Patch actually lives some distance away (near Sacramento), but he’s in the area about every other week for an RPG group he’s involved in. This Sunday, I actually got him over on one of those weekends without the rest of the gang.

We had a fun afternoon of breaking in my new set of Commands & Colors: Ancients. He’s played it a time or two before, but not as often as me, and had to spend a while re-familiarizing himself with the rules. Once that was done, he picked things up really quickly.

Since he was still getting up to speed, we started with the first scenario, the Battle of Akragas, which is a good, short, simple, teaching scenario. I took the Syracusans for the first round (before noting that they’re the advantaged side). Don’t remember much about the battle at this point, but after an initial lead it turned into a close affair. 5-4

We switched sides and went at it again. I quickly realized that I was going to be in trouble for the rest of the afternoon as Patch did a better job with the Syracusan army than I had, getting the Heavy Infantry into action much earlier. 3-5

We then went to the second scenario, Crimisos River, another quick 5-banner scenario, but with the added complication of one wing of the Carthaginian army being stuck behind a river. It’s a tough knot for Carthage, crossing the river tends to cause retreat path problems, and they only have one leader (and a special unit that acts like it always has a leader, but that doesn’t apply to adjacent hexes the way a true leader would. I never sorted out my flank, and Patch knocked out the Sacred Band in one or two good attacks. 0-5

Patch again improved on my performance as we switched sides. He sorted out the river crossing much better than I had managed. One gambit was to send the Medium Cavalry down the side to the far crossing. Sadly for him, my slingers got a double retreat result on them that sent them back to their starting hex. They later showed up near the main crossing and were forced to retreat again. Someone didn’t want to risk valuable horseflesh in battle…. The middle game got fairly desperate for me. Syracuse only starts with nine units on the board, so as I started taking losses, I was getting thin without any ability to cycle out units. In the end, I narrowly won a race to pick off wounded units. 5-4

Wanting to stick with a smaller battle that would fit in the time we had left, we went to the Truceless War set of scenarios, and the Battle of Utica. I took the rebel army first, and soon realized I had trouble. I had the lighter army, and a hand of four cards (against six). I’ve found in the past that going below five generally ends up with too little flexibility to be viable. It didn’t help that Patch’s first move sent some of his elephants into my midst, where they promptly annihilated my only heavy unit in one attack. After that, my dice, which had been doing poorly all afternoon, went hot. I counterattacked against the elephants and quickly cleaned up three units in four attacks with a good streak of red square results. After that, I pressed on before Patch could reorganize. It helped that the card shortage never seriously affected me for once. 5-1

Thankfully for me, Patch did not have nearly my luck with the dice after we switched sides. I didn’t have quite the same dramatic opening (in fact, I don’t know if I ever got his heavies, they retreated to the base line early and spent a while getting back into the action). He weakened one, and killed another, but never eliminated my elephants. In fact, my entire line was moving up, and the major problem was not crowding the elephants too much. 5-3

Utica was the only battle that had a split decision, though I’d consider it the most obviously weighted against one side. My double win made up for the earlier shutout, and I carried the day, 23 banners to 22.