Monday, April 2, 2007

Thunder on the Plains

(Well, a thumping, not really Thunder.)

Tim and I pulled out Command and Colors: Ancients last week. The timing on this was good – with BattleLore on the table the week before, we were both looking forward to comparing the two games.

Tim wanted a scenario that didn't involve all that many "extras." A handful of troops, limited terrain, and no elephants. We settled on Great Plains, the precursor to Zama. This scenario wasn't in the original release – it was added into the 2nd edition. GMT has thankfully posted the PDFs with this scenario on their website, as I have the 1st edition of the game.

I'm going to spare the details on the game. Tim thumped me both times. I think the final scores were 6-2 and 6-3. I could never manage to get cards to pull vulnerable units out of the way, and the dice certainly weren't my friends.

That said, I made some tactical errors with my heavy units in particular, exposing them to double attacks – this usually means you're going to lose the unit that turn. This, of course, usually happened to me.

The important bit, to me, was playing this game so soon after BattleLore. And it reinforced my feeling that C&C:A is simply the better game. Why? Glad you asked. And no, theme really doesn't have all that much to do with it.

1: Leaders. Rumors are some future expansion to BL will include leaders. I hope so – they certainly add to the technical nuances of the game. Our BL contests ended up with units all over creation. In C&C:A, partly due to the Leadership cards and the leaders they require, you end up with more coherent battle lines. It makes the game feel more like a battle, not a WWE-style free-for-all.

2: Evade. The defending side has some choices to make. Do you give up the chance to damage the attacker in order to (hopefully) protect yourself at the expense of giving ground? It's an easier decision when you're facing cavalry and their bonus attack (which is negated by evasion), but what about when it's infantry? Choices, choices...

3: Increased battle back rules. Pretty much anyone can battle back when they don't vacate the defended hex. Not only when "bold" as in BL. It makes attacking much more of a decision, particularly on the flanks where BL units are likely not supported and "bold."

4: Lore. Much of the depth and variance of BL comes from the Lore cards. I certainly agree that Lore adds a lot to the game. However, much of what it adds is in the form of mild "wackiness." Things like units teleporting across the board and such. It doesn't improve your tactical planning as much as put you into a more reactionary mode. It's not a bad thing – I just don't think it makes for a better game.

5: Scenarios. C&C:A 2nd edition has 15 official scenarios, all using the full ruleset. BL comes with 10, no more than half using all the rules. (less than that, really.) Add to this the 21 scenarios in the 1st expansion (+ 3 more if you preordered), the 5 Truceless War scenarios on GMT's website, and the 3 published so far in C3i Magazine, you're looking at 47 officially published scenarios using all the rules. At this point, BattleLore has 22 official scenarios, 5 being Epic battles. This number will grow, of course, and BL has the hundreds of unofficial fan-created scenarios online.

Part of the focus for BL is the DIY aspect – the upcoming Call to Arms epansion certainly brings this to the fore. In comparison, there is the unofficial "Scenario X" rules that allow you to construct battles using 68 different historical armies. Not unlike what DBA does for miniatures.

In the end, it's how the games feel on the table. BattleLore is a very good game, don't get me wrong, but C&C:A just feels more like a battle. It's also more challenging to play well. The Lore cards tweak things around enough in BL that it just doesn't feel "right" at times. It also provides more opportunity for your plans to fail through no fault of your own.

These last two weeks confirmed my ratings on BGG. I have C&C:A as a 9, BL as an 8. And I think they'll stay that way for a while.


No game this week. Tim's off to that invitational-only gaming thing back East. (Which is also why his post appeared so early.) Maybe someday I'll get to go. Of course, it'll probably be some year when I can't.

Tim's choice is next, and as I haven't read his post, I have no idea what it'll be. Plus, whatever he may have decided on will likely change after the Gathering, in any case.


Friendless said...

I agree. I think I rate them the same as you do.

Jackson said...

I have CCA as a 10 and Battlelore as a 7.5
Please try my Battle Cry advanced rules and let me know what you think.