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Subject: Leuctra, 371 BC Sparta vs Thebans. rss

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David Murray
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I took the Spartans and Iven played the Thebans. This was the second battle we have played from Lost Battles since it arrived during the week. We are both new to the game and after my humiliating defeat at the battle of Marathon a rematch was on the cards.

We used the historical setup from the rulebook and both read the corresponding section of Prof Sabin’s book which comes with the game (what a great resource this is to have – a really thoughtful consideration of the battle, it considerably enhances the play experience).

The game when setup looks great and the thick unit counters have a nice tactile quality.



As the Spartans I had the first turn. I decided to concentrate on my right where the veteran hoplites were deployed.



I expressed moved my levy heavy cavalry out to the right and forward to flank the forward Theban forces. My veteran hoplites then stoically marched forward to engage the leading Theban force. On my left I pushed my other Levy Heavy cavalry forward to try and keep the opposing cavalry busy whilst I decisively defeated the Thebans on my right – at least that was the plan.

The Thebans opposite my advancing hoplites withdrew their cavalry and swung it around to engage my attempted flanking movement. The Thebans advanced all their available hoplites to face the advancing Spartan veterans.



Over the next few turns the two masses of hoplites fought fiercely. Slowly the Thebans began to gain the upper hand thanks to the brave leadership of Epaminondas. He bravely sortied into the battle and personally rallied several spent units that were about to be shattered. On my right flank my Spartan heavy cavalry were driven from the field by the Theban cavalry and in turn they turned on the Spartan flank. Just as things looked like the defeat of the Spartan hoplites was imminent, Epaminondas appeared at the centre of the battle to rally a spent Theban hoplite when he was struck down by a Spartan spear! (A hoplite commander has to try and rally any spent hoplite in their tile – they have no choice. The notes in the rules are very informative and this is stated to represent the historic high fatality rate of hoplite generals). With the wounding (or death) of Epaminondas the battle became much more balanced with both sides taking casualties (hoplites always have to ‘all-out attack’ when they can and as a general it can be difficult to watch when you would like to have seen them take it a little easier!).



With my Spartans beginning to hold on my right and the Thebans now down on their activation exemptions and attack bonuses due to the fall of their general, the cavalry and light infantry on my left were sent forward. Their mission was to attempt to pin temporarily down that side of the battle until the outcome of the main fight between the hoplites was determined. Unfortunately these both suffered badly after their initial attacks and in a turn or two were both shattered.

Despite the temporary reprieve I had received by the elimination of the Theban leader most of my veteran hoplites were now spent and the uninspired Cleombrotus was constantly failing to rally any of them. I rashly drew on the Favour of the Gods to help me but with no success and then a particularly brutal push by the Thebans hoplites shattered two of my veteran units. My morale roll was ‘1’ and this in turn caused the whole of the attacking force in the square to rout – carrying away with them Cleombrotus.

With so many units routed the Levy hoplites that had moved up to support the attack also fled the field.

The Thebans advanced as all the Spartan hoplites had fled and occupied my Key Zone.

Only a small group of levy hoplites remaining and in a rash move to end quickly the game the Thebans sent an assortment of light infantry and cavalry against them all of which were defeated. After repelling these attacks my three remaining hoplite units were all spent. It took a turn or turn for the Theban hoplites to make contact – all the while I knew that one more casualty and the game would be over. The last two turns saw the ‘favour of the Gods’ being swapped between each player as miraculously the Thebans failed to make one hit on the desperate Spartans. The game ended with my three levy units still clinging on.



We ran through the victory point calculations and low and behold I had won a clear game victory, partly due to the death of Epaminondas and the casualties I had caused to the Thebans in the last couple of turns. The battle took about an hour and a half to play – including some reference to the rules as we are still relatively new to the game. So far we are both enjoying the gaming experience – there are a lot of tough choices in Lost Battles!
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Edward Wehrenberg
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Awesome report, thanks for posting. Looking forward to reading more. Can you comment some more on the components? What are your feelings about the art, the quality, the build, the layout, etc.? (I know it's not a review so I understand if you don't want to)
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David Murray
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Hi Edward – I don’t feel qualified to write a review yet – would need to play it a whole lot more...
However a few quick thoughts on the components:

Box – substantial sturdy box with an elegant design – nice enough for my daughter who has no interest in games to look over.

Rulebook – excellent rulebook. The italicised explanations of what rules represent are very good and greatly help understanding the game. It is printed in full colour on glossy paper with lots of illustrations. I have covered my copy in plastic, not because there are any problems with it but I am a player not a collector and so my stuff gets a little used and abused. The full colour scenario layouts are very nice and I intend to scan them, print them, and cut them out for reference. These layouts reference the main Lost Battles book which is great as you can read Prof Sabin’s analysis of each battle before you play, most appear to be only a couple of pages each.

Lost Battles book – appears very interesting although I have only scratched the surface so far.

Playaids – seem to include most of what you need when playing and clearly set out – although as newbies we are still checking in the main rules. These are on quite thin card and so laminating would be a good option) I have just put mine in plastic page protectors.

Terrain tiles – aesthetically pleasing with not too much detail to be distracting from the counters. They create a nice visual backdrop on which to play. They are pretty thick and chunky with plenty of space on each tile for units.

Counters – these are nicely illustrated with images evocative of the art of the time – thick and relatively easy to read – need to check on the words: ‘levy’ and ‘average’ on some counters especially if the same class on the same tile, but as there are at most around 20 counters a side they are not too hard to track. There are other clues on the counters such as the levy units have more illustrated figures– this information might just need me to tune into it a little more for at present I do not always spot the differences. One set of counters has black labels and one white. The counters complement the board very well and create a good visual battlefield perspective. I particularly like the width of the counters representing their attack points – very useful in play.

Dice – two chunky dice – one black one white.

Empire board – Haven’t really looked at the campaign stuff yet but the board looks nice and is very study being mounted and folds into four sections.

Overall – the production values on the game are very good. There are no quality issues with my copy of the game. The tiles and counters are both thick and artistically pleasing. The tiles are double sided so placing them on a soft surface rather than a hard one will prolong their life. When laid out the game components appear to complement each other very well both being pleasing on the eye and in play. I am most impressed with the rules for their clarity and explanation and looking at the paperback book version of the rules you can clearly see that the game system has matured.

Now my views might change over time as the game is still new to me. The game appears to be good value for money – you get a lot in the box for your money – especially if you had pre-ordered as I did.
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Martí Cabré

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Great AAR! Did you do one for Marathon?
 
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David Murray
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Hi Marti,

The first game we played was Marathon - but that was a learning game in which we made quite a few mistakes - we had both just skimmed through the rules and thought we would 'have a go.' So I won't be writing that one up - learnt alot though as I was absolutely hammered in that game as the Persians

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chuckster williams
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Very nice AAR. I am still waiting for arrival of this baby. At first I was hesitant to order this game, because I read the combat modifiers required some real mathmatical gymnastics. It sounds like this problem has been ironed out. Did you find the combat modifiers fairly easy to understand?
 
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David Murray
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Hi Chuckster,
I had similar concerns before I received the game. The rulebook states that, ‘the combat modifiers are the one rather tangled part of the game system’ but really we have found them quite straightforward – the rules are very clear and the play aid has them neatly summarised. There are 19 modifiers most of which are straightforward, only a couple are used in each round of combat – there are a couple that required me to reread them a couple of times to get them straight. After two plays we both had most of the modifiers in our head and resolving combat was quick and simple. Everything you need is on one side of the play aid – I would not describe the system as in anyway complex.

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chuckster williams
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Thanks David, sure glad to hear it. I remember seeing one modifier posted about a year ago and I just shook my head. I still don't know what it means! It went something like "when the lead flank unit is behind the left forward unit and defender is oblique to the right angle of an advanced foot unit ..."
Well I may be stretching the truth a bit, but it was along those same lines.
 
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Russell Woodland
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Tauranga
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Thanks for the report David, this looks like a fantastic game. I am so glad that I placed my order I know just have to wait for the second batch to ship.

How easy is the game to learn, and how much reading is needed to "get" into the game
 
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David Murray
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Chuckster,

Some of the modifiers do have exceptions but nothing as complex as that. The exceptions usually refer to specific unit types, which you can ignore if that type is not present on the field, or specific situations.

An example is this modifier which gets used regularly:

+1 for the lead unit, except scythed chariots or a unit with adjacent enemies to left and right or front and rear.The exception complements the loss of attack limit increase, making encirclement damaging but not utterly catastrophic

As I said after two games most of the modifiers we know already and just have to check for exceptions or when we play with a new unit type.
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David Murray
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Hi Russell,

the rulebook is 70 pages, however much of it is filled with examples and Sabin's explanation of what the rule is trying to simulate. I do find the explanations help in remembering a rule as the logic of them is as memorable as the rule itself.

We both read through the rulebook once, skipping sections such as victory point calculation (we checked that at the end of the game), deployment and the empire game rules. We made a few mistakes on the first play but it made the second read through 'stick' more - and was still fun to play. I guess a solo run through would be just as good.

We choose Marathon to start as it has only a few unit types so we could ignore other unit specific rules.

We really haven't found the rules to be an issue - they are written very well - the problem is what to actually do when playing! I haven't played any ancient battles for a long time and trying to make the right choices is proving tough.

I am not someone who gushes about new games - but so far I can find little to criticize about the game - appears to be a very sound purchase.
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