About game: Pericles takes the players to the 5th century BC and spans from 460 to 400 BC. It covers times of two great conflicts – First and Second Peloponnese Wars –  between land super-power – Sparta and dominant naval state – Athens.

It uses innovatory system of play – there are four players, two representing factions in Athens and two factions in Sparta. They debate and fight each other internally (Debate Phase) while cooperate against other City State externally (Theater Phase).

This creates enormous amount of interesting decisions, tension, scheming as well as forced cooperation. It definitely feels like real politics – because Pericles is in essence not a pure wargame, but a political grand strategy, where military force is only one of the elements to gain domination.

The game is fueled by both cards – used mainly in internal debates and to decide conflicts results, as well as different issues which allow players to execute variety of actions. The “Last-in, first-out” mechanic when placing issues on the theaters adds to the tension – the phase when you uncover them and suddenly somebody realizes that he/she put the orders in wrong order are one of the most memorable moments of the game.

Number of players: 4 (although fan-made variants for 2 players exist)
Playing time: This depends to a very great extent on a particular scenario and players experience with that game. For me the “sweet-spot” are two scenarios depicting First and Second Peloponnese Wars – they are from 3 to 5 turns and are perfect for one evening.

On the other hand, we managed to play six vignettes to introduce new player in about 4 hours. So as you can see, you can adjust game length to your availability.

Complexity: That is one of those beautiful games (and which I like most) where the rules are not overly complex (although not trivial) but making them all working to your advantage and mastering is a hard piece of work.
What I like:
  • Climate – this is a wargame which in fantastic way depicts the period and you can simply feel immersed in an ancient Greece

  • The game allows for tons of scenarios, from very short (10 minutes) to a full, 10 turns campaign; really, you can see that author went to great lengths to make this game accessible to broad audience, allowing for everybody to choose what suits him best
  • Quality of components
  • Straightforward rules
  • Asymmetric game – really, playing land hegemon (Sparta) is completely different then taking lead of sea ruler (Athens)
  • Internal political struggle & external war; this is first time when I had chance to play a game so well depicting internal tension between political factions which in the end have to unite to face external threat; but once the threat is contained, they again start to fight each other. Sounds like real life?
What I do not like:
  • The components might be slightly more divers – cubes in form of hoplites and ships reminding real ships; I assume this was conscious choice to have game costs under control
  • Not so easy to find 4 players willing to play
For whom? This is game for wargamers with at least some previous experience – and if they want to plunge in the great world of Mark’s Herman games, I strongly suggest Churchill first. However, if you are not discouraged by the need to digest pretty thick but comprehensive rule-book, you should definitely try this game!
More about the game:

On top of above review, a couple of the pictures from my session reports.

Overview of the Pericles board (theaters):

Percilses 2.7

Full board:

IMG_2005

VERDICT:

Well, did I mention that I am addicted history-wargamer? I really like that product of Mark Herman – well balanced complexity level, interesting theme, beautiful components and tons of scenarios – for shorter and longer evenings!

See you in another game review!

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