A few month’s ago, I came in contact with Tom Knight who wrote a Guest Blog post for us on his experience with the fantastic game Here I Stand. He contacted me a few weeks back and wanted to share his love of and experience with Commands & Colors: Ancients and especially in the Epic multi-player setting.
Command & Colors: Ancients (CCA) by GMT Games has a soft spot in my heart. It was the first game that I bought from GMT in 2011, and the game that got me back in the hobby after a rather long absence. Other than playing some Axis & Allies and Shogun (still a real gem in my opinion), I had not really ventured back to my earlier days with experimenting with Avalon Hill as a teenager. But while researching games for my son, I stumbled across some new games and companies I had not heard of before. Being a history major and interested in ancient history and warfare, I decided to take a gamble and get CC:A.
As much as I have enjoyed the base game, and learning the strategy of the card driven aspect of it, it was not until I got the CC:A Epics game that I really knew what I had found! I love CC:A Epic, and I want you to consider picking up this great system. And now is a great time to do so since CC:A Expansion Pack #5: Epic Ancients II is back in reprint at GMT Games. In fact, there are three CC:A products currently on the P500 queue; including CC:A base game (6th Printing); CC:A Expansion Pack #1 – Greece & Eastern Kingdoms (3rd Printing) and CC:A Expansion Pack #5: Epic Ancients II (2nd Printing). This is a great time to consider CC:A if you have never played it, as well as a great time to get into CC:A Epic.
So, let’s jump in and explore CC:A Epic. What is it and why is it different? Well, first off, the expansion is based on the original game, but it is designed for a board that is twice the size of the original. There is a new and specialized deck of cards and 12 scenarios that come with it. To play, you will most likely need another expansion (such as Expansion #1 – Greece & Eastern Kingdoms) as well as another board. So, there is some investment to play CC:A Epic, unless you have a friend who can loan you an extra board and an expansion. Of course, if you are at a convention that might be an option as well. This might keep some from trying the game, but in my opinion, Epic is the best way to go. Stay with me here for a minute as I explain why.
Some people may be turned off by the fact that CC:A Epic is designed for eight people, but the main point to remember is that the game is scalable from two to eight people. You can have a great time playing one-on-one or some other combination. In a recent game in our small gaming group, we played a five-person game with four on one side and just one player on the other. This allows one side to experience the command structure of an overall commander and his three section generals. The Commands & Colors system is a great way to experience unity of command issues.
For this day I chose the Epic11 Paraitacene scenario. This scenario is great for new players as it does not have any terrain and allows for quick battles. It also comes with a lot of chrome with large numbers of heavy infantry, heavy cavalry, mounted light bowmen, the vaunted Silver Shields unit, and elephants. Lots and lots of elephants! According to commandandcolors.net, Paraitacece had been played and recorded fifteen times, with Antigonus winning around seventy percent of the time. My son, who is fourteen, chose to be Antigonus, while the rest of us served under Eumenes, who had never been the overall commander of a CC:A Epic game. We were expecting interesting dynamics and were not disappointed.
First things first though. A CC:A Epic board is big, right at five feet! That’s right, I said five feet! When you are on the left or right flank of the board, it can be hard sometimes to know what is going on at the other end. This is one thing that I like. It mimics some of the issues that overall commanders experienced by not being able to see every part of the battle field.
The board is also divided into three sections, and each of the section generals only controls the troops located in his section. There are some cards that do allow overlap but not many. Units which are on a section line can be ordered by either section leader but not both. This is very key to the game and the more options that you have between commanders and units on the board, the better.
But this is what makes the game so fun. Playing on the right flank, I had my own battle to fight and it was a long way away from any possible help from the left flank. If you start to take a beating, you might get some relief from the center, but not from the other side of the board. Remember, five feet of board translates to a long way in real life.
Towards the end of a game, sections can get really thinned out as units fall in battle. In this picture, the center of both armies has collapsed due to the ability of heavy infantry to inflict terrible losses on each other. The elephants also did massive damage to Antigonus’ heavies in the center. In the end, Eumenes’ generals were able to win 15 to 11 banners.
CC:A has two main types of cards: field cards and army cards. Field cards are given to generals in the three sections, but army cards are played by the overall commander who then says how many types of troops will be ordered in each section (field) of the board. Some cards are dual cards, and the overall commander decides how to best allocate the card.
We like to push the issue of unity of command, so we don’t allow the overall commander to give any advice about what he wants generals to do. A general receives a card and has to use his own best wisdom. Other than a short strategy conference before the game begins, a general is on his own. This is another reason that I like the Epic version because it really simulates those difficulties and puts command in the hands of the commander that is in charge of the section rather than simply taking away his authority and decision making responsibilities.
Commands & Colors: Ancients Epic has twelve scenarios, but if you search in commandandcolors.net you can find even more. Also, in C3i Magazine produced by RBM Studio and Roger McGowan several other scenarios are also listed. Just put in the prefix C3i Epic and you will find them. If you are playing CC:A Epic please consider recording your games on the site as this helps us all see the big picture of game play and the outcomes of the battles.
I hope you don’t think of CC:A Epic as just a “convention” game for eight players, but will consider it a real option for a small gaming group, a family, or even an intense head-to-head game for two.
Tom’s first encounter with war games was tossing Lincoln logs at tiny soldiers his cousin ordered from the back of a comic book. His first real game was Alexander by Avalon Hill (1971). He has taught English in China, been a campus minister, and is now a collegiate ministry consultant. He enjoys Chinese Chess (Xiangqi), Commands and Colors: Ancients, and Shogun (1986), to name a few. He also enjoys reading, which both enriches and limits his gaming experience.