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Hellenes: Campaigns of the Peloponnesian War» Forums » Sessions

Subject: AAR from playtest of 431 Scenario rss

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Jeff K
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I realize that as of this post there is not a whole lot of information on this game, but I thought that a report from a playtest game might garner some more interest for this title. This game is really shaping up to be a gem. We are finding the gameplay to be quite addictive. Gameplay is fast and tense, not much sitting around here. Plus, scenarios look to range from a couple of hours to maybe 5-6 for the longest. However, even the longest scenario can end pretty quickly, as this one did. I think this game will follow in the grand tradition of relatively quick playing, fast-paced and extremely fun block games that we all know and love, without being "just another block game." There is enough flavor and "theme" to hook you.

For some background: the 431 scenario depicts the time period of the Archidamian war (431-422 BC). Persia did not really play a large part in this war. I would refer you to Craig's synopsis, posted elsewhere, for an overview of how the game runs. There have been some slight changes from that time, notably that there are now 5 campaigning seasons (with summer having two phases, early and late).

This is a pretty dressed down version of events, just the facts. Hopefully, it will show how the game flows. One thing we have found is that the game is wonderfully fluid, not the static affair one might envision for this time period. This is mostly due to the multi-level play of having revolts and political-type events occurring against the backdrop of conflict. Note particularly how difficult siege combat is, even against a lowly garrison unit. Most assaults are repulsed, however waiting them out via attrition was effective (and much more so during winter). Prestige, the VP track, swings between the two contestants, with the level determining Decisive or Marginal victory. As of this writing, Decisive victory occurs automatically at 15 Prestige, while a marginal victory may be attempted at 10 Prestige (not automatic, succeeds on a die roll). Additionally, a draw can be had by playing a "peace" card at 5 Prestige and making a die roll.

Spartans: Jeff
Athens: Bruce

431:
Spring: Athens besieges Thebes and builds units, Sparta besieges Argos and builds.
E. Summer: Athens sets sail to besiege Leucas, and attrition begins to take its toll on Thebes. Sparta pillages in Argos and moves to relieve the siege of Thebes with Boeotians from Phocis. They must retreat after revealing a very large Athenian force in Thebes. No losses, so no prestige awarded. Prestige = 1 Sparta.
L. Summer: Athens builds and attrition reduces fleet in besieged Leucas. Sparta builds and moves against Platea with Corinthians. Siege is established.
Autumn: Platea suffers attrition, Athens moves a group back home to Athens. The large force encounters the besiegers in Platea who are summarily dispersed (without loss), retreating back to Corinth. Sparta plays "Athens raises taxes."
Winter: Revolt occurs in Corcyra (note this was a mistake, but not a huge one. This revolt should have occurred in a light blue city, plenty were available However, this was likely in Athens favor anyway, as they would have had to send a large force across deep sea borders to quell the revolts). Thebes sorties against the light force which has been left behind to hold the siege. The Athenians are driven away with minor losses. (2 prestige to Sparta) Attrition grips Potidae and Leucas. Final year end count: Prestige Sparta 8

430:
Spring: Sparta builds and invades Zacinthos, which is besieged. Athens besieges Ambracia, Heraclea and Phocis. Also send a siege-breaking force to Zacinthos from Athens, crushing the besiegers. 2 Prestige to Athens.
E. Summer: Athens builds and reinforces the Phocis siege, as well as sending a force to re-take Corcyra. Sparta recruits barbarians in Aetolia which are sent to besiege Larissa. Sparta again moves against Argos.
L. Summer: Athens plays treachery against the rebels in Corcyra and attempts to reduce the city. They fail and Sparta regains 2 Prestige. Attrition reduces the defenders at Phocis and Heraclea, but they stand. Sparta agian pillages Argos for 1 Prestige. The barbarians attempt to break Larissa and are repulsed. 2 Prestige to Athens. Prestige is now at Sparta 7.
Autumn: Sparta incites revolt in Samos. Ambracia and Heraclea are pillaged by Athens for 2 Prestige total. In the combat phase, the barbarians again make an attempt on Larissa and fail, costing 2 more Prestige. Prestige is at Sparta 3.
Winter: Revolt in Byzantium. Corcyra falls to winter attrition, 1 Prestige to Athens. Tributeis calculated and holding Byzantium, Samos and Potidea for a total of 8 Prestige, bringing Sparta to 10.

Sparta pays the 2 Prestige penalty and makes a peace offer, rolling a 2. Athens rolls a 5 (need 2d6 < Prestige) and the game ends with a marginal victory for Sparta.

Aftermath and analysis: We saw some pretty large VP swings in this game, notably at the year start for 430. It is apparent that Athens has its work cut out for them in this scenario, with the possibility of revolt fomenting at all corners of the empire. There is no way to quell them all, should Sparta draw the taxes cards. This however is a double edged sword as the extra actions give Athens the fuel to wreak some heavy damage.

Pillaging and revolts were key to the quick Spartan victory. I believe a longer game favors Athens heavily, if Sparta chooses the revolt/taxes route. I chose to sue for peace, because with Athens poised to take 3 cities (Potidea, Leucas and Phocis) and with a serious surplus of manpower (built up using those extra tax actions), the pendulum of Prestige was ready to swing heavily back in Athens favor. If I had not won peace, I would have had to hope for a draw (suing for peace using the "Peace faction" card), or surely face a decisive Athens win. Hard to say, but it was looking that way.
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James Lowry
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"I thought that a report from a playtest game might garner some more interest for this title."

Mission accomplished.
 
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Joel Toppen
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Great post Jeff!
 
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Jeff K
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Thanks!

I have to put in a footnote as to another error which would affect balance in this scenario. Mainly that Argos is neutral and therefore off-limits. This really puts a crimp in Sparta's pillaging.

Other than that, we played a relatively error-free game. The rules are shaping up nicely.

Also, for the record, I wanted to clarify from questions asked elsewhere that the 2 Prestige points awarded in the battles described above were for panic after all units of a side routed (called a "Triumph" in the rules). The battle in Thebes in the early summer of 431was the exception as the Spartans were able to withdraw before any losses occurred (called a "Skirmish" in the rules, no prestige awarded.)
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