David Dockter
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Playing Pericles on the BIG BOARD

Background

Been awhile since I binged a new game. Played Pericles in late October/early November. A couple of four player games. AARs here: Pericles on a Crappy Rainy Day in NYC: Fab 4 Dimensional Op Strategic Game: 1st Mn and NYC Hooligans Refight Peloponnesian War and Athens Avenged! NOV 3 2018. A Pericles Rematch Between an Assortment of NYC Hooligans and one 1st MNer

As I indicated on two earlier AARs, I helped play test this title. For some reason, Pericles remained quite opaque to me: just couldn't get my head around it. However, play at WBC this summer got me over the hump. It has been well worth the investment of brain cells. Really digging it now.

After our first of two NYC Hooligan/1st MN games, Herman and I had a drink. I indicated that it would be cool if there was a 2P version for two reasons:

1) Make it less opaque for the average punter: It might help fellow pilgrims like me to break thru the fog by allowing players to jump into the operational phase

2) Build the pool: Make it easier to develop a pool of 4P Pericles players if there was a fun 2P version where players could get the hang of Herman's innovative and impressive game engine driving Pericles.

Mark indicated there was a 2P version, but, if I had the bug, I should design another variant. I've covered Pericles - what it is, how it works, where it fits within our pantheon of wargames - in the first of the three AARs I knocked out two weeks ago. Consequently, if you are unfamiliar with Pericles, check out the first in my series of AARs covering the game.

Over a beer, (a Stela and decent cider), Herman and I tossed around a few ideas:


Sill at the top of my favorite op strategic wargame hog pile

1) Strategos generation: Some alternative way to generate strategos and issues for the operational phase...but not lose the fantastic game mechanic that operates off the core principle that internal political instability creates a tremendous cost for a side waging war. Herman's Pericles political phase mechanic deserves a place on this list: Most Brilliant Single Piece of Game Design Ever . I ended up tying strategos generation to a simple model using bases, granaries and intrinsic home city state value: a simple rift on my favorite wargame: Empires in Arms


A sampling of the Mano a Mano special units

2) Add some tabasco: Add a few special units to provide a little more flavor & a little more variability for combat. Wargame dudes and dudettes love their special units: Wargames with Odd or Special Units


The Draw of the Unitatum Specialium

3) More Options: A few more options for a few of the issues to generate a little more operational flexibility...and ways to stick it to your opponent. devil

4) Thumbnail variant: No more than two pages. The game is a keeper; I did not want to in any way mess with its core machine.

After developing this two player variant, Herman recommended submitting to C3i. I named it: Mano a Mano: A Two Player Pericles Variant. Hopefully, it will appear in an issue in the spring. After making the few special unit counters, we scheduled a play.



Regarding this particular AAR, I asked Mark Herman to add his comments. I always enjoyed those articles in The General , The Avalon Hill Game Co where two players would comment on their match. For the wargame grasshoppers out there, The General was a fantastic trade rag that helped make the First Golden Age of Wargaming. You can download back copies on a number of places on the web.

On to the session...

Turn 1: Early Athenian Naval Disaster

Issues phase began with the Aristophanes (event) card generating a Will of the Assembly (WoA) in Ionia for both Sparta and Athens. Alcibiades was sent to Persia. One of the variant rules is whenever there is WoA, players card flip (high value wins) for a special unit (hidden until played). There are a number of special units, Unitatum Specialium, that players should really get a kick of. Some added spice. Sparta received the Peltasts; when committed to battle removes an enemy naval or land unit.

Athens ended up with 8 issues and Sparta 7. 21 Strategos for each (a function of bases, intrinsic city state value and granaries).


Issues: in Mano a Mano, just flipped cards and randomly generate issues. A few special rules are required: not many


Operations Phase:

Athens was able to easily accomplish the Peace of Calias in Eastern Med.

Ionia turned out to be a non event: Sparta was unable to contest and Athens used a Colony issue to place a base there. The real action was in the west…

Sparta concentrated placing issues on Corinth and Corcyra. While Athens devoted a few to Corcyra and Sicily. Sparta began the action after building up the Corinthian navy. The fleet was able to eliminate the Athenians at Naupactus (assisted by the Special Unit Peltasts. That set the stage for a big blow at Corcyra.

Athens made a operational error by deciding to split their navy: 4 units stayed in Athens to guard against a Spartan gambit to contest Ionia, while 3 sailed to Corcyra. Sparta responded by going all in at Corcyra. Sparta committed significantly more strategos than Athens. When the naval battle began, Sparta had a strength of 17 vs Athens’ 12: the Athenian admiral grew worried. Cards were flipped: Sparta drew a 5 and Athens a 2. While the Corinthian navy was decimated (lost 6 naval units), Athens lost its entire expeditionary force and base. MAJOR DEFEAT! The honor swing was huge: a net 35 favoring Sparta. Sparta also took hostages.

When the dust settled, Sparta had 37 honor vs Athen’s 17. When we examined strategos that would be generated the following turn, both still had a base of 21. The only bright spot for Athens was Sparta’s WoA failure: a cost of 10 honor and 5 strategos (for ensuing turn).

Athens had suffered a severe spanking.

Sparta (Herman's) comments: The 1st Peloponnesian War (Campaign) start is where the ‘sandbox’ has its best chance to shine. The standard for all of the other games on this topic, to include my own Peloponnesian War design, cover the 2nd Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC). By that time three decades later Corcyra (one of the precipitating events for that war is in Athenian hands blocking Sparta (Corinth) access to the west. An early Spartan western strategy has a great deal to recommend it, so in this game I spent several League issues (these build bases or forces) to rapidly expand Corinth’s navy supported by military expeditions (movement of forces or raids) to put land forces (via Aetolia) into Corcyra supported by an attack in the Corinthian Gulf on Naupactus.

What happened next was unexpected, my original intent was to capture Naupactus and send a land expedition to Corcyra to build a base on the Adriatic coast. Then opportunity knocked when I realized that instead of plan A, the Athenian naval force in Corcyra was inferior to my fleet and I decided to abandon Naupactus and seek naval superiority in Corcyra. Then the gods smiled…essentially in this retelling of the story, the Battle of Sybota was won by Corinth (Sparta) instead of Athens.



Turn 1 ends on the BIG BOARD

Turn 2: Rebuild

Aristophanes (event) card cost both sides 4 strategos: Athens thus entered the turn with 17 vs Sparta’s 12…which increased to 15 due to Spartan games. Athens generated 6 issues vs Sparta’s 7.

A quiet turn as neither side had any juice (or forces!) to fight. Both Sparta and Athens built two bases. Additionally, Sparta added a Persian base. Turn ended with Sparta at 45 vs Athens 21 honor. On the strategos front, Sparta would pump out 26 and Athens 24.

Sparta (Herman's) comments:[/size] Not much to add here, my earlier naval victory at Corcyra (think the Battle of Sybota with an alternate ending) had decimated my fleet (naval battles are very bloody), so I had to re-build (League issue) my fleet and prepare for a higher operations tempo in the next turn.


Turn 2 on the BIG BOARD

Turn 3: Corinthians Rout Athenians

Aristophanes generated Peace. Both sides were somewhat political hamstrung and only managed 5 issues each.

Turn began with each side building forces. There were two areas of conflict: Corinth and Sparta. Athens managed to contest Sparta. What effect? In this variant, contested the respective home of each city state costs the owner strategos in the ensuing turn. This, plus eliminating enemy bases places a crimp in the strategos generation for a side. Thus, not only a game of honor, but, economic strangulation. However, Athens success at Sparta was overwhelmed by another debacle at Corinth.

Sparta went all in a Corinth, inflicting a second naval defeat (the shame!) and destroying the Athenian base. The result was another net honor swing of 10 points.

At the end of turn, honor stood at 70 for Sparta vs 31 for Athens. An auto victory occurs if one side triples the honor score of the other. So, Athens goose was close to being cooked. On the strategos front, Athens contesting of Sparta resulted in strategos generation for the next turn of 28 (which actually max’s at 26) vs Spara at 16.

Sparta (Herman's) comments: As David discovered in the Athenian victory at one our play sessions that occurred place two days later on the large Pericles game set, is that contesting the Isthmus of Corinth and Boeotia (Central Greece) against the Spartan army is a high risk strategy. In this game Athens uncharacteristically lost another major naval battle.

The real lesson, which he has now learned is while the Athenian triremes are 2x better than anyone else, you can still lose if there are 3x enemy triremes well supported by a brilliant admiral such as Lysander (9 Strategos).



Turn 3

Turn 4: Fat Lady Sings “Athens”



War again broke out. Sparta got the edge in issues: 7 generated vs 6 for Athens. Sparta snagged another Special Unit: Cowardly Allies. The effect? None…except to produce a “”CRAP!” in the side getting stuffed (a few of the Special Units have no effect). However, since the Special Units are not revealed until played, at least the enemy has to be somewhat cautious given that they don’t know the potential effect of the unit.

The turn began with a few small battles (in order to contest the theaters) at both Athens and Sparta. A highlight of those battles was a VERY successful Spartan strategos bluff in its home theater – negating the significant edge Athens held going into the Operations Phase. The real action occurred at Boeotia: one of the theaters comprising “The Athenian Graveyard”. Despite Athens getting four treacheries into Boeotia, some rather smart Spartan play resulted in Athens being unable to reinforce Boeotia.

When the action ended at Boeotia, Sparta inflicted yet another MAJOR DEFEAT and continued its game long string of battle success. When we counted up honor, Sparta was at 94 vs Athens 31. Triple honor. Game over. Quick and brutal. Spartan victories at Corcyra, Corinth and Boeotia had generated 60 points of the honor gap.

Sparta (Herman's comments): Athens stole a march on me and there was a moment where if he had gone all in, it could have gone either way. What gets forgotten in face to face play is a good poker face is a weapon of war. What happened next reinforced what I tell every Athenian player. If you read the history you will learn what Pericles learned, Central Greece (Boeotia) is where Athenians come to die.

What I find so interesting is even after I told him this (not to mention everyone who has ever played against me in Pericles), David lost the war exactly the way Pericles did (actually Tolimides) with a major defeat in Boeotia and a Spartan army at the gates of the city. Of all of the things I have seen since I released this design is Boeotia draws every Athenian player like a Moth to a flame. Something is working right, probably the power of geography on how the conflict evolved. I also think that most wargamers are more oriented to land warfare with a lesser feel for naval strategy. My fascination with the Pacific war has taught me well.


Wrap Up.



First, my (Athenian) thoughts (then Herman will chime in). Had a blast. Love the two player variant. Lots of strategy. The variant really places emphasis on the two places where Pericles really shines: the poker game of placing issues and operational bluff & maneuver game of resolving those issues. It also dumps both players right into the action. Something else…

Strong Pericles players are going to whip weaker ones. This is good. Play a game of Paths of Glory or For the People against a shark and there is a VERY high possibility you are going to get your hat handed to you. This is good. You learn a strategically demanding game by getting the tar knocked out of oneself. Despite Herman COMPLETELY whipping my arse, I want to play again…soon!

I am quite confident that players will really enjoy Mano a Mano. I haven’t got the bug to really play a game a lot and get good at it for awhile…quite awhile. Got the bug with Pericles.

Sparta (Herman’s) comments: This Two player variant that David has cooked up is great fun and focuses most of the action on Pericles “the wargame”. I think this session took his understanding of military strategy up a couple of notches as Athenian performance during the ensuing Saturday session resulted in victory, although not for David but his Athenian comrade.

In that contest his Demagogue teammate knew exactly when to stick the Political knife in for the kill. As many will learn you need to understand both sides of ancient conflict. To win you need to become Pericles the politician and the Strategos (general) if you are to prevail.

That said, David’s variant is going to get a lot of table time over the next year as its much easier to get one person over than three in this hectic schedule challenged world.



Link to other 1st MN/Sawatdee/Herr Dr AARs: 1st MN/Sawatdee/Herr Dr Session Reports
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Michael Lange
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Herr Dr wrote:

After developing this two player variant, Herman recommended submitting to C3i. I named it: Mano a Mano: A Two Player Pericles Variant. Hopefully, it will appear in an issue in the spring.


At this point then, there is no file or information on how to play this variant until C3i (hopefully) publishes it?
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David Dockter
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Still need to fiddle a little with it. Hopefully will playtest in December. Will keep you posted.
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Michael Lange
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Excellent. I'm sure I'm not the only one interested in giving it a try! Thank you!
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Mark Herman
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michaelangelo wrote:
Excellent. I'm sure I'm not the only one interested in giving it a try! Thank you!


For what it’s worth the published game has two, 2P options and there will be another in this issue of c3i.

Mark
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Jeff Collins
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I am also interested in this 2 player variant.
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Michael Lange
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MarkHerman wrote:
michaelangelo wrote:
Excellent. I'm sure I'm not the only one interested in giving it a try! Thank you!


For what it’s worth the published game has two, 2P options and there will be another in this issue of c3i.

Mark


Perfect. I'm awaiting my copy via UPS Ground and we're anxious to start learning the ropes.
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David Dockter
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Maybe once I get the rules solid (with Herman's guidance), we'll release those. You'll have to wait for the cool bits from c3i is Rodger decides to publish.
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