Thursday, 31 December 2009

Playing With My Xmas Pressie!!

Today all the guests and visitors had finally gone, and I had my painting table back to myself again.

But before I brought in all the modelling bits and pieces down from the loft and in from the garage, I decided to break open my "unofficial" Xmas present, the 4th expansion set for Commands & Colors: Ancients. Imperial Rome.

I was aching to see how the C&C: Ancients system handled Caltrops and the new Cataphract units, both Camel and Cavalry. The answer was; very simply and elegantly, and the rules work really well.

Using Cavalry to chase away Light Foot now becomes a very risky business indeed. Before, the Light Foot had to choose to stand and fight if they were to inflict any losses at all on attacking Cavalry, and that was usually a foolhardy decision to take. Instead, they would usually evade, reducing their chances of casualties but also totally negating the possibility of inflicting any.

With the Caltrop rules, those Light Foot units listed as being equipped with caltrops (which are scenario dictated) may still choose to evade attacking Cavalry for all the usual benefits (the attacking unit will only hit them on a Circle symbol, and cannot follow up into the vacated hex), but now, the attacking Cavalry can face total disaster! Every Sword symbol rolled on the attack they make, results in a hit against themselves!

The heavily armoured Cataphract Camel and Cavalry units gain the ability to ignore the first Sword result in any Close Combat. This is not a massive advantage and doesn't make them supermen, but it can make a difference.

I picked a scenario that would allow me to try out both of the Cataphract units, and the caltrops. The battle was Nisibis - 217AD, between the Parthians led by Atrabanus IV and a Roman force led by Macrinus. It was a solo game, with me developing a split personality and taking what I genuinely thought would be the best move available for each side, given the cards available.

It was a large battle by C&C: Ancients standards, with around 25 units on the Parthian side and 20 on the Roman. I'm not going to go into a blow-by-blow account, but the game was a see-saw fight; a real punch-up, with the Roman left flank almost totally collapsing even after their legionaries had inflicted horrendous losses on the Parthian horse. And yes, the Caltrop rules worked fine, as the Parthians found to their cost. Forced to try and drive away the Light Foot in front of the Roman main line, time and again they suffered from the pesky little devices while the skirmishers and bowmen dodged back. Again, the caltrops were not a battle-winner, but they had enough of an effect to force the opposing side to re-think their tactics.

The result was that the Cavalry-heavy Parthian army became sluggish, and suffered high attrition while trying to get into contact with the main Roman Legions. Once they did, the Legions started to suffer against the strong and tough Heavy Cataphract Cavalry. The fight went right down to the wire, but in the end the Parthians lost by 8 banners to 6, as their Heavy Cataphract Cavalry got bogged down in a slow-moving, grinding match with the Legion Infantry.

The end came with a swift Roman counter-attack, which caught a distracted and weakened Camel Cataphract unit and wiped it out.

Now I understand how the new rules work in practice, I shall give my regular(-ish) gaming opponent a ring, and see if he has the time to get a game in over the New Year holiday.

1 comment:

Jaye Schmus said...

I got so wrapped up in your Battle! project that I forgot you do Ancients also. Reading your account, it's amazing what one remembers of warfare in those times. If you've not read it, I'd like to recommend David Drake's Ranks of Bronze.