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Posted on Oct 9, 2020 in Boardgames, Front Page Features

Can You Do Better than Alexander the Great? – DVG’s FIELD COMMANDER ALEXANDER Board Game Review

Can You Do Better than Alexander the Great? – DVG’s FIELD COMMANDER ALEXANDER Board Game Review

Rick Martin

Field Commander Alexander  Board Game Review.  Publisher: DVG  Designer:  Dan Verssen  Price $54.99

Passed Inspection:   Easy to learn, fun to play, challenge level can be adjusted through lots of optional rules, small foot print, beautiful game boards, delivers a perfect solo experience, an entire campaign can be played in 2 or 3 hours

Failed Basic:    needs an index, some minor typos

Field Commander Alexander was originally published by Dan Verssen Games back in 2009 but it quickly sold out and was unavailable.  It was recently reprinted as part of a Kickstarter campaign and now it’s time for Armchair General to review this classic solo game!

Box Cover

Field Commander Alexander is a solo game featuring 4 campaigns which can be played as stand-alone games or as a giant linked campaign which simulates major campaigns of conquest in the life of Alexander the Great.  The four campaigns include Granicus, Issus, The Siege of Tyre and Gaugamela.

The game comes in a sturdy and attractive box featuring artwork by Hokunin.  The components include:

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4 11” x 17” mounted game boards

176 full color counters

1 player log sheet

A 15 page rule book

1 six sided die

components

Make sure you photocopy the player’s log sheet as if you play linked campaigns, you’ll be making notes on it regarding the status of your forces and information on Alexander, himself and you’ll be using the battlefield on the lower part of the form to fight your foes.

The 15 page rule book is clearly laid out with extensive examples of play.  While it doesn’t have an index, the rules are organized in such a manner that’s its fairly easy to find what you’re looking for without too much page flipping.  Nonetheless, an index would be a nice addition when it’s reprinted again.

I did find that the instruction to not put the enemy leader counter in the enemy force cup could have appeared a few pages earlier during the set up instructions under the Force Counters rules on page 2. 

Initially I did find that that the use of the term Force on the Enemy Operation Counters and the Force Counters to be a little confusing but after a few turns of the game, it all made sense to me.

Each unit is of a flexible size depending on the campaign being played.  They can represent several thousand people or over ten thousand people.  The units included are leaders which represent the commanders and their staff and guards, archers, war elephants and their handlers, infantry, peltasts (light but fast infantry using the “pelte” style shield and armed with multiple javelins and a sword), phalanx troops (pole armed massed rectangular formations of infantry), chariots, cavalry and siege engines.  There are also counters for transport ships and ship based siege engines.  Each unit is rated for speed, battle value and, if appropriate, superior combat capability.  Some units are two sided and have reduced values on their other side. 

counters

Leaders are rated for a leadership ability and battle value.

After reading the rules either pick a campaign to play or start with the earliest campaign if you’ll be playing the linked campaigns which take you through Alexander’s life and conquests.

The campaigns are:

Granicus 338 BC to 334 BC

Issus 333 BC to 332 BC

Tyre 332 BC

Gaugamela 331 BC to 323 BC

Each campaign is presented on a beautifully illustrated, mounted game board.  All the campaign specific rules and tables are included on the boards.  There is a typo on the Granicus game board in which Halkarnassus is spelled one way on the board and a completely different way on the Enemy Operations Box and in the rules.

campaigns

Depending on the campaign, Alexander’s enemies include the Persians, Southern Greek forces and the Indians in the Gaugamela campaign.

Alexander is represented by multiple counters with different leadership abilities based upon his experience at a given moment in time.  If you play the linked campaign, you start with Granicus in which Alexander spends much of his time under the command of his father, King Philip II.  His skills will increase as he leads armies, scores victories in both large scale battles and personal duels with other leaders and completes a prophecy.  Alexander can die during the course of a game and if he dies, you lose the campaign or the linked campaigns.

Game turns, as with unit size, changes based upon campaign played.  For example in the Granicus campaign the first turn is one year (338 BC), turn 2 is from 337 to 336 BC.  Then, with turn 3, the turns become seasons as turn 3 is Spring of 335 BC while, in the much more tactical siege of Tyre campaign, each turn is one or two months of 332 BC.

The movement system used is an area movement style.  As you build up your army, you have a counter which represents Alexander’s army on the campaign board and then you have individual units on your battlefield which is on the lower portion of the Player’s Log sheet.  You will also put any siege engines in your army on the Player’s Log battlefield.  The only exception to this would be in the Tyre siege where you place your mole land bridge, supply ships and ship mounted siege engines.  On the Tyre campaign you will also see counters representing the enemy fleet of ships.

As you move your army on the campaign board you have to roll to see if you encounter enemy war bands as well as to see how foraging for supplies goes.  If you can’t gather enough supplies for your army, you may have to disband some units in order to avoid disruptions to your treasury and the elimination of your fighting capacity owing to starving soldiers and horses.

Aside for combat, you can also govern conquered lands, raze cities that have rebelled against your enlightened rule, build cities and temples, visit temples and other holy sites in order to see what prophecy you may be able to fulfill in order to increase Alexander’s skills and combat abilities or raise soldiers for future conquests.

punishing a city
a prophecy

Combat, itself, is simple and eloquently handled.  As I said before, each unit is rated for its combat ability and speed.  When you encounter enemy troops move the troops to your battlefield on the Player’s Log.  Line up your units and the enemy units in order to their speed rating.  Draw enemy Battle Plan chits and put them near each enemy.  Pick your own Battle Plan chits from your pool of Battle Plans.  These Battle Plans give special bonuses to both you and your enemy.  Some such as “Raid” are played before actual combat occurs and can disrupt your gold supplies which may prevent you from moving after battle or purchasing replacement units.  Some such as “Flank” are used during combat to allow your cavalry to score an extra hit against the enemy.

For combat, in order of greater speed to lower speed,  a unit must roll its Battle Value or lower on a 6 sided die to score a hit.  If the unit has a Superior Combat Ability rating, it scores two hits.  Some units such as the Greek Phalanx can attack multiple times in a turn.

When a unit takes damage, it is flipped over.  It may have a reduced side which is in effect until the unit is reorganized or, if the unit has nothing on its reverse side, it is destroyed.  If a two sided unit is on its reduced side and is hit again, it is destroyed.

Darius and Alexander in an epic battle

If a unit is inside a fortification, the walls must be destroyed for the attacker to get the full value of its attack.  That’s where siege engines come in.  Walls take two hits before they are breached.  Knock down those walls!  Tyre has multiple walls plus is on an island.  This is an extremely challenging campaign as you are not only being attacked by armies on the mainland, your land bridge (known as the “Mole”) that your engineers are trying to build to allow your forces to attack Tyre is being attacked by ship born raiders and your supply ships and ship born siege towers are also being attacked by the naval forces of the enemy.

Tyre

Did I mention that this is a solo game?  Well now I did!  The AI uses a version of the system used in DVG’s Field Commander Rommel, Field Commander Napoleon and Fleet Commander Nimitz.  And it’s great!

Strategically, the game’s AI is composed of the Enemy Orders Chart which is different depending on the campaign being played and the Enemy Operation Chits. Enemy Orders are based upon a die roll modified by how far away Alexander’s army is from the particular enemy’s territory.  Results can be building fortifications, sending raiding parties to steal gold shipments and supplies from your forces, levying troops, gaining a glory (which is another way for Alexander to get more powerful if you capture the glory in a battle) or doing nothing.

Enemy Operations are the way that the enemy adds troops to its territories.  You can pay gold from your treasury in order to placate your foes and keep them from building up an army if you want.   If the Enemy Operation that says “Go” is drawn, the enemy forces on the campaign map begin to move in order to engage your army in battle.  It’s usually better to preemptively attack the enemy forces and destroy them in detail than to give them the initiative to strike at your troops first but you may want to try different strategies and see how your plans play out.

the siege

In the course of the game you can also add advisors to your court and use your Glory gained in battle to gain Insight chits which can bring wonderful benefits to your attempt to rule the known world.

If you play a linked campaign, you’ll keep track of your Immortality Points which track how long the world will remember your brave feats and wise rule.   In my linked campaign at this point, Alexander will be remembered for 100 years.  I’m trying to get more points so that people will remember him for 500 years! Hopefully the last campaign will do just that.

If you want to make the campaigns more challenging, each one has plenty of optional rules such as the Fire Ship option in the Siege of Tyre.  That rule nearly destroyed my whole invasion time table but I lucked out on that one and my fleet repelled their fire ships.

Field Commander Alexander is a wonderful game.  Not only does it offer an immersive solo gaming experience but a whole campaign can be played in an afternoon and it has a small footprint so it can easily be taken on trips.  I can’t say enough about how much fun and well designed this game is.  It will be a classic and will be remembered for 1000 years!

Armchair General Rating:  95% (1% is bad, 100% is perfect)

Solitaire Rating: 5 (1 is not suitable, 5 is excellent solo play)

About the Author

A college film instructor and small business owner, Richard Martin has also worked in the legal and real estate professions, is involved in video production, film criticism, sports shooting and is an avid World War I and II gamer. He designed the games Tiger Leader, The Tiger Leader Expansion and Sherman Leader for DVG.  In addition, Rick can remember war games which came in plastic bags and cost $2.99 (he’s really that old)!

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