By Rick Priestley
Available from Warlord Games
The newest set of miniature gaming rules for battles with ancients is not 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 and 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 rick 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 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 players think should be handled differently, players should talk out the situation and come to an agreement as to how to handle the situation. While the author suggests that an umpire should be used in games, it is not mandatory.
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. Often, these 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. Each 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 is all of the color prints and photographs presented in the rules. The miniatures 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 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 but 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 by the unit as you can base your units using as the player wishes.
Now that you have a look at the basic background to the game, let’s take a look at the contents of the rule book. I will list the major sections of Hail Caesar that are contained in this 187 page book. The major sections of Hail Caesar 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 is only three phases however, there can be multiple steps which each of the phases depending on the course of battle. 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 items that make up the Sequence of Play.
One of the most important phases of Hail Caesar is giving your units orders. What is most interesting, is that while the giving orders phase is most important, it is 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.
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 its issued order as stated.
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 a unit being ordered is 17” away from an enemy unit, and the Commander gives the order a charge order, it is possible for that unit to charge the enemy during this phase. Now, notice that I say “it’s possible”, if that is what the Commander desires.
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 can participate in 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 and 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.
The rule book also includes 7 Battle Reports which provide the reader an excellent idea of how the game plays through different 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
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.