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Peloponnesian War  431-404 BC by GMT Games  The Peloponnesian War, which is really the apotheosis of Ancient Gr...

Peloponnesian War 431-404 BC by GMT Games Peloponnesian War 431-404 BC by GMT Games

Peloponnesian War 431-404 BC by GMT Games

Peloponnesian War 431-404 BC by GMT Games

Peloponnesian War  431-404 BC


GMT Games

 The Peloponnesian War, which is really the apotheosis of Ancient Greek History, needs no introduction. Where else could you find Socrates while fighting at the Battle of Potidaea saving Alcibiades' life. Let alone the life of Alcibiades himself, one of the most successful Generals for both Sparta and Athens! The War was the culmination of Athenian and Spartan ambitions after the Greeks successfully defeated the Persian Empire in the Greco-Persian war. The Athenian Empire, quaintly called The Delian League, was by 431 BC growing ever larger. Sparta and Athens had already clashed once before, but the status quo was upheld. Now, this war would be to the death, or more correctly to the humbling of the loser.

 This game is a remake of  Mark Herman's 1991 Peloponnesian War. This was the first solitaire game that had the player switching sides, depending upon how well the player was doing at that moment. The player sometimes had to switch several times throughout the game. It also had the usual two-player and an optional multi-player setup available to play. For those of us who have the 1991 version, what would be the reason(s) to buy this new version? First and foremost - aesthetics. This new version's components are the usual top notch ones found in GMT Games. The second is that the original was produced twenty-eight years ago, so any kinks in its armor have been worked out. Third is a bit of a surprise that I will be talking about in a bit. let us have a look at the components:

Rules booklet
Play book
Mounted Game Board: 22x34 inches
2 Counter Sheets
1 pad of VP Record Sheets
1 Athenian Strategy Matrix
1 Spartan Strategy Matrix
2 Player Aid Cards
2 Six-sided Dice 

 The first thing we will talk about is to me the greatest part and selling point of the game. GMT Games has lied. The Peloponneian War not only contains the War from 431-404 BC, but comes with two extra special treats. These are only found if one reads the info on the back of the box. The Player also gets a scenario about the 1st Peloponnesian War which runs from 460-443 BC. Just like some TV ads: 'but wait there is more'. There is a third scenario called the fall of Sparta which goes from 400-362 BC, and shows the growth of Thebes to become the military powerhouse of the Greek peninsula. This allows the player to use counters representing Epaminondas and Pelopidas on the Theban side, and Agesilaus on the Spartan. For those of us who keep a copy of Plutarch's life always within in reach, this is a dream come true.

 This is the sequence of Play:

Political Phase [3.0] (not conducted on the first turn)
◦ Side Determination Segment [3.1] 
◦ Event Segment [3.2] 
◦ Delian League Rebellion Segment [3.3] 
◦ Leader Selection Segment [3.4] 
Strategic Planning Phase [4.0] (not conducted on the first turn) 
◦ Strategy Determination Segment [4.1] 
◦ Confidence Reset Segment [4.2] 
Operations Phase [5.0] 
◦ Player Side Initial Operation Segment [5.1] 
◦ Non-Player Side Initial Operation Segment [5.2] 
◦ Continuing Operations Segment [5.3] 
◦ Going Home Segment [5.4]
 Combat Phase [6.0] 
◦ Siege Determination Segment [6.1] 
◦ Battle Resolution Segment [6.2] 
◦ Siege Resolution Segment [6.3] 
◦ Going Home Segment [6.4] 
Rebellion Phase [7.0] 
◦ Continued Rebellion Segment [7.1] 
◦ Rebellion Expansion Segment [7.2] 
◦ Helot Rebellion Segment [7.3]
 Administration Phase [8.0] 
◦ Revenue Collection Segment [8.1] 
◦ Unit Construction Segment [8.2] 
Armistice & Surrender Phase [9.0] 
◦ Bellicosity Adjustment Segment [9.1] 
◦ Surrender Determination Segment [9.2] 
◦ Armistice Determination Segment [9.3] 
◦ End of Turn Segment [9.4]

 Even though this is a long and involved game, the actual rulebook is only 21 pages long. This includes the rules for solitaire play. The playbook is separated into two parts. The first is twenty-four pages long and includes the setups for each of the scenarios and the rules for two-player games. The second is twenty-two pages long and includes a background and history of the Wars included in the scenarios. It also includes an excellent 'The Game as History' section. This compares the game setup and play in each of the two-year turns throughout the Peloponnesian war scenario from 431-402 BC. The historical write up is a great refresher or introduction to those of us who do not dream of fighting as a hoplite.

 The components, as have been mentioned, are first class. The addition of a mounted mapboard is always an excellent touch to a wargame. The map is a point-to-point move type. I always prefer hexes, but this leads to the designer having to do a lot of extra work on movement. The two Strategy Matrix cards are also hard mounted on cardboard. The counters are thick and come pre-rounded. This is no big deal to me either way. I would rather spend the outrageous cost of buying a clipper on another game anyway! The pictures and info on the counters are easy to read and understand. The game strangely does not come with an AAA price attached to it. For a mere $65 US you can pick this up at GMT Games. This might be a nice price point for those of us who already have the first 1991 edition. 

 The game play in many ways can represent, or bring to life, the history of the age. If this isn't a plus in any historical game then what is? However, the game allows the player to do whatever strategy he feels like. It does not shackle the player to only play a certain way. Some games do that to make it feel 'historical', but not Peloponnesian War. What if Sparta decided on its own early in the war to implement a strategy like Alcibiades talked them into using only much later in the war. What if Athens instead of playing turtle decided to actually force a confrontation with Spartan hoplites? This one is not recommended, but hey its just a game. You do not have to worry about dying or being exiled if you lose a battle, let alone the war.

 Oddly perhaps, at least for me, we have to talk about the cover art on the box. Some appear annoyed at its non-historical look. The ships look much too large. The ship in the foreground looks like it is getting ready to ram the one you are looking from, and its sail is also up. Naturally the sail would be stowed and only rowing power should be used in battle. To me it is also a bit odd because the marines on your ship do not seem poised for battle, nor are there any projectiles in the air. However, if it is meant as a friendly ship it seems to be sailing much too close for comfort. I guess we will have to ask the artist Eric Williams just what is happening. To my way of thinking it could have a picture of a rusty nail on the cover and I wouldn't bat an eye, as long as the game inside was to my liking. 

 Leaders are very important to the game, and are a bit of a two edged sword for the player. Leaders are chosen randomly, and there is the rub. For every great leader you can pull there is an equally mediocre one waiting for your fingertips. Talents (money) is what makes the Peloponnesian War go round. This is the first war in history that we have records of how much it cost to wage war and send expeditions. Pericles had amassed enough talents to see Athens through a five year war. Once that money was drained the exorbitant taxes that Athens imposed on the Delian League went a long way to losing the war for them. The higher taxes they imposed, the more cities that revolted from the League. Sparta being essentially an agrarian society based on slave labor did not have the same problems putting an army in the field. The cost of running a naval war was ruinous to both sides. In reality Persian gold is what won the war for Sparta. The Persian gold is represented in the Event Segment as a large plus to Sparta if rolled. There is a possibility of Sparta getting 1000 talents added to their treasury by Persia. The game rules also give you a reason to invade Sicily if you are playing the Athenian. If the Athenian player can conquer all of Sicily it is worth 1000 talents to them.

 Playing as Athens you must try to use your naval assets to attack the Spartans and their allies where they don't expect it. You will also have to deal with numerous revolts from your 'Empire'. Try to douse those flames as quick as possible. This is not easy and you might end up playing whack-a-mole throughout the Aegean. The Spartan player has the advantage and it shouldn't take him twenty years to understand that Athens can't feed itself. Park your army right in front of Athens and then try to pick off the Athenian Allies and close off the northern Aegean to them. 

 One of the other questions is what if you already own 'Pericles' from GMT. First, consider yourself lucky, then understand that they are two entirely different games. The Pericles game is at least half devoted to the politics of both sides. This game is more devoted to the actual wargaming aspect of the war. Though both are great solitaire games, Pericles can also be played by one to four players, making it a good game if you can get a group together for game night. Peloponnesian War is a one to two player game.

 So is it worth it? Does a bear, never mind. Yes, Virginia it is worth every penny, even if you already own its sire. The addition of the two additional scenarios, especially the 'Fall of Sparta', make it incredibly easy to recommend this game to anyone. Show me where you can game the rise of Thebes in any game, except as tactical battles from the era. The history of Greece is in your hot little hands, especially when playing solitaire. Does Athens and its 'ahem' empire continue to grow or do the hoplites of Sparta bring an end to the glory of Pericles? Again, not to belabor the fact, does the Theban Sacred Band crush any Spartan that comes up against it or fall in glory as it finally did at Charonea? Here are some links to the game etc.:

Peloponnesian War:

Peloponnesian War Rulebook:

GMT Games: