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The Great Persian War
(481-478 BCE)

By Paul Pecena
(aka Texus Maximus)

The Great Persian War is a campaign game based on the invasion of the Greek world by the Persian Empire in 481 B.C. The Persian army, initially halted at the battle of Thermopylae, went on to capture and burn Athens. The Persians were forced to withdraw after losing the famous naval battle of Salamis, and then suffered further defeats in the land battles of Platea and Mycale. They were finally pushed out of the Greek mainland in 478 B.C. This campaign gamed is based on the rules found in "De Bellis Antiquatatis."

Play of the Game

This campaign game is intended to be simple, fast moving, and require little of your time. Every turn of the game represents one year, so the game will last a total of just four turns. Each turn will have five phases, each requiring the player to make a few decisions.

There will be a total of six players. Each player will control one of the six nations involved in this war: Persia, Thebes, Athens, Sparta, Syracuse, and Carthage. A referee is also required. Each nation will have one field army with a maximum of 12 elements.

Orders will be transmitted to the referee by e-mail or telephone. Battles between opposing armies will be resolved using miniature armies on the tabletop using the "De Bellis Antiquitatis" rules set. Players who are out-of-town will have their troops commanded by a substitute (either the referee or a disinterested player). The results of each phase will be transmitted to players by e-mail. So, you don't have to be present to win.

Players earn "Prestige Points" for victory in battle, conquering territory, and accumulating wealth. The player with the greatest number of prestige points at the end of the 478 B.C. turn will be the winner.

Yearly Sequence of Play

  1. Political Phase

    a. War declarations. You may declare war on another nation.
    b. Winter Quarters. Choose the region where your army is located.
    c. Hire local troops. You can pay to get extra units for battle.
    d. Results. The referee announces who is at war with whom.
  2. Spring Campaign Phase

    a. Plan army movement. Your army can move up to two regions.
    b. Declare support. You may decide to send troops to help a friend.
    c. Move armies. Armies move simultaneously.
    d. Resolve battles and sieges. Fight battles on the tabletop!
    e. Results. The Referee announces battle results and army locations.
  3. Summer Campaign Phase

    a. Plan army movement.
    b. Declare support.
    c. Move armies.
    d. Resolve battles.
    e. Results.
  4. Fall Campaign Phase.

  5. a. Plan army movement.
    b. Declare support.
    c. Move armies.
    d. Resolve battles.
    e. Results.
  6. Economic Phase

    a. Collect taxation. You get one or two "talents" per region.
    b. Pay tribute. Tributary nations pay one talent to their overlord.
    c. Treasury report. The Referee informs you how much money you have.
    d. Pay bribes. Offer talents to other nations to influence war declarations.
    e. Recruit new troops. Pay one talent to build one unit.
    f. Results. The referee updates his records and informs bribe recipients.

Rules for the Political Phase

Declaring War -- A nation or empire may declare war on one other nation or empire at the start of the political phase. You must be at war with another nation or empire to invade their territory. A player may decline to declare war, but this does not prevent other players from initiating a war with him. Players submit their declarations of war by e-mail to the Referee. The results are consolidated and announced at the end of the political phase.

Proclamations -- Players may submit a short (about 30 words or less) proclamation to go with their declaration of war or neutrality. An example would be "The barbaric tribes of the enemy will driven before our mighty hosts, their cities will lay in ruins and their people placed under the whip of the overseer!"

Overlords and Tributaries -- A player whose capital is captured becomes the "tributary" of the conqueror, called the "overlord". The overlord's nation and the tributary nation are now considered an "empire". The player in charge of the conquering nation is now an "emperor". An empire is considered one nation for political purposes.

Tributary Restrictions -- The tributary suffers the following restrictions:

  1. He must provide one Talent (Taxation) to the Overlord every Economic Phase.
  2. He may not declare war and must join in any war declaration by his overlord.
  3. He may not attack his overlord.
  4. He must provide an allied military contingent to his Overlord if possible.
  5. He must allow the army of his overlord free passage through his territory.

Tributary Capabilities -- The tributary has the following capabilities:

  1. The tributary retains control of his army. He may maneuver his army as he sees fit.
  2. The tributary retains control of his capital and regions under his control at the moment of conquest.
  3. He retains all his Prestige Points and may acquire more.
  4. He may acquire tributaries of his own, incorporating them into the empire. These "sub-tributaries" must provide taxation, may not declare war, and must provide an allied contingent to their overlord and/or the emperor. The authority to declare war is retained by the emperor.

Throwing Off Tributary Status -- A nation is released from tributary status when:

  1. His direct overlord loses two consecutive battles with his army.
  2. His direct overlord or emperor's capital is captured.

Recruiting Local Troops -- A nation may pay two talents in the political phase to recruit local troops for a year. These represent the host of small Greek city-states that formed alliances (or became subjects of) the greater nations of the Mediterranean. The local troops provide an "allied contingent" of three elements to any one battle fought by that nation in the next year. These troops were from smaller, poorer city-states, and consist mostly of light troops. The referee will randomly select the composition of the minor allied contingent.

Winter Quarters -- Units may be moved from the region where they ended the Fall campaign season. This represents moving the army to winter quarters. This is done during the political phase for convenience. The army may move through any two contiguous friendly regions. Armies may not remain in enemy regions and must move to a friendly region. Armies may start in any friendly region on the first turn of the game.

Revealing Army Locations -- The locations of field armies are revealed at the end of any campaign phase in which the army enters an enemy region, engages in battle, sends an allied contingent, or is adjacent to another field army.

Summary of what you must do in the Political Phase:

  1. Decide to declare war (or not), and write proclamations.
  2. Pay for a local troops if desired.
  3. Decide where the army spent the winter.
  4. Send this information to the referee.

Rules for the Three Campaign Phases (Spring, Summer, and Fall)

Planning Army Movement -- Armies may be in "active" or "reactive" mode during each campaign phase.

An army in active mode may move up to a distance of two regions. They may pass freely though territory under their control or under the control of a tributary. They may pass through or enter the territory of an overlord only if given permission. They may enter the territory of an enemy and will then cause a battle. Regions where an army is allowed to move are termed "friendly". An army halts at the first enemy region entered.

An army in reactive mode will move towards any enemy army that enters friendly territory and cause a battle. If the nation is at war with two or more other nations, the player must specify who will be the primary target.

Stacking -- Two armies may not occupy the same region unless they are in battle.

Sea Movement -- An army that moves by a sea route, other than in summer, runs a risk of encountering storms. The referee will roll a die, with a score of "one" indicating the army is caught in a storm. The army will lose 1 to 6 elements. The first element lost will be a mounted element, if present. The army may continue to advance or return to the starting region where sea movement started without chance of further loss. A leader planning a move by sea must specify what actions his army will take if a storm is encountered.

Declaring Support -- Players must declare at the start of the phase if they will send allied contingents to help other nations. An allied contingent may consist of up to three elements. Tributary rulers must always send an allied contingent to help their Overlord. Allied contingents must be within movement distance of the army they intend to support. Units sent as part of an allied contingent are not available to help their own army in battle for that campaign phase.

Supply -- Armies supported themselves largely by foraging and pillaging. A player's field army is "in supply" whenever occupying home regions, enemy arable terrain, or captured enemy dry or littoral regions. Armies that spend a campaign maneuver phase in an enemy dry or littoral region lose one element to attrition, desertion, and disease on a roll of "six". Arable terrain is found primarily in mainland Greece and the Persian heartland. Littoral and Dry terrain is found primarily in Syracuse, Carthage, and southern Persia.

Moving the Armies on the Map -- The referee will move the armies on his master map board and announce any battles. If two adjacent enemy armies are trying to enter each other's regions (trying to "swap places"), a random die roll will determine where the battle takes place. The low scorer has his movement cancelled and will be the defender. An army that is defeated will retreat to the province where it started, the capital, or the nearest friendly province, in that order.

Capturing Regions -- Regions have a limited defensive capability even if no army is present. An invader who moves into an enemy region (and is not met by an enemy army) captures the region on a roll of 3 to 6. If the army fails to capture the region, it loses one element of troops. The army remains in the region in either case. Note that if the army fails to capture an enemy dry or littoral region, it may lose an additional element. A subsequent, consecutive attempt to capture the region automatically succeeds.

Battles -- When two armies meet in a region, a battle is fought using the DBA rules. Elements that retreat off the board return to the field army after the battle. A defeated army must retreat to a friendly region. It is destroyed if it cannot.

Losses -- Army elements that are lost in battle are placed in the nations "reserve" and can be purchased later as replacements. Elements that leave the board during the battle return to the field army after the battle. Armies that lose their general or camp are penalized by a mandatory transfer of two additional units to the reserve.

Offering Tributary Status -- A player may make an offer to another player to become his tributary at the end of any Maneuver Phase. The other player may accept or decline.

Summary of what you must do in each Campaign Phase:

  1. Specify Active or Reactive mode for the army.
    • If Active, plot a move of up to two regions.
    • If Reactive and at war with several enemies, specify a priority enemy.
  2. Specify sea moves
    • Acceptable level of loss before canceling sea move.
  3. Decide on allied Contingents
    • Declare whom you will support with an allied contingent.
    • Declare which elements will be sent.
    • Declare use of minor allies.
  4. Decide to allow or disallow passage for tributary armies.
  5. E-mail this information to the referee.

Rules for the Economic Phase

Collect Taxation -- Each player collects one talent for each region under his control. His capital is worth two talents.

Paying Tribute -- Tributary nations must pay one talent to their overlord before any other expenditures are made.

Treasury Report -- The referee will inform you by private e-mail how much money you have.

Pay Bribes -- A player may elect to offer bribes to other players to influence their decisions to make war in the next political phase or their strategic meneuvers. The offer must specify the recipient, the desired action, and the amount offered.

Recruiting New Troops -- Players may replace losses in their armies at a cost of one talent per unit. The army must still conform to the DBA army list given in these rules. An army may never exceed 12 elements. The new units come from the reserve.

Summary of what you must do in the Economic Phase:

  1. Read your treasury report
  2. Offer Bribes
    • Recipient
    • Action desired
    • Amount
  3. Recruit new troops for your field army.

Winning the Game

The player with the most prestige points at the end of the fourth turn is the winner. Prestige points are gained by:

  • Battlefield success -- Each player gains one prestige point for each enemy element his troops have destroyed or forced off the battlefield. Each player loses one prestige point for each friendly element the enemy has destroyed or forced off the battlefield. Capturing a camp or killing a general is worth an additional two prestige points.

  • Gaining Wealth -- Two talents in the treasury are worth one prestige point.

  • Conquering territory -- Each region under a player's control at the end of the fourth turn is worth three prestige points. Each region under the control of his direct tributary is worth two prestige points.

Detailed Nation Descriptions

ATHENS -- Athens is a small city-state with several smaller allies in central Greece. Athens used its naval power to defend itself from invading fleets and armies.

Special Rule: Athens may declare a naval attack once each campaign phase. This may be on any enemy moving by a sea route. The attack succeeds on a roll of 5 or 6 in the summer and 6 in the spring and autumn. The enemy sea move is cancelled and one to six elements of the enemy army is lost. This is in addition to regular the sea move die roll. The Athenian player may set this up as an "if/then" statement in his maneuver orders each phase.

Regions: There are three connected regions in the Athens: Megara, Northern Attica, and Eastern Attica. The capital, Athens, is located in Eastern Attica. Megara is connected by a land route to Corinth in Sparta. A land route connects North Attica to Aetolia in Thebes. A sea route also connects North Attica to Ionia in the Persian Empire. All three regions are Arable.

Army List: 1x 4Sp(Gen), 8x 4Sp, 1x 3Cv or 4Sp, 1x 4Sp or 4Ax or 2Ps, 1x 2Ps or 3Bw.

THEBES: Thebes is a small city-state and it's allies in northern mainland Greece. Thebes controlled the city of Delphi (in the region of Aetolia). Delphi was the location of the famous Oracle. The pronouncements of the oracle were given great respect by all the nations of the Mediterranean.

Special Rule: As long as Thebes controls Aetolia, the Oracle may issue prophecies. The Theban player may use prophecies only three times in a year. Using the prophecy allows the Theban player to cause a single re-roll of any dice roll, friendly or enemy, in any maneuver phase or on the battlefield. Enemy forces may not use or destroy the oracle, but can deny use by the Theban player.

Regions: There are three connected regions in Thebes: Aetolia, Boeotia, and Thessaly. The capitol, Thebes, is located in Boeotia. Aetolia is connected by a land route to Northern Attica in Athens, and also by a sea route to Motya in Syracuse. Thessaly is connected by a land route to Lydia in the Persian Empire. All three regions are Arable.

Army List: 1x 4Sp (Gen), 5x 4Sp, 1x 3Cv, 2x 3Cv or 2LH, 1x 4Sp or 2LH, 1x 4Ax or 2Ps, 1x 2Ps.

SPARTA: The military state of Sparta is in southwestern mainland Greece. The Spartans were renowned for their professional army. Their economy was supported by huge numbers of "helots", slaves who worked the land while the Spartans trained for war.

Special Rule: Spartan Spear units win all tie rolls.

Special Rule: A horde element appears in each battle fought in regions controlled by Sparta. This may not bring the total elements of any army over 12. An enemy field army (of less than 12 elements) in Spartan territory may incite servile rebellion on a roll of 6 and claim the Horde element instead (if the Spartan player has not claimed it first). Add +1 if one other Spartan region is already under enemy control.

Regions: There are three connected regions in Sparta: Corinth, Achaea, and Laconia. The capitol, Sparta, is located in Laconia. Corinth is connected by a land route to Megara in Athens. Achaea is connected by a sea route to Himera in Syracuse. All three regions are Arable.

Army List: 1x 4Sp (Gen), 10x 4Sp, 1x 4Sp or 2Ps.

SYRACUSE: Syracuse is a powerful former colony of Greeks on the island of Sicily. The growing maritime and commercial power of Syracuse is viewed as a rich prize by the other nations. The Syracusans successfully used bribery to cause desertion among enemy forces. During the Peloponnesian War, the Syracusans captured an entire enemy army and sold them into slavery after confining them in the infamous Stone Quarry.

Special Rule: Any enemy field army fighting the Syracusans on the island of Sicily may be targeted for bribery. It succeeds on a roll of 6. One random enemy unit may be transferred from the enemy army to the Syracusan army for the duration of the battle. After the battle, the unit is transferred to the enemy reserve. This may not be done if the Syracusan army already has 12 elements.

Special Rule: The Syracusan player may sell defeated troops into slavery. After a successful battle, the Syracusan player gets one talent for every two enemy elements destroyed. The lost enemy elements still go into the enemy reserve.

Regions: There are three connected regions in Syracuse: Himera, Motya, and Eastern Sicily. The capitol, Syracuse, is located in Eastern Sicily. Himera is connected by a sea route to Achaea in Sparta. Motya is connected by a sea route to Aetolia in Thebes and by a sea route to Mauritania in Carthage. All three regions are Littoral.

Army List: 1x 3Cv (Gen), 1x 3Cv, 1x 2Lh, 4x 4Sp, 2x 4Sp or 3Wb or 1Ax, 1x Art, 2x 2Ps.

PERSIA: The Persian Empire conducted a number of engineering marvels to speed the movement of their troops, including bridging the Hellespont, building the Royal Road, and cutting several canals. The vast size of the empire also acted as a buffer to invading forces.

Special rule: The Persian field army may make one extra move in Persian territory each season.

Special Rule: Two regions in Persia (Ionia and Egypt) are "non-resource" regions. These regions do not produce talents during the economic phase, but are otherwise identical to regular regions. Also note that Persia begins the campaign with four regular regions (Lydia, Mesopotamia, Media, and Persia).

Regions: There are six connected regions in the Persian Empire: Lydia, Ionia, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Media, and Persia. The capitol, Persepolis, is located in Persia. Mesopotamia is the hub of the empire and is connected to all the other regions. Lydia is connected by a land route to Thessaly in Thebes. Ionia is connected by a sea route to North Attica in Athens. Egypt is connected by a sea route to Libya in Carthage. Ionia and Egypt are Littoral. Lydia, Mesopotamia, Media, and Persia are Arable.

Army List:: 1x 3Cv(Gen), 2x 3Cv, 2x 2Lh, 3x 8Bw, 4x 8Bw or (1x 4Sp and 3x 3Ax)

CARTHAGE: Carthage was the center of a vast commercial trading empire. Their ships traded across the Mediterranean and as far away as England. The Carthaginians used their vast wealth to raise large mercenary armies.

Special Rule: The region of Numidia produces three talents per year.

Regions: There are three connected regions in the Carthage: Numidia, Libya, and Mauretania. The capital, Carthage, is located in Numidia. Mauritania is connected by a sea route to Motya in Syracuse. Libya is connected by a sea route to Egypt in the Persian Empire. Numidia is Littoral; Mauritania and Libya are Arid.

Army List:: 1x HCh(Gen), 1x HCh, 2x 3Cv, 4x 4Sp, 1x 3Ax, 1x 4Wb, 2x 2Ps


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Last Updated: 4 July 2004.

Thanks to Paul Pecena for this submission.
Comments and feedback welcome.