I have been showing a lot of models recently so as a change of pace here is a write up of a the game Hail Caesar and a mini review of it as well. The Hail Caesar (HC from now on) rules are not new but at least around here do not get too much table play. That’s a shame really and one thing I’m correcting. It’s the Warlord ancients set and is based on the similar concepts as Black Powder. It’s legacy is in Warmaster and is aimed for ‘lots of toys on the table’ gaming but in a fairly fast moving gentlemanly gaming style. All these rules were written by Rick Priestly. Overall, it’s a fun set of rules for big games which move at a decent pace. It’s not a competition set of rules, and not one for rules lawyers or those wanting loads of fine details – it’s a big picture game.
It does work well for that it’s aimed to do and is a good set of rules. They allow a decent amount of tactics and dice rolling without getting bogged down in too many details. They allow for big games and many players – which I believe was the aim. As an example the game this week had 6 players, each with 2 commands of troops. This was on a 12×4 foot table, with 15mm figs to give room to maneuver. I umpired the game and provided all the figures. The pictures and over narrative here are from last weeks game.The game was new Kingdom Egyptians with Sea People allies vs. Hittities in a stand up fight. The battlefield worked for chariots, with generally a lot of open flat ground with some gentle hills and a little rough terrain on the edges. After all they would not fight in an area which did not suite chariots at all.
All the figures are my 15mm armies. I don’t have any good command stands for these armies though. So I used 20mm round circles for those – white for Sea People/Egyptians and black for Hittites. Not sure what I really want to do for those in the long term…I don’t really want to use (and paint more) chariots but may have to…Like most of the games in this family of rules (Black powder etc.) command and control is based on stating what you want to do and then rolling 2D6 roll under the commander target number (usually 8 but can vary depending on their skill). The better the roll the move activations troops get to complete the stated actions. They get up to 3 move actions. If the roll is failed then the commander can order no more units in that command. A 12 and they roll on the blunder table – which I have to say is somethings a little tame and I may have to tweak that a bit for 15mm figs.The first moves of the game were typical, with some commands doing nothing while others moving rapidly forward. Units in column get a single move even if the command fails to move them. That’s cool and provides a good way to ensure units away from battle keep moving. But fighting in column is a really bad idea, so you need to get out of column when close to the enemy. Also units close to opponents get the option to make a single move a single move if the commander does not want to roll for them. This is often a good idea as well for commanders and another cool idea.We played using cm’s not inches but that was the only change to the rules. Standard units were 80mm wide (2 DBx bases) wide. This works well for 15mm figs and allows a decent amount of maneuver on a 4 foot wide table. Skirmishes are always in one order when using y 15mm miniatures which makes things simple as well.
One of the things I like with these rules vs. the square based movement ones is the flexibility of movement. No protractors for angles or weird specific known move distances in this game. With a reasonable table space there is no end of the world issue which is seen in many games as well. It’s very flexible till you get close to the enemy and even then it’s fairly simple. There are a few basic rules about facing the enemy when close to opponents, but in many ways these are common sense. No sneaking past a flank of an unengaged opponent in a single turn etc. One of the interesting things with the stated verbal commands and having an umpire is you can force people to do exactly what they stated. So when one Hittite commander issued the order to move onto the hill for a command that’s exactly what they did. This was not the straight forward move that was desired but what was stated. That was not lost on others in the game and as this was early in the game it just got a laugh but can make for some fun circumstances in games. The verbal commands are fun – especially with an umpire in the game to make players follow up on their stated orders (not what they wanted). It makes people think a bit before just moving.So with the two forces moving towards each other in a somewhat uncontrolled manner – some commands sat back and did not. One of the Hittite commands refused to do much all game – which I’ll cover more later. This is where putting units in column helped as even with a bad command roll the means they move 1 activation.
It turns out that both sides had a similar plan. Each planned to concentrated 3 commands on 2 opposing ones on the respective right side of their line. This of course meant that the center commands could face off one to one, but at a bit of an angle. So 3 Hittite commands focused on the Sea People allies (as you can see above), while on the other end of the table 3 Egyptian commands focused on 2 Hittite ones (below).The sea peoples sent their chariots forward and inflicted first hits on the Hittite chariots in front.But, the Hittite skirmishers came forward and from the chariots flank inflicted a hit and forced them back to be right in front of their infantry. Shooting does limited real damage in a single round but can start to inflict a few hits on units and if a 6 is rolled then the opponent has to roll a break check – which can force them back as in this case. The results can also disrupt units which stops them being given orders (and fight worse) in their next turn. The break test a 2D6 looked up on a table. Over few turns though shooting can start to become effective so it’s to worth sitting too long in missile range of an opponent if you can help it. This seems about right for this period of warfare.At the same tine, the Hittite Chariots closed in on both sides of the Sea Peoples. This mean there were 2 chariots commands, with a supporting infantry command in the middle of them facing the sea peoples. It looks like the 3 on 2 plan is coming together on this flank for the Hittites… but it slowed down as many of the Hittite commanders started to fail giving orders on this flank. It seems the Hittite troops were not as enthusistic about this plan as the commanders! Maybe they know the Sea People troops are quite good fighters…In the center the commands closed, the Hittites keeping their formation better than the Egyptians. But the Egyptians managed to get to the high ground and set up on the slopes which would would benefit them if and when it came to hand to hand fighting.
Most fighting works by rolling a 4+ (with a few modifiers) for the number of dice for the type of fighting. These types are long range – over 6 cm away, short range and support – not touching for full combat to 6 cm away and then melee. Melee has two factors, one for the initial clash and the second for subsequent rounds of combat. I actually like this breakup of the factors and feels right to me. You also get to use your clash for the first round of combat so none of this oddness of having the turn to get the best combat factors for your troops – so Gauls and Knight still can do much more damage in the initial impact than in a long drawn out fight. However, being the charger still give you a bonus modifier to hit. Any hits can be saved by their opponents – on a score based on their stats. Losers of hand to hand have to make break tests, as do those shot at and hit with a 6. There are different result for they type of unit and the cause of the impact. This is fairly simple but give a nice effect to my mind.Both sides were hampered by poor command rolls in the center but soon the forces were in bow range. The Egyptians had many more bows and made them tell, causing damage and forcing some of the Hittite units to fall back. So much so that they took a risk and charged into hand to hand with some of their units. In hand to hand units which are close also get to support the fight and so this ended up in a big fight. This did not work out well for the Egyptians, but they did not lose a unit but did have to fall back onto the slopes they came from… It was lucky break that they were not destroyed! This was not the only case where a unit with in theory better odds of winning did not in the game.The middle bogged down though soon and the focus was already on the flanks by this time.
Talking of the other flank, it was a chariot on chariot game – and the Hittite Chariots are slightly better in combat and had more chariots to start with! The other troops were really in a supporting role. However, the first blood went to the Hittites who again found their skirmishers and infantry able to deal with a scattered set of Egyptian Chariots units. After that though the Hittite infantry threw themselves at the Egyptian supporting foot (mainly bowmen) on the hill. This nearly worked and won them the center/flank. But, in the in the end it was a little too much for those units and the Egyptian bowmen held and fought off the attack.
This flank did have the big chariot on chariot fight. In the end two of the Egyptian chariot units were initially flanked and held overall but one was ground down and destroyed in subsequent melees rounds. This allowed the Hittites to get on the flank of the next Egyptian unit in the line – one which had been holding their own in the fight. It looked bad for the the Egyptians here.
It’s worth pointing out the dice on the table you can see in the pictures. Each unit can take usually 6 hits before being shaken – if they ever take doubt this then they are install destroyed. So I use a die to show the hits taken. At the end of the turn if shaken extra hits are removed so usually only a single die is required at the end of turn – multiple are used to show the hits taken that round. A commander can try to rally off a single hit for a unit per turn as their last command – which means this happens rarely.Surprisingly, although against the odds the Egyptian chariot unit which was flanked won their fight and drove off their opponents. In the other fight both units are shaken. Being shaken is a penalty to hit and a major factor in the break tests – making it much more likely for a unit to route and disappear from the table. So the Egyptian chariots fought the Hittite challenge to a standstill on this flank. The gamble of taking on the Hittite chariots seemed to pay off.Back on the Sea People flank, a massive struggle was going on between the Hittite chariots and the Sea People line of units. Although the chariots initially drove back some of the Sea People they decided to try to overwhelm the remaining units in combat vs. pursue those pushed back units. In the end this did not work, as although they had more die to roll the Hittites still did not get the breaks and win by enough to defeat the Sea People. So, the Sea People foot held the Hittite chariots and even though the chariots had a the better odds it was not enough for them to win with enough for victory.
To prove themselves and hold the center of the attacking forces against them a single Sea People unit charged nearly all of the middle Hittite command, the central infantry between the 2 chariots forces facing them. The remaining units in this command were still facing the second unit of Hittite Chariots – who kept rolling high command rolls and failing to do anything. This single brave unit faced one Hittite infantry with 3 supports.
Showing how good (or lucky?) they were they forced the Hittites back and won this fight! The nice thing with Hail Caesar is that although it does have a number of die rolls for combat – usually between 3 and 12 for a fight that’s not enough to always balance out the randomness. So fights like this happen and the break tests on 2D6 can mean although unlikely results happen. This makes for a good game as you can judge the odds but still lose.
Interestingly, the other Hittite command of Chariots kept failing to move. From the middle to the end of game. So their lack of engagement was a huge factor in the result. If they had been able to attack the Sea Peoples as well then I think the story would likely have been different. But their inactively made this a 2 commands vs. 2 fight so the outnumbering on this flank by the Hittites failed. As the umpire I joked that maybe bribes/a deal had been give before the battle. After all maybe that reluctant Hittite commander was just waiting to take over after the loss of this battle…
But time was closing in and so we ended the game with the Egyptians just in control of their own destiny. The Sea People had held and the other units were marginally winning over the hittites that they outnumbers. So, overall, the game was a slight victory by the Egyptians. But the Hittites were very close and both sides would I suspect would claim victory. To be fair, the real winner were us players with all having fun and playing a big game like this in 3+ hours.
So overall, I really like Hail Caesar for big multi-player games. We did a few rules wrong but playing again soon should get those sorted out. All 7 of us had fun last week and I’ll do something similar in a few moths to get the toys on the table again. I need to sort out better command elements though…
I still like ‘too the strongest’ but I think this is rule set is better for the big flowing games I like though. Both work for the same type of game, and have similar command & control system. I just prefer the feeling of movement and the different combat factors which HC provides. This feels more flowing with movement decisions in the game. But both are fun on the table. As a aside, Hail Caesar also has some glorious ‘miniature porn’ rule books with loads of great pictures and scenario idea’s. So although not cheap, if you want a fast playing game which can support loads of toys on the table for ancient games then I recommend you have a look at Hail Caesar.