Battlefield: Marathon

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Battlefield: Marathon
Designer: Red Baron
Type: Terrain Sim, Blind-At-Once
Countries: 108 (Extra-large)
Board Info
Reviews Launch Game
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Battlefield: Marathon is a game which exploits the terrain simulation capabilities of damage dice, the kind of dice Warfish uses in blind-at-once games. It simulates the terrain of an ancient Greek battlefield, including mountains, plains, and marshes.

It has two other unusual characteristics for a Warfish game:

  • It replaces the usual Warfish continents with overlapping hexagons as a means of obtaining extra army income.
  • It has a wide variety of game mods, which makes it an actual family of games rather than a single game.

It's different enough from the usual Warfish game that it takes a little getting used to, especially if you aren't familiar with blind-at-once play. Expect to have to study it and play it a few times before you can master it.

[edit] Gameplay

In 490 BC King Darius of Persia launched an attack on the Greek mainland, sending an enormous army across the Aegean to land on the coast of Attica near Marathon. They were met by a much smaller Greek army, yet the Persians were soundly beaten on the Plain of Marathon. This map recreates the geography of the battlefield at Marathon, attempting to accurately portray the hills, rivers, coastline, and marshes of the region as they were in 490 BC.

The board is optimized for blind-at-once play and damage dice, though it also supports the usual turn-based play and versus dice. Damage dice have an advantage over versus dice in that the speed of an attack (quick battle resolution vs. entrenched warfare) can be controlled in addition to simple attack vs. defense probabilities. Thus, an attack through a marsh can be made slower than an attack on a plain, as you would expect in real life. When you play the game in turn-based mode, some of this terrain effect subtlety is lost.

The game makes heavy use of border modifiers to simulate terrain, and attempts to graphically present these modifiers in a way that is natural and intuitive, so that after some practice players shouldn't feel a need to refer to the detail map. Traveling up mountains and though marshes slows you down, while roads and ships provide quick transport. Open plains and roads give the edge to the attacker, mountains to the defender.


The game does not use Warfish continents in a conventional manner. Instead, each hexagonal unit of countries (that is, each country and its closest neighbors) is grouped into a continent worth 1 point. These continents overlap, so that extra armies may be acquired by conquering chunks of adjacent territory.

These hexagons normally consist of seven countries (a center spot and six neighbors), but those that run off the edge of the board or hit the coastline are still worth 1 point if they contain at least five countries. So, when you are trying to figure out which hexagons count for a point, draw an imaginary circle around a center spot wide enough to encircle the nearest neighbors. If more than two of the neighboring spots are missing, the hexagon doesn't count for a point.

The table below shows the attack vs. defend odds and the attack speed for movement between each pair of terrain types:

to Marsh to Plain to Foothill to Mountain to Peak
From Marsh even odds,
extremely slow
Image:Snail_icon.gifImage:Snail_icon.gifImage:Snail_icon.gif
small defend advantage,
normal speed
Image:Shield_icon.gif
defend advantage,
slow
Image:Shield_icon.gifImage:Shield_icon.gifImage:Snail_icon.gif
From Plain attack advantage,
normal speed
Image:Knife_icon.gifImage:Knife_icon.gif
small attack advantage,
very fast
Image:Knife_icon.gifImage:Rabbit_icon.gifImage:Rabbit_icon.gif
small defend advantage,
fast
Image:Shield_icon.gifImage:Rabbit_icon.gif
defend advantage,
slow
Image:Shield_icon.gifImage:Shield_icon.gifImage:Snail_icon.gif
From Foothill small attack advantage,
slow
Image:Knife_icon.gifImage:Snail_icon.gif
even odds,
fast
Image:Rabbit_icon.gif
even odds,
normal speed
small defend advantage,
slow
Image:Shield_icon.gifImage:Snail_icon.gif
large defend advantage,
very slow
Image:Shield_icon.gifImage:Shield_icon.gifImage:Shield_icon.gifImage:Snail_icon.gifImage:Snail_icon.gif
From Mountain even odds,
slow
Image:Snail_icon.gif
even odds,
normal speed
small defend advantage,
normal speed
Image:Shield_icon.gif
defend advantage,
slow
Image:Shield_icon.gifImage:Shield_icon.gifImage:Snail_icon.gif
From Peak even odds,
slow
Image:Snail_icon.gif
even odds,
normal speed
small defend advantage,
slow
Image:Shield_icon.gifImage:Snail_icon.gif

If two positions are on the same level but have an obstacle between them (a small hill or valley), the attack is slightly slower (add one Image:Snail_icon.gif) but the odds are the same. Not shown in the table are Road to Road attacks and Sea to Shore/Shore to Sea/Sea to Sea attacks, which give the attacker a large advantage (Image:Knife_icon.gifImage:Knife_icon.gif) and are very fast (Image:Rabbit_icon.gifImage:Rabbit_icon.gif).

In the standard turn-based terrain simulation game, attacks across level ground use standard dice. As the table above shows, this is NOT true in this game; mountains favor defenders and plains favor attackers. Players should be careful not to make this assumption.

[edit] Game Variations

Battlefield: Marathon was designed from the start to make heavy use of game mods. There are seven standard game mods, including a multi-player game, three team games, a two-player quick game, a three-player quick game, and a turn-based game.

Marathon Marauders game mod
Marathon Marauders game mod

Marathon Marauders is both the default multi-player scenario and the ranked game. Each player controls a mercenary band that fights the other bands for control of the board. Players begin the game isolated from each other, and must choose how best to approach and conquer their nearest rivals using the local terrain. Armies are capped at 20 in this mod to prevent players from piling up huge defensive armies.

Team Marathon. The team games attempt to recreate the historical Battle of Marathon. There is a four-player team game (2 vs. 2), a six-player team game (3 vs. 3) and an eight-player team game (4 vs. 4). Players are placed on one of two teams, Greeks or Persians.

Megabattle. A two-player mod is provided which pits two huge armies against each other, one coming from the north, the other from the south. The resulting game should be short and violent. There is also a three-player version in which a third army approaches from the northwest.

Marathon Skirmish. This is a turn-based version provided for players who dislike blind-at-once play.

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