David Dockter
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Background: A second bite of the apple




Some love in this one

I've always significant interest in the 415 B.C. Athenian expedition to Sicily: what a great story! One we've seen before and since: great power goes to open a can of whoop arse in far off lands for this or that reason and, then, the mission ends in a total debacle. On the topic, I recently completed The Peace of Nicias and the Sicilian Expedition by D.Kagan : thumbs up for anyone interested in the topic.



I few years ago, I discovered this game, Syracuse, that models the ill fated Sicilian adventure. I read through the few comments/ratings/whatnot and examined the components here on BGG. My conclusion was that this game looks interesting; the designer has shown the topic/conflict some love. He hasn't "just mail'd it in". He has produced an integrated land/sea mil/logistics game that fits this particular conflict. For example, I love the logistics component of conflicts, almost as much as the political dimension. VERY, VERY few games have decent logistical mechanics: usually something very superficial. Not this one; there is a pretty cool dynamic related to supply, building the walls, etc. And, supply, as in any conflict, is critical to understanding the operational choices - so I was intrigued. Anyways...

J. R. Tracy
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I had trouble securing a copy, whined about my misfortune and my good gaming mate JR sent the game as a present (any of you that have the good fortune to know JR, know what a great guy he is). I got the game on the table and tried to solitaire it: I just didn't grok it. Tthe rules were just a little to dense for me to internalize quickly. Yes, the original rules are in french, but, it just didn't click. It happens that good games with depth doesn't always surrender quickly the path to gaming bliss.

I wrote an AAR about my twirl with this one: A WAil...A Misfire...and a Lament or Two:..Syracuse: August 2, 2015

I won't rehash the experience, suffice to say although the game didn't grab me, I was still somewhat smitten. I even made a playaid for fellow pilgrims:


Note: We discover one error: it costs a movement point to enter a zone from a lower zone.

Fast forward to Super Bowl weekend in NYC. My good mate Mark Herman and I were deciding what to play on a beautiful winter afternoon. We discussed War of Tanks: France 1940 – The Breakthrough at Dinant - which Mark had just reviewed (Punching Above Its Weight...which then cost me almost $100 to get a damm copy due to Mark's endorsement).



However, this topic also sprang to mind as we, First Minnesota Historical Wargame Society , have been assisting Mark with Pericles: The Peloponnesian Wars - which should be out VERY soon. I suggested this title. Mr.H also is intrigued by this game (he had solo'd it, but hadn't played an opponent) and quickly agreed.

Mark did inform me, "We'll have company: Good Dog BOB* - who is our most esteemed visitor" (I think Mark and wife actually got stuck with temporary kennel duty for one of their kids' pets) Not many dogs get a schooling in the Sicilian Expedition - or show any real interest in the topic. However, we appear to have found one four legged hound that had a Peloponnesian bent. Rare. Of course, I jumped at the chance - as did Good Dog BOB (pictured below).

Note: * = Actually he is BOB, a good boy. But, BOB earned a promotion by becoming a wargamer Padewan.


Introducing Good Dog BOB


Setting up

Turn 1: Opening moves: Syracuse makes a speed bump...and Athens flattens it


First Athenian initiative die roll: high is good

So, the game begins with an initiative die roll. High is good. I rolled boxcars snake eyes. Divide by 2 and that's your activation points: ONE frickin point in my case. Herman commented, "Nice start, Athenian". The Syracuse commander (with 3 pts of juice) decided to seize the Olympieion fort. Afterwards, we debated whether this was a good move: pro's (slowing down the Athenian machine) and con's (tossing away troops). In this case, the Athenian attack on the fort was draw. Luckily for Athens, the Syracusian troops starved out during the attrition phase. So, turn ended with Syracuse slightly weakened in terms of strength, with no apparent compensating gain in position.


End of Turn 1

Turn 2: Alcibiades recalled! Dirty dealing Syracuse commander suspected.


Alcibiades

Turn 2 opened with Herman tossing a nasty event on Athens: the recall of Alcibiades. Each turn, players draw two chits (basically "cards") that give them special powers or pimp the enemy in some way. Athens this turn gained 3 activation pts (Syracuse gained 4) and used it to rush into zones 14, 17 and 19. Athens was also able to construct its first fort by rolling high during the construction phase (each side generates construction points thru die rolling {modified for this and that}). The turn ended with Athens seemingly on a decent time table to have a good shot at prevailing in this conflict.


Duplicitous Syracusian commander institutes a successful plot to recall Alcibiades: note the smile.


End of Turn 2

Turn 3: Attack on the Athenian Camp



Athens once again boof'd the init die roll; gaining only 2 pts vs Syracuse's 3. Athens again moved in force to zone 14. Syracuse took the opportunity to pounce on a weakened Athenian camp. Luckily, for Athens the attack failed. Both sides were able to build their first portion of their walls. A couple of comments:

1) It is a race to build walls: Athens trying to cut off Syracuse's supply line and Syracuse trying to keep it open. So, speed REALLY matters.

2) Forts are DAMM important since they allow a side to remain in an area and not need to regroup out of it to places too far from the front to impact the action.


End of Turn 3

Turn 4: The Race to complete the walls



The chaos gods again smiled upon Syracuse by bestowing 4 activation points vs Athens 2 pts. Both sides completed their second sections of their walls. Additionally, Athens completed the fort at Syke.


End of Turn 4

Turn 5: Disease! Fort Syke falls! Noose Tightens Around Syracuse.


Turn 5: THE BATTLE FOR THE WALLS!


Sensing a turning point, Good Dog Bob gets quite interested in the game

The turn began with both sides granted 2 activation points. Commander Herman utilized a plague event to reduce two Athenian units and incapacitate a leader for the turn. The turn represented a real operational dance:

1) Athens went into Zone 7 in an attempt to cut off Syracuse from the critical section of the walls

2) Syracuse responded by assaulting Zone 7. In a close battle, Syracuse prevailed, but Athens retreated to Zone 6 - subsequently further pressuring Syracuse's precarious position.

3) Syracuse then attacked the critical Athenian fort at Syke. Syracuse stormed the bastion and killed the Athenians to the last brave man.

4) While losing the fort, Athens completed its third section of the wall. The impact? Syracuse now would have only a few turns to bust the wall. If not, she would starve and lose the game.


Mark's wife (black boots) looks on...and Good Dog BOB is increasingly agitated by the action in Sicily...

At that point, Commander Herman's wife stopped by and commented, "Historically, this does not end well for Athens". The Athenian commander responded, "Yes, but Herman was not leading the Syracuse forces back then". The Syracuse Commander then began to study the map quite intensely...the end game was near.


...and the Syracusian commander looking quite concerned (and no longer smiling!)


End of Turn 5: note the ridiculous rainbow colored Syracuse wall vs the manly royal blue Athenian wall!

Turn 6: More Disease! Walls Destroyed! Good Dog BOB needs to be taken outside...NOW!

Turn 6 witnessed a number of battles; both at land and sea (note: we pretty much ignored the naval aspect as we were both busy learning the game and noting land operational dynamics). When the dust cleared, Syracuse was able to destroy a portion of the Athenian wall. Athens returned the favor. It looked like we were going to have a hell of an end game...

...however, Good DoG BOB looked like he needed a trip outside...and we were pressed for time at the end of the day...so we decided this would be a good place to end it. We leased up Good Dog BOB and agreed to quickly get this game back on the table soon.


End of Turn 6...wall section destroyed

Wrap up: Big paws up!

So, what did we like about this game?

1) Meaty operational choices for each player

2) Tense

3) Events work well and create needed uncertainty

4) The CRT works well enough: it generates a WIDE range of outcomes - something about it I don't really like, but, it works

5) The game packs a punch in a small footprint: about 3 hours to play, a small/functional 11 x 17 map, a few counters, some interesting dynamics like (ex: the supply mechanic) and some beloved chrome.

6) It "jones'd us": we were pumped to play again...soon!

If you have any interest in this great historical campaign, this game is a strong choice regarding that subject and will provide its players with some insight into the conflict that we can't get from any other content (one of the reasons we push cardboard/play war games). Hell, it even taught Good Dog BOB a few tricks. Hats off to the designer.

=========



Other 1st MN/Sawatdee/Herr Dr AARs: 1st MN/Sawatdee/Herr Dr Session Reports
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Wendell
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Si non potes reperire Berolini in tabula, ludens essetis non WIF.
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Hey, get your stinking cursor off my face! I got nukes, you know.
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Re: A 2nd Bite of thee Syracuse Apple: 1st MN, Herman and Good Dog BOB Approves!
Never heard of this, but it sounds pretty interesting...
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Nik Knight
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Re: A 2nd Bite of thee Syracuse Apple: 1st MN, Herman and Good Dog BOB Approves!
Herr Dr.,

Great AAR. I would mind if you created a list of books that went with the games you play.

whistle
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David Dockter
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Re: A 2nd Bite of thee Syracuse Apple: 1st MN, Herman and Good Dog BOB Approves!
Cool idea. There is a list with books paired with games. I'll post here next time it pops up.
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epa minondas
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Now, you can try the two other games in the serie :
- Amphipolis : https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/165909/amphipolis-424422...
- Sphacterie : https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/85899/sphacterie-425-av-...
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David Dockter
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Thank you for the tip. Now, I have to find a copy of each.
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Mark Herman
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Herr Dr wrote:
Thank you for the tip. Now, I have to find a copy of each.
I have both of them.
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Eric Walters
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Chesterfield
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Always look forward to your postings about games you are playing, whether one-on-one or as part of your 1st Minnesota events. This one is one of the best. Not only for the usual humor, but also because this well illustrated how the game works and the elements of fun and suspense. Your posting was also something of a revelation to me as I was not aware of this particular title and its Vae Victis brethren on the Peloponnesian War!

Thank you for the very fine education as well as entertainment!
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David Dockter
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Thank you Mr.Walters; you made my Wednesday.

MarkHerman wrote:
Herr Dr wrote:
Thank you for the tip. Now, I have to find a copy of each.
I have both of them.
Cool...too many damm games to play! Reading the rules to War of Tanks: France 1940 – The Breakthrough at Dinant ...that's up next, Mr.H.
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Gordon J
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Is this a magazine game?

Also, the game looks like it's an area impulse system. Is it? Or is it just you-go...I-go....
 
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David Dockter
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Vae Victis magazine. French. Our game lair, The Source Comics and Games, carries them Gordo - they are on a rack somewhere.

Area...roll to generate activation points (2D6..divide by 2...round down...activate an area...if a big stud leader {each side has one I think} cost is 0, area with a leader cost is 1, area without leader cost is 2)...take turns spending them.
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Frédéric Bey
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Thanks for the game report and for your comments!

I really appreciate...

Frédéric BEY (The Designer)
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Mark Herman
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Frédéric Bey wrote:
Thanks for the game report and for your comments!

I really appreciate...

Frédéric BEY (The Designer)
hi Frederic

We had a great time.
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David Dockter
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thud13x wrote:
Herr Dr.,

Great AAR. I would mind if you created a list of books that went with the games you play.

whistle
Here is the list I was trying to recall: Wargames and books
 
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Bob Titran
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David, damn you, you're costing me money. . .
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David Dockter
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Bob Titran wrote:
David, damn you, you're costing me money. . .
That is EXACTLY what happens to me when I read some AARs/reviews on BGG (My recent $100 spend on War of Tanks: France 1940 – The Breakthrough at Dinant).

The worst are the very well done thumbs down endorsements..."Although this is a very good war game, this game is not for me...". One I remember in particular was for 1914: Twilight in the East . God bless BGG.
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Ryan Powers
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Herr Dr wrote:
I rolled boxcars. Divide by 2 and that's your activation points: ONE frickin point in my case.
Am I missing something? Or did you not mean boxcars?
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David Dockter
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ha! Good catch...should be snake eyes...I will correct.
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An enjoyable session report, as always Herr Doktor. It's so cool that you game with Mr Herman cool I'm giving this a whirl tonight solo.....however, it does not solo so well.

I studied ancient history at university, which is why I like this game. Sicily was basically Athens' 'Stalingrad': they lost about 12,000 men out of a population of about 30-40,000. I recall doing a project on a certain type of white painted vase that came 'into vogue' at Athens in the aftermath of this campaign. They were used as funerary gifts for the fallen, and were all painted with vivid images of mothers wailing and the ghosts of the dead young men standing over their own tombs. The vases sold in their thousands given the casualties, and they brought home the reality of the campaign.

Kagan is one of the authorities on ancient Athens, and Thucydides' account remains good reading as well (Book 12?). Alcibiades' demagoguery also gave Plato plenty of fuel for demonising democracy's scope for manipulative populism.

However, had Athens won and gained Sicily, what would have become of the little town of Rome? Maybe Athens would have gone on to become the master of the eastern Mediterranean? What sort of governor would have tried Christ, and what method of punishment would Athens have used for the job? Probably not the crucifix.
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David Dockter
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...and Good Dog BOB!
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