The counters are also standard fare for these types of games. They seem a bit thinner than I remember, but perfectly useful for their purpose. You will need to cut your small cardboard armies out, and if you are so inclined cut away some of the extra cardboard from some corners. I never felt the need in any game I own, but I know a lot of people also clip the counter corners. To each their own. The graphics on the counters are also fine, but not striking. You can easily see the numbers and read anything written on them without a problem. The Romans and allies have a red background, and the various Carthaginian forces have a purple one. The one point on the counters that is purely subjective is the strength and quality of each unit. The Leader units add a 'strength additive' number to any unit they are with in a hex. In this game Hannibal is given a '3' and Scipio is given a '2'. There are many, although I am not among them, who believe that Scipio was the greatest Roman general ever. I do not have a problem having Hannibal have a higher combat rating than Scipio. This shows the versatility of board games. If you choose you can change the numbers to what you believe is correct. You could even make your own counters and substitute them for what you, or whoever you game with, feel should be more 'correct' numbers. While some computer games have editors that can help with these changes, most don't and you are stuck with developers' ratings on units and leaders.
The game piece setup in this game is again standard for ancient warfare games. Most battles were fought on flat ground, so many times terrain wasn't an issue at all. With Zama, the entire battlefield is made up of 'clear' hexes. The map is marked with where you are supposed to put your counters for each side. There are rules for variable deployment so you can try out different strategies once you get the game rules down pat. Another few rules are in place to make the Carthaginian player follow Hannibal's game plan. One of these is to force your elephants to move, on turn one, into a Roman piece's 'zone of control', or adjacent to a Roman piece. Any elephant counter that does not do this is considered to have run amok and is eliminated. The other rules make it so the different commands of Hannibal's army are released to attack the Romans at different times. So the second and third line of Hannibal's troops can only move once a Roman piece moves to 'X' hex line. Hannibal's plan was to try and tire the Romans out by attacking them in waves. These rules are put in place to show how the actual battle was fought, but again once you are comfortable with the game it is flexible enough for you to use free movement for all of the Carthaginian troops. The Romans have no movement restrictions placed on their troops. There is also another ancient wargame standard, 'the berserk elephant rule'. Elephants were notorious for being both battle winners and losers. If the elephant unit receives a retreat or a hit (1/2) on the combat results table it becomes berserk and immediately charges off in any of six directions, decided by a die throw, and attacks whatever is in its way, friend or foe.
|Carthaginian first turn elephant attack|
The command and control rules are meant to simulate the problems of commanding an ancient army in battle. The troops are split into sub-commands for this rule and each sub-command must make a one die roll throw for each movement phase. If they are successful with the die roll, that sub-command can move that turn. There are four sub-commands for the Romans, and five for the Carthaginians. For example, the Roman citizen legions have to roll from a one to a five to be able to move that turn; if they roll a six they are unable to move. This also puts the element of surprise into the game. There is nothing worse that coming up with a great battle plan and then realize you cannot follow it because your troops are not in control this turn. The game uses another old friend to compute losers and winners in attacks: the 'combat result table'. By simply adding up the attackers points and the defenders, while adding or subtracting for leaders etc., you divide the numbers and come up with a number for the odds of the combat. If you have 8 attacking points and 4 defending, the odds would be 2-1. You check the 'combat results table' on the equivalent column and then roll one die. The one to six result is then taken on the counters. I know most of us are old hats at this, but we need new blood in the hobby. We as grogs are getting older by the day. These folio games are perfect in their complexity, price, and size to attract new players to our hobby. We don't want them running away by pulling out an old 'Europa' game first off.
The game play is quick and tight, and the rules are not going to have you scratching your head. For us old players it is a trip down memory lane with a well conceived old friend. For anyone that is looking to get their feet wet into board wargames it is also highly recommended. There are many eras and wars that fall through the cracks of computer wargaming, so it is lucky for us that there are still companies like Decision Games making board ones. if you missed it, board wargaming has been having a resurgence lately, and that is also good news.
There is one point about the Carthaginian setup that I had Decision Games answer a question of mine with it. On the map there are three Carthaginian setup hexes for cavalry on both sides of their infantry setup, but the game comes with only four Carthaginian cavalry counters. As I assumed, you just use two cavalry units per setup area.
Developer: Decision Games
Date of Review: 1/24/2017