Sunday, 4 August 2019

Mithridates v Marian Romans - Hail Caesar

I volunteered to put on one of the games for our July meeting so that I could try out two of my most
recently finished armies. My Marian era Romans had been started many many years ago for some now long forgotten project (probably WRG 6th) so they just need to be brought up to full strength with some extra figures and by a bit of digging though the dead armies box to find them some Greek allies . However their main purpose was to be the opponents for the army which I have been wanting to raise for some time now but never quite got around to, a Mithridatic Pontic army. This would have to be built from scratch but fortunately there are now many more suppliers with suitable figures available than when I first thought about it and it was much easier to find their specific units instead of having to re-purpose various dodgy substitutes from other armies.

The battlefield would be set somewhere in Greece so I added in some hills to narrow the plain a little
because the Romans would be faced with their perennial problem of having lots of excellent infantry but very little cavalry. The Pontics meanwhile had the same problem most opponents have of not having enough decent infantry to face off against the Romans.

The Romans stretched out across the plain between the hills and formed into three similar sized divisions composed of a mixture of veteran and regular legionaries, their Greek allies were placed out on the right along with some light cavalry and the Gaulish cavalry were allocated to the left. The Pontics placed their three Pike phalanxes in the front line along with some Thorakitai and two of their four units of Subject archers, an odd decision I thought but one that would pay off. The bulk of their good cavalry formed the right hand division along with the horse archers and Scythed chariots; the left was composed of the Galatians, some more subject archers and anything else that was left.

The Romans as usual had to quickly win in the centre before the Pontic cavalry could turn their line so everyone was rolling for three moves straight forward every go, not that successfully as it turned out. The Gallic cavalry considering what was facing them tried to refuse for as long as possible and the Greek allies fancying their chances a bit more went looking for action.

First into the fight was the Roman right wing, a mix of Greek allies with a few Romans stiffening the
division, by stiffening I really mean running away at the first opportunity! Skirmishing and archery in Hail Caesar is more of an attempt to break up the solid opposing battle line so as to gain a slight advantage when the two lines smash into each other but there is always a teeny tiny chance that someone really important gets an arrow somewhere unpleasant.

At club we call this throwing a double Land or double one in normal speak and so the Legionary unit seeing a bunch of soft squishy levy archers sitting in the Battle line just waiting to be slaughtered couldn’t charge in fast enough. The archers with limited options available to them decided to stand and fire as their charge response and then got ready to lie down in neat bloody piles but rather fortuitously for them someone really important got an arrow somewhere very unpleasant and when the Romans threw for their shooting morale promptly legged it off the table on a roll of double one.

The remaining legionary unit slugged it out with their perennial opponents, a barbarian warband and over time got the worst of it. The Greek Thorikitai allies did the best they could but their Illyrian and Thracian Light infantry friends were just too easy to kill and the Pontics were winning this section of the battle. This division didn’t break but was teetering on the edge by the end of play.

In the centre the Romans faced off against the three pike blocks and eventually managed to break all three but unfortunately not quickly enough and in doing so were badly damaged in the process. The first pike unit was soon taken off when they rolled a ‘break if shaken ‘result allowing the Romans a sweeping advance into the flank of another phalanx but the others toughed it out even after being hit in the flank. Alongside them the subject archers also took longer than expected to be defeated and in some cases even driving the Romans back.

Saving/armour throws where not one of the Romans best achievements all day despite the odd freakish result which gave them momentary hope, I think having seventeen dice rolled against you and still winning the round without receiving any casualties would cheer anyone up. But by the time the last pike unit was removed this centre division was in need of serious recovery time before looking at taking any further action, however now was not the best time to hear what appeared to be 5000 people banging two coconut shells together coming from their left flank.

Over on the Roman left things had not gone very well, the Gaulish cavalry could do very little about the two units of horse archers annoying them with arrows and although not that deadly, casualties were starting to slowly mount up, eventually they charged them away and continued on into the Agema cavalry who taught them not to do such a silly thing ever again.

Although the Pontic right wing had only been moving forward slowly due to the hindrance of the slow moving Sarmatian cataphracts it had now finally arrived to a point where the two scythed chariots could be unleashed. Being Ferocious they only need to pass their command roll to get three automatic charge moves, which they did. The first one hurtled towards the Roman front line who calmly parted ranks to let it pass safely through, un-deterred the second one thundered down onto the same unit who this time …. did exactly the same thing. With that moment of excitement over it was time for the cavalry to get stuck in and get down to some proper fighting.

The three heavy cavalry units picked their targets and charged. This initial charge swung the fighting in the Pontics favour and it didn’t take many rounds before the legionaries on this flank were broken and the damage inflicted in return wasn’t heavy enough to prevent the Pontic cavalry from starting to look for their next victims.

With their left hand division broken, the centre with most of their units nearly all shaken and the right hand division giving ground rapidly, the Romans conceded despite having six of their initial nine legionary units still on the table.

This game was quite interesting in how it played out, the good quality Pontic heavy cavalry was decisive and the Pike phalanxes managed to hold the Romans for just long enough for this to take place. The scythed chariots were as usual useless (try and find a nice warband as a target) and the Romans ‘other’ troops were their normal weak link. Neither side used much in the way of support for their front line but we did have the most sweeping attacks I have ever seen in one game and for once no Blunders.

At the DWG we do have a few minor house rules for Hail Caesar, the variations will depend on who is organising the game so in my case, I don’t allow slingers to support from the rear, Pikes cannot receive any rear support and all combat in the front line is simultaneous, so you start from the left or right (we are an equal directionist club) and then work your way along the line but you cannot count support from anyone who is fighting alongside if they have also been in combat that turn.

Figures are mainly 15mm Donnington with some Forged in Battle and a few Xyston
Terrain Mat: Tiny Wargames
Rules: Hail Caesar by Warlord games

This has been a Mr Steve Production


  1. Nice. One query 'but you cannot count support from anyone who is fighting alongside if they have also been in combat that turn.' That's quite a major decision, but one I really agree with.

  2. Very pretty and very entertaining. Have not played HC in quite some time. Rather too many dice for my taste. Appreciate your fielding a Pontic army as I have been interested in that force of late . . . Tried a scenario or two using Tactica II and ADLG, but they did not go all that well for a variety of reasons. Thanks for posting. Cheers - Chris

  3. In our early games we found that players would pick which combat to fight and in which order so in a long battle line you would pick the combats that you have a good chance of winning in the hope that would then free them to provide support for others. The general consensus in the club was that we thought this unfair/unrealistic. Some others in the club dont even like counting any rear support at all from skirmishers ,but my game, my rules!

    Hi Chris, some armies can be like that, I dont think I have every won a game using Carthaginians.

  4. It's a logical decision not allowing the element to fight in support of someone else if they are or have fought in the same turn

  5. Hi there
    Do you still play x wing ? When is the next meeting? Thanks

  6. Hi Dan
    Just back from Devon so I have only seen your questions this morning, sorry.
    Yes we are allowed to play X-Wing once a year as long as we behave, plans are secretly being drawn up for a large Imperial v Scum game to be put on at club in the near future either in October or November depending on what other things we want to do first but it is definitely on the list.

    Unfortunately the next meeting was yesterday , we hold one meeting a month on the 2nd Saturday so Septembers will be the 14th (this however is a special club event called Clotted Lard) then October 12th and November 9th.
    We will be in need of pilots if you are interested.