Friday 6 August 2021


The seascape needs to be established at two levels.

STRATEGIC / FLEET LEVEL and Tactical Level - which we save for next time...

We need to know where the different squadrons were moved to, harboured, and where they deployed.

The potential area over which the fleets could be deployed ranges round the whole of the Salamian coast and over to Phaleron where the Persians had their main base.

The Corinthians supposedly fled into the Gulf of Eleusis on their way to the Isthmus of Corinth where their land forces, the Spartans and others were constructing a wall to block the Persians from entering the Peleponnesus. 

Xerxes supposedly sent his Egyptian ships to block any escape attempt such as the Corinthians may have made. They went south round Salamis to plug the straits at Megara.

Next we have to allow some space for the Persians to mooch around all night at sea while they blocked the entrance to the Salamis straits. A player might wish to rush into the narrows immediately but the option must b ethere to remain at sea off Phaleron.

For the Greeks, inside the straits, they need the possibility to harbour their ships in different configurations.

The sea space needs to be chopped up into areas. We dont want a hex map. We dont need a map accurate in foot furlong and fathom but it should relate directly to the space available.

The pre-battle period, when ships can be shuffled around, lasts from dusk to dawn. Within this time the Egyptians must be able to get to the Megaran straits and back to the battle during the a.m. .

That trip is around 30km. It has to be accomplished between 6pm (dusk) to 6.30am(dawn). This gives us a scale to 'grid' the seascape at this 'fleet' level. 

Suitable base-ic base-map

The 12 hours of darkness need to be part of the game to set up the battle. But we do not want to have to go through every minute. Let's start with 4 3 hour moves - just to start things.

This means ONE turn of 'fleet level' movement will get us from Phaleron to west Salamis. Arbitrarily, then, we divide this on the map into 6 areas.

Now it is simply a question of chopping the rest of the map into similar sized pieces.

This gives a counter representing a group of triereis a movement of  3 areas in a single 3 hour 'fleet level' game turn.

We can also make the proviso that to get ships out or harbour and into the adjacent sea area takes a whole move.


We need to be careful about the situation in the straits. Let's make sure the area inside Psyttalea and St George is a single area. If forces get here then they face each other in the same area - forcing our battle onto the historical focus area.

A boyhood favourite! (before I found war-galleys!)

The same should stand for the Megaran straits - if a confrontation happens there we make the whole strait 1 area for ease.


We also need to make arrangement for the harbouring of our fleets. 

The clock starts ticking with all ships on their way to moor at the end of the day.  Both fleets' crews want to go ashore to stuff their faces. 

The Persians only have Phaleron as  a base. The bay is wide and can accommodate the whole fleet.

There is no tactical interest in making any other arrangement for our game.

The Greeks have three harbours. Even if you think one or other is unfeasible - if we allow the use of all three we get more interesting variability in the action.

Several arrangements are possible. 

1) Allow the whole fleet to be moored in any of the bays.

2) Allow half or two thirds to fit in each bay - forcing a spread.

3) Allow 1/3 in each bay - forcing maximum spread.

I prefer to allow full fleet capacity in one and less capacity in the two others. This is easily varied but the northern most mooring is likely to have been the worst and it is by no means certain either the other two could have acommodated the whole fleet.

100 ships per capacity point - 380 ships to get a berth

In terms of 'fleet game' mechanics - a group of ships (a counter) is 'moored' or it is 'at sea'. It takes a turn to move from the shore out to be at sea in an adjacent area.

Yes this is all arbitrary. But it is with reference to a realistic time and space scheme and it will be easily tweakable once we try it out.


This 'fleet level' part of the game will be a simple paper map with counters.

We need map and counters. 50/100 ships per counter to start with , or varying according to the historical contingents. 

We also need a time/turn track.  

We need a simple set of rules to move the counters on the map.

More we do not need.

Avoid simply remaking 'Trireme' boardgame!!!!


There are key decisions/events which affect how the battle occurred. It is possible to make a list of many small details but we are doing this exercise to arrive at a battle game - the cart must not be set before the horse.

I summarise the key elements which can decide how elements of the battle fall out.

1) When does Xerxes send his fleet to sea?

2) When or if Xerxes sends a blocking contingent to the Megaran straits.

3) When do the Aeginetians arrive with intelligence about the Persians? (and what info?)

4) When / if the Tenians desert the Persians and bring intelligence.

5) When / if the Corinthians leave the fleet  (or other contingents? ) and when they return / if?

6) When does the Greek fleet go to sea and where ?

7) When does Xerxes send what contingents into the straits of Salamis?

These factors can all be varied in the simplest way as follows..

+ factor  - more than historical effect

= factor - historical effect

- factor - less than historical effect

What this means is that one ends with  stack of  21 or so cards to be drawn at different stages which indicate each player's options.

The cards will be drawn at appropriate times. We end up with a game turn clock something like this.

We now have a framework for how the pre-battle events develop.

We must bear in mind that there are certain pre-requisites for this exercise. If we allow every last influence to be factored in we can easily discover that the battle was actually most unlikely to have taken place.

We are accepting that Themistocles' lure of a disintegrating Greek fleet which could be caught in the process of retreating was accepted by Xerxes. We are also accepting that the Greeks planned to fight in narrow confines not only to accentate their strengths but also out of experience gained at Artemesium. 

Looks juicy,but...

The key is to set the scen for a battle at Salamis which was historically possible but which presents uncertainties and decision-making challenges for the players.


We need a system to allow the battle to be laid out and fought on the tabletop...NEXT EPISODE

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