“300 Earth & Water” Board Game Review. Publisher: Nuts Publishing and Bonsai Games Distributed by Ares Games Designer: Yasushi Nakaguro and Antonio Stappaerts Price $29.99
Passed Inspection: Very easy to learn; beautiful box and artwork; small footprint; perfect game to take on a trip; great fun
Failed Basic: typo on “Tribute to Earth and Water” card; A few alternative scenarios or advanced rules would add some variations to replays; in this Age of Covid solo rules would be a nice addition
300 Earth & Water is a new game which covers the 50 year war between Greece and Persia between 499 BC and 449 BC. The game is designed to be easy to learn and fast to play. An entire 5 campaign game can be played in 30 to 45 minutes. It uses blocks and disks plus dice and cards to drive the game play.
The game comes in a beautifully designed compact box of approximately 9” x 6 ½” x 1 ¼” (22.86 x 16.51 x 3.18 centimeters). The box features stunning cover and internal artwork by Antonio Stappaerts and features a unique side locking mechanism! I love the feel of the box – it’s sturdy and very tactilely pleasing as well as being visually appealing. I would go so far as to say that 300 Earth & Water’s box is one of the best war game boxes I’ve ever experienced.
Now let’s open the box and let’s take a look at the components. The game includes:
- A 16 page rulebook
- 1 game board
- 16 cards
- 6 dic
- 35 wooden cubes
- 1 wooden rod
The rule book is well organized and contains plenty of well illustrated examples. There is a one page history of the conflict included as is historical background for all the event cards. You can learn a good deal about the Greco-Persian War by just reading the rule book!
The wooden cubes represent armies and two of the cubes are used to track the turns and victory points on the board. Wooden disks naval represent fleets. The wooden rod represents lashed together ships which formed a Persian “pontoon” bridge over the Hellespont between Abydos and Thraki. The red cubes and disks are Greeks and the blue cubes and disks are Persian.
The 16 event cards include events for the Greeks and Persians which can be used in play or the card can be sacrificed to move a formation of armies or fleets.
The mounted game board is of the same high production quality as the other components and also features beautiful and effectively laid out artwork. The board is broken in to two sides – the Greek side and the Persian side. A legend provides the cost of production for armies, navies and the cost of buying event cards as well as the cost for the Persians to build the pontoon bridge over the Hellespont. There is a victory point tracker and a turn tracker as well. In the center of the board is a map of the region with major cities represented along with a point-to-point movement system. Major ports are represented by waves in the water near the port. Next to each city is a graphic of an urn called an “amphorae”. These show how supplies the city can contribute to housing an army. During the supply phase, if you have more army cubes in the city than the number of amphorae at the city, your surplus armies are disbanded and you’ll have to pay in the next season to re-muster them.
Setting up the game takes less than 4 minutes and is clearly explained in the rule book.
There are a total of 5 campaigns which can be played. There are rules for automatic victory which ends the 5 campaign game early.
Each campaign is made up of the following phases:
- Preparation Phase
- Operation Phase
- Supply Phase
- Scoring Phase
Both players have 12 talents (money) per campaign to purchase cards or units.
In the Preparation Phase, each player uses their 12 talents to purchase cards, armies or navies. The Persian player can also purchase the bridge of ships to create the pontoon bridge over the Hellespont in order to move their armies securely over the ocean. If, during this phase, the Persian player draws the Sudden Death of the Great King event card, the campaign ends immediately and the game moves on to campaign number 2. This event card represents the death of Darius or the assassination of Xerxes.
The Operation Phase is where the battles occur. You play event cards and move armies and navies and battle for the control of cities. Armies travel together in groups for one cost. They can move as far as possible along a series of roads until you voluntarily stop moving them or until they reach a city with an enemy army. Alternatively, you can move armies by way of transports across the sea. Beware though, if an army is moving by ships and those ships get attacked by an enemy fleet and are sunk, the armies are destroyed too.
Battles are easy and fast in 300 Earth and Water. For each round of land battle combat, roll 1 die for each army up to 3 die. For the Greeks, every 4, 5 or 6 rolled is added up for points. For the Persians, unless modified by an event card, they count every 5 or 6 rolled as worth 4 points. The rules explain that superior Greek tactics give their units an edge in battle. The side with the highest number of points is the winner and the loser must take one army from the map. This goes on until either one side is left or until one side retreats.
For battles between navies, the side who rolls the single highest die wins the sea battle.
During the Supply Phase, all cards still in the players’ hands are returned to the discard pile. The Persian player is allowed to keep one card from their hand if they only receive 10 talents during the next campaign.
Also during the Supply Phase, any armies in excess of the number of amphorae are removed from the board. The only exception is for the Persians who have their Persian Royal Road bringing supplies from across their empire. There is no limit to the number of Persian armies they can have in Ephesus and Abydos.
Also during this phase you check on lines of communications to your major cities and lines of supply of your naval forces.
During the Scoring Phase, each controlled city gives you 1 victory point or 2 points if you have control of a major city such as Sparta, Athens or Abydos or Ephesos. If either side loses control of its major cities, the game is over and the other side wins.
After the Scoring Phase, if no side has achieved automatic victory or Campaign 5 isn’t completed, move on to the next campaign and wash-rense-repeat.
This game is a blast to play. It reminds me of another favorite game of mine put out when I was a kid – “One Page Bulge” by Steve Jackson Games. The small footprint means you can take this game with you on trips. The simple rules mean you can easily teach the kids how to play it. The fast pace of the game means you can play it during your lunch hour. 300 Earth and Water is as close to perfect as a game can get.
But don’t let its simplicity fool you in to thinking there is no strategy to the game. The simple rules disguise the brilliant strategic puzzle which the game presents. There are hours of replayability to this game and its low retail price makes it easy on the wallet.
I only have a few minor concerns with the game. I did find a typo on the “Tribute to Earth and Water” event card. The card is called “Tribute to Land and Water” but it is referenced in the rules as “Tribute to Earth and Water”. I’m guessing that the original name of the game was “300 Land and Water” but was changed later in the design process.
I also wish that the designers had put in some alternative scenarios or advanced rules to add to the value of the game. In addition, especially in the Age of Covid, I would have loved to see a simple solo system to play the other side in the game. I devised a solo system whereby the “bot” side rolls dice to see how many armies, cards, navies or if it is Persian it buys a pontoon bridge. It puts any cards it buys face down on the table. It then turns face up two cards from its face down hand and plays one of them on the first phase then turns face up one card and either plays that card or the other face up card for subsequent phases.. It well.
300 Earth and Water is a fantastic game and should be on the shelf of every gamer interesting in the time period. It is also the perfect introductory game to get new players interested in the Greco Persian War.
Armchair General Rating: 99% (1% is bad, 100% is perfect)
Solitaire Rating: 4 (1 is not suitable, 5 is excellent solo play)
About the Author
A college film instructor and small business owner, Richard Martin has also worked in the legal and real estate professions, is involved in video production, film criticism, sports shooting and is an avid World War I and II gamer. He designed the games Tiger Leader, The Tiger Leader Expansion and Sherman Leader for DVG and has designed the solo system for Forsage Games’ Age of Dogfights. Currently Rick is designing T34 Leader for DVG. In addition, Rick can remember war games which came in plastic bags and cost $2.99 (he’s really that old)!