Katie's Game Corner: A Few First Impressions [Commands & Colours: Ancients]

Katie's Game Corner: A Few First Impressions [Commands & Colours: Ancients]

I got the chance to play a few games of Commands and Colours: Ancients over the past couple of weeks and thought I’d share a few of my first impressions with you.

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What a surprise, another GMT game is added onto the ‘must play again’ list. I seriously can’t control myself when it comes to GMT and their games. I’m developing a slight obsession and I can’t help it. 

Anyway, moving on. 

Firstly, If you aren’t aware of Commands & Colours, it depicts warfare from the Dawn of Military History (3000 BC) to the opening of the Middle Ages (400 AD), by design Commands & Colors has a unique historical game system which allows players to effectively portray stylized battles from this time in history. 

It’s one of the few hex and counter games I have played so far, I am also intrigued to try Commands & Colors: Napoleonics as I am looking for something more complex and Commands & Colors: Medieval when it comes out. I am looking forward to trying out more hex and counter games, my P500 is full of them. That however is another blog post all together. 

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As somebody that has played a lot of eurogames and a lot of Card Driven Games and wargames, this was an easy game to pick up rules wise, I found the core mechanics to be simple but effective and it didn’t take me long at all to pick up the rules of the game. 

Playing the game is based around a deck of cards and resolving battles by rolling special dice, you have a hand of between four to six cards depending on the side you play and the scenario you are playing, the number of cards you have in your reflects the history of the battle and the skills of the leader involved. 

First, you choose an order card from your hand, this dictates what type of units and the amount of units that can be active on the turn, then you can issue any move commands, and subsequently the units may battle using the special dice I mentioned earlier. That’s pretty much it, without going into too much detail around the rules. It felt like a nice introductory wargame and one that I could happily keep playing for a long time to come, with the combination of dice rolling, hand management and different scenarios, I can see there being a lot of different games to come out of that one box.  

The cards and your hand can be pretty restricted and definitely set the game apart for me, some cards only activate units of a certain type or in a certain section such as: left, right or centre, some cards are used to move a specific leader meaning that sometimes, you may have a hand of cards that are useless to you. This mechanic is something I quite like when playing a game, having to really think on your feet and strategize as you go and I found this, in the second game that I played as the game went on, I just didn’t have the cards in my hand to be able to move my units in the way I wanted to and spent a lot of the game playing catch up. Being able to play a good hand of cards will definitely work in your favour in this game.

Commands and Colors is simple in design, elegant and really well put together. I was initially unsure if I would like it or not but it turns out that in a frustrating kind of way, I do. 

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For me, the frustration came from the dice rolling aspect of the game. I don’t know if it’s because I have tiny hands or just really bad luck but the dice rolling in this game did not work in my favour. Yes, I know a lot of games involve dice rolling during battle but it can be frustrating and it defintely was for me. Did it put me off the game though? No, because I like a game that offers a challenge, I like a game the combines strategy and luck and I also like working hard to be able to come back from a not-so-good turn. 

Battle is simple though. The dice have different colours and symbols on them: light units are Green, medium units are Blue and heavy units are Red, a generic face with the swords symbol, a leader face with the helmet symbol and a flag. Each unit attacks with a given number of dice, and scores a hit for every target unit colour, every sword if the unit uses them, and every helmet if supported by a leader, plus a retreat for every flag. I like how simple battle is, no calculations, no checking tables, just roll your dice and hope for the best. 

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As mentioned earlier, I’ve only played C&C a couple of times so I still have a lot to discover but I really enjoyed it, battle can be tense and in both games I played it was quite close for a while before one of us shot in front claiming victory. I’m excited to play more games and see if a strategy will develop or if I will always be frustrated at my rubbish dice rolling skills. Commands and Colors is fun, clever and I can already see why it is such a classic.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve played any of the C&C series and what you thought of it? Comments always welcome!

Thanks for reading,

Katie.

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