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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

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

Peloponnesian War

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:

Two Deaths at Amphipolis Cleon VS Brasidas In the Peloponnesian War by Mike Roberts   Ah, the Peloponnesian Wa...

Two Deaths at Amphipolis by Mike Roberts Two Deaths at Amphipolis by Mike Roberts

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

Peloponnesian War

Cleon VS Brasidas In the Peloponnesian War


 Ah, the Peloponnesian War; what would be a better day than to sit back and just read a book about it. What would make it better is to read a great book about it, like this one. Firstly, it is misnamed. The book goes back into history before the Peloponnesian War, and then continues with a full history of the war up until the duel at Amphipolis. The book then naturally goes through the history of the war in that period. What follows is an epilogue about what happened right after the death of both men.

 In the book, Brasidas is described as pretty much an unusual Spartan. He has many ideas that are not very Spartan in nature. He also appears to be rather quick thinking. This is another trait that the Spartans were not known for at the time. Cleon, on the other hand, shows up as a typical Athenian crowd pleasing type of politician. 

 Brasidas is really the main character in the book once he shows up in the war. The clash between Brasidas and Cleon is at the end of the book, right before the epilogue. Brasidas and his very un-Spartan ways of conducting war, and his successful campaign in the north of Greece to attack the Athenian allied cities there, is gone into detail. Brasidas is an explorer and a man who seems to love adventure. He has in many ways an Athenian outlook, and not a Spartan one. The Athenians were very lucky that Brasidas died when he did. They were also lucky in that no other Spartans were willing to take up his mantle at the time. 

 I have actually read this book about two times in the short time I have had it. This was mainly because it really gives the best information on the beginning of the Peloponnesian War. The book is also very clear and concise on the above history. I have read other books by the author and am looking forward to reading many more. Mr. Roberts co-wrote the two volume 'The Wars of Alexander's Successors'. He also wrote 'Hannibal's Road', a history of the Second Punic War in Italy. Do yourself a favor and pick up a book of his; you will not be let down. 

Author: Mike Roberts
Publisher: Pen and Sword
Distributor: Casemate Publishers

Pericles by  GMT Games   Pericles, oh Pericles, why oh why did you lead us to this point, oh Pericles? Pericles is ...

Pericles by GMT Games Pericles by GMT Games

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

Peloponnesian War



 GMT Games 

 Pericles, oh Pericles, why oh why did you lead us to this point, oh Pericles? Pericles is said to have been the guiding force behind the greatness of Athens and its empire. According to Thucydides, he was also the person most responsible for the Peloponnesian War in Athens. Conversely, had the Athenians followed his advice and played their cards cautiously during the war, they could really not be beaten. As an example, see the Athenian expedition to Sicily. Even suffering the effects of a plague that twice rampaged through Athens, and also killing Pericles, the Athenians were still doing well in the war.

Back of the box

 The game is a bit unusual in that it can be played as a four, three, or two player, but also has rules to play it solo. This is a great mechanic that means the game can be played for game night or when you cannot find anyone. I think more games should have this many options. 

Player shields that also include game info

 Physically the game weighs in at more than four lbs. The box is roughly the size of the old 'soap box' game boxes from SPI. It contains the following:

Four Player Shields - Two Athenian: Aristocrat, Demagogue
                                   Two Spartan: Agiad, Eurypontid (Spartan  
                                                          Kings' families)
Pericles rules Of Play Booklet
Pericles Playbook
One Sheet Of Counters
Two Athenian Player's Aid Cards
Two Spartan Player's Aid Cards
One Phormio Decision Chart
One Phormio Athenian And Spartan Strategy Matrix
Three Card Decks  -  Athenian, Sparta, and Aristophanes 
One Six Sided Die And One Twenty Sided One
190+ Various Wooden Pieces

Play map

 The map is beautiful as well as functional. Two thirds of it is a map of Greece, along with small insets for Persia and Sicily. The other third is for the Spartan and Athenian political play. The game itself is the second in the 'Great Statesman Series' ( the first was the highly regarded 'Churchill') designed by Mark Herman. The complexity is listed as a six. Naturally with solo rules it is rated a nine on the 'solitaire suitability' chart. The cards are very interesting and informative. The 'Aristophanes' cards all have a play of his listed on the top of the card. He was naturally a playwright, but he also fought in one of the wars. The counters are 1/2" and are easily readable and well done. They also come with the corners pre-rounded. The colors of the wooden blocks are bright, and the pieces themselves are precision cut with none that are misshapen, etc. These blocks represent the various bases, along with naval and land forces of the different leagues and cities. The play aids are also nicely done and easy to use. They are invaluable with a game of this size and, I don't want to say complexity, but there is a lot going on for the players to keep track of. The rule book is only twenty-four pages long. It is in color and has many examples of play and record keeping. The play book is forty-four pages long. The contents are as follows:

Scenarios, Solitaire and two, three, or four player rules, a full thirteen pages of play examples, five pages of 'Card Personalities' (this is a short bio of important people in the game), Strategy guide, and finally Designer Notes.

Spartan Player Aid Card

 The game is played in six year turns. The game is interesting because it includes the issue of each side's 'Assemblies'. You are not put in the position of a ruler or omnipotent eye in the sky. This part of the game really shines. The political infighting in the different cities was almost as intense as the actual warfare between them. There are twenty-three historical scenarios to choose from. These run the gamut of small one turn scenarios to 'The Suicide of Greece 460-400 BC' one. Just as in the actual history of the war, there is a chance for plagues to affect play. Alcibiades (the man who helped defend Socrates at the Battle of Delium) even gets his own wooden counter. What more could you ask for in a game about ancient Greece? If I made the game out to seem too complex, in truth it really isn't. All of the books and aids pretty much hold your hand while getting your feet wet in this great game.

 I will use the game rules posted on GMT's website (the link is posted below) to show the sequence of play: 

" • Aristophanes Card Segment (5.1)
◊ Reveal and resolve the next card from the Aristophanes
deck (and optionally read the play quote out loud in your
best thespian voice)

• Political Cards Segment (5.2)
◊ If player has his Entourage available, discard 0-3 Entourage
Cards (5.21)
◊ Refresh hand to 9 cards, or 6 cards if Entourage used for
Brain Trust option (6.31)
◊ If hand size of 9 create new Entourage of 3 cards (5.23),
else use all 6 cards dealt (6.31)
◊ Add Faction Leader card to 6 cards to create a 7 card hand

• Boule Segment (5.3)
◊ If Hostages available, Controlling Faction has the option
to place War/Peace issue on other City-State’s Opposition
Faction track two space (5.33)
◊ Controlling Factions pick one issue (2 space, 5.32A), except
Ostracism and War/Peace issue (5.32E), which is placed in
the center (zero space).
◊ Opposition Factions pick one issue (1 space, 5.32B), except
Ostracism and War/Peace issue (5.32E), which is placed in
the center (zero space).
◊ Controlling Factions pick three issues (zero space, 5.32C)
◊ Opposition Factions pick two issues (zero space, 5.32D)

 Assembly Phase (6.0)
• Starting with the Controlling Faction each City-State sequentially
conducts six debates (6.11, 6.14)
Political Phase (7.0)
• Oration Honor is determined (7.1, Honor 10.0) and Controlling
Faction is determined (7.2)
• Strategy Board Segment (7.3)
◊ Controlling Factions reveal 7th card and receive Strategy
Board Strategos
◊ Opposition Factions reveal 7th card and receive Strategy
Board Strategos

• Political Issues Segment (7.4)
◊ Resolve all non- military, league, diplomatic, and oracle
isues in the following order: War/Peace (7.41, 7.42), Games
(7.43), Citizenship (7.44A), Colony (7.44B), Krypteia
(7.45A), Agoge (7.45B)
◊ Determine if the status change from War to Peace ends the
game (see Scenario instructions)

• Theater Issue Award (7.5)
◊ All Factions substitute their military, diplomatic, league,
and oracle won Assembly issues for their corresponding
Faction colored marker plus their two rumor markers

Theater Phase (8.0)
• Theater Issue Placement Segment (8.3)
◊ In Honor Order (8.1), each player sequentially places facedown
one military, diplomatic, league, oracle or rumor
marker on one of the twenty Theaters and potentially Persia
◊ The placement of a second marker in a Theater or Persia
creates a stack of markers hereafter referred to as a LIFO
(last in, first out) queue (8.31)
◊ Continue sequence until all issues are placed in Theaters
or Persia

• Theater Resolution Segment (8.5)
◊ Reveal and resolve issues (Diplomatic 8.51, League 8.52,
Oracle 8.53, Military 9.0) one at a time to completion in
Honor Order
◊ A player must reveal one marker from his side that is at the
top of any Theater queue
◊ A player who has no markers from his side available to be
revealed passes his turn to the next player
◊ A player who passes still takes his next turn in the Honor
sequence and a player can pass multiple times
◊ In all cases the marker belongs to one of the players and
in all cases the owning player resolves the issue revealed,
regardless of who revealed it
◊ All Theater queue markers must be resolved
◊ After all Theater queue markers have been resolved, move
to the end phase

End Phase (11.0)
• Victory Determination Segment (11.1)
◊ Automatic Victory Determination (11.11, 11.12, 11.13)
◊ If last turn of scenario, determine winner (11.14); otherwise
• Maintenance Segment (11.2)
• Redeployment Segment (11.3)
• Resolve Will of the Assembly (11.4)
• Start new turn"

 It seems like an overwhelming mouthful at first, but like many great boardgames the more you put into it, the more you will get out of it. 


 The game is one of the very few on BGG that has a rating of over 8 (8.10 to be exact), and also has a good number of voters. The game is that good and deserves every decimal point. I will admit to have not had the pleasure to play it in four player mode, but solo and two player are also great gaming fare. The amount of background of history and actual personalities stuffed into the box is an Ancient Greek geek's dream. You should be able to get a credit or two for college for playing the game. Certainly there have been some corners cut in the mechanics of the game compared to real life, but after all it is meant to be a game to be enjoyed. The game plays out, if you use the correct strategy, as the war did. Sparta is the heavyweight on land, and Athens is the heavyweight at sea. It is almost like two fighters, one in an earthen ring and one in a pool beside it. Athens must harass and disturb Sparta by raiding. Sparta desperately wants to come to grips with its enemy. The only way they can is through their different surrogates. Each city of Ancient Greece is up for grabs in this melee. Athens is a super power with an Achilles heel: its citizens' stomachs. Athens cannot feed itself without imports. Sparta has two problems of its own. The first is 'Helots'. These slaves are always on the verge of rebellion. The second is that there are only so many actual Spartans. Their killing off of their own and the extremely hard process to adulthood in Sparta meant that there were never enough full citizen male Spartans.

Examples of the three decks

 Pericles hits the sweet spot between a wargame and a political game. It also represents the fight for honor that the leading citizens of both sides felt was so imperative. It somewhat resembles the race through the Cursus Honorum of the Roman Republic except that it was much less regulated in the Greek city states. Totally wiping out your opposition, be they demagogues or aristocrats, happened much more frequently in Greece than in Rome. For all our love of the Greek civilization and what it brought us, it was a rough place. 

 Phormio is the name of the bot or AI that you play against in solo games. Some people have suggested that playing solo is really just a way to learn the mechanics in parts of the game. Others have had an enjoyable time playing solo and still do. While I agree it is a good way to learn the game, it will still give you a run for your money. The design along with all of the components are all top notch. It looks like I will have to pick up the game 'Churchill' soon.

 My hat, or pileus, is off to the designer and GMT games for this excellent portrayal of this period in history. The games I have played have pretty much all come down to the wire. So much can happen that, just like in Chess or any good wargame, you always have to have a plan B,C, or D ready to put into play. I must thank the designer for another bit of gaming greatness. It seems (among many others) he was involved with designing 'The Art Of Siege', my favorite wargame of all. So if you have any interest in the age at all, or just want to play a cutthroat wargame, pick this game up. For anyone who is having trouble with the rules or just wants to play well, Mr. Herman has posted some excellent Youtube videos on the game. The only problem I have seen mentioned with the game is to find people who have enough time and commitment to learn and play it. Of course, that is where the alternate number of player rules comes in.

Play blocks

 This is a link to the final rules:

 This is a link to the final Play Book:

 This is a link to 'Just Ask Phormio ; or How to Teach Pericles By Mark Herman: