Tag: Ancient War Games

Games simulating combat actions of the ancient world (1000 CE or earlier)

Caesar’s Gallic War: Strategy Guide

Helpful Hints for Worthington Games’ Caesar’s Gallic War

By Daniel Berger (Designer)

Caesar's Gallic War - Strategy - Title Graphic

Guest columnist Daniel Berger, designer of Caesar’s Gallic War for Worthington Games, pens some useful strategy tips for ‘The Boardgaming Life’ readers.


Background

Caesar’s Gallic War is a two-player game that covers Julius Caesar’s conquest of Gaul from 58 to 51 BC. One person plays the side of the Romans, while the other plays the side of the Germans, with both players vying for control of the various Gallic tribes. The game is eight turns long, with each turn representing one year.

The game uses blocks and area movement, with simultaneous card play. Players use cards to collect allies, move units and attack or play events. Each Roman unit represents one legion plus auxiliaries, with the Gallic blocks representing the various tribes throughout Gaul. Certain leaders are represented in the game, including Julius Caesar, Vercingetorix and Ariovistus.

The goal for each player is to control the most tribes at the end of the game. Victory points are also awarded for killing certain units. The Germans can win a sudden death victory if they kill Caesar.

The design contains a mix of ideas from Columbia’s Hammer of the Scots and Richard Berg’s Julius Caesar, and some ideas of my own. It is slightly more complex than Hammer in that each card can be used for any one of several different actions, including the ability to sway tribes through activations or political actions, as well as naval movement (including amphibious invasions for the Romans), revolts, supply and wintering, and special leader abilities.

This is my first game design. It was largely inspired after a round robin tournament of Hammer of the Scots I had just participated in, during which time I happened to be tinkering with Julius Caesar, combined with my love of ancient history. I saw a good opportunity to merge some concepts from both games, as well as a general lack of coverage of that particular campaign in the gaming arena, so I took it.

While I do not have any plans to turn this design into a series, I do have other designs I’m working on.


Editor’s Note: Many thanks to Dan Berger for allowing us to publish
his strategy tips here on The Boardgaming Life!
You can get more info about Caesar’s Gallic War on its BoardGameGeek page.

Germans

You have an uphill battle in this game. You’re facing legions that are both stronger and faster than you, and Gauls that will need some “convincing” with regards to the long term threat the Romans pose to them. What’s a barbarian to do?

First and foremost, you must not engage in standup battles with multiple Roman legions outside of fortresses. You will probably lose, and probably very badly. Even if you have the odds in your favor the legions, with their “A” initiative rating, can simply retreat. Your goal is to cause attrition to the legions whenever and wherever possible so you can drain the Romans of their supply points. That typically means fighting only in fortress areas where you get a better initiative rating and a bonus.

Caesar's Gallic War - Trapped Roman Legions
That being said, it is sometimes better to let a tribe fight to the death if the area is doomed to fall anyway, as you wouldn’t want to let the Romans capture the tribe at full strength.

Single legions, on the other hand, may provide a golden opportunity for you to strike. You must not only have the force required to destroy the legion, but be able to cut off any and all retreat routes. Such opportunities are rare, and must be taken whenever possible, even if it potentially means the loss of a tribe in the process. The 3 VP gained from the legion’s destruction far outweighs the loss of a tribe that can be reacquired later. On top of that, it removes the legion from the board for a turn, weakening the Roman presence in general.

Second, you must move Ariovistus and his Germanic hordes out of Germania at the first available opportunity. Ariovistus has the ability to “persuade” neutral Gauls to his cause without a fight. Use it. Even if it should fail, do not be afraid. Ariovistus is a B3, and the rest of the Germans are B2. With their higher initiative rating (and Ariovistus’ higher battle rating) you should be able to dispatch individual tribes with minimal damage.

Moving out of Germania also prevents the Romans from driving up the Rhine and launching an attack into Germania. If you haven’t conquered the Menapi and/or Treveri you could be pinned in Germania and destroyed. This must be avoided at all costs.

Third, take advantage of your ability to play two Neutral Tribe Activations per turn. The goal of the game is to bring the Gauls over to your side. Bring over as many as you can. Typically you’ll want to select fortified areas that you can potentially reinforce the next round, or an area that provides a potential retreat path, away from the Romans. However, if you select a tribe that cannot be reinforced there is a good chance that the Roman player will respond by overrunning the unfortunate tribe before you ever get to use it, making it a useless play. Try to avoid that.

Caesar's Gallic War - Massive Revolt Card

Fourth, don’t forget to use Political Actions! If you find yourself in a position where you’re strong enough to defend but too weak to attack, and you aren’t sure what to do, use your card as a Political Action. Your target, if possible, should be the name of the tribe on the card so that you can get the -1 bonus. If that’s not possible, then your target should either be a fortified area or an area close to Transalpine Gaul. The latter can force the legions back south to deal with the issue and potentially prevent a forced march the next round. The Allobroges or Helvetii are good targets in this case.

The last thing I want to discuss is the Massive Revolt. Remember, even if you don’t draw this card normally, you will be able to put it into your hand if and when the Romans acquire 13 tribes. The Germanic player should avoid the temptation to play this card too early (in fact, you cannot play it on the first turn). In practice you’ll want to wait until at least 54 BC (turn 5) so that you don’t give the Roman player too much time to re-conquer those tribes.

This will give you 4 tribes automatically (plus Vercingetorix) combined with a 3-op move. This is a prime opportunity to surround and destroy one or two legions. On top of that you can now implement one raid per turn. If you see that the Romans have been damaged and are low on supply points, you should take advantage of the opportunity to knock down Roman supply even more.


Romans

You, too, can use Neutral Tribe Activations and Political Actions to bring the Gauls over to your cause, but your primary means of winning the game is via conquest. You have stronger legions with the best possible initiative, and the ability to force march and invade. The question then becomes where to attack and how much force to apply. Unlike your opponent, you must manage your supply as well.

Caesar's Gallic War - Vesontio

In the early stages of the game you should play relatively conservatively. You have powerful legions, but only six of them at the start. Do not leave them in a position that could get them cut off and killed. Use your Gallic allies not only to absorb casualties if necessary, but to protect your legions from possible counterattack.

There are typically two routes to take with the Romans and they each have their advantages. The primary route (and probably the most popular) is the Northern route, where you immediately knock out the Helvetii, and drive up into Sequani territory. This has the advantage of eliminating a powerful tribe that’s close to Transalpine Gaul, while the fortress at Sequani (yes, there is one there, make sure you remember that; see official errata.) provides not only future supply points, but also serves as a potential launching point for raids into Germania itself. From there you can take Mandubii territory and push north into Belgica or towards the coast in order eventually to launch an invasion of Britannia.

The other route is the Western Route. This means capturing Cardurci territory, where you can then drive into Santones territory. This gives you an immediate port from which you can then raid the entire coast, including Britannia. It also then lets you use Political Actions against Britannia. In some ways this approach is more flexible, but it does have the disadvantage of not allowing you to mass your forces against large concentrations of Gauls.

Caesar's Gallic War - Roman Invasion Routes

Whichever path is chosen, you will want to capture the fortified areas whenever and wherever possible. Controlling these areas not only provides supply points each turn, but also deny the enemy a place to concentrate his forces against your legions. Fort busting can be difficult because of the advantages fortified areas provide. This is where Caesar’s special ability comes into play. I would say, unless you have overwhelming force, you should always use Caesar when assaulting a fortified area. His ability to fire before the defenders is crucial not just to winning, but to reducing the number of enemy dice rolled in subsequent rounds.

Once you’ve conquered a territory, the question at the end of every turn will become whether or not to garrison the area or have the legions return to Transalpine Gaul. Here you’ll have to balance several factors, in addition to keeping in mind that Caesar can only winter every other turn. First, how important is the area strategically? Second, can you afford to garrison a legion there given the supply situation? Lastly, how vulnerable are the garrisons to attack?

This is difficult to answer because it depends, in part, on whether or not the Massive Revolt event has been played. Until that event has been played, every legion you leave in the field is susceptible to being cut off and killed in a single stroke. You will definitely not want to leave Caesar in a vulnerable position, or you’ll lose the game instantly. There are two ways to approach this. One is never to garrison an area with more than 1 legion because it limits the potential for VP’s gained by your opponent. The other is to garrison an area with a minimum of two legions (harvest permitting) in order dissuade your opponent from attacking in the first place, especially in fortified areas. Both approaches have their advantages. Generally speaking, however, I typically garrison the fortified areas both because they provide Supply Points and because they’re difficult for your opponent to assault.


Synopsis

Caesar’s Gallic War presents a smaller, but highly disciplined and organized army in the Romans, matched up against a larger but diverse and disorganized German and Gallic adversary. Each side must play to its strengths. For the Romans, that means leveraging your military prowess to its maximum potential while utilizing a political approach where and when necessary, all while managing your logistics. For the Germans, you must know where and when to fight the Romans, while using your superior political advantage to maximum effect.

Got some feedback for us? Email your opinions and comments to Mark. And please visit Dan’s BoardGameGeek page for Caesar’s Gallic War.

Caesar XL: Review

Can Good Things Come in Small Packages?

Caesar XL Board Game Review - Title Graphic

Overview

Caesar XL, a board game designed by Joseph Miranda and published by Victory Point Games, is a two player contest set in the time of the Roman Civil War, from 50 BC to 44 BC. One player controls the forces of Julius Caesar and the other player controls the forces of Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (aka Pompey the Great). Historically speaking, Caesar represented the Populares, a political faction that appealed to the people of the lower economic classes, while Pompey represented the Optimates, or established order, comprised mainly of Senators and landed gentry. To its credit, the game does not force you into these roles and Caesar may end up winning the game as the champion of the Optimates and Pompey the leader of the Populares. More about political victory conditions later…

The basic rules, or Bronze Rules, are very uncomplicated and easy to follow. The Silver Rules add a bit more depth and complexity to the game, but in my opinion (as well as the Publisher!) it still qualifies as a low complexity game. Good news for those just starting out in the board gaming/war gaming hobby or those hobby veterans that are trying to recruit new players. In my experience so far, a game takes anywhere from 45 minutes to 90 minutes to play to completion, depending on whether the game goes the distance (i.e. the full 14 game turns), or one of the automatic victory conditions are achieved sooner.

There are also Gold Rules available that push the complexity up another notch by adding even more realism, but I have not played using these rules and therefore don’t address the “Gold” version of the game in this article.

The game ships in a small 6″ x 10″ plastic zip lock bag and contains the following components:

  • 11″ x 17″ color game map (paper, unmounted)
  • 4-page color “Bronze Rules” booklet
  • 2-page color “Silver Rules” sheet
  • Game Setup instructions (located on the game’s inside front cover)
  • 40 color 5/8″ square cardboard units (combat units and leaders)
  • 28 color 5/8″ round cardboard pieces (mostly game markers, but also some leaders)
  • 40 SPQR game cards
  • One page of Designers Notes

While the components are not super slick, they are very functional and adequate for the game. The only gripe that I heard consistently was that the SPQR game cards were too small, only measuring 1.5″ x 2.5″, which makes them a bit difficult to handle sometimes. But the cardboard unit counters were actually a bit larger (5/8″) than standard hex game counters and the 11″ x 17″ map was not crowded or laid out in an awkward way. Could the map have been a bit “prettier”? Sure. But it was not an eye sore and in no way detracted from the enjoyment of the game. Oh, and they spelled “Mediterranean” wrong on the map. I think that just about covers the negatives.

The rules were clear, well organized, and concise. (I think this article is longer than the rule book) Actually, they were much more organized than is common in our hobby. Setting up and starting the game was a snap, and even the very first play through proceeded without a hitch due to the quality of the rules. There’s nothing more annoying than ambiguous rules and poor setup instructions, so hats off to Victory Point Games for a great job there.


Playing the Game

After following the simple setup instructions on the back side of the game’s front cover, determining how much Gold (money) each player will start with, and drawing 2 random SPQR cards for Caesar and 1 random SPQR card for Pompey, the game begins with the Caesarian Player Turn of Game Turn 1.

Each Game Turn is comprised of two Player Turns, first the Caesarian Player Turn then the Pompeian Player Turn (from here on I will simply refer to the Caesarian Player as “Caesar” and the Pompeian Player as “Pompey”). Each Player Turn is further divided into Phases that are followed in strict sequence.

For this example, let’s assume that Caesar starts the game with 11 Gold (5 + one die roll), and Pompey starts the game with 14 Gold (5 + total of two dice).

For their initial SPQR Card draws (two for Caesar; one for Pompey):

Caesar draws the “Fleet” Action Card (allows movement of a force by sea within a sea zone), and the “Quintus Scipio” Leader card which allows him to place and control that Leader’s unit counter during the Purchase Phase. Caesar XL Board Game Review - Caesar's starting card hand
Pompey draws a Forum Card (“AlliedSettlement”). Since players may only keep Action, Tactics or Leader Cards on the initial draw, this card is immediately placed in the Forum area, and another SPQR Card is drawn. The next card is the “Successor” Action Card, which provides for the replacement of Pompey, should he be killed. Since this is an Action card, it is retained in the Pompeian player’s hand. Caesar XL - Pompey's starting card hand

Caesar XL - Starting Positions

The first Game Turn is now ready to begin. The next section, below, is a walk-through of a very basic Caesarian Player Turn of Game Turn 1.


Forum/Victory Phase

Caesar XL - First Forum card
Caesar may declare Victory if conditions are met (more about Victory later). This being Turn 1, it’s not surprising that there will be no victory declared just yet.

There is only one card currently in the Forum area, the “Allied Settlement” card, so Caesar checks the conditions for claiming it. The conditions are that you must control at least 3 Allied Client cities (denoted by the circle) and spend at 18 Gold. At this point, Caesar does not control three Allied Client cities OR possess 18 Gold, so he cannot claim the Forum card.


Draw Cards Phase

Caesar XL - Brutus Card
In this Phase, an SPQR Card is drawn, for free, from the deck. Caesar draws another Leader card: Marcus Brutus. The card is held secretly in his hand until the Purchase phase. Up to two additional SPQR cards can be drawn for 5 Gold each, but Caesar is content with the free draw (in addition to being a little cash poor at the moment) and declines.


Purchase Phase

During the Purchase Phase, players may purchase combat units (the most common activity), make a Diplomacy attempt to convert a city or Barbarian Area to Ally status, or perform any other action specified on his SPQR cards for this Phase. Caesar first reveals his Quintus Scipio Leader card then places the corresponding Leader counter in Massilia with his stack of Legions. He then reveals the Marcus Brutus Leader card (that he just drew during the Draw Phase) and places that Leader’s counter in the same hex. Note that these Leaders could have been obtained and controlled by either player. If Pompey has selected their Leader card, he would have deployed them, blue side up, with his units.

Finally, Caesar decides to spend 9 Gold to purchase a new Legion and places it in the Rubicon Legionary Colony space along with Caesar and the veteran Legion. This purchase leaves him with 2 remaining Gold.


Tax Phase

During this phase, income is derived from controlled cities, subdued Barbarian areas, and areas that contain a friendly “Ally” marker. Caesar can only derive Tax income from three locations: Rubicon (Gold Value = 0), Campus Lutetium (Gold Value = 1), and Massilia (Gold Value = 3). This nets Caesar a total of 4 Gold. However, he now controls the Marcus Brutus Leader who has the special ability (as specified on his card under the “Tax Phase” heading) to add additional Gold to Caesar’s treasury equal to the roll of one die. He rolls a 1 (big deal), which gives Caesar a new total of 7 Gold (2 current + 4 for cities + 1 for Brutus = 7 Gold).

Caesar XL - After Tax Phase


March Phase

Caesar may now move any or all of his combat/leader units. Each unit is eligible to move one space that is directly connected to their current location by a line. The Caesar Leader unit, accompanied by two Legions (one veteran) will “cross the Rubicon” and move to attack Rome itself. He must now decide what to do with the stack of seven Legions accompanying the Scipio and Brutus Leader units.

There are several good possibilities:

  • Move the entire stack, including both Leaders, to attack the Pompeian forces in Nova Carthago.
  • Do not attack anyone, and move the entire stack to the island of Caralis, which is connected to Rome, Nova Carthago and Utica thus providing more options for next turn.
  • Try to Force March all or part of the stack into Rome to assist Caesar in his attack there. (Forced Marching is introduced in the “Silver Rules” and allows the players to spend Gold to move one additional space. In some cases, Leaders and units accompanying Leaders, may Force March for free. Forced Marching also allows units to move directly through enemy occupied spaces, thus adding a whole new dynamic to the game.)
  • Use the “Fleet” Action Card which will allow the stack to sail directly to Utica for an attack there (the Fleet card allows a force to sail from any port to any other port that has an anchor of the same color).
  • Some combination of the above.

Getting into the spirit of being Caesar, our Caesarian player opts for “some combination of the above” and opts to send Scipio with the veteran Legion and three non-veteran legions into Nova Carthago, and send Brutus with the other three Legions to Utica, utilizing the “Fleet” Action card, which is then placed on the discard pile. Note that the Fleet card could not be used to attack Pompey directly in Athens since that city is in a different sea zone, as indicated by the green anchor symbol.

There will be three battles fought during the Combat Phase; in Rome, Nova Carthago and Utica.

Caesar XL - After March Phase


Combat Phase

All combat is now resolved in the order of the phasing player’s choosing. Caesar decides to resolve the battle for Rome first. All units are removed from the map and the battle area is marked using the round Battle Marker. Combat, in Caesar XL, is resolved as follows:

  • First the attacker, then the defender, has an opportunity to play one Tactics Card to assist them in the battle. Tactics Cards contain various benefits such as adding additional strength to combat units, etc.
  • Whichever side has the highest leadership value (i.e. sum up the total swords on all leaders present in the battle space), becomes the Lead Player for this battle. If no Leader units are present on either side, the defender is the “Lead Player”.
  • Each combat unit and Leader unit has a certain number of swords printed on it that represent the combat strength. For example, a unit with two swords on it will score a “hit” on a die roll of 2 or less.
  • The Lead Player commits one “Allied” unit, if any, and attacks by rolling a die. Any hit scored by the “Allied” unit causes one casualty to the opposing army. To absorb a casualty, remove one Leader unit or one non-veteran Allied unit or Legion, or flip a veteran unit to its non-veteran side.
  • The non-lead player then commits one of his “Allied” units, if any, and follows the same process. If the non-lead player does not have any “Allied” units, the Lead Player continues to attack with all “Allied” units present in his force.
  • Note that combat is not simultaneous. If a unit that is eliminated before it has a chance to attack is just out of luck.
  • The same one-at-a-time, back and forth process is repeated for all “Legion” units.
  • Finally, the same process is repeated for all “Leader” units.
  • This concludes one combat round.

If one side has eliminated all opposing units, that side is victorious and now controls the battle space (i.e. city or Barbarian Area being fought over). If units from both sides still exist, first the attacker (the phasing player, not necessarily the “Lead Player”) has the option to retreat. If not exercised, the defender has the option to retreat.

If both sides refuse to retreat, another combat round will be fought. Eventually one side or the other will retreat or be totally eliminated.

If one side retreats, the opponent gets a (sort of) pursuit round. He rolls one die for every unit in the pursuing (non-retreating) force. Regardless of the actual strength of the unit, every die roll of 1 scores a hit on the retreating enemy units. So, it’s possible that a retreating force could be totally eliminated during the retreat process!

Battle for Rome – A veteran Legion, a non-veteran Legion and the Caesar Leader unit attack the lone Pompeian Legion defending Rome. Neither player has any Tactics cards to play.

The only Leader in the battle is Caesar so his side will be the “Lead Player” in the battle, receiving the advantage of attacking first.

There are no “Allied” units on either side, so we move directly to the “Legions”.

The Caesarian non-veteran Legion rolls a 4. Since the unit only has two swords printed on it, a roll of 2 or less was required so this is a “miss”.

The Pompeian Legion gets to fire back. It rolls a 1, scoring a hit on the Caesarian forces. Caesar chooses to remove the non-veteran Legion since it is the weakest unit, and it has attacked already this round.

The next step is to fire the Legions of the Lead Player. Therefore, the veteran Caesarian Legion attacks, hoping to roll a 3 or less and score a hit. The roll is a 2, scoring the one hit necessary to eliminate the sole Pompeian defending Legion.

Since all Pompeian units are destroyed, the battle ends immediately, without the Caesar Leader unit ever needing to roll an attack die. One Caesarian Legion has been eliminated as well as one Pompeian Legion. Caesar is master of Rome!

Caesar XL - Combat in Rome
Battle for Utica – Brutus, accompanied by three non-veteran Legions, attacks two defending non-veteran Legions.

Once again the Caesarian player becomes the “Lead Player” since he possesses the only leader unit in the battle

Again, there are no “Allied” units on either side, so we move directly to the “Legions”.

Starting with the Caesarian Player and alternating one Legion at a time, all units “miss” on their first round fire (i.e. all rolled higher than 2). The last hope, Brutus attempts to roll a 1, but fails to do so as well. This battle will proceed to a second round.

The attacker declines to retreat, but the Pompeian defender thinks it wise to thank the gods for surviving the first combat round and scoot. Pompey retreats his force to the city of Massena.

The Caesarian Legions, as well as Scipio, may now roll one die each. Every roll of 1 scores a hit on the retreating Pompeian Legions. One unit succeeds, thus eliminating one of the retreating units. Pompey is satisfied that having one Legion survive is better than none, thanks the gods again, and the combat ends.

Caesars Legions now occupy Utica. In addition, since the enemy retreated, one Legion is eligible for upgrade to Veteran status. One Legion is flipped to its veteran side to indicate this.

Caesar XL - Combat in Utica
Battle for Nova Carthago – Scipio, with a veteran Legion and three non-veteran Legions, attacks the three non-veteran Pompeian Legions there.

Once more the Caesarian player is the “Lead Player” since Scipio is the only Leader in the battle.

No “Allied” units on either side so combat begins with one of Scipio’s Legions and then alternates.

One of Scipio’s non-veteran Legions scores a hit, and the veteran Legion scores a hit, while all of Pompey’s Legions miss. The Pompeian force is reduced to two Legions.

The Pompeian defender is determined to make a stand and refuses to retreat. Scipio naturally refuses as well, leading the combat into a second round.

In the second round, Scipio’s first Legion misses and the remaining Pompeian Legion hits. The Caesarian player must immediately remove one of his units and so removes the Legion that has fired already. Now, since the Pompeians are out of units, Scipio’s remaining units (and Scipio himself) may fire at will. The veteran Legion scores a hit, which totally eliminates the Pompeian force and wins the battle.

Since the combat went more than one round, Scipio is allowed to upgrade one of his Legions to veteran status.

Caesarian units are now in command of all the turn’s battle fields.

Caesar XL - Battle at Nova Carthago

Caesar XL - After combat


This ends the Caesarian player turn for Game Turn 1. The Game Turn marker is now flipped over to it’s Pompeian (blue) side and the Pompeian player now repeats the same sequence of phases, starting with the Forum/Victory Phase.

The Bronze and Silver Rules

The first few games I attempted were played using only the “Bronze Rules”, and they were all adequately competitive and enjoyable games. However, a few issues do arise using the Bronze Rules that don’t exist with the Silver Rules.

  • You’ll often find that you have more Gold than you can spend. Using the Silver Rules, you constantly find yourself running out of Gold! There are just more things to buy under the Silver Rules (SPQR Cards, Diplomacy Rolls, Forced Marches, etc.)
  • The ignoring of the Barbarian Areas, to the point where you are not even allowed to enter them, creates artificial “dead ends”. On several occasions I found myself getting trapped in places that I shouldn’t have been. The Silver Rules bring the Barbarians to life and open up many more possibilities (and challenges!) for both players.

I recommend that you spend as little time as possible with the Bronze Rules before moving on to the Silver. I’m also looking forward to trying the “Gold Rules” in the near future!

Winning the Game

Victory can be achieved in two ways:

  • Military Victory – Have your supreme leader in Rome, kill your opponent’s supreme leader, and control at least 25 Gold points worth of cities and/or Barbarian Areas. Neat, clean, simple.
  • Political Victory – The political rules add another dimension to the game that takes it beyond a simple military contest, and require a bit more explaining.

Every Forum Card has three important pieces of information on it:

  • Requirements for gaining control of the card.
  • Special ability for the player who controls the card, and turn Phase during which the benefits occur (i.e. Extra income during the Tax Phase, etc.).
  • One or more “Victory symbols” listed at the bottom.

Caesar XL - Victory symbols on Forum card
Caesar XL - Victory symbols on Leader card

In addition to the Forum Cards, most Leader Cards also have Victory symbols on the bottom. One is a raised fist, which represents the “Populares” faction and the other looks like a chess rook and represents the “Optimates” faction. You must constantly be aware of the net total of these symbols present on all the Forum and/or Leader cards currently in your possession. You need a net total of seven of one faction or the other to win. For example, if you have 6 “Optimates” symbols in total, and 2 “Populares” symbols, you subtract the smaller total from the larger total to arrive at a “net total”. In the example just mentioned, you would have a net total of 4 “Optimates” symbols (6 Optimates – 2 Populares). If either player can achieve a net total of 7 symbols (either “Populares” or “Optimates”) during a Forum/Victory phase, that player wins the game!

Simple, right? Not so fast. While the rules may be simple, winning this game is quite a challenge and most of my contests so far have ended up in a draw!

Summary

Let me kick off the summary by saying that this is an incredibly enjoyable and addictive game.

In my opinion, the Political Victory rules are the catalyst that move this from being a good game to being a great game. The basic military aspects of the game are also interesting and challenging but, as with all board gaming activities that involve a lot of dice rolling, strange and frustrating results can occur. With the introduction of the concept of a “Political Victory”, you could be getting your butt kicked all over the Mediterranean due to your crappy dice rolling and still squeak out a victory if your opponent is not paying careful attention. The Political rules (theoretically) provide a mechanism that will allow you to win the game without ever winning a battle. I haven’t seen that happen yet… but it’s theoretically possible, and that’s good enough for me :-)

I am primarily a hard-core, half-inch-hex only type of war gamer, but Caesar XL really grabbed my interest… and held it! It’s the type of board game that has you mentally plotting the moves of your next game, within minutes after the current game is finished. All too many games these days, many of them beautifully crafted and polished, leave you feeling almost relieved that you’re done playing, but Caesar XL leaves you wanting to play again.

I highly recommend this game. All the gamers who played Caesar XL with me felt the same way, without exception. Apparently good things definitely can come in small packages! I look forward to playing more Victory Point Games and hope the others compare favorably with Caesar XL.

“Hannibal Ad Portas”* – Carthaginian Generals

By Gary Andrews and Fred W. Manzo

Introduction

Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage is not a balanced game. Undoubtedly this is due to Carthage’s strong initial position and numerous advantages. First, its finest general, Hannibal, begins the game with the highest possible battle rating and command of a powerful army further reinforced with 2 elephant units and his special abilities. And second, Carthage may call for help from any of 4 other generals, including Hannibal’s 2 younger brothers.

hannibal_st2_fig1

Against this, Rome starts with only a pair of medium sized armies under, at best, average commanders. But more importantly, Carthage wins all drawn games. That is, Carthage usually needs to control only 9 provinces to win a game, while Rome must hold 10 of the 18 political important provinces.

Even so, Rome’s position is not hopeless as it does get more reinforcements then its adversary and, unlike Carthage, they do appear where needed. Further, 5 of the 7 generals in Rome’s starting command group have a fighting chance against any Carthage commander and, of course, Scipio Africanus (a near equal of Hannibal) does appear on turn 6 with 5 extra combat units.

Still, it’s thought Carthage should win a majority of the time.

With such closely matched opponents, it might help new players to list the Carthaginian generals in the order of their usefulness.


The Generals

hannibal_st2_fig2

Hannibal Barca, the oldest son of Hamilcar Barca, is unquestionably the best general in the game. For those interested, the name Hannibal means “Grace of Ba’al,” while “Barca,” which means “lightning,” may have started out simply as Hamilcar’s nickname.

Most players, after re-creating Hannibal’s legendary crossing of the Alps on turn 1, consider having him go on to attack the only army standing between him and Rome. In order to judge if this is a wise course, players frequently add the number of attacking battle cards to the active general’s battle rating and add 1, they then compare this sum to the number of defending battle cards plus their general’s battle rating. It’s assumed the army with the higher total should win, but when Hannibal is involved two additional factors must be taken into account: the effectiveness of his elephants and his ability to use a probe card as a right or left flank or a double envelopment card. In short, “The Father of Strategy” is considered to be the favorite in any battle in which he is not outnumbered by 3 or so battle cards.

However, northern Italy, with its maze of mountain ranges, remains a dangerous location in any situation as a defeated army without a valid retreat path is annihilated (and retreating armies cannot cross mountain passes). So tread carefully.


* Hannibal Ad Portas (Hannibal is at the Gates!) was the phrase used by Roman parents to frighten their disobedient children.


hannibal_st2_fig3

The Hasdrubal in Hannibal: Rome vs Carthage was one of Hannibal’s brothers. He fought Roman forces in Hispania under the Scipio brothers (Scipio Africanus’ father and uncle) once Hannibal left for Italy. Hasdrubal, though, is unique in Hannibal: Rome vs Carthage given that he is the only general without a special ability. Even so, his superior battle rating places him second only to Hannibal in the Carthaginian army.

Typically, Carthaginian players use him to defend Hispania (Spain) until reliable sea movement becomes available. He then usually invades Sicilia with 10 CU (Combat Units) as the island contains two provinces. Alternatively, Hasdrubal could be sent to Sardinia in an effort to trap any Roman army hunting raiders there or he could be sent to any undefended province. The main Roman problem during the first two-thirds of the game being that the Old Republic has only 3 generals, while it must defend 4 vital areas: northern Italy, southern Italy, Sicilia and Sardinia. Clearly, Hasdrubal could always follow the advice of baseball legend Wee Willie Keeler and “hit’em where they ain’t.”

hannibal_st2_fig4

Mago, another of “the Lion’s Brood,” was Hannibal’s youngest brother. In real life, Mago fought beside Hannibal in Italy. In the game, he’s primarily used to lead Carthaginian raiding parties into Sicilia or Sardinia as his special ability allows him to move easily by sea.

Typically, a raider’s main job in Hannibal: Rome vs Carthage is to prepare the ground for Hasdrubal or Hannibal’s larger armies. Raiders usually start by flipping single spaces to give Carthaginians a refuge in case of defeat and, if not stopped, they quickly graduate to converting whole provinces in order to generate additional allied troops.

hannibal_st2_fig5

Gisgo’s actual name was Hasdrubal Gisco, but as Carthage seemed to have had an overabundance of generals named Hasdrubal, he’s known in the game simply as “Gisgo.”

According to the great Roman commander, Fabius Maximus, Gisgo was “a general who showed his speed chiefly in retreat.” This is reflected in game terms by Gisgo’s ability to avoid battle and intercept on a roll of 1 to 3 and through his low battle rating. These game characteristics make him an ideal candidate to command raiding parties. Like most Carthaginian generals, if Gisgo is eliminated on one of these near suicidal missions he simply re-appears with any other friendly leader, in any other location, at the start of the next turn.

However, at least once per game either Mago or Gisgo should be given a break and used to lead surplus troops out of Africa. Without such a mission, the “Hanno Counsels Carthage” (badly) event will have a devastating effect on play as it prevents Carthaginian reserves from entering the game. Yet, like other events, its effects generally can be mitigated by proper planning.

First, as there are 64 cards in the event deck and as 72 cards must be dealt each game, players are virtually assured of seeing the “Truce” card at least once. And, second, no matter how the “Truce” card is played, it always revokes a “Counsels” card. So, if the “Hanno Counsels Carthage” event appears early in a game, players should expect it to be cancelled before too many reserve combat units have accumulated and if the event appears later there would have been plenty of opportunities to withdraw the forces in question.

hannibal_st2_fig6

Hanno “the Great” as he was known to his supporters, led the political faction opposed to Hannibal and the Barca family in the Carthaginian senate. Carthage, apparently having suffered from a severe shortage of names, had 3 politicians called “Hanno, the Great.” Technically, ours is “Hanno, the Great” number II.

In any event, Hanno starts in Carthage and may not leave Africa. However, in compensation, his special ability enables him to remove the enemy PC marker in the last space he enters. This makes it difficult for Rome to raise allied troops in Africa, particularly when the Republic has only had time to place the bare minimum of political markers it needs in a province. For all Hanno has to do in these cases is to move into the province, remove the critical last Roman PC when he stops and Rome instantly loses control.

Unfortunately, for Carthage, any army under Hanno’s command has such problems getting started that they may not respond quickly enough to make any difference.


Summary

As has been mentioned in other articles, one of the keys to successful play in Hannibal: Rome vs Carthage is knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your commanders. We hope that the information in this article will provide the foundation for devising your own winning Carthaginian strategies.