Saturday 20 May 2017

Hail Caesar - Sojourn in Sicily, c.275 BC

This weekend we played the first game of Hail Caesar we have had in quite a while.  I took on the role of Pyrrhos, the 6mm king of Epeiros and hegemon of the Greeks of Italy and Sicily. My noble opponent, Jameel Barcar (JB for short), led the forces of Carthage. The prize of our contest - control of Sicily and bragging rights.

Above you can see the brave Epeirots, their subjects and allies lined up on the lower left of the picture, while the Punic forces and their mercenaries are aligned along the top and right. My orber of battle is spread-sheeted below, but suffice to say, from left to right I had a command of Oscan light infantry supported by my elephants, a central command of pikemen and hoplites, and a mobile strike command on the right led by Pyrrhos and consisting of all my cavalry supported by two small units of hillmen.

It should be noted that we give regular divisional commanders a command value of 9 to keep the game rolling,
and give all light infantry and mounted 'Feigned Flight', allowing them to disengage from melee opponents.

Opposite my Oscans were a horde of hairy Gauls, Punic citizen spearmen and Sacred Band were in the centre, supported by some chariots, while the massed Greek, Italian and Numidian cavalry (eight units in all!) faced my own cavalry.

Unfortunately for me, JB miscalculated points to models present and ended up a good 50 points shy of my total. That meant that should good ol' Pyrrhos get a win, it would be undermined by the inequality of the points! A minor issue, but a niggly one.

Above, Pyrrhos' mounted command on the left, verses the massed mercenary cavalry of Carthage on the right (skulking behind the hill). 

The opening turns saw a steady advance from my side of the table. Under Pyrrhos, the hillmen made for the trees and the cavalry approached the hills. The heavy infantry moved to within the range of their skirmish screen while the Oscans (mostly hayseeds with little or no Greek!) made a more haphazard advance.  

The Carthaginians also suffered a few command issues early on, especially with their Gallic command. These hairy giants had to navigate a field system in order to occupy the local town, while some of their brethren were hampered behind the Punic chariots.

And then the massed Carthaginian mounted command charged. Or, at least,  half of it did. Their four small units of Greek and Italian medium cavalry rested their hill and fell upon the Epeirot, Thessalian and Oscan cavalry of my right flank. My chaps counter charged (of course) but were still caught on the downhill slope. Happily, my plucky Tarantine light cavalry were also at hand to add their support to the opening clash.

It was over quickly. In the first charge, two of JB's cavalry units were routed while the other two fell back, pursued by Pyrrhos' finest. Not, though, pursued by Pyrrhos himself. He had a horse killed under him leading the initial charge and there was some confusion among the ranks as to whether he was actually killed or not. 

Of course, we all know Pyrrhos' lot was not to die gloriously in Sicily, but in a street brawl in Argos having suffered a roof tile in the head, so we ruled that he was not killed, just incapacitated. He reappeared, with a reduced command value at the end of my following turn.

Meanwhile, the two remaining units of Carthaginian medium cavalry melted away and the Numidian lights (who had ridden to their aid) just as quickly. Before any of the infantry got within bow shot of each other, the fight on the Pyrrhic right flank was over. It was a victory of Pyrrhos, and a Pyrrhic victory in every sense of the word. The king was dead (he got better) and the heavy and medium cavalry that rode with him was blown beyond further use. 

Over on my left flank, a unit of Oscans had advanced in open order towards the town. Seeing fresh meat (the townspeople already having suffered occupation for two turns or so), the garrison of Gauls decamped, double time, towards my probing force. The Oscans just managed to evade the charge but they had drawn forth some easy pickings. The following turn, two large units of Oscan light infantry surrounded and destroyed the Gauls, not without suffering a bad knock themselves though.

A second unit of Gauls then hurtled down from the hills on the flank of the battlefield and proceeded to murder their way through the already fragile Oscans, forcing the supporting Oscan unit to retire back towards the main Pyrrhic line.

In the centre of the battle, my slingers and Cretan archers had been plugging away with surprising accuracy at the Punic centre command. First the chariotry was forced to retire, and then some of the Punic citizen spearmen. However, having had enough of my shooting and aware that he had lost his left flank, JB decided to throw his chariots forward in an unsupported assault against my allied hoplites. It didn't end well for the chariots.

Pyrrhos, now having shown himself not to be dead, just badly wounded and on a less magnificent horse, had managed to summon his Tarantine light horse and Siciliote hillmen and was now encroaching on the left flank of the Punic centre command. 

JB threw forward his left most unit of citizen spearmen towards the Tarantines who evaded (over enthusiastically), thereby buying himself some time. 

On his right, he kept up the Gallic pressure on my Oscan light infantry, annihilating another unit before turning my left flank. Then crushing another unit of Oscans and badly bloodying the fourth.

The centre commands of both armies were still relatively unscathed, although the Cretans consistently scored hits with every shot, slowly whittling away are the Punic citizen cohesion.

The last unit of Oscan lights are overwhelmed. In a not uncommon scenario in ancient battles, the right hand flank of each army had now overwhelmed its foes opposite and the battle line started to shift in an anti-clockwise direction. 

The Gauls now turn their attention to the hoplites holding the left flank on my centre division. On the Pyrrhic right (and the right of the photo), wounded Pyrrhos brings back the evading Tarantines.

This then, was the pivotal moment of the battle. Pyrrhos had to crush the Punic centre, and do it immediately, before the Gauls on the Carthaginian right completely encircled the pikemen. Pyrrhos rolled to activate the Tarantines to pin down the left most unit of Punic heavy infantry. Double 6. A blunder. He rolls to see how his orders were interpreted, on to roll a third 6. The Tarantines, still overly enthusiastic, thrown themselves against the Punic spearmen!

Then, the Pyrrhic central command rolls to activate, the commander wanting to sound the general advance. Double 6. Another blunder. And how is it interpreted. Another 6. The Epeirot centre surges forward with an all out charge. Six rolls of 6 in a row. Quite amazing, and achieving everything I could have hoped.

In the ensuing combat, The Punic Sacred Band scatter and flee, while the Punic citizen spearmen facing my Tarantine pike are shattered. The remaining citizen spearmen are badly bloodied, but inflict six hits on my Tarantine light horse. The plucky light horsemen have a morale save of 6+, and yet still manage to save four of the six hits! Both units become shattered, but the melee is a draw and they managed to stick around. On the left hand side of my centre, the Gauls manage to destroy my allied hoplites. By this stage my pikeman can practically feel the fetid Gallic breath against the backs of their necks! 

Fortuitously, the Gauls manage to mess up their orders in the following turn and do not make it into the melee. Given space, the Tarantine pike scatter the opposing Punic spearmen and the Tarantine horse, though forced to retire, shatter the last unit of Punic citizens. In the process, I lose my second general of the game, but the result is worth it as the Carthaginian centre gives way and retires - and not a moment too soon!

It was a great game and a sound victory for Pyrrhos. Of course, JB's points calculations meant that we were not strictly matched on points, although it felt very even on the battlefield. What really on the game for me was the difficulties faced by the Gauls in receiving their orders over several turns, the splendid shooting my my Cretan archers, and the turn of 6s, where I rolled more 6s during the command phase, the melee and the following moral saves than I usually roll in a whole game.

After playing so many abstracted games of l'Art de la Guerre recently, Hail Caesar did feel noticeably 'grindy' in places. Never-the-less, it was great to get so many 6mm figures out on the table again and it certainly made for an enjoyable evening.


  1. Between ADLG and HC, which set do you find easier/faster to play?

    1. ADG/ADLG is certainly faster to play and, in my opinion, a more elegant game. However, it is less visually impressive than the way we play HC.

    2. Thanks, I have played ADLG, but have heard HC is quite fun, so wasn't sure whether to try it or not. I'm a bit reluctant as I have plenty of rules for the period already :)

    3. They are very different games. ADG is much more abstract; both are fun.

  2. Looks great, impressive and beautiful mass effects...

  3. Mr. Hotspur,

    An enjoyable read. A visual feast. Thanks for sharing/posting. Appreciated your comments about the two sets of rules. In the narrow sense of number of dice, HC certainly involves more handfuls than ADLG. With regard to command and control, HC seems to allow for more variety (i.e., blunders) than ADLG. Not that I am an apologist for HC. I cut my ancient wargaming teeth on Armati. Anyway. Thanks again for an interesting battle report.



    1. Chris, I couldn't agree more. HC allows more variety full stop really, although I really appreciate the abstraction in ADG. Both are fun games! :)

  4. Lovely figures and a great looking table.

    I've played a few Hail Caesar battles, and understand the comments regarding grind.
    I enjoyed the Warmaster style command part of the game.
    The melees seemed to involve watching the light and medium troops melt away while the heavies fought on unscathed.

    I would expect the heavies to win more of their fights.
    I wouldn't expect them to slaughter all their opponents for barely any loss.

    Back to your battle - lovely pictures.
    I'm inspired to dig out some of my smaller scale people.