Tuesday, 3 February 2009


I usually return to Sabah for Chinese New Year, and one thing that I never miss when I'm in KK (Kota Kinabalu) is Carcasean boardgame cafe. I emailed the cafe owner Chong Sean a few weeks before I came back, asking him what new games there were. I read the rules and prepared concise reference sheets in anticipation.

On Sat 31 Jan 2009, Simon and I visited Carcasean, and we played Perikles with Chong Sean.

Perikles is a game about the battles among the Greek city states, after the Persians invaders have been defeated by their joint forces. There are 6 city states in the game. In the game, over three rounds, players compete to have their people get elected to be leaders in each city, and then upon taking control of the cities, send the citizen armies of the cities to battle. There are 21 battles, i.e. 7 will be fought each round. You gain victory points for winning battles, for getting elected as mayor, and for remaining influence it the cities at the end of the game.

The policital phase of a round is done by placing cubes, i.e. influence, onto cities. Sometimes you can assassinate an opponent's cube. Sometimes you can propose a candidate early. There are only 2 candidates allowed per city, so it is possible that even when you have the most influence in a city, you don't control it because you didn't manage to get your people nominated. Being mayor means a monument will be erected for your guy, and that monument is usually worth some points at game end, depending on how well the city did in battles throughout the game. That's an interesting consideration which intertwines city control and choice of battles.

The battles phase is done by players taking turns to deploy armies and fleets to the battle locations and to choose sides (attacker or defender). There are main and supporting attackers / defenders. Battle resolution is by dice. It is slightly convoluted and needs some effort to digest, but once you understand how it works, it is quick. Victory points earned from battles are fixed. They are printed on the battle tile (location tile).

That's the game in summary. But this being a Martin Wallace game, there are some quirks in the rules, which I won't describe. But I'd say these details are quite thematic. E.g. there is one special game end condition. If Sparta or Athens suffer 4 defeats, the game ends immediately. This is a kind of twist often seen in Martin Wallace games, e.g. Byzantium.

In our game, Chong Sean had a poor start, controlling only one city. However he had a good comeback in Round 2. In Round 3, he also did quite well, controlling 3 cities, when Simon and I had 1 and 2 respectively. In the policital phase I was overconfident and careless. I could have won 3 cities, but I made a mistake. What was worse was both Simon and I did very badly in the battle phase. We both decided to fight at two locations, and allowed Chong Sean to win the other 5 locations without contest. We were so absorbed in those two locations that we didn't realise who stupid our deployments were. Chong Sean had 3 armies. So we really should have worked together to hinder him.

Chong Sean won at 80. I had 72, Simon 60. I had the most cubes remaining on the board. In hindsight I probably should have used them up to deploy more armies, which Simon and Chong Sean did. I think with fewer players it is more worthwhile to use cubes this way, and especially so in the last round, because you don't need to leave cubes to contest for city control the next round. I overestimated the importance of the cubes. Or maybe I should say I underestimated the importance of winning battles. In hindsight, I should have treated cubes as a tiebreaker (it isn't).

Round 1. This was after the policital phase and after army deployment of the battle phase. We were about to start the battles themselves. I was (as usual) green, Simon was orange, Chong Sean red. There are 6 cities on the board, each of a different colour. The cities are where the policital aspects are played out. That complex-looking but actually not really complex table on the right is the battle table. The centre column is for the 7 locations being fought over each round. The colour of the location indicates which city the location belongs to, i.e. that city cannot attack its own location. Players place armies and fleets on both sides of the location tiles, to indicate whether they want to attack of defend that location. That grey stack of armies to the left of Argos is the Persians. If you fail to control any city, i.e. you have no army, this becomes your army for the battle phase. So this is a pity-army, to make sure you don't sulk in a corner when the other players are happily waging war.

One of the cities - Sparta. The newly elected mayor (small square tile) is sitting above the city. On the roof are the alpha and beta signs, which are the spots for candidates. Among the pillars are the influence cubes. The oval on the left is for placing monuments of past mayors. The rectangle on the right is for placing the stack of armies and fleets belonging to this city. The four squares below denote the possible values of a monument in this city. Whenever a location belonging to this city is conquered in battle, i.e. battle tile of this city's colour, a defeat token is placed on the highest number, thus reducing the value of the monuments.

Close-up of the battle area. Most battles consist of two phases. Either land then sea or vice versa. Only the result of the second phase determines the winner, but winning the first phase gives an advantage when you get to the second phase. Soldiers are deployed face-down so you don't know the combat strength of your enemies (which range from 1 to 4).

This was Round 3. See how many green cubes I had left on the board. I was in control of the green and yellow armies, and Simon blue. See how stubbornly we deployed to fight over those two blue locations, which basically handed the victory to Chong Sean. We were both kingmakers.

I think Perikles needs to by played with 4 or 5 to be good. With 3 players, I find it slightly lacking. In our game, there was a tendency for each player to have controlled a city exactly once. Since each player would have a monument, there was no point in trying to make that city lose a battle which would lower the value of its monuments.

I find Perikles alright. It feels very "Wallace". I would like to play it again, just not with three.

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