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Commands & Colors: Ancients» Forums » Reviews

Subject: C&C Veteran Who Assumed He Would Hate Actually Loves! rss

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Bob Hansen
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Menomonee Falls
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I am a huge Command and Colors fan. Battle Cry was the game that dragged me back into the wargaming hobby when I first played it at Gen Con the year it came out. It is a great system for playing out a quick game before a main event game, bringing new people into the hobby, or even for a primary game of the evening between two players. It even plays pretty well solo.

Battle Cry pretty much hit my sweet spot. It was an easy civil war game using miniatures that did not require a ton of space and it was based on my favorite historical period.

With World War Two being my next favorite historical period, I picked up Memoir as soon as it came out. In a way, I felt that Memoir was a bit of a stretch for the Command and Colors system. The lack of communications that is portrayed by activation cards and zones on the mapboard seemed a bit of a stretch. Still, I enjoyed the game and have logged many hours playing it.

Then, there was Command and Colors: Ancients that was added to the GMT Project 500. At first, I drooled over the possibility of a new Command and Colors game. Then I realized that the game was going to use wood blocks for pieces. I have to admit, I love the plastic minis in games. (Oooh, shineys!) It was also for a time period that, frankly, I know very little about. I decided to take a pass.

Battlelore was the next acquisition. I have always been a bit of a fantasy geek, so the genre appealed to me. Still, I was a bit apprehensive and held off on my purchase for a few months. Battlelore turned out to be an awesome game with a lot of eye candy (oooh, shineys!). The rules were good. I really like the lore addition to the game.

Anyways, this is a review about CC:A, not the other games in the series. So, what possessed me to purchase CC:A? Nothing. I had pointed the game out one time on a visit to the FLGS. Next thing I know, I am opening a present containing the game on my birthday!

So, after a day or so, I get the courage to open the box and take a look at these dreaded wooden blocks. I see a lot of empty blocks in a ziplock bag and several sheets of stickers. Ruh roh. Looks like I am going to be playing assembly line worker putting all the stickers on the blocks.

All told, it took me three nights to put all of the stickers on. Note that this is not three consecutive nights. More on that in a bit. I did Romans on the first night and Carthage on the second night.

Somewhere towards the end of the first night, however, I discovered a problem. Sticker sheet three was offset printed by about a quarter inch. I went out to GMT games website to see what I could do. I fired off an email to them explaining the problem and within 12 hours I had a response that a new sheet three was in the mail! Woot!

Between the time I finished what I could of Carthage and when I received the sheet I saw the photo on BGG about the Plano storage submitted by Richard Pardoe. I immediately went down to the local Walmart to pick up the boxes. Drat! Only two in stock. Hit another Walmart. Drat! Only two more. Got the last two at yet another Walmart that had about thirty in stock. Go figure. Anyways, this storage solution has turned out to be the best way to organize the pieces I have seen for any game. I highly recommend these.

Here is a link to the photo...

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/image/122926

Here is a link to the file to print out labels for the boxes...

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/fileinfo.php?fileid=16655

So, I got all of the labels affixed. In the end it was not as bad as I had thought it would be. I watched TV and attached the labels at the same time. It gave me a good chance to familiarize myself with what units were what and really helped me once I started playing the game. The artwork on the labels is pretty good. It's simple, yet conveys what kind of unit it represents pretty well.

I set up the first scenario and read through the rulebook with my intent on soloing the first game. I have played C&C games solo many times, so I knew it would not be a challenge. Of all of the C&C games, this one has the most complicated rules. There are, however, several beautiful illustrations in the rulebook to supplement the rules and fully describe them. Many of them provide just the "ah hah" moment you need to grasp a rule concept.

For those of you that have played the command and colors series before, it is very similar. The game turn is pretty much the same with the player activating a card, doing movement, doing combat, and drawing another card. The cards tell you which units you can move or combat with cards like "move and combat three units in your right flank". This card would allow you to move three units in the right section of the mapboard and then allow them to fight. There are more specific ones that allow different levels of units to move such as move five green units(light level) or move five blue units (medium level). Other cards reward you for keeping your units in a line with a leader attached to one of the units by allowing you to move pretty much the whole line at once. Then, there are other cards that will allow you to perform a special action in lieu of moving and fighting with units. You might get to take a potshot at a leader or replentish units that are no longer at full strength.

The unit variety in this game is spectacular. Battle cry and Memoir each had three types of units (4 in BC if you include the leaders). Battlelore is more like this game with several degrees of infantry and cavalry. Units are rated as to whether they are light (green), medium (blue), or heavy. Of the light infantry, there are the standard light infantry, auxilia (which are a little scrappier, but cannot evade in close combat, which makes them poor as skirmishers), light bow, and light sling. Just among the light infantry there are is a diverse collection of unit types. Throw in different types of cavalry, chariots, war machines, leaders, and even elephants, and you can see how many different unit types there are!

With all of these different types of units, one would think that it would be pretty confusing. Luckily, GMT provided handy dandy reference cards on nice heavy stock. They are colorful and appealing. The information is fairly easy to get to. My only gripe is that they seperated the unit abilities into two different tables on completely different part of the card. Once you have a few games under your belt you will have much of the card memorized anyways.

Combat in this game is pretty standard C&C faire, with units rolling dice based on the type of units and hitting on rolls matching the unit symbol or on crossed swords. Also, retreats are caused by rolling a flag. Then there are the fun additions to this...

First of all, if you roll a leader symbol and you have a leader in your hex or a leader is supporting a unit in a hex next to you, then the leader symbols count as a hit, too! Some of the light units will not cause hits on crossed swords.

There are also differences between ranged combat and close combat. Ranged combat is like it is in Memoir and Battlecry. Toss the dice, resolve the battle. In close combat, however, the unit you are attacking might have a chance to attack back. Also, some units can take ground like tanks in Memoir and take an additional attack.

Gameplay was a bit slow in the beginning as each army gets maneuvered around for the first strike and then all chaos ensues. Of the C&C games, however, I think this is the least bloody. It takes some time to chip away at the units and start taking flags. Once the heavy infantry get into the fray, though, the flags come a lot quicker. The system rewards you for keeping your units in lines and protecting your flanks. If you don't you will be punished mercilously. No amount of lucky dice rolls will save you!

All in all, I was very pleasantly suprised on how good the game was. For not being interested in the time period, I finally find myself looking up info on the time period on the internet and watching movies like Alexander and 300. The tactical element is the best out of the four C&C games to date. Good dice rolls will only help you so far in this game. As for the blocks, I actually like them. The units on the stickers give the impression of more troops on the battlefield. They are also a lot easier to move around. I wish I would have gotten the game a while ago, now.

One other note, I really like some of the tactical rules in here and am thinking of applying some rules or variations of such to Battle Cry. I love that game to death, but it is in serious need of a rules makeover. I can see some of the command rules being good as well as some close combat rules to simulate the brawls that occured after a charge.

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Ken Takacs
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Excellent review Bob. CC:A is my favorite Commands and Colors game. I love the time period, the mechanics, the unit types and even the blocks (although they take some time to sticker at first).
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btrhoads
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Hear hear!
 
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Sifu
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Beaverton
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Welcome to the fold.
 
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Diz Hooper
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A great review!

 
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John O
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Yeah, Battle Cry was the game that got me back into wargaming after a 4 year absence. Similar story to yours.

Nice review.


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Geoff King
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Excellent review!

C&C:A was the first game of the series that I bought, just because it sounded so cool. I bought Battle Lore next, but it just didn't grab me the same way. The minis look nice, but i think the blocks are much easier to handle.

I don't even mind putting all the stickers on (not too much, anyway). It's sort of a zen thing for me. Here's my blocks for this unit type, here's the stickers: peel, stick, set aside. Peel, stick, set aside. Peel, stick, set aside. Ommmm.

In case you're wondering, it's worth picking up Expansion #1: Greeks and Eastern Kingdoms. a couple new units, lots more battles and Alexander!
 
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Bob Hansen
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Venton wrote:

In case you're wondering, it's worth picking up Expansion #1: Greeks and Eastern Kingdoms. a couple new units, lots more battles and Alexander!

Way ahead of you! Already got it! Went back to that one Walmart and picked up six more Plano boxes and managed to fully sticker it in one night I've also reserved the next two expansions. I'm already hooked.

Thanks everyone for the wonderful compliments. Good to see there are others out there that love this game as much as I do.
 
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Kevin Duke
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Wynne
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Since it came out, I've played C&C more than any other game. Combined.

Okay, that was awkward, but I've spent more time with C&C than with all other games. No regrets.

Bob, if you look around the folders you'll find some interesting things-- like CCA is actually a lot of fun SOLO! (Yeah, I would not have guessed that, but it is.)

There is also a multi-player file here so you could go with 3 or 4 people with no changes (I'm not talking about "epic"-- which is also worth looking at--- but just using your reqular system.)

My storage solution also came from Walmart, but rather than the small Plano type boxes, I went with the larger, "bead" type boxes, which nicely hold an entire army each.

Or at least they will until CCA exp 3 comes out with about 50 more Roman blocks for each of 2 Roman armies. Not sure how that will work out, but we'll deal with that when it happens.

enjoy!
 
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Andrew C
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Good review of a solid, surprisingly deep game.

There are a couple of mechanics in the game that make it work very well. First, the battle back ability in close combat is critical. Since in C&C games, a unit attacks at full strength even when weakened, a single surviving block of medium or heavy infantry can cause a nasty surprise for an attacker.

This in turn makes keeping a continguous line (i.e. supporting your troops with two adjacent friendly units) and having a supporting leader critical, as each situation allows you to ignore a flag result and provide a better chance to strike back. Very simple rules that provide motivation to apply historically accurate and effective tactics.
 
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Evolution isn't over
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Nice review.

The only thing I *don't* like about C&C:A is that I've become obsessed with it to the point where other games are currently finding it difficult to get a look-in, and when I do play them, I don't enjoy them as much.

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Kevin Duke
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Yeah, I've felt the same way a couple times...trying some new game with a friend who enjoys CCA... we'll play away for awhile and find ourselves trying not to say, "for about this same amount of energy and concentration, we could be playing CCA!"
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