As mentioned below, my copy of C&C: Ancients turned up last week and I was hunting for an opponent. Before Arnold Horshack even posted his reply, I'd emailed him and on Sunday afternoon he came over for a game.
We started with the first scenario because the book suggests that. I think it has fewer unit types and terrain types, and given that we spent a long time learning the numbers for what we had, it was a good idea.
In the first game, I was the Syracusans and Arnold took the Carthaginians. I studied the board for hints as to how to play, and I could see a few important factors - I had 3 archer units which covered most of the battle plain, and he had only 1 or 2; I had cavalry which were more mobile than his chariots; I had a big lump of heavy infantry in the centre flank. Did those things matter? I didn't know.
My strategy then was to use the archers to cover the advance of the heavy infantry, and to be totally confused about what to do with the cavalry. As the Carthaginians advanced, the archers started getting a few shots in, but they only hit on green so they were fairly hopeless. Arnold attacked on my left flank without making much impact, but my flanks were difficult to see how to use so I kept advancing the infantry. Suddenly I realised I was within 2 hexes of the Carthaginian line and I'd run out of cards to play in the centre. Oh stupidity! I was within range of any light infantryman with a bow, sling, javelin or pointy rock, and I couldn't defend myself! Oh woe!
Luckily, Arnold had nothing in the centre either, and didn't mow me down like I deserved. He got the chariots into action on the flanks and we argued there for a while. Then I got lucky and picked up a Leader Advance or something, and took my heavy troops into the fray. Oh boy, those guys hit hard! I concentrated on one of his leader units and eliminated it but couldn't take out the leader. But then I was again left with no cards in the middle. Very unfortunately for Arnold, he didn't have any centre cards either, and couldn't even get his leader to run away. When I eventually found a Move 2 Units in the Centre card, they mowed down the leader and advanced to break the Carthaginian line.
I have forgotten most of the details of the fighting on the flanks, but the battle was decided by the heavy troops in the centre of the field. With the Carthaginians unable to defend, the heavy infantry took 4 flags. I can't remember where the other one came from. Then we swapped sides. I won't mention the game of Star Munchkin that the kid made us play in the middle.
So in the second game, Arnold had seen the way I had won, and started off in a very scary fashion. He formed a solid line with his infantry, and advanced the entire line, twice. I looked at the very very big Syracusan heavy infantry, and quaked with fear. I decided to ignore that part of the field. I sent my chariot and light cavalry up on the left flank to see if I could cause some trouble there. I didn't, and was repulsed. The Syracusan line dropped off the forces on the left flank, and the massive centre engaged in close combat.
The first attack went very well - for me. I think I took a little bit of damage, but on the battle backs I got some good hits and managed to force one unit to retreat. Those auxilia are more dangerous than I had given them credit for - they get crossed swords and 3 dice in close combat. I even managed to wipe out one of the units that was attacking, and the leader had to flee to somewhere else.
I had done well there, and I had a Move All Light Units card. I put the light cavalry behind his line where it could fire at a badly wounded heavy infantry, and moved all of my other light units into the gap in his line and to outflank him. It was just a massacre then - the gap in the line had prevented units from being supported by 2 other units, and those that were not killed had to retreat. I took a couple of Momentum Advances, and with the help of my leader knocked out some more units. It was fairly bloody. The heavy infantry retreated to the safety of a light cavalry unit, only to discover that it was my light cavalry behind enemy lines. They cut him down. I told my archers to Darken the Sky, and the enemy fled. I won this scenario 5 flags to 4.
The turning point seems to have been when I repelled the attack from his line of heavy infantry. I really did much better then than I expected to. Maybe it was because I had 2 leaders in my line, against 1 in his? I wasn't so susceptible to retreating? Or I got lucky with the dice.
The two games took about 4 hours, of which a lot of time was spent referring to the rule book and looking at the reference sheets. As we get to know the game, it will go quicker. We kept forgetting about the possibility of Evading, and when we did it only worked once anyway. However the game felt really really good. I like the idea of commanding a whole line of troops to advance. The heavy infantry were very very scary, and the cavalry were manoeuvrable. The leaders were very useful, and need to be kept in the battle. We're hoping to play it again soon. I want elephants!