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Subject: The Battle of Cannae >> Bloody Fun rss

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Jay Little
United States
Eden Prairie
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Karate Chop!
Cornjob and I finally got together for our long-anticipated Commands & Colors: Ancients battle. We had talked about it for months, but our schedules never worked out. I had played BattleCry and Memoir '44 before, but this was my first game of Commands & Colors. We opted to fight out the Battle of Cannae, each of us taking a turn as the Romans and then the Carthaginians.

The Battle of Cannae was a major battle of the Second Punic War, taking place on August 2, 216 BC near the town of Cannae in Apulia in southeast Italy. The Carthaginian army under Hannibal destroyed a numerically superior Roman army under command of the consuls Lucius Aemilius Paullus and Gaius Terentius Varro. Although the battle failed to decide the outcome of the war in favour of Carthage, it is today regarded as one of the greatest tactical feats in military history.

Despite what Wiki says above, the Roman army actually had only 13 unit stacks compared to Carthage's 16 unit stacks, if I recall. Or something of the sort. And I felt that Carthage's units had more flexibilty in their initial set up.

The first game was very lopsided. As the Carthaginians, I used my slingers to weaken the Roman forces, then rushed forward to finish the drained troops with cavarly and my heavy infantry. It was brief and very bloody, ending Carthage 7 - Rome 2. I think it only lasted 5 or 6 rounds.

After swapping sides, Carthage got an early advantage as they were able to move their entire center column of foot troops forward, getting the slow but powerful heavy infantry into the mix early. Rome wheeled and turned to the left flank, posturing for several rounds to set up a strong leader move allowing a leader and 4 attacked units to move, enclosing Hasdrubal and his auxilia in a pincer move. Hasdrubal escaped as his army was crushed, but there was little room to maneuver and was soon chased down afterward.

Major battles ensued along the field, each side inflicting massive damage upon the other. Rome managed to climb back from a 5-2 deficit to make it close toward the imminent endgame 6-5.

Then came The Big Decision. I could play it conservatively, virtually guarantee one flag for my turn and try to weather the Carthage storm for another shot the following turn, or Rome had to make a very risky move to win on its turn, lest Carthage mop up an easy flag from among several ripe targets. I opted for the risk of leaving myself horribly exposed should my plan (er, dice) fail. A bold cavalry rush destroyed a heavy infantry unit weaked during the previous turn's counter attack, while some keen-eyed slingers dispatched a lone leader before he could slither back.

So the second battle ended 7-6 in favor of Rome. It was a much more exhilirating and closely-matched battle than the first. With only 4 cards to choose from each round, I felt trapped and pinched by my opponent as well as my options. While luck certainly played a large part (my medium infantry dispatched a unit of heavy infantry in a counter attack with 3 hits scored), I felt my decisions helped. And that's a good blend.

I like C&C:A. I really like the leadership influence in the command cards and "formations" and the support modifier to reduce the retreat flags during combat. There are a lot of units to wrap your head around, and I constantly had to refer to the player aids to figure out whether a unit could evade, advance after combat, etc. But I could see this becoming pretty familiar after a few plays.
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