Sunday, December 07, 2008

A Marathon Battle

I went over to Friendless' house this afternoon for some more Commands & Colors: Ancients gaming.

We'd previously decided to play the Battle of Marathon 490BC from the Commands & Colors: Ancients Expansion Pack #1: Greece & Eastern Kingdoms and Friendless had the board already set up when I arrived. We randomly assigned sides and the battle commenced.

The Battle of Marathon (490BC)

Historical Background (From the scenario booklet)

King Darius I of Persia sent an expedition against Athens in reprisal for the burning of Sardes in 498 BC during the failed Ionian Revolt. The Persian fleet under the joint command of Datis and Artaphernes landed near Marathon bay, which offered a perfect battleground for their troops. The Athenians marched out to face the enemy in the field, with 1000 allied soldiers from Plataea supplementing the Athenian force of 9000. The Persians outnumbered the Greeks, but to counter the disparity, Callimachus extended the Greek line to match the enemy, thinning the center while keeping both wings at full strength. The Persian army, with its best troops in the center, was taken by surprise when the Athenians attacked. Historians suggest that the some of the Persian cavalry was in the process of embarking back onto the ships when the attack started. In the battle the Persian center got the best of the weak Greek center and broke through, but this success was more than countered by the defeat of their two wings.
The victorious Athenians then swung inwards and the Persian force was routed back to their ships. Concerned that the defeated Persians might still sail around to threaten Athens, Pheidippides ran the 26 miles back to Athens with news of the victory, running first Marathon race. Greece was safe, for now.

The stage is set. The battle lines are drawn and you are in command. The rest is history.

War Council

Greek Army
• Leader: Callimachus
• 6 Command Cards
• Move First

Persian Army (Use Eastern Kingdom blocks)
• Leader: Datis
• 5 Command Cards

6 Banners

Special Rules
Stream is fordable.
Sea hexes and hills are impassable.

Image from
Click for a larger image.

Game 1: In our first game I commanded the Greeks (light blue blocks), while Friendless commanded the Persians (tan blocks). I got off to a great start by moving my entire army forward by the use of a Line Advance card. This allowed my Auxilia units in the centre of the line to move forward and pepper the Persian centre with javelins. Meanwhile, on my left and right flanks my heavier troops moved forward in line to within striking distance of the Persians.

I attacked with the forces on my left flank and went on to defeat and push back the Persian forces on that side of the battlefield. At one stage I was winning 4 banners to 1 banner against the Persians. Then the heavier Persian forces in the centre, including two units of Medium Cavalry, started to counter-attack. Friendless made a brilliant play of a First Strike card at one stage of the battle to totally destroy one of my Heavy Infantry units before it got to attack. In fact, the Persians did so well that they were able to equalise the score at 5 banners each. However, I did hold on by taking the 6th banner to claim a close victory. Final score was me with 6 banners for the win against Friendless with 5 banners. One mistake we did make was to let the Persian Medium Cavalry roll 4 dice instead of their normal 3. To be fair we decided that we would allow the Persians to continue to roll 4 dice in the second game.

The placement of forces at the end of the battle. Viewed from the Greek side.

Oh yeah, one funny thing in this game was that one of my Greek generals, Miltiades, had a total of three units he was attached to destroyed before he himself succumbed to the Greek spears. We joked after the first two of his attached units were destroyed that the third unit he attached himself two would have been worried that they were stuck with a cursed general. Sure enough they died to a man as well!

Game 2: We swapped armies so I now commanded the Persians (tan blocks) and Friendless commanded the Greeks (light blue blocks). With a long line of Persian troops with missile weapons I was desperately hoping I would get the Darken the Sky card in my initial hand. No such luck.

Friendless used a Line Advance card on his first turn. I watched as the Greek line rumbled towards me. Javelins thrown by his Auxilia had little effect on my Persians. I used my first command to move my Medium Cavalry units up to the fordable stream. I was then horrified to see Friendless play another (!) Line Advance card on his second turn. This allowed his entire line of Greek foot to advance into contact with my Persians with deadly effect.

I kept trying to evade with my light troops whenever they were attacked as very few of them were at full strength after the initial clash of arms. My main goal at this stage was to get my Medium Cavalry forward into the centre to support my Medium Infantry. After a few turns the Greeks were winning by 4 banners to my 1 banner and things were looking bad. Friendless again used a First Strike card to good effect enabling him to destroy one of my Persian units before it attacked his Greeks.

The placement of forces at the end of the battle. Viewed from the Persian side.

I loved the back and forth action of this battle. Even though I was losing it was still so exciting trying to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat with clever play and lucky dice rolls. Unfortunately for me the Greeks went on to win the battle. Final scores were Friendless with 6 banners for the win and myself with 4 banners.

The final total score of both games was Friendless with 11 banners to my 10 banners. The more I play C&C: Ancients the more I enjoy it. This is one game I feel definitely deserves my rating of a 10 on BGG. When Friendless and I next meet we will play the first scenario of C&C Ancients: Expansion Pack #2: Rome and the Barbarians - Clusium 225BC.

Friendless' son, Harley22, joined us for our next game, Escape from Atlantis. Friendless has the 1986 Waddington's version and it's quite pretty to look at. In this game you are trying to move your people from the sinking island of Atlantis to the safety of any of the four distant islands in the corners of the board. On your turn you have three movement actions (e.g. move 1 person 3 spaces or 3 people 1 space, etc), you then remove a land tile and replace it with whatever symbol it has underneath (e.g. shark, giant octopus, sea monster, boat, dolphin or whirlpool), and finally you spin the spinner and then move one of the corresponding sea creatures on the board to either help yourself or hinder the other players.

The board after my first turn. I happened to turn up a whirlpool which destroyed a large chunk of Atlantis.

This is a fun game and one that I've had my eye on for quite some time. It's very hard to find here in Australia so I'd always wanted to make my own version of the game. It was great to actually play the game for the first time. I was lucky to win the game. Final scores were me with 6, Friendless with 5 and Harley22 with 4.

It was at this point that I noticed Friendless' shirt which he'd bought from Uberbadger. Check it out.

Let me just point out that Harley22 totally ignores this when playing with his dad! :)

I only had about half an hour before I had to go so we looked for a quick game that neither of us had played this year. Friendless selected a game we both rate very highly, Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation (we'd last played this game together almost two years ago on 7 January 2007!). We randomly assigned sides. I played the Dark forces of Mordor while Friendless played the Light forces of the Fellowship.

This is a Stratego-like game themed around The Lord of the Rings. Players each control a force of nine characters (Light versus Dark) whose identities are hidden from their opponent at the beginning of the game. Combat is resolved by playing special cards.

The board as it looked after a few turns.

The victory condition for the forces of Light is to get Frodo into Mordor. The forces of Dark win by either killing Frodo or by moving three Dark characters into the Shire. This is such a tense game and I always feel that the games are very well balanced. I realised towards the end of the game that Frodo would win the race to Mordor before I got three of my characters into the Shire. My only option was to try to take out Frodo. It really came down to my only character who was in a position of being able to attack Frodo. My Wargs were able to attack and defeat poor Frodo and with that the forces of Dark prevailed. This game never disappoints and I'm glad I was able to get a play of it before the calendar year ended.

Another great afternoon of gaming.

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