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Clouds in the West 3

A report of the MeggaGame on the Second Punic War held in London on November the 5th:

The Mountains of Aetolia

It is said that the real test of a Megga game is if you enjoy the game despite doing badly. I spent two thirds of the game in an Achaean prison and ended up being poisoned - and had the best Megga game ever.

What made the game was the LUs (Liason Umpire: Every nation in the game had it's own LU). There is a tendency to feel that LUs are superfluous - they are not - they are essential to giving the game colour. There were problems in that the game system made too easy to take over provinces. Hence Aetolia was defenceless when our field army was defeated (historically Aetolia held out alone against the might of Rome for a good while in way that would be imposible in the game). But given the division within Aetolia, at the time the Macedonians walked in, we would have faced disaster even if the game mechanism had been more apropriate.

I guess the fundamental mistake Aetolia made was right at the beginning. It was obvious that to break Macedon needed Achaea, Illyria and Aetolia acting together and it was obvious that Illyria was happy to go with Macedon. But Aetolia was too traditionally anti Macedon for the alternative - a pan Hellenic invasion of Italy to be an attractive option.

My tactic was to subvert the Hellenic states under Macedonian protection. Unfortunately (and realistically) revolt was not going to come at a time of our own choosing. A minor Macedonian official caused outrage in Locris and we were given the choice: back the dissidents or lose the opportunity. As Macedon was, rashly, about to launch a raid on Pergamun we decided to go for it. But then bad winds drove back the Macedonian fleet.

That was when Scopas (me) and the Aetolian Strategos Agelaus fell out. A heated debate ensued in the Aetolian Assembly and I successfully swung the assembly against the pro Macedonia quisling Agelaus and the Aetolia people voted to answer the call from the Locrian patriots. They would have voted extra taxes too but unfortunately we had passed the revenue phase.

Agelaus to justify his treachery declares this to be the fatal mistake. I felt we had no alternative to support the rebels seeing as we had spurred them on. The truth was Macedon was about to hit us anyway and at least this way the Locrian hoplites fought on our side not that of Macedon. But it was still a shambles. Aetolia should have had twice the forces in Locris that it did. Partly this was the treachery of Agelaus, our best general, who instead of accepting his defeat in the assembly and working for the good of Aetolia (Aetolia is a democracy) sat the war out in Sparta with a key force of hoplites. Mainly it was the result of bad planning. Result: the outnumbered Aetolians were defeated before Achaea could arrive. I fled to Philopoimen's army in Phocis who arrested me. Achaea had only moved to come to Macedon's aid - oh yeah. So I spent the rest of the game in the darkest Achaean dungeons. Actually they weren't dark at all and indeed had a very picturesque view of the harbour of Lechaeum.

Everyone was very apologetic. After all most people either end up dead (when they come back as someone else) or ransomed - the chances of Agelaus, now ruling as the tyrant of Messene, ransoming Scopas were a good deal less than zero. But the key thing was that the game was believable as the Hellenic world of the time. And if things had gone badly wrong that was the result of a believable course of events. To simply drop Scopas and take on another role would be to destroy that illusion of reality and indeed I quite enjoyed playing the die hard Aetolian patriot refusing, to the last, to bow to Macedon's might.

And of course things were not quite as black as they might seem. Scopas almost made his come back. The Macedonian hegemony decided to invade Italy. No sooner as the Macedonians arrived in Italy Achaea was to stab Macedonia in the back and Scopas would arrive in Aetolia to lead the league in revolt. Unfortunately Achaea played a little too clever and sold the Romans the invasion plan hoping the Romans would send a Legion. Instead they sent a fleet and the Macedonians stayed in port. And it seems that Scopas a prisoner was too much of a danger to too many people and he was murdered by an assassin sent by the traitor Agelaus.

But in the mountains of Aetolia, Dorimachos and a few partisans huddled round a camp fire in front of the cave where they had burried the 150 tallents suplied by Achaea and waited for the moment to act....

A page giving historical background on the period.