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Subject: C&C:A review by Joe Steadman rss

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Joe Steadman
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Intro:
I thought Battle Cry was OK… I traded my copy off awhile ago. While I thought the system was all right and the little miniatures were neat, the game itself just wasn’t that fun for me. I think it was just too easy to get beat by bad card draws rather then a strong opponent and it just left me cold.

I really didn’t like Memoir 44 after my first few games… it was just too silly. I really wanted to like this game. I am big WW2 fanboy and I was even one of the lucky few to play the prototype with the metal miniatures and with the owner of Days of Wonder. As much as I liked Eric of DoW and as much as I like WW2, the game just never clicked with me. The theme just didn’t fit the mechanic. Every time I played it my rating dropped. Then we had the whole debate if it were a simulation or not. I still say NO-WAY and stand on my call that it is a war-themed designer game.

So, I have to be honest, I was not overly optimistic about Commands and Colors: Ancients. I knew there was a lot of hype about the game and I was eager to give it a try if for no other reason to have good ammo to make fun of it with. I am glad to announce I was truly surprised. The game is the best of the series and is a great light wargame that I am more than proud to own. It plays very comparably to Mr. Borg’s other titles using this system but adds a layer of complexity and depth that makes the game shine.

Others have prepared long and detailed reviews of the game so I won’t bore you with all the details but let me just give you the bad, the good, and a few thoughts.

The bad: (all minor)
The map- The map is not the heavy mounted stuff of the other two games and will definitely need a piece of plexi-glass or plastic. It is a thinner and not as durable fold out map that is common in modern GMT games. There is also an annoying watermark title in the middle of the map but that seems to disappear from your thoughts after a few games.

The terrain- very cheap compared to the nice stuff in the former titles. I almost wish I would have kept the games now just for the terrain. This, in reality, is not a big deal but I am just being thorough.

The confusing sticker setup- The game is a pain to assemble. The stickers are many and they are disorganized on the sticker sheet without any real rhyme or reason. I was tempted to go hire a few teenagers to put all my stickers on. I still only have one side of all my blocks done (this makes for an interesting fog of war LOL).

The dice- These are pathetic in my opinion. They are hollow plastic and simply too small for the specified stickers. This leads to stickers that don’t fit and an overall “cheap” feel for the game. While this makes no difference to game play I really don’t understand the production call on this one? I will be making me homemade set of dice because I already smashed mine against a wall the other night in frustration (not at the game but at these poor dice).

The good:
The blocks- The game comes with a ton of small wooden blocks which like a lot and they work well with the game.

Variety of units- Unlike Battle Cry and Memoir, this game has many options for units. This allows for a high level of replayability and gives it a more historical feel.

Mix of Cards- With C-C:A you don’t feel as restricted in your game play as you do with the other two games. Not once in the many times I’ve played the game have I had to discard or ever felt completely without option on my turn. There’s many times when I don’t have a card for a particular flank the powerful and flexible generals and the basic nature of ancient warfare allow for more options in your tactical decisions.

Scenarios- Included in the game are multiple scenarios and I know gameplayers already have home-made scenarios on the Internet.

Heavy-duty box- This may sound silly, but the box is of an extremely high quality. I think I could stand on it without it collapsing.

Future expansions?- This game lends itself to the possibility of many expansions. I particularly would like to see a Biblical armies expansion.

Thoughts:

As I said before, Battle Cry was OK and Memoir left me cold, but this game is awesome. Why is it awesome? I guess that would be because it truly makes me feel like Hannibal or Scipio. This style of warfare suites Mr. Borg’s creation well. In my experiences, using sound period tactics wins the game every time and this separates it from the other two where I feel winning is less dependent on tactics and based more on luck of the card draw. I wholeheartedly recommend Command and Colors: Ancients, and will probably buy a second copy for myself. The question is, if I do who will put all the stickers on the blocks?

Keep your powder dry,
Joe Steadman
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Michael Sosa
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Nice review. I started applying stickers yesterday, watching the baseball classic in the process and taking my time to try and apply them straight. It is a bit tedious, but if broken up over several nights not too bad I guess. I do wish the dice had been similar to those used in War of the Ring. They have this cheap feel to them, but maybe I'll forget about once I start playing.
 
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Johnny O aka Johnny Soul
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Great review, Joe. The components did not compare well to the mounted maps and minis of the first two games but I agree C&C:A is by far the best of the three, which leads me to this thought.

I do own and like all three games to varying extents but, per my game comments already posted, Battle Cry is a generic skirmish game dress up in ACW clothing. I've always wondered if the game HAsbro published is actually the game Richard Borg designed or if it was dumbed down to fit the big store target market.

By extension I wondered if more unit types variations were left out of M'44 on a "why mess with success" basis. (Btw, I agree it's not a simulation).

In any case, I own all three games and expansions and have pre-ordered the mext C&C: Ancients expansion.

But I've already done a rewrite of the BC rules and posted the link on my profile page. And since Ancients has arrived, M'44 is no longer hitting the table much so it may be time to start the tweaking that one, too.

Memoir 44 Deluxe, anyone?

 
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Cody
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Thanks for the review. I am not a Memoir '44 fan either but have been really interested in C&C:Ancients and I appreciate your critical perspective. Ill have to see about picking this one up.
 
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Phil Shepherd
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scribidinus wrote:
I've always wondered if the game HAsbro published is actually the game Richard Borg designed or if it was dumbed down to fit the big store target market.


I've wondered the same thing, or if Mr. Borg has just come up with more tweaks since designing BC. Some of the C&C:A rules certainly seem as if they'd work well in BC, especilly battle-back (for infantry at least) and some of the Leader abilities (moving adjacent units).

 
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Ava Jarvis
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scribidinus wrote:

I do own and like all three games to varying extents but, per my game comments already posted, Battle Cry is a generic skirmish game dress up in ACW clothing. I've always wondered if the game HAsbro published is actually the game Richard Borg designed or if it was dumbed down to fit the big store target market.


No idea, but I believe he once said that he meant for Battle Cry to be the simplest of the lot, increasing in complexity as time went on. So maybe both?

Quote:

By extension I wondered if more unit types variations were left out of M'44 on a "why mess with success" basis. (Btw, I agree it's not a simulation).


There are the special units in certain scenarios, though I have never played those scenarios.

Quote:

But I've already done a rewrite of the BC rules and posted the link on my profile page. And since Ancients has arrived, M'44 is no longer hitting the table much so it may be time to start the tweaking that one, too.

Memoir 44 Deluxe, anyone?


Yes, but I think it needs a better acronymn, though I wouldn't know where to find that. I always liked ABCDE
 
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Johnny O aka Johnny Soul
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Quote:
Some of the C&C:A rules certainly seem as if they'd work well in BC, especilly battle-back (for infantry at least) and some of the Leader abilities (moving adjacent units).



In my variant rules, Advanced Battle Cry Deluxe Edition or ABCDE 2.0 I suggested many of the original game mechanics were backward, the ranges were too long and too powerful.

Too many to detail in Joe's review of C&C:Ancients

But my friends and I do like the support Rules in C&C:Ancients. I may graft those into ABCDE 2.1.
 
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Kurt Rompot
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It would be great if they threw in new dice with the expansion.....
 
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Mark Crane
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What I found useful about the review was your discussion of your previous experiences with Memoir '44 and BC, and how Ancients overcame the weaknesses of the game. A buddy of mine just ordered Ancients, and I ordered Memoir '44, but I'm planning on using Memoir as a gateway game to prepare my unsuspecting family for Ancients. Plus, I can live with some luck, as I am not a true Grognard.
 
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Erick Sais
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I agree that C&C A is the best of the three but with a minor tweak BC can be enhanced. My group uses "Flanking" rule that forces you to support your troops. If you flank your target "hit them from the side or rear" you get 1 additional battle die to roll.

This has changed the way we play. No longer do we send lone troops gung ho up the middle without support. The extra battle die can really do a number on your units.

With simple adjustments like this one you can make the game feel much different than its original design and give the game new life.

 
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Sifu
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What would constitute a biblical army expansion?
 
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Mattias Fall
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1. I have only played Ancients once.

2. I´m no expert on ancient warfare.

3. I liked the game, but I have one question re: simulation. It´s my impression that, very generally speaking, ancient generals divided their armies into left, center and right, and perhaps a couple extra parts depending on their plan and the composition of their forces. Generally speaking, if they ordered the left to advance, the whole left would advance, and it would keep advancing until something happened, contact with the enemy or whatever. In C&C: A, you are often only able to activate some of the blocks that constitute, say, your left. Four blocks should advance, but one stays behind. The three blocks advance, and then stop for no aparent reason other than that the player doesn´t have another card to activate them right now.

I think the card management is an interesting way to realistically limit the player´s control, but it seems a bit off on a battlefield where the troops are lined up shoulder to shoulder. Shouldn´t you be able to regulary activate all of your center as long as the blocks are in contact with each other?

Not sure I´m making myself clear, but if you see my point feel free to comment
 
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Patrick OBrien
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Borg has been tweaking with these rules for years, and has rulesets for all periods, can't wait to see the medieval set
 
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David Bohnenberger
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Mattias Persson wrote:
I think the card management is an interesting way to realistically limit the player�s control, but it seems a bit off on a battlefield where the troops are lined up shoulder to shoulder. Shouldn�t you be able to regulary activate all of your center as long as the blocks are in contact with each other?


Well, there's always the "Line Command" card. I think the issue is really that while C&C:A is a great wargame, and is much more "realistic" than its predecessors, it STILL lies toward the "Game" end of the "Game/Simulation Spectrum".

You might want to look at GMT's GBOH series, which features Line Commands prominently.
 
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Kevin Duke
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Agreed-- C&C is a "game," not a simulation.

For which I am thankful.
 
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Allen Doum
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Quote:
Shouldn't you be able to regulary activate all of your center as long as the blocks are in contact with each other?


Quote:
Well, there's always the "Line Command" card.


There are also the Leadership cards, as well as the Light/Medium/Heavy cards that can let you order units up to your command rating.

For instance, it you put the four units of Heavy Infantry together in the center with a leader in the first scenario, there are 13 cards in the deck that will allow you to order all of them at one time.

1 Order 4 Units Center
2 Order Heavy Trooops
3 Leadership Any Section
1 Inspired Center Leadership
2 Double Time
4 Line Command

And possibly a 14th, Counter Attack.

That is nearly a quarter of the cards. For medium troups add 1, and for light add 4, since the Move-Fire-Move cards will work for them. I Am Spartacus will also work if you get lucky.
 
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Steve Wessels
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Between this written review, the review that Joe and Tom did on "The Dice Tower", I decided I had to own my own copy. Look forward to putting all the stickers on myself. The game is on order!
 
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Kevin Duke
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buying game
Good for you.

Make a choice on the dice when the box comes. YOu'll find many threads around here complaining about them, saying they are okay, etc. You can be the judge of that when you have them in your hands.

If you use what came with the box, trim the stickers down so that they fit entirely in the sunken space. This will help protect them a little, but not enough.

Get some clear sealer (Mod Podge or any other kind) and put 3+ coats on the surface. The sticker dice do not hold up very well to serious use and start getting dings, fade places, etc. Several people have said, after 25 games or so, they sometimes struggle to tell some of the results (green and blue are the hardest to distinguish). So protect what you have and you'll get to enjoy it longer.

There are also some reduced dice art that you can download and print, either to put in what came or to use on other dice. Plenty of guidance on blank dice around here as well-- "pass" on the recommendations to order from Hasbro, as that isn't working.

Then, play the games! Some scenarios look obviously balanced and some look obviously lop-sided. Try them anyway-- the game is very deceptive in its elegance.

Given the card-in-hand mechanic, it's actually surprisingly good solo as well. If you do that, I'd advise leaving out the "strike first" card (there is only one). That is the one card that is really hard to deal with when you are playing both hands.

Enjoy!
 
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Mattias Fall
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Thanks for your replies. C&C: Ancients does indeed seem to be more of a game in this respect. And a fine game, too. You are correct that there are several chances to activate 3 or 4 blocks together, but I still think my point is valid.

Interestingly, I´ve seen similar critisism against GBOH, that moving units will stop dead in their tracks if not activated again, instead of keeping moving until something happens. I haven´t played GBOH, and as I said I´m no expert on ancient battles, so I´m in no position to critize that system.
 
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Sifu
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So, would biblical armies consist of devils and angels? Or Jews and Phoenicians? Moses versus the Pharaoh? I'm really clueless here, but also curious who could consitute such armies. I know my Pentateuch, but haven't explored the Bible much beyond it.
 
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Kevin Duke
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biblical armies
This may help a bit.

http://clashofarms.com/king-david.html
 
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Jeff Smith
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Sifu wrote:
So, would biblical armies consist of devils and angels? Or Jews and Phoenicians? Moses versus the Pharaoh? I'm really clueless here, but also curious who could consitute such armies. I know my Pentateuch, but haven't explored the Bible much beyond it.

There are lots of battles described in the Bible. There are the battles of Joshua's campaign of Canaan, the various battles described in the book of Judges, King Saul's battles, King David's defense and expansion of Israel, the many battles described in the books of I & II Kings (repeated in I & II Chronicles) including battles between the Northern and Southern Kingdoms, and the conquest of Israel by Assyria and Judah by Babylon. Although not described in the Bible you also have battles between Meado Persian empire with Babylon, and then with Greece.

So there are LOTS of possibilites. The difficulty is in finding detailed information for these battles. I've started doing a bit of digging myself but it is hard to find information regarding the unit types and the numbers of troops. But for those interested in Bible history, there is no shortage of combat to game.
 
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John McLintock
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M44 has been my favourite and most-played game since I bought it some 2 years ago, so buying C&C Ancients on sight was a cinch. I could gripe a bit about taking nearly 5 hours to apply all those stickers, but that was passing tedium already more than compensated for by the thrills of my first session's play in which I managed to get in 4 games.

I do have 1 serious complaint about the game: the rulebook. Although it's pretty thorough, I really don't like the way it is written, which strikes me as being clumsy enough to make the rules harder to understand than they need to be. The FAQ and some clarifications appearing in forums also suggest serious editing and proofing. This is the only place in which GMT's efforts compare really badly to those of DoW IMO.

That's my only complaint. The map and cards are just fine by me even though they are not as high quality as the M44 components. The dice don't bother me. And I think that the blocks do work better for C&C Ancients than plastic figures would've, for reasons of aesthetics and convenience as many others have already mentioned in several threads. In particular the battlefield in C&C Ancients is much denser than is typical in M44, so the blocks help keep it tidier.

As for the gameplay: after 4 games I already really like all the changes from M44. I am amazed at how a few simple rules changes have given the game an entirely different feel that I find as appropriate for the ancients period (about which I confess I know little) as I still find M44 apt for WW2 (my first and abiding love in the hobby). My admiration for Borg and his design skills continues to grow.

My only fear now is not getting to play as much M44 as I've become used to! Well, that and having to wait too long before I get my hands on the upcoming C&C Ancients expansion.
 
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Kevin Duke
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John,

Well, good luck on the comments.

I agree with you and think you have expressed it particularly well..that the way the rules are written (and presented-- the organization) make the rules "harder to understand than they need to be." Exactly right.

However, when I have posted this sort of comment (even avoiding the dangerous word "clumsy") I have been marginally-but-politely roasted for it. Funny, there have been a lot of questions on CSW, mostly about what is NOT stated or covered in the rules, and--worse-- some of the official replies/clarifications have actually contradicted things which ARE stated in the rules.

Yet, to suggest that this is a structural problem immediately flushed a covey of "it's perfect, don't touch it" comments. I'm not even suggesting bad intentions on anyone's part, but just questioning whether all the questions might have some connection with a rushed production job and an overall assumption that a game which has been "played for years" (as CCA has been) would have all the bugs out of it.

In terms of game mechanics and elegant design, I'm right in the front row feeling it's a wonderful job. You can see the care which went into it, and things which seem very "simple" are really extremely well thought out. I have no complaints about how the game works...only about some of the ways in which it is explained and the permutations are covered.

I don't know it for a fact, but my instincts suggest that much of the "play for years, work the bugs out" things have been done "orally," and that when the time came to write the ACTUAL words that went into THIS rulebook (the book we got inside our box) some of that oral tradition failed to make it to the page. I don't know how much "blind playtesting" was used-- again, that assumption that it's already "well proven" might have precluded a perception of need. I do know that outside-the-loop proofers were not used. How much was "need for speed" and how much was assumption of finished perfection I can't say.

Is there any room for improvement in the rules? I hope the "powers that be" recognize there is, and that it can be done without making the rules a lot longer- just some clarification, some contradiction removeal, another 2% effort on making "may" and "must" always mean the same thing, and some smarter use of space. One example-- how much rules understanding "value" do we get in having the text for all the cards repeated on the rules pages? Not much. There are some clarifications of card already included, but using the "verbatim" space for more clarifications could have covered more questions, more explanations, and headed off some of the forum entries.

Oh well, they are working (or already completed) the pre-production work on a reprint and we can hope that everyone is wiser based on the feedback. I really do hope so. It's such a great game, it deserves a great presentation that helps people play those 4 or 6 scenarios per session without having to pause and wonder what to do when some result surprises them.

We live on hope.
 
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John McLintock
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kduke wrote:
John,

Well, good luck on the comments.

I agree with you and think you have expressed it particularly well..that the way the rules are written (and presented-- the organization) make the rules "harder to understand than they need to be." Exactly right.

Thanks for the thoughtful and encouraging reply Kevin.

Quote:
However, when I have posted this sort of comment (even avoiding the dangerous word "clumsy") I have been marginally-but-politely roasted for it. Funny, there have been a lot of questions on CSW, mostly about what is NOT stated or covered in the rules, and--worse-- some of the official replies/clarifications have actually contradicted things which ARE stated in the rules.

Yes, I have noticed roastings here on other topics. Funnily enough I have agreed with those you yourself have delivered on the subject of rules variants! And it was finding those comments by Richard Borg that contradict clear rules statements that prompted me to post my comments to this thread.

I could perhaps have said 'clunky' instead of 'clumsy', whatever. My impression remains the same, and is based on the quality of the M44 rules. These are a striking example of thoroughness, clarity and easy reading. Serious rules confusions that couldn't be answered by reference to the rulebook have been few and far between during all the games I have played (I can think of 2 at most). The contrast between this and the rules of C&C:A is so noticable that I even thought that the rulebook had been written by someone else entirely.

Quote:
Yet, to suggest that this is a structural problem immediately flushed a covey of "it's perfect, don't touch it" comments. I'm not even suggesting bad intentions on anyone's part, but just questioning whether all the questions might have some connection with a rushed production job and an overall assumption that a game which has been "played for years" (as CCA has been) would have all the bugs out of it.

Yes, I too feel that GMT must have put less time into developing C&C:A than DoW put into M44.

Quote:
In terms of game mechanics and elegant design, I'm right in the front row feeling it's a wonderful job. You can see the care which went into it, and things which seem very "simple" are really extremely well thought out. I have no complaints about how the game works...only about some of the ways in which it is explained and the permutations are covered.

A very vocal member of the front row, yes! But I agree with you completely on this. M44 is one of the most exciting tactical boardgames I have seen in years (since Up Front in fact), and C&C:A has raised that to a new pitch. And my complaints about the rules are the same as yours.

Quote:
I don't know it for a fact, but my instincts suggest that much of the "play for years, work the bugs out" things have been done "orally," and that when the time came to write the ACTUAL words that went into THIS rulebook (the book we got inside our box) some of that oral tradition failed to make it to the page. I don't know how much "blind playtesting" was used-- again, that assumption that it's already "well proven" might have precluded a perception of need. I do know that outside-the-loop proofers were not used. How much was "need for speed" and how much was assumption of finished perfection I can't say.

This makes sense to me.

Quote:
Is there any room for improvement in the rules? I hope the "powers that be" recognize there is, and that it can be done without making the rules a lot longer- just some clarification, some contradiction removeal, another 2% effort on making "may" and "must" always mean the same thing, and some smarter use of space. One example-- how much rules understanding "value" do we get in having the text for all the cards repeated on the rules pages? Not much. There are some clarifications of card already included, but using the "verbatim" space for more clarifications could have covered more questions, more explanations, and headed off some of the forum entries.

Oh well, they are working (or already completed) the pre-production work on a reprint and we can hope that everyone is wiser based on the feedback. I really do hope so. It's such a great game, it deserves a great presentation that helps people play those 4 or 6 scenarios per session without having to pause and wonder what to do when some result surprises them.

We live on hope.

All very sound points. I find myself wondering if the posters here at BGG who have praised the rules' hail largely from a wargaming background, and are therefore used to denser rules explaining more complex systems. Otherwise I confess I cannot understand how the rules of C&C:A could be praised for clarity in comparison to, say, M44.

Still, the rules haven't stopped me playing the game, and won't. But perhaps they might not be doing the game any favours? If our complaints are minority opinions, then the answer to that is probably not I guess.
 
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