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The Peloponnesian War, 431-404 BC» Forums » Reviews

Subject: The struggle to dominate ancient Greece! rss

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Tim Korchnoi
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My Little Man's first real wargame play: Barbarossa Solitaire
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Peloponnesian War: A fight to the death!

Peloponnesian War is a strategic level game covering the entire 27 year conflict between Athens and Sparta and the alliances they led. Designed as primarily a solitaire game the system allows the player to play one side while the system plays the other. Each turn the Athenians and Spartans engage in operations to wear down their opponents and gain victory in the war. While there is the scoring of victory points in this game, the real key to winning is the bellicosity track that each sides possesses. If you can reduce your opponent to zero by the end of the turn, you win. There is also the victory condition of winning by the end of turn three with 150 victory points. If you do not, you lose hegemony to either Thebes (historical result) or Persia in the future.

Playing Time: This is fairly quick. I have never had a game of Peloponnesian War last more than four hours and that is for the campaign game. There are also three additional scenarios which take even less time to play and allow the player to experience the war at various stages. Once you get the hang of the system, you will be able to move ver quickly through each turn.

Map: The map (which is nicely done) is based on a point to point system for movement. The connections between each space indicate whether it is a land, naval, or combined connection which then dictates which units can move along a given route. The map covers all of Greece, including the entrances to the Black Sea and the coastal regions of Asia Minor. The spaces are marked by which sides controls them at the start (green for Athens, red for Sparta) with white meaning a neutral space. The map also has a segment depicting Sicily so you can go off on a Syracusen adventure ala Athens if you do desire (cough, cough: not recommended gulp ) On the map you will also find the turn record track, map symbols key, going home boxes, and counter information.

Counters: The counters represent strength points of each of the alliances. Units are broken down into naval, cavalry, and infantry and are further designated as either Athenian/Spartan or allies of the given alliance. There are also counters depicting the leaders of both alliances (including ole’ Alcibiades devil ) as well as informational markers covering sieges and ravaging of territory or rebellions depending on side of counter used. The counters are simple, yet effective and, as one might expect from a strategic game with strength point counters, there is a low counter density to this game.

Rules: The heart of the system is the strategy matrix. The game starts with the player taking the Athenian side and the system taking the Spartans. Each side is provided with a card which outlines four possible strategies that the city-state can utilize. Depending on what happens on a given turn, the strategy could change for the next turn or the player may be forced to switch sides. The switching of sides is designed to be triggered when one side has taken a beating in the previous turn, thus forcing the player to attempt to rally the deflated side while the system takes over for the side that is doing well. Thus, you will have a fairly tight game (unless you get really bad die rolls). Each turn the player checks for side switching and, if none is forthcoming, then proceeds to the operations phase. During the operations, the player (and system) assemble forces with which they can either initiate battles or sieges. There is also the possibility of interception which can result in the unexpected battle as well. The number of operations fluctuates from turn to turn since the continuation of the operations is controlled by an augury die roll a.k.a consulting signs from the gods to find favor and proceed or displeasure and cessation of operations for the turn (this was especially true in Sparta, the Spartans were notoriously superstitions about the auguries). After resolving battles and sieges players check for rebellion(s) spreading, collect money and build units, and then check for either the triggering of surrender or an armistice. Along with the strategy matrix, the real heart of the game is the bellicosity track. Both sides can gain and lose levels of bellicosity depending on the outcomes of battles and sieges as well as the number of spaces ravaged and in rebellion in a given turn. Thus, there is a nice connect between military actions and the political consequences of those actions, especially given the fact it is harder to increase bellicosity than decrease it. In terms of combat, retreats, movement, etc... the experienced wargamer will not find much new, but the system is clean and neatly done, allowing for the strategy matrix/bellicosity track to drive the game, making for a fun and tense gaming experience. There are also rules for a two player version of the game.

Things I like about the game:

● Strategy matrix. Very cool idea cool
● The map. This is one of the nicest maps I have ever seen.
● The way the rules are carefully crafted to reflect ancient Greece. Rules like the auguries among others do a nice job of conveying this.
● Switching sides. This is also very cool cool
● Ease of play. Once you learn the system, you can easily pound out a game of this in an evening, no sweat.
● The tense nature. Once you get playing, trying to succeed with all those sieges and battles can be nerve wracking! After all, if you fail, your bellicosity will take a beating! gulp cry shake

Things that can be annoying: angry

● Bad die rolls can kill the system. You can be pounding away with Athens and then roll a one on the next switch process and find yourself still pounding away with Athens. This can make for some really short games.
● The victory points. I don’t get this for the campaign game. Yes, I understand the idea regarding hegemony and Thebes, but given the bellicosity track, I thought this was superfluous. In truth, I do not even bother with the victory points anymore, I just focus on the bellicosity.
● Force limits on non-player strategy. This can be a bit of a downer having to assemble this huge force and then sit there as the non-player unable to raise enough troops again when you know that you could do more damage. Seems a bit silly to me in game terms, although I do understand it in terms of the real ancient world.


Overall evaluation: d10-1 = I’d rather staple my tongue to the wall for a month! gulp d10-9 = wargamer heaven!

Map= d10-9 Great map, very well done!
Counters= d10-6 Fine for what they are. Not too fancy, but not really too simplistic either. They fit the system and are really functional in nature.
Rules= d10-7 This is well done for the most part. The rules are fairly easy to grasp, and the strategy matrix is very cool, but there are some bumps as mentioned above.
Playing Time= d10-8 This is good all around, wether you’re talking scenario or campaign game.
Deployment of Forces= d10-6 This is fairly easy.
Overall= d10-8 Despite the small warts, I really like this game. First, there are few Peloponnesian Wargames out there. Second, it is highly addictive once you get into it. Third, it is an easy game to re-acquaint yourself with even after its been on the shelf for awhile. I’ve never really had a bad experience with this game but, after some plays, you will notice a need to make some judgement calls and adjustments to keep the game in balance from time to time. So long as a player is willing to do that, the system works just fine and it rewards with a good gaming experience!
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Andrew C
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Great review! Thanks for putting this one on my radar.

Any copies out there for sale or trade?
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Alex Η
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Great review. Thanks for your effort. It made me want to play it again.
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Rob Johnson
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Excellent review!

Having played my last game to utter tatters I'm in the market for a new copy, but OY! the prices out there soblue Ruinous!!
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Florent Leguern
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Saint-Martin-d'Hères
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Groaning Grognard
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This is a most excellent review cool It was this one that piqued my interest in the game, and as I read it again now, I'm now convinced I need this game ^^ Thanks for the great write-up !

Once I get my hands on it, I'll probably review it also, to add something to - I hope - support this seemingly great game laugh
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