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Hellenes: Campaigns of the Peloponnesian War» Forums » General

Subject: My first impressions of Hellenes rss

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Gunnar Skötkonung
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As a fan of ancient history in general and the Greek world in particular, this game has been on my radar for some time. I'm primarily a miniatures wargamer, with a substantial collection of 6mm Greeks, and have played battles of the Peloponnesian war using a range of different rulesets: Hail Caesar, To the Strongest, Sword & Spear, CCA, etc.



As I'm now delving deeper into the world of board games and the strategic vistas they offer, it was only natural for me to eventually acquire Hellenes. My first impressions: a solid game, with some interesting mechanics but also a couple of drawbacks.

The core mechanics are intuitive and flow nice and easy, with a "light" card driven system and some flexibility when it comes to overall strategy. There's also plenty of period feel and details, and some nice touches like sacrifice to the Olympians giving the opportunity for re-rolls of various kinds.

It can be a bit slow at times, but I think you need to approach this game from the angle of what it sets out to portray; the Peloponnesian war was a drawn-out war of attrition where sieges, blockades, pillaging, economy and politics were more important factors than actual battles. And Hellenes does have a lot of sieges, blockades and pillaging (not too much economy or politics though, which is a bit of a shame). It's obviously not a simulation of the Peloponnesian war, but it is accurate enough when it comes to the factions' abilities and the way campaigning functioned.

The rule book is short and concise - perhaps a bit too concise actually. You'll have to read it carefully, as some details and nuances are well hidden and the index is woefully incomplete. The player aid (only one included) also lacks stuff like combat mechanics, which is not good. Sure, combat is not that complex once you've done it a couple of times, but then again a player aid is supposed to aid new players, not make them leaf through the rule book looking for the correct numbers.

Speaking of which, the combat system actually works fine. It' s nothing amazingly exciting about it but it does the job and keeps the pace of the game nice and snappy without getting bogged down in too much detail. My opponent voiced the opinion that routing is potentially too powerful, but then again that was how most battles turned out in ancient times; the fight went on until one side had had enough and ran away, which was sometimes quite early on (sometimes even before any blows were struck). Only very rarely was it a case of last man standing.

A few words on the components: this is actually were the game disappoints. To begin with, the map is not mounted. Not a big issue but it does detract from the general impression when you open the box. Also, while the map has a nice layout it is a bit too dark and lacks interesting details or artwork. Even though terrain doesn't affect the game at all it would have been nice with some artistic renditions just for the sake of aesthetics.

Then we have the blocks. While they provide a fog of war element, they're also way too big and clumsy for the map's tiny spaces - it's hard to keep track of your troops when there are more than four or five units in a space and they're not easy to handle en masse in the heavily congested areas of central Greece. In the heat of battle it's easy to accidentally tip them over, which can result in some pretty nasty mix-ups.

The cards are nice enough, but perhaps a bit lacking in personality. Again, it's these small details that add or detract from the overall impression and feel of a game.

But all in all I think Hellenes is a good rendition of a war that I personally find very interesting and that I always come back to in various ways. The game has a pretty broad scope and doesn't bother too much with the minutiae of warfare, which could be both good or bad depending on what you're after. For me it's mostly good, as I'll probably use this as a campaign map for miniature battles and thus won't need too much detail when it comes to general strategy. But if you want a historically correct strategy game that takes into account the several intertwined parameters of ancient warfare in an in-depth fashion, you'd better look elsewhere.

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Jimmy Shaftoe
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I`m playing this on Saturday...very much looking forward to it.
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Lawrence Hung
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Wan Chai
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Interesting to see that the Athenians should be defensive on the mainland while ravaging the coasts and islands to suppress rising revolts due to economic urge. The designer see it a war of "Prestige". I find such an angle refreshing and it works well with both military and economic aspects of the campaign. Taxation increases Athenian operation points. The political side is a bit weak in this game in my opinion as the leaders are replaced by card play. Some naval movement and combat rules and some wintering movement rules are quite hard to absorb in the first place but they can be "worked" out eventually with patience and repeated plays.
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Gunnar Skötkonung
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Lawrence Hung wrote:
Interesting to see that the Athenians should be defensive on the mainland while ravaging the coasts and islands to suppress rising revolts due to economic urge. The designer see it a war of "Prestige". I find such an angle refreshing and it works well with both military and economic aspects of the campaign. Taxation increases Athenian operation points. The political side is a bit weak in this game in my opinion as the leaders are replaced by card play. Some naval movement and combat rules and some wintering movement rules are quite hard to absorb in the first place but they can be "worked" out eventually with patience and repeated plays.


Yeah, the wintering rules are the trickiest part, no doubt.

As for the political side of things, the game is indeed lacking interesting choices. Which is a real shame, as politics played a huge part in this drawn-out conflict and I think that there could easily have been room for some more political moves in the rules, without adding too much detail.
 
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