Capturing fortified cities is the great challenge that both players will face in “Hellenes.” Put in its most simple form, the object of the game is to seize and control as many enemy cities as possible and at the same time prevent the other player from doing likewise.
All cities in the game are fortified and provide refuge to the side controlling the city. A city may house a number of blocks equal to its prestige point value times two. Whenever a block or group of blocks enter an enemy city, all enemy blocks in that city may “fortify” behind that city’s walls. In addition, each city (even unoccupied cities) contains an inherent one-step garrison. When a friendly city area is entered by enemy units and the friendly units “fortify,” a garrison block is placed with the city’s defenders. Units and garrisons so fortified have an agility rating of “A” and a strength of “2” regardless of their printed rating. In addition, when fortified, it takes two hits to inflict one step loss on a city defender. This makes cities very tough to take when defended by large numbers of units.
There are two methods of siege combat: siege attrition and siege assault. Siege attrition carries no risk for the besieger, but requires time and patience in order to work. Siege assaults are usually bloody—especially for the attacker—but may deliver quick results.
In order to exercise siege combat, the city in question must have an established siege in place at the start of that seasonal turn. In other words, you cannot enter a city and assault it in the same turn. Once a siege has been established on a previous turn, siege combat may be employed.
Here’s how siege attrition works: the besieger rolls a number of dice equal to the number of besieged blocks—including the garrison block. During spring, summer, and fall turns, each die roll of ‘1’ will eliminate one step from the besieged units—largest unit takes the hit. During winter turns, each die roll of 1-3 will eliminate one step from the besieged units. The more units besieged, the more likely it will be that attrition will be successful. Thus, while filling a city to its capacity will likely protect the city from assault, this action will make the city more prone to attrition losses.
With respect to ports, there is one important requirement to engage in siege attrition: the port must be both besieged and it must be blockaded. Athens possesses an inherent blockade of any port so long as the offshore sea area is vacant. For Sparta to blockade a port city, the offshore sea zone must be controlled by friendly fleets. The effect is that it is much easier for Athens with its naval supremacy to reduce ports by attrition than it is for the Spartans. Thus, the Spartans must try at all costs to hold on to their port cities.
Assaults are, as can be expected, bloody affairs. This being the case, any tactic that can “grease the wheels” for an assault, should be employed. Not only does it take two hits to reduce one defender’s block, but city defenders are also immune to routs. Since all city defenders are agility “A” units they will all fire before any assaulting unit will fire. Because of this each defending step has enormous potential to inflict punishment on assaulting units. A season or two of attrition can do much to pave the way for an assault.
The player’s best bet for resolving a successful siege lays in the event cards. There are three “Treachery” cards in the deck and one “Negotiation” card. “Treachery” cards cause a selected city to lose its double defense (two hits to inflict one step loss) on the first round of combat for that turn. This one round reprieve from double defense can be huge.
A great way to employ Treachery is to try to manipulate the initiative so as to go last during a seasonal turn and lay siege to a city. Then, in the next season, play a Treachery card. Events trigger before actions (see part 5 of my articles). Thus, it may be possible in this manner to lay siege to a city and assault it successfully before the enemy has a chance to respond.
The “Negotiation” card is somewhat like a Treachery card in that it provides a speedy way to resolve a siege. The Negotiation event causes a besieged lone garrison to surrender on a die roll of 1-2. This die roll may be modified by the leader value of any leader in play (more on leaders later).
Finally, another great way to take a city is to use one of the “Civil War” events. Civil War cards are best played as the New Year Event. Civil War cards remove the double-defense of an UNBESIEGED city for an entire year! Of course by playing this card the player announces his intention, but this may be outweighed by the fact that the card’s effect lasts for an entire year. Civil War cards may also be used to bluff an opponent into heavily reinforcing in one are of the board when the player intends to move in another area.
Next week we’ll look at still more cards from Hellenes.
(All art is playtest art)