After my somewhat disparaging comments about hex wargames, Virago and Sigur decided to teach me wrong and invited me for a game of Commands & Colors: Ancients. This game has been a recurring topic on the Meeples & Miniatures podcast, and as Neil Shuck and his mates seldom err, I decided to give it a chance.
I have to admit that I was highly sceptical. I had once tried the online version of the WW2 variant, Memoir ’44, but I was bored very quickly. However, I wasn’t sure if the boredom was due to the fact that I generally get bored by computer games or because of the game itself.
Virago set up the scenario for the Battle of Dertosa, fought in 215 BC by the Scipio brothers against Hasdrubal Barca, brother of Hannibal. For the first game, I got the Romans, which have quite an advantage in this scenario. Sigur played the Carthaginians.
The rules were quickly explained. They are simple and make sense, something I like. At first I had some trouble sorting out which units could do what, but thanks to Sigur and Virago, everything became clear soon enough. Learning a game from mates is always the best and easiest way!
My Romans won the first game due to brute force and extraordinary luck with the cards and dice. We changed sides and now Virago took the Romans. Playing the Carthaginians, I realised that cunning was called for. Although I could hold off an attack on my right flank for a time, I soon got steamrolled by the might of the Roman infantry.
I have to admit that I’m very impressed by the game. As I’ve said, the rules were easy to learn and never got into the way of playing the game. The games were quick – also something I like – but it still felt as if tactical decisions mattered.
My main scepticism had concerned the card system: I feared that it might be too ‘gamey’ and that decisions were too much dependant on the cards instead of the situation on the battle field. However, it was the other way round: The cards are a great way of modelling command and control, but it always felt as if they were tools for achieving certain battlefield objectives.
I also like the look of the game. I know that some people play it with miniatures, but the wooden blocks actually look really nice. I guess I can live with hexes as long as there are no counters!
Joking apart, C&C:A might actually be the way to make big battles interesting for me. I’ve never been captivated by big battle games and all my efforts in this direction were aborted sooner than later. C&C:A is easy to learn, quick to set up and play and it’s scenario based – it might just be the game I was looking for to fulfill that particular niche.