Monday, January 21, 2013

Hail Caesar Skirmish #7: Back to Basics

Before children, my wife and our friends Rob and Laura would meet regularly to play games. Catan, Ticket To Ride, Roborally, and more hit the table at least once a month. Since we all started infecting our houses with time-eating rug rats, our game nights have become infrequent at best.  The stars aligned the other night though, and we managed to get a game night with all four of us. Surprisingly  the game I was informed we'd be playing was Hail Caesar . Find out how teaching two wargaming newbs the art of ancient warfare went after the jump.
I set up a pretty standard table, a large forest along one edge, a pair of hills mirroring each other on the opposite side, and a few small impassable copses of trees along the midline.

I've found playing Romans the easiest to grasp so I gave each of the newbs a division of three heavy infantry and a single "fun" unit, Cretan archers for Rob, a small unit of Numidian cavalry for Laura. "Hey," she remarked looking at her enemy figures, "your guys don't have pants."

"LOL You did a really good job on his pubic hair.
Let me take a picture of it for your blog."

It was true. My wife and I took a pair of barbarian warbands, one unit of which was fighting naked. I took a unit of medium cavalry while my wife took a unit of celt slingers. I set the figures out in a battle line, gave a brief overview of the rules, and let them customize their deployment. This was to be a learning game so there was enough cushion within the Roman forces to let them take some casualties without those losses making the game unwinnable for the Romans.

I tried to give some tactical advice, but I largely let everyone make their own decisions on deployment and objectives.  Laura's Romans on their left were going to take the hill just in front of their starting position and let the Numidian cavalry harrass the barbarian Celts. The Roman right planned on using their archers to screen some infantry as it advanced to take the gap between the large forest and small copse of trees. Two infantry units would be held in reserve.

For the Celts their plan was to take off their clothes, shake their privates, and charge the Romans (the standard Celtic battle plan). The cavalry would be kept in reserve to prevent flanking or to attack a vulnerable Roman unit. How clever.

Cretans are Cretins

The battle began with the warbands advancing, the Celt slingers taking the lead and taking cover at the edge of the wood on the Celtic left. The Romans advanced as well, Laura's two infantry capturing the top of the hill with Rob's Romans milling about timidly on the Roman left.

The Cretan archers took up a position in front of the Roman lines and peppered the Celt slingers with arrows.

On the Celt turn my wife's slingers returned fire and inflicted a single casualty, hitting with a 6. They only needed 5's to hit, so that single 6 was enough to trigger a break test. The Cretans rolled, hoping to roll high, but winding up with a piddly 3 on 2d6. Checking the break test chart indicated the Cretans fled the battle. In both of their appearances on my table the Cretans have suffered the same fate: one casualty before breaking and running. What a bunch of worthless goat farmers!

Incensed, two of Rob's Roman cohorts broke off and advanced on the Celt slingers who were no doubt hooting in derision at the fleeing Greeks.

Celts are Cretins

Seeing the Romans advance, the Celts clashed their swords and spears against their shields, shouted epithets and oaths to their bloddy handed gods and looked to their war chief to give the order to charge. He stood before them, waved his hand at the young singers who were now under threat of Roman assault and addressed his troops.  "Quick! Hide behind those skirmishers!"  A blunder on the command roll saw the Celtic warbands drift left, tangled in the trees and behind the celt slingers.

As initiative passed back to the Romans they seized the opportunity and struck. They charged the slingers who fled backwards through the Celts to their rear, and continued on to crash into the front of the Celt warbands.

Numidian Gnats

On the Roman left, the advance of the Celts facing them had been repeatedly stalled by the Numidian cavalry. Laura grasped pretty quickly their purpose, closing to short range and peppering the Celt with javelins and then fleeing out of range when charged before returning again to do the same thing the following round.

"What's a Numibian?" "Tribes from North Africa. Have you heard of the Berbers?" "Like the rug"
"mmmm..Sort of. They live in like Algeria today. That's all that's left of the Numidians." "Awwuh /sad"

The initial clash on the Roman right was fearsome, the Celts using their Wild Fighters ability to reroll any misses on the first round of attacks, but over the next few turns the Roman's mettle would prove strong, gradually wearing the Celts down.

The Romans committed their reserves, swinging around to attack the already engaged Celtic left on their flank.

With the other Celt warbands on the right forced to pursue the Numidian cavalry or charge the Romans atop their defensive position on the hill (because of the proximity rules), the only hope for the surrounded Celtic left was the barbarian cavalry.

"Sorry guys, can't help. Gotta get these Romans on the hill. TTYL!"


Pro Tip: Don't let this happen. This is pretty much the Blue Screen of Death for your cunning plan.

The Celts found themselves under an absolute crush of Romans (that's the plural for Romans right? Flock of birds, herd of cattle, crush of Romans?). Surrounded and outnumbered two to one, the leading warband was annihilated and the other thrown back disordered. The Romans consolidated their forces using the free move after victory, but having already conducted a combat on their turn were only able to reengage the Celts.

Seeing an opportunity, the Celt cavalry sounded their horns, rolled three moves on their order dice and charged home into the Roman flank.

Legionnaires aren't quite as panicky as Greek archers though, and the Romans held on through the cavalry attack. On subsequent turns the Romans managed to finish off the shaken Celt warband before surrounding and throwing back the barbarian cavalry.

A few mopping up moves by the Romans saw the slingers decimated and cavalry fleeing off their rear table edge. With one division broken, and the other having failed to do much of anything, the Celt generals conceded the game to Rome.

We finished off the night with a proper curry and then it was off to try out a game of Pandemic , but that's a  review for another day.


  1. Very cool looking game and report. BTW, how many units were in your "divisions"? Best, Dean

    1. Thanks Dean! The Romans each had 4 units per division, the Celts had 3 per division. All told, it was about half the figures recommended for a HC game, and we skipped individual division commanders for the intro game.

  2. Great looking game. Love the look of your Celts

  3. Lovely armies, and thanks for posting. I need some inspiration for Gallic types - a horde of unpainted Celtiberians is looming on my horizon, and your colour schemes look great.

    1. Thanks! Hordes of Gallics can be really intimidating. Hopefully I won't need to paint up another group soon, but my wife was telling me I needed moreCelts after this game.

  4. We had so much fun playing the game with you guys -great post! Looking forward to the next battle..... :)

  5. Fanatastic looking game and well done introducing people to new rules.

  6. Great !
    I like it. The armies are very impressives. I like the maps, it's easy to understand the déployments and moves. Great work John

  7. Kudos to both you and your new players. It was a great looking game and looks like great fun as well!

  8. Great bat-rep and illustration of just how effective the much-maligned WF Romans can be!