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Sunday, 19 June 2011

All Hail Ceasar- (part 1?)

Hi all,

As promised, here I am talking about Rick Priestley's new ruleset, "Hail Ceasar," released by Warlord Games. There's no review as such- I do not want to hand out marks out of ten since it is all simply my opinion, and also because I'm biased- I love this game! :)

OK, why?

Well, the most striking aspect of the rulebook, for me, is the tone of the rulebook. It doesn't try to introduce me to the world of wargaming- Mr. Priestley assumes that I am already a wargamer, and understand some of what it is about. I can't remember the last rulebook that did this- either they skirt over the issue entirely by just filling a book with rules and lists, or they explain every term ever conceived ("This is a campaign", followed by a 4 page explanation of how to run the worst campaign you can, or the worst I can recall "How to arrange a Game.") This has freed them up to talk about why certain rules have come about, and how the whole thing slowly evolved, so that by the end of reading the rules it felt more like having taken part in a friendly conversation- any ruleset that leaves me feeling involved from the first reading will probably win me over.

Time for a bit more detail on the rules then. Movement is covered by a Warmaster-style command system. Interestingly, there are no specific lists of orders to restrict you. So any command you give can be as simple or complicated as you like (of course, if your instructions are too woolly, then your opponent may encourage a bit of battlefield misdirection but hey- be a better commander!) Orders can be given by unit or division, or both, so there's plenty of freedom to try and get your troops to do exactly what you want (and then watch your dice go horribly wrong and they all end up facing each other :) )

Units are a little unusual in the game as well. They are not based on individuals, but on size of formation. There  are four distinct groups- Standard, Large, Small and Tiny. For infantry, this is then further defined by the number of ranks. A 'Standard' regiment of Celts consists of 32 to 40 models, four deep while a 'Large' formation will be 60 to 80 models, four deep. I know it doesn't sound like a revelation, but bear in mind that since unit sizes won't change during the game having basing conventions for regiments is a modeller's dream come true.

Statistics are simple- 2 combat stat's ('Clash' and 'Sustained') and 2 ranged stat's ('Short' and 'Long') followed by 'Morale Save' and 'Stamina'. 'Clash' is used in the first round of combat, 'Sustained' in subsequent rounds. Both sets (Close and Ranged) determine the number of dice the unit roles, so a clash value of 7 means- yep, 7 dice in subsequent rounds of combat.

Onto the last two- Morale Save and Stamina. The 'Save' reflects armour and psychology- so if you fail a save on a unit, it is as likely that the soldier has fled the field as the chance he has died. (In honesty, this is the one area I can't make up my mind- part of me loves the simplicity of the rule, part wants fully detailed psychology with tables and complexity. In Hail Ceasar, I'll live with it.) This means that you get save modifiers for formation, cover and psychology, it all rolls into one. 'Stamina' shows how many wounds a unit can take before it is Shaken, and how many more it can take before it is Broken. So the visual spectacle of the game will never be upset, unless you choose to remove men.

So, that's Orders, units and stats covered, I suppose it's time to talk about army lists.....

Oh wait, there aren't any. :)

Hail Ceasar deliberately leaves the details of the forces fighting down to the players. There is a section on Troop Types, so that Medium Infantry and Light Infantry don't diverge too much, which is fairly comprehensive. This is followed by a selection of 'Useful Special Rules' so that players can add a bit of personality- this means that Macedonian Pike Phalanx are distinct from Roman Legionaries. However, there is no section of lists and races- most importantly, no points values. This is a Wargame, not a Tournament System, and I love it.

I think most of all, Hail Ceasar feels like Rick Priestley and his gaming group letting us know how they play games- this a loose framework of rules for players to get together and figure everything out themselves. Hopefully, more designers will now follow suit- I'd love to see Jervis, Allessio and Chambers release their own ideas on game-play.

I'm going to leave it there for now (I will almost certainly be talking about Hail Ceasar again) so go out and get a copy, read it, then come back and leave a comment (which as always, are welcome)

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