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Commands & Colors: Ancients» Forums » Reviews

Subject: LUCK vs. SKILL rss

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Gotthard Heinrici (prev. Graf Strachwitz)
Germany
Düsseldorf
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A LOT has been written about this game, both positive and negative and my aim is not to review the game in a traditional way but I want to explain why I think it is so good by focussing on the mechanics that causes the game's biggest opposition: the combination of dice and cards.

The most voiced concerns for gamers who do not like C&C:Ancients is that the dice in combination with cards adds too much luck for their tasting.

This seems very plausible and indeed there seems to be a lot of luck involved because of it; eventually the dice will decide the success or failure of an engagement or firing strike and the cards decide a lot about your ability to act or react. All in all luck is quite a big factor.

The question is if luck is too dominating here and takes away the breath of decision making, strategy etc.

First let me say that good rolls and good cards are not continuous. You will have bad rolls and will have average cards at some stage so over time I think the luck will balance out.

However this is still not the main point why the game is so unique. Good cards and good rolls will help a good deal (certainly in some specific scenario’s where the sides are not that evenly balanced) but it is certainly not the only excitement in the game nor the only key to victory!

In my opinion the biggest factor to master the game and your opponents are:
- Risk Management
- Timing
- Flexibility

This game is all about:
-Knowing when to strike where
-Knowing what cards to use when
-Knowing what type of units to use when
-Adjust your plans according to the situation

It is here where the game truly shines and that makes it unique: LUCK meets SKILLS and it is here where you are able to manipulate your fortunes!

I have played many games now and this is not a revelation that I got immediately after a few plays. At first glance I too thought that the dice and cards were very dominating and responsible for the outcome of the battles (nevertheless I liked the game and excitement of the fortunes of war).

Only at a later stage and after many more plays I realised the cards and dice were less influencing to the outcome as I initially thought.

The game is all about how too best exploit success while conceive a disaster! The winner will be the one who displays the best timing, risk management and flexibility.

I really started to respect the mechanics in ancient warfare. The Borg system that shined in family games such as Mamoir and Battle Cry was taken to the next level with a well chosen theme, wonderful mix of units and a brilliant set of rules. The Ancient is just utterly suitable for this system and a superb playable and enjoyable with a lot more to it than just the swinging fortunes because of the cards and dice.


Summary:
I would advice all existing players and newcomers who aren't sure about C&C:Ancients because of the 'luck issue' and the too heavy swing of fortunes to look beyond it.

First of all the Luck will even out over time and you can change seat after a battle to get a fairly balanced result.

But where the game really shines is the excitement of the fortunes and the use of skill to influence it: trying to exploit success while conceive a local disaster. Rather than attack and hope for a lucky role, you will have to assess the result of an attack:

...is an attack worth the risk of a failure: will a good result be of such importance that you can riska failure?
...play a certain card now or wait another turn?

C&C:Ancients imo is a master piece that is deeper than it might appear and where skill can manipulate your fortunes more than you might think!


Lastly, two small side notes worth mentioning:

-My only disappointment is that I would have LOVED a hard mounted board in the style of let’d say Battle Cry / Memoir. Yes I do know about the small margins for publishers like GMT but this one so deserved a sturdier map in the style of the box! At least they could have saved some of the cardboard that they used for the box and have made a hard mounted map….snif…

-I love the blocks and I play laying them flat, sunny side up.
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Heckle Jekyll
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Knox
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Re: Dicey card business??!!
Great discussion of how to view the luck factor in this game.

Quote:
I love the blocks and I play laying them flat, sunny side up.


Just curious, what does sunny side up mean? That you have stickers only on one side and never turn them over?
 
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Gotthard Heinrici (prev. Graf Strachwitz)
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Re: Dicey card business??!!
Exactly, I have stickers on one side and have the rest as spares after the get worn out. I never play with them standing up. Weel anyone has their odds and ends, this is mine
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Ken Takacs
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Re: Dicey card business??!!
Excellent article Harro! I fully concur. One really needs to give this game a number of plays to understand the nuances.
 
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