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 300: EARTH & WATER from NUTS PUBLISHING Cliche warning - good things come in small packages! This latest release from Nuts Publishing c...







Cliche warning - good things come in small packages!

This latest release from Nuts Publishing covers the Graeco-Persian wars.  Think Darius and Xerxes, Marathon and Thermopylae - and for many the latter battle probably instantly brings up the number 300 and the gore splattered slo-mo film of that name and, of course, the title of this game.

Striking as the film was for its visuals, so equally striking is the all out effort to package this small game in splendour - thankfully without additional blood!  At first sight, it looks identical to the size of so many of the former VPG boxes - but no plain cardboard box with a coloured sleeve here.  Instead it is a very solid box with a fold-over lid, with a magnetic flap that automatically closes into place.  When opened up, two artistic evocative scenes are printed on the inside.  

The map, though small, is a mounted four panel fold out.

The design is elegant in its simplicity, while given a strong touch of colour from the opposing images of leading figures from this mighty conflict.  Nor are they just a matter of attractive decoration.  Each corresponds to a significant moment from the wars on one of the Event cards [usually a death!], play of which will lead to an army unit being permanently removed from the game  to be placed on the historical personage's picture.

A close up of the three Greek figures
This quality is matched in the rule book.  Again small in size, but crammed with a wealth of colourful vivid illustrative examples of play.  Indeed the only spartan [pun intended] items are the Event cards which provide only text with no pictures!

Similar to many CDG games, most have dual texts applicable to whether it is the Greek or Persian player using it.  

As mentioned, the rule  book is a slim item printed on smooth glossy paper edged at the top and bottom with a golden border.  The text is set out in two clear columns and every step is clearly illustrated and reinforced with pictorial examples.

Even the boxes of text within the examples are colour-coded to which side, Greek or Persian, that they refer.  These rules in a mere 12 pages are a model of clarity, taking you through the stages of the game in the exact order of play. It even manages to include at the end brief explanations of the historical events and personages on each Event card and finally rounds off with a potted history of the Graeco-Persian wars!! 

So, looks good, reads well -  but how does it play?  Well, I can happily say that the crucial core has all the elegance of its exterior qualities.  It is a highly abstracted treatment, executed with a small number of cubes for military units and an even smaller number of discs for naval units.

All the wooden components and a neat set of dice

The game in its box takes up minimum space and can be set up in about a minute and here is everything set up ready to play, easily accommodated on my portable playing area.   

The game plays out over 5 Campaigns [the maximum 5 turns of the game], but if the Event card, Sudden Death of the Great King, is drawn by the Persian player then the Campaign is over!  Consequently, I have had several games where only three Campaign turns were played which does produce a very, very short game.  

If you want, this can easily be house-ruled to make sure you get more game play.  However I'd strongly discourage you from rushing off to follow this increasing tendency to tamper with games, especially as this seems to happen after barely one play!!  This is all part of the design and presents the Persian player with an immediate pause for thought.  Each Campaign begins with a Preparation Phase when new units and new cards can be purchased.   The maximum a player can buy is 6 cards and each card can be used only for either its Event or a single activation of units.  

For me, when playing as the Persian, the pressure of time is at the heart of the game.  Do I go for maximum card buy and maximum risk of ending the Campaign?  Do I take fewer, but then have fewer opportunities for Activation or Event Play?  

This is also part of the highly asymmetrical styles of the two sides that starts with the fact that the Persian player has 12 purchase points to the Greeks 6 points.  The Persian has far more land units and one more naval as potential purchases, but they have the burden of attack and that pressure of time I've highlighted.  Their supply problems I've generally found to be greater too.  

It is a game of cat and mouse.  The Persian player can build, and I would say must build, the famous bridge of boats across the Hellespont - represented by a nice brown, thin, wooden oblong.  Rules cover ports, naval transport and land and sea combat.  It is the overwhelming force  against the resolute little defender, metaphorically David against Goliath... and that little Greek defender surely can win, as the end of one of my games shows below!

If either side controls both of their opponent's Major Cities at the end of a Campaign, then it's an automatic victory.  Otherwise the player who has accumulated the most control points over the five campaigns wins. 

So, it's immediately eye-catching, elegant, easy to grasp and quick to play and immensely tense and playable.  Face to face play is absolutely what it is designed for, though I intend using one of the enthusiast- produced systems for soloing CDG games for added plays.

So many thanks to Nuts Publishing for providing me with this review copy of a pocket gem!

25 euros