Friday, February 3, 2012

Hail Caesar Skirmish #3!

My wife and I played another Hail Caesar skirmish. The addition of my newly painted Celts brought our tiny forces up to the same point total (although I just eyeballed it when setting up the game). Having lost every Hail Caesar skirmish to date, I was hoping to eek out a win. I also wanted to add some more terrain to the field to see how it altered the battle. The Roman legionnaires would be facing off against their barbarian adversaries lurking in the dense forests of Germania. Check out our skirmish after the jump.


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

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

The Romans deployed two units deep in the center flanked by their cavalry. One unit of infantry deployed on the Roman left. The barbarians deployed in the right half of the field, between some rough ground to their left and the table edge. Their archers deployed in the woods beyond the rough ground.

Neither my wife nor I knew how the woods would impact the battle. The Roman plan was to send their single heavy infantry into the woods to act as bait and pull the barbarians towards it. My wife had learned how fragile her cavalry were from our last encounter and decided to use them to advance into the gap between the woods near the center of the field and harass the barbarians with javalins. Ideally this would allow the main Roman units to follow up into the gap and hopefully attack the barbarian flank. 

As the barbarians, I planned to send my archers to the top of the hill in the center-left of the field while my warbands moved in line into the gap, using the woods on their left and right to hold the flanks. I expected the Romans would steer clear of the woods and be forced to face me head on. When they did so I meant to take the first opportunity to charge them to gain the +1 charging bonus and make the best use of my Wild Fighters ability.

I really should have looked up the rules on woods before the game.

Neither of us were able to get our light forces moving, but my wife was first in getting her Romans into the woods. Surprise! Not knowing the rules well, we allowed units to switch to Open Formation if they entered woods automatically (oops!).

Seeing a single Roman unit drop into a vulnerable Open formation, alone in the woods, I took the bait and threw all of my barbarians forward in a head long rush to catch them before their allies could reach them. Sadly I only rolled two moves instead of the the three I needed and my barbarians wound up in the woods, but inches short of making contact.

Buying time for the main Roman legionnaires and  cavalry to arrive, the Romans held back and pelted the barbarians with short range attacks, managing to force them out of the woods.

The single barbarian warband remaining in close formation was charged by the Romans in the open. As my wife was moving her Romans forward into contact I noticed she had started whistling a song: The Imperial Death March from Star Wars.

The barbarians fared poorly, taking heavy casualties, being Shaken and forced to recoil, back into the woods to their rear and automatically dropped into Open Order (though we may have botched that rule as well). Luckily, the barbarians had dealt a hefty blow to the Romans before retiring, handing them 4 casualties before retreating.  Eager to get her wounded Romans into a supporting role and off the front line, my wife elected to use their Victory Move to fallback in order to rotate their lines out of harms way on her next turn.

Things were looking grim for the German hordes. One of my warbands was shaken, two had taken some hits from pila and been forced back to nearly my starting position, my archers were stuck in the woods having not moved at all. I consolidated my barbarians back into close order in an effort to get my horde back into position to face the Romans. I finally managed to get my archers out of the woods and onto the hill. From that point I hoped to either whittle away the Roman cavalry, or get set up for a flank attack should the Romans manage to get into contact with my warbands.

The archers succeeded in diverting the attention of the Numidian cavalry and in a protracted (but uninteresting) javelin duel would eventually force the Numidians to back off. Meanwhile, attempting to rotate their lines by passing through each other, BOTH Roman units became Disordered. Hoping to stall the barbarians from attacking them in their Disordered state , the Romans in the woods advanced, charging the barbarians in front of them. The Romans inflicted some casualties, but the barbarians rolled 12 dice against them. 9 of them hit. The Romans rolled their 9 morale saves, needing a 4+ to save.  They only made a single save. Losing the combat, Shaken and with a heavy casualty difference, the Romans rolled and failed a Break test.  Shattered, a few survivors fled into the woods, never to be seen again.

She wasn't whistling anymore.

The Romans in the center recovered from their Disordered state and elected to fall back again to give their cavalry room to maneuver so they could close with the barbarians and inflict a few casualties before the barbarians were able to charge the remaining Romans.

Issuing the order to fallback as far as possible, my wife rolled 2d6 for command and got.... boxcars. The tide of battle had finally swung! She rolled for the blunder results and got "Fall back two moves, retain facing".  Exactly what she had been attempting!

With her turn over, I rolled my own command roll to get my barbarians turned and moving into the gap vacated by the retreating legionairres. I rolled and got... boxcars! Two command rolls, two blunders in a row. I rolled on the blunder result table and got "Uncontrolled Advance. Advance forward three moves charging if possible.", exactly what I wanted.  Too weird!  

Directly in front of the uncontrolled barbarians was a woodland, which didn't seem to make sense. We talked it over, and the free form HC rules really shined at this point. The barbarians, seeing the Romans falling back, would obviously see this as a sign of weakness and throw themselves forward after them.  Being uncontrolled, they would naturally end up thrashing through the woods that flanked the gap in front of their foes and be forced to drop into Open Order to reach their enemies.  We both agreed this made sense based on the events of the game. Suddenly my wife found herself staring down an frighteningly large horde of semi naked barbarians.

"I notice you aren't whistling the Darth Vader theme anymore."
"No, but look at all those guys coming at me! You should see this. It's scary! 'Stay on target!'"
"Stay on target?"
"Yeah, you know in Star Wars when they're in the trench and Darth Vader is bearing down on them and they're trying to hold it together? That's what this feels like."
"I'm going to put that in my blog."
"Whatever. That's fine. Just don't make me sound like an idiot like you did last time."

The barbarians and Romans hurled themselves at each other, the Romans just barely inflicting enough casualties to win the combat, forcing a Break test and seeing their enemies scattered before them.

But for Rome it was ironically, a Pyrrhic victory. In the combat the barbarians dealt six casualties, leaving the last Roman unit Shaken. with all three of her remaining units Shaken victory went to the barbarians.

1) Hail Caesar is fun. Even if all of your troops get stuck tangling in one corner of the board and you don't know the rules for dealing with woods, it's a fun, tense game. I really like it.
2) Woods! Ok, here's the deal. If you are in close order and you reach the edge of a wood, stop. You are done. Next round you can switch to Open Order, but a formation change like that uses your entire unit's movement. The following round, now that you are in Open Order, you can move into and through the woods. That's three rounds to move through a stand of woods.
3) My status markers worked really well! Just need a few for the Romans.
4) I need to paint more. I'm itching to get more forces on the table. Getting twice as many Romans on the board as we have now should start to open up more of the tactical decisions in the game.


  1. Hi! I discovered your blog a few days ago, and I'm fond of. Very good paint, detailed report of your game sessions, many tips...

    My friends and I, are beginners at Hail Caesar too, and we planned to make our first battle test soon. In the meantime, I'm painting my (beginning of) early imperial roman army, in a "gladiator" way. You can see it at our blog: (it's in french).

    1. Thanks for the comments! I've subscribed to your blog. Lots of good looking content there!

  2. Wow I think your painting is amazing. I love the look of those Caesarian infantry and your bases are very realistic too. Great stuff, Simon.

  3. Thanks Secundus! I've been a big fan of your blog for quite a while. I checked out your painted celts and sketches quite a bit when I was planning my own :) I'm still too nervous to try the silver spray base for Romans though!