Monday, June 27, 2011

Hail Caesar and Some




After checking out Rich's copy and reading some combat examples over at the Warlord Games website. I was excited at what I read. and the Hail Caesar book showed up at my doorstep mid last week. A departure from the large army wargames I am used to, Its a a non-bucket of dice game, While I am fine with WAB 2.0 as its an iteration of WFB 7th ed. Where I really like WAB 2.0's scoring system but It still has its annoying kinks, where random dice too often overrule common sense and psychology effects are just a tad too overwhelming to quantify as "fun". As a result trying another Ancients gaming system that seems to get away from these things and offers some new ideas with alot more modeling freedom, wasn't a hard sell.

Hail Caesar's rules also don't require individual model basing or fixed unit sizes. units fight as who;e units (not individuals in the unit) and casualties count toward morale checks and stack..so there is no need for pulling a model per wound ( you can- but its not needed a dozen counters will suffice) This gives you alot more modeling options for things like Shieldwalls and Warbands.

Unlike other games we are familiar with, Units will very rarely fight down to the last man before one breaks, somewhere after 4-8 casualties a unit (depending on its size) becomes "Shaken" and after that they start making break tests. You can of course continue to make your break tests and continue taking casualties but once you hit twice your "Stamina" in KIA's your going to auto break. There are ton of options for what happens when you break depending on the unit and its skill. Breaking doesnt automatically mean removed from the table. the best troops can of course regroup and keep on fighting , while others are scattered to the winds. There is also a detailed Orders system that enables you to declare orders and make multiple moves should your leadership succeed. Armies are arranged in divisions with sub commanders then an overall General, you know, like a real army.

I really like what I am seeing here with Hail Caesar, it makes sense, is very intuitive and leaves bases sizes and army lists up to the player. There is alot more open ended "player agreement" here, which is totally fine by me and fun for a game with adults. The rigidity of GW's rules and its tournament application often followed to letter and the arguments about RAW or RAI (rules as written or rules as intended) are about as tasty these days as cup of pisswater.

Hail Caesar is both simplified in its dice mechanic but complex from a tactical standpoint in regards to units there use and movement as a result this game reads like a breath of fresh air, I have yet to try it that is happening on July 5th, until them we are working on getting our armies sorted. Rich and I are working on getting four full side prepared, Ancients- Romans vs Britons and Dark Ages Anglo Saxons vs Arabs...my Saxons will be seeing the field of battle first I am sure. Since I saw a box of Conquests new Norman Knights floating around my basement last club night, I think I'll be seeing my traditional nemesis soon as well.

It worth a mention that another great thing about these rules is they are very amendable to other types of games. The Hail Caesar Yahoo group has some great discussion going on about Lord of the Rings...while things like magic and hero use will take some creative thought and house ruling, army to army type combat with fantasy armies with this system , simply blows stuff like War of the Ring and WFB's current incarnation out of the Water.

Go figure- this game was written by Rick Priestly, who worked for Games Workshop forever writing many folks favorite games (mine: LotR SBG) or editions of their favorite games. I don't know with any certainty but scuttlebutt on various forums seems that he left GW over differences with various games "new directions" and a personal quest to do his own thing. It not like there have not been alot of big changes at GW within the last 3 years. As a result, like alot of us it seemed the love affair with Games Workshop is over. Congrats Rick. I surely get some review opinions and Hail Caesar action reports in for our Ancients gaming as soon as we start throwing dice.

12 comments:

Angelic Despot said...

I have just (today) received my copy of 'Hail Caesar' too. I'm looking forward to reading your thoughts on it once you've tried it out, as I don't expect to get the chance to do so. I haven't tried 'Black Powder', but I really like the feel of it from my reading of it, so I have high hopes for this game too.

I personally like the War of the Ring rules. It's the superheroes and mega-magic that put me off the games: the core rules seem to work very well and produce very fun games in my experience.

But as I have some friends who are just getting back into WFB (after a break of 10 years or more), and I'm considering pulling my skaven out of retirement, I'm looking to Hail Caesar to provide a set of rules that will allow me to play a mass-combat game without all the annoyances of GW rule-writing.

Angelic Despot said...

I just got my copy today. I'm really looking forward to reading your thoughts on it after trying it out, as I don't expect to get the chance to do so.

I really like the feel of the Black Powder rules (although I haven't actually played that either), so I have high hopes for this.

I personally really like the War of the Ring rules. The superheroes and the mega-magic, not so much, but the core rules I think produce a really fun game. Still, it will be interesting to see what fantasy mods come out of this.

I have some friends who are just getting back into WFB after a break of 10 years or more, and I'm considering pulling my skaven out of retirement, but I've got my eye on 'Hail Caesar' as a rules set that will allow me to have fun fantasy battles without all of the annoyances of GW's warhammer branded rules sets.

John@Plastic Legions said...

Well you nailed the WotR problem right there on the head...Super heroes and Mega Magic..the game itself is fine without those two huge pink elephants and the fact both those facets are ripe for abuse unless playing with a like minded person -make the game, unplayable as a pick up or tournament game and one thats really only suited for a sunday afternoon between some friends which make the vast $$$ investment required in it a stretch.

I will definitely contribute about HC as much as I can..I think will be getting good use of it the rest of this summer. Spend a couple hours with it again last night..and I have to find anything I dont like!

Angelic Despot said...

"one thats really only suited for a sunday afternoon between some friends"

Besides the fact that this is really the only way I play (or am really interested in playing), this seems to be also what Hail Caesar seems designed for.

And if you're getting together with some mates to play a fun, themed game of HC, then I don't see why you can't also do the same with WotR.

That said, they still look like very different games that will give you very different experiences.

And it's also no excuse for GW failing to write a decent FAQ, close to the time of release to address some of the problems with WotR, or for failing to playtest the game and its army lists properly before releasing it...

Scott said...

I have grabbed this rules set aawell, after enjoy my introductory games of black powder, and realising, yes, it will work for ancient stoo with a few tweaks, and I have to say, after a try aout with the rules, in a greek civil war game; hoplites and pike phalanax's, it worked very well, and 'did exactly as it said on the tin' - in other words it felt right, the units behaved as expected, and sensible tactical play was rewarded.
Skirmisheres were annoying but dispersed by a light/medium cavalry charge. These cavalry can unstuck charging frontally into medium infantry, and the pike blocks slogged it over ov several turns, neither giving way, unitl one sides flank collapsed, which then allowed the flank of the pike blocks to become exposed and that was it, game over.
A 'historical' result, and no mega heroics in sight...
I am intrigued how you would use this for War of the Ring, and while I echo your thoughts on mega heroes and magic, unfortuneatley to feel right WOTR needs these things, they just need to be at the right 'balance' - perhaps no easy thing...

The 35th Jason said...

YEAH!! I've been reading this blog for it's interesting and relevant conversation concerning gaming as an adult, and I'm thrilled that you are trying Hail Caesar. I have the book and can't wait to try it.

Drunken Samurai said...

This game is very high on my wish list. I only played WAB 2.0 once and it did nothing for me and that made me very sad. I have been a WAB player from the beginning but GW has managad to ruin it. Some local guys are trying Clash of EMpires but I have a feeling HC will win once we get it on the table.

John@Plastic Legions said...

@ Scott

Not sure what they have in mind for WotR only casually read some of the discussion before it got into detail but check out the HC yahoo group for what some folks have in mind, agreed some incorporation of those core principles must be included and not be overbearing, no easy task for sure.

@ Jason

Thanks man, 7/5 our are first games. I'll surely be writing about them.

@ Rob

Knowing Tim as I do, and you vicariously through him. I think this is a HC perfect ruleset for you guys, you have the right environment to tailor it to suit just as we do here!

Jeff said...

Hey John,
Good review of Hail Cesar, it has caught my eye. Is the book a stand alone, or is it a supplement and another book is needed? This may be another game system for me; maybe it will break me out of my purist GW tendencies.

Jeff

Chicago Terrain Factory said...

@Jeff - HC is mostly a standalone product. Warlord does plan on 2 army list books but it's certainly possible to play without them. The main book comes with building blocks for a range of standard units, plus 5 historical battles with army lists for each.

These lists will be most useful for those players who are not well read in a period or who don't have other resources (such as WAB army books).

Annatar said...

@John@PlasticLegions: The point about WOTR is that you need to just both be gentlemen and not put Khamul and the Betrayer in 6 coy Morannon Orcs. When you don't do that, your're fine

John@Plastic Legions said...

I agree- unfortunately, that limits the game from being successful as a pick up game in shops or clubs..with like mind friends at home I am sure its fine..there are couple rules, I personally dont like. but that's beside the point

 

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