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Posted on Jan 16, 2019 in Electronic Games, Front Page Features

“Carthage, methinks, ought to be utterly destroyed.” Command and Colors: Ancients Computer Game Review

“Carthage, methinks, ought to be utterly destroyed.” Command and Colors: Ancients Computer Game Review

By Rick Martin

Command and Colors: Ancients PC Computer Game Review.  Publisher GMT Games and Hexwar Games.  Based upon Richard Borg’s Board Game.  Price $19.99

 

Passed Inspection:  easy to learn, tough to master, excellent game play, great music, nice graphics capture the board game feel, lots of scenarios

Failed Basic:  no multiplayer, needs more comprehensive rules, some bugs, AI seems to be a little too easy on the players at times, typos in the rule book.

NOTE: I played this game on a PC and, thus, the review is based upon that platform.

Richard Borg’s Command and Colors is a classic board game system which has been adapted to everything from the ancient world to World War II to the Sengoku Jidai civil war time period of Japan.  Now Command and Colors: Ancients has been adapted in to a computer game and it rocks!

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The game is available on Steam for both the PC and the MAC and the system requirements are as follows:

PC  MINIMUM:

  • OS: Windows XP SP2+
  • Memory: 2 MB RAM
  • Graphics: DX9 (shader model 2.0) capabilities
  • DirectX: Version 9.0
  • Storage: 800 MB available space

MAC MINIMUM:

  • OS: Mac OS X 10.8+
  • Memory: 2 MB RAM
  • Storage: 800 MB available space

Command and Colors: Ancients covers the various Carthaginian Wars from 406 BC to 202 BC.  The player can lead Syracusan, Carthaginian or Roman armies on the field of battle.

Scenarios include:

  • The Battle of Akragas – 406 BC
  • Crimissos River – 341 BC
  • Bagradas – 253 BC
  • Ticinus River – 218 BC
  • Trebbia – 218 BC
  • Lake Trasimenus – 217 BC
  • Cannae – 216 BC
  • Dertosa – 215 BC
  • 2nd Battle of Beneventum – 214 BC
  • Castulo – 211 BC
  • Baecula – 208 BC
  • Metaurus – 207 BC
  • Ilipa – 206 BC
  • Great Plains – 203 BC
  • Zama – 202 BC

The scale is flexible depending on the size of the battle.  The battle field is divided in to a left, center and right section.  After picking the side you wish to play, your troops are automatically deployed in to their historical formations.  As you begin to play an evocative back ground score draws you in to the ancient battle.  The music is top notch, in fact, my flat mate wanted to purchase the music to play on his streaming service.

The game utilizes the famous Command and Colors dice or, technically, virtual versions of said dice.  The colors on the dice correspond to the colors of various types of units in the game.  Green for light units such as: Light Infantry, Light Bow Infantry, Light Sling Infantry and Auxiliary Infantry.  Blue for medium units such as: Medium Infantry, Warriors, Medium Cavalry, Medium Chariots and Camel Cavalry.  Red for heavy units such as: Heavy Infantry, Heavy War Machine, Heavy Cavalry, Heavy Chariots and War Elephants.  Purple is for Leaders.

Leaders are allowed to coordinate multiple formations of units and their loss can seriously hurt the formation’s ability to fight, move, react and will also hamper morale.  If a high level leader is lost, it may cost the entire battle.

Each unit is rated for its speed, ability to fight with either missile or melee weapons, close combat ability, evasion, endurance, momentum rating and the distance moved when forced to retreat.

When units attack, the number of digital dice are rolled which correspond to the unit’s attack rating (either missile or melee).  If a flag is rolled, the target may have to retreat; if purple is rolled, the unit’s leader may have been wounded or killed.  If a color corresponding to the unit’s color is rolled, the unit loses one of its number.  These is reflected visually by having soldiers within the unit fall down and die on screen.  It’s not gory but it gets the point across that your army is being whittled down.

Either natural or manmade terrain (such as fortresses) offer bonuses for defense or in some way affect movement or fighting.

They key to winning battles is to either kill or capture leaders or destroy enough enemy units that the enemy’s army breaks.  Each totally destroyed unit or captured or killed leader gives you victory banners.  Earn enough banners and you’ve won the battle.

The turn sequence is as follows:

  1. Play a Command Card
  2. Order units and leaders
  3. Movement
  4. Battle
  5. Draw a new Command Card

Command Cards are digital cards which give you the option of moving either individual units or formations of units, rally units, darken the skies with missile weapons, move double speed, etc.  These cards are drawn, displayed and discarded at the bottom of the game screen and really help capture the structured styles of ancient combat.  Usually only one Command Card can be played each turn.  Be careful of what you play because there is no “undo” command.

The game graphics are visually pleasing and help give the feel of playing a digital version of the board game.  The units are appropriately animated and atmospheric sound affects add to the drama. Especially impressive are the cavalry and chariot charges and the spears, sling stones and arrows as they fly through the air!  The game offers the ability to zoom in and out of the battle field.

Command and Colors: Ancients really demonstrates to the player how the inflexibility of the Phalanx system was at a tactical deficit when confronting the Roman maniple formation.  This game gives you the sandbox you need to try out different offensive and defensive formations and see how they succeed or fail.

Command and Colors: Ancients has gone through some teething pain since its release in September of last year.  By the time of this review, January, 2019, most of the bugs seem to have been fixed although the scenario description is still buggy and moves around when trying to read it.  This is annoying but not a game killer.  Hopefully that will be fixed soon.

The digital game manual needs some fixes too.  It’s filled with typos and misspellings.  In addition, it seems to be a shorter version of the board game manual and could use a proper re-edit to address the computer game version.  A good tech writer could set this to rights with several hours of work.

On screen help greatly speeds up the learning curve on this game even if the manual needs some work.

The artificial intelligence seems to be a little too easy to beat.  Out of 7 games, I beat the game 6 times using the standard difficulty level.

The game also needs a multiplayer mode for both hot-seat playing, LAN playing and on-line playing.  Right now, as far as I can tell since the manual doesn’t address it, the game appears to be only for solo play.

Even with these complaints, Command and Colors: Ancients is great fun and a wonderful learning experience.  I really like this game and hope that with continued upgrades it can become the legendary game it deserves to be!

Armchair General Rating:  90 %

Solitaire Rating: 5 (range from 1 which is not solo compatible to 5 which is perfect solo experience)

About the Author

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

6 Comments

  1. Kudos on finally reviewing a Computer War Game. Board game reviews are fine, but most of us nowadays play our wargames on computer. More like this please.

  2. Glad you liked this review. Thanks for reading and there will be more to come.

    • I agree with Tony’s’ Comment. I would buy with more reviews of Board Games via Computer War Games. Lots of Great reviews over the yrs. But my wish was usually,(It would be nice if this game was available on PC.) (MP/Co-op/single player,,etc),

  3. Great Review! Going to give the game a try!

  4. Does it really require only 2 MB of RAM? I didn’t know you could run anything anymore with that little memory.

    • Yes – believe it or not that is what the specs say. It appears to be very efficiently programmed.

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