Ken was over this past weekend (yes I'm posting this on Thursday...) to play a game of the outstanding "Commands & Colors: Ancients" boardgame. I set up the introductory scenario "Akragas 406 BC" featuring the Carthaginians fighting the Syracusans for control of Sicily! You can read more about the battle here.
Would we change history?
This was the first game in a series of games attempting to explore "simple wargaming" and what that means. I received a significant number of feedback from my last post, including people who have volunteered to participate in the project, prompting me to enthusiastically continue! (I've already played 2 x games and am behind in my AARs!)
Rather than post a detailed revew of the CCA rules, and system, check out this page here to see what the Commands and Colors series is all about. Readers of this blog will know that the Napoleonics version is an absolute favorite of mine - preferring to game it with miniatures versus blocks. It's worth mentioning this was our first attempt at playing the Ancients version. I liked it so much I'll be starting to paint my Ancients soon and basing them on single bases.
Ken and I begin the game sending in attacks against the flanks with cavalry or Carthaginian chariots. My "plan" is to use my heavy infantry in the center to move forward and smash enough units in the Carthaginian center to earn the 5 victory banners (earned when destroying units, leaders, or capturing objectives). I'm trying to arrange the cards to support a center assault but it's just not happening. My lack of discipline sees me using some very powerful cards in spoiling attacks that, while fun, do not serve to achieve the victory in the plan!
Ken and I really used Akragas to put the various unit types (there are many in CCA and that's a good thing) through their paces and figure out the combat and the rules, which are "dead simple" as Jonathan F put it on Norm's blog. Still though, there are many small rules to learn! To the game and the author's credit, every single question we had was answered, promptly, by the rules. We had a number of extraordinary things happen during the course of the game that really added flavor to the experience. A heavy infantry attack annihilating a Carthaginian auxiliary unit, and the death of the Carthaginian General Hannibal Mago which took place during an epic duel between heavy infantry units. Ken led throughout the course of the game, but I caught up in victory banners as my plan developed. Still though, Ken killed way more units and we ended the game 5-4. I thought I would take the opportunity to answer my questions now for CCA!
Simple Wargaming Questions:
How long did the game take to play? 1.5 hours for the first game, and a little over an hour for the second game.
What was the Scenario? The Battle of Akragas and the Battle of Crimissos River, the first two scenarios in the CCA scenario booklet.
|Carthaginian Battle Lines stand ready to advance at Akragas!|
|Syracusan Heavy Infantry awaiting the order to move out!|
What Happened? Ken (Carthage) was definitely the more aggressive player and Ken was launching numerous attacks down the flanks, while my plan was to use my heavy infantry in the center to basically bludgeon my way to 5 victory banners. It did not work! I will say that both of us were trying to maintain a strategy without relying on the luck of the cards - which isn't easy especially when needing to react to a move or an opportunity provided by your opponent! I was more aggressive in the second game, seeking to block the fords with Auxiliary units of Syracusans, forcing Ken to have to fight with everything on the west site of the river.
There were numerous extraordinary things that happened and I must admit this is a favorite feature of mine in the Commands and Colors systems - namely that Generals can go down in the fighting and one seems to in almost every game I play. Carthaginian General Magos was killed in an EPIC duel between heavy infantry units at Akragas.
|Mago is killed in heavy fighting among heavy infantry units!|
Who Won and Why? Ken won both of these VERY close games and I feel like that happened because I was not disciplined enough in the first game, and not quick enough in the second game. Units go down FAST in the Ancients version as there is no attrition to your combat rolls and so 1 block units are just as lethal as full strength ones. I do NOT feel like luck was against me regarding the cards, but simply that I could have made a few better decisions. The game was chock full of decisions about how best and where to launch attacks. I also like that I can "soften up" the enemy with arrows or javelins before launching a ground assault. That is a beautiful thing! We will talk about that feature in more rules coming up...
|Syracusan attack on the right going out to meet the Carthaginians!|
Did You Enjoy the Game? ABSOLUTELY HANDS DOWN. This was great fun. Not only did it have a superb ancients "feel" to it, but all of the unit characteristics you would expect were highly functioning and there on the table and you have to use them all to your advantage. This was a wonderful diversion, and a very fun, tense, and exciting game. So far not having played too many other ancients games, I have to say it's my favorite.
How many consultations occurred with the rulebook after reading? Probably once per player turn at minimum. It was our first games and I feel that the next game there will be less. As mentioned though, the rules are so tightly written that 99% of our questions were answered. It took up some time, but we were still able to knock out 2 games in an afternoon.
Was the scenario created for you? Yes the game and the supplements have tons of scenarios I think there are 10 in the starter set and I have supplement 2 and 3. Cannot wait to play those! There are countless fan-produced scenarios as well on Commands and Colors dot net.
Did any troops perform remarkably? Yes there were some instances where a heavy infantry unit wiped out an auxiliary unit in a single combat, or another heavy unit in a single combat. While that was what came up on the dice, there are tactical decisions you can make to influence that roll. Attaching a commander will enable you to count extra hits in combat when a certain symbol is rolled. Additionally on the defense, units with 2 adjacent units bordering the defender lend "support" and a flag (retreat) may be ignored.
What were the victory conditions? CCA shines here as there is really no "ties" or draws. When one side achieves the specified number of victory banners (gained for killing units, leaders, or seizing terrain) you win. Both games this was 5.
If the game was enjoyable or not enjoyable was it due to the mechanics, the outcome, or the tension? I feel like it was a combination of all 3 of these factors.
The mechanics are simple and fun and as stated on the box, they "conform remarkably well to the tactics of the period". The outcome I felt was absolutely appropriate given the decisions made. The tension created in the game from not knowing where you opponent is going to move next or what card he is going to play enables a kind of fun anticipation of waiting to see where the hammer will fall. The troops also behave as you would expect large bodies of ancient troops to move and fight like.
In these games as I tried to enact my plan, I found myself hoping that Ken would not play a particular card so that I could put my cunning plans into action. That whole anticipation of your opponent's turn and move really keeps the game interesting and fun.
All in all this was an outstanding afternoon of gaming, and I feel as if I have never once had a bad game of Commands and Colors and I will most certainly keep playing them, and play them more often!
I would also like to offer a word of thanks to everyone who commented on the "Allure of Simple Wargaming" post with their thoughts, opinions, and feelings towards the project.
I'd also like to give a shout out to Norm and Erik D for participating in the project with their own gaming!
Norm's website is linked on the right hand side of this blog and his Simple Wargaming post where he played the Perry "Firepower" ACW rules I have always been fascinated with, can be found here.
Erik's blog link is here and for bonus points, he played my very own and Alex's "EAGLES CHEAPER THAN BRAIN CELLS" Grand Tactical Napoleonic rules! Go check out his blog now!
WOW what an exciting project so far and there is more coming up! Stay tuned and keep up with the Simple Gaming as we gather more and more data and information from you all on what makes a game a simple game, and why so many of us like them so much! You might see a game from Mr Neil Thomas and his One Hour Wargames on the table!