Yes, it’s Phatis again. I know what you’re thinking: Phatis wrote two blogs in one weekend?! He did two things? Well, as long as it gets me out of making boxes, I suppose. Also I don’t need your sass. I spend most of the day dealing with fellows from Yorkshire, a city-state where people speak in a peculiar dialect and think they are funny all the time. Just… lots of dry humor. It’s exhausting.
Anyway, in this blog, I am going to quickly talk about the setting of the core game and why we are releasing the Spartans and Athenians with the core box. And then after all that noise is out of the way, we will look at what units you can expect to see in these amazing boxes! So let’s start off with the setting of the core game.
The ‘Historical’ Setting of Mortal Gods (The Core Box Set)
When the Mortal Gods team began working on this game, there was a focus on two core concepts: (1) Respect the history with its rich, fabulous setting and (2) make this a skirmish game with rules that are easy to pick up, with fast-paced scenarios that are enjoyable to play. While most of the rule book deals with the second concept listed here, the first concept also deserves a little attention.
For the core box and initial release, Mortal Gods will focus on the Classical Period, right around the start of the Peloponnesian War. And that just makes sense. It’s the period from whence I am from, after all! Therefore it is perfect, just like me. And also, just like me, this period is extremely interesting.
So what makes this period so interesting? I’m glad you asked. The Greco-Persian War is still well within recent memory (the war had ended less than two decades earlier) at this time, with lots of lingering emotions—fear, distrust, anger, resentment, hope—that followed it. And not every Greek was happy with the results. Several city-states chose to remain neutral in the war (like Akhaia, Argolis, and Phokis), and a few joined willingly with the Persians (Boeotia, Thessaly, and Macedonia). On top of that, the Spartans had withdrawn from the Greco-Persian War after the battles of Plataea and Mycale (both huge victories for the Greeks).
With Sparta gone and Athens now in charge, sitting at the head of the newly-formed Delian League, the Greeks led a hugely successful counterattack against the Persians. They pushed the Persians back through Thessaly and Macedonia—all the way to the western region of the Anatolian peninsula where they freed their Greek cousins who had settled there. When the war was finally over, Athens stood as the second dominant superpower in the Aegean, establishing what looked very much like an empire of its own to its neighbors. Sparta, too, started to wonder if Athens would start to encroach upon their territory.
As tensions between Athens and her neighboring city-states grew, these events would crescendo into the start of the Archidamian War (the onset of the Peloponnesian War). Sparta and the Peloponnesian League would invade Attika and wage a war against Athens and the Delian League. And this is where you come in: choose your allegiance or remain independent and fight both Leagues!
See? I told you it would be interesting!
The Athens and Sparta Box Sets
With this fantastic historical backdrop as inspiration, it was obvious to all of us (well, me primarily–because I lived through it) that we needed to release both Athenians and Spartans in the first wave. These are the two big hitters at the start of the Peloponnesian War, with a lot of money and influence behind them.
So not only do the box sets have unique units specific to that particular city-state, but also special rules that influence how units within that city-state function (be it according to religious, social, or political idealism). Our goal was to make them fun to play while staying true to that historical grounding the core game brings to the table.
So let’s start with my personal favorite: The Athenians
Athens’ power and influence grew out of the Greco-Persian War. Not only did we hold off a Persian invasion at Marathon, we conquered the seas and liberated our Ionian cousins! We were expansionists. And in no small way did Athens establish itself as an imperial state. To express this, the Athenian units in this box set will have speed and versatility.
Athens was awash in opulence and wealth (for the Hoplite classes anyway) at the onset of the Peloponnesian War. To represent this, Athenian Hoplites will be more heavily armored than those of the core box set. But don’t think that will slow them down.
As an expansionist force, heavy armored units will move as quickly as a typical medium-armored unit. Their ability to close the distance across the battlefield while being able to take a decent amount of damage is what defines them as a force that will be difficult for any opposing Lochagos.
Athenian heroes and characters have a unique form of ‘inspire’, which gives additional movement boosts to infantry within their sphere of authority, making these units extremely agile. Andronikos, the Athenian Lochagos that comes in the box, also gives additional courage to all units within his line of sight.
The biggest addition to this box set are the Athenian Marines. These Marines were what made the Athenian navy the best in all of Greece. They were hardened soldiers, capable of fighting on triremes at sea or as Hoplites on land. Not only were they heavy-armored soldiers, but they excelled at both ranged and melee combat.
Worry not, my fellow comrades, I wouldn’t let War Banner release this box without them.
To represent the Marines’ unique style of fighting, you can take a Marine group with ranged and melee fighting (choosing between one or the other each turn), and also take dedicated Marine ranged units (like javelineers and archers). These ranged units are also heavily armored, reflecting their status as an elite force.
Supporting these heavier soldiers and elite troops are the Athenian peripoloi. Like those of the core box, they are unarmored or light troops, but unlike the core box these warriors count as experienced which means they can form into a Phalanx and have bonuses to their stats.
That’s quite a lot for Athens. Now let’s get on about those grunting Spartans:
If the Athenians excel at speed and agility, the Spartans are experts at standing still. That is to say the Spartans know how to hold their ground. Fearless warriors who know the value of discipline, this box set will give you a force of hardened soldiers who are the toughest of the tough.
The standard Spartan hoplite is not a shabby generic soldier. They have been trained since they were youths to fight. They may lack for the genius that is found in Athens, but that makes them no less cunning or courageous. Whether fighting in tunics or in full panoply, they also do not fear death, choosing instead to fight until the bitter end. In the game, these warriors will never flee, but instead take damage instead.
The pinnacle of Spartan military training were the Krypteia. These young men, chosen during their training in the Spartan agoge, are fierce fighters (even for Spartans). They are so tough you can only take one unit per every 100 points.
The heroes and characters of this box set will also yield additional benefits to your Spartan warriors. If you thought the Spartans were tough before, when they are near a leader they will pass every courage test automatically. The Lochagos, Meonas, is so brutal that one must first take and pass a courage test before you can engage him in combat!
Supporting the Spartans are other non-Spartan Lakonians. These people, known as perioikoi, were not slaves, but free men and women of Lakonia (outside of the Spartan polis) allied with Sparta and part of the Peloponnesian League. Unlike Helots, the perioikoi had their own armies and were also permitted to join the Spartan military as auxiliaries and–if they proved themselves–even join Spartan regiments.
Finally, the Helots are also included in this box. However contrary to what people believe, the Helots were not stout warriors. These were the Spartan slave class, and were often culled by the Krypteia of able-bodied young men in order to prevent rebellions or uprisings among their populations. However each Spartan Hoplite was attended by upwards of three Helot slaves and they did take up arms (whatever meager weapon they might scrounge up) only in times of desperation to protect their masters. They are represented in the game as lightly armed warriors on a round base (they cannot form a phalanx) without armor of any kind.
Additional Details: Spartan and Athenian Conscripts
As both box sets represent the two Greek superpowers of the time, both sets also grant the player the benefit of one cheap additional conscript unit. This is unique to the Athenians and Spartans, as both can draw upon their allies to bring about troops when they need it the most.
For Athens, the conscripts are drawn right from the Thetes class (the lowest economic class). In times of great need, the Thetes (who normally served as rowers in the Navy or psiloi–light troops and skirmishers–in the army) were provided the full Hoplite panoply on loan from the state of Athens. As they were never trained as Hoplites and were not part of the Hoplite class (and therefore were never through the ephebeia), they served with distinction even though not the most effective soldiers.
In Sparta, they likely drew from the perioikoi. These conscripts were about equal or only marginally more effective than those of the Thetes, and likely provided for their own panoply (which would be different than those of the Spartans). Perioikoi were second-class citizens in the eyes of the Spartans, so often they were more than eager to prove themselves worthy and earn a higher status within the broader Spartan society.
To represent these troops in game, we made them very cheap so it is almost insane not to include them. However they are situated on round bases (they cannot form a phalanx) and are rather weak soldiers. However they have their uses and a skilled tactician will find a way to field them effectively.
Please remember to like, share, and subscribe to stay up to date on all things Mortal Gods! And until next time… I’ll probably still be making boxes.