Sunday, October 8, 2006
C&C Games: C&C: Ancients
Published 2005 by GMT Games LLC. 2 players, ages 12 and up, playing time approximately 60 minutes.
1 heavy-stock hex map, 159 Roman units, 150 Carthaginian units, 16 victory banners, 45 double-sided terrain tiles, 60 command cards, 2 reference sheets, 7 plastic battle dice, 28-page rules and scenario booklet, 5 block and dice label sheets.
For those familiar with Memoir ‘44 and Battlecry, one of the most striking visual differences is the lack of plastic figures. The map and card hexes are much thinner and a sheet of Plexiglas is recommended to force the map to lay flat. The units are wooden blocks of varying shapes. Each army has its own color and nation-specific labels are applied to two faces of the blocks. While some will find applying the stickers tedious, many feel that the ranks of wooden blocks are very appropriate for the period represented in this game. Others have commented about the name of the game printed in the center of the battle field, although it shares this layout with Battle Cry.
This edition of Commands & Colors covers the ancient period of warfare from approximately 3000 BC to 400 AD. The base game introduces us to Rome’s emergence on the world scene as she battles her nemesis, Carthage. Players activate units with cards from their hand, combat is resolved by rolling dice and the victory goes to the one who captures a set amount of banners.
While the mechanics of the game are similar to the others in the series, Richard Borg, the designer, once commented that his Civil War C&C Battle Cry was the least complicated of the games while Ancients was the most complex. Of the three published games it offers the most depth of play and probably the most historically accurate depiction of line of battle and flank management.
The gameboard is the typical 13 hexes wide by 9 hexes deep with two dashed lines separating the field into three sections; however the dashed lines have been shifted by half a hex each to shrink the center to 4 hexes, while each flank receives 4 ½ hexes. This shift from the previous games represents the importance of the flanks in ancient battles.
Players select a scenario that represents an historical battle in the ancient era. As with the other games, C&C: A gives a historical backdrop for the scenario, making this both an entertaining and educational experience. The scenario includes the number of forces and their setup positions, the number of cards drawn per player, any special rules, and the number of banners needed to win the scenario.
The terrain hexes represent a half dozen different field conditions. Terrain can affect the movement of units, such as forcing an advancing unit to stop, or being outright impassable. It may also affect combat, usually hindering the attacker while helping the defender. Some features can also block line of sight (LOS), which is important in ranged combat. However, the importance of terrain is minimal in this edition of C&C: almost half of the scenarios do not utilize the terrain hexes.
During a player’s turn, he plays a Command card which indicates how many, in which section, and which type of units can be ordered; these units may then move, and once all movement is completed, engage in combat.
The Command cards are fairly familiar. Section cards activate X number of units in a particular section (between two and four units and/or leaders are activated with each). Unlike the previous versions of C&C, these cards have straightforward names such as Order Three Units Center, or Order Two Units Left. The special cards are Coordinate Attack, allowing one unit from each section to be ordered, and Out Flanked, which allows two units on each flank to be activated.
The Tactic cards allow special movements and are usually accompanied by lengthy instructions, allowing some alteration of the rules such as moving beyond a unit’s normal range, increasing the number of dice rolled in battle, or allowing two attacks in one turn. Unlike Section cards they can be played anywhere on the map. Clash of Shields allows two additional dice to be rolled in combat and all units starting the turn adjacent to the enemy can participate in the battle. You may also Counter Attack, Strike First, and Rally your troops. A few cards reference your Command, which is the number of cards you are allowed to hold based on the scenario. An important Tactic card is the Line Command card, which allows you to order any number of foot units that are in adjacent hexes to move one space and battle. If you can link your units, you could activate a dozen or more units in a massive onslaught.
A new concept in C&C: A is different types of troops (in addition to the variety of units). Each unit is classified as a light (green), medium (blue), or heavy (red) unit. Troop cards allow you activate one of your troop types regardless of the unit type up to your Command. Another unit type is the Leader, which plays a decisive role in the game. The Leadership cards allow you to activate a leader in a particular section and three or four additional units linked to the leader’s hex.
Combat is resolved by rolling a number of dice equal to the unit’s strength and modified by any conditions (such as terrain or command cards).
Ranged combat attacks units that are more than one hex away and is only possible if no enemy units are adjacent to your attacking unit. The enemy must be within a unit’s range (typically two to three hexes away) and you must have clear line of sight. If the attacking unit moved prior to the battle, they may only roll one dice. If they did not move during this turn, they may roll two dice. For each die result that matches the target symbol, the unit takes one hit and one figure is removed. If a leader is alone in a hex and the Leader (Helmet) symbol is rolled, the leader is eliminated. If he is attached with another unit, a leader check must be made first. For each Banner symbol rolled, the unit must make one retreat movement. The Crossed Swords result is a miss.
Close Combat occurs when two adjacent enemy units engage in battle. The number of dice rolled is based on a unit’s strength. Most light troops only roll two dice in combat, medium troops roll three to four, while most heavy troops roll four to five dice. Any die result with a colored shape is a hit if it matches the attacked unit; but the Crossed Swords now counts as a hit. If the attacking unit is attached to a leader or if there is a leader in an adjacent hex, all Leader symbols rolled are now considered hits also.
The most striking differences in C&C: A are in combat. Each Retreat move corresponds to the maximum number of spaces a unit is allowed to move. Since most units move at least two hexes under normal circumstances, each banner usually causes a retreat of two hexes. In the case of light cavalry, their maximum move is 4 hexes, so if you roll two banners, the light cavalry must retreat a total of 8 hexes. With only a 9 hex deep board, two banners can be fatal to your cavalry!
A unit attacked in close combat may have the option to evade. Typically, heavy units cannot evade unless they are faster than their attackers. The defender declares that he will evade before the attacker rolls dice and must have at least one open hex on his side of the board adjacent to the unit’s hex. When you evade, you still must withstand the results of the dice. However, you can only be hit on dice that match your unit’s colored shape. Banners, crossed swords, and leader symbols are ignored. If your unit survives the attack, then he must now evade two hexes if possible but a minimum of one hex.
You may also support your troops. Any unit (except elephants) that has friendly units touching any two sides of its hex is considered supported. A supported unit may ignore one banner in each round of combat. A wise general will not allow himself to be outflanked where the troops are most likely to split. An attached leader also supports a unit by itself.
Those who cannot evade or choose not to run away may battle back. One of the criticisms of the C&C series is that the non-active player has no way to fight back unless he has the proper cards in hand. In C&C: A however, any unit that survives an attack and is not forced to retreat may now battle back.
As in other C&C games, momentum allows units to advance into a vacated hex if they destroy their target or force it to retreat in close combat. Some units may battle in close combat a second time. Mounted units may also move one additional hex in between their advance and second battle. When a leader is attached to a unit, that unit may always engage in a second close combat if there is a qualifying target.
There are two basic unit types in the game: foot and mounted. Foot units consist of archers and other types of ranged attackers, infantry, and war machines. Mounted units consist of cavalry, chariots, and special units like war elephants and camel cavalry. Infantry units are made up of four figures; cavalry contain three figures, two figures make up a unit of chariots, elephants, or war machines. Units are further classified into the light, medium and heavy categories. Only light units (and war machines) can participate in ranged combat. Mounted units can move father but must retreat farther also. Heavy units are slow but powerful.
In addition, units interact differently with certain other units. Horses are afraid when elephants attack and must retreat one additional hex in addition to their retreat movement per banner. Cavalry may evade foot units. Elephants battle with a number of dice corresponding to the unit they attack. The warrior unit is the only unit to date (with the exception of the Japanese in Memoir ’44) to have differing conditions based on if their unit is at full strength: with four figures, they may ignore one banner rolled against them and they may attack with four dice. Through this all, leaders impact the roll of units.
Once a unit or leader has been eliminated in battle, the winner gains one victory banner. A player usually needs to 5 to 7 banners to win the scenario.
In the fall of 2006, GMT released their second printing of the game, taking the opportunity to clarify some rules and modify a few scenarios. The use of War Machines was defined in anticipation of the expansions. The scenarios are now in their own booklet and include scenarios that were previously exclusive to 1st edition pre-orders. In response to criticism of the original dice, the 2nd edition includes solid plastic dice.
The ‘Living Rules’ and new scenarios are available for download at GMT’s website.
Expansion Pack #1: The Greeks & Eastern Kingdoms
This first expansion introduces 20 new scenarios and two new armies: the Greeks and the Persians. The expansion includes over 300 new wooden blocks and new labels. New unit types will also be introduced such as the camel unit. It is also rumored that the revised dice from the 2nd edition will be included in this expansion. Scheduled for shipment at the end of October 2006.
Expansion Pack #2: Rome and the Barbarians
The second expansion will introduce another 20 new scenarios and focus on the Imperial era of Rome. New unit types will include Briton chariots and specialty leaders such as Caesar. The expansion is in the final stages of art and game development. Once production is ready, pre-orders will be accepted. At that point, the game will be ready within 6 months.
Valley Games Inc. of Canada has been given the rights to produce a set of 7 wooden dice for C&C: Ancients. These are similar to the Memoir ’44 dice and smaller than the C&C: Ancients dice. Pre-orders of this limited edition set can be made on their website.