Sunday, June 12, 2011

My First Hail Caesar! Game

Visitors to this blog know that I am a fan of the Black Powder rules. I love the command-and-control system as it is simple, elegant and fun. Besides that the overall game system, simply, works.

So, although I possess no ancient armies whatsoever, I was very excited when my friend Dan (our current club president) offered me the opportunity to play Hail Caesar! Matt Vigil has simply loads of Romans and Gauls in 15mm and the two of them conspired to host a six-player Hail Caesar game at today's club meeting.

Dan (middle) before his game

The game did not disappoint. Dan and Matt acted as referees while I played the role of Roman commander-in-chief and Scott played the role of Gaul commander-in-chief.

Of the six-players, 4 were experienced Black Powder players and 2 were new the rule system. Dan and Matt had each played two games of Hail Caesar and numerous Black Powder games. Hail Caesar does have several important changes from Black Powder in order to better represent the type of combat that the game manages - but is essentially the same game at much of its core. So, I think that in general, the crowd was not a rookie crowd.

The Gallic Horde

The Roman Invaders
Now, here's the cool thing. We had 42 units on the table - chariots, heavy cavalry, light cavalry, warbands, skirmishers, legionnaires and triarii. The Gauls has 23 units and the Romans 19. We played the game to conclusion in 90 minutes! Amazingly fast. Now, the table was bare (there was no terrain placed in order to help the rookies assimilate the rules without too much fanciness) and that certainly sped contact between the two armies - so we got into battle fairly quickly.

Matt and his awesome Gauls


Dan offering aid to the Gauls

My fellow Roman conquerors
I think that the designers of the game have created a really fun close combat system with these rules. Some units - like a warband - get extra combat power on the initial turn of combat when they charge. So, units have two close combat ratings, one for the initial charge and one for subsequent rounds of a continuing melee. I expected to see melees that did not resolve in a single turn, and I did. They were fun, too, real nail biters and sometimes real meat-grinders. The system of when a combat ends is very well thought out.

Look, I really know nothing about the period - except that I think it is really cool - but the rules produced a situation that seemed right to my mind for this period. The Gauls came in, whirling themselves at the Roman lines hoping to do a good bit of damage in those initial rounds of combat. They know, of course, that if they don't crack some skulls in the early phases of a given close combat that the Roman stamina will usually win out.

We had several situations where more than one Gallic unit was able to apply its weight against a single Roman unit - and that is what it will take overall to break Roman lines. In the end of this fight, the Roman center held firm, destroying many Gallic units, and holding the day. On the flanks however, it seemed that the fighting was much more give-and-take. The Roman right flank was very compromised but so were the Gauls that were attacking them. The Roman left was weakened a little but held very firmly with tough fighting. In the end, the Romans were very happy to see the remaining Gauls leave the field.

Of the remaining 11 Gallic units, 4 were shaken and 2 were disordered and 4 were skirmishers (which would have been slaughtered if they had to fight). Truly, there was no more offensive capability in this army and offense is the lifeblood of the Gauls.

Of the 12 remaining Roman units, only two were shaken but they were the only two units holding down the right flank (and one was a skirmisher unit). Had the battle continued, the Gallic chariots may have shredded them. The Roman center held firm with the loss of only 2 skirmisher units (due to the unexpected speed of the Gauls!). None of the units were shaken, but several were getting close as the losses and exhaustion of the day took its toll. I think the Romans could have managed the offensive for another couple of turns, but that would have been their limit.

Indeed, it was a good afternoon to be a Roman soldier in the center sector of today's battle! Thanks for the great gaming today fellas!

I leave you with more pics...
The Gallic charge is uncoordinated, resulting in a Roman meat-grinder

The Roman cavalry on the left is slow to get to battle!

The Romans are grinding the Gauls in the center.

Also in the center, the Gauls are piling on! The Romans would hold.

Not just hold, but they would advance boldly! Chasing the fleeing Gauls.

Chariots versus Horse. The Gallic chariots would take this fight!

Positions at the end. A strong Roman center.

Frontal view of the Roman center


  1. Great battle report

    I am also becoming a big fan of these rules and have played several games of Romans vs Dacians. Heavy Cav with a commander attached is a hoot!

    thanks for the walk through

  2. They are a fun, and seemingly, a pretty darn good set of rules.

    Since I have no armies of my own in this period, I must encourage Matt and Dan to host more games!

  3. Thanks Tony for an excellent report and hopefully I will beat you next time



  4. If you had a couple more warbands at your disposal then the Romans likely would have had to break off!

    As Napoleon said "A single battalion sometimes decides the day".

  5. It is good to see the Gallic chariots defeat the Roman cavalry, as I'm sure they did regularly. Another Equestrian Order bites the dust! Great paint jobs on both armies!