It is almost embarrassing to say – especially because I like the American Revolution and Richard Borg games so much – but I bought Command & Colors Tricorne: The American Revolution (CCT) when it came out in 2017 and last Thursday was the first time I played it. (I had put on the stickers quite some time ago though.)
Gaming buddy Don and I played the first scenario, Bemis Heights, to give it a try. Here is what the components look like.
How CCT Stacks Up to Other Command & Colors Variants
If you want to look at other reviews of Command & Colors variants I have looked at, here they are:
- Battles of Westeros (Game of Thrones license)
- Command & Colors: Napoleonics (Napoleonics), expanded review, criticism, and short battle report
- My own variant for the tabletop
- Memoir '44 Variant
- Fan Variants
I also did a comparison of the various versions. Here are the game mechanics that I looked at:
- Number of Limited Resources to Manage
- Ratio of Movement to Combat Range
- Terrain Effects
- Number of Dice Thrown in Battle
- Dice Thrown Reduced by Range?
- Dice Thrown Reduced by Casualties?
- The Odds of Hitting
- Battle Back?
- Evading Combat
- Retreat Flags Ignored/Support
Number of Limited Resources to Manage
CCT only has two resources to manage: Command cards and Combat cards.
Like all other Command & Colors games, the number of Command cards you hold is dictated by the scenario. Interestingly, many of the Tactics cards are oriented towards ordering units that are in a string of adjacent, linked, and contiguous hexes, encouraging players to form battle lines. This gives a very good period flavor of linear combat, like it does with Command & Colors: Ancients.
Combat cards are similar to the Combat cards of Memoir '44 (Urban and Winter). They are played alongside (and sometimes in lieu of) a Command card, adding additional benefits for the player. Examples include allowing a unit to move faster or battle with additional dice. In the case of CCT, there are a different set of Combat cards for the Patriot/Rebel and British sides, giving each their own flavor.
There is one very interesting thing to point about about the Command cards in CCT; the number of Tactics cards versus Section cards. Here is a breakdown.
|Rules||Section Cards||Tactics Cards||Ratio Section to Tactics|
|Command & Colors:Tricorne||33||27||1.22 : 1|
|Command & Colors: Medieval||45||20||2.25 : 1|
|Command & Colors: Napoleonics||48||22||2.18 : 1|
|Memoir '44||40||20||2 : 1|
You can see that CCT has upped the ante in favoring the use of Tactics cards rather heavily. As stated previously, many of those Command cards (and Combat cards) act upon units in 'line' (in adjacent, linked, and contiguous hexes).
Ratio of Movement to Combat Range
The ratio is very similar to Memoir '44 and Command & Colors: Napoleonics in that the infantry move one hex and can battle and their range is (generally) three hexes. So a unit must brave two turns of fire before being able to engage in close combat.
Some Tactics cards in the Command deck and special cards in the Combat deck allow infantry to close the gap quicker, and playing these at a critical moment can really help you get the jump on your opponent, so don't expect every battle to feel the same, i.e. a slow, grinding slog towards the enemy.
Terrain effects are now much more nuanced. Some terrain, like forests, have differing effects for when you move onto a terrain piece versus when you are already in it. Also, the effect on battling out of terrain can differ from when you are battling into it.
In Memoir '44 a forest, for example, a unit moving into the forest must stop and they cannot battle this turn. The dice are not reduced battling out, but they are when battling in. In CCT a unit moving into the forest must also stop, but infantry can still battle, losing one die. When battling into a forest only cavalry lose dice, but the target of any ranged combat can ignore the first hit. Further, Light Infantry can ignore one flag.
So, CCT introduces the concept of reducing hits in addition to reducing dice. (Reducing hits is far worse, of course, than reducing dice.) This is similar to the effects of armor in other games like Samurai Battles and Command & Colors: Medieval.
Bottom line: if you know the terrain effects from other games off of the top of your head, you should probably have the terrain effects chart beside you for each combat involving terrain because it likely does not work the way you think it does.
Number of Dice Thrown in Battle
Battle dice in CCT follows the method in Memoir '44, which is a base number of dice, reduced by range. For example, regular infantry rolls (2)-2-1 dice or 2 dice at 1 hex (which is close combat), 2 dice at 2 hexes, and 1 die at 3 hexes. It cannot battle targets at 4 or more hexes away.
The distinction between close combat (1 hex away) and ranged combat (2 or more hexes away) is important and many terrain effects change based on the type of combat.
One additional factor in determining the number of dice is whether the unit has an attached leader and if it moved before combat. Attaching a leader to a unit grants it one additional die while
Dice Thrown Reduced by Range?
In CCT the number of dice is reduced by range, but the reduction is not consistent. Rifles, for example shoot at (2)-2-1-1, while Regular infantry is (2)-2-1, Militia infantry is (2)-1-1, and Light Artillery is (2)-2-1-1-1.
Dice Thrown Reduced by Casualties?
CCT does not reduce dice by casualties, but work similar to the Japanese in Memoir '44 and Warriors in Command & Colors: Medieval in that a full unit is afforded 1 extra battle die in close combat, ranged combat, and rally checks (see later). I think this extra die does a good job of simulating the often-used game mechanic of 'First Fire' in Horse & Musket rules, where fresh units with clean muskets have more effective fire, while units that have been in battle awhile shoot less effective due to fouling in their firearms.
The nature of this rule is that you cannot ignore the combat power of a one- or two-block unit, and chasing those down can be just as painful as going after a fresh unit.
The Odds of Hitting
Here CCT really changed up the mix. In most other Command & Colors variants where the dice have symbols representing unit types (Memoir '44, Battle Cry, Command & Colors: Napoleonics) rather than colors, the symbols are typically two Infantry, one Cavalry (or Armor), one Artillery (Star for Memoir '44), one Crossed Sabers (Grenade in Memoir '44), and one Flag. In CCT there is only one Infantry symbol and there are two Flags.
Further, in CCT the Crossed Sabers only hit in Close Combat, and only for certain units. That used to always be a house rule for me – when I played solo – to allow Crossed Sabers/Grenades to count as hits only in Close Combat. I am glad to see it in CCT and wish it was that way in Memoir '44.
Battling back is the mechanic where, if a defending unit has survived a close combat attack and not retreated, it can attack the attacking unit back. This mechanic has made its way over to CCT, which I enjoy as it presents a consequence to close combat. It is what makes attacking crippled one- and two-block units so dangerous. Note that with the increased chance of retreating (see below), units will be less likely to battle back. Another concern is that because the attacker is penalized one die for moving into close combat, and the battling back defender is not, attackers might well be reluctant to enter close combat in the first place unless they have a Command or Combat card granting them a bonus.
Taking ground is like all other Borg designs. If you win close combat by either eliminating the enemy unit or forcing it to retreat from the hex, the attacking unit can move into the vacated hex. Some unit, such as cavalry, Highlanders, and units with attached leader, can make a bonus close combat attack from the hex they now possess.
Like Lights in Command & Colors: Ancients and cavalry in Command & Colors: Napoleonics, light infantry and cavalry in CCT can evade close combat and retreat. The mechanism is, after the attacker has declared their attack, the defender decides if they are going to Retire and Rally. The attacker then rolls the normal number of dice, but only counts the symbol (infantry, cavalry, or artillery) and none other. After inflicting the indicated number of hits the evading unit retreats two hexes and then must make a Rally Check (see below).
Because of the required Rally Check, which I will talk about more in the next section, this tactic can be quite dangerous for a weakened unit to try and yield the enemy a victory point regardless, so the player must think twice before electing to retreat.
Retreat Flags Ignored/Support
Before talking about the retreat mechanics of CCT, let's look at a new rule, the Rally Check. Put simply, after a unit is forced to retreat it must roll one die per block remaining in the unit (plus or minus any modifiers) and if it does not roll a Retreat Flag, the unit routs off of the board, yielding a victory point for your opponent. Note that all units must make this check if forced to retreat, so even full-strength units might be eliminated.
The second mechanic of note impacting retreats is that there are two Retreat Flags on the die rather than one with all other Command & Colors variants. So while it increases the chance the Rally Check will pass, it also increases the number of checks you will have to make in the first place.
Given these two mechanics the factors that allow a unit to ignore rolled Retreat Flags becomes critical. Further, unit quality can be further identified by allowing the unit to ignore flags or to roll more or fewer dice for the Rally Check.
There were a few times I ended up scrambling for a rule and almost every one of them was a question around Leaders, i.e. what is the chance the leader is dead if…? The addition of the Combat cards definitely makes the synergies between cards important – such as a Command card that allows units to rapidly advance on an enemy while a Combat card adds an additional combat die – making surprise attacks where fortunes change hands rapidly a distinct feature of some games.
Since I started writing this post – weeks ago – Don and I have played eight separate scenarios (16 games), so we have a lot more experience with the rules now.
If you have played Command & Colors: Ancients then you know how those occasional Line command cards allow you to move a lot of units, if you have remembered to maintain cohesion. In CCT this occurs a lot more frequently. Of the 60 cards in the Command deck there are:
- Four cards that allow a Leader (with optionally an attached unit) and up to four other units and lone Leaders in a 'line' take a move, battling with an additional die.
- Three cards that allow up to the number of Command cards you have, in units and Leaders in a 'line', to move with 1 additional hex of movement; no ranged combat is allowed, but infantry units may engage in close combat.
- Four cards that allow all units and Leaders in a 'line' to move a maximum of 1 hex; they may still engage in ranged and close combat.
- Four cards that allow all units and Leaders in a 'line' to engage in ranged combat only, with 1 additional die. No close combat or movement is allowed.
So 15, or fully 25%, of the Command cards are oriented towards the player using units in a 'line', while 8 of those have no restriction on the number of units that can be in the line.
In addition to those Command cards, the British Combat cards had one additional copy of #3 and #4 above, while the Continentals have one additional copy of #1.
You may have noticed that I keep writing 'line' and that is because the rules don't require the units to be strictly in a straight line. The rule as written states "Issue 1 order to each unit or lone Leader in adjacent linked, contiguous hexes", so the shape of the line could be anything.
One thing this really reminds me of is De Bellis Antiquitatus or DBA. You had 1-6 command points (or pips) each turn and one point could generally move all the units formed into a group. As you played your line would naturally get fragmented due to losses, advances, and retreats, thus requiring more command points to move all units every turn. Failing to get enough command points resulted in hard decisions on which units could act and which could not.
Whereas other designs might have one or two ambush cards – cards that allow the defender to strike first in a close combat – CCT has about 5-6, two in the Command deck and 1-2 in each of the Combat decks. You can only play one Combat card in your opponent's turn, but if you happen to have one of the Command Ambush cards and one Combat Ambush cards, it is possible to hit your opponent twice in a turn with this dirty trick. (I speak from experience on that one.)
There are several Command and Combat cards that allow a player to move rapidly, quickly shifting the tempo of the game. For example there is Steal a March which allows a player to move a potentially large number of units several hexes all at once, moving a far away force up to your battle lines in a single turn, or moving a force around your flank. Other cards like Bayonet Attack allows you to move three infantry units two hexes each and still battle in close combat, with no movement penalty. Because there are a number of copies of these cards between the Command and Combat decks, it is quite possible to perform these surprise movements on back-to-back turns. (I speak from experience on that one too!)
In summary, CCT is an excellent Borg game design that does not simply feel like Battlecry or Command & Colors: Napoleonics with different stickers and scenarios. It definitely has its own feel and if you are a fan of this game designer's designs, you will not be disappointed in purchasing it.