Recently, due to the forced lock-down, I played a lot my favorite game – Commands Colors Ancients. I had chance to introduce new players (love it!) and explain to them nuances of that fantastic system. Once the basic rules were digested by the new adepts, many follow-up questions were asked, mainly on tactics and strategy in CCA. I explained my view a couple of times and then idea struck me – having over 600 plays in that game, maybe I can share my experience and observations in a written form?
It did not take me long to move from idea to action. Hence, first article – mainly focused on how to prepare attack in CCA – most common questions asked to me. I will try to describe and depict my ideas using the pictures from vassal module as I think visual presentation has biggest impact. Of course, most of what I will write below is a common knowledge to most seasoned CCA players, but I hope new fans of the game find it useful!
Disclaimer: let us be completely clear – there is no magic formula in any wargame, Commands & Colors system including, which will allow you to win the scenario. You need to be flexible, planning ahead, react to crisis and try to force your own tempo on opponent – initiative is key! Still, there are some ideas which once followed, might help you enormously to achieve the final victory.
1. Maintain a line, thick line
In essence, C&C is about inflicting more losses on enemy and preventing the same happening to you. To do it you need to order many units and concentrate your attacks. Very simple rule of C&C is to maintain the line – as it allows such cards like Double Time, Line Command, Leadership Section to be played and can maximize the number of troops moved forward.
However, I would like to go deeper with that suggestion. Especially vulnerable are leaders, who once its unit is eliminated, should have a possibility to retreat to friendly unit. Many scenarios – purposefully – position one side in long, thin line with leader in the middle. Such line is very prone to being quickly broken and the leader – if no good cards are in hand – to be chased off from the map.
True, thick line does not allow for such a broad frontal assault as thin line. Still, you rarely order more than 4-5 units and such width of front can be easily maintained with double line. So what is main take-away from that chapter? Maintain line and make sure your leader has friendly units to escape should attack not go so well.
2. Do not rush
If I can have one accusation to CCA – otherwise a perfect game – is that it rarely ever puts a time pressure on the attacker. Yes of course, you may say that the sooner you attack, the less time defender has to prepare. But this is always the case, in most games.
What we need to remember, is that unlike for example the The Great War where you have time pressure in almost every scenario (defender plays Scout card and instead of choosing one card, he gets VPs) here attacker has plenty of time. This should be used:
- to soften up the opponent – mainly with light troops, using rage attacks
- prepare hand of cards – more on this below
- move your units forward in cohesive group, being able to support each other
One of the most common errors made by the new players is to rush forward with their shiny heavy legions / phalanx, hoping they are invincible, only to be outnumbered and overrun by host of barbarians / enemies with much inferior equipment. Such journeys can end very badly.
3. Make sure you can follow-up
Easy and obvious – if you attack enemy make sure you have possibility to follow-up. The worst thing you can do is to play a fantastic card and hope you will draw something what can help you continue the attack. This is asking for disaster.
Again, let us go one level deeper with that suggestion. Not each card is similarly flexible so play them in proper order to maximize your possibilities. First, the ones with special conditions, then the ones with less pre-requisites. The simplest ones – order 2/3/4 units left/center/right proves to be most flexible and can be kept as follow-up cards after initial attack.
4. Do not underestimate the light troops
I saw this approach dozens of times and see it again in many new players especially in attack – complete disregard for light troops. Why bother – I will put my Medium and of course, Heavy units as soon as possible forward.
Be patient. Use light troops to damage enemy and pull them back later. Be aware – when you check the CCA deck, it is the green units you can order most often:
- there are 4 Order Light, 3 Order Medium and only 2 Order Heavy cards
- only Light Units can use Move-Fire-Move, allowing some of them to relocate 8 hexes!
- practically 90% of your forces activated by Darken the Sky will be Light (sometimes War Machines or Marian/Julian legion also)
- many cards allow Light Units to move through friendly forces
But that is not the end of that formation. Most of them have a unique, special ability. I cannot stress this enough – evade is a fantastic mechanic and utilized properly can allow your heavy units to be screened from range attacks of enemy when they prepare to rush forward. Just make sure that your light units have place to retreat – and in CCA you need only one hex, unlike in Medieval or Tricorne versions. We will talk much more on this mechanics in article regarding defensive tactics.
5. Do not overvalue special cards, do not keep strong cards for too long
There are special cards which can be crazy powerful… should you roll well! Under no circumstance they are supposed to be used in key and critical moments of an assault – only if there are no other options. I have observed many times Rally or Spartacus rolls which ordered 0 (zero!) units. The counter attack by enemy usually finished the unlucky gambler. So do not put all your faith into them when storming enemy positions.
There are also many special cards in CCA which players keep “for opportunity moment” – especially during the attack.. Many times I have seen that moment never coming before end of scenario…. Is Clash of Shields ordering two units weak? Is Darken the Sky with third of your light units inefficient? By no means! Of course, the situation on the map can vary. Still, we should not try to stubbornly keep the “great cards” for “great moment” where we activate most of our forces. Such situation might never come. Better to use them to eliminate one-two blocks rather then count for a crushing blow all over the line.
A pretty straightforward tactic – uses your infantry with leader, Warrior or Cavalry to finish two depleted units. Seems obvious where such units are on map, but sometimes you have to create such an opportunity. The picture above shows such an example – you weaken two enemies and then roll-over them with leader-commanded infantry. In above example defender can still escape on flag but you break their line and he losses a battle back opportunity.
Above example is also classic thin-line example. Should attack go more or less as above, the barbarian player will have a lot of issues without line, concentrated units and leader (should he survive Leader Check 1 dice) without any unit. The initiative and tactical advantage will be with Romans.
Once again, I would like to stress that I do not deem myself an expert in C&C games. I love them, I eagerly introduce new players to them and would like to share my experiences with fellow readers. Hopefully some of you find them useful.
The depth of CCA tactics and strategies is enormous. Above I just scratched some of them. That beautiful game has so many elegant mechanics which reflect real battlefield situations without overly-complex rules. My favorite is Evade and usage of light troops – this is definitely masterpiece of Mr Borg!
So enjoy Commands Colors Ancients and see you in next article!
Published with direct approval from the author.