Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Hail Caesar Skirmish #2!

Hail Caesar: Rome vs. Ancient Germans skirmish

What a great game! I had another chance to try out Hail Caesar, this time with my wife. She's up for games of any stripe so it wasn't very difficult to cajole her into playing. We also watched the HBO miniseries "Rome" a few years ago, so she had a little background with the era. I offered her the choice of armies.

"Romans. Not stupid barbarians." I got out my meager cohorts and passed them to her.

"These guys are neat," she commented. "Hey, you put these spears on backwards. You've got the handle pointed forwards."

"No, those are called 'pilum'. That long metal part isn't a handle. It has a hard point, but the shaft gets weaker when it gets near the middle. The Romans would chuck those at guys when they got close. The hard point would go into their shield, and then the weak part would make the rest of the pilum bend down, so they've got this curved wonky spear stapled to their shield. The pilum was ruined, so the enemy couldn't throw it back, and it was weighing down their shield which would have hindered them too."

"Huh. That's actually really interesting."

"Really?"  She's not much of a history buff. This was probably the first time any historical fact elicited more than a polite shrug.

"Yeah. I mean... if you had just told me that out of the blue I wouldn't have cared, but now that I see the little guy and he's about to go fight, that's actually pretty neat."


See how she fared after the jump...

Sticking to the true spirit of the rules, I threw every painted figure I have on the table. Which wasn't much.

The Romans
3 Heavy Infantry (Elite, Drilled, Pilum)
1 Small Light Cavalry (Feigned Flight)

The Germanic Barbarians
2 Warbands (Wild Fighters)
2 Small Light Infantry Archers

I''m still learning the rules and kept everything fairly simple. Each side is a single division. There are no commander figures on the board so we're ignoring the rules for proximity to commanders, commanders joining battle, etc.

Hail Caesar setup, from Ancient German side

The barbarian horde deploys along their base edge, between two small woods. The Romans deploy two heavy infantry in the center, one heavy infantry in reserve behind a small hill on the Roman left, and their cavalry in reserve behind a wooded hill to their right. I elected to take the first turn to demonstrate how command rolls, movement, etc. worked.

"Yeah! This is Roman land! You're not comin' in here stupid barbarians!"

The initial moves by both sides were rather lackluster. The barbarians sent both archer units loping ahead with three successful moves each. But the warbands, ordered to surge forward, merely milled around.  On the Roman side, things weren't much better.

"Roll 2d6 for your command roll."

"Yes! Boxcars!"

"Oh, heh. No, you want to roll low. That's actually a 'blunder'."

The Roman center slunk to their right, hoping to join their comrades hiding behind the hill.

The following round saw the barbarians got their center moving to join the archers who had advanced ahead of them. The Romans, finding their nerve, advanced as well towards the enemy horde.

Roman center advances

Seeing their enemy had found their nerve, the germanic warbands slowed their advanced to discusse strategy ("Should ve charge, or perhaps charge?"), but the archers were now within bow range of the Roman center. They loosed their arrows and set the legionnaires into disordered panic.

Archers loose arrows

And disorder Roman center.  "Owie! Titus, take this pointy bit out! Owie!"

With the sounding of their trumpets, the centurion of the Roman left gave the order, "Advance to the top of that hill and prepare to beat down those punks! Also can you get me some more wine? Thanks honey."

"I told you zere vas Romans behind dat hill!"


With the barbarian horder drawing close, the Roman center unable to recover from disorder despite their Drilled trait, the Romans order their flanks to advance.

The Numidian mercenary cavalry on the left flank succeed at their command roll with a massive three moves. Although they were in line of sight of the Germans at this point, I ruled they could perform an end run around the wooded hill as long as they ended their move pointed towards an enemy unit.

Numidian Light Cavalry swings 'round behind the barbarians

With enemy cavalry to their rear, the warbands attempted a risky three move charge to come to grips and break the Romans in one blow before the cavalry could charge. Unfortunately, the matter was still in debate ("Vait. Olaf says ve should charge, bud Helmut makes a good point that ve should probably charge. Maybe ve haff drinking contest to decided who is right, ja?")

Numidians poised to strike


Numidians close and lock into warband rear

Seeing their opportunity, the light cavalry charge the barbarian rear, while the Roman left atop the hill charge down it into pila range of the enemy archers, and the Roman center surges forward to drive off the archers on the opposite flank.

Archers recoil from Romans descending the hill

"We lost because we aren't based yet!"
Combat ensues, with disastrous results for the cavalry. Despite being attacked to their rear, the German barbarians are still fearsome and inflict enough casualties to force a Break Test which sends the Numidians back to Africa.

Seeing their mercenaries flee sets the Roman blood to boil. They continue to advance on their left, driving the archers farther from the hill, and gaining a good position to the barbarian flank.

On the Roman right, the legionaries charge and batter the barbarian archers on that flank. In the ensuing melee, the Roman center manages to Shatter the archers. Their commanders take a moment to pile the enemy bodies and perform a victory celebration to Mars upon them.

"Do a little dance! Spill a little blood! Get down tonight! Get down tonight!"

With the lightly armed troops routed, both sides turned their full attention on their main battle lines. The Romans were able to close the distance first, and charged the warbands, while the Roman reserve turned from the base of the hill into a flanking position on the barbarian line. Things were suddenly looking very poor for the hairy Germans.

With the Roman right bloodied from the attentions of the now Shattered archers, the melee began on the Roman left. The ancient sky gods left the Germans at this point.

"Ok, the Romans won the combat here by three casualties, so I need to roll a Break test at -3."

"I want to figure out how this chart works. You roll and I'll tell you what you got.  I think I'm getting the hang of this. So you roll 2d6 to see what happens to your guys and...you got a 3. 3 minus 3 is 0.  I don't see that on the chart. Oh wait, I see. '2 or less: Break Break Break'  What does Break mean again?"

I explained the term. Then we learned about Moves by Victorious Units. Also, Closing the Door and Rolling Up the Line.

"Let me take the picture so I can show their cute little butts running away!"

The remaining melee saw a half hearted attempt by the final warband, but suffering from the Attacked on the Flank penalty they scored a single measly hit which was saved. Another round of combat ground the last vestige of resistance from the Germans. Leaders were executed, captives sent to Rome, a wine cups were drained by the victors (literally).

German warbands performing the "Skedaddle Maneuver"

Wow! So fun! I don't have nearly enough figures, my terrain needs work, and I still haven't learned my lesson about exposing my flank, but I really enjoyed the game. My wife liked it too and we discussed bringing in some of our other friends for larger games.

Her Review: "It's like a board game, but it's cooler because you painted all these little guys. And the rules aren't hard. It's like, 'Just move that guy about six inches and whatever.' I like that."

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