Over the past few years, we have become acquainted with a newer designer who has done several scenarios and variants in C3i Magazine for established systems, but also now has launched several of his own designs named Dan Fournie. We previously have done interviews with him covering a game on the Battle of Bulge from Worthington Publishing called Battle of the Bulge 1944. and also covered a game called Drop Zone: Southern France from GMT Games that ultimately was taken off the P500 and with whom he has found a new home and we will cover that one when it comes up. He is now working on a new game called 414 BC Siege of Syracuse from Worthington Publishing which is currently on Kickstarter. The game is one part of a multi-game Kickstarter called the Great Sieges Game Bundle and consists of 3 great solitaire games (with several of these also having 2-player modes) on famous historical sieges including 414 BC Siege of Syracuse, 1565 Siege of Malta and 1759 Siege of Quebec 2nd Edition with all playable in or under 1 hour. We reached out to Dan to get the background on the game and see what it is about. We are currently working on interviews covering all 3 of these games with 414 BC Siege of Syracuse being the first out of the gate.

If you are interested in 414 BC Siege of Syracuse, you can order a copy from the Kickstarter page at the following link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1456271622/869475414?ref=4p0kto&token=ae1a813f

*The pictures of cards, components and the map used in this interview are not finalized and may change prior to final development and publication.

Grant: What is your new upcoming design 414 BC Siege of Syracuse about?

Dan: This is a game presentation of the epic siege of Syracuse conducted by the Athenians during the Peloponnesian War. The great leaders are all present. For the Athenians we have Nicias, the leading figure in Athens after the death of Pericles; Demosthenes, the acclaimed victor over the Spartans at Sphacteria; Lamachus, the professional general; and Eurymedon, the successful admiral and leader of the earlier expedition to Sicily. On the other side are Hermocrates, the leading Syracusan military and political figure; Pythen, the skilled Corinthian admiral; and Gylippos, the Spartan general whose arrival completely reversed the course of the siege. All the fierce fighting and dramatic swings of fortune are portrayed in game you can complete in 30-45 minutes.

Grant: What from the history of this ancient battle did you want to make sure and model in the design?

Dan: First, I wanted to portray the razor thin margin of victory or defeat that faced both antagonists as the siege progressed. The Athenian walls of circumvallation were barely thwarted by Syracusan counter-walls of contravallation and fierce attacks. Each time Syracuse succeeded in blocking Athenian construction, a fierce battle occurred to destroy the counter-wall. The naval battles were equally evenly matched and exciting. Second, I intended to illustrate the dramatic swings in the balance of forces and combat capabilities as the 1st Athenian expedition arrived, then the Spartan expedition and finally the 2nd Athenian expeditions arrived. And last, I wanted to include the famous historic leaders, involved on both sides.

Grant: What lessons learned from your work on Ancients series scenarios for other games has helped you in this design?

Dan: Tyrant: Battles of Carthage versus Syracuse (2003), my first expansion module for GMT’s Great Battles of Alexander, covered the military history of Syracuse in great detail and much of that research was put to good use in this game. However, I have been studying the Peloponnesian War since middle school in the 70’s, and the leadership of the Spartan general Gylippos was the topic of one of my history term papers at West Point, so my studies go back much further.  

Grant: I understand the design is based on the mechanics of 1759 Siege of Quebec, in the Great Sieges Series from Worthington Publishing. What is different in the approach of 414 BC Siege of Syracuse?

Dan: The basic mechanics of movement, attack and morale from Quebec are utilized in this game. The biggest new addition is the construction of walls, and the construction and destruction of counter-walls. The Aggressive Leader rules from Quebec have also been supplanted by a new system of leader cards, which allowed me to portray many more of the famous generals from the siege.

Grant: What challenges are there in designing a new game in an established system?

Dan: The big advantage is working with a system that it is already proven. The challenge though is recognizing what fits and what doesn’t for a siege that occurred two millennia earlier. So, I strove to maintain the basic mechanisms, while adding only what was necessary to portray what was unique at Syracuse.

Grant: What sources did you consult to get the details about the Siege of Syracuse? What one source would you consider a must read?

Dan: One need look no further than the brilliant ancient Athenian historian Thucydides, a contemporary of the events. His seminal work on the Peloponnesian War was developed in a way that has become a template for all modern historical methodology—seeking out original source documents (decrees, inscriptions, etc.) and reliable first-hand testimony from participants in the action for careful analysis and un-biased presentation. I also re-read the analysis of noted modern historians, such as Donald Kagan and J. F. Lazenby.  

Grant: I understand the game is designed as a solitaire experience but 2-player rules are also included. What is the major difference in both modes?

Dan: The solitaire experience allows a player to re-create the siege as the Athenians. Syracusan actions are dictated by cards drawn, and how these cards interact with any action the Athenian player may attempt. The 2-player version has the same basic mechanics, but now the forces of Syracuse are directed by a second player. The siege unfolds in a similar way, but now the two players may attempt to bluff or out-guess their opponent.

Grant: How does the solitaire opponent make its decisions? What are the strengths of the solitaire opponent?

Dan: The Syracusan actions are dictated by randomly drawn cards with 4 distinct counter-orders. The counter-orders interact with the 7 field orders that the Athenian player may choose, to determine the success or failure of each action. The solitaire Syracuse opponent’s greatest strength is that it can win merely by thwarting Athenian actions. If an Athenian possible victory can be delayed long enough, time will run out and Syracuse will emerge victorious.

Grant: I see there are new rules for constructing walls and counter walls. What are these rules and how do they work?

Dan: Two of the field orders available to the Athenian player are to build walls, in the lowlands first and then on the Epipolae plateau. Completing both walls is a pre-requisite for Athenian victory. However, the Syracusan solitaire opponent will be building counter-walls to block the Athenian walls. Whenever a counter-wall advances far enough to block the wall, the Athenian must make an attack and destroy that counter-wall before he can proceed with wall construction.

Grant: What different forces are available to use by the players?

Dan: Both sides have generic troop blocks, which represent a force of hoplites supported by some light troops. Athens also has ship blocks which portray squadrons of rowed galleys (triremes). Other troop types are represented by actions on the cards, such as Athenian supply convoys and Syracusan cavalry raids, counterattacks, fire ships and reinforced triremes.

Grant: How are cards used in the design?

Dan: The Syracusan solitaire cards have three primary functions:

(1) each card has an event which must be resolved;
(2) each card has one of four counter-orders that are resolved against the Athenian field order; 
(3) the cards represent the passage of time; the Athenian player must win before all the cards are played and time runs out.

Grant: What different option for Field Orders are available to the player?

Dan: The Athenian player has seven Field Orders to choose from:

(1/2) Attack Lowlands/Epipolae—attacks eliminate enemy units and/or destroy counter-walls;
(3/4) Build Walls Lowlands/Epipolae—completing the walls of circumvallation is a prerequisite for victory;
(5/6) Move Troops/Ships—moving troops is key to shifting the Athenian effort from the lowlands to the Epipolae, and occupying the Plemmyrion forts that support the navy; moving ships is necessary to establish the blockade, and gain advantages against the Syracusan fire ships and reinforced trireme attacks;  
(7) Rest & Repair—essential to restore morale when it sinks dangerously low and to repair damaged ships.

Grant: How are these Field Orders carried out and what are the outcomes?

Dan: The Athenian player selects his field order for the turn, and then a Syracusan solitaire card is drawn. After the event on the card is resolved, the counter-order on the card is compared to the order issued, and usually resolved by a die-roll. Syracuse has 4 counter-orders:

(1) Defend Lowlands;
(2) Defend Epipolae;
(3) Defend City & Harbor
(4) Counter-Walls.

For example, if Athens orders an attack in the lowlands, the attack will do well against any card except Defend Lowlands. However, if the counter-order is Counter-Walls, the attack may succeed, but Syracuse has a good chance of building a counter-wall in the meantime.

Grant: Can you show us a few examples of the cards and explain how they are used?

Each card has, from top right to bottom, 6 items of information.

(1) the card’s phase—P1 or P2 (the cards become stronger in the second phase under Spartan leadership);
(2) the title;
(3) the event;
(4) the counter-order (A, B, C or D);
(5) an historical note; and
(6) the card number.

Card #13, a Phase 1 card, is FIRE SHIPS. For example, let’s say the Athenian player chose the Move Ships Field Order. When this card is drawn the event must first be resolved. The Athenian player has the choice to move a ship back (if one has already advanced) or face the damage the fire ships can incur by rolling on the table. Then the counter-order Defend City/Harbor is cross referenced with the Field Order Move Ships. This is the least favorable scenario for the player, as Syracuse has manned its fleet to defend the harbor—the move will only succeed one time in three.

Card #20, a Phase 2 card, is GYLIPPOS REDEPLOYS TROOPS. Let’s say the Athenian player chose the Attack Lowlands Field Order. When this card is drawn the event must first be resolved. Syracusan troop are moved according to the instructions on the card—the Redeploy cards are the only way Syracusan troops are moved. Then the counter-order Defend Epipolae is cross referenced with the Field Order Attack Lowlands. This is the most favorable scenario for the player, as Syracuse focused its defensive efforts in the wrong place—the attack will succeed, eliminating one or two Syracusan troops, depending on the roll of the die.

There are also Leader cards that provide benefits to the success of various types of orders.

Grant: What does the map look like and what areas are highlighted?

Dan: This is a map of Syracuse and the surrounding area in 414 BC. The city of Syracuse is comprised of the four darker spaces in the east. The dashed line running through the Skya fort divides the southern lowlands spaces from the northern Epipolae plateau spaces. The rectangular spaces are troop locations—red for Syracuse and blue for Athens. The spaces with a solid background show starting locations; the shaded background spaces indicate where troops can be moved. The ship symbols indicate where the Athenian ships are placed and can move. Finally, there is a track to record morale for both sides as losses and gains occur.  

Grant: How did you determine the location of the various troops on the board?

Dan: Thucydides provided a detailed description of the terrain, city, camps, and battle areas around the city. The importance of three areas can be highlighted: the Olympeion temple fort housed the Syracusan cavalry forces—as long as Syracuse maintains troops there, devastating cavalry raids can be launched; the three Plemmyrion forts were crucial to support naval forces in the harbor—giving Athens advantages in naval battles and in recovering supply convoys; and the Epipolae space was crucial to construction of the final Athenian wall.

Grant: What are the positions on the board with a letter and number used for? What advantages does occupying these spaces give players?

Dan: The numbered blue spaces (L1, E4) indicate where wall segments can be built; the numbered red spaces (1A, 2B, 3D) show where counter-walls are built. The key spaces are those that intersect—if the Syracusans build counter-wall 1B, the Athenian player may not build walls beyond L1 until that counter-wall is destroyed. The Athenian must complete all eight wall segments as a prerequisite for victory (along with establishing a naval blockade).

Grant: What role does morale play in the game and how is it effected?

Dan: Morale is tracked for both sides. Morale can go down or up, but mostly down. Every time a unit is destroyed morale is reduced by one, and some events cause direct morale reductions. Morale can also be raised by reinforcement cards and the Athenian Rest and Refit Field Orders. Morale provides an alternate path to victory, or defeat. If either side’s morale level drops to zero, that opponent loses the game. For the Athenian player, attempting to win a morale victory is very risky—a prolonged series of attacks will likely result in as many morale losses to the attacker as to the defender. It is more often a case of striving to avoid a morale defeat.

Grant: How is victory achieved by both sides?

Dan: You can win the solitaire campaign as the Athenians immediately in two ways:

(1) Complete all 8 segments of the Wall AND have a ship in a Blockade space; OR
(2) Reduce Syracuse to zero morale on the Morale Track.

You lose if you exhaust the solitaire card deck without having won; OR lose immediately if Athens is reduced to zero morale on the Morale Track. The solitaire Syracuse card deck represents the passage of time during the campaign. When the last card is played, the campaign is over. If you, as the Athenian player, have not won the game at this point, then you have been defeated by Syracuse and their allies. The Corinthian reinforcements arrive, and your Athenians are doomed to their historical fate (defeat, capture, slavery and death). When playing as Syracuse in the 2-player game you can win by preventing Athenian victory until the card deck is exhausted; OR win immediately if Athens is reduced to zero morale on the Morale Track.

Grant: What strategies should govern the Athenian player?

Dan: The challenge for the Athenian player is that he has two main competing objectives to accomplish as soon as possible—building the walls versus positioning the fleet and occupying Plemmyrion. Any delay in building the wall allows Syracuse to get ahead in the race with counter-walls; slow movement of his ships opens him up to adverse results whenever the supply convoy, fire ships and reinforced trireme events occur. He must balance his building and naval moves to stay ahead in both areas. Finally, the Athenian player has to constantly watch his morale and decide when to Rest and Refit rather than take positive actions. 

Grant: How does the Athenian player deal with Syracusan reinforcements that come into play?

Dan: The Athenian player must realize that any gains he makes (such as eliminating the cavalry threat from Olympeion, stripping a sector of the Syracuse defenses or driving down Syracuse morale) early in the game will be temporary. When the Spartan expedition arrives, all key areas will be reinforced and Syracusan morale is boosted. The Athenian player needs to plan ahead to deal with these threats.

Grant: How does the Athenian player destroy the Syracusan counter walls?

Dan: There is only one way to destroy a counter-wall segment—Attack! In addition, the Lamachus and Demosthenes leader cards provide the chance for bonus counter-wall destruction.

Grant: How do the Syracusan forces sally out of the city to drive the morale of the Athenian side down?

Dan: Syracusan sallies are represented by two types of events: Cavalry Raids and Counterattacks. These events can result in Athenian troop losses, morale losses or both. The Counterattacks become more effective in Phase 2, with Spartan training and leadership.

Grant: How are Naval Battles handled? What does the Fire Ships card do in these battles?

Dan: Naval battles are brought about through events. Fire Ships are Phase 1 events, that can force the Athenian ships to retreat, or suffer damage and morale losses. In Phase 2 the more deadly Reinforced Triremes Attack events come into play. This represents the training, engineering, and leadership provided by the Corinthian admirals that allowed the Syracusan navy to successfully challenge the heretofore invincible Athenian triremes.

Grant: What type of play experience does the game create for the player in both modes?

Dan: The game is fast and fun, with lots of action. The solitaire version allows a player to carefully develop and implement a strategy, and then try something else the next time. The 2-player version allows both players the opportunity to bluff and outguess their opponent—a tense fight to the finish.

Grant: What are you most pleased with about the design?

Dan: The map, events and leaders fit together to portray all the fascinating struggle recorded by Thucydides in a fast, simple and fun way. Although there remain many abstractions, the essence of this epic campaign has been preserved.

Grant: What was the most difficult challenge you had to overcome and how was it solved?

Dan: Developing new mechanics to portray the pick and shovel contest of wall versus counter-wall was the most difficult challenge. I tried many solutions, but needed to keep it simple and fit in with the flow of the other Field Orders. The visual aspect of placing a limited number of wall segments solved this issue in an appealing way.

Grant: What other games are you currently working on?

Dan: Drop Zone: Southern France and D-Day to the Rhine are ready to go when there is space in Worthington’s schedule. A Successors of Alexander game is also in the queue.

In the works are a strategic Hannibal game; the Invasion of Korea 1592; three HoldFast/Bulge series games including Battle for Germany 1945, and two hypothetical WW3 games, NATO Central Front 1985 and Korean War 1985; and a WW2 RPG (D&D type) game, Dog Battery, in which players take the roles of Allied paratroop artillerymen and French resistance fighters.

Finally, after seeing how well 414 BC Siege of Syracuse has turned out, I plan to apply the same Great Sieges Series system to the equally famous 2nd Punic War Siege of Syracuse 213 BC, which pitted the Roman legions under Marcellus against the Syracusans, Carthaginians and siege engines of the great mathematician Archimedes.

As always Dan thank you for your time in sharing your upcoming game with us. I really appreciate your design approach and for the historical detail that is important to you to make sure you include in these games. You do it well which makes of very playable game but also one that teaches history.

If you are interested in 414 BC Siege of Syracuse, you can order a copy from the Kickstarter page at the following link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1456271622/869475414?ref=4p0kto&token=ae1a813f