This is an old thing I wrote back in 2007 and originally posted on boardgamegeek. It was written after a particularly good holiday back in NZ. I'm posting it here now because I like it and to keep the blog active even while I'm busy with other things.
I was fortunate enough to head back to New Zealand with the family for a couple of weeks last month. Before leaving I decided to throw in the Commands & Colors: Ancients cards, dice, a laminated QRS and a few blocks, for I had a cunning plan.
To fill you in a bit, the old man's a chess player. We used to play a lot in spells when I was younger and still had dreams of being a better player than he was. Unfortunately, I have only ever beaten him in one game, and that was a fluke.
Second night in with wife and daughter settled down for the evening I casually mentioned 'this game that I play a bit'. We had a small discussion ending with an "If you've got a bit of spare wood lying around I could do up a board."
Next day I found what I was looking for and did do up a board, using offset squares rather than hexagons. I was sitting outside under the covered table marking it in when Dad got home from work. He was curious, so we cracked open a couple of bottles of beer and I explained how the game worked. "So there are three sections, eh?" he said.
Naturally it became necessary to demonstrate this novel concept.
The board was not the only area which required improvisation. I had only brought a few blocks with me, my idea being to use one block to represent a unit, rotating it to indicate when it had taken hits.
I set up a re-imagined version of Cannae to start things off. I called it Cannae but the Romans were given more mediums than usual and both sides started off with 5 cards. Dad was interested in the history, so we talked about that as the game went on. Dad won 7-5. Good start.
Another game was suggested, and we played again after dinner. This time I set up a ScenarioX style battle, again with the Romans given the better force balance. Dad started to pick up how to use light infantry. "You should see how this bloke from Italy uses lights," I said. Dad won again, 6-4. He saw how MI were superior to Aux in close combat. "How does evade work again?" he asked.
There was call for one more before bed. This time I went for Castulo, but without the terrain. "I still don't understand how leaders work," he said, so we went over that again. We both agreed that they were pretty useful. "How you use leaders might decide the game then," says Dad, and we both agree on that too. Dad wins again. 3-0 to him after the first day's play. Pretty good.
"By the way," I say after packing up. "Remember that Italian guy I was telling you about? Well, I play in these online tournaments. I'll show you a couple of websites."
Next morning when I got up for coffee the first scenario booklet from GMT had been printed out. "Found one that looks interesting," says Dad. "Let's try that out tonight."
The 'interesting one' turned out to be Bagradas, which I'd not played before. We set up and I explained how it was common for people to play the game twice, once from each side and total the banners to see who'd won. "Should we try that out, then?" came the reply.
This was the first time that elephants had hit the table. Dad had great success with the elephants.
My old chess scars were starting to reappear. I was getting a bit worn around the edges. There would be no helpful tips this game.
I started cautiously, waiting for a chance to get the elephants into contact. He advanced; I waited too long. After some outrageous swings of fortune and two vicious Double Time cards, Dad lost by one banner. I had won the battle but lost the war. Still, my luck had changed. "The good thing about this game", I said, "is that you'll start thinking about it at odd times."
Next morning when I got up for coffee the living rules had been downloaded from the GMT website. So had the remainder of the scenarios. "This one looks interesting," says Dad. "You know, I was thinking about that second game last night. I really should've won that. I think I played the wrong card." I agreed that it was quite possible.
That night we played the first scenario. One game a-piece and banners dead even. "This game would be quite good with figures," says Dad. "Like that Field Command game you've got. Imagine a whole board full of them. Would look pretty good, eh?" I said that I did indeed play it with figures. "I'd like to get some of them," he said.
I was away up in Wellington for the next few nights. When I got back we played again, and this continued almost every night for the rest of the holiday. We played Trasimene, Castulo, Zama, and others. Dad would find a battle he was interested in and we'd play it at night.
Towards the end he started to lose his initial confidence, and would hang back when he should have attacked a bit more. "You keep getting good cards," he'd say, "but I keep getting these blinkin' useless things!" Every day he would talk about the game we'd played the night before, and he would even talk about the game to people who had no interest in it.
As is the way of things time ran out and we had to return to Japan. They were sad to see their 8 month old granddaughter leave, and we were sad to go.
Still, Dad now has the VASSAL module on his computer, a deck of battered C&C cards, the first edition dice, and a cake-stained, forest-and-hill marked board. I think we'll be playing this again.