Had Mark over today for wargaming. It was his turn to pick, and he had originally wanted to do Spartacus, which both of us think looks interesting. But, he hadn’t gotten a chance to get it to me ahead of time, and we’re trying to avoid one of us teaching the other cold during these meets.

So, he’s now loaned it to me for a couple months down the line, and he brought over his Commands & Colors: Ancients collection, to celebrate the imminent arrival of my own copy (should be here within the next couple weeks).

Mark’s first suggestion was for a scenario from Expansion #2, as I had yet to play anything from that. I had already been thinking that I’d like to take care of that same gap, and readily agreed. We did a couple rounds of Vercellae, which is a big scenario, running to 8 banners. Anything with Gaius Marius involved gets my attention, and I was quite happy to take the Romans in the first round.

It’s an interesting situation. There’s a lot of Germans on the board, but they’re mostly in a big mass where it is easy for them to get tangled on each other. The Roman army is a bit thin, but good quality, and gets to draw six cards to the German’s four. In the event, things started decent, with us alternating getting banners at a decent clip. The problem was, I was always getting my banner second. I did a good job chewing up his center, and Mark did a better job getting several units out of harm’s way. My middle also got chewed up, but a good Rally put things back in order, and I thought I had a good shot at the game at that point. In the end, the Roman army ran out of momentum and couldn’t get it back again, even when I got a cavalry unit into where his weakened units were hiding. 7-8

We swapped places for a second round, and things went no better for me. In fact, the four card hand definitely gave me trouble, and I often had trouble getting anything I needed to move. I don’t remember what happened so clearly, though I was happy with how I managed to open up my center during the middle game. 6-8

After some discussion, we went for River Stour, a skirmish early in Julius Caesar’s second invasion of Britain. The Britons get a force completely made up of cavalry and chariots, against a standard Roman army, which makes for a very different fight.

I decided to take the Britons. When I considered that I knew nothing of how chariots worked, I wondered if that was such a good idea….

I really had to wonder when I got my opening hand of five cards. I had three that demanded infantry (could still use them to order any one piece, but I also didn’t like letting Mark Counterattack with them), a Counterattack (lets me mirror what Mark just played, but since I move first, he hadn’t even played anything yet), and an Order Two Right.

At first, things were pretty desperate. Chariots can evade against anything, so I’d charge in and attack, and as soon as he moved in and attacked the exposed units, I’d evade back out of range. But the losses still mounted pretty quickly, and I was struggling with a crippled hand the entire way. The ‘classic’ opening move is to try and pick off one or both exposed Roman archery units that are stuck where they can’t retreat; following a pattern that had been going on all afternoon, whenever Mark was vulnerable to Flag results, I couldn’t get any.

My right flank collapsed fairly quickly, and everything else migrated left, trying to stay out of range of Julius Caesar, who provides additional bonuses. Some gambles paid off… moderately well, and I managed to nail most of his right flank. I had grasped how to use the chariots fairly well, and the main thing was that the fight had degenerated into a bunch of little groups milling around, and the superior mobility of the chariots was letting me concentrate effectively. Also, I drew a third Counterattack card, and I stopped worrying about Mark having any. I ended up managing to eliminate his unit with his right-flank leader against the back row, getting me credit for the leader as well as the unit, getting me to 5-4 (out of 6). The next couple turns were tense as Mark tried to arrange ways to kill of a pair of units while I went pounding after his other remnants. It took me three tries before I managed it (the dice toying with me again, I’ll have to train the ones in my set better), and Mark had gotten one in the meantime for a very close 6-5 finish.

That put us at 19-21 for the day, but at least I won one of them, and perhaps the one needing the most finesse. Next time between us is my choice; I was planning on Unhappy King Charles, but my playtest copy of Archon Metropolis Archon just came in, and we’ll probably do that instead.