My first game of Hail Caesar, finally; I seem to have waited an age to get round to this, despite wanting to give it a try straight away. Mark set up a refight of the Battle of Amiphipolis, which perfectly allowed my Spartan army of Brasidas to face his Athenians.
The battle opened the Athenians attempting to withdraw, having feared (wrongly as history showed) the arrival of Spartan mercenaries outside the gates of Amphipolis, which they were beseiging.
On seeing this, Brasidas stormed out with 150 chosen men from one city gate, whilst the rest of his army, under Cleridas, left from another. Brasidas was determined to catch the Athenians whilst they were unready to fight (typical aggressive yet underhand Spartan tactics). We took this as the starting point for the game, with my mass of Spartans and Thracians bottled up in one corner as if leaving the city.
I dashed forward my Thracians to cut off the exit route for the Athenians, allowing time for my Hoplites to advance.
Battle was soon joined. In terms of orders and movement it is much like Black powder, but with a few obvious exceptions. Movement rates are halved, and when forces come within 12 inches of one another they must conform to their frontages, or withdraw. This avoids too much sneaky manoeuvring.
Commanders are encouraged to be less effective, but brigade orders are more flexible so there is some balance, a lot of the troops will act on initiative once within 12 inches, as the alternatves are limited.
Combat joined when both the Thracians and Brasidas' men charged; whilst the Athenian centre formed a battle line. Hand to hand combat is naturally stressed in HC over BP and so units can typically take twice as many hits before becoming shaken. Break tests are similarly revised so that troops often retire rather than it being a relative rarity in BP.
Marks Athenians to the north pushed back the Thracians, but in doing so exposed a flank to a well supported Spartan phalanx, which smashed and scattered them; whilst Brasidas threw back Cleon's men to the south.
The Thracians attacked a second phalanx whilst the Spartans and Levy troops from Amphipolis shut the door on escape north.
Support is an important feature of combat and is more hands on than in BP, though resolution as a result depends solely on casualties caused. The Thracians got into a long grinding match with the Athenians, who thanks to their Phalanx formation could count a defeat of up to two points as a draw, and so avoided several break tests; despite taking steady losses.
Meanwhile my Psoiloi to the north encircled and contained the Athenian light troops. Cleon attempted to get his Phalanxes to refuse a flank to the north and counter my advances, but instead they blundered into a headlong rush at the light infantry before them; who wisely scattered to safety.
At the same time he threw two Phalanxes at Brasidas' beleaguered force, but was beaten back. By some miracle 150 Spartans had prevailed. Brasidas was wounded, but Cleon lay slain on the battlefield.
Unlike BP in HC commanders specifically add dice to combat, but at a steadily increasing level of personal risk. The can quite definitely get killed. So it was for Cleon. By this stage the Athenians were broken, and retreating wherever possible.
This was a glorious victory for Sparta, almost as great as the historical outcome; Sparta suffered one Broken phalanx, to the enemies loss of five and his commander. On the day both Cleon and Brasidas were killed, but Brasidas lived long enough to know he was victorious, so perhaps the only difference here was the gods smiling a little more on Brasidas's fate.
As for the rules, well I smile on them too. It will take more than one game to learn all the details, but they seem as expected, fast to pick up and easy to understand, with the fast organic style of play I am used to from Black Powder. The next challenge is to run the game myself and see how that goes.
Dark Age terrain progress
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