Saturday, June 22, 2013

Hail Caesar Skirmish #11: Infantry vs. Cavalry. Kind of.

"Hey, for our Hail Caesar game tomorrow, let's do something different this time" my gaming pal Mike said, "Not just a line 'em up bash."

No problem. I'd been looking forward to trying a Table Top Teaser and this seemed a great chance to shake things up with a new scenario. I flipped through the collection to find something suitable, which proved a bit challenging as most seemed to work better for more modern armies (Horse and Musket or later), or required a ton of cavalry or terrain. I finally settled on "Infantry vs. Cavalry" and "Ambush". Check out our battle report for Cavalry Attack after the jump.

I didn't have nearly enough cavalry to run cavalry attack, but quickly finished up a small unit of Numidian cavalry (please excuse the block painting and unfinished bases) and tried converting the suggested forces to figures I had on hand. The terrain also needed some modification as well, but the vital hills, river and layout were close enough to work.

Romans (RED) 

The Romans in column formation

The Romans begin the game in column, marching along a river when they are surprised by a (mostly) cavalry force. We set up the Romans according to the scenario map, two cohorts per side, with Cretan archers in the middle, all in column formation.
The Romans begin nearly in the middle of the table, with a series of hills and rough ground to the north that will provide an escape from the cavalry attackers. Should they manage to reach the rough ground, the Romans will win the scenario.

Celts & Allies (BLUE) 

The celtic cavalry prepares to launch their attack.

The Celts are free to set up along the western table edge in an angled deployment zone. As the Celts, I placed my two light cavalry and one heavy cavalry towards the north, ready to dash across the table and cut off the Roman retreat to the north. Two warbands and a Spanish medium infantry unit took the southern half of the deployment zone, with a small unit of celt slingers just in front of them.

Initial deployment

Opening Moves

The Celts, springing their trap, received the first initiative. I ordered my cavalry to charge, one small unit swinging north to stall any Roman advance to the protected ground to the north, with the rest of the cavalry charging straight ahead to engage the boys from the boot as quickly as possible.

I rolled well, getting my cavalry into position, but failing to engage the Romans in combat. The rest of my infantry moved along the river, but remained beyond javelin range.
Light cavalry swing north to cut off escape to the hills

The main body surges towards the Romans, but not yet reaching javelin range.

With initiative passing to the Romans, my opponent Mike realized he needed to get his Romans out of march and into a defensive position. A lengthy discussion occurred in which Mike I negotiated the sophisticated maneuvers he wanted his tiny lead men to engage in, while I asked him to reconsider the complexity of his commands for something a little simpler. After quite a bit of back and forth, his troops finally fell into a crescent formation, one side facing the onrushing enemies, the other facing the river to prevent a flank attack.

Romans unfurl into a broad crescent

Neither of us were quite sure of the legality of the maneuver  but in an effort to get back to the game, we decided it was good enough and got on with it. The Romans loosed sporadic ranged attacks, but dealt few casualties.

Cavalry Charge

Having failed to take advantage of the Romans initial vulnerable position, I had to console myself with the fact that they had to drop into a defensive position rather than simply making for the hills. Feeling confident, I went for broke, charging my warbands towards the Roman line which evaded back out of the way. Of course, this is totally illegal since they are close order infantry, but neither Mike nor myself caught that rule in the moment.

Romans deploy Kirk's Kobayashi Maru maneuver to get out of a jam.
On the other side of the line, my medium cavalry supported by light Numidian cavalry crashed into the Roman line.
Celts attack, with Numidians in support

But after a horrendous round of combat, were forced to recoil!

Forced to flee! This is what I get for putting figures with unfinished bases into play.
Having rebuffed the Celtic attack, the Romans see an opportunity to deal some damage.

The Late Republic Strikes Back

The Roman left which had just evaded, charges the warbands, completely obliterating them. Their defeat was so quick the only evidence that remains is this pic of the victorious Romans, bloodied and disordered, but still in the fight.

Without celts in proximity, Romans collapse into a stout defensive configuration

Having been dealt a serious blow, I felt I need to attack. On the Carthaginian initiative I sent my medium infantry into support another cavalry charge and ordered the advance.

One last charge

Again the two lines collided and again my cavalry performed miserably, routing off the table following a dismal 3 on the break test. With three out of six units routed, and finally realizing that formed infantry can't evade along I decided to concede the game. There was little hope to stopping the Roman juggernaut with only light troops remaining.

Had I not been so eager to come to blows, or realized that I didn't have quite the numerical advantage I thought I had, I would have proceeded more cautiously and perhaps made a better showing. Also, I love Hail Caesar, but it could really use a proper glossary and index to help quickly find rules questions. Still we had fun, and since the first game went by rather quickly, we decided to try out the other Table Top Teaser, "Ambush". That write up will need to wait for another time though.


  1. Some beautiful figures here! Great pics, a very nice work on this report!

  2. Another enjoyable report- I really have to give Hail Caesar a go


  3. I've been enjoying these posts - nice to see how adaptable the game is.


  4. Great looking game and figures; I'm a fan of HC, although haven't played it in a long time. Best, Dean

  5. Have you covered any changes you've made to make this work as skirmish? I've looked over your site and can't find anything.

    What is your basing size and how many stands are in each unit?

    1. I don't have enough figures for a proper game of Hail Caesar. Since I was playing with only a single or two divisions per side, I labeled these "skirmishes", although they aren't quite the small man-to-man skirmishes you might be expecting.

      Now that we've played a dozen games I'm finding that not having three or four divisions per side does impact how the game plays. Units can end up breaking after only one or two rounds of combat, which can be disastrous if you are only playing with a handful of figures. I'd suggest not applying the negative penalties from losing combat for the first few rounds of combat (for example, on the first round of the game the largest penalty a unit can suffer to a post melee break test is -1, on the second round -2, etc.), but we're still discussing rules tweaks ourselves.

      As for basing, I base a 2 rank deep unit on a central 80x40mm base (with the standard bearer, commander, musician, etc. near the center) flanked by two 40x40mm bases. The 40x40s have 4 figures, the 80x40 has 8 figures. You can see some examples here:

      For warbands and phalanx (4 ranks deep), I put together a second set of bases, but switch to a pair of 80x40 stands.

      For cavalry, I wound up using units of 10 mounting singles on a 25x50 base and doubles on 50x50 bases. A few single riders are mounted on 50x50 bases though to match the facing of my foot units (160mm for foot vs 150mm for cavalry is close enough for me)

      Actual skirmishers are mounted singly on 1" washers.

    2. I'm with you - I don't own any units! I'm interested in what you are doing because I don't want to wait until I have a Priestly size at to play the game.

      I've copied something from the web, but I can't find the reference where it discusses small brigade rules changes. The gist of how you conduct a one brigade game is by adjusting the break points.

      I'll send it to you I you're interested. I really wish I could remember where I copied it from so I could give proper credit.

    3. Found it

    4. And more here

    5. This is great stuff that I hadn't seen. Poring over it now. Thank you!