Reviewed by: Wayne Tonjes
Rome and the Barbarians by GMT Games LLC is the second war game expansion for Commands and Colors: Ancients. The set focuses on a number of conflicts with the various Celtic, Germanic, and slave groups that rose against Rome, including the famous Spartacus. There are only limited rules modifications required due to minimal troop additions or changes. One of the Roman troops type gain an additional attack option, while there is a new Roman leader and Briton chariot pieces added. The set also provides a new rigid game board for easier preparation.
The main thrust remains the new scenarios, with the new rules and pieces essentially provided to fulfill those. The focus is analyzed on the product website:
“Showcased in the second expansion, are over 20 scenarios that range from 390 BC (Allia River) to 9 AD (Teutoburger Wald), and all the blocks and labels you need to field the Roman and Barbarian forces to fight out these battles. By now, you know we can do this, because Commands & Colors: Ancients by design is a unique historical game system that allows players to effectively portray stylized Ancient battles that play to a conclusion in less than an hour.”
Expansion #2 - Rome and the Barbarians is unfortunately just that, an expansion, which is surprisingly bulky for what it provides. The set is pretty heavy with its 337 wooden block pieces for the troop units. However, it is rather unclear why there were so many unit pieces needed. Only a few troop types were introduced or minutely modified and suggestions were even made to simply use pieces from the core set in multiple scenarios. This begs the question of why so many pieces had to be included or why there was a color scheme change in the units. A much smaller, more economical set could have been created with the game board, scenario book, and truly new unit pieces only. Instead, there is a bloated, incomplete expansion that lacks the actual rules and game mechanics devices needed to make direct use of it without the previous set.
The size of the product also leads to a few minor issues with the packaging. A single plastic bag for the 337 wooden chits is a bit of a stretch, literally, and does nothing for sorting out the eight combinations of size and colors needed. First time set up is made worse by the fact that all of the painted pieces require stickers to be placed on each side. Producing the set with the stickers in place and separate bags for the individual troop types would have been useful for quick set up, something that would seem important to a game that aims for a one hour play time from the get go.
Still, the set is pretty decent with some nice use of color in the rules sheets to illustrate details, handy reference sheets, and a fair bit of historic background in place. Unfortunately, the rules could use some clarification such as simply including a listing of units used in each scenario or at least making sure the listed leaders actually match the number of leader markers indicated on the layout maps. The listing of needed pieces would also help with placing them as the only reference image for the units has them shown askew rather than as they appear on the maps. Most of the units can be made out, although the map icons are a little small to make it a bit touchy. Better labeling could be included in the listing of pieces used and solve both issues. The play maps drawn in the scenarios could also be better formatted, as it is hard to see some of the terrain markers under the unit icons.
For owners of the original set, this game does offer some improvements along with a new selection of conflicts. Others, though, will need to go back to the original before selecting this item for purchase so shop wisely. Take a look and see if history can be changed.
For more details on GMT Games LLC and their new war game expansion, Commands and Colors: Ancients: Expansion #2 - Rome and the Barbarians, check them out at their website http://www.gmtgames.com and at local game stores.
Commands and Colors: Ancients: Expansion #2 - Rome and the Barbarians
From: GMT Games LLC
Type of Game: War Game Expansion
Game Design by: Richard Borg
Developed by: Pat Kurivial and Roy Grider
Research and Technical Assistance by: Dan Fournie
Production Coordination by: Tony Curtis
Produced by: Gene Billingsley, Tony Curtis, Andy Lewis, Rodger MacGowan, and Mark Simonitch
Proofread by: Kevin Duke
Art Director: Rodger B. MacGowan
Box and Package Design by: Rodger B. MacGowan
Component Art by: Mark Simonitch, Mike Lemick, and Rodger B. MacGowan
Cartography by: Mark Simonitch
Game Components Included: 337 Wooden Pieces, Game Board, 5 Sticker Sheets, 2 References Booklets, 15 Terrain Tiles, and 1 Scenario Book
Game Components Not Included: Core Rules, Dice, and Command Cards
Retail Price: $55.00 (US)
Number of Players: Two
Player Ages: Twelve and older
Play Time: 1 Hour
Item Number: 0713
Reviewed by: Wayne Tonjes