaders have slightly improved versions of the abilities of the base versions of that same leader.
The Victorious player loses 1 strength point matching the type of the battle (e.g. 1 hoplite strength during a land battle). The defeated player loses 2 strength points. In case of a draw, both sides lose 1 Strength point. As the current strength on a track is used to calculate the larger force advantage, the order in which battles are fought can be of importance.
If there was no siege ongoing at the battle space, both hoplites or triremes end their deployments. Otherwise, the non-phasing hoplite only ends their deployment if they were defeated.
Tue Aug 16, 2022 7:31 am
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Sparta! Influence and Autonomy
15 Aug 2022
Influence and Autonomy
Spaces in Sparta! Struggle for Greece, whether city spaces or ally spaces, need to be influenced in order to be controlled. Each space has its autonomy indicated on the map.
The large ally spaces have a clear 2 on them
Polis city spaces (round) have their regional symbol ONCE on top of the circle, indicating an autonomy of 1
Metropolis city spaces (square) have their regional symbol TWICE on top of the square, indicating an autonomy of 2
Megapolis city spaces (hexagon) have their regional symbol THREE TIMES on top of the hexagon, indicating an autonomy of 3.
A single player can accumulate influence cubes in a space until they reach an amount equal to the space’s autonomy, in which case the influence cubes are replaced by a control disk, at which point the player controls the space. When a player has influence cubes in a space, their opponent can only remove that player’s influence, not place their own (until the space is empty of influence once more).
A region’s control is assessed only at specific moments (generally only at the start of a turn) and involves counting the amount of control disks within that region, counting each control disk for an amount equal to the space’s autonomy.
For example, if in the Corinthian Isthmus region Corinth is controlled by Sparta and Epidaurus is controlled by Athens, Sparta would control the Corinthian Isthmus. If Megara would also be Athenian-controlled, the region would be uncontrolled.
Once again, control changes during the turn are only assessed at the start of a turn.
If Athens gained control over Megara during the turn, the Corinthian Isthmus would only become uncontrolled once the Corinthian Isthmus region was assessed.
Influence cubes in Sparta! are generally placed via the use of Envoys. Action cards regularly allow for the dispatch of (Lesser or Greater) Envoys to spaces. A Lesser Envoy either places 1 influence cube of the player sending it or removes 1 influence cube of their opponent. A Greater Envoy either places 2 influence cubes, removes 2 influence cubes, or removes the final influence cube from the opponent and then places one from the player. If an Envoy is sent to a space containing a disk, it either does nothing (if it is sent by the player controlling the disk) or the disk is replaced by a number of influence cubes equal to the space(s) economy, and then cube(s) are removed.
Diplomacy - the send of Envoys - is the friendly way of controlling spaces. Next time we will look at the Combat system, after which we can turn to Raids/Sieges, the unfriendly way of taking control over spaces.
Mon Aug 15, 2022 1:40 pm
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Taking part is more important than Winning
Historical Note: Every four years, warfare in ancient Greece came to a halt during the Olympic truce so that athletes could travel to the Olympic games in honour of Zeus. With the passage of time, the games became politicised, as diplomats would accompany their athletes, using the truce for political purposes and diplomacy, while victories at the games were lauded as patriotic achievements. However, the Olympic Games were only one of the many Panhellenic Games and other religious or religious-inspired periods of truce. When desired for political expediency, any religious event could be an excuse for inaction. In Sparta! Struggle for Greece, the Olympic Games are used as a carryall term for the lull of winter, truces, peace negotiations and other causes of temporary peace.
Once both players have run out of Action cards and the Action phase comes to an end, players move to the Olympic Games phase.
At the start of the Olympic Games phase, both players check whether they have unresolved deployments remaining (i.e. raid deployments made during their final Action Round of the Action Phase and not defeated in battle, and as such have not been resolved yet). For each such deployment, the owning player makes a roll with a single custom die. On a failure, the commanding leader is eliminated and the deployed hoplite or trireme is demobilised without effect. On a blank result, the deployed hoplite or trireme is demobilised without effect, with the leader becoming spent. On a success, the deployment is resolved as normal (i.e. place a Raid marker, gain a Talent, and then choose to return home or remain for a siege).
Secondly, both players check whether they have mobilised yet undeployed hoplites and/or triremes remaining (i.e. mobilisations made during their final Action Round of the Action phase). If so, these are demobilised for no effect.
Finally, players will compete in the Olympic Games, rolling two custom dice each, modified by -1 for each Olympic Deployment they made and by +1 for each Olympic Demobilisation they made (to a minimum of zero dice, and a maximum of 3 dice). The player who rolled the most successes (ties are broken in favour of the player currently controlling the fewest regions, Sparta if still tied) may choose their reward (a certain amount of Favour and/or Talents) first, with their opponent receiving the other reward (also a certain amount of Favour and/or Talents - the reward for winning is first choice, not necessarily a larger prize).
Historical Note: in this context, Deployments resolved during the Olympics phase are seen as breaches of the truce, while Demobilisations resolved during the Olympics phase can be seen as athletic preparations for the Olympic Games.
Mechanical note: Deployments made in the final Action Round (especially by the player having the final Action Round of the Action Phase) are stronger than usual as they cannot be battled. As such, a mechanic was added for potential failure (Winter Storms or other forms of Attrition) and a penalty was added for the Olympic Games.
Sun Aug 14, 2022 9:00 am
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Sparta! A Closer Look at the Action Phase
13 Aug 2022
A Closer Look at the Action Phase
Last time I discussed the basic turn sequence framework on a turn. Most phases were pretty easy to understand, but the Action phase, being a lot more intricate, was kept pretty narrow there.
Today, let’s look a bit more in depth. The action phase is a sequence of Action Rounds, with players (Sparta first) taking turns executing all of the following steps before passing to the opponent:
1) Deployment Resolution
2) Action Card play (or discard)
3) Deployment (for Raid and/or Battle) and/or Demobilisation
This continues until both players have exhausted their hands.
Whew, that was a lot. Now to go deeper.
During deployment resolution, deployments of hoplites and/or triremes initiated during the previous Action round of the phasing player are resolved. As such, this step will not occur during each player’s first Action rounds of the turn (and additionally, there is a deployment resolution step during the Olympic Games phase to resolve deployments made in a player’s final Action Round of the turn).
Deployment resolution goes as follows: A Raid marker is placed on the city space containing the hoplite or trireme, the phasing player gains 1 Talent, and then has to take a decision: either the hoplite or trireme goes home, or it remains to siege the space (in this case, a trireme is replaced with a hoplite).
Note: as mentioned earlier, a Raid marker is used to temporarily remove control over a city space. Once placed, it will remain in play until the Rebuilding step of the next turn, too late for the space to count for control over its region. For more permanent removal of control, a Siege should be used (either unprosecuted simply to deny control over the space, or prosecuted in order to gain control over the space yourself).
During action card play, the phasing player selects one card from hand and executes its text, removing it from the game if the text calls for it, otherwise placing it in the Action Card discard. Alternatively, they may spend two favour in order to discard the card instead (not executing its text, but also not removing it from the game).
Note: certain cards only help a single player. If you as Spartan player hold a card that only aids the Athens player, you might want to use favour to prevent its text from occurring.
This step is mandatory, but this does not mean you do not get an Action Round if you are holding no cards. Action rounds continue until neither player has cards remaining, and the player who first runs out of cards continues taking action rounds (skipping the action card play step but having the option to take any of the other steps).
During deployment, the phasing player may deploy hoplites and/or triremes mobilised during the previous Action round of the phasing player. Any hoplite or trireme not deployed is demobilised (wasting the resources spent to mobilise it) - use it or lose it. Hoplites and/or triremes can be mobilised for Raid or Battle. A Raid deployment is to a neutral or hostile city space, while a Battle deployment is to a city space containing an opposing hoplite or trireme of the same type. Battle deployments can be made without any kind of pathing (and any Battle deployment which has no path is a mere sortie by the locals), Raid deployments of triremes are limited to harbour spaces, while Raid deployments of hoplites need a path of friendly or neutral spaces from a homebase (a capital, megapolis, colony, or sieging hoplite) to the target space.
During mobilisation, the phasing player may mobilise available hoplites and/or triremes (i.e. those not yet deployed to the map) by paying three Talents and selecting an available leader to become its commander. Leaders begin the turn available, and become spent at the end of a deployment.
During the siege step, any ongoing siege (i.e. any hoplite on the map, in an enemy space, present with a raid marker) may be prosecuted once, by rolling one (or more, if any modifiers apply) custom die and removing one opposing influence for each success rolled.
Finally, during the battle step, any battle between hoplites or triremes initiated this deployment phase is resolved (for more on the combat system, see a future blog post), in the order chosen by the phasing player. Generally at the end of battle, both participating sides end their deployment (with the sole exception of sieges, which are only ended if the besieging side lost the battle).
After all battles of the round are resolved, it is time for the opponent to take their next Action Round.
Join me next time when we will discuss the Olympic Games!
In Action Round X, Sparta mobilises a hoplite by spending 3 Talents and moving an available leader to its command box. During the next Spartan Action Round (let's call it X+1), this mobilised hoplite must either be deployed (on a raid or a battle), or be demobilised. If deployed for a battle, it is still resolved this Action Round. If deployed for a raid, it will be resolved during the next Spartan Action Round (X+2). As you can see, it is really important to think ahead!
Sat Aug 13, 2022 10:36 am
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Sparta! As Turns Go By
12 Aug 2022
As turns go by
This time, I will spend some time talking about the Turn Sequence in Sparta!
A turn in Sparta! is composed of the following elements:
2) Hoplite Reset (skipped on turn 1)
Shipbuilding (skipped on turn 1)
Recruitment (skipped on turn 1)
Rebuilding (skipped on turn 1)
3) Deal Action Cards
4) Action Phase
5) Olympic Games phase
The first section of each turn is called Assessment. During this phase, players check control over Regions and Allies, gaining the rewards of the ones they control. Whatever happens afterwards during the turn with those regions and allies, you “locked in” the reward until the next turn’s assessment.
Immediately after assessment a couple of different steps follow which almost all have to do with battle readiness:
During hoplite reset, each player resets their current hoplite strength to its new value (we will talk more about this topic during the blog post about the combat system).
Historical note: it was fairly easy to mobilise new armies even after devastating military defeats, as strength in the field was more correlated to the means of supplying the armies than to raw manpower.
During shipbuilding, each player increases their navy strength. Contrary to hoplites, ships cost time and (a lot of) money to build, and thus Shipbuilding follows different (and more restricting) rules.
The combat system depends on military assets to augment the basic Hoplite Phalanx, and these assets tend to be lost to attrition during battles. During the recruitment phase these assets can be rebuilt, but only by the player currently controlling the region or ally the asset belongs to.
Finally, during rebuilding all Raid markers (except those with a sieging hoplite) are removed from city spaces.
Placing Raid markers is one of the ways to use military resources in order to gain control over a region, or to take away the opponent’s control over a region. While besieging a space gives you permanent control over that space, simply raiding it is far less expensive, at the cost of also being far less permanent, as it only takes away the opponent's control over the space for a single turn).
During the Deal Action Cards phase, both players receive six cards from the Action Deck.
During the Action phase, players take turns playing Action cards and performing military actions such as mobilising and deploying hoplites and triremes to raid and/or besiege enemy spaces, or initiating and resolving battles against enemy military expeditions. More on the Action phase and its several steps in the following blog post.
Finally, in the Olympic Games phase, a bit of final bookkeeping occurs (ensuring the board is ready for the next turn’s assessment) and the Olympic Games are executed, after which the turn marker is advanced, with new leaders entering the game and old leaders being refreshed for the next turn’s actions and deployments or, if it is the final turn, the victorious player is determined.
Fri Aug 12, 2022 8:00 am
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Sparta! Location, location, location
11 Aug 2022
Location, location, location
In my previous blog post I talked about a lot of things that Sparta! Struggle for Greece is not. Today, on the other hand, I want to discuss the core mechanics of Sparta. In later blog posts I plan to go into deeper detail of all these topics; today is for a broad strokes approach.
At its heart, Sparta! is an area-control game. The map is divided in eleven regions (each composed of multiple city spaces, ranging from three to seven) and an additional five ally spaces (representing Greek and non-Greek kingdoms or alliances whose territory was never a target of operations).
Players have both political and military methods of taking control over such spaces. Using Action cards (of which each player receives six per turn), they can place influence in a space (whether a city space or an ally space). Using military action by mobilising Hoplite land or Trireme naval forces (at the cost of Talents), city spaces can be besieged in order to change control. It is up to the players to determine whether a particular space is more open to diplomacy via Action Cards or should be conquered via the expenditure of Talents in a military endeavour. In a further blog post I will go into deeper detail about gaining (and losing) control over spaces and regions.
At the beginning of each turn (and only then!) control over regions is assessed (based on control of the city spaces within the region), and rewards for control are given to the controlling player (if any). These rewards can be Talents (for military operations), diplomatic Favour (for improving the effect of certain Action Card events), or military Assets (such as Thracian Skirmishers, Boeotian Elite Hoplites, Corinthian Trireme Fleets) to improve the odds in combat.
However, regional control is not only needed to receive resources to aid your Struggle for Greece! It is also the victory condition of the game. At the end of the sixth and final turn of your scenario (both the Peloponnesian War and the Theban War scenarios last six turns), regional control is once again assessed and the player ahead in regional control count at that point wins the game!
Join me next time when I will go a bit more in detail on the turn sequence.
Thu Aug 11, 2022 7:03 am
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Sparta! The Paths not Taken
10 Aug 2022
Welcome to my latest blog, on the design of SPARTA!: Struggle for Greece. I will try to give some information here prior to the launching of the Sparta! kickstarter.
The Paths not Taken
When I first started to design Europe in Turmoil back in 2015, my first idea was to make a game on the Peloponnesian War. It was only after encountering some early design issues (mostly due to my relative inexperience in board game design at that time) that I focused on the Belle Époque as theme for that game.
While I knew for that first design that I wanted to make a game based on the Twilight Struggle mechanics but with its own theme, theme-inspired rules and of course cards and board, I did not find a way at that time to incorporate the obvious military activities that occurred during the Peloponnesian War into that framework.
If we now go forward to 2021, we come to the point in time where I decided I wanted to revisit that early Peloponnesian War design and do it justice. As this blog post is called The Paths not Taken, what we are going to talk about today is what Sparta! Struggle for Greece is not. Future blog posts will obviously talk about what the game is, and how we got there, but I wanted to begin this first post with what the game isn’t, and why not.
As I said, the core of my initial idea was to make a game in the Twilight Struggle series. Where Europe in Turmoil uses similar mechanics to TS (or, more appropriately, its descendant 1989) but took the Wargames card and made that the centre of the design (in EiT’s Crisis and Great War mechanics), The Peloponnesian War took the TS mechanics but focused on Coups and Support Checks. It was a typical two-player PolSim, with enemy events etc, but with the distinction that once a space was controlled by either player, the only way to still interact with that space was to invade. Next to the general concept of Influence Point placement, there were mechanics for deploying armies, performing sieges (based on the amount of adjacent friendly and hostile spaces), raids etc. Greece was even divided in Scoring Regions, with Scoring cards divided over the three decks of the Archidamian War, Peace of Nicias, and Ionian War. However, both this version and its direct descendant (which was already somewhat removed from the Twilight Struggle mechanics, as Scoring Regions, Scoring Cards and VP were removed) struggled with one major problem - how to prevent a player from using all their resources towards either diplomacy or warfare? This period of time typically had statesmen working both as diplomats and generals, and each year saw political and military endeavours. In these early versions, focusing on one theatre (politics or military) was too often just “better” than spreading your efforts over both. Rather than tweak this further, I decided to abandon the typical CDG system of Events and OPs.
Sparta! Is a CDG, but not a typical one.
What it is then, we will see in a future blog post.
However, before I end this post, one more thing Sparta isn’t.
Sparta was going to use a tweaked version of the Hannibal: Rome vs Carthage battle card deck. Players would alternate playing, matching or failing to match Hoplite Battle Cards such as (in various iterations) Paean Chant, Spartiate Right Flank, Allied Left Flank, Deep Phalanx, Cretan Archers, Macedonian Skirmishers and the always treacherous Faltering Line. The major change compared with the Hannibal system was the fact that players had multiple morale points, which meant you could fail to match several times and still win a battle. Countless hours were spent testing these systems, changing them and testing again, until I eventually decided to abandon it. Sparta! will have an original battle system, still (as in the previous versions) based mostly on activity performed outside of the battlefield (gaining military assets through cardplay etc), but no longer based on the Hannibal combat system.
When I first talked to Stuart Tonge, the developer and publisher, about this game, I described it as Twilight Struggle meets Hannibal. It is now neither, but vastly superior to the original pitched idea.
Wed Aug 10, 2022 10:19 am
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