Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Monday, September 28, 2015

Pharsalus solitaire with Commands & Colors: Ancients (part 1)

It's been a while since I've played Commands & Colors: Ancients so tonight I decided to get a game underway. Pharsalus seemed like a good scenario.

Without any ado, here is the set up. Pompey's army is on the left with the red shields; Caesar's on the right, with the blue.

Pompey's line. It is not as strong as it looks: about a third of the troops are inferior and get only 3 close combat dice.

Caesar's line. Most of these are veterans, with 5 close combat dice. They are a tough old lot.

Caesar's right. He is weak in cavalry but has powerful infantry poised to move up in support.

Pompey's cavalry. Led by Titus Labienus, it is a formidable force, but if forced to retreat it will likely be in trouble. The hills behind it are impassable so there is nowhere to go. Success is the only option!

Wider view of the cavalry wings

Here is the battle map (taken from the excellent site). Caesar has the advantage in infantry quality (A = 3 melee dice, M = 4, H = 5) and an extra general, but Pompey has a powerful cavalry arm (M = 3 melee dice). Caesar's advantage in command cards - 6 plays 4 - will give him a significant boost in options, however. Overall, advantage Caesar.

From the commands and colors site.
Pompey moves first. This is the hand he has to work with.

There is a strong opening combination: move 4 centre, move 3 centre and double time. This could allow him to get into position on the first turn, use double time to get into contact on the second, and then use the other centre card to follow up the attack.

Unfortunately, his leaders are a bit out of position at start, so the first turn was used to re-position troops to better use the centre attack options.

Pompey moves two strong units and a leader into a more central position (shown by the black arrow on the right of the shot) while also advancing a unit of heavy legionaries (5 melee dice) on the left to support the cavalry and taking an ineffective pot shot with his archers (red arrow).

It is now Caesar's turn. This is his hand.

He has plenty of options, but no compelling combination. He elects to use Coordinated Attack to try some missile volleys.

They all miss.

Pompey now rearranges his centre, moving heavy infantry and a leader into more influential positions.

Caesar shoots again; again to no avail.

Pompey now uses the double time card to advance a front of four foot units two hexes to the attack.

The two central units attack the middle of the Caesarian line, seriously weakening but not destroying the unit there. Lentulus on the right then attacks the unit opposite, destroying it outright. He then advances and also attacks the weakened centre unit and eliminates it, forcing the leader to retreat and leave the rest of the line unsupported.

The left unit with Pompey now attacks an unsupported unit, driving it off and, after advancing into the space it vacated, destroys it in a follow-up attack.

Three dead units and a routed leader in one go; it is a massive blow struck for the Pompeians. Caesar's centre has gone!

Caesar needs to think about how to restore the situation. These are his cards.

The best move looks to be an order heavy units play, which will allow Caesar himself, Antony, and four heavy foot units (5 melee die each) to attack in an effort to plug the gap.

This they do, with Antony nearest to us and Caesar attacking the Pompeians from the right. It is another bloodbath. Four units are destroyed and Pompey himself killed for the loss of four hits to the Caesarians.

The game is now 5-3 to Caesar, and the first to reach 7 banners will win the battle.

What is ex-Pompey (Labienus) to do?

Caesar's right is most vulnerable, so Labienus elects to play Out Flanked. On the left he moves two units into position to threaten an attack on Caesar's light troops next turn.

On the right he moves his strongest unit into a frontal position and fires a volley at the depleted unit of legionaries in advance of Antony.

His left now looks like this.

On the right his archers kill off the last base of the forward Caesarian unit.

We are now at 5 banners to 4.

Caesar can do little on his right. He has no leader there and his cards will not allow a coordinated attack. Accordingly, he elects to advance in the centre and attack the badly positioned archers with 6 dice.

He rolls two hits, two misses, and two retreats. The supporting units allow the lights to ignore one retreat, but they cannot ignore the second. A total of four hits are scored, and Caesar has his 6th banner. Just one more to play for!

Caesar readies to strike the hapless lights...

Here is an overview of the battlefield at this stage. Caesar's army at bottom of the shot and Pompey's army at top. Labienus has three solid blocks of troops; Caesar's are scattered all across the field.

Labienus still needs three banners for the win.

He can either issue a Line Command in the centre....

...or order three left.

The order three left will get him only one banner, which is not enough, and will leave him open to counter attack by Caesar and his power units in the centre. He elects to take on Caesar himself through the Line Command.

The missile fire is ineffective, but the veteran heavy troops manage to score 4 hits out of 5, destroying the unit and forcing Caesar to scamper off to relative safety.


The Pompeians have two more attacks.  The first, with the leader, scores one hit.

Antony battles back, scoring three hits.

The second attack comes...

... and three hits are scored, destroying Antony's unit and taking the Pompeians to 6 banners.

The score is even at 6 all, but where is Caesar going to get a 7th from?

The answer, after much consideration, is nowhere safely. The best he can do is consolidate the right, retreat the light infantry out of immediate danger, and hope to coordinate an attack later.

Anything else would lead to a definite loss on the Pompeian turn.

And with that we will to draw a temporary halt to proceedings: the blog will not allow me to upload any more photographs!

Part two is now up here.


  1. Command and Colours is a board game? I never new. How does it translate into a miniature game? Does it work well without a lot of fiddling? How do you find it?

    1. It works fine as written. All you need is a hex mat and some miniatures. More info here:

      The rules are online if you want to have a look, and if you search on google you can find scenarios etc. It's a good game :)

  2. Great looking game and report Aaron! I've never played Pharsalus - it makes me want to get it out...

    1. It was your recent report that reminded me I should have a game, Mike!


  3. What? Tied 6-6 and you call a halt in the action? Well, i will be tuning in next time for sure.

    We almost always get a nail-biting game with CCA. Your game is certainly a nail-biter. Make me want to try Pharsulus too.

    Great stuff!

  4. Nice AAR Aaron, now I must resist urge to replace my blocks with mini's.


    1. Don't do it Kevin - you'd end up with about 6 armies, and no one wants that ;-)

  5. Great Looking Armies! A Visit Returned. Beano Boy

  6. Always nice to see C&C translated into minis. What hex mat are you using and are those clear counters to mark the C&C unit type?

    1. Hi ether drake, thanks for dropping by. This is a homemade mat, with the hexes about 88mm wide flat to flat. Yes, the clear markers are to show who's who, as I was using the same figures types for auxiliaries, mediums and heavies!


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