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Plutôt mort que Perse !» Forums » Reviews

Subject: First play of Plutôt mort que perse! rss

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Michel Boucher
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Geoff and I had agreed to try it, as I had mounted counters, including the errata counters. I read the rules (in French) and was able to convey the gist of them to Geoff fairly quickly.

This is a game of the Greek-Persian Wars that was fought in stages between 495BC and 479BC. It was published in Vae Victis 49, and a short erratum exists on the back of the map for Paris vaut bien une messe, Vae Victis 50. This erratum corrects counter errors for the first scenario only. The corrected counters are available for download and print from the game page here.

Nicolas Stratigos, the first named designer, is editor-in-chief of Vae Victis and has published 20 games in the magazine, including among others the En Pointe Toujours! series and some of the Champs de Bataille series with Théophile Monnier.

Frédéric Bey, the other designer, has published many games in Vae Victis (I count 22) including the series Au fil de l'épée (medieval combat) and the wide-ranging Jours de Gloire (derived from Richard Berg`s Triumph and Glory series) and Jours de Gloire Campagne series of Napoleonic games.

http://pagesperso-orange.fr/jours.de.gloire/index_va.html

He is also a principal in the publishing house Canons en Carton which prints his own material and is an agent for the distribution of Richard Berg's BSO Games.

http://pagesperso-orange.fr/jours.de.gloire/CeC_US.htm

As with all Vae Victis games, counters have to be mounted (these were mounted on bar coasters, giving them some thickness) and some aids, printed on the back of the counter sheet, have to be photocopied (I scan and print them usually) before cutting out the counters. The rules are printed on six (6) pages with colourful illustrations and tables.

Note that Vae Victis publishes its magazine using ISO standard paper size A4. This measures 210×297 mm or 8.27x11.69 inches, which requires that full page photocopies be reduced to 90% (or even 85%) in order to fit on a 8.5x11 page.

http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/~mgk25/iso-paper.html

GAME SPECIFICS

The game has three scenarios of varying length. We played the second and the third which represent the first war (Datis and Artaphernes' campaign that ended at Marathon) and the second war (Xerxes' campaign which ended at Salamis and which also immortalized Leonidas and his 300 at Thermopylae).

The game is played on a map of the eastern Mediterranean area, from Asia Minor in the East to the Greek city States in the West, including the Pelopponesus. The surface is broken down into zones (which regulate movement) and significant locations:

- clear
- mountain [some combat modifiers and movement cost]
- one mountain range [high cost to cross]
- water [open sea and inlets that give combat modifiers]
- cities [which provide defensive benefits] and
- Thermopylae [which provides combat modifiers]

Coastal zones marked on the map (Hellespont, Chalcidique, Eubée and Égine) give the defender a serious advantage in defense in naval combat by lowering the offensive ratio to 1:1 or at worst 2:1.



At the beginning of each turn, players draw from a container which has within it Stratagems and point counters. The players may or may not draw Stratagems (which can be used in various circumstances, including some in combat) but they must draw a chit with a number on it.

Once the Greek player has drawn a numbered chit (or two stratagems), the container passes to the Persian player. Once the Persian player has drawn a numbered chit, the game can start (or resume). If the Persian player also draws two stratagems, the players must keep on picking chits until they get a number chit.

The value of this chit is added to the overall leader's strategic rating and gives the player his action points for the turn (hypothetically anywhere from 5 to 17). Everything a player does, except for combat, costs action points (see below). Unused action points are lost at the end of the turn (this is not entirely clear in the rules, but Frédéric confirmed it in an e-mail).



Game play alternates from one player activation to the other player activation. The turn ends when all points are used up or when both players pass. Then a new draw occurs.

Units are divided into leaders (named leaders and generic strategoi) with strategic and tactical values. Leaders come in two tactical flavours, land and sea. The two functions are not interchangeable, tactically, so consequently, a 3 value naval leader is only worth 0 on land.

Combat can only occur if one player successfully rolls an interception (costs one action point), or failing attempts by both players, by mutual agreement. This may give the active player the opportunity, if his strategic value is considerably greater than his opponent's, to ambush the other side, getting combat benefits early on. However, neither of us was able to get that much difference between our leaders, so we never saw an ambush realized.

Once the ambush is played out, surviving troops face off in two phases: archery as a preemptive but simultaneous form of combat, and melee. Total land combat value (as opposed to naval combat which is a ratio and has its own table) is used to determine the column and modifiers to die roll and to shift columns exist (more on this later). A roll of 1d6, modified as circumstances allow, resolves each phase of the combat. Leader tactical value is important here and in the possible result of a morale check (T for test) in which the unit must roll its morale value (expressed as a letter) or better. Again, leader tactical helps here. Units which fail the morale check once are disrupted and removed to a box. Units which fail morale a second time are removed from the game. Obviously, the higher the morale, the more difficult it is to disrupt units.

Combat however works by attrition. Any combat result which produces a number must cause the loss of one or more units to satisfy the result. A 1 combat result can force the removal of a 4 value unit.

Modifiers to combat can be produced by leader tactical values and the presence of at least one A morale unit. Other modifiers are produced by the use of Stratagems, for example Trahison, which provides a 2 column benefit to the player. Other Stratagems have different effects such as removal of the Spartans to the Peloponnesus, removal of an Athenian leader, political manoeuvering to shift a city allied to the enemy back to neutral state, or to one's side, and other events.

There are three scenarios, the revolt of the Greek cities of Asia Minor (five turns), the first war (four turns) and the second war (eight turns). Each turn is a season and four turns are a year.

Rules and errata in English are available here (please don't write to me about the translation, I had nothing to do with it):

http://pagesperso-orange.fr/jours.de.gloire/medique_us.htm

To my knowledge, no Cyberboard or Vassal module exists for this game.

EVALUATION

Geoff was interested in this game as he will be teaching a course on this period at the University. We played two scenarios, the first and then the second war. Both times, I played the Greeks and lost.

Thinking back, the Greeks should have taken better advantage of the terrain by holding in Thermopylae with the Spartans where their combat value could be used to best effect. The problem there is that the Persians do better by moving troops by sea and can avoid interception in the aforementioned defensive narrows without too much difficulty. The Greeks do not really have the naval power to face the full brunt of the Persian fleet except in a defensive narrows. Were the Persians forced to travel by land, the terrain advantage of the Thermopylae would play better, but as it turned out, Geoff chose to move his forces by sea, and kept them in an area where he could mass a fleet to ensure supply.

Otherwise, the game ran smoothly and there were few ambiguities, some which were addressed to Frédéric. The French rules suffered from a few typographical errors, but not enough to make the text unintelligible.

We enjoyed the game and I will play it solo again, to see what the effect of Thermopylae would be. I will also try to see if I can spot any rules we may have misinterpreted or missed entirely.
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Martin Gallo
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The website with the English rules is no longer active and the rules are not listed on the http://vaevictis.histoireetcollections.com/en/bonus.html page. Do you happen to know where I could find the English translations?

Thanks.
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Wulf Corbett
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martimer wrote:
The website with the English rules is no longer active...
You mean this website?
http://jours.de.gloire.pagesperso-orange.fr/telechargements_...
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Martin Gallo
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No English rules there, only the counters.
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Wulf Corbett
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you mean these rules, from the link on that page?
http://jours.de.gloire.pagesperso-orange.fr/download/rulesPl...
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Martin Gallo
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Durrr, I was looking for the American flag. Looked right past the British flag!

I am ready to stop getting older. Maybe. I can't remember.

Thanks much!
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Wulf Corbett
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martimer wrote:
Durrr, I was looking for the American flag. Looked right past the British flag!
It's a French website, I guess they chose the lesser of two evils...
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Jonathan Townsend
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I found this game very well presented graphically but disappointing in play.
The first two scenarios are really just learning games and not very interesting as in each one the Persians have to just move straight in for the target(s) and slogg it out. There is no time to do aught else, nor any need. The decisive factors are chit pulls (eg. if the Spartans are neutralised or not) with only a couple of interesting decisions to make (eg. how do I share out my troops between the two fleets?).

The main game provides more options to the Persian player - do we land in neutral Thessalie and go through Thermopylae, or over the Pindar mountains? Or perhaps better yet to take a route directly to the Greek upstarts. If you go via Thermopylae can you do better than Xerxes did historically?

Alot of the action for the Greek depends on chit pulls (again the Spartans, Tempests to throw at the invading fleets, etc etc), and it may determine the game for the game. Their Hoplites are very powerful. If they can remain united it will be very difficult for the Persian, barring good chit pulls for them.

The time constraints mean there can not be much dallying, and so the chit pulls will likely determine strategy as they are powerful factors which in same cases mean more or less likly allies, for example. This is the frustrating factor for me, but perhaps if you are looking for a fun romp where the game outcomes play you as much as you them then this could be your cup of tea.

It may well be 'realistic' that factors uncontrollable by the adversaries can decide events, but in this game that robs me of some enjoyment. I would have liked more strategy. OTOH that was obviously not the designers intent.

As a magazine game this light but colourful treatment may be desired, however the beautiful counters and attractively illustrated rules don't compensate for me and leave me hankering after some more 'old-school' S and T treatment.
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