Commands & Colors Ancients: The Roman Civil Wars
Expansion Nr. 3
List Price: $30.00
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ALEA JACTA EST! (The die is cast -- a phrase near and dear to wargamers). Julius Caesar spoke this phrase as his legions crossed the Rubicon, sparking the Second Roman Civil War. Leading the most capable combat-hardened veteran legions in the Roman Army, Caesar set out to subdue his numerically superior opponents -- and succeeded!
The Roman Civil Wars is the third expansion to Commands & Colors: Ancients. In this expansion you will find historical battles that focus not only on the most famous of the Civil Wars, but also the earlier First Civil War, and the Sertorian War in Spain where Quintus Sertorius, a gifted soldier-in-exile, defeated several larger Roman armies sent against him, until killed in 72 BC by assassins.
Expansion #3: The Roman Civil Wars provides all the gray and red blocks and stickers needed to field two full opposing Roman armies when combined with the gray Republican Roman army from Commands & Colors: Ancients, and the red Marian Roman army from Expansion #2: Rome vs the Barbarians. There will be at least 16 scenarios that range from 82 BC (Aesis River) to the Battle of Munda in 45 BC.
The Roman Civil Wars features familiar units with new capabilities. The Roman legions have evolved into the deadly fighting units of legend. In terms of Commands and Colors performance, the medium infantry units (representing less experienced legions) and heavy infantry units (representing the veteran legions) will now be able to move two hexes without engaging in close combat, or still move one hex and have close combat (as well as throwing their pilum -- a capability acquired in Expansion #2: Rome and the Barbarians). You will be able to fight battles with medium and heavy infantry as you have never fought them before!
Rules-wise, if you've played Commands & Colors: Ancients, you'll have no trouble at all learning the few special rules for these legionary infantry units, for the basic mechanics remain unchanged. The battle dice resolve combat quickly and the Command cards provide an element of luck that creates a fog of war and presents players with both challenges and opportunities for victory. Yet the tactics you need to execute conform remarkably well to the advantages and limitations inherent to the various Ancient units, their weapons, terrain and the history.
But that's not all... another mounted mapboard is included in Expansion #3, configured to be mated to the mounted board from Expansion #2. In addition the Commands & Colors: Epic Ancients new Command rules for fighting large-scale historical battles will provide those of you interested in fighting truly large-scale, multi-player, ancient battles the perfect and unique opportunity to do so with a number of your friends.
I started to write separate reviews for Commands and Colors: Ancients Expansion 2: Rome vs. The Barbarians and Expansion 3: Rome Civil Wars but realized that it made more sense to talk about them as a unit – for a couple of reasons. GMT Games released both expansions at the same time, and it's almost as if Richard Borg designed them TO be released together. I think it's quite possible to buy just one of them (although you pretty much need expansion # 2 to get # 3), but serious fans of the system will certainly want to get both of them.
Armies: Expansion two comes with two complete armies – a new Roman army (red blocks) and a barbarian army (green blocks). This new Roman army is very similar to the original Roman army, except for some differences among numbers in the army – notably fewer heavy infantry. There is also a special block for Julius Caesar. The Barbarian army is one of the more different armies to be released thus far, with NO heavy units at all. To buff up the entire light/medium army, light Barbarian chariot pieces are included – not as powerful as the heavy chariots of the other armies, but certainly more maneuverable – and the ability to Evade. Expansion three has no new armies but instead supplements both the gray and red Roman armies to almost equal strength.
Julius Caesar: Julius Caesar adds an extra die in close combat and also allows an attached foot unit to move two hexes and still fight. Put him with a heavy infantry unit, and you'll be rocking all over the table. If he's on the enemy side, get rid of him ASAP. Or run like crazy. In some scenarios, his Tenth Legion is included – a heavy unit that has a ranged attack (although it's one die) and can move two hexes without attacking. There are also some new rules for certain legions, giving them slightly more maneuverability and ranged attacks.
Spartacus: This Barbarian leader is included in some battles from # 2, and he brings a little bit of flavor by making the "I am Spartacus" card more useful. That's a neat concept, but in reality – Spartacus is just like any other leader, when compared to the awesome powers of Alexander and Julius Caesar.
Slaves: Another feature from expansion # 2 – some slave armies can attack with rolling, flaming logs. Not only is that a movie-worthy cool concept, but it's fairly interesting. Slave units on hills get a ranged attack, even against adjacent armies with two battle dice. This isn't too powerful, except that flags cannot be ignored – so sometimes these fire logs will break the most powerful Roman army. Is this worth losing one block from the unit rolling the logs? (Those brave souls!) I don't know, but it sure is satisfying!
Rules: The rulebooks for each set explain the few new units and special rules for the armies. Additionally, there are a couple of pages that explain the terrain hexes in complete detail. Expansion # 3 also includes the rules for the Epic version of the game and are six pages of very detailed explanations on how everything works together. I am getting a little over-piled with rulebooks; I think I'm going to have to get a notebook and put everything in, as I was constantly switching from one to the other. There's also a pile of reference sheets now – enough for everyone playing and watching to enjoy the game!
Board: BY FAR THE BEST FEATURE OF THESE EXPANSIONS, each box includes a full mounted board. Boards show a normal sized board on one side and half of an Epic board on the other. I know that the thin cardboard board was useable, but it's certainly nice to have fully-mounted, nice-looking mounted boards. Hoorah!
Epic: Expansion # 3 includes the rules for Epic C&C Ancients games as well as four scenarios. I have to say I was more excited about this than anything else – I was curious to see how everything works out. The Epic game can handle up to eight players – four players on one team. Three players per team control one of the three sections of a double-sized battlefield, and the fourth player is the Overall Commander. The Overall Commander starts with a hand of cards determined by the scenario (usually around eight). On a turn, the Overall Commander can either play up to three Field Command cards or one Army Command card. The Commander assigns the cards to different players, who then determine how to actually carry the command out. The Commander can discuss strategy in detail with only one of the three players under their command. At the end of the turn, the Commander draws only two cards, so they must watch how many cards they play. These rules are very similar to the "Overlord" rules in Memoir '44; but the cards in this version are much more powerful, and it's easy for a player to keep a full hand here. The epic battles really come to life in this version, especially when you see the massive Roman army marching across the plains. The negative factor is that the Epic battles take a long time to set up, and players will likely have to use blocks from two different colors, which can be confusing. Still, I'm very pleased with them and would pick up these expansions just for them alone.
Stickers: Hey, I'm getting better at putting them on these days. If you made it through the first sets, it's just more of the same. I've also managed to fit all the components for the basic game and three expansions in only three boxes instead of four – but even that was a squeeze.
Scenarios: When it comes to comparing the Commands and Colors games, Ancients still reigns supreme when it comes to scenarios. Once again, I'm captivated by reading the historical backgrounds to the different scenarios, and there is really a diverse selection included. With over forty scenarios included between the two sets, players will get to recreate some of the most interesting battles from history – such as Caesar vs. Pompey, the rebellion of Spartacus, Caesar vs. the Gauls, Sulla vs. Pontius, and more. Some of these scenarios depend on terrain more than previous sets, especially when slave armies are involved, and battles are no longer out in open terrain (although the Epic battles are). The two player games are so satisfying that I'm constantly finding myself wanting to play them over and over again, to see how each side will do.
Fans of Commands and Colors: Ancients are likely only reading this review to see what's new in the sets, since they're going to buy them anyway – as well they should. Hopefully the next set will veer away from the Romans to something different, but you can play most of the major battles from this era here, and they play out with surprising historical feel. These expansions utilize terrain a little better, offer some more asymmetrical battles (especially with the Barbarian armies), and have a mounted board. The Epic game is probably too big for some folk's tastes, but it really does give one the feeling of a grandiose battle and is possibly my favorite addition to the series so far. Perhaps this has the best Epic feel of any of the games using the C&C mechanic.
Expansion # 2 – Good amounts of varied battles, with some unique rules concerning the slave and Barbarian armies. Mounted board!
Expansion # 3 – Terrific scenarios involving the Roman Civil Wars, along with rules and scenarios to play the massive Epic battles. Another mounted board!
Yeah, you know you were going to pick these up anyway – get out and get it done!
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