Saturday, January 21, 2006

Commands and Colors Ancients: First Impressions

Whew... I just applied stickers to both sides of 345 wooden blocks for C&C Ancients... actually 344 as my copy from GMT was missing one. Grrrr!

First impressions:
  • Bits: Acceptable... I would have preferred miniatures, but much better than counters or stand-ups. I would imagine most people are not going to enjoy the experience of applying 700 stickers... Thank heavens for my iPod to keep my brain from exploding out of boredom. Then to finish and find I was missing one block... I had to laugh (to avoid crying)!
  • Board: The artwork, for a plain desert map isn't bad. However, it's unmounted cardstock, i.e., disappointing. For $50 you should get a mounted board.
  • Rules: Very well done with plenty of examples and illustrations. Just a little better organization could have been done, as the rules for leaders are in 3-4 different places, but overall very good. I'm really impressed with the leadership, close combat, support, and elephant rules. The game is going to play a lot differently than Memoir. A key point seems to be keeping your troops from breaking ranks and retreating (echoes of Battle Line). I think this game is going to be a lot of fun.
  • Dice: Poorly made hollow plastic boxes with stickers. This is just criminal for a game with so much dice rolling. I don't mind the stickers as much as the hollow plastic boxes.
  • Box: Solidly made. The box art is just okay in my opinion... not McGowan's best effort though.
  • Cards: They look and feel almost exactly like the cards from Battle Line. Thin with pretty basic art. Days of Wonder spoiled me. Having a Spartacus card in a game where its Rome vs. Carthage struck me as just wrong, but definitely a minor point.
  • Scenarios: Ten in the rules, and GMT gave three extras to those who pre-ordered. Personally I think this is pretty cheesy compared to how Days of Wonder just posts tons of official scenarios on their website. GMT promises more scenarios in their C3i magazine, which sells at $20/copy. Yikes! Just inspecting the scenarios, I'm a bit concerned that many of them are going to be unbalanced. Now this would be historically acturate as it wasn't unusual for ancient battles to be one-sided massacres, but it doesn't make for the best game play. Hopefully I'm wrong on this point. The battle of Zama looks totally awesome though!
  • Expandability: Huge. The game just covers Rome vs. Carthage. So there's a huge variety of other ancient battles which could easily be added to this game system.


At 9:55 PM, January 21, 2006, Blogger Simon said...

Man, that sucks about the stickers. I would have gone mad.

How is GMT about quality control? I hope you get that missing block. Although if it's anything like the other C&C games, you'll probably always have a healthy supply of pieces that just sit in reserve looking pretty. In which case, it doesn't really matter except for completionism (I swear that's a word).

At 2:20 AM, January 22, 2006, Blogger Rob said...

You know, I'm reading your comments on GMT components, and it sounds like you are describing a Columbia Games game.... unmounted board, wooden blocks, bunch of stickers, disorganized cheap manual, crappy quality cards, and all for $50.

Heck, check out my "remade" Wizard Kings manual on BGG... I basically grouped all those things that were scattered, just like you mentioned...and organized them in 2 pages, and added the same images from the manual for the sake of completionism (hehe).

Still, I'm sure you'll feel like I do with HotS, and Crusader Rex, et al... it's the fun factor that makes it all worth it.

These I feel are more niche games than Days of Wonder/Fantasy Flight/Eagle Games... I don't think they have the luxury of huge sales to support going with high quality/more expensive components. Maybe Patrick could share some of his personal experience with this. I'm of the school that thinks that $50 for that kind of game is worth it. Of course, I can't deny you, the first time I saw Wizard Kings about a year ago, I was shocked too by the cheap components having gotten used to games like Memoir 44 and Puerto Rico.

At 9:46 AM, January 22, 2006, Blogger Ben said...

Good news! GMT already sent me an e-mail letting me know my missing wooden block will arrive ASAP. Though I've had to talk to them 3-4 times over the past month about my still missing copy of Twilight Struggle (ordered mid Dec) and now this, they really are nice folks who seem to be working very hard to keep what must be a challenging business going.

At 9:59 AM, January 22, 2006, Blogger Ben said...

Rob: I am totally impressed you made such a sharp looking player aid! Very sharp.

I neglected to mention C&C Ancients has a very well done player reference card (actually two copies of it in the box). After reading the rules I thought to myself, "wow, I'm going to need to make a player aid to keep track of all this stuff." Then, much to my delight I found the excellent player aids peeking at me from the bottom of the box! Woo hoo!

I'm hopeful this game will sell well for GMT. I really think this could be a breakthrough game for them if people just give it a chance. I can't imagine you not liking it if you enjoy Memoir '44.

At 10:55 AM, January 22, 2006, Blogger Rob said...

I look forward to trying it out.

At 2:04 PM, January 22, 2006, Blogger Brian said...

I was thinking about posting someting about this, but there's not much to add. I too was disappointed in the board and especially the dice.

I thought I had found a glaring error in the rules, but on re-reading I realized I had skipped a paragraph (since I was applying stickers), so no complaints there. Nice player aids.


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