Last week I began a series of articles which I hope will A) demonstrate what a great game Hellenes
is, and B) provide some strategy insights.
As I stated in part 1, Hellenes
provides players with a wide variety of units and options. The number one unit of importance in the game is the hoplite unit. In this article, I’d like to take the reader on a tour of the Aegean. We’ll examine the various city-states of Greece who were belligerents in the Peloponnesian war, and we will focus our attention on the hoplite contingent of each city-state.
Hoplites, as I stated in part 1, are the ‘heavy hitters’ in land battles. Many have a combat value of 4 ‘steps.’ Most have a strength of ‘2’ which means they inflict step losses on a D6 of 1-2 or inflict a rout on a D6 of 5-6. Nearly all hoplites, however, are agility “C” units which mean that the attacking hoplite will fire last in a battle. (Units fire in order of agility—A, B, C, etc—with defenders firing first within an agility class.) There is, of course, one very important exception to this general rule: the Spartans.
Spartan hoplites are elite hoplites. They have an agility rating of “B” and a strength rating of “2.” There are four Spartan hoplite blocks: a 4CV, 3CV, and a pair of 2CV blocks. Total strength is 11CV. Combine this with their agility of “B” and you have a juggernaut that has the capability of smashing just about any army of equal size. On attack only enemy non-hoplite infantry, archers, and cavalry will fire first. Non-hoplite infantry are almost always B1 (Barbarians have a B2 and a few C2 non-hoplite infantry). This means they need a D6 of a ‘1’ or a ‘6’ in order to cause any damage to the attacking Spartan hoplites. Archers and cavalry are almost always A1 (there is an Odrysian and a Syracuse A2 cavalry unit but the Spartan hoplites will almost never encounter the former and are allied with the latter). Once again, a ‘1’ or a ‘6’ is needed in combat to cause any attrition to the Spartan hoplites before they smash into the enemy line with terrifying force.
Grouped together, they carry all before them and the Athenian player would be well advised not to give battle. Siege warfare is a topic of its own which I will address in the future. For now let me say that it is best to face the Spartan hoplites behind your long walls than in the field. Because the Athenians will often do just this, the Spartan player will sometimes be tempted to disperse his Spartans. The 2CV units in particular are useful since they can be transported by sea easier than the 3CV unit (to transport a land unit by sea you have to have a fleet with more steps than the transported blocks; thus it is impossible to transport a 4-step block by sea unless you voluntarily reduce it to 3CV). Just remember, blocks with the fewest number of steps are vulnerable to rout results in combat. If you plan to bring a 2CV Spartan block into a battle, be sure you have another 2CV unit to absorb a rout so your Spartan unit can fire. Combined arms is essential in this game!
The Spartan hoplites have five cities that they call Home. The concept of Home Cities is a crucial concept to comprehend. Units can only be recruited in a Home City. Units can take reinforcements (regain a step) in a Home City. The five cities of Lacedaemonia are (from west to east): Pylos (a small port), Messenia (second in size to Sparta), Sparta (a port and the second-most important city in the game in terms of prestige value), Cynuria (a small city), and the island of Cythera. Each of these cities is vulnerable to sudden amphibious strikes by Athens. It is, therefore, a good idea when venturing forth towards the Athenian-held cities in the north, to leave at least one small block of Spartan hoplites behind at Sparta to guard against a sudden strike at the capital.
Since the Spartan hoplites are elite (this, by the way is denoted by a red Agility letter), they have a better chance than other hoplites of force marching. A forced march allows a block to move one area beyond its normal movement rating of 2—a force march allows a hoplite to move 3 spaces. To force march, a D6 is rolled after all actions are complete. A dr of 1-3 is a failure; a dr of 4+ is a success. There is no penalty to failure other than that the unit cannot move an additional space. Elite units such as the Spartan hoplites, get a +2 drm. This effectively means that Spartan hoplites will only fail to force march on a D6 of ‘1’. Use of this land mobility is essential. It means you can reach Athens in one move by forced march. A common Athenian tactic when besieged in Athens is to move by sea and besiege Sparta. But because of their elite status, force marching from Athens to Sparta to relieve such a siege (and possibly chew up some Athenians in the process) is a very real possibility that players need to be aware of.
In summary, the Spartan hoplites are the heavyweights of the heavyweight class. Athenian players: Extreme caution or desperation should be used before engaging them in the field. The best defense against them is your walls.
Spartan players: Feel free to throw your weight around with these guys in the field, but don’t wreck them against a city with a lot of defenders unless you’re desperate. Sometimes it’s best to pillage the city for prestige points and keep them in tact—an elite hoplite force ‘in being.’
Next time we’ll look at the hoplites of the Spartan Allies: the Arcadians and Boeotians.