Andrew C
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Command & Colors: Ancients (hereafter CC:A) is deceiving. After the first few sessions I was disappointed, the game seemed too simplistic and abstract. CC:A, though, has a depth with belies its simple rules and mechanics, and which only becomes apparent after repeated play.

This review assumes familiarity with the mechanics of the Command & Colors system shared with Memoir 44, Battle Cry, and Battlelore. If you are reading this, you probably already know the basic card play mechanic and the resulting orders for ‘X’ units on left/center/right. If not, there are many other reviews on BGG that you should read first in order to best understand this review.

Instead, this review will focus on several key mechanics that make CC:A a good simulation of ancient warfare (far better than is generally recognized) while remaining any extremely fun and playable game. I will also compare CC:A to Memoir 44 and Battlelore, in order to demonstrate why CC:A is the best of the bunch (I haven’t played Battle Cry and can’t comment on that).

I feel I must apologize for the length of the review. I tried to accomplish three things: first to compare CC:A to its Command and Colors siblings, second, to explain why it’s a great game, and finally, to provide some historical basis for why I thinks is a better simulation than is generally acknowledged. If you want to skip the historical references, I italicized them so you can pick them out easily


Components

First a word about the game’s components. Due to the number of comments on BGG about GMT components, I’ll go more in depth here than for most of my reviews. Please feel free to skip ahead to the game play section if components aren’t a big concern of yours.

d10-1 The map

The map in the base game is marginal. It is a heavy cardstock map (GMT’s ‘deluxe map’) similar to that found in Twilight Struggle. Usually, paper and cardstock maps don’t bother me since I simply cover them in plexiglass. But for a game like CC:A, this is a less than ideal solution, since CC:A is a very portable game otherwise: simple to teach and quick to play. Lugging around a piece of plexiglass hurts the game’s portability.

Don’t believe those that say the map doesn’t lay flat, a simple back fold will fix that every time. A more vexing problem is that, due to the way the map is sliced for folding, when laid flat the map ends don’t meet in the middle, leaving a small gap in the middle of the map. I also don’t care for the large game title in the middle of the map, but that tends to disappear once the action gets started.

The mounted map found in expansions #2 and #3

Fortunately there is an easy map fix out there. Buy either expansion number 2 or 3; each includes a true hard mounted map. For a game this good, you’ll want the expansions anyway (all of them!) so this is not a big deal to me.

update: Newer versions come with a mounted map, problem solved!

d10-2 The dice

Yes, I’m nit picking but I didn’t really care for the dice either (particularly the now-retired hollow ones in the first edition). Again, though, there is an easy fix: the really nice wooden dice from Valley Games. According to their site, the dice will be back in stock in September 2008 – or you can check ebay if you can’t wait. Again, a small investment ($7) that will increase your appreciation of a fine game.

Valley Games custom dice

d10-3 The blocks

For certain games, I love plastic miniatures. Descent is a game that absolutely requires them, and in Memoir 44 they work well. For CC:A however, blocks are flat out better than miniatures. First of all, they are more colorful. I like Memoirs green and field-gray armies fine, but Battlelore’s single color and shared sculpt armies just don’t cut it for me, and pretty much require hundreds of hours of painting to look good. By contrast, CC:A blocks looks great after a few hours of applying stickers. Second, in their straight lines they are move evocative of the dressed lines of troops that made up the ancient battlefield. Third, with so many different troops types, the cost of miniatures would have been prohibitive. And the variety of unit types is one of CC:A’s main strengths. Finally, the blocks are easier to move as a group.

Dress those lines soldier!

As a counter clipper, I realize I may be the exception, but I rather enjoy the time spent stickering the blocks. It’s a pretty relaxing activity if you don’t stress yourself out about it, and I find applying the stickers is part of the process of ‘getting to know’ the game. By the time you’re done, you have a good understanding of what units are included, how to recognize them quickly, and how each army’s composition differs.

Tweezers optional

d10-4 Charts

The charts deserve special praise. Made of sturdy, colorful and glossy cardstock, I never cease to be amazed how full of information they are, yet they remain clear and easy to read once you spend a minute learning their layout. The charts are so good that you will rarely need to consult the rules, as the charts have most exceptions spelled out on them. I prefer them over Memoir and Battlelore’s multitudinous cards.

Do yourself a favor and familiarize yourself with these

The rest of the components are solid. The rulebook is full color and very clear with tons of graphical examples (I would prefer glossy paper but that is a nit pick). The cards are sturdy with nice artwork and clear iconography.

In summary, with a few additions (the hard mounted map and wooden dice), and the investment of a few hours to sticker the blocks, the components are first rate.


Gameplay

This is where the game really shines. I think this game has it all. For those not interested in the historical simulation, it is just quick and fun. Sometimes, I enjoy a heavier 3-4 hour wargame (or one that requires multiple 3-4 hour sessions) but the ability to play two or three different scenarios, or the same scenario multiple times, and all on a weeknight, is a great change of pace.

CC:A is easily the best of the Command & Colors series. There are several subtle differences that on the surface seem minor, but which add up to a significantly deeper game play experience than and that of its siblings.

1 The Cards (empowering instead of constraining)

The first thing that becomes apparent after several plays is how different the cards are. Unlike in Memoir and BattleLore, you will almost never get screwed by the cards. In those games, the player’s strategy is strictly constrained by the cards. You frequently find yourself needing a ‘left flank’ card to respond to your opponent, but find yourself without one, or with a nearly useless ‘order 1 unit’ card. As a result, your choice of cards and strategies is often a self evident. There are, frequently, at most one or two obvious best choices.

In CC:A, by contrast, the card play is more analogous to that in a CDG like Twilight Struggle, 1960, Hannibal or Paths of Glory. The player generally will have many possible choices for a viable strategy, so many that it can be difficult to choose. I much prefer making hard choices between abundant possibilities over hoping to get lucky and pull the right card. In fact, I sometimes get hit by analysis paralysis in CC:A, while that pretty much never happens in Memoir or Battelore.

Why is this, you say? Aren’t the cards pretty much the same “two on the left” or “three in the center” as the other games in the series? In a word, no.

In CC:A you will pretty much always have several cards that will allow you to move at least three units, and often 4, 5, or sometimes 6 or more! If comes from the types of cards in the deck. Here are some specifics:

There are NO ‘order a single unit’ cards in CC:A (there are six ‘Recon’ cards in Memoir and six ‘scout’ cards in Battlelore)

There are fewer ‘order two units’ in CC:A (10 in CC:A versus 13 for Memoir and 11 for Battelore).

Instead of these near useless cards, in CC:A there are three ‘order four unit’ cards (none in Memoir or BL) as well as ten troop cards (order green, or blue, etc) plus 4 line command cards that allow any number of linked (adjacent to another) foot units to move. On top of that, there are six ‘leader’ cards that allow large blocks of units to move (again, there are no leader cards in either Memoir or BL – except for BL’s two ‘leadership’ cards that order a single unit with a extra bonus die).

Some of the most powerful cards from the game

The leader cards in particular add depth because they force the player to keep cohesive units under the command of a leader in order to make the most of them.

Is summary, the cards in CC:A feel empowering, they provide you with real choices, often so many that you aren’t sure which strategy to pursue. You rarely feel a prisoner of your cards.

2 Leaders

Another key addition to CC:A not found in either Memoir or Battlelore is leaders. Leaders are crucial to effective game play of CC:A but they are also a good example of where CC:A starts to move closer toward a simulation, while remaining an eminently playable game.

Aggressive leadership is critical for success

In the age of ‘heroic warfare’ leadership was absolutely critical. Alexander the Great, for example, regularly led from the front. He was invariably at the center of the action, and those troops within site of him were inspired to fight with increased zeal. At the battle at the river Granicus, Alexander wore a white plumed hat so that his men, and his enemies, could see him more easily. When he charged the Persian cavalry, a fierce struggle developed around Alexander. (The Persians had foolishly deployed their cavalry, rather than their greek mercenaries, to defend the river bank. The heavy infantry would have been better equipped to absorb the brunt of the Macedonian charge.) The Macedonians attacked with great ferocity to ensure the safety of their king – and Cleitus the Black saved Alexander’s life by severing the raised arm of the Persian captain Spithridates’ before his impending blow could fell the Greek king.

CC:A simulates the effect of an inspirational leader by allowing a ‘helmet’ result on the dice to count as a hit in melee combat for attacking units adjacent to a leader. Without the leader, a helmet result is a miss.

In the same battle, Arrian describes how “battalion after battalion” followed Alexander in his charge (Arrian, 1.15.4.) CC:A captures this with the leadership cards described above that allow a three or four units adjacent to a leader to activate with the leader.

Another example of a leader’s benefit occurred at the battle of Issus. Alexander, at the head of the Companion Cavalry, splashed across the river and after routing the light armed infantry (cardaces) on the right, charged directly for the Persian King Darius. Darius’ lost heart and fled. The Persian host, seeing their leader flee, soon broke and ran after him.

The game simulates a leader’s role in helping his men stand fast by allowing a unit that is attached to a leader to ignore one 'flag' result on the die (that would normally require a retreat). Obviously, though, if the leader is withdrawn (in order to protect the victory point he represents) the men are more likely to break and run.

This is more significant than is sounds, since it reduces the probability of a ‘battle back’ attack…

3 Battle back

Battle back is the heart and soul of CC:A. It is both the key to winning the game, and to driving historical behavior by rewarding the player for good tactical play. In brief, if a unit undergoes an attack and is not eliminated or forced to retreat, it gets an immediate normal attack against the aggressor unit.

Obviously, in all the Command & Colors games, the more dice you throw, the more hits you will achieve. Since victory points are the generated by destroying enemy units, if you manage to roll more attack dice than your opponent over the length of the game, you will likely win.

In CC:A, that means maximizing your odds to battle back. Given roughly equal cards, both players will be able to order a similar number of units per game, resulting in a similar number of standard attacks. If one player, however, does a better job of creating situations that create battle back opportunities, he will get more attacks, roll more dice, destroy more units, and win more victory points.

As mentioned above, leaders are one way to reinforce a key unit by allowing it to ignore a flag if ‘stacked’ with a leader.

The more common way is by maintaining a solid line, by way of ‘support’.

4 Support

In brief, any unit that is adjacent to two other friendly units is ‘supported’ and can ignore one flag (retreat result). This creates an incentive to maintain long straight lines of troops. Troops in a line are automatically supported, making retreat less likely. Those on the very end of the line, being adjacent to only one friendly unit, are not supported, and therefore more likely to retreat under pressure, which simulates the weakness of the flank nicely. When I first played I couldn’t believe that an ancients game didn’t have an explicit rule that provides a benefit for attacking the flank. But it IS in there in the form of the support rule, its just not spelled out as a ‘flank bonus.’

 
Troops in line support each other

Regarding the battle of Issus, Arrian wrote, “while Alexander plunged impetuously into the river, came to close quarters with the Persians posted here, and was pushing them back, the Macedonian centre did not set to with equal impetus, and finding the river banks precipitous in many places, were unable to maintain their front in unbroken line.” (Arrian, 2.10.5.). Darius’ Greek mercenaries advanced into the gap between the phalanxes and exploited them by attacking the phalanxes’ flank. Once inside the reach of the phalanxes’ sarissa (long spear), the mercenaries, armed with shorter spears, enjoyed a significant advantage. For a time the phalanxes took a severe beating, with one battalion losing its commander and 120 of his men in a matter of minutes.

A good player makes efforts to secure their flanks with a leader, by ‘refusing the flank’ by pulling back slightly, or reinforcing with a unit behind the end unit (so that it is adjacent to two friendly units and therefore supported.)

At the battle of Guagamela Alexander was vastly outnumbered by the Persian host, whose battle line was so long that it overlapped Alexander’s on both ends. In response, Alexander posted a second line of troops behind each flank and refused (slanted away from the enemy) the line.

5 Evade

The evade rule allows light (missile armed) infantry, and cavalry, to automatically retreat two hexes when attacked by heavier, slower, and more powerful infantry formations such as a legion or phalanx. When evading, the usual benefits received by heavy infantry (a ‘sword’ result on a dice, or a ‘helmet’ result if adjacent to a leader) no longer count as hits. This simple rule allows players to use light troops as they were historically, as hit and run harassers.

This is not an ideal deployment for light infantry (green circles), the warriors behind them (blue triangle) block them from evading.

Xenophon describes such a battle of attrition between Corinthian light infantry, led by Iphicrates, and the best heavy infantry of its day, the Spartans:

Iphicrates, at the head of his peltasts, saw no risk in attacking with the light brigade. Since if the enemy continued his march by the high road, he would cut up by showers of javelins his exposed right flank; or if he were tempted to take the offensive, they with the peltasts, the nimblest of all light troops, would easily slip out of the grasp of his hoplites. (Xenophon, 104.)



Interaction of the game systems

By themselves, none of these game mechanics sound overly significant. But they way in which they work together to create a credible simulation of ancient battle with an absolute minimum of rules overhead still amazes me after more than a year.

I really appreciate how the game rewards players who follow basic principals of success of ancient battle, namely dress your lines, concentrate to attack at your enemy’s point of weakness, lead from the front, and break the opponent’s will to fight.

The Romans defend a river bank, in line, and with a leader in support


Also, some of the Command & Colors basic mechanics, which seem somewhat arbitrary in other games, work very well in CC:A. As an example, the way in which a unit suffers losses in CC:A, but maintains its full ability until finally it loses cohesion (i.e. it loses it last block) and completely breaks, is a better simulation of ancient battle than for WWII.

There is a great tension around leaders as well. They are critical for success, and they need to lead from the front to be most useful, but that makes them vulnerable. The VP they represent if killed means there is a push your luck element to their use.

Even the problem of head hunting common in all Command & Colors games (going after a single block unit to finish it off and get the VP) doesn’t bother me as much in this game because ancient battles were generally decided when one side’s morale broke. Historically, this usually occurred due to one of three causes: loss of key leaders, loss of too many troops, or being flanked. CC:A simulates all of these potential means to victory.

Finally, the expansions to the base game introduce the concept of elite units (like Alexander’s Companion Cavalry or the Persian Immortals) that have some simple rules like the ability to ignore a flag or sword hit, which makes them more durable and adds chrome with no meaningful rules overhead.


Summary

I don’t play this game as often as I’d like (at least not against adults who provide a serious challenge, my 7 year old son loves it) but literally every time I play I enjoy and appreciate the game more than the previous time.

If this game has left you cold after a few plays, or feels shallow, do yourself a favor. Find a skilled opponent and play a few more times. I learned to love this game when played competitively and I think you will too.
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Peter
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Cleitus the Black wrote:
JohnnySchmaser wrote:
What happened to the end of the post?!?


I really struggled getting this review to take for some reason. Every time I edit it the last half disappears. Very frustrating.


It seems fixed now. Something bizarre was going on.
 
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Andrew Gross
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This is a first-rate review, and I wish I had time to write a more detailed reply.

That said, I'd like to add a couple of observations:

(1) One weakness of the C&C system, which is shared by Ancients, is that it's difficult to create scenarios that revolve around siezing terrain or other non-attrition factors. You do point out that you are less constrained by card mix in Ancients than in the other C&C games, but it's still enough of a limiting factor that it's hard to have a "seize the hill" type scenario.

(2) You don't mention Epic scenarios, but I feel as if playing 2 player Epic scenarios is even more fun and rewarding that playing normal scenarios (though others disagree). If this is something you want to do, I recommend ordering a second deck of command cards.

Thanks again for taking the time to write such a well thought out review.
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Todd Rewoldt
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As the other Andrew said, wish I had more time to respond, and definitely a well thought out review - but, I think you are a bit misleading or, maybe better chosen word, narrow in your comparison of the card play amongst the three C&C games. To say that Ancients has the order 4 cards while M44 and BL do not, is not completely correct. The analagous card in those games is order all (can't remember the name in M44) and Advance (in BL, which allows orders equal to command, generally 3 to 6). Scout is not a useless card in either M44 or BL. Typically it is played when a breather turn is available and then allows the player to choose from two cards whichever will fit that player's tactical planning best.

I ask the following seriously, not intending to be flippant at all, have you played the other two as much as Ancients? I first played BL and worked through the same type of things you discussed in playing Ancients (getting used to hand management in all of the C&C games is key). I have since played M44 sparingly (well, in relation to the other two, have stilled played a few dozen games of it, and very much enjoy it) and probably have played close to even (i.e. countless laugh ) games of Ancients and BL. I understand the desire to want to compare the games, but I don't understand the need to rank them (I can go on and on about this, but I'll spare everyone laugh ).

I also feel that BattleLore provides every bit as many, if not more options when the lore deck is involved as Ancients and certainly keeps me on my toes more than Ancients does. To me this is not a better/worse comparison, but a difference between the games that is intentional in reflecting the warfare being portrayed. I feel like I've left a lot of thoughts unfinished here, but probably have said them in other posts - I enjoy talking about these games almost as much as playing them

Thanks for the review, Andrew, and the chance to talk about the games more
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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Excellent review, Andrew. I'm apparently less fortunate than you in having the cards I need, and thought stickering the blocks was a horrible chore, but we agree on all the important points.


toddrew wrote:
I understand the desire to want to compare the games, but I don't understand the need to rank them


I do. Some people will read this, and other articles, while researching with the intention of buying one game in the series. Advice about which one people prefer is useful to them (personally, I sold my Battle Cry after picking up C&C:Ancients).
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Quote:
1) One weakness of the C&C system, which is shared by Ancients, is that it's difficult to create scenarios that revolve around siezing terrain or other non-attrition factors. You do point out that you are less constrained by card mix in Ancients than in the other C&C games, but it's still enough of a limiting factor that it's hard to have a "seize the hill" type scenario.


Ancient warfare was seldom centered on concepts like "take that hill". Battles were fought with the intention of destroying the enemy. The enemy may well be on a hill, but the hill is not the objective.

As far as CC:A as a simulation goes, the big thing for me is the stop and go nature of movement, which is shared by many games. Once a unit was committed there was little the commander could do but hope for the best and send in whatever reserves he had managed to hold back. Units committed to the attack should move every turn thereafter but few games take that approach. Legion Arena, the computer game from Slitherine is the one game I have seen apply this concept well. You can give orders at the start of the battle, but once your units start forward there is only very limited ability to change their direction or stop them.
Warrior Kings does this to some extent, requiring units to move at least half speed once they start forward, though it does allow a bit more control of their direction.
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Benjamin Parker
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Spectacular review

I started the Commands and Colors system with Memoir (which I got completely), and then went on to C&C. There were always certain aspects of Ancients that were just lost on me (such as the reason for the ignore 1 flag if adjacent to 2 friendlies). Thanks for helping me with that. I definitely need to break this out more often (and get expansion 2 or 3, if what you're saying about the better board's true)
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bestbandis wrote:
Cleitus the Black wrote:
this review will focus on several key mechanics that make CC:A a good simulation of ancient warfare (far better than is generally recognized) while remaining any extremely fun and playable game.


Hmm, I don't see how using leaders, the concept of support and battle lines makes it a good simulation.

If you have looked around the forums here and elsewhere you will see that among experienced players there are a couple of basic assumptions that most if not all will agree upon:

1) It is a fun/tense system with depth and replayability, and it repays study
2) It is a game, not a simulation, but it still gives a good 'feel' for ancient warfare

Your review reiterates the former, but does not add anything that will convince me that it is more of a simulation than I already give it credit for.

Edited to remove random comma...


Yes, fun game, but I still maintain that Borg games are card-management games, not war games, and certainly not simulations. They're abstract gaming at its best.
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Great review!
Actually this is the only C&C game I haven't played so far. I started with M'44 so Battle Cry wasn't a great hit with me. BL was ok but I didn't like the lore deck rules and the fact that some cards were removed from the command deck and added to the lore decks. I have only played tha basic set and the Call to Arms though.

C&C:A is on my scope a long time now. I haven't bought it yet is that I allready own a C&C game (Memmoir) and I want to play everything M'44 has to offer before I go on. It's cost is also high enought to put me off.

Anyway I hope I'll get the chance to ply it and find out it's strenghts myself.
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Andrew C
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Okay its a new day and hopefully my internet/BGG will cooperate better. I'll try to respond to everyone's comments.

toddrew wrote:
I think you are a bit misleading or, maybe better chosen word, narrow in your comparison of the card play amongst the three C&C games. To say that Ancients has the order 4 cards while M44 and BL do not, is not completely correct. The analagous card in those games is order all (can't remember the name in M44) and Advance (in BL, which allows orders equal to command, generally 3 to 6).


Thanks for your comments! I didn't have the time to do a card by card comparison of the entire deck. And yes, there are some cards in '44 and BL that allow 4+ troops to move. The point is there are many more of such cards, resulting in much greater flexibility, in CC:A.

Quote:
Scout is not a useless card in either M44 or BL. Typically it is played when a breather turn is available and then allows the player to choose from two cards whichever will fit that player's tactical planning best.


Agreed nothing is uselss, but personally I believe scout and recon are the worst cards in the game.

I am convinced of one thing about all the CC games: who ever rolls more dice wins. Ordering one unit ain't gonna get you there. (Of course, managing your cards and army to achieve more die rolls, on the right targets, is the trick!)

Quote:
I ask the following seriously, not intending to be flippant at all, have you played the other two as much as Ancients?


In terms of frequency of play, Memoir comes first, then CC:A, then BL.

Quote:
I also feel that BattleLore provides every bit as many, if not more options when the lore deck is involved as Ancients and certainly keeps me on my toes more than Ancients does.


I agree. To me, the problem is that the BL lore mechanics are hung on the basic system like ornaments on a christmas tree. They are layered on but don't feel integrated enough. I'm not sure the base mechanics are robust enough to warrent that much complexity overhead. YYMV.


Quote:
To me this is not a better/worse comparison, but a difference between the games that is intentional in reflecting the warfare being portrayed.


To some extent I agree, but the bottom line is I ENJOY CC:A the most. That's a good thing for a game.
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badinfo wrote:
Ancient warfare was seldom centered on concepts like "take that hill". Battles were fought with the intention of destroying the enemy. The enemy may well be on a hill, but the hill is not the objective.


Agreed.

Legions and phalanxes tended to lose cohesion on uneven ground, the phalanxes moreso due to their tighter organization. All four of Alexander's large set piece battles were on flat terrain, in two cases with a shallow river dividing the armies. Issus, for example, took place between the ocean and some hills. The armies rested one flank on the water and the other on the hills. Each side threw some light armed into the hills to prevent any surprises, but both ignored the inherent defensive bonus from hills and fought it out on the plains below. Only guerilla type forces consisting of solely light armed (i.e. missile) troops would try to fight in the hills.

In fact, earlier in his career, while fighting the Illyrians in Greece, Alexander got caught in a valley between missile armed troops in the surrounding hills. Knowning his heavy infantry would face huge problems bringing the light armed to a fight, Alexander resorted to a ruse. Arrian described the scene:

Alexander drew up his phalanx with a depth of 120 files. On either wing he posted 200 horsemen, bidding them keep silent and smartly obey the word of command; the hoplites were ordered first to raise their spears upright, and then, on the word, to lower them for a charge, swinging their serried points first to the right, then to the left; he moved the phalanx itself smartly forward, the then wheeled it alternatively to the right and left. Thus he deployed and maneuvered it in many difficult formations in a brief time, and then making a kind of wedge from his phalanx on the left, he led it to the attack. The enemy, long bewildered both at the smartness and the discipline of the drill, did not wait the approach of Alexander’s troops, but abandoned the first hills. (Arrian, 1.6.1-3.)

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PAUL OCONNOR
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You only like this game because you're on a winning streak against me.

You swine.
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Todd Rewoldt
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Cleitus the Black wrote:
I didn't have the time to do a card by card comparison of the entire deck. As yes, there are some cards in '44 and BL that along many troops to move. The point is there are many more of them, resulting in much greater flexibility, in CC:A.


I haven't taken the time to count out either, and I may be mistaken, but I think the section card/tactic card ratio is similar amongst the games, and with BL it is not as straight-forward a comparison as the lore hand being played in conjunction with the command hand (and the opponent's turn as well) addresses the flexibility one has in a way that Ancients does not. I can't speak as well to M44, but cards like armored assault, the various infantry orders, etc. seem to do the trick as well. I think among the three games hand management is key to all of them equivalently - one can't play cards willy-nilly in ancients and expect to be bailed out by flexible cards anymore than the other games.


Quote:
Agreed nothing is uselss, but personally I believe scout and recon are the worst cards in the game.

I am convinced of one thing about all the CC games: who ever rolls more dice wins. Ordering one unit ain't gonna get you there. (Of course, managing your cards and army to achieve more die rolls, on the right targets, is the trick!)


If this comes off as nitpicking semantics, then I apologize as that is not the intent, but with the situation on the board usually dictating which play is the best at that particular moment, calling particular cards "the worst" doesn't have blanket meaning.

Typically big orders are what one is looking for, but timing them is paramount and often times Scout is useful for setting up big plays and garnering a pick of two cards that will influence where the action will want to go with that big order card, as having follow up turns at the ready is an important part of hand management.

Will I would add some qualifiers to "whoever rolls more dice wins", I certainly agree with spirit of what you say, and typically big cards are the way to get that done, but big cards in succession concentrated in particular areas of the board are a more sure way of accomplishing that. Scout and Recon can be helpful in attaining that.

Cleitus the Black wrote:

toddrew wrote:
]I also feel that BattleLore provides every bit as many, if not more options when the lore deck is involved as Ancients and certainly keeps me on my toes more than Ancients does.


I agree. To me, the problem is that the BL lore mechanics are hung on the basic system like ornaments on a christmas tree. They are layered on but don't feel integrated enough. I'm not sure the base mechanics are robust enough to warrent that much complexity overhead. YMMV.


To me, this is the big adaptation that those playing M44 and Ancients need to be able to make in order to find the game play in BL smooth: becoming accustomed to both the turn mechanics of lore cards and familiar with their potential, both in utilizing and defending against them. I've found them to be well integrated both in terms of gameplay and theme, though plenty of players do find them otherwise. As you say, mileage my vary for the particular driver



Quote:
... the bottom line is I ENJOY CC:A the most. That's a good thing for a game.


And one will never get an argument from me against favoring one game over another for subjective reasons Ultimately fun is the determining factor for me too
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goldenboat wrote:
You only like this game because you're on a winning streak against me.

You swine.

Always an excellent reason to like a game. devil
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Andrew Gross
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badinfo wrote:

As far as CC:A as a simulation goes, the big thing for me is the stop and go nature of movement, which is shared by many games. Once a unit was committed there was little the commander could do but hope for the best and send in whatever reserves he had managed to hold back. Units committed to the attack should move every turn thereafter but few games take that approach. Legion Arena, the computer game from Slitherine is the one game I have seen apply this concept well. You can give orders at the start of the battle, but once your units start forward there is only very limited ability to change their direction or stop them.
Warrior Kings does this to some extent, requiring units to move at least half speed once they start forward, though it does allow a bit more control of their direction.


I would suggest you check out Battleground. The game uses cards to represent units, and the cards have a place on them to write orders (with dry erase markers, so you can reuse the cards). Once you've given an order, the unit keeps following it every turn. You have a limited ability to change orders by spending command points, but could rarely (if ever) change more than about 1/3 of your commands in one turn, and even that would be at a high opportunity cost (there are other uses for command points). They are coming out with their first two historical factions (Punic Wars) this fall.
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Heh, someone else recommended Battleground to me in a PM.
I've looked at it several times at the FLGS but haven't been able to bring myself to buy it. I think the fantasy theme has put me off. Punic wars you say? Hmm...
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Detail + organization + quality content = Recipe for excellent review. This puppy should get lots of thumbs! Great read!
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Thank you for your review. I thought it picked up the "bullets" that we love and dislike about C&C. I, myself, love heavy theme in my boardgaming (particularly wargames) and tend to lean toward games of the American Civil War, and 21st Century conflicts. However, I must say that C&C has won me over as one of my favorites! When I play C&C, I really feel as though I'm inflicting and receiving tons of bludgeoning!zombie Whereas, I (as others) coin Tide of Iron as "Tide of Plastic", I coin C&C as "Tide of Blood". For some reason, most times that I finish a game of C&C I feel as though I've left it all out on the "field"

The game is engaging enough, not prolonged or tedious and easy to play with most anyone in a relatively short amount of time. Yes, the game board is poor quality, but I always lay my (home depot) thick sheet of plastic over my boards so it's really not a problem. I love mini's and don't particularly care for the wood; even less for having to put all of the stickers onto the wood. Still, although I own and love Memoir and Battle Cry, I believe this is Borg's best boardgame and would encourage any wargamer to try it out. My only wish is that someday Borg re-releases C&C with mini's.
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Great review once again.

Quote:
The first thing that becomes apparent after several plays is how different the cards are. Unlike in Memoir and BattleLore, you will almost never get screwed by the cards. In those games, the player’s strategy is strictly constrained by the cards. You frequently find yourself needing a ‘left flank’ card to respond to your opponent, but find yourself without one, or with a nearly useless ‘order 1 unit’ card. As a result, your choice of cards and strategies is often a self evident.


I really disliked this part of Battlelore, before I played I was all excited about how I was going to form some strategies and move my armies around and instead what I got was cards that completely limited my options and forced me to just play tactically by whatever I drew. I still have to add in the lore but that sure turned me off the C&C system quick.

I've always had an eye on this title long before BL and then BL came out with the fantasy theme which I opted for hoping it would even improve on C&C:A, instead they took out the Leader aspect and added in the Creatures.

Anyway if you and others really think there is more control and potentially more strategy in this versus BL I might have to sell my BL and opt for this.
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Quote:
I didn't have the time to do a card by card comparison of the entire deck. As yes, there are some cards in '44 and BL that along many troops to move. The point is there are many more of them, resulting in much greater flexibility, in CC:A.

In case you are interested to make comparissons.

Breakdown of Memoir Command Cards

Section Cards
Center: 13 Cards (2x1order, 5x2orders, 4x3orders, 2xall)
Right and Left Flank: 11cards (2x1order, 4x2orders, 3x3orders, 2xall)
Multi section cards: 5 (3x1/1/1orders, 1x2/0/2orders, 1x2/2/2orders)

Tactics Cards:
Close Assault
Barage
Ambush
Behind the enemy lines
Firefight
Air Power
Dig In
Medics and Mechanics
Their Finest Hour
Artillery Bombard
Infantry Assaultx2
Armor Assaultx2
Move out! x2
Counter Attack x2
Direct from HQ x2

Excluding the specific conditions tactics cards (Air power,Ambush, Barage etc) The combinations are the folloing.

There are 31 out of 60 cards that let you ordser units on the center
There are 30 out of 60 cards that let you ordser units on the flanks
(30 for the right flank and 30 for the left flank)
There are 21 out of 60 cards that let you issue an order units in more than one section.

I do not own other C&C games to make other lists.

The hour is late and some numbers might be wrong. I haven't got the strenght at this point to make calculations about how many units you order with each card.

Hope that helps a bit.
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Even the problem of head hunting common in all Command & Colors games (going after a single block unit to finish it off and get the VP)


That's probably my biggest issue with the system. It feels very awkward and contrived, and artificial. But as you pointed out, ancient warfare was kind of like that. They had soldiers march "stupidly" across open fields instead of hit and run focusing only on key objectives.

Good review got me interested in C&C again.
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bestbandis wrote:
Upon reflection, I think I earlier jumped too hastily to conclusions regarding what you meant by 'simulation'. If you are meaning 'credible simulation' (which you do in this comment) then I agree with you.


Yes, I don't mean to imply CC:A is a hardcore simulation, clearly its not. Rather, I hoped to demonstrate that the nuances of the game force the player to adopt realistic strategies to succeed

Quote:
Another excellent element in the game is the evade rule, which really makes skirmishers feel like skirmishers, and the ensures that they have a role in the 'combined arms' battlefield.


You are absolutely right, I can't believe I forgot that! Evade is a critical feature of CC:A that adds a great deal of realism into the way light infantry is treated.

edit: Your point was so well taken that I added this to the review:


5 Evade

The evade rule allows light (missile armed) infantry, and cavalry, to automatically retreat two hexes when attacked by heavier, slower, and more powerful infantry formations such as a legion or phalanx. When evading, the usual benefits received by heavy infantry (a ‘sword’ result on a dice, or a ‘helmet’ result if adjacent to a leader) no longer count as hits. This simple rule allows players to use light troops as they were historically, as hit and run harassers.

This is not an ideal deployment for light infantry (green circles), the warriors behind them (blue triangle) block them from evading.

Xenophon describes such a battle of attrition between Corinthian light infantry, led by Iphicrates, and the best heavy infantry of its day, the Spartans:

Iphicrates, at the head of his peltasts, saw no risk in attacking with the light brigade. Since if the enemy continued his march by the high road, he would cut up by showers of javelins his exposed right flank; or if he were tempted to take the offensive, they with the peltasts, the nimblest of all light troops, would easily slip out of the grasp of his hoplites. (Xenophon, 104.)

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Quote:
Yes, I don't mean to imply CC:A is a hardcore simulation, clearly its not.


what is? I bet the strengths and weaknesses stand up well compared to the opposition.

Quote:
The evade rule allows light (missile armed) infantry, and cavalry, to automatically retreat two hexes when attacked by heavier, slower, and more powerful infantry formations such as a legion or phalanx.


Evade allows light units [L, LB, LS] to stop faster medium and heavy cavalry every time. Perhaps allowing the cavalry the first XSW or something similar [eg. a pair of XSW scores a hit] would even the score, as would "momentum" if the light is destroyed on evading.

Light Bows/Slings enjoy slight advantages versus Light Cavalry types, but not enough in terms of shooting. Maybe an extra die here.

The rapidity with which medium and heavy infantry types finish each other off is not always in keeping with the real press and "clash of spears". However many of them never get into action, so perhaps we can trade the one for the other.

The weak point is still Light Cavalry. CCA doesn't always convince players that Massinissa's boys were quite as wonderful as the scenario blurb suggests. Maybe they should get to shoot one die at any unit as they move adjacent to it, allowing them to ride away further than the usual two hex range.

Elephants versus Chariots are made artificially weak by combinations of rules ie. the Elephant loses its first precious XSW of only two or three dice [not sure about LBC] due to the chariot's "armour", despite little doubt over which is the heavier and more solidly constructed.
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Quote:
Yes, fun game, but I still maintain that Borg games are card-management games, not war games, and certainly not simulations. They're abstract gaming at its best.



Somehow, sometime, when I have plenty of time and plenty of beer, I'll let someone explain to me how pieces of cardboard with numbers on them-- conjured out of a great deal of subjective perceptions-- and cross referenced on a table with more numbers on it, reverently called a "CRT,"-- is somehow supposed to gain our reverence for its "simulation" value. I've never seen tanks or men or planes with numbers on them that stated what they could or could not do. But there is "safety in numbers" in many ways, one among them giving people an illusionary belief that they can somehow manipulate those numbers in ways that "recreate reality" and, because they can count better than the opponent, or can remember arcane modifiers more readily, (never mind a lucky die roll), they'll somehow prove themselves in superior in real life generalship.

Nah, I'll never have that much time or beer or patience to hear someone seriously explain why Unit X is a "4" and Unit Y is a "5" and it's all supposed to be real.

Or, put another way, give me a game that I can really enjoy playing and want to play again as soon as I've finished the last game. Don't bother trying to explain why a "card management" game is somehow less than a "war game." That's part of your secret decoder ring society.

And keep the folly of simulation for yourself, lest someone show you that the man behind the curtain has no more genuine insight into blood, sweat, and tears than you do. (Here's a secret-- they are ALL abstract games.)
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aforandy wrote:
Quote:
Yes, I don't mean to imply CC:A is a hardcore simulation, clearly its not.


what is? I bet the strengths and weaknesses stand up well compared to the opposition.


Well, this can easily degenerate into a semantics conversation. Personally I think CC:A was designed with fun and playability as primary concerns, and historically accuracy a second.

Games like GMT's Great Battles in History series were designed more in an attempt to accurately model the interaction of very specific weapon system and tactics. That to me is a simulation, even if that doesn't make is necessarily any more 'accurate.'

That said, and as stated in the review, I think CC:A is a more accurate historical simulation that its given credit for.

Quote:
The rapidity with which medium and heavy infantry types finish each other off is not always in keeping with the real press and "clash of spears".


Actually I think CC:A is pretty accurate here. Doyne Dawson, in The Origins of Western Warfare: Militarism and Morality in the Ancient World describes the 'clash of spears' as a quick and brutal affair:

"On a level plain, two deep formations of armored spearman drew up facing one another, packed closely together with shields overlapping. They collided in a cloud of dust, and there followed some minutes of deafening butchery, the spears of the front rank clashing against shield and helmet, while the files behind them yelled and pushed; then on one side or the other, suddenly the shield wall was broken, the little army scattered, the battle lost." (Dawson, pg 17).

Victor Hanson, in The Western Way of War concurs. He writes that, at approximately 50 pounds, the combined weight of the panoply burdened and slowed the hoplite. During the Mediterranean summer it also proved unbearably hot. The soldiers quickly tired in combat, then one line or the other suddenly broke.
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