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Subject: Spurious Brontosaurus or Ekonomikrisis? rss

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Andy Daglish
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I thought I'd be clever and not P1000 this one as I'd almost certainly be playing other people's copies. Since Tuesday, four days ago, I've already decided this was probably a mistake, so thats two recommendations straight off.

There was a question as to whether CCA would be Battle Cry in helmets [clever for such a simple game, plus particularly accomplished scenarios] or Memoir 44 in sandals [a few false lessons taught, a couple of BC prejudices pandered to, with a rasping cough in the scenario department]. After three tries at Akragas, including an enormously difficult Carthaginian win, a Crismusbonus River and a Zama, I feel CCA has mixed good scenarios with clear advantages over whats gone before. This last thing is what series games need most of all, so this is the best one. But by how much?

The back-stickered wooden blocks are another mixture, a middle ground between figurines and counters, so there's at least something for everyone. Counter fans need not add stickers to both sides of units, as the blocks can be used adequately when laid flat. This might be a good idea, since upright blocks can cast the side facing oneself into shadow sauronlaugh

The thin card mapsheet and equally thin occasional terrain tiles seem to be designed for a clear plastic overlay, which suggests the game was made for GMT P500 chaps. The combat dice seem fine in size and weight, given that the on-board situation takes up your attention anyway, but the dice stickers begin to wear almost immediately and will rapidly require replacement.

The physical quality of the rulebook and cards is high and beats Hasbro and Days of Wonder. They are even closer to what GMT buyers are looking for. The boxart and box size are an impressive combo and this alone should help attract & convert a few new classical types as gamers.

The Important Bit Although all ancient combat is boring, where you either shoot at or bash the enemy prior to one side charging cavalry into the flank or rear of the losing force, in CCA you just do the bashing and shooting until such time as you've eliminated enough opposing units and leaders. This is made most interesting by a wide variety of foot and mounted, light and heavy units, which attempt standard Archer Jones unit interactions using a number of combat dice that vary in number and efficacy depending on a wide range of prevailing circumstances. This is basically the reason why CCA is the best of the Three. To get units into combat to their best advantage, players must exercise a degree of grand tactical ability to convert their questionable starting set-up into formations that are likely to cause the enemy most damage, the obvious example of which is heavy infantry units in a nice solid line [= a phalanx or legion]. To do this they use the action cards both to hold off the enemy whilst manoeuvring their own men. A number of units in the right place and the right formation turn some cards into very powerful offensive devices. Also getting a badly-damaged unit out of Dodge before it dies is something of a virtue in this game, whereas before it was more of a gamey tactic. There are no unit flanks and rear facings, however isolated units are more likely to run, and therefore be divorced from the action. As before units that can't retreat lose strength in lieu, and of course getting cavalry round the back can block a retreat path.

Special rules govern elephants and chariots. Both are potentially powerful units that need careful handling if they are not to become an embarrassment to their comrades. This all works very well. Cavalry can easily be lost, since the speed that gets them into danger simultaneously divorces them from the protection of their friends. In short they need to be kept well in hand.

Zama and Akragas appear to be unbalanced scenarios. In CCA this is a positive design benefit, as opponents tend to fight for the honor bestowed by playing and maybe winning with the underdog! In all battles there seems to be a group of slow-moving shock infantry units, most likely in the larger army, the members of which don't move at all or don't get up to the enemy before the battle ends. This is because these lads generally move only one hex per activation, if they activate, which is rare unless they are in formation and/or under command. And meanwhile they could retreat from missile fire. Similarly only about half the card deck seems to be used in each battle. This suggests scenarios will not follow common patterns.

Thats a large enough wodge of positivism for one night, but whats bad about CCA? The rules writers haven't quite got their act other here and there, or rather the testers didn't deal with them forcefully enough to prevent this. However all questions will be answered in time because they are very simple. Use of cavalry is a moot point under these rules, and cavalry fights tend not to occur not least because there isn't that much of it and it needs to be held back. However there are some cav-heavy scenarios.

There are likely to be lots of add-ons for this one, the ultimate perhaps being medieval and renaissance follow-up games. Possibly at sea, who knows? One idea that occurred several times whilst playing Zama was for blank blocks to move randomly across the battlefield, representing dust clouds, heat haze and very bright low angle sunshine, which would interfere with missile combat as well as evasion and command effects and so forth. Otherwise the terrainless scenarios can feel a bit too open and easy.
 
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Antigonus Monophthalmus
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My understanding actually is that infantry at this time was much more effective than cavalry in close combat, and cavalry was mainly used for flanking and overwhelming already-defeated opponents.

That's mainly how I use cavalry, and it seems to work best rather than try and get them to hold any sort of line.
 
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Andy Daglish
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BagpipeDan wrote:
My understanding actually is that infantry at this time was much more effective than cavalry in close combat, and cavalry was mainly used for flanking and overwhelming already-defeated opponents.


Actually infantry would do the overwhelming, after a cavalry flank attack gave them the opportunity to do so.
A man on a horse is always going to have a major advantage over a man on foot, which forces the heavy infantry into formations which at this time were tactically inflexible and so vulnerable to attacks coming in from the wrong direction.

Quote:
That's mainly how I use cavalry, and it seems to work best rather than try and get them to hold any sort of line.


they are good for closing holes in the line. Light cavalry can get round the back and destroy units wholesale by preventing retreats, but they've got to get the hits or retreat results from only two dice, so attacking supported leaders is not a good idea. This means you needs lots of them, with a leader, open flanks to ride around, and unsupported enemies, which usually means cavalry [which suffer more casualties from blocked retreats]...in other words Ticinus only, and its still a risk, since if they fail, their retreat will in turn be blocked. Even then you need to prepare by saving up relevant movement cards. Therefore these wild foolhardy charges are all about careful pre-planning.

Light cav seem to be the Stukas and Bf110s of the game, devastatingly effective if the circumstances are just right, otherwise so vulnerable they need to be kept out of the action. If they try to use their missiles they are likely to suffer missiles and evasion hits in return, and they have only three blocks, retreating four hexes per retreat result. Move-Fire-Move seems to be the safe and effective use. If there's an area of the game I have doubts about, it is this.
 
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