Saturday, March 28, 2015

RETROSPECTIVE - Command & Colors

Back in 2000 DBA (and its variants) was my gaming passion. At that time, I was a graduate student at Penn State studying the American Civil War. That's when this game was published.

Being a Civil War buff, I quickly picked it up. It immediately displaced DBA as my go-to game.

Battle Cry was the first published game using Richard Borg’s Command & Colors system. This system included several innovative features for a board game, such as:

  • Modular terrain – unlike traditional boardgames the terrain was not printed on the board. Instead, the board was a bunch of blank hexes. In addition, there were separate hex-shaped cardboard pieces with hills, woods, etc. printed on them. By placing the terrain pieces on the board, you can create an infinite number of battlefields.
  • Command cards – a player cannot move all his units in a turn. Instead, fog of war is created with command cards. Each player has a hand of cards and each turn may play one card, which allows him/her to order a limited number of units.
  • Special dice – the dice have icons of the major types of units (for Battle Cry they were infantry, cavalry, and artillery). You hit a target if you roll a die and get the target’s icon. What was different from typical games was that modifiers (such as terrain) did not change what you needed to roll on the die but how many dice you rolled. It allowed for a streamlined combat system.

Richard Borg followed up with Memoir ’44, the World War II version of Command & Colors in 2004.

I reviewed Memoir a couple of years ago with the simple evaluation – “Best. Game. Ever.”

What I like most about the C&C system is that it is unabashedly a game (including plastic miniatures in the first two published versions). It strives for quick, simple, exciting games and it delivers. Nevertheless, it still “feels” right (a lesson I learned from Air War). For example, more than any other game, Memoir ’44 taught me that tanks can be very vulnerable to infantry in good defensive positions (I have lost so much armor by rushing forward against infantry in woods).

Because it offered a great game that feels right,it inspired me (and many others) to adapt the basic principles to other time periods (which Borg eventually did with C&C: Ancients, Battle Lore, and C&C: Napoleonics). Before those games came out (and even before Memoir ’44) I was using pieces of the C&C system for my own rules. I had some issues with the command cards – they don’t really work well for solo gaming and I didn't want to use Civil War themed cards for other periods. I eventually dumped the cards and instead used the DBA pip system for command. I completely adapted the combat rules. My units have the same number of hits and roll the same number of dice when attacking as in C&C. Terrain modifiers are the same as C&C. I even have a gridded battlefield. The end result has been years of enjoyable, quick-playing, yet exciting games. Without a doubt, C&C has overtly and irrevocably influenced my gaming experience.

1 comment:

  1. I totally agree with what you have written about Richard Borg's game designs. His work - and that of Joseph Morschauser - have been great influences on my own wargame designs.

    All the best,