Command & Colors: Napoleonics

After my very enthusiastic reaction to Command & Colors: Ancients, Virago and Sigur decided to expose me to another variant of Richard Borg’s ingenious series of games. This time, it was to be Command & Colors: Napoleonics. As another mate was also present, we played two parallel games. Virago and Nik had a Peninsular battle while Sigur and I played a scenario from the Austrian Army expansion. Our version of the 1805 Battle of Wertingen pitted me as the French commander against Sigur’s Austrian corps.

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The rules are basically the same and many of the command cards were familiar. Shooting is, of course, more dominant. Terrain is now important, mainly because there is some (in contrast to the empty expanse of the ancient battlefields). Infantry can form squares, which is linked to an interesting mechanic reducing the command cards available for the player – this is supposed to model the loss of flexibility. The change that felt most significant was that attack dice are reduced in proportion to unit losses. While in the ancients version units with only one block left still attack at full strength, in the napoleonics version each block lost also means one die less.

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In our game, the French decided to concentrate on their right flank. This was partly prompted by my deployment and the terrain and partly by the cards I had in my hand. With a combination of heavy cavalry, light infantry and grenadiers, I pretty much rolled up Sigur’s left flank. However, a sharp counter attack by his cavalry forced my infantry into squares, severely limiting my command abilities.

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In the end, three of my infantry units were standing in square. Fortunately, a couple of reckless attacks by my reserve cavalry managed to drive the Austrians out of the town of Wertingen and secured the French victory.

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Having finished our game and Virago and Nik having finished theirs, Nik and I were pitted against each other in a short game of C&C: Ancients. This one I lost rather quickly to the Carthaginians’ nimble and canny light cavalry.

Again I was very impressed by Richard Borg’s design. C&C: Napoleonics was exciting and although a bit slower than the ancients version, it was quick enough to still have time for something else. Working out how to best combine my troops and how to best use my cards was great fun. I did notice that I play those kind of games quite differently than miniature wargames: I play them much more ‘mechanically’ or ‘gamey’, meaning I tend to make quick calculations in my head and weight my chances in a more analytical way than I would in a game of, say, Sharp Practice. This is of course due to the variables being much more transparent – with hexes and fixed movement distances, you know exactly how far you will advance, how far the enemy will be able to advance etc. It feels a bit more like a game of chess in my head, which is something I don’t usually like. However, with the cards and the dice, there is enough friction to render too much planning futile, and the scenarios provide enough of a narrative to keep the game from becoming an empty exercise in abstract problem solving.

And in a rare show of spontaneous spending, I’ve just ordered a second-hand copy of Battle Crythe American Civil War version of C&C. It will hopefully provide me with an easy and simple way to fight some of the larger Civil War actions…

Command & Colors: Ancients

After my somewhat disparaging comments about hex wargames, Virago and Sigur decided to teach me wrong and invited me for a game of Command & 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.

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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.

On the Painting Table

Painting is going quite smoothly at the moment. The ACW is still my main interest and I’ve decided to do a Grierson’s Raiders force for Sharp Practice. I already got the figures from Peter Pig, but before I actually start with them, I wanted to finish the dismounted version of the Confederate cavalry.

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Here you can see dismounted Confederate troopers as well as three horses for the ‘horse holder’ marker – I don’t actually put eight horses plus two guys on the table, but use a small vignette consisting of one horse holder and three horses.

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Here is another trooper and the horse holder. The unpainted guy with the binoculars is for a special project – more on this another time.

As you can see, I’ve also started painting Romans for the Punic Wars. Wargames, Soldiers & Strategy has announced Project 217, which somehow will deal with conflicts in 217BC, and it would be nice to be involved in some way. Those four velites are at least a start – they make up two elements for DBA, an easy way to make progress!

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Finally, I’ve done some figures for the Mice & Mystics board game. Those are plastic models and they are nice, but the details are not as pronounced as one would wish. Still, they paint up rather quickly and I didn’t spend too much time on them anyway – they are going to be used by children and I don’t want to worry about them destroying an elaborate paintjob.

On the Painting Table

My gaming activities are stalling at the moment due to unforseen real life mishaps. Painting has also been halted, but I’m pretty confident I’ll wield a brush again soon. At the moment, there is quite an eclectic mix of stuff on the painting table:

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On the first rack, the two figures on the rightmost side are two 15mm scarecrows from Peter Pig. I discovered them by chance in their ECW range and immediately ordered a pack – they will serve well for my American fields. In the pack, there were also farmers which, although nominaly intended for ECW, will also work for ACW (there is one on the second rack). The 15mm figures you can see in the front row are irregulars from 15mm.co.uk to complement my Confederate Guerillas. The mules in the back row carry a limbered mountain howitzer – a simple conversion I’ve made from a Freikorps15 gun and spare pack mules.

The boat in the background is the Peter Pig USS Tyler in 1/600 with masts added for my VIVAT participation game.

The fellow with the oversized club on the right side of the second rack is a Reaper Neanderthal who will serve as a giant for my 10mm fantasy army. The animals are figures from the boardgame Mice and Mystics. The German version was re-released recently and I grabbed a copy because my nieces are getting old enough to start ‘proper’ board gaming and this might be something they enjoy. Also, I just have a thing for anthropomorphic animals.

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Incidentally, last week a nice chap on the Lead Adventure Forum sold off a bunch of animals from the Oathsworn Miniature Burrows & Badgers Kickstarter. When it was running, I’d been sorely tempted to back the Kickstarter, but reason prevailed at the time. However, I just couldn’t pass up this offer! For a change, I was fast enough to reply and two days later, 20 of those fantastic sculpts landed in my mail box.

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I’m really looking forward to painting them, but apart from that, I have to admit I’m not too sure what to do with them. My main idea is, as with Mice and Mystics, to try to entice my nieces to try out tabletop gaming – perhaps I’ll use Ganesha Games’ Song of the Splintered Lands or some other simple skirmish system.