Owen Compton
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I'm thinking about getting C&C:A and I'm aware that the game generally sets up each scenario such that the historical victor has an advantage. But my question is concerning whether that is always the case - are there scenarios where the historical victor would actually have been an underdog, yet they overcame it somehow?
 
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StevenE Smooth Sailing...
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"But my question is concerning whether that is always the case - are there scenarios where the historical victor would actually have been an underdog, yet they overcame it somehow?"

Do some more research on the game by reading posted reviews and threads on balance.

Historically there was usually a victor so it naturally translates into the scenario... With good card play and generalship the disadvantaged side can overcome most balance issues. As far as scenarios where the victor was the underdog I think there are more than a few.
 
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Oh, yes. Players usually don't replicate the folly of some historical commanders, and since the game doesn't weight generals' ratings in anything except number of cards, a side with greater manpower yet a historically worse general has good odds. Cannae, for example, is (in my opinion at least) better for the Romans because the Romans have a great advantage in heavy infantry and Hannibal can't pull off a double envelopment.
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Dave Briggs
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I can't think of specific scenarios but even "un-balanced" scenarios can be won by the weaker side. It takes a bit of luck with the dice, cards, and some generalship skills. It may take several playings, but it can be done. This is why I like the game so much... winning against the odds is a bonus feature that adds another level of enjoyment to this game.
 
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Seth Owen
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It's also worth remembering that in the vast majority of the scenarios the historical record is so sparse that it's really nothing more than a suggestion of the actual event. In many cases nothing is known about an ancient battle than the bare fact it occurred and who won. And sometimes not even that.

Even the best documented battles do not have anything like a detailed order of battle or any other records.

So, while I'd expect the scenarios to generally have a slight bias to the historical winners (after all, they did win) there's very little scope for the kind of plausible "what-ifs" that are possible in later, better documented eras. As we don't know much about what did happen we can't know much about what could have happened.

This is one reason why the abstract nature of the Commands & Colors system seems less questionable on realism grounds than probably any other era. Those ancients wargame designs that give the impression they're detailed simulations are just blowing smoke anyway.
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Robert Grainger
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wargamer55 wrote:
It's also worth remembering that in the vast majority of the scenarios the historical record is so sparse that it's really nothing more than a suggestion of the actual event. In many cases nothing is known about an ancient battle than the bare fact it occurred and who won. And sometimes not even that.

Even the best documented battles do not have anything like a detailed order of battle or any other records.

So, while I'd expect the scenarios to generally have a slight bias to the historical winners (after all, they did win) there's very little scope for the kind of plausible "what-ifs" that are possible in later, better documented eras. As we don't know much about what did happen we can't know much about what could have happened.

This is one reason why the abstract nature of the Commands & Colors system seems less questionable on realism grounds than probably any other era. Those ancients wargame designs that give the impression they're detailed simulations are just blowing smoke anyway.



I basically agree with your post, but I do differ on one key area: in my view, we do know (or can at least infer) a fair bit about how some ancient armies fought. Taking the Romans for example, we know about their equipment and tactics from archaeological finds and some written evidence (e.g. Polybius), as well as experimental archaeology based on this evidence. Yes, we know far less than we'd like to, and you're right that we know very little about specific ancient battles, but I'd say that systems like GBoH do a decent job of modelling the Roman three-line system, missile-the-shock tactics, vs. the Alexandrian model of pin and envelopment, etc.

It can become a bit of self-fulfilling cycle (in some game/modelling systems it can be a little like "here's my game system that test my model; hey, my games using my model turned out to confirm my model's predictions; that proves my model is sound" - i.e. circular logic), but nonetheless, I think the simulations we have are doing more than "just blowing smoke", if only in terms of general tactical systems, rather than specific battles.
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Mark McG
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The Sacred Voice wrote:
I'm thinking about getting C&C:A and I'm aware that the game generally sets up each scenario such that the historical victor has an advantage. But my question is concerning whether that is always the case - are there scenarios where the historical victor would actually have been an underdog, yet they overcame it somehow?


There is a list of the base game scenarios here
http://www.ccancients.net/Rules/Base-Game/base-game-official...
Some players report results, and this will give you an idea of how balanced the scenarios are.

For my money, Lake Trasimenus is exceptionally tough situation for the Romans, far worse than Cannae which was more self-inflicted.

Of 55 recorded plays of Lake Trasimenus, Romans won 36.4% (as at today).
So even the ambushed underdog can get a win sometimes.
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BrentS
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Great question.

How does any game system model a force with numerical or positional disadvantage turning the odds to win an historical battle? It has to be done within the limitations of the system and is difficult without contriving special rules to force the historical result.

C&C:A does not portray differentials in army sizes well because of limited unit numbers and the victory condition of unit elimination, which means that battles are decided at the frontage of contact. Reserves and overlapping flanks do play a part in the game, no question, but cannot be portrayed to have the level of impact they did on the ancient battlefield. It is difficult to look at the C&C:A version of Gaugamela and appreciate the differential in army size and frontage, the significant disadvantage this presented to the Macedonians and how remarkable Alexander's generalship and the Macedonian troop quality and tactical system were in pulling off a victory.

C&C:A will tend to present this sort of differential with unit mix and positioning, such as Hannibal's weak centre at Cannae but I would agree that this is very abstract and does not visually portray differential in army size and its tactical implications. Another example is Pharsalus, where Caesar unexpectedly won against a numerically superior army.

I would agree with other posters to say that in C&C:A the factors which allowed disadvantaged armies to win are portrayed by command differential. In all three of the examples listed, there is a 6-4 hand advantage for the winning underdog. This doesn't just simulate superior generalship (although in each case theses celebrated commanders displayed famous tactical acumen) but also troop quality, morale and fitness, and environmental factors.....and while this is all quite abstract, many of these scenarios are successful exercises in balancing asymmetric field advantage against command advantage and the results are often quite close.

Brent.
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BrentS
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Grainger wrote:

I basically agree with your post, but I do differ on one key area: in my view, we do know (or can at least infer) a fair bit about how some ancient armies fought.


I would agree.

There is truth in the observation that information is often fragmentary and incomplete, particularly when dealing with true antiquity, but I do think it is possible to overstate the fog of ancient history. Moving into the classical period there is increasing primary source material with increasing reliability, even if some of authors are temporally removed from the battles they are writing about.

One of the key sources for Alexander's campaigns, Arrian, is writing several centuries after the fact, but had access to first-hand accounts now lost to us, including the writings of Ptolemy. In the case of Xenophon and and the Anabasis, or Caesar and the Gallic and Civil Wars, we actually have the first hand account of generals leading campaigns. Many of these histories have enough detail to construct a reliable picture of the order and progress of the battles they describe. While it is true that we have only what is written and that it is open to interpretation and bias, these authors could not write for a contemporary audience well acquainted with those events, or with ancient written and oral tradition that has not survived, without the essence of the truth. I don't think we can readily dismiss these battle narratives and for many battles they make for a solid grounding on which to create plausible scenarios.

Brent.

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StevenE Smooth Sailing...
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C&C:Ancients is a light, card driven block war game that plays in roughly 45 minutes to an hour... Anyone looking for closer historical accuracy or detailed combat simulations representative of the period should probably look into a different system. (This meant to be younger in cheek to a degree)
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Seth Owen
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goshublue wrote:
Grainger wrote:

I basically agree with your post, but I do differ on one key area: in my view, we do know (or can at least infer) a fair bit about how some ancient armies fought.


I would agree.

There is truth in the observation that information is often fragmentary and incomplete, particularly when dealing with true antiquity, but I do think it is possible to overstate the fog of ancient history. Moving into the classical period there is increasing primary source material with increasing reliability, even if some of authors are temporally removed from the battles they are writing about.

One of the key sources for Alexander's campaigns, Arrian, is writing several centuries after the fact, but had access to first-hand accounts now lost to us, including the writings of Ptolemy. In the case of Xenophon and and the Anabasis, or Caesar and the Gallic and Civil Wars, we actually have the first hand account of generals leading campaigns. Many of these histories have enough detail to construct a reliable picture of the order and progress of the battles they describe. While it is true that we have only what is written and that it is open to interpretation and bias, these authors could not write for a contemporary audience well acquainted with those events, or with ancient written and oral tradition that has not survived, without the essence of the truth. I don't think we can readily dismiss these battle narratives and for many battles they make for a solid grounding on which to create plausible scenarios.

Brent.



I think we accept the sparse records we have of antiquity because we must. He have no choice but to rely on Arrian, writing several centuries after Alexander's death because we have no choice, but it's important to recognize that we are, in fact, compromising the standards we would apply to later eras that are better documented.

Perhaps in some far future one of the only surviving records of World War II might be Winston Churchill's account. Hey, it's even by a first-hand eyewitness! But valuable as it is, is there anyone familiar with the book who would claim that it's always a reliable source for the events depicted?

Similarly, even today there's often debate about the true strength and even order of battle of the armies at battles a s recent as Waterloo or Gettysburg for which we have considerable contemporary records. Suppose all you had instead was the equivalent of an encyclopedia entry about that battle that listed the total strength of the army. How close to the actual OB could you come based simply off that information?

In my opinion there's far too much certainty expressed by some game designers and historians about pre-1500 warfare than is warranted by the extent of the surviving records. We work with what we have, of course, but I think conclusions about ancient warfare in general are more tentative than later eras and what we know about specific battles is, with rare exceptions, minimal compared to what we know about events within the last few centuries when literacy became more widespread, armies and states started to develop modern administrative machinery and its associated record-keeping and there's simply been less time to cause the destruction of those records.
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Owen Compton
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Thank you to those that replied, I'm glad to have provided a topic for thought!

To clarify, as I think some ambiguity was present in my original post, my question was not about the balance between sides in each scenario as I have done what I believe is a reasonable blitz research through some of the longer balance threads and read some of the excellent strategy articles that address the issue and am firmly of the opinion that the game is balanced enough for my taste. Instead, my question was trying to determine whether the historical victor of the battle was the one that was actually better prepared/equipped/lead/positioned etc. in each scenario. or whether the historical victor was in fact the underdog that pulled it out of the bag (for want of a better phrase).

To really boil my issue down then I wanted to know if any of the scenarios illustrated the historical winner overcoming what would have been, at that time, a very challenging battle, i.e. is there a scenario where the historical victor is at a disadvantage and would actually be more likely to lose in the game (thus giving the players the chance to live history in a "this was the more likely outcome" kind of way. It does make a lot of design sense to illustrate the historical victor in a scenario by giving them terrain/troop/command advantages while keeping a reasonable game balance and sticking to what we know of the time, but I wanted to know whether there were scenarios where the historical winner was in fact the one in the worst position at that time - and thus the scenario is actually more difficult to win than if you played as their historically defeated opponent.

Reading the replies now then I appreciate it was pretty naive of me to think we have any kind of completely impartial and detailed account of every battle to realistically simulate these kind of situations But I've enjoyed reading the discussion nonetheless!
 
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Mark McG
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Cannae (as mentioned) fulfills this criteria in spades. Outnumbered 3:2, and Roman Legions being tough, homogeneous and effective troops, against Hannibal's hodge podge of troops, languages and weaponry. Only Hannibal could pull it off, and ably assisted by Roman Consular incompetence.
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David Low
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A colleague and I often engage in "academic discourse" on this question: "In a simulation, should the historical result be the most likely result?"

There are no good answers to that question (unless you're a Bayesian...), as history only gives us one "run" of each scenario. In the case of Cannae, for example, one has the task of including "Roman Consular incompetence" and Hannibal's leadership, along with the force mix.

The question might then be (for example): "Given "Roman Consular incompentence", was the historical result the likely one? To what degree?". You can then get into fine academic debate about how to quantify "Roman Consular incompetence"...!!

And that's why I can play games at work, and call it "work" cool

I do so hate Bayesians...but sometimes they cannot be ignored whistle
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