Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Unique Commander Qualities for Hail Caesar

I was reading a thread on TMP that requested a set of ancient rules that included (among other things) variable generals. Many people suggested Hail Caesar, but it was pointed out that generals in Hail Caesar are all cut from the same cloth, barring their command value.

Commanders in Hail Caesar only have a few game rules associated with them that might be altered, but with a little bit of tweaking I think there are a lot of possibilities in bringing a unique flavor to individual generals. The Hail Caesar rules already have a few suggestions:

  • Command Rating: The number under which the command dice must be rolled to issue a command. Typically 8. Vary it by +/- 1 to customize the commander. 
  • Combat Ability: Maximum number of dice a commander can roll in combat. Typically 3. Increase or decrease the maximum number of combat dice, up to 6 dice for a legend such as Alexander the Great.

There are a few other inherent numbers associated with commanders that could be changed for variety: 
  • Command Distance: How far away a unit must be before suffering penalties to the command roll. The standard command radius is 12", but this could be adjusted by say +/- 3" to represent a commander with especially well or ill trained runners or communication system. 
  • Survivability: After concluding combat in which the commander was attached to an engaged unit, 2d6 are rolled to determine if the commander is hit in the melee, with an additional 1d6 rolled to determine whether he is wounded or slain. Grant the commander a chance to reroll one of the 2d6 (perhaps once per game), or to gain a +/-1 to the following 1d6 roll to represent either a particular hardy or weak warrior.

Commanders also receive a few special actions to help their divisions, Rally! and Follow Me! Both of these could be modified by allowing the commander to roll three dice rather than the usual two, taking either the two best (or alternately two worst) dice for the result, representing commanders who are either particularly charismatic or hated. If that's too fiddly, simply give the commander a bonus or penalty to their command rating when issuing a Rally! or Follow Me! order.

Finally, just as units receive unique special abilities, the same could be applied to commanders. A Wild barbarian general might be able to reroll the dice he adds to the first combat he engages in. A Tough Roman commander might get to reroll one of his combat dice each turn.

Want to randomly generate the quality of your army leader before the battle? Roll a pair of d6, one assigned to the general's positive qualities, and one to his negative qualities. If the you rolled a double, the general has no special qualities, otherwise consult the chart below:

Positive DieQuality
1Pious: Once per game, re-roll one of the two command dice. The new roll stands, even if the result is worse than the former roll. 
2Stern: The commander suffers distance penalties when issuing commands to units beyond 15" (rather than 12")
3Orator: Roll 3d6 discard the highest die when issuing a Rally! command.  
4Charismatic: Roll 3d6, discard the highest die when issuing a Follow Me! command.
5Warrior: Only slain on a 1 or 2 (rather than 1-3) when determining fate after being hit in combat.
6Fierce: Roll the general's combat dice separately from the unit he is attached to. Once per game, re-roll any of the general's misses. 

Negative DieQuality
1Drunkard: May not use the general's re-roll ability to re-roll a blunder. 
2Undisciplined: The general suffers distance penalties when issuing commands to units beyond 9" (rather than 12")
3Not One for Speeches: Roll 3d6, discard the lowest die when issuing a Rally! command.
4Coward: Roll 3d6, discard the lowest die when issuing a Follow Me! command.
5Ill Health: Slain on a 1-4 when determining fate after being hit in combat. 
6No Taste for Blood: Roll the general's combat dice separately from the unit he is attached to. For each die that is a miss, reduce the maximum number of dice the general can roll by 1 in future combats.

These aren't tested, and might be too fiddly in practice, but I thought there might be something there worth trying.


  1. I really like this thinking and direction. There is something there for sure. I might give some of your new commander rules a try and then come up with some myself. When playing with named historical generals it would be cool to develop a very unique rule for that general that really captures his life, personality, strategies and historical flavor.

    1. Great! Please let me know how they fare if you use them. I really liked what you did with your commander cards, I'm sure you could stat up some of the personalities for your Carthaginians.

  2. I really like the structure you're laying out. In convention games I've added a trait called "jealousy" where 2 commanders on one side so dislike each other that they reduce their command rating by one if their within 18" to reflect them giving contradictory orders to units in the vicinity. It comes into play if one division needs to reinforce another that's about to collapse.

    The Hail Caesar ruleset is very well suited for adding command personality and it's one of the reasons it's my "go-to" ancients ruleset.

    1. Wow! I had only thought about the individual commanders, but I love that "jealousy" interaction. I think I need to steal that!

  3. Good ideas. These rulesets are made to be tweaked.

  4. Great ideas. My only concern would be the Charismatic quality. Follow me is a very powerful order, handing out a bonus to issue the order could be a real game changer.

    1. Yes, reviewing again, I think you might be right. I'll need to give it a playtest at some point to make sure. Thanks for the feedback!

  5. Clever adaptions for a decent set of rules. I heard somewhere that Warlord may be working on a revised edition of HC. Best, Dean

  6. I love these. Jonathan and I may have to try these out. Great ideas.