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Subject: Don't let the term "wargame" scare you rss

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Brian McCormick
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Command & Colors: Ancients

So, you've heard about the massive number of stickers to affix, and that is what's scaring you? It's okay, I was afraid, too. When I opened my copy, I nearly fainted at the huge bag of wooden tokens. However, I couldn't help but laugh at the irony of how certain haters negatively apply "wood fondlers" to gamers who play Euros, yet here I was faced with 300+ wood blocks, all in need of some stickering.

But, I could not shrink back in fear.

There were battles to be won.



C&C: Ancients is another entry into the "Command and Colors" system, populated also by Battle Cry, Battlelore, and Memoir '44. Why'd they call it "Command and Colors"? Beats me. Let's look at the game instead of pondering...


What makes the game tick?

If you're already familiar with the C&C system and you don't care to hear my opinion, feel free to skip to the next bolded section.

C&C: Ancients uses cards to drive the action. Play one of your "Command cards", move your troops, and attack if any of your troops are in range. Simple. Now, some of you may be thinking, "a card-driven wargame? Doesn't that make it...you know...*dun dun dun*...random"

Okay, hold your horses. Since when was random a bad thing? Warfare is full of randomness. The real issue is if the card-driven system is too random. The answer: no. C&C Ancients feels the least random compared to Memoir '44 and Battlelore (I haven't played Battle Cry). Since you only play one card at a time, the nail-biting decisions are always present. Send my cavalry in? Oh, but my archers are in a precarious place. What about my leader? Will he be okay all by himself over there?


image courtesy kgm3219

The cards keep everything clipping along at a brisk pace, but they never get in the way of the tactics. I like how it works, and it's pretty easy to learn and teach.

Combat is resolved by dice rolls. Roll a hit and remove one enemy token. Remove all the tokens and a unit and you've eliminated the unit: score one point, General!

"Oh, boy," you're starting to think again. "Dice rolls? Raaaaaandom."

Chill out! Not every game can be randomness-free like Caylus, okay? Still, C&C Ancients is designed to contain the randomness. By keeping formations, maximizing the benefits of your leaders, and understand the pros and cons of each unit is what is going to win battles.

Victory is won through points (though I think some scenarios are objective-based). So, you don't have to completely decimate your opponents to win. This helps keep the battle length under an hour. In fact, you can often fight the battle twice (each player gets a chance to try each side) in under 90 minutes.


A wargame?

If you're like me, then buying C&C Ancients is going to be your first or one of your first entries into the "wargame" genre. That's okay. C&C Ancients is a perfect place to get started. The rules aren't too complicated. The complexity enters the game once you take into effect all of the unit types and all of the rules governing them. And believe me: there are a LOT of units, and the number only increases if you start buying the expansions.


image courtesy Caesar

Before playing C&C Ancients, here were my thoughts about wargames:

1. They take forever to setup and play.
2. They have a million little pieces
3. The rules are endlessly complex
4. Good luck getting anyone to play the game with you
5. The components are ugly and poor quality


Ancients has addressed all five of these thoughts:

1. It takes 90 minutes to setup, play two battles, and put away. Not bad at all.
2. Roughly 80 to 100 pieces are in play at a time. Nothing to fret about.
3. The rules are simple and elegant. There are a lot of exceptions, but they are clarified by the excellent player aid
4. You only have to find one other person to play it, since C&C Ancients is a two-player game. My girlfriend plays and loves this game, and she is by no means a wargamer.
5. A great mounted board and a huge army of stickered soldiers? You won't hear any complaints from me.


So, will this hit my table?

There is one major limitation to C&C Ancients: you can only play with two players. I understand that there are rules for additional players, and I can't wait to get a larger battle going. However, out of the box you are limited to two people.

Also, this is a wargame. It's about flanking, attacking, and killing your enemies. Don't expect your Carcassonne group to jump right into this one willingly.


The verdict

C&C Ancients compacts a lot of strategy into a quick session. The system is elegant and - with a bit of patience - can be taught to a wide variety of gamers and non-gamers.

Pros
- Feels like you're really a general of the ancient world
- Scenarios are quick
- Lots of variety and replayability (not to mention there are expansions)
- Rules are elegant, but not lacking in depth

Cons
- Only two players under "core" rules
- Lots of bits to sticker and keep track of
- Theme may turn off some potential opponents

I give this game two thumbs up. C&C Ancients is one of the first wargames I've played, and I'm eager not only to explore the C&C Ancients series, but also to dabble in other wargames.
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Frank Riskey
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Brian, nice review.
 
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James Lowry
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Quote:
Why'd they call it "Command and Colors"?

That is Richard Borg's name for the general system. So Battle Cry, Memoir '44 and Battle Lore are all 'Commands & Colors games'. GMT is just the only one to call it the same thing he does.
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BrentS
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Great review.

I am happy to see that you've addressed the luck issue with card draw and dice. This is frequently overplayed by the game's detractors....good hand management, careful unit positioning and understanding and applying probability in respect to dice rolls will almost always reward good tactical play in CCA.

While there are multiplayer variants, the official one is called Epic, allows for up to 8 players and is featured in Expansion 5....a warning, though, it does require the use of two mounted mapboards and many of the armies from the other expansions to play.

Brent.
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Brian McCormick
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goshublue wrote:
Great review.

I am happy to see that you've addressed the luck issue with card draw and dice. This is frequently overplayed by the game's detractors....good hand management, careful unit positioning and understanding and applying probability in respect to dice rolls will almost always reward good tactical play in CCA.

While there are multiplayer variants, the official one is called Epic, allows for up to 8 players and is featured in Expansion 5....a warning, though, it does require the use of two mounted mapboards and many of the armies from the other expansions to play.

Brent.

Yep, I'm aware of Epic, but keep in mind that Epic is not playable with just the core C&C Ancients game.
 
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CJ
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Aurendrosl wrote:
goshublue wrote:
Great review.

I am happy to see that you've addressed the luck issue with card draw and dice. This is frequently overplayed by the game's detractors....good hand management, careful unit positioning and understanding and applying probability in respect to dice rolls will almost always reward good tactical play in CCA.

While there are multiplayer variants, the official one is called Epic, allows for up to 8 players and is featured in Expansion 5....a warning, though, it does require the use of two mounted mapboards and many of the armies from the other expansions to play.

Brent.

Yep, I'm aware of Epic, but keep in mind that Epic is not playable with just the core C&C Ancients game.


It is worth noting, though, that there are several scenarios across the base game and expansions in which one side has two seperate entities that are mutually exclusive for the ordering process - ie you can only order units from one, or the other, not both regardless of their respective locations. There are only a few of these but they do naturally lend themselves very well to 3-player games.
 
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Andy Daglish
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Aurendrosl wrote:
C&C: Ancients is another entry into the "Command and Colors" system, populated also by Battle Cry, Battlelore, and Memoir '44. Why'd they call it "Command and Colors"?


because these others are respectively obsolete, failed and widely derided?
 
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Andy Daglish
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Aurendrosl wrote:
Before playing C&C Ancients, here were my thoughts about wargames:

1. They take forever to setup and play.
2. They have a million little pieces
3. The rules are endlessly complex
4. Good luck getting anyone to play the game with you
5. The components are ugly and poor quality


This is true of miniatures but not boardwargames, and the reasons why the one beats the other.
 
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R Larsen
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Aurendrosl wrote:
Command & Colors: Ancients

Ancients has addressed all five of these thoughts:

1. It takes 90 minutes to setup, play two battles, and put away. Not bad at all.
2. Roughly 80 to 100 pieces are in play at a time. Nothing to fret about.
3. The rules are simple and elegant. There are a lot of exceptions, but they are clarified by the excellent player aid
4. You only have to find one other person to play it, since C&C Ancients is a two-player game. My girlfriend plays and loves this game, and she is by no means a wargamer.
5. A great mounted board and a huge army of stickered soldiers? You won't hear any complaints from me.


And these characteristics describe quite a number of wargames by now.

I personally find most non-wargames as complex as most wargames, simply because I in 95% of the cases dont understand the reason for a rule in a non-wargame, and in 95% of wargames do.

Which brings to another reason to approach wargames/conflict games - they represent an actual historical event, which in itself is often very satisfying to learn more about.

It is exciting to see how your performance compares to history, as opposed to, lets say, managing to have 1 cube more on an abstract tile, then your opponent. I will by no means say that there is anything wrong with non-wargames - I like many of them - but to me the experience of delving into a wargame and a historical conflict is an experience on an entirely different level.

Thanks for the great review.

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Todd Rewoldt
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aforandy wrote:
Aurendrosl wrote:
C&C: Ancients is another entry into the "Command and Colors" system, populated also by Battle Cry, Battlelore, and Memoir '44. Why'd they call it "Command and Colors"?


because these others are respectively obsolete, failed and widely derided?


Shame on you, Andy

With dues given to (possible? probable?)tongue-in-cheekiness in both the OP's and Andy's responses, the Commands and Colors refers to, respectively, the cards issuing the commands and the differing colors typically associated with the opposing sides (blue vs grey in the first game released, Battle Cry) - though the colors has also come to be associated with differing unit types and abilities in BattleLore and Ancients, with BattleLore eschewing color differences as the distinctive quality between the sides and going with standard bearers carrying differently shaped banners.

And I thought I could make it through this post without commenting upon BattleLore being "widely derided" (I know, I know, it was the "failed" shot that was intended for BattleLore ) as too random, especially in comparison to Ancients. I know that taste and perception factors into these statements and opinions, but with the lore system in place (not to mention Heroes and whatever else may be in store for the game system) BattleLore offers every bit as much control, if not more, over the proceedings as Ancients does.

All in all, fine review, Brian. It certainly hits the mark for which you were aiming.
 
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David Bohnenberger
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Commands and Colors refers to, respectively, the cards issuing the commands and the differing colors typically associated with the opposing sides


I always thought the term "Colors" referred to the banners that are "captured" to score VPs in this system. In Battle Cry and Battlelore, there are actual little flags. Of course, no rules set in this system actually uses the term "Colors" in that way, so I could be wrong...
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Brian McCormick
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aforandy wrote:
Aurendrosl wrote:
Before playing C&C Ancients, here were my thoughts about wargames:

1. They take forever to setup and play.
2. They have a million little pieces
3. The rules are endlessly complex
4. Good luck getting anyone to play the game with you
5. The components are ugly and poor quality


This is true of miniatures but not boardwargames, and the reasons why the one beats the other.

Since I am relatively new to wargaming, these statements were impressions more than anything else. However, I feel that a lot of gamers who don't play wargamers and/or investigate them have many of the same preconceived notions about the genre.

And yes, those things are very true of miniature gaming. Played 40k for a while and I can vouch for that. shake
 
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Kevin Duke
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Yep, I'm aware of Epic, but keep in mind that Epic is not playable with just the core C&C Ancients game.


Someone mentioned multi-player variants and I encourage you to check out the one mentioned with a link in the descriptive text and also as a distinct "file." The variant allows 3 or 4 to play (with what comes in the base game or any other expansions) and really is a lot of fun to play. You'll also find a range of options for solo play. Yeah, I know-- given the card system, it may seem odd to consider CCA good for solo, but it is.

You'll also find a very active "VASSAL" group, with players from the US and many diff countries. So you can always play some CCA if you want to.
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Todd Rewoldt
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Dweeb wrote:
Quote:
Commands and Colors refers to, respectively, the cards issuing the commands and the differing colors typically associated with the opposing sides


I always thought the term "Colors" referred to the banners that are "captured" to score VPs in this system. In Battle Cry and Battlelore, there are actual little flags. Of course, no rules set in this system actually uses the term "Colors" in that way, so I could be wrong...


Not to perseverate on this topic, but yes, that is kinda what I meant as well - I haven't played Battle Cry aside from on Vassal, and wasn't sure if the units used colored banners as BattleLore does (but M'44 and CCA do not), or if the units themselves are different colors (it is my understanding that they are) like M'44 and CCA (but not BL). I think CCA and BL are the only games that use colored faces on the dice that correspond to hitting or activating certain units. Anyway, I think "colors" hasn't meant one thing constantly across the Commands and Colors games, but it always has one, if not a few, roles in distinguishing sides and/or units.
 
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Les Marshall
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Welcome to the world of wargaming. Nice of you to take on the reviewing hat. Hopefully, this will encourage some additional interest in the genre.

I was most encouraged by your closing comment about dabbling in other wargames. I find the best thing about C&C:A along with Memoir '44 and Battle Cry was the introduction of maps, units and scenarios to younger gamers. Rather like taking ones first steps on the road to walking and then running.

There's a great big wonderful world of games out there beyond the bunny slopes.
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Phil Rayson
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This will be my next game purchase.

Commands is the card driven game system and colors are IMO;

In military organizations, the practice of carrying colors, standards or Guidons, to act both as a rallying point for troops, and to mark the location of the commander, is thought to have originated in Ancient Egypt some 5,000 years ago. It was formalised in the armies of medieval Europe, with standards being emblazoned with the commander's coat of arms.

As armies became trained and adopted set formations, each regiment's ability to keep its formation was potentially critical to its, and therefore its army's, success. In the chaos of battle, not least due to the amount of dust and smoke on a battlefield, soldiers needed to be able to determine where their regiment was.

Colours may be inscribed with the names of battles or other symbols representing former achievements (see battle honours). As a symbol of a regiment they are always guarded, and paid compliments.

Colours are usually treated with reverence. They are never capriciously destroyed - when too old to use they are replaced and then laid-up in museums, religious buildings and other places of significance to their regiment. However, in most modern armies, standing orders now call for the Colours to be intentionally destroyed if they are ever in jeopardy of being captured by the enemy.

Due to the advent of modern weapons, and subsequent changes in tactics, Colours are no longer carried into battle, but continue to be used at events of formal character.
 
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David Redpath
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Of course it should be spelled "Colours" as well....

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