It’s your favorite shade from the Underworld, Phatis! I’m back again to tell you all about an exciting new feature we are adding to Mortal Gods. This feature will elevate your gaming experience, both adding more historical significance to your games while giving you the freedom to play larger games at the same time! What is this magic, you ask? We are finally introducing Leagues into Mortal Gods!
No, no, settle down! I am not talking about your fantasy league, or a bowling league, or whatever crazy league you may be into. To be more precise, we are adding the Delian League, the Peloponnesian League, and the Boiotian League to the game. Which is way more interesting, let’s be honest.
Oh! We are also adding new gifts for each league; these are ‘league leaders’ gifts. We will get into that a bit farther down.
So let’s get right into that historical background and how this all works to make your games of Mortal Gods more engaging than they are already.
1. A League of Their Own
Following the end of the second Persian Invasion, when Xerxes’ forces were routed and made to retreat at the hand of the Greek coalition, Sparta had to remove itself back to the Peloponnese as a result of several rather urgent issues arising all in the span of a few years—a medized General who had to face trial, a devastating earthquake, and a helot slave uprising. Athens was left in charge of cleaning up after the invasion, dealing with launching a massive counter-attack that spanned the Aegean and three continents (Europe, Asia, and Africa). At the same time, Thebes had revenge on its mind after facing the harsh punishments dealt out by the Athenians and Spartans; the Boiotian Confederation which it had led for decades—consisting of most of the poleis in the region of Boiotia—was forcefully broken up by the Greek coalition at the war’s end as punishment for their betrayal and alliance with Persia.
There’s a lot to unpack there. But it is important to note that neither Athens, Sparta, nor Thebes had to handle all of these challenges alone, though, as they were all the leaders of their own Leagues (or, in the case of Thebes at this time, the future leader).
Athens would form the Delian League in the vacuum created by the Spartan departure from the war. Sparta had already established its Peloponnesian League in the 6th Century BCE and its members would assist Sparta in subduing the uprising and in its rebuilding. And Thebes would take advantage of all the chaos to reorganize its battered Boiotian League to great success.
All of these leagues had one major thing in common; they all had obligations to hold the same friends and enemies of the leading city-state. That is, whomever Athens, Sparta, and Thebes saw as enemies, the leagues under their control were forced to view them similarly. This has a few big implications for our game as a whole, but also provides a mean to open the game up more.
Before we get into that though, let’s look at the historical significance and function of these leagues.
2. The Delian League
We have to start at Athens. Why? Because I say so, and I am an Athenian, that’s why. Most of this is covered to a larger extent in the Athenian rulebook that accompanies the starter set, but here’s a summary as a bit of a refresher.
Now the Delian League was massive (encompassing around 330 poleis at its height); it was so big, in fact, that it would become an Athenian empire by the time of the Peloponnesian Wars—a span of less than a few decades after the Persian retreat. This was only accomplished through the League’s successes which hinged larger on a reservoir of income and resources which were supplied by the League’s members.
Every one of these 300+ cities had to pay a tribute; this number would sometimes depend on its size and also loyalty towards the League and Athens—with higher payments demanded of members which revolted or betrayed the League. If payments could not be made, these cities were required to send compliments of troops to assist in the League’s many campaigns and expeditions or supply grain to feed the troops currently deployed. While Athens was by far the largest supplier of military personnel in the Delian League, its allies certainly made an impact. Some of its notable members included Thrake, Lesbos, Delos, Telos, Byzantium, and Samos.
While forcing these states to pay tribute may seem harsh, especially in light of the fact that Athens had become increasingly more corrupt as the years went by, there was a silver lining to it all. The League members benefits from their alliances with Athens. Democracy reigned, piracy was nearly driven extinct due to the amount of League ships guarding the waters (helmed by professional sailors and Marines), and there was a common currency throughout (the Athenian tetradrachm). Pirate-free waters and a standard currency led to infrastructure improvements and economic stability, as well as expanding trade into regions that had been cut-off due to Persian influence. Grain flowed into Athens easily from the Black Sea, unchallenged.
The Delian League’s massively successful campaign against Persia helped solidify its prominence in the Hellenic world. They had managed to push out the Persians from Thrake, Makedonia, and Byzantium. They would free the Aegean islands, part of Asia Minor, severely weakening Persian influence. After being in a nearly constant state of war with the Greek world for fifty years, it had been the Delian League under Athens—not the professional military might of the Spartans—which led the Persians into signing a peace treaty that would last for over a century, until the reign of Darius III.
3. The Peloponnesian League
The Spartans had built the Peloponnesian League in the 6th Century BCE, though the League was not the same as what existed for Athens and Thebes. Largely as a means to protect the peninsula, the Peloponnesian League was a military alliance only, and one that was controlled strictly by the Spartans. The League itself was one of nonchalance in other matters. It might be posed that the league was nonexistent except when it came to matters of war.
Membership of the league had initially spanned far and wide at the onset of the 5th Century BCE. It was initially made up of members from nearly every Peloponnesian region, except for Argos (who had always been a rival to Spartan power and which had allied itself with Athens). The most dedicated to the league included Korinth, Arkadia, Sikyon, and Elis, though many of its members would eventually split from Sparta and rejoin at various stages during and after the Peloponnesian War.
Sparta would determine when members of the league would meet, often in a council at Sparta led by a Spartan ephor, and typically everyone voted in line with Sparta, though there are a few exceptions to this. Sparta would then determine the course of action, demanding military assistance from its members who were then made to submit them. In the rare event a member refused to follow the will of the council (and Sparta), it was done under the guise of religious principle. It is worth noting too that only Spartans could lead a Peloponnesian League army.
4. The Boiotian League (Peloponnesian War era)
Thebes had sought to bring the whole of the region of Boiotia back under its command following the end of the Greco-Persian Wars. With Athens’ attention directed towards its counter-attack on the Persians and on its many expeditions abroad, Thebes found its opportunity.
The Boiotian League proper, again with Thebes as its main federal seat of government, had become a very strong confederation by the mid-5th Century BCE. It consisted of 11 districts with each district encompassing at least one large polis and a few smaller ones. Each district was responsible for supplying the League with troops, ships, and at least one Boiotarch (a League General), several judges, and a series of councilmen (the total number being 660 which sat at Thebes).
The Boiotian League would last for the remainder of the 5th Century BCE and the Peloponnesian War (and would eventually destroy Plataia–the one polis which refused to capitulate to the League–with the assistance of the Peloponnesians), but would ironically fall to Sparta at the end of the Peloponnesian War, leaving many in Boiotia to flee to Athens for safety while under Spartan’s tyrannical rule. And, like a broken record, the Boiotians would liberate Thebes and the league with help from Athens in the 4th Century BCE and reform its League to its glory.
5. How Does This Fit Into Mortal Gods?
From a developers standpoint, we knew that Leagues had to fulfill three roles for us (as the devs) and for players:
- Make it easier to take a combined lochos between historically-allied factions
- Keep immersion for the players (i.e., having units that feel like they belong together)
- Allow for the potential to play larger games if players wanted that option.
This had to be done in a way that respected the factions we have currently released—two of which are ‘League’ factions already (Athens and Sparta). And it needed to be done in a way in which we did not have to make any adjustments to the cards that we had already made.
In addition, it was important for us to differentiate between two categories of playstyle: (a) Faction play (where one lochos consists of a single faction) and (b) League play (where a lochos can consist of many factions).
Now when we say ‘Faction’ vs ‘League’, here is what we mean. The Athenian force from the starter set is a ‘faction’ force. It consists of one city-state (a ‘faction’). You can play this faction on its own. But let’s say you wanted to bring in some unique units from a city-state you know was allied with Athens (like Delos).
Currently without the ‘League’ rules, in order to do this you would need to drop another 50+ points on a lochagos for that extra city-state. So before you can even look at taking any companions for your lochos, you have already dropped the cost of your primary faction lochagos and now 50+ points for a second lochagos. That may be 1/3 or even 1/2 of your points spent before you even look at troop types. Ouch, right?
We know. We play this game too. Needless to say, we came up with an ingenious way to handle all of this.
Here is where we developed ‘League’ play. Leagues allow you to bring in units from an allied ‘League’ faction without the need to bring in additional lochagoi! How does this happen?
We created a special Gift that can be given to any lochagos in a League. This gift–creatively called ‘League Leader’–is free for any League force, but takes up one gift slot for your lochagos leaving them just two. Here is a preview of what the gift cards will look like:
Neat, right?! These are basically military ranks above the rank of ‘lochagos’. So think of this gift as your giving your lochagos a field promotion. Now, as a higher ranking officer, this fellow can include additional League forces in his small army. These rank names are unique for each of the Leagues we are introducing (to help avoid any confusion). The ranks are these:
Strategos (Delian League Leader) – A strategos (literally ‘army leader’) was a military position in Classical Athens. There were a total of ten strategoi (one from each tribe in Athens) elected annually. At least one strategoi was sent with a large army, though occasionally on campaign there may be two or more depending on the number of troops being deployed.
Polemarchos (Peloponnesian League Leader) – The polemarchos (literally ‘war leader’) in Classical Sparta commanded hundreds of men. There were six polemarchoi in Classical Sparta during the Peloponnesian Wars; all of which commanded a Spartan mora (a military unit consisting of two lochoi).
Boiotarches (Boiotian League Leader) – The Boiotarches (literally ‘Boiotian Leader’) was a political and military leader in the Boiotian League. There were eleven in total, one each for the eleven districts that made up the Boiotian League. The Boiotarchai were typically elected to serve an annual term and was sent to Thebes (the leading polis of the Boiotian League) to serve as a general of a Boiotian army.
Thee is also a card for Persian forces as well (in the works) and we may introduce others in the future. After all, we are working on Etruscans right now. But that is a conversation for another time. So shh, don’t tell anyone.
6. Generic League Units vs Factional League Units
Right, so that brings us back to Leagues.
First when developed the Leagues, we started from the premise that we wanted to create all the factions for each League. But it’s a very daunting and time-consuming task. After all, the Delian League alone had some 300+ city-states. We’re good at unit design and creation, but we aren’t miracle-workers! Even if Andy and Mark did happen to summon an undead shade from Elysium!
Right, so rather than forcing you all to wait an eternity for 300+ factions to release, we hyper-focused on specific units for each of the League’s primary city-states. By ‘primary’, I mean we looked at the lists of League members and picked out a few we knew we could start to work on right away.
For some of the city-states we are developing a lot of units (nearly as many as the Athenians and Spartans). Others have only one or two units. But we quickly recognized that there may be players out there who wanted to have a lochos from an obscure city-state (yep, you know who you are).
For the polis connoisseur among you, we realized that one or two units would make for a very boring (and rather small) lochos.
But don’t worry! We also came up with the idea of creating generic ‘League’ units (e.g., Deliean League Hoplites, Boiotian League Peripoloi, etc…). These generic troops can be taken in any ‘faction’ force without a ‘League leader’.
So for example, let’s say you want to play a lochos from Samos. Samos may have one specific unit. Rather than creating a Samos-specific lochagos which will end up being repetitive (and expensive), you can take a ‘Delian League Lochagos‘. To flesh out the roster, you can take ‘Delian League hoplites’ or ‘Delian League archers’. These can all be taken as part of your faction force because Samos is a ‘Delian League’ faction.
Now, let’s say you want to play as Samos and also bring in some Athenian troops? Here is where you would then bring in your ‘League Leader’ gift. Because both Athens and Samos are unique factions, rather than generic, you will need to have a League Leader designated in order to bring in these troops. But that’s ok! Because you can do it simply and without having to spend all those extra points.
7. Larger Battles
Typically, we try to encourage battles at around 300-400 points per lochos. This makes the games go relatively quickly and you still feel like you have a good size force to play with lots of tactical advantages.
But we know there are many of you who can’t help yourselves when it comes to painting and building a large Greek hoplite force. It happens to the best of us. After all, the Victrix and Footsore miniatures are lovely and wonderful to paint. We know! We suffer from the same affliction.
For those of you who have a hundred miniatures painted up, well, here is your chance to really take advantage of them. Here is where a League force can really open up your Mortal Gods games. League’s allow you to take a multi-factional army so if you and your mates want to go nuts and run a large-scale battle, you can!
Is 300 points just not enough? Well take a 600 point League force. Who’s stopping you? Not me. Maybe just sleep. We do encourage sleeping. Maybe also eating.
8. In Conclusion
We have really spent a lot of time on this ‘League’ concept and, we hope, you will take advantage of it!
As we are currently engaged at the moment with playtesting all of these new units, you will be hearing from me more often about future and forthcoming new releases.
As I have said before; Mortal Gods is the de facto ancients Skirmish Game, and we plan to support it for years to come. So be ready! There are lots of exciting new shiny things on the way.
This has been your ghostest with the mostest, Phatis, signing off. Be sure to like, subscribe, and share to be kept up to date on all things Mortal Gods!
Excellent! This is exactly the kind of Classical-era nerd-out I was hoping for. Can’t wait to see the resulting cards and options.