Commands & Colours: Ancients
Gav and I got together Sunday there for a long-awaited session of this game I just don't get to play often enough.
Lake Trasimenus, 217BC
We reached a quick consensus to play our way through the scenarios in order, and Gav was happy to let me have another go with the Romans in this scenario, since he'd tanked me utterly the last time we played this match-up.
Last game I'd learned that priority #1 for the Romans is to get Flaminus' cohorts off their baseline so that they aren't routed into Lake Trasimenus. I was dealt a Line Command as part of my initial 2-card hand, so I was confident of achieving that much- I'd be playing that card no matter what Gav did to start with. And he began with what turned out to be a rash charge with his light cavalry, which lined them up nicely in front of my units in front of the Lake. Two-dice, swordless against supported units didn't worry me overmuch, and my battle-back was healthy. All of which got me off to a good start.
My next task (after tidying up some illegal moves which left units atop the impassible hills on the right; all those wasted orders- sheesh!) was to try to pin the Carthaginian lights in the centre, while advancing to the hills to get the advantage over those pesky warriors. Meanwhile, Gav launched a Double Time, bringing his heavy left wing into contact with the light troops screening my right. The battle swung back and forth on these 2 fronts, leaving us tied and looking for our last 2 banners for the win when the dust settled.
By this time Gav had a lone heavy infantry block exposed in his centre. For my part I was mostly exposed with depleted units which I'd pulled back on my right. But what I'd done was march the best of my infantry around the hills to my rear. This made them available to join my lone cavalry unit in its attack on the centre, at the same time taking them effectively away from Gav's strong left wing. Gav had to manoeuvre to cover this vulnerable heavy infantry while simultaneously going for the win. This proved too much for his troops.
The end came when I got my heavy and medium infantry plus my cavalry right in among his depleted units. I was rolling some dozen dice for the sake of 2-3 kills. Fortune didn't turn against me, and I won our bitterly fought battle in the nick of time 6-5: I had won at Lake Trasimenus!
During our brief post-mortem Gav and I were both struck by how empty the battlefield looked.
Cannae, 216 BC
And so we came to Hannibal's greatest victory. This was a game we knew we were going to play twice, so random selection gave Gav Carthage for our first outing.
My opening strategy was determined by my being dealt a Clash of Shields card- I just had to make use of this as soon as possible, not just because it's a good card, but to get it out of my hand quickly too. So I set on the plan of advancing the auxilia on each of my wings full speed ahead to form supported cohorts on each flank. My hope was that these would entice the Carthagians into an early attack which would prove rasher than they expected. Then I would swing left or right with my centre as the situation and cards permitted.
This was duly executed, and things went about as well as could be expected. I was feeling quite confident about how I might fare as the Romans at this rerun of Cannae.
Unfortunately I went 8 turns without drawing any Centre section cards, and was therefore forced to stand against the advancing Carthaginians with my weakest troops. I did eventually get the Order Mediums card which would've brought my medium infantry forward and then through that Centre section card I was to draw. Unfortunately Gav attacked one of my light infantry units, which promptly retreated to block my mediums' exit, so rendering that card utterly useless.
My frantic and frankly desperate attacks in search of consolation victory banners couldn't turn the tide. Gav won 7-3 with me still holding my lone Centre card for the game! :(
I won the rematch as the Carthaginians, though I made heavy weather of it in a game which went right down to wire at 7-6. I think this was because I spent far too long marching the heavies on my right to form up with their fellows on my left. This meant they spent some 3 turns moving sideways instead of forwards... Erm... Not that clever in hindsight really.
Still, once they'd formed up I was able to clear my light units out of their way with a flourish, leaving me to launch a Double Time into the Roman lines. Gav played Counter Attack IIRC. It got very hairy at that point. I ended up faced with the choice of rtrying to Rally my depleted units which were liable to die- so losing me the game- on Gav's next turn; or just launching the biggest attack I could muster with those same units. I chose the latter option, and pulled it off: 7-6. Whew!
Agreeing that it was time for something different, Gav was happy to join the playtest of the M44 Expanded Nationality rules. He said he wanted to try the Americans, but ended up choosing scenario#13: Arnhem Bridge- the British it was then.
Random selection of sides gave me the Germans. Outnumbering the British 2-1 looks good on the face of it; but with all that armour trapped on the wrong side of the Lower Rhine, and with only that single long bridge to get to the other side- this is a very hard scenario for the Germans. As it should be: this scenario represents the early days of the battle for Arnhem, before the Germans' material superiority had taken its toll on the British paras. (The results of a premature attempt on the bridge can be seen in that episode from A Bridge Too Far, when the SS' rash advance is utterly destroyed.)
Getting their armour out and across the river aside, the Germans face a key strategic problem in this scenario: coordinating 3 separate sections none of which can make much headway without the efforts of the others. Carefully preparation coupled with timely aggression are in order in other words. It was just pity then that I demonstrated precious little of it in my cardplay. I lost 5-2, then tried again only to do it worse, losing 5-1.
Still, I think I learned some lessons I'm looking forward to applying in a future game.