By Rick Priestley
Available from Warlord Games
From Line of Fire #11 which can be purchased at http://www.locknloadgame.com/
The newest set of miniature gaming rules for battles with ancients is now available from Warlord Games. This set of rules is for battles with model soldiers in the ancient era. The rulebook is a handsomely printed affair with hundred’s of color pictures and diagrams that complement the rules presented. As the author states at the front of the book, the rules have been designed with a conscientious effort that games fought with Hail Caesar can be completed in an evening, or in the case of a large game, a weekend. The author also states that the rules attempt to convey a sense of drama to the actions and to present players with nerve racking decisions and to reward or punish risk taking.
Hail Caesar has been designed to be an extremely flexible set of miniatures rules. As such, different sized battles, different numbers of players, and different levels of complexity are all supported and are simply adjusted in this set of rules. The author states throughout the rule book that players should use common sense when applying the rules and playing the game. If a situation arises that is not covered in the rules, or that player’s believe should be handled differently, players should talk out the situation and come to a mutual agreement as to how to handle the situation. While the author suggests that an umpire may be used in games, it is not mandatory. Rick Priestley also tells us that you can use miniatures of any size with the rules by adjusting the ranges and base sizes. He also hints that counters can be used in place of miniatures for those who don’t have a complete army. What many boardgamers may not know is that for many years miniature games were referred to as “Table Top” games because they were obviously played on a table top. More on this later…..
Hail Caesar can be thought of as a core set of rules for command, movement and combat. Basic values and ratings assigned to units make the core mechanics simple to modify for specific situations. This makes it easy to define how troops move, how effectively they fight in varying situations, and how they react to casualties. Because the rules are so flexible, it is simple to specify qualities of troops, technologies, or cultural differences. Sometimes these items are expressed through special rules, and can be combined or changed as desired by the players.
Hail Caesar is played using six sided dice (d6). Depending on the situation within the game, you will roll a number of D6’s. You will also need a ruler, maybe an umpire if available, and definitely miniatures or counters if you prefer. Each counter or unit of miniatures represents a typical fighting formation of its day. The basic troop types represented are Infantry, Cavalry, Wagons and Baggage, Artillery, Chariots, and Elephants. What I feel is an excellent bonus in this book is all of the color examples and photographs presented in the rules. The miniatures presented in the photographs are well painted and provide the reader with a painting guide of sorts that can be followed when painting their own miniatures.
The one thing that is slightly different in Hail Caesar but well explained is the basing of your army. You are provided with a chart that provides you with the type of troop and then the size of the individual base for that troop type. So, for example, you are told that for an Infantry Unit, the Individual Base Size is 20 x 20mm (13/16th x 13/16th inch) square. Now, the rules do not suggest that you mount your units individually, but to place multiple units on a base which is done simply by multiplying the base width by the number of figures that will be used. So, if you are going to represent a Roman Infantry Division of the Fourth Century (which is illustrated in the rules) you can put 4 figures on a base and that base will be 80 x 20mm or 5 figures on a base which would be 100 x 20m. This method of basing allows for a very flexible system that will allow players to represent casualties as they are taken since your units can be based as the player desires.
Now that you have seen the basic background to the game, let’s take a look at the contents of the rule book. The major sections of Hail Caesar that are contained in this 187 page book are;
- Hail Caesar
- The Army
- Game Rules
- Ranged Attacks
- Hand-to-Hand Combat
- Break Tests
- Victory and Defeat
- Troop Types
- A Selection of Useful Rules
- Battle Reports
Sequence of Play
The Sequence of play consists of only three phases. However, there can be multiple steps which each of the phases depending on the course of battle and the events that are taking place. The three phases of the Sequence of Play are;
- Ranged Attacks
- Hand-to-Hand Combat
Sounds simple right? Well, it is the subtleties that occur within each of the phases that makes’ these miniatures rules fun to play and present challenging dramatic situations as you fight your battles. Now let’s take an overview look at each of the items that make up the Sequence of Play.
One of the most important phases of Hail Caesar is commanding your unit’s. What is most interesting is that while the giving orders phase is most important, it is also the most entertaining. The rules suggest that when giving orders, players should imagine themselves as the consuls or emperors that were merciless to their underlings and to command their units as their real counterparts would have commanded their messengers.
Orders are stated verbally, aloud, and should be stated in a straightforward manner. Orders are always stated before any tests for success are conducted. Failure to state an order before rolling the dice is considered a blunder which has it own ramifications in the game. In most situations, units need orders to move or fire.
After the orders are given for your units, a test is taken to see how well the order is followed. The phasing player rolls 2d6 (two six sided dice) and compares the resulting combined die rolls against the Commanders leadership rating. If the dice roll total is greater than the Commanders leadership rating, the Command Test failed and no order is issued to that unit which means it cannot move or fire.
Now here is where Hail Caesar shines and some of the drama of the game occurs. If the dice rolled is equal to or 1 less than the Commander rating, the unit executes one move.
If the dice rolled is 2 less than the Commander rating, the unit can make two moves and if the dice rolled is 3 less or more than the Commanders rating, the unit can make three moves.
So, if you consider that an infantry unit can move 6” and it is ordered to attack an enemy unit that is 17” away, if the dice rolled are 3 less than the Commanders rating it’s possible to attack the enemy unit. Now, notice that I say “it’s possible”, if that is what the Commander desires because it is not mandatory that units move their full distances as determined by the orders die roll.
Ranged attacks are divided into two types of attacks, short range and long range. The short range attack value is used against units up to 6” distant while the long range attack value is used against targets that are more than 6” away.
Obviously, only units with a ranged attack are allowed to make ranged attacks. Ranged attacks are made against units that are closest to the unit conducting the attack. If a unit is involved in hand-to-hand combat, it cannot make a ranged attack. If a unit that can participate in a ranged attack is charged, that unit can fire their weapons as the other unit charges or moves to contact.
Distances are measured in Hail Caesar from the center unit to the closest point of the target unit. Normally, a standard bearer or some leader unit is placed in the center of the formation so that distances can be measured from that unit to the target unit.
All units firing a ranged attack (either short or long) at a target unit combine their attack into a single combat. Each unit that is shooting gets to roll 1d6. So, if there are three units shooting, three dice would be rolled. On a roll of 4, 5, or 6 a hit is scored on the target unit. For example, if three units are shooting and the result of the 3d6 are 2, 4, and 6, two hits would be assigned to the target unit. If any of the hit dice rolled scores a 6, a break test must be performed which will be discussed a little later.
Now, since your units shot at the target unit, the target unit now gets its associated morale saves. Morale for troop types vary from 4+ which is good, 5+ which is average, and 6+ which is poor. To test morale of the target unit, a player rolls one dice for each hit inflicted on the unit. If the dice score rolled is equal to or better than the unit’s morale value then the hit is disregarded, or saved.
Of course, to all of the items discussed above, there are modifiers which can add or subtract from the die rolls to aid or penalize the dice being rolled.
Hand-to-hand combat begins with the charges that are declared during the Command part of the turn. Once opposing units have moved into touch with one another, they exchange blows. There are many rules concerning charges that can affect hand-to-hand combat which will not be covered in this review. Remember, this review is to look at the game system and provide an overview of the system, not the details of every facet. For that, you need to purchase the Hail Caesar rules.
Regardless of which side’s turn it is, every unit engaged in combat takes part in every facet of the combat. So in effect, there is no attacker or defender except when a charge takes place since all units whose bases are touching are involved in combat.
Here again, the combat resolution is similar to “Ranged Combat”. A hand-to-hand combat unit has two different combat attack values. There is a Clash value and a Sustained attack value. The Clash value is used during the first round of each engagement. The Sustained value is the attack value that is used for all subsequent rounds of combat.
A combat unit has a typical combat value of between 6 and 9. This defines the number of d6 that will be rolled when a combat needs to be resolved. So, a typically sized unit will roll 6d6, or 6 dice. Once the dice are rolled, you have to determine the number of hits on the opponents unit. This is the same as with Ranged combat. Any die rolled that is a 4, 5, or 6 means your unit has inflicted a hit on the opposing unit.
When the combat die rolls have been completed, the morale die rolls take place. As with ranged combat, one die is rolled for each hit. Die rolls less than the units morale value fail and the hit is applied to the unit. Die rolls equal to or greater than the units morale value saves the hit and it is not applied to the unit.
Casualties, Disorder, Shaken, and Broken Units
Once the dice are rolled to resolve combat (either ranged or hand-to-hand), morale saves recorded, it is time to determine the casualties of the combat. Any hits that are left are now recorded as casualties. Casualties represent men killed, wounded as well as other factors that we might expect to affect a unit’s ability to fight such as exhaustion or loss of nerve. It is important to keep track of casualties on units as this will determine a units shatter or break value and also can have die roll additions or subtractions. It is recommended in the rules that you can keep track of casualties by using extra shields that can show the number of casualties inflicted on your unit. However, if you flexibly base your units you should be able to remove figures to reflect casualties which would provide a more picturesque game.
Once a unit has taken casualties equal to the units’ stamina value it is said to be shaken. A units’ stamina value can vary from unit to unit. Once a unit is shaken it must take a break test if further casualties are suffered. Shaken units also suffer additional penalties as indicated throughout the rule book.
Units that accumulate double the stamina value are automatically broken. A shattered unit is considered to have been destroyed and is immediately removed from the game.
Often, the result of casualties is that the unit under fire becomes disordered. Units that are disordered represent a unit who has lost cohesion either because of panic, or more likely due to its rank becoming disorganized or thrown into disarray. A disordered unit suffers various penalties the most significant of which is that it is not allowed to receive orders or to use its initiative.
Of course to all of the above, there are retreats, advances after combat, open order, charges, supporting attacks, leader combat and much, much more. I have only looked at some of the more basic rules of the game that makes Hail Caesar the enjoyable miniatures rules that they are. There are many subtleties in these rules that take them from the ordinary to the extra ordinary.
The rule book also includes 7 Battle Reports which provide the reader with an excellent idea of how the game plays through different time periods with varying types of battles. The Battle Reports provided are;
- The Battle of Kadesh, 1274BC
- With Your Shield or On It, Summer 426BC
- A Border Raid, 52AD
- Go Meek Into the Desert, 260AD
- Barbarians at the Gates, 500AD
- The Battle of Brunanburgh, 937AD
- The Road to Damascus, 1148AD
In each of the Battle Reports you are given a short background history of the battle, the order of battle for each side and, the troop types and the values that were used in the game. The next item discussed are any special rules that were needed to simulate this battle. After this comes the most enjoyable part of the “Battle Reports” sections which is “How it Played”. It is here where you get an overview of how each side deployed their troops, and maneuvered them turn by turn. You get to see the flow of the game in these battles which show many subtitles of the game. Here the strategy of each side is shown and you get to see part of the battle illustrated in excellent photos. The Battle Reports are the perfect complement to these rules.
Table Top Games
As I alluded to at the beginning of this review, the author Rick Priestly also mentions that you can use counters in lieu of miniatures. For todays’ boardgamer, this may seem like a new concept, but let me assure you, it’s not. In the 1970’s there were a few companies that exploited this idea and published games that bridged the world of miniatures and boardgames. Most of these publishers were from the UK and they developed a successful following both here in the US and the UK. The concept they were based on was that they could be played with counters and these counters were cut out of a cardboard that was approximately 1mm thick, something like folded cardboard. However, with the advances in today’s technologies, these counters could be printed on a standard color printer and then glued to foam-core and individually cut. This is the same process you use when purchasing and downloading games from Lock n’ Load. However, the biggest difference is that there is no map, you create your own counters, and you would play on a “table top”.
Well, with a minimum of artistic skills, some imagination, and work, you can create your own armies for use with Hail Caesar with a computer, printer, glue, and foam-core. The counters you create for your armies will be based on the examples provided in the core rules with modifications as the gamer sees fit. By that, I mean that the gamers should feel free to modify the values given in the rules based on the armies that they are going to recreate. This provides the gamers with a lot of latitude in what they do to create a more balanced game between friends. Below is a sample of a Heavy Infantry unit with the units’ values defined. This units physical dimensions are 20mm x 20mm or 13/16th “ by 13/16th of an inch.
Heavy Infantry Unit
As you can see from this Heavy Infantry unit all the values that have been defined within the game system are shown on your counters. As the default, we have used the standard 28mm sized frontages that any gamer would use even if they were creating bases for a miniatures army. Next, you will see a counter for a Heavy Cavalry unit. As expected, the frontage, or physical size of this unit is larger than that of an infantry unit. You can see the example of this unit below.
Heavy Calvary Unit
Now if you were to create your army based on these sized units you would be perfectly prepared to base a 28mm army should you ever desire to delve into the world of miniature gaming and paint a miniature army. However, since we are Table Top gaming, we will stick with our foam-core equivalents and below is a single unit illustrating how a Roman Heavy Infantry unit would look on your gaming table.
Part of Heavy Infantry Division
A full Heavy Infantry Division would consist of two rows of 10 individual units’ times four which means a full Roman Heavy Infantry Division would consist of 40+ counters including leaders.
Finally, if we were going to use our 28mm examples to create our armies, we should talk about the Table Top. Normally with this scale, the table top size employed is a 4’ x 8 table or larger. This gives the players plenty of room to lay out their scenery and deploy their troops. Also, there is enough room for the troops of either side to maneuver. However, not everyone has a table top or piece of wood large enough to play a game of this size. Also, if you are going to try and start building some miniature armies, you will find the cost of 28mm miniatures more expensive than other scales. So, I would like to propose an alternative for the boardgamer, who may be an up and coming miniature gamer.
As I said, a 4’ x 8’ table can be difficult to come by. However, a 2’ x 4’ table is somewhat easier. It is a very simple matter to adjust this game to 15mm. All the gamer needs to do is to take all of the measurements provided in the game and cut them in half. So, to simplify the counter sizes, instead of a 13/16th of an inch, you can use a standard 5/8th of an inch counter for Heavy Infantry. For the Heavy Cavalry, you use a ½” by 1” counter. Distances would be modified from 6” to 3” and ranges would be adjusted accordingly. By adjusting all of the values, halving them, you have now adjusted the game from 28mm to 15mm and most gamers can setup and play a very interesting game in the limited space. This is a perfect way for todays’ boardgamer to try their hand at miniature gaming without the investment in miniatures.
Hail Caesar is an excellent set of rules that can easily be adapted to any scale, even to counters. It offers players with a challenging yet simple system that is easy to play with the complexity being left to the strategy and tactics of maneuvering your units. Hail Caesar gives players drama and suspense as they never know how their units will react to their commanders’ orders. Rick Priestly and Warlord Games have provided the gaming world with a set of ancients’ rules that are easy to learn, simple to remember, but offer a challenge to an individual’s generalship. In Hail Caesar, a general’s strategy and tactics will reign supreme.
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