I recently read Donald Kagan's excellent history of the conflict between Athens and Sparta - 'The Peloponnesian War'. I was gripped by the critical events that became the tipping point in the long struggle: the siege of Syracuse. Today I came across a real gem that has somehow passed me by until now...

Yes, you guessed it. The game called 'Syracuse' by Vae Victis. Having seen a video summary of the game, I was then lucky enough to come across the rules in English and also a Vassal module. Here's a link to the video I watched: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=okuU7sKwTyA

I'd really like to hear your views on this game. And if you're up for a crack at this via Vassal, let me know. 

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Comment by Brendan Clark on March 26, 2014 at 7:15am

My solo-playing of Syracuse has come to a temporary halt for now, as I'm currently playing it with a friend in Poland via Vassal. 

I particularly like the way the designer, Frédéric Bey, has integrated construction and supply as crucial elements in this game. By including these and providing for initiative, action points, movement, combat, and events, his design has great potential to transform siege scenarios into challenging games. With Syracuse, it is a fine system indeed.

I'm looking forward to the evolution of this system and understand that the designer has another version in this system which is due out in the October 2014 on the fighting for Amphipolis, 422 BC, (Vae Victis #119), which I shall be ordering.

I had tried to order this game from the Vae Victis website and kept coming across a webpage that informed me the game was 'sold out', but I was given another weblink which shows it's still available. Here's that weblink.

Here's an excellent video review of the game by Marco.

Comment by Brendan Clark on March 13, 2014 at 9:08am

Image above shows the situation at the end of turn 4 (representing 12 months of siege). Reinforcements from Sparta were landed by galleys to the north of Syracuse (in zone 4) and were soon joined by a cavalry force allied to Syracuse. Athens won the initiative at the start of the turn and advanced from its one fort (zone 21) and main camp and fortified area (zone T17) south west of Syracuse.

Spartan general Gylippus combined his force of Hoplites and Peltasts with Hermocrates and a force of Syracusian cavalry and archers and launched an attack to drive back an Athenian force of Hoplites, Archers and Cavalry under Athenian general Lamachus (zone T14).  But Gylippus was defeated with some losses to his Hoplites. Thereafter the Athenians attempted some construction work; they were unable to build a fort but managed to complete the second stage in their encircling wall. Towards the end of the turn, Athens slight advantage in numbers of cavalry in the field hindered Syracusian supplies, leading to moderate food shortage in the city.    

Comment by Brendan Clark on March 13, 2014 at 8:45am

Image above shows the position at the end of turn 3 (equal to nine months) of the Athenian siege of Syracuse. The Athenians lost one engagement, won another engagement and then establised their fortified camp and its walls in the first turn, while Syracuse started to build a counter-wall to protect its supply lines in turn two.

In turn three, Athens received cavalry reinforcements, and twice defeated a Syracusian force that was attempting to drive the Athenians away from their planned wall building. Athens completed the first stage of its encircling wall, which is intended to cut off Syracuse from its supply lines. Next turn Syracuse is likely to receive reinforcements from Sparta...

Comment by Brendan Clark on March 10, 2014 at 7:22am

Thanks Ryszard.

I just played the opening turn of Syracuse. Finding my way with the rules and seeing how it works.

Phase A:

Both Syracuse and Athens receive an Event Marker each, as specified in the historical scenario notes.

The initiative die rolls generate a draw and as Athens has the Advantage, it gains initiative. Given their die rolls, both Athens and Syracuse get five activations each.

Phase B:

In the first impulse of activations in turn 1, Nicias with a combined force of Athenian and allied Hoplites, some cavalry and archers advances from clear terrain (T25) into the high ground (T21) to take the un-occupied Syracusian fort at Olympieum. Hermocrates leaves Syracuse taking a small force of archers to join a force of Syracusian cavalry (T11).

In the final impulse of turn 1 activations, Nicias advances northwards with his force across the river (into T13) where he comes up against a Syracusian force of Hoplites and Peltasts under Sycanos. The Athenian force is driven back across the river with some losses to its light troops. Meanwhile, to the east, Lamachos crosses the river northward with a force of Athenian, Allied and Mercenary Hoplites and some archers (into T17).  In response, Heraclides, with Hoplites and Peltasts, attacks the Athenian force but is finally defeated after a struggle* and retreats.

Phase C:

With sufficient forces located under Lamachos on the coast (in T17) and to the south-west of Syracuse, Athens is able to play its ‘Build Fortifications’ marker to build the Athenian camp and fortifications that are essential to the first stage in the encirclement of Syracuse.

Phase D:

Supplies for both Athens and Syracuse are free from enemy interference so both sides’ respective supply status remains unchanged at this point (note that I had activated a leader and moved the Syracusian cavalry back into Syracuse, which was a mistake in terms of constricting supplies to Athenian forces).

Turn 1 ends.

Clearly, if luck and events (the die rolls and event markers) go against Athens it can be a struggle for the Athenian player to establish the Athenian camp. Still, it is possible to get the camp built in the first turn if luck is with the Athenian side. I’ll need to explore this game a bit more to see how difficult or easy it is for Syracuse to demolish the Athenian camp.

Comment by Ryszard Tokarczuk on March 8, 2014 at 4:26pm

My friends swear that Athenians do not stand a chance in this game. Hm, maybe. We were all learning the game and probably there are moves that simply are less than stellar.

One vivid memory comes from me playing the Athenians and struggling strongly to establish the big camp - it was demolished by Syracusans... so Athenians had to man the smaller ones :) Athenians lost, but there was a fun there, certainly.

While I cannot say that I know how to play this game in sensible manner :D I like it because of the subject... and approach to logistics, so it is really an ongoing siege operation :)

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