Field Commander: Alexander is a solitaire only game that focuses on the military campaigns and conquests of Alexander the Great of Macedon that we have been looking into over the past month. In Action Point 1, we discussed the different campaigns available in the game and the way that you can customize those campaigns to have them play differently and ratchet up the difficulty. In Action Point 2 we looked at the overall basic Sequence of Play while taking a deeper look at Conquest and how Alexander’s army moves around the board and interacts with prophecies and obtains different advisors.
In this final Action Point we will be looking at the differing types of Forces available and how the Battle procedure plays out. We will also look at Battle Plans and examine how they are used.
Forces are the units that make up an army in Field Commander: Alexander and all differing types of Infantry, Cavalry and even siege engines are represented.
As you can see in this picture lifted from the rule book, there are lots of symbols and numbers on each counter that represent a lot of different pertinent information.
First, in the upper left is the nationality of the counter. This doesn’t really matter to the game play but it is nice for a historical reminder that Alexander fought Southern Greeks, Persians and Indian forces as he moved from the West to the East. Next is a two letter classification of the troop type including EL for Elephants, LE for Leader, IN for Infantry and so on.
We now come to the first piece of really important information on the counter Speed Value. This number shows how quickly the Force acts during each battle turn. Forces act in order of Speed Value from highest (6) to lowest (0). Forces that have the same Speed act simultaneously.
In the above picture of a Battle in progress you will see that each side’s Forces are lined up by Speed from left to right. In this example, the Persian Chariot with a Speed Value of 3 will get to attack first followed by a simultaneous attack of the Persian Leader Darius III and Infantry against the Macedonian Infantry who all have a Speed Value of 2. If the Chariot attacking at a Speed of 3 scores a hit, the player will get to choose which of his units absorb the wound before moving to the Speed 2 column. If a hit is taken by a single step unit before it gets to attack then that Force will not get to roll to hit. It is also important to remember that the combat is about doing hits that can be assigned to any units. This is not single combat between Forces of the same type.
The final piece of information is the Force’s Battle Value. The Battle Value is the number that a Force must roll equal to or less than to score a hit in Battle. If the Force has a superscripted number if the roll is equal to or less than the superscripted value the attack will score two hits. In the picture below we see that the Companion Heavy Cavalry is a very adept and valuable unit as it has a Battle Value of 4 as well as a superscripted value of 4 which means on any roll in Battle of 4 or less this Force will score 2 hits.
By way of comparison in the picture above showing Speed Values you will see that the Chariot has a Battle Value of 3 but a lesser superscripted value of 1. On a roll of 1, the Chariot will inflict 2 hits or on a die roll of 2 or 3 will inflict only 1 hit.
As I mentioned earlier there are several types of Forces in the game. One thing I forgot to mention is that the cost to purchase a unit is equal to its Battle Value. The three types of Forces are Ground Troops, Cavalry and Siege Engines/Walls.
Ground Troops are the standard fighting formation used in the game and are varied in their roles and abilities on the battle field. You will need to skillfully utilize each of them well to have a chance of matching the historical Alexander.
Archers (AR) – Have a high Speed value and will attack before most other Forces, but can only suffer 1 Hit. It is nice to get a hit with aArchers as you can eliminate more powerful enemy Forces before they get a chance to attack.
Elephants (EL) – Can be a powerful force on the battlefield, and can inflict 1 or 2 Hits. Even though they have mounted riders they do not count as Cavalry. A powerful Battle Value of 5 is the best in the game.
Infantry (IN) – The standard army force. Unexceptional units bit can absorb hits as they can be reduced without their Battle Value changing.
Peltasts (PE) – Have a high Speed Value of 4 but can only suffer 1 Hit and will not be hitting often as their Battle Value of 1 is very low.
Phalanx (PH) – The true workhorse of the Ancient army is the Phalanx. If a Phalanx scores a Hit, roll another attack but treat its Battle Value as being one less. Repeat until the Phalanx does not score a Hit. It is common to see one Phalanx inflict 2-3 hits during each of their attack rounds.
The most maneuverable and valuable Forces in any army are the Cavalry. Cavalry units typically has good Battle Values with superscripted but their one downfall is that they can’t attack each round.
Chariots (CH) – Have a moderate Speed Value and can inflict 1 or 2 Hits.
Heavy Cavalry (HC) – A formation of heavily armed and armored mounted soldiers. Companion HC are absolutely the best units on the field with a Battle Value of 4 with a superscript of 4. They can inflict 1 or 2 Hits.
Light Cavalry (LC) – Like Heavy Cavalry, but faster and equipped with lighter weapons and armor and can inflict 1 or 2 Hits.
The major weakness of Cavalry is that they cannot attack each round. This can be countered by purchasing the Charge Battle Plan.
Special units that are intended to counter each other. In Ancient times armies relied on thick walls of stone to protect them from large armies. In reaction to these defenses armies developed siege engines, like catapults, ballista and siege towers, to counteract these defenses.
Siege Engines (SE) – Siege Engines can attack either Walls or Forces. Receives a +2 bonus to their Battle Value when targeting an enemy Wall. Before rolling, declare if you are attacking a Wall or Forces. Siege Engines can only suffer 1 Hit.
Walls – Walls do not attack. They impose a -2 penalty when at full strength, and a -1 penalty when reduced, on all enemy Force Battle Values (and superscript values) except Siege Engines and Siege Engine Ships.
Special units that lead their armies on the battle field. If the Leader is ever killed during a battle their army will be defeated and surrender without further attacks.
Alexander A(x) – Begin with the Alexander counter designated by the campaign. Place the counter on the Battlefield section of the Player Log. Alexander’s Battle Value and superscript value will improve as he completes Prophecy.
As you earn Glorifications from Prophecies, exchange this counter for improved versions. Although Alexander is pictured on a horse, do not treat him as Cavalry.
Leaders (LE) – Attack as a normal Force. Even if a Leader is pictured on a horse, do not treat it as being a Cavalry Force.
Now that we have looked at the different types of Forces and their general abilities let’s take a quick look at an example of a Battle.
Example of Battle
In this example we will take a look at a battle between a moderately experienced Alexander and his enemy Darius III who is holed up in a city behind walls. Luckily Alexander has one Siege Engine and will hope to destroy the walls quickly so his Forces will have unobstructed attacks on his enemy.
The first thing to remember is that a Wall doesn’t attack but at full strength will enforce a -2 penalty on all attacks by the enemy. It can take two hits before being destroyed and with one hit will impose a -1 penalty.
Alexander’s Siege Engine has a Speed of 6 and will announce that it will attack the wall rather than enemy Forces. It must roll a 3 or less (Battle Value of 1 but +2 vs. Walls) to hit the Wall and scores a hit with a roll of 3. The Wall will be reduced and flipped over to its -1 side. For the rest of this Battle round, each of Alexander’s Forces will reduce their Attack rolls by 1.
We then move to the Speed 5 column which contains only an Archer for the Macedonians. The Archer has to roll a 1 (normally a 2 but at -1 due to the enemy Wall) to inflict a hit.
The Archer compensates for the height of the imposing wall and rolls a 1 which is a hit. The player now gets to choose what unit to inflict the wound on and chooses to reduce the enemy Chariot as it has a Battle Value of 3 and a superscript value of 1. Flipping the counter the Chariot reduces to a 2 Battle value and is one hit closer to being eliminated. The Chariot’s Speed Value is also reduced from a 3 to a 1 so it will attack later than it normally would (I actually forgot this as I was writing this example and just now found that error so keep that in mind.) We now move to the Speed 4 column and find only a Persian Light Cavalry unit their. It attacks and must roll a 2 or less to inflict 2 hits. Lucky for Alexander it rolls a 5 and misses. It now has attacked and as Cavalry will not be able to attack next round. To note this I simply “tap” the counter by rotating it.
We now move to the Speed 3 column which has one Persian and one Macedonian unit which will result in a simultaneous roll. The Persian Chariot rolls a 2 which will result in only 1 hit (would have been 2 if the roll was a 1 due to the superscript value of 1) and the Companion Heavy Cavalry rolls a 3 which will result in 2 hits due to the superscript value of a 4. The unit hit with a 3 even though the Wall was imposing a -1 to the roll. The player chooses to absorb the hit from the Persians by removing the Archer unit (it is a low cost unit that is easier to replace and its Battle Value is only a 2).
The player then chooses to inflict his 2 hits by removing the Persian Light Cavalry and we now move to the Speed 2 column.
The Battle in the Speed 2 column will be simultaneous. Alexander has yet attacked Darius and therefore Darius can only attack Alexander’s Forces. Your non-Alexander Forces cannot inflict hits on the enemy Leader. Only Alexander can inflict hits on the enemy Leader.
Each time it is Alexander’s turn to attack, decide if he will attack the enemy Forces, or the enemy Leader. If Alexander is attacking simultaneously with other Forces, you must decide before any simultaneous attacks are rolled.
Once Alexander attacks the enemy Leader, Alexander and the enemy Leader must always attack each other until the end of the battle. Alexander’s hits will only be scored against the enemy Leader (and Rally and Guards Battle Plans), and the enemy Leader’s hits will only be scored against Alexander (and your Rally Battle Plan and Glorifications).
Darius will attack Alexander’s Forces and rolls a 4 missing with the lone Persian Infantry rolling a 2 which hits. The Macedonian Infantry rolls a 1 which scores a hit even with the -1 penalty from the Wall. The player will absorb the hit to his “tapped” Companion Heavy Cavalry and will inflict his Force’s hit to the Infantry (Being reduced will effect each of these unit’s Speed Value as well and they would move to their new Speed Value columns after the Battle in resolved with the Heavy Cavalry moving to Speed Value 2 and the Infantry moving to Speed Value 1). We then move to the final Speed 1 column which has only Alexander’s Forces.
Alexander decides to attack Darius III and rolls a 2 scoring a hit while the Phalanx rolls a 3 scoring a hit but missed with a roll of a 6 on its next attack. The player flips the Darius counter and removes the Infantry counter and the first Battle Round is now complete.
The Battle will continue into its second round and is not yet over. But for our purposes in this article I will leave the result undetermined.
I really like the Battles and there are lots of tough choices to make in how you take hits and how you assign them to your enemy. Do you knock out the most powerful unit first or worry about the Speed Value and who will attack next hoping to minimize the hits your Forces take? Do I attack the Leader with Alexander or just focus on winning the battle by eliminating all enemy Forces? (Killing the Leader gives you more Glory but as soon as you eliminate all enemy Forces the Leader surrenders and you don’t gain the extra Glory). There are also choices about the units you purchase and how best to build your army. A great system that isn’t overdone, complex or clunky.
Battle Plans are an abstraction of the tactics used by commanders on the ancient battlefields and are a very interesting way to depict this strategy. There are Battle Plans for both the enemy and for Alexander as well. At the beginning of each Battle, the enemy will get 1 Battle Plan for every Force they have in the battle. (In our Battle example above I didn’t include Battle Plans.)
If Alexander has acquired the services of the Advisor Parmenion, the enemy receives 3 fewer Battle Plans. Once the number has been determined, the player will draw them randomly from a cup and place them face-up in the Battlefield section of the Player Log.
The player will get to see the enemy plans before selecting their own.
Alexander Battle Plans
The player will now select their Battle Plans. They get a number of Plans equal to Alexander’s Battle Value (not superscript value). You can also pay Gold to get additional Plans. For each Gold spent, you get 1 additional Plan.
You can buy the use of some Battle Plans more than once per battle. This is noted on their counters.
These plans do many things like add extra hits, allow Cavalry Forces to attack the next round even after having attacked, stop a hit, regain a lost Force after the Battle is over, etc. These Battle Plans are very important and can be used to make a smaller army victorious against even the worst of odds.
I hope that you have formed a good understanding of how this very cool solitaire game works. I have enjoyed my plays of Field Commander: Alexander a great deal and will keep this game in my collection for when the Ancients itch needs to be scratched.