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Subject: Martin Wallace' Perikles - first impressions rss

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john davidson
Scotland
Edinburgh
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This was our first play session of Martin Wallace newest game - Perikles.
I'd read the rules the night before (tho as we'll see not understood them in all cases) but this was the first chance for the four of us to actually play.


The game is organised into three turns and within those into two main phases.

In the first phase the players select influence tiles with the intention of winning control over one or more of the six Greek cities (Thebes, Athens, Corinth, Megara, Argos and Sparta).
There are two benefits to winning control of the city. The first and foremost is that you then get control of that cities army to use in the second phase. The second reason is because controlling a city earns Victory Points - although the number of VPs does vary between cities and is also downgraded each time that city suffers a defeat in battle.

In the second phase, the players send armies to attack and defend the various locations which can be fought over in this turn. Whoever wins the combat in the various locations gets the victory points listed on the tile.

During the setting up phase, laying out the board and divvying up the playing pieces, I explained the game mechanics to my three friends (for brevity I’ll call them R, D and A).
With 2 influence blocks on each city we then drew influence tiles in turn. As experience gamers, everyone seemed to cotton on to the idea fairly quickly; gain as much influence as you can in the cities you want to control and propose weak candidates against your own hopefuls. Obviously there was a bit of pondering and blundering going as the guys and I tried to work out which cities we wanted.
A ended up with Sparta and Athens. I had Argos, D had Thebes & Corinth and poor old R only had Megara (the smallest city)
The placing of armies in the various locations is a very tactical part of the game and is controlled to a degree by the choice of influence tile sin the earlier phase.
Although A had a high number of two shard tiles (and hence was able to place more units for free), this also meant that A had the disadvantage of placing all his armies while R had three tiles left to place his free armies with.
At this point we were unsure about how influence tokens in the home cities were used – and perhaps still didn’t get it quite right. In the first turn what we did was to allow the players (after all tiles were spent) to supplement any armies that had already been placed with reinforcements bought by influence blocks from the armies home city.
In subsequent turns we allowed this to happen as and when a ‘shard bearing’ influence tile was activated – this seemed to fit in more with the flow of play.
After the armies were all placed we proceeded to resolve the battles.
Although it looks somewhat awkward in the rule-book, in practice the combat mechanism is reasonably straightforward: the number of troops on each side is counted, a table is referenced and dice are rolled.
There are four wooden tokens which represent combat wins. When you have won two of them you’ve won that round – in cases of a tie the dice rolling continues until only one of the sides is successful (both side roll at the same time).
There are normally two combat rounds and the winner of the first has an advantage in the second. Sometimes fleets fight first and give an advantage to the ‘real’ battle by the hoplites. On other occasions the hoplites fight first.
The winner of the first combat round holds on to one of the victory tokens and so has a strong advantage in the next round ( they only need to roll a success on the dice once before their opponent does so twice). On rare occasions there is only one combat round but this info is clearly marked on the location tiles so it is easy to follow once you know what you are looking for.

The end result of this first set of combats was a near disaster for Athens which lost all 3 of the locations it controlled. Given that a fourth Athenian loss would end the game it seemed entirely possible that it would all be over at the end of the second turn.
D (having been the main victor in battle) was sitting with 10 VPs worth of location tiles.
As the other source of VPs are counted at the end of the game (for having been the leader of a city) the prize of Athens was no longer so attractive – each leader would at best score 1 VP and most likely none at all.

At this point we made our second blunder and accidentally cleared away all of the remaining influence blocks from the cities rather than leaving them to ‘seed’ the next turn. We agreed to set them all back to two (except for cities which we had controlled which got 0 ).
However, from turn 2 onwards we seemed to follow the rules without a hitch.

Miraculously Athens did not lose any battles in turn 2 despite having two location tiles to defend and so the game proceeded to a third turn (by which time Sparta was under some pressure also with 2 defeats).
The end result (not that it counts for much under the circumstances) was very close indeed: - Me 45, D 44, R 43 and A 36, though D could easily have taken Corinth in the last influence/election phase if he’d been paying attention (winning 9 VPs and a decent army) but instead took Megara (3 VPs and a duff army).

It was, we all agreed, a very balanced game with a subtle blend of tactical and strategic actions but with enough luck (particularly in the combat phase) to stop it from being too heavyweight for our liking.
The ubiquitous wooden blocks make their appearance, the quality of the card used for the tokens was pretty high and everything has a nicely substantial feel about it. The board is sturdy and folds away quite neatly but in typical Wallace style is functional rather than imbued with outstanding visual appeal. There's nothing specific one could criticise about it (map of Greece in the background plus areas marked out for influence and location tiles to be placed on) but the fact that the locations are just names on a card that appear in a 'block' rather than placed (for example) on the right geographical spot on the board makes the mechanics and the theme seem less 'joined up'.

On the whole though, Perikles offers yet more proof that Martin Wallace games are the best fit for my gaming buddies tastes – blending as they do the subtleties and strategies of a Eurogame with combat and dice elements of a more conventional board based Wargame.
Long may he continue.
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Svein Main
Norway
Joerpeland
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Can you, or anyone else say something about the playingtime of Perikles. How long time do you use from the start of the game, to the finish???

Hope for an answer!
 
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john davidson
Scotland
Edinburgh
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It took nearly 3 hours - that was with 4 brand new players.
I'm guessing that the amount of time looking up rules and then playing will be replaced by 'thinking time' when we next play.

That was a comfortable amount of time including bar trips and smoking breaks for those who needed them so I guess a more dedicated troupe could play the game in a shorter time frame.
Also, it could have been over 45 minutes earlier if the Athenians had lost that 4th battle in Turn 2.
 
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Curt Carpenter
United States
Kirkland
Washington
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I think it will settle in at 2 hours. Note that it doesn't really scale with # of players (at least between 4 and 5) since the # of influence tiles taken/played is the same.
 
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