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Hail Caesar Review

Hail Caesar is a game for those whom the gods have marked for glory-for men who do not quail at the sight of barbarian hordes nor quibble with what fate decrees at the roll of a dice. ” Foreword to Hail Caesar by Rick Priestley

The brand new book Hail Caesar (released 15 April 2011), is perfect for wargamers who enjoy the Roman, Greek and Egyptian periods. The main body of the book is devoted to the mechanics of game play , the latter section to battle reports and appendicies containing designer’s notes.

The book opens with  a little about the way the rules can be adapted to different sizes and types of game play, and the essential equipment: an army(!), six sided dice, tape measure and an opponent!

The first part of the mechanics is devoted assembling an army, either from scratch or building on existing troops, the different historical troop types and the fighting qualities of the different types of troop within the Hail Caesar rules. They then move onto the particular base sizes, and table sizes, most appropriate for gameplay. The section on formations discusses the various benefits of different arrangements of troops, how to move from one formation to another.

Games Rules and Command move onto the nitty gritty of playing the game, covering everything from the sequence of play to how to advance elephants through friendly troops. Briefly, the book moves into terrain and covers how this can best be utilised in battle, and also covers rules regarding use of terrain, such as buildings that can only be entered or assaulted by infantry.

The actual battling is covered in two comprehensive chapters, Ranged Attacks and Hand-to-Hand Combat. These chapters explain the intricacies of combat, from choosing your target, to how to respond to your opponent charging your rear, never a pleasant experience! Should combat not work out as well for your troops as hoped, your unit may have to take a break test, and this is conveniently covered in the following chapter. The book moves on to the various types of commander, and what to do should yours unfortunately meet his maker, and finally the gameplay section comes to the all important Victory and Defeat.

The next section of the book is quite data heavy, giving values for various troops on a range of qualities from their ability in combat to their morale and then a selection of Useful Rules which includes everything from wedge formations to what to do when your elephants stampede.

We then move into battle reports which give a good flavour of how Hail Caesar games can progress. The battles covered are:

  • The Battle of Kadesh 1274BC-between the Hittites and Egyptians.
  • 426BC-Athenians vs Spartans (yelling “I am Sparta” not obligatory)
  • Border Raid AD52-Romans endeavouring to crush the Britons, capture their women and send their livestock away.
  • 260 AD-Romans (again) battling the Persians.
  • 500AD-More Romans but this time against the Hun.
  • 937 AD-Viking alliance of Welsh and Celts versus The Saxons who accompanied by Viking poet Egil Skallagrimsson.
  • The Battle of Brada River 1148AD- King Baldwin III crusading against The Damascans.

The book finishes with some notes from the designer on the devlopement of the game of Hail Caesar from Black Powder, some hints on playing with smaller models, how armies were composed in ancient times and all the rules.

Hail Caesar is an attractive and well illustrated tome, providing a comprehensive introduction to the rules and strategies for playing ancient battles. There are full colour photographs throughout of battle scenes, troops and individual soldiers. There are also snippets of interesting historic information covering everything from Spanish swords to cooking molluscs daft enough to be caught;  Welsh poems and of course those all important period insults! Clearly, a great deal of research has gone into compiling this attractive book, a reflection of the expertise and enthusiasm of the authors, in particular, the rules maestro himself, Rick Priestley. Hail Caesar continues Warlord Games’ tradition of producing high quality, beautifully illustrated rules books that are ideal for both the novice to the hobby and those more experienced.

Invest in Hail Caesar and revive some Roman or Barbarian glories, unless you are a raven starver [see page 161] that is…

Reviewer Arcane Scenery’s Girl Friday.