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Commands & Colors: Ancients» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Beard to Beard rss

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chris carleton
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My wife and I have played both sides of all the scenarios of C&C: Ancients, and are now into the first expansion (21 scenarios played altogether). Before playing C&C, we had played a lot of Memoir 44, but the classical period is my main historical interest, so I looked very forward to trying out the system for classical warfare.

C&C does not disappoint. It is certainly different than Memoir 44, as it reflects a very different style of warfare, and, like M44, does it very well.

Bits:

Lots and lots of wooden blocks: 345 of them. Almost all of them have two stickers available to put on them, so there is definitely some prep work to do before playing the game. I didn't mind putting the stickers on because it is the kind of mundane work that gave me a chance to learn about the units and the game, which is more complex than Memoir 44.

The cards are very stiff and thick (think Mystery Rummy: Jack the Ripper). The game also contains reference cards, which are extremely well laid out and useful for, well, reference purposes.

The gameboard and terrain tiles are not of the thickest cardboard, but we bought a sheet of glass to put on the board. It is much heavier than plexi-glass (and more expensive), but doesn't scratch and is great for flattening out all kinds of gameboards. The original dice are plastic with stickers, but wooden dice are also available.

The rule book is good in combination with the reference card. There are significantly more rules to know than M44, and it will take a few matches before you're not referring to the rule book. We still use the reference cards.

Set Up:

There is a fair amount of set up, depending on the scenario. As ancient battles were mainly fought in the open, few scenarios require more than minimal terrain set up, and many none at all. The blocks are quite easy to count out and set up, although you will either want to bag up or get Plano boxes to keep all the different units separated. I don't mind the set-up time as it gives you a chance to think about strategy and tactics.

Rules/Play:

The object of the game is to defeat your opponent in a scenario based on a historical battle. As some of the battles are weighted heavily on side or the other, it is best to play both sides to determine an overall winner. The winner is the player who accumulates the required number of banners (meaning, eliminates the required number of enemy units/leaders), and, if playing both sides, who gets the most banners.

As play time is about 1-1.5 hours, for playing both sides, the scenarios are generalizations of historical battles. The main challenges of the battle are represented, and that is what makes the game interesting.

C&C is a card driven game: you must play a card to determine which units move and battle. The board consists of hexes and is divided into two flank and one centre section, so a card might allow you to move a certain number of units in a section, or allow you to move a certain type of unit (heavy, mounted, etc.), or allow a specific form of combat or combat/movement combination.

Different types of units have different movement allowances, with heavier units having less movement. Units are classed as either light, medium, or heavy, and for the most part, are either infantry or mounted units. So for movement, if your card allowed you order three units on your left flank, and you wanted to move a light cavalry, a light infantry, and a heavy infantry, their movements would be 4, 2, and 1 hexes respectively.

There are two types of combat: range combat and close combat. When engaged in combat, dice are used to determine who is eliminated. To engage in range combat, your unit cannot be adjacent to the enemy. Mainly light units are capable of range fire, which can hit the enemy up to three hexes away (for some units). Your chances of hitting the enemy are reduced compared to close combat. The six-sided dice consist of light, medium and heavy symbols, a retreat symbol, a leader symbol, and a sword symbol. In range combat, only a symbol matching the enemy unit's type counts as a hit.

Close combat is only possible when a unit is adjacent to the enemy, and, in general, the heavier the unit, the more dice you get to roll. Medium and heavy units also have the advantage of counting the sword symbol as a hit against most units.

Close combat with medium and heavy units can result in a lot of casulaties, not only for the defending army, but also for the attacking army. When attacked a unit has the option of battling back; that is, they get to roll the appropriate number of dice for their unity type and strike back.

A unit may also evade close combat if it is a light unit, or mounted unit up against foot units. This means that it gives up the chance to battle back and retreats two spaces, and thereby reduces its chances of being hit, as only its type symbol counts as a hit.

Leader units also affect combat. A unit with a leader of adjacent to a leader, also gets to count any rolled leader symbols as hits. Eliminated leaders count towards victory and have to do a casualty check every time a block is eliminated from thier unit. Your chances of eliminating a leader, increase if he is attacked when he is not attached to a unit, or if all the blocks in his unit have been eliminated.

After successful attack (the opposing unit has retreated of eliminated), most units can advance to the vacated hex, and warriors and mounted units may battle again.

Retreats can be caused by either range or close combat, but can be ignored under some circumstances. If your unit is adjacent to two friendly units you may ignore one flag, if your unit includes a leader you may ignore a flag, some types of terrain also allow you to ignore a flag, and these bonuses are cummulative. When a unit is forced to retreat, it must retreat its full movement. For example, a light cavalry's full movement is four spaces, so if forced to retreat, it must retreat four spaces; if it gets two flags it must retreat eight. If it reaches the end of the map, it lose one block for every space unavailable for retreat, and is, in effect, routed.

There are a number of special units in C&C. Elephants, for example, use a many battle dice as their opponent would use, rather than a fixed number, making them less effective aginst lighter units. They rampage when they retreat and may trample your own men or the enemey indiscriminantly. Warriors attack with four die when at full strength, but with three when not; chariots attack with four, but defend with three dice.

For every unit or leader you eliminate, you recieve a banner. Each scenario has a number of bannrs that have to be won to schive victory.

These special units, along with leaders, extra battle rules, the division of heavy, medium and light, make for a more complex game, but one that simulates the difficulties of classical warfare very well. The amount of rules does not make the game fiddly or annoying, but instead gives the game depth. However, make no mistake, it will take you several matches to get the hang of everything, rules, strategy, and tactics--for us, about three times as many matches as M44.

Strategy/Tactics:

Like classical warefare, C&C's strategy and tactics are less fluid and tend to follow stages.

Range combat is good for weakening a unit: good for softening up; not so good for elimination. It increases the chances of rendering a unit nearly useless (down to one block) or ripe for elinmination, after a close combat. Against elephants and chariots, it can be especially useful as they only have two blocks. Elephants are rather large targets, and chariots were not particularly manoeverable, so they are fairly easy targets.

Mounted units tend to move farther than infantry, so they are more likely to engage the enemy first in close combat. They are good for hit and runs and harrassing the enemy, to weaken them before close combat. They are also extremely useful in combination with infantry to deliver extra punch on the flank, and leave your infantry less vulnerable to a retreat. They are not, however, the classical equivalent of a tank that can move in and hold position. You definitely want to leave a path for retreat that keeps in mind the full movement of your unit.

Elephants are a little different. If you can get them up against your opponent's heavy units, they will do damage, and if they rampage amidst your enemy's troops, there can be serious carnage. They can also trample your own troops, so be careful how many of your own units are nearby.

The meat and potatoes of the battle is your line of infantry, and everything that comes before the two lines of infantry meeting is a prelude to the main event--a very important preparation for the main event, but the battle will most often be determined by what you do with your infantry.

It may take a few extra turns to get your infantry advancing in unison, or lined up to face an attack but it makes a huge difference. When infantry meet, especially medium and heavy, it is not a pretty sight, and there are usually lots of casulaties. The longer and more cohesive your line of infantry is, the more points of attack you have available, and the less likely any one of your units will have to retreat. Conversely, when a line is broken, you are more likely to be subject to retreats and will be more open to new points of attack. So if you don't have the cards to mount an attack, it is better to do smaller manoevers and prepare your line for defence, and do your damage on battle back.

To win, you will likely have to do some mopping up to ensure the enemy is not able to regroup, or that he is completely routed. Cavalry can cover a lot of ground for this purpose.

Conclusion with Some Comparison to M44:

While C&C employs the same system as M44, battles play out very differently.

There is no defensive position or side in C&C, as in M44. Your defensive strategy and offensive strategy is essentially the same: getting your troops as cohesive as possible before the big shoving match, and doing whatever damage you can beforehand so your opponent is not in as good as shape when the lines meet. For the most part, the effects of terrian is minimal. So all the issues surrounding how to best defend or capture a physical location are largely absent.

The battle back mechanism allows you to retaliate when you are attacked, but it can also seriously blunt or ruin your attack plans. That is, a well planned attack may be turned by your oppponent's much superior dice rolling. If they follow up a good battle back with an attack of their own, your offensive might crumble right before your eyes. Therefore, the course of a battle can change rapidly in just two turns. I don't find this to be a problem; it simply represents the vulnerability of engaging in hand to hand combat in a way that, for the most part, is not necessary to represent in M44.

The addition of specialized units and leaders make C&C a more complex game than M44, and if you like the system and are looking for something more involved, you will really like C&C. You will have to adopt a different way of thinking about strategy and tactics, and this may be a bit more of an acquired taste for some.

Once acquired though, this is a first-rate game. I rate it a 10.

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Sifu
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Great review!

The "beard to beard" wouldn't in any way refer to the, uh, missus, would it?
 
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David McLeod
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Great review!

 
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David McLeod
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Great review!

 
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chris carleton
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Quote:
Great review!

The "beard to beard" wouldn't in any way refer to the, uh, missus, would it?


LOL! Hmmmmm . . . I better not let my wife see this review.

I was thinking of Macbeth regretting that he was not able to fight Siward's and Malcom's army beard to beard.
 
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Yoki Erdtman
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Great review, I'm almost done stickering my blocks and have introduced a friend to M44 recently. Hopefully we can move onto C&C:Ancients after a few more plays of M44.
 
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