Saturday, July 16, 2011

Commands and Colors Followup

I picked up a copy of Commands and Colors: Ancients a few years ago and maybe played it once. It was too much of a board game for the wargaming crowd and too much of a war game for the boardgamers. I recently unpacked it and gave it a run at Triple Play in NH for an ostensible miniature gaming night at which I had forgotten any actual miniatures.

In a game of C&C you move tiles around a board. Each group of tiles represents a party of soldiers- cavalry, bowmen, swordsmen, etc. The players have miniature battle on the board and the game supplies a variety of sample scenarios from history to play out.

C&C has several qualities that are really just charming. For one, it's fairly simple. I taught the rules in maybe fifteen minutes and we played with a minimum of time spent glancing back in the book for clarification. Further, it's fairly exciting. The players have a hand of random cards that determine what sort of orders they can give their troops. You may not have exactly the card you want and find yourself struggling to make the best of what fate has handed you. I don't like that mechanism for a game set in modern times but it's pretty fitting for an ancient battle.

Finally, as the above suggests, the game plays out fairly realistically. Even if you don't know the rules you can do well just by using good tactics. Or, if you do know the rules, you can learn good tactics by remembering what works best. I think it's rare to find a historical miniatures game that's both simple and realistic.

Of course, this isn't a miniatures game, it's a board game with wooden tiles. Except that industrious players could replace the tiles with miniature soldiers and the board with a hex marked cloth and voila! Miniatures game!

I would once again recommend Commands and Colors for anyone interested in ancient warfare. I think it's especially well suited for beginners and happily enough is also a challenge and pleasure for experienced gamers.


  1. C&C shares its system with Memoir '44 (WWII), Battle Cry (ACW) and BattleLore (Medieval/Fantasy). I find the "Fog of War" command card system works quite well up to and including WWII, when communications along the front were little better than the runners used in WWI. Of course, for a modern-era war game, it wouldn't work at all...

    But for the other games, it works just fine. Haven't had a chance to play C&C: Ancients yet, though...

  2. It's an interesting experience to give up that precise level of control. I like it best with the ancients games but I could see how it could fit with WWII. Plus, it lets you avoid the surgically precise and game-y feel of, say, Flames of War. That game has to be the most irritating game I've played hundreds of hours of.