Monday, May 30, 2011

Back from the Dead-Hail Caesar First Game!

Well folks I am back from the dead after welcoming a second son into the world back in January.  I got together  with my buddy Consul Scipio for the first game together since Fall-In 2010.  We had fresh copies of hail Caesar in hand and decided to replay our old Carthage vs. Rome rivalry with the new rules.  We had rough parity of numbers with the Romans having a qualitative advantage having all heavy infantry legions with Drilled while the Carthaginians had cavalry superiority and of course elephants.  Romans had 9 Legions, 3 Skirmish Units, and 2 units of cavalry.  Carthage had 4 Libyan Veterans/Spanish Caetrati with Valiant (re-roll morale once per game) 4 units of medium infantry, 1 Gallic warband, 2 units of medium cavalry, 1 Numidian light cavalry unit, and 2 elephants.  Each side had three divisions of 4 or 5 units.  

Roman Deployment Right Wing
 Roman Center and Left Wing
 Legions look impressive
 Battlefield overview
 Punic Lines
 Punic Left
In the early turns, the Punes went first and could not mobilize either wing.  The Romans had similar luck.  The Punic center consisting of saucy veterans advanced and charged the Roman center legions.
Three combats resulted in two legions forced back and one exterminating the Punes.  As would happen often in this game, we both forgot our special rules, Consul forgetting his free move with drilled troops even when they fail command and me forgetting my re-roll of morale for the disappearing Scutarii!
 The Punic left advances as the Romans (strategically) refuse to move.
 In the center, one legion is destroyed as another barely holds on.  The previously victorious legion on the left of the picture has failed to activate when ordered.  
Using a sweeping advance, the Punes eliminate another legion which could not fall back far enough to avoid destruction.  The risky charge up the middle appears to be paying off for Carthage.
Getting a triple move result on the order to charge, the Punic left slams into the Roman right with everything at once.
 The Elephants cause a legion to rout...

 ...and follow up their success by hitting the flanks of the two adjacent combats.  The elephants are each a separate unit so we could see noe reason they could not do this.  
 Despite the pachyderm panic, the other legions hold on and fight back.
 Gallic cavalry (in stealth gray) are repulsed by the leftmost legion.
 The Punes continue to ravage the Roman center/left, hitting the flank of one legion after breaking yet another.  The Punic right wing advances to support.
 Despite some strong advantages, the flanking Punes are repulsed by the rearmost legion fighting on its flank.
 The Romans dress their lines in an attempt to stabilize the situation.
 On the Punic left, chaos ensues as the elephants are swarmed by Roman skirmishers and legions.  
In the center, the Punic troops have forced back another legion almost to the table edge, while the Punic cavalry prepare to unleash a charge on the far right legion.  The legion in the center has done nothing of note, evidently drunk on their earlier success.
The Punic heavy cavalry slams home and yet another legion is broken in the venter.  The Roman cavalry start to consider a tactical withdrawal.
The Roman right remains strong, seeing off the Gallic gray cavalry and pushing the elephants around, killing one.  The Gallic infantry and support unit have seen off another legion and redeploy to support the elephant and Punic skirmishers.

In the rear of this photo you can see the Punic cavalry broke through the Roman legion and slammed into the flank of another.  This broke a Roman division and all but settled the result.  The Roman center would fall and the limited Roman successes on the Roman right flank would not be enough to offset their losses elsewhere.
Final losses:  Romans: 5 legions, 2 skirmish units.  Carthage: 1 heavy infantry, 1 medium infantry, 1 elephant.

We greatly enjoyed this game.  Hail Caesar is, as a friend put it: "a mix of Warmaster and Warhammer Ancient Battles."  Whereas that comment was meant as a critique, it should in fact be an endorsement.  Both Warhammer and Warmaster were popular and fun systems Rick Priestly was involved in designing, if he was not in fact the lead designer.  What Rick and associates have done, in my opinion, is take the best of both systems, cut out the fat, and leave us with a great gaming experience.

The command system of Warmaster is here with slight modification.  If you like the uncertainty of not knowing for sure your troops will do as told, then you still have that.  The combat system is more like Warhammer, but not exactly so.  Units throw dice, not figures, and there are no combat result bonuses or penalties aside from the difference in casualties caused.  This is simple, effective, and elegant.  It has the added bonus of keeping entire untis on the table until they are destroyed, which looks nice and gives your hard work modeling and painting its due. The game also has status effects such as disorder and shaken, which impair a unit's ability to function in several ways.  The break test calls for a roll on a chart.  Units may heroically stand against the odds, or may evaporate after a minor setback.

The role of skirmishers is better defined.  They can harry the enemy but also support formed units in close combat, which feels right to me.  In other systems, skirmishers harry and then cease to have a role.  Not so in Hail Caesar.  With the addition of two separate fighting values, Clash and Sustained, the system elegantly handles such unique effects as the famed Celtic charge, giving barbarians a strong first punch but a weakened ability to continue a drawn out combat.  Also, most units have a short ranges attack value, representing limited skirmishing and missile weapon use even among formed units.  I like this effect, although some don't.

Overall, we are quite pleased with this rule set and will certainly be playing it and Black Powder again.