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Posts: 1067
Joined: 13 Feb 2000, 11:18 am

Post 02 Nov 2017, 7:25 pm

I have recently purchased two games, both published by GMT: "Pericles" and "Time of Crisis". The "ancient world" is my oyster, or at least, my favorite historical era.

"Time of Crisis" is by Wrey Ferrell and Brad Johnson. The game is for 2-4 players, but 4 is definitely optimum. The game focuses on the 3rd century AD, after the Antonine emperors and just before Diocletian's rise to power. In fact, the appearance of Diocletian in the event card deck signals the end of the game! Players take on the role of nameless factions that attempt to control the Roman Empire through the placement of provincial governors, grabbing provinces from other players, and eventually, getting a governor into the ultimate seat of power in Rome. Your faction gains legacy points (VPs) through various activities. Through a very interesting application of deck-building, you purchase cards that provide you with additional political, social, and military tools to further your ambitions. There is lots of ebb and flow as your faction's influence falls and rises during the game. Influence points (IPs) represents your ability to get the Roman Senate/Emperor to approve appointing governors to new or existing colonies, along with building legions and militias. The more IPs you can acquire, the more powerful cards you can purchase.

The rules are easy to understand and the game can move along rapidly, once you have the mechanics understood. Better have a big table on hand to hold the game map and player mats! This is not a simulation of the actual historical events as much as an attempt to capture some of the dynamics and feel of the 3rd century. Curiously, barbarian leader counters are named, as are the Roman Legion counters you employ. You can certainly play through an entire game in one sitting if everybody knows the rules and you don't have a player who takes up too much time yakking about his life (I won't go into details here). It is no more complex than History of the World. It is fun to play and doesn't require a major in ancient history to appreciate.

"Pericles" by Mark Herman is also a good game, but with a very different approach. Based on the Peloponnesian War, it combines political activity (1/2 of a turn) as a major prelude to the fighting (the other 1/2 of the turn). In other words, Herman attempts to use Thucydides as a framework for the game's very structure. Up to 4 can play, where 2 players represent two factions of Athenian politics and the other 2 players are the two major Spartan factions. The factions on each side first bargain with and against each other over political issues in hopes of gaining the most prestige (i.e. VPs), but then work together in the military phase to undermine the efforts of the other side. I've played it about 4 times.

If you have less than 4 players, you can use "bots", which are essentially programmed strategy flow charts and decisions charts that plot the actions of the stand-in factions. This makes it very handy for solitaire play. In fact, using these charts for your own play is a great way to help learn how the game flows and how to put together an effective strategy.

The map is very well designed and large, as well. Perhaps you've already played the game or seen reviews on YouTube or BoardGameGeek (BGG). I highly recommend the game forum on BGG for explanations of several rules and mechanics, usually answered by Mark Hermann or one of his playtesters.

"Pericles" is not an overlay complex game, but the rules and mechanics definitely will take some time to understand. Video game reviews are very helpful. A separate Playbook contains the graded play scenarios as well as a sample (abbreviated) game that illustrates several features of the game. It's kind of like those "Replay" articles that appeared in Avalon Hill's "The General", with editorial annotations. Certainly worth reading. It is, I think, a more cerebral approach, certainly more than "Time of Crisis". As I noted, there are various scenarios that run the gamut from single events to gaming the entire war, Still, I enjoy the game and like the political aspect, which is absolutely critical to making the military side work to your advantage. It is, in some respects, a simulation, at least at a conceptual level. Herman wanted to give players a broader understanding of the actions that take place on and before the battles that are usually the focus of most war game simulations. By the way, no hexagons or cardboard units. Armies and fleets are wooden pieces, like the units in Diplomacy.

I really like both games and plan to play them with my gaming buds as often as I can fit them in. If I can get my gaming buds to focus on playing, I'll play "Pericles"; otherwise, it's "Time of Crisis".

But I'm also itching to get out my old copy of "Napoleon in Europe" by Eagle Games. Talk about a big, but beautiful map...!
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Dignitary
 
Posts: 3126
Joined: 02 Oct 2000, 9:01 am

Post 14 Nov 2017, 9:00 am

These sound great. Unfortunately, most of my new games are still family style games, but I do have one recommendation: Pandemic Legacy is truly a great experience. It is partially a game, partially a story that is revealed as you're playing the game. We are in Season 1, which is one calendar year and between 12 and 24 game plays, depending on your performance. They've recently come out with Season 2, which looks even better, but we've got to finish with Season 1 before we get Season 2.

The best thing is that once you've finished the game, you're done, you an throw it away: it's been played and can't be played again.