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Subject: C & C: A - a review by John Brader rss

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John Brader
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Dust swirls, bow stings twang, swords flash, elephants trumpet, and troops create the rhythmic sounds of marching into battle – Commands and Colors Ancients creates a feeling that many games miss. Like previous Richard Borg games such as Memoir ’44 and Battle Cry, Commands and Colors Ancients is a fantastic game. However, C & C: A is not just a “game,” but instead transcends into a “game-system.” The idea of a game-system is evident from the initial reading of the rule book, as the introduction clearly states the game mechanics are designed “to effectively portray epic engagements of ancient history.” From the outset, it seems Borg intended C & C: A to be a box that is pulled down from many gamers’ shelves for years to come, well after the scenarios between the Romans and Carthaginian troops have been played dozens of times. (At the time of this review, the Greek and Eastern Kingdom’s expansion is in pre-production.)

Enough about the speculation of how far C & C: A will go, let’s focus on the game as it is boxed and shipped today. However, since there are already a few well-written reviews outlining the entire game, I will limit my discussion to a few elements and the overall feel they bring to the game.

For players of Memoir ’44, the progression to C & C: A will be obvious. The mechanics kept the best of Memoir ’44 and added a few key elements to greatly enhance and better simulate the battles of a day long passed. Two of the mechanics allow for especially more realistic exchanges between the rival troops, namely “Evade” and “Battling Back.” Using evade, the defender has an option with many of the units to run from an attack, which effectively reduces the chance the aggressor can cause damage. In contrast, the defender has the option to battle back; therefore, the aggressor needs to consider the potential retaliation of his close combat attack. These two mechanics greatly enhance play and introduce a new level of strategy.

The card driven play creates a solid feeling of a “fog of war,” and allows for each game to be unique, sometimes forcing a player to rethink his strategy. When a player does not have the needed command cards, it is easy to imagine the failing communication lines on the battlefield, as the player struggles to lead his troops that seem to be out of command.

The introduction of leader blocks creates a realistic feel of rallying troops and encouraging them to fight more brutally. This is nicely incorporated into the game through the simple increase in the chance to hit for the troops attached to the leader. One can almost hear the hoarse calls from the confident leader while driving his troops into overwhelming odds.

Another way the game creates a genuine feeling of ancient warfare is through the historic, although stylized, scenarios. There are ten included scenarios which span the years of 406 BC through 202 BC. These scenarios take place throughout the Roman Empire and include battles in Italy, Spain, North Africa, and Sicily. Not all of the scenarios depict conflicts between Romans and their enemies; the first two scenarios pit the Carthaginians against the Syracusans. The remaining eight scenarios are intended to cover the major battles of the 2nd Punic War (218 to 202 BC).

The combination of historically significant scenarios, excellent troop movement and battle mechanics, and the card driven fog-of-war makes C & C: A an excellent game, worthy to be included in any collection. Furthermore, the possibility and promise of additional armies and scenarios spanning the history of ancient warfare makes this a game that will be played for many years to come.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the production concerns that have been stated by many. It is true some of the components could be of a higher quality, especially the map, terrain tiles and dice. However, C & C: A does not seem to be the type of game that would be purchased and played by young children or individuals not intent on caring for their games. With proper care this game will be playable for years to come. Also, it would not surprise me if GMT responds to the production quality concerns and makes upgraded components available in the future.

Despite the questionable component production, C & C: A is a high quality game. If you have even the slightest interest in adding this game to your collection, I highly recommend you do so. It is very playable with good replay and excellent expandability, and the historical aspect should intrigue even the most casual of historians.

… and as was stated after the Gauls early sack of Rome “Vae Victis” (Woe to the defeated)!



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Ryan O'Rourke
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johnbeapirate wrote:
From the outset, it seems Borg intended C & C: A to be a box that is pulled down from many gamers’ shelves for years to come, well after the scenarios between the Romans and Carthaginian troops have been played dozens of times. (At the time of this review, the Greek and Eastern Kingdom’s expansion is in pre-production.)


My question is - will we be pulling down many different boxes at $38+ a pop? Or will we actually be able to use any of the 300 blocks we already purchased and applied stickers to for this game system? As much as I love this game, I don't feel I need to apply different pictures of the same types of units to different colored blocks just to get the feel of dozens of different ancient peoples. I've already paid over $50 for this game which is a serious investment, and I don't understand why we need 300 new blocks now to play these expansions. Why not just offer some new stickers and blocks of the same style to cover units we need for the new scenarios, at a much lower cost?

Also, are there plans for loads of new official scenarios to be released? Again, without the need to purchase $40 of more blocks. Really not that many were included with the game, and although there are lots of fan made expansions, I'd like to see 40-50 official ones posted to the GMT site.

Ryan
 
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Miguel (working on TENNISmind...)
France
Caen
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My latest game: Big*Bang, a simple abstract about the first minutes of the Universe
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My best-rated game: TETRARCHIA, about the tetrarchy that saved Rome
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Quote:
I've already paid over $50 for this game which is a serious investment, and I don't understand why we need 300 new blocks now to play these expansions. Why not just offer some new stickers and blocks of the same style to cover units we need for the new scenarios, at a much lower cost?
Also, are there plans for loads of new official scenarios to be released?

I guess you may have already read the description of the expansion, but it's not just about "more blocks". True that now we have only 10 official scenarios of mostly the 2nd Punic War, but this expansion will let you play Greeks vs Eastern plus: Greeks vs Greeks (before and after Alexander), Greeks vs Romans, Greeks vs Cartaginians... and with maybe more than 30 scenarios.

I think that the base game focused on the system and rules, and tried to make something not too complex, with a limited list of scenarios, in order to avoid scaring people new to the game (as in M44). Few scenarios in the begining means that people can exchange easier their experience playing those. The expansion will explode the playability of the game, just plenty of scenarios and armies. And don't forget, if you pre-order you may have a bonus (maybe normal dice?).


 
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Mark Crane
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I'm holding out for Commands and Colors: War of the Rings
 
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Christopher Brandon
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Quote:
My question is - will we be pulling down many different boxes at $38+ a pop? Or will we actually be able to use any of the 300 blocks we already purchased and applied stickers to for this game system? As much as I love this game, I don't feel I need to apply different pictures of the same types of units to different colored blocks just to get the feel of dozens of different ancient peoples. I've already paid over $50 for this game which is a serious investment, and I don't understand why we need 300 new blocks now to play these expansions. Why not just offer some new stickers and blocks of the same style to cover units we need for the new scenarios, at a much lower cost?


This reflects my thoughts EXACTLY! So after paying $50+ for Ancients (which should have been called ROME or something more accurately descriptive) I now have to pay $38 for MORE stickers and blocks to fight with the Greeks? The map and terrain chits are less of a problem for me since I own Battle Cry and M44 I just use those, but another $40 for more...blocks? Considering the amount of pre-orders and sales for Ancients I am STILL surprised plastic figs were not included!

In the end I think this game would have been FAR better suited using generic representations of unit types and then publishing era/ scenario books (Greeks, romans, Egyptian, chinese, barbarian, etc). From a publishing standpoint it is cheaper to produce a simple book then a whole game with blocks/stickers/ etc. Which also mean I could pump out books for $15 each or so. For the consumer it means I only have to purchase the base game to use the scenario books of my choice.

In the end should GMT decide to do a Medieval variant on this system I sincerely hope they will change their method of production and produce a core game (C&C Medieval) with generic army bits and then produce war/era/scenario books like-Dark Ages Britain, Hundred Years War, Vikings, Crusades..etc.
 
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Mark Crane
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Although I am mostly in agreement, there is something to be said for visually distinct bit. Memoir '44 would be a different game with cardboard chits.
 
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Craig Weisensel
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Wisconsin
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I like the little wooden blocks better than the little plastic soldiers...I guess that is because I'm not 12 anymore

Either way, memior and ancients are both fun games. I like that they are fact based....makes it a bit more interesting for us history geeks. GAME ON !!
 
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