This article is derived from a post on BGG made in response to two questions regarding Evasion in C&C:Ancients: What is it supposed to represent?...and why would a unit capable of evading ever choose not to do so? This was never intended as a strategy article and so doesn’t cover all aspects of Evasion in C&C:A, but hopefully provides some concrete answers to the original questions. This reworked article is a tidied up version of the post from that thread with some alteration of one of the scenarios to make it more relevant and expansion of some points that were only touched on originally.
Thank you to Alessandro for requesting the article and posting it on commandsandcolors.net/ancients.
In my opinion the Evade mechanic is one of the truly genius rules in C&C:Ancients, and one of the game elements that contributes most to its tactical and simulation value.
What does evasion represent in C&C:Ancients?
I’m no professor of ancient historical warfare but my understanding of the purpose of light skirmishing troops was to slow, disorganise, deplete and demoralise the enemy before they came into contact with their own army, as well as screen their own troops from enemy skirmishers.
Light foot troops are set up to do this in C&C:A but they could never fulfil this function successfully in the game if they advanced ahead of their own lines to do their thing to the enemy and then were forced to stand and bear the brunt of the first heavy phalanx that took exception to their sling stones. That would be suicide and no player would ever risk it....so all the tactical and simulation value of those troops would be lost. As it is they can advance to skirmish and screen and then use their superior mobility over heavier, slower moving troops to disperse and retire, with a lesser risk of troop losses.
Cavalry, chariots and camels can also evade foot and slower mounted units in the game and this is a simple reflection of superior mobility. Their function in ancient battle was to use their mobility for harrying exposed or isolated enemy units, encirclement or penetration tactics and cutting off retreat paths. They could function outside the main army lines because their mobility allowed them to perform their function and retire safely.
The final unit that can evade in C&C:A is the war machine. These units could be very useful at range but were extremely vulnerable and of limited value in melee, represented in game by their two blocks and inability to hit on swords in close combat. Their ability to evade off the map simulates their operators destroying / dismantling the engine to prevent it falling into enemy hands once it is under threat and no longer of any tactical value, and then legging it to the main lines or the reserves.
In all cases, surrounded troops would realistically be unable to use their mobility to escape and this is well simulated in the game. A skirmishing unit that leaves itself exposed to having its evasion paths cut off is asking to be the first casualty of the battle.
In what cases might a unit capable of evading elect not to?
The first and most obvious case for a unit capable of evading to stand against an attack is if the defending commander feels it is evenly matched for the battle back, such as close combat against other light units, or that it has advantage in close combat over the attacker, perhaps due to support, block superiority or an adjacent friendly Leader. As always this decision will depend largely on the current game state.
It is true that in almost all cases a unit capable of evading the close combat of a heavier unit would choose to do so, particularly if the enemy is attacking with a Leader led infantry or mounted unit that could momentum advance and hit it again if it forced a retreat. It’s worth noting here that an important and often overlooked benefit of evading is that it prevents the attacker from momentum advancing, as he could otherwise do if he forced a retreat, and so serves to slow the progress of dangerous enemy units.
There are, however, some circumstances when a creative general might choose not to evade a unit from a heavier opponent's attack, when heavy block loss or unit elimination is considered worth the risk, if keeping that unit in place prevents him from being put at a positional disadvantage or conversely puts him in an advantageous position.
There are numerous possible situations where this might occur. The following are just two examples.
Here the clever Carthaginian general has two ordered HC and is going to give the Roman general a hard choice. He's first going to close combat the full strength leftmost Roman LI with his rightmost (from his perspective) HC. If the Roman general evades with this LI, its only evade path will be into the hole behind his two block mate, cutting of his evade path….a significant positional disadvantage. This leaves the second HC with Leader free to hammer the under strength LI and, after quite probably eliminating it, momentum advance and hammer the first LI, which is now also trapped. This would be a terrible outcome for the Romans and if I were the Roman general, I would take the lesser risk of standing my first full strength LI and evading the under strength second (as long as I had a card to order them all out of trouble on my next turn).
In this second example, both the Roman LI and MC can evade the very dangerous ordered Carthaginian MI with Leader, which could conceivably eliminate either of them on a single roll. From where they currently stand, however, they are in a position of advantage on the Roman's next play to advance to the hexes behind him and cut off his retreat paths, which neither could do if they evaded. I think there is no more powerful play in C&C:A than to successfully force an enemy leader escape through your units and eliminate him....two banners and a major swing of momentum in that section of the field. As the Roman commander here, if the current field situation and game state allowed and I had the hand to pull it off (such as a Leadership Any Section card), I would very seriously consider taking the risk of standing the LI or MC against the Carthaginian attack.
Note that in both these examples the Roman units deciding to stand are supported.....being forced to retreat would be disastrous in both cases and I probably wouldn't risk it.
I'm sure there are plenty more circumstances where a unit might choose not to evade but I hope these demonstrate that evasion is not only a fantastic tactical and simulation feature of the game, but also not an automatic decision and one that occasionally provides a commander with some hard choices....which is what the game’s all about!