I must admit, I was pretty late to the Commands and Colors system. I discovered it during 2013. It was my first serious step in coming back to wargaming after break of many years. And I was immediately hooked. Once I got basics and played decent amount of scenarios with my first position – C&C Ancients, I decide to explore other titles with similar mechanics and concept but depicting different conflicts and eras. That was again a wonderful experience because then I realized breadth and depth of Mr Borg creation.
Other articles in the series: Light / entry Wargames – my 3 favorite Medium complexity wargames – my 3 favorite Complex / advanced wargames - my 3 favorite Solitaire Wargames - my 3 favorite
While the system is pretty popular and widespread, I would like to briefly summarize its general concepts:
- The heart of the system is the command cards set – which drives movement, creates a true fog of war and presents both challenges and opportunities.
- The second fundamental element are dices. The battle dice system resolves all combat efficiently and quickly, pretty well creating qualitative differentiation between units (be it via number of dices or ability to ignore hits from inferior / weaker formations)
- The games last usually up to 1 hour (depending on title and version – regular vs EPIC), are played on hexagonal map, most usually 9×13 or 11×13 hexes in size
So, without further adieu, let us look at my personal, subjective rating of the games!
1) C&C Ancients by GMT Games (total plays 584)
My first C&C game, the one which was a true cornerstone in my come-back to wargaming. And – if you look at the number of plays – also my most-ever-played-game-of-all. I can’t express enough how I like it and appreciate the design. Still, in my experience with it, after initial 2-3 years of playing almost every week I needed the break. Recently I started to come back to that title more often and rediscovering jewel in Mr Borg creations. This is also the only C&C game I get to know so thoroughly, with all official scenarios played.
You may ask what I especially like about it? Let us count:
- simple rules system which still reflects all the advantages and weaknesses of the units of the period
- relative ease to learn the game with relative difficulty to really master them
- six expansions and tons of fan-made scenarios allowing for endless hours of joy – important: no significant changes in design were needed (like in Napoleonics or The Great War) to reach the near perfection
- fantastic components – the blocks feels great for the epoch
- very brutal, bloody and straightforward fight – some other C&C systems feature pretty prolonged fights; here, once Heavy Infantries get to each other, you really have an ancient-style, quick and devastating fight, often resulting in total carnage!
On top of this, all mentioned characteristics, when they are combined and added one to another, create a very thematic, engrossing and interesting experience for a veteran of wargames or newbie looking an entry point into that hobby.
As already mentioned, I cannot recommend it more! Especially if you want to encourage somebody to our wargaing hobby (see my other recommendations for this). Should you be interested, I also created some strategy articles, on How to attack? and How to Defend? in CCA. Enjoy!
2) The Great War by PSC (total plays 72)
Surprised? You should not be! Many players when PSC announced World War I themed game thought it is impossible to create a quality product on tactical level about that seemingly static conflict. Well, they were wrong and another spark of genius of Mr Borg was provided to us here.
Still, the beginning was not easy as the basic version used very hard plastic (easily broken when assembling figures) plus amount of scenarios was limited. However, with Expansion 1 (Tanks) and Expansion 2 (French Army) the game is great and proves to be tremendous product.
So what makes it such an distinctive title for me that I rated it second? Let us see:
- Combat Cards, Tanks & Special Personnel – this is for me the great mix of features which make that game very interesting and tactically demanding. You can plan your attack – or defense – in many ways.
- Significant array of possibilities to create Combos: with command cards, combat cards and special personnel. This, in comparison to other C&C games, is a distinctive feature.
- Replayability – not only No-Man’s shelling creates different board each game, but also Special Personnel can really enhance your forces that or the other way.
- Improved minis – yes, I explicitly write improved as soft plastics is much better for me as baordgamer. Maybe for modelers the hard plastic is the default solution, but for the ease of play this is huge difference.
- Again, for me, this is simply something which seems impossible – First World War game (trenches!) being quite dynamic and well reflected in C&C system.
- Tons of scenarios in expansion plus retrofit of Special Personnel into the Base Game, allowing for tens of hours of additional fun!
This game – due to it combat deck and types of scenarios – requires you to play at least 4-6 scenarios to grasp all the major mechanics and how do they interact with each other. Still, this would be time well invested and I wholeheartedly recommend to take the effort – you will see WWI from completely different perspective!
Should you be interested in some of my strategy considerations, do not hesitate to have a look : Strategies – The Great War.
3) C&C Napoleonics by GMT Games (total plays 62)
While place #1 was a no doubt for me, I hesitated what should be second between The Great War and C&C Napoleonics. Finally the former won, but that does not mean I do not appreciate the Napoleonics.
This is probably the most complex implementation of C&C system, with the strength of unit depending on number of blocks. This is also – apart from Memoi’44 – one which underwent serious redesign with its expansion – Tactic Cards, EPIC & La Grand Battle scenarios, other small rules – that really improved the flow of the battles and allowed for deep, complex and interesting play.
I might not be so into the Napoleonics era (strange am I?) but I really appreciate a good design. Although I am not as proficient as with other games, I always play CCN with pleasure. Rarely any game puts so much stress on terrain and good preparation of attack – should you be too hasty, you are destined to fail!
Below I am presenting – with short comment – other C&C games I played. They are sorted by number of plays, I do not differentiate any preference among them, just provide my comments and very short opinions about them.
Memoir’44 by Days of Wonder (total plays: 45)
When I got C&C Ancients, one of my best wargaming friends decided to acquire Memoir. So as a good buddy, I played with him that title pretty extensively. We started from base version, but very quickly – due to his birthday – he got multiple expansions, like Winter Wars.
For me, the game is unfortunately to shallow for WWII – and the biggest thing I cannot accept is lack of battle-back. Still, I really appreciated large-format battles in that system, playing many D-Day Landings scenarios like: Juno and Gold, Utah and Airborne and Omaha and Utah. Those I can definitely recommend!
C&C Medieval by GMT Games (total plays: 33)
When it was announced, I had great expectations as for me it was a spiritual ancestor for the Ancients. And to be honest – I was not disappointed! Some players tend to see medieval period only as the one with knights, and France vs England. Nothing more erroneous! The Byzantine vs Sassanids struggles are very interesting and thematic while Inspire mechanics are quite unique to the system. Definitely, that title has a potential to move up in my ranking once it gets more content!
PS. I was so interested in that title and how it compares to Ancients that I created special series of articles regarding this: C&C: Medieval vs Ancients Comparison. Enjoy!
Battle Lore 2nd edition by Fantasy Flight Games (total plays: 17)
I played it only via Vassal, as two Mini-Tournaments. I tried the game, I liked some mechanics but in the end was not so much thrilled. Having the C&C Medieval now in place, it is probable I will not come back to that position soon.
Samurai Battles by Zvezda (total plays: 6)
Again, played only once as a Vassal Mini-Tournament, this was very interesting and bloody game, where leaders were falling like flies. When GMT announced reprint under their banner I immediately supported the game – waiting to play more with the new publisher!
Red Alert by PSC (total plays: 3)
Got to know the game during the COVID lockdown, playing with friends via Vassal. Really like the mechanism of setting up the forces, paying for battle back, additional move and other features with star tokens. What I lack, was theme – all the battles seemed same as far as story goes. Fore sure, will need more scenarios to formulate the opinion.
C&C Tricorne by CompassGames (total plays: 3)
My newest addition to C&C series, played for the first time to commemorate 4th of July (Independence Day). I appreciate the rally mechanics and morale effect in that game. Played not enough to have decisive say. So far our engagements usually end in two lines facing each other, trying to blast the enemy into the oblivion. Still, I like the mechanics and will for sure come back to it.
I am big fan of Commands and Colors system. I think everybody can find here something for himself – be it a thematic perspective (from Ancients to World War II), or a complexity perspective (from Memoir to Napoleonics). The system created by Mr Borg is vast, with very flexible rules. What strikes me most is how small changes and tweaks can result in completely different experience. If you have not yet, definitely try it!
Command & Colors Tricorne is my personal favorite…but any C&C game is worth playing. Should be at least one C&C version in every boardgamers collection (not just wargamers – boardgamers too).
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I have just played 3 scenarios in Tricorne and I am starting to appreciate specific mechanics of rally depicted there. It really needs some out of the box thinking!
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I started wargaming with Battlecry during an historical reenactment in Italy, I love all of the Command & Colors. I was at high school and that werethe game I was looking for (fun, fast, tactical, thematica). They lead me and some friends in the wargaming hobby.
– Probably my favourite are: Ancients, Napoleonics, The Great War, Medieval.
– Memoir’44 depends heavily on the scenario: some are much more interesting than other. I also love most of Overlord scenarios.
– Battlecry and Battlelore are lighter and faster and better to introduce new players.
I have not tried Samurai battles, Tricorne, Red Alert yet.
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I feel exactly the same! Quick, brutal, fast and furious!