Monday, July 28, 2008

Xenophon comprehensive review

Xenophon is a major variant for the Command Magazine game Alexandros, depicting the epic events of a generation earlier that inspired Alexander's visions of conquest. It uses the same map and many of the same counters as Alexandros, which was an area movement-and-counter wargame from Command No. 10 depicting the Alexander the Great's campaign of conquest against the Persian Empire from 334 BC to 323 BC. The Xenophon variant, which was in issue No. 14 of Command Magazine, covers a two or three year campaign in quarterly turns.

Units are Greek and Persian units of infantry and cavalry with several thousand troops each. Each unit is rated for attack and defense strengths.The 3-page variant builds on changes from Alexandros' 12-page rule book. The game is still of low to moderate complexity by wargames standards.

It uses the same Mark Simonitch map, depicting the entire Middle East from Greece to India. But several areas are not used, including Egypt (in revolt against Persia at the time) India (not involved), Greece, Macedon and several other border regions. Provinces are rated as either rich, fertile, mountain or wilderness with varying ability to support an army.

Xenophon gives players a chance to try a much shorter version of the Alexandros game system. Interestingly, Xenophon, himself, may not always appear in the game. The players start off representing rival Persian claimants to the throne -- Cyrus and his brother Artaxerxes. Cyrus employed about 10,000 Greek mercenaries, resented in the game by powerful 7-8 Spartan hoplite phalanxes. If Cyrus succeeds in defeating Artaxerxes Xenophon will never appear. But if he loses, then the remaining Persians on his side switch allegiance to Artaxerxes and the former Cyrus player now tries to get the Greeks home, under the command of leaders Clearchus and Menon. If either of those leaders die, then Xenophon appears.

The game lasts eight turns, with an option to extend for four more, although it will often play quicker than that. It's in Cyrus' interest to force an early decision because Artaxerxes gets more reinforcements over the long term.

The units use the full-color iconic representations first seen in Kadesh. The Cyrus uses the light blue background Persians, and the black background Spartans. Artaxerxes uses the beige- and saffron-colored Persian and Indian units.The game turn starts with a mutual supply phase. The Macedonians move, followed by the Persians. A mutual combat phase follows, with so-called minor combats resolved before big battles. After field battles sieges are conducted.

Tactical battles are resolved on a separate display, where units are lined up against each other. Like the parent game, in Xenophon the quality units, this time the Spartan and Greek phalanxes, are nearly impossible for the Persian levies to defeat, so the game will revolve around how those elite units are used.

The game adds some simple terrain rules to the battle system, which can be backfitted to Alexandros if desired. Essentially the rules add rivers, mountains or hills to one or both flanks that restrict or block movement.

Victory is very straightforward. If Cyrus kills Artaxerxes he wins. If he dies, that player loses UNLESS, he can succeed in getting at least half of the surviving Greeks home.This variant is easily playable in one sitting and only takes about a quarter hour to set up, even with the necessity to pick through the Alexandros units. There is just one scenario.


(Yes) For Wargamers: A quick introduction to the Alexandros system.

(No) For Collectors: No remarkable collectibility.

(No) For Euro gamers: As a hex-and-counter wargames the game play is intricate and detailed.


  1. hi Seth

    Read your reviews of Xenophon et al, referred from BoardGame

    I have a favor to ask, if you can comply. I had a basement flood, and, as stupidly usual, most of my games were down there, including my Rules booklet for Alexandros from Command #10, and the Victory at Midway rules, incl Xenophon and Successors. Mostly a total loss, though I have ragged pages here and there. Would it be possible for you to scan or send me the rules for the above issues? I had the maps and counters in another box higher up, so they were fine, but the magazine inserts were so waterlogged that they just shredded upon touching them.

    If not a scan, perhaps a phtocopy? I would gladly pay for the postage and the cost of copying.


    Scott Schneider

  2. I'm sorry, Scott, but I no longer have a copy of the game. Try posting on BoardgameGeek.