Monday, October 2, 2023

Indian Sumer

The weekend saw two beautiful Indian summer days. I love this time of year when the onset of dreary, cloudy, cold, rainy days is interrupted by a faint encore of the warmer, sunnier time before. 

The weekend also saw a twofer for ancients gaming: Chariots Rampant and Hail Caesar.

Saturday, Chariots Rampant: Sumer or later (lugal's gonna get you)

After a years-long gap since our last game, Scott Abbott and I played our third game of Chariots Rampant against each other at Wizard's Keep in Kent, WA. Ralph Holloway has been hosting a monthly game day there for the last few years. I went down and reconnoitered the shop (along with Game Kastle, also in Kent) during my faux retirement this summer. It's pretty spacious and has a lot of tables for gaming. We need to take more advantage of it as a regular venue. Kevin Smyth and I plan to play Tribal there for the next game day at the end of October.

My Sumerians had prevailed over Scott's Mycenaeans in our first two games largely by a superiority of missile fire. With one unit of archers and three units of skirmishers, I was able to rain misery down on Scott's chariots and spearmen. 

Scott didn't fail to notice the insalubrious effect of long-range fire and accordingly added some skirmishers to his force to rain a bit of misery back on me. We played 24-point retinues against each other, although I managed to short myself by two points. I should have deployed the third skirmisher on Saturday or added javelins to my spearmen (you can do that in Chariots Rampant, but not in Lion Rampant), but wound up doing neither. I still had fire superiority, but not with impunity. 

We had a pretty classic deployment. I put my spears in the center backed by my leader in his heavy chariot/equid-drawn war cart. My two skirmisher units were on the flanks and on my left I put the archers, whom I imagined would take the hill and dominate the field. So I imagined.

Scott concentrated most of his force against my left. He had two heavy chariot units to my one and equaled me in spears and skirmishers. My sole advantage was my archer unit.

I haven't played Lion Rampant for a while, so I forgot that spearmen (Foot Sergeants in LR) are crap as offensive troops, which is why I had intended to arm them with javelins. Spear formations facing each other are in a standoff. Attacking is 5+, defending is 4+. No sensible player attacks opposing spears with spears, so of course I did. I did it more than once.

The game see-sawed a bit. On my left, the archers (after failing a few movement activations) managed to stave off Scott's attempted flanking maneuver with one of his chariot units. I think he feared that charging my archers would get him Agincourted. His skirmishers prevailed over mine, despite being reduced to half. He got stung once by my archers, but managed to keep of of their line of fire for the most part. For several turns they sat in the brush  harassing one of my spear units until the archers finally got another shot at them and wiped them out.

Scott eventually withdrew his chariots from the flank attack and moved them around the hill to his center. I struck out with my chariots against one of his spear units, which resulted in a win for me, but not much of one. In Chariots Rampant, heavy chariots are the mounted men at arms (who can also chuck javelins at short range). They hit hard, but don't much like being his standing still.

Seeing that continued chariot vs. spears clashes would not be in his favor, we wound up in some chariot vs. chariot action when Scott moved his spears out of the way and attacked my lugal with his wanax.

On my right, my skirmishers drew first blood against Scott's skirmishers, who lost two figures and then proceeded to fail a courage test and their subsequent rally attempts until they were just gone. I couldn't follow up on that success, however, because I failed to activate my skirmishers again for many turns thereafter.

The battle in the center went back and forth. Each of us (even me) becoming a bit wary of using our spears to attack, we went through a series of tactical withdrawals followed by attacks. 

Chariots clashed against chariots again and by the game's end, Scott's two chariots had suffered four and five hits. My lugal in his chariot had suffered four.

The last hurrah of the game was Scott's desperate charge against my slingers, who had finally roused themselves and gotten back into the fray. 

His much-reduced chariot unit hit them square on. I failed to evade. In the ensuing action, even though he had only six dice to throw, he got hits on every die and my slingers evaporated.

At this point, we called it a draw. Both of us were pretty battered. My archers were finally in position on the hill to start hurting Scott's remnants from a distance. They'd already managed to reduce his chariots and spears a bit. 

Had we played out a few more turns, they might have enabled me to pull off a Pyrrhic victory.

Sunday, Hail Caesar: Quis vicit?

On Sunday afternoon, I joined Chris Craft, James Macabee, and Eric Smith for a game of Hail Caesar in which a Middle Imperial Roman force was pitted against a usurper with a force of Gothic hirelings. We played in Chris' excellent game room accompanied by his cats.

James and I were the Roman imperial forces. Each of us had one legion of six units and an auxila force of three foot cohorts, two cavalry alae, and one unit of sagittarii. We also had a medium onager and a light bolt shooter unit. We might have had cataphracts, but I rolled bad. 

Chris and Eric were the usurpers. Chris had a renegade Roman legion and a Gothic command with cavalry and skirmishers. Eric had two Gothic commands, each with several units of warriors and two units of skirmishers.

My initial apprehension was that there were going to roll over us. The Roman legionaries are pretty tough, but the Goths have a powerful initial hit in a charge.Even if the legion held, I was afraid that the auxilia would just fall apart in the barbarian onslaught.

The action started on our right where Chris charged his cavalry against James' auxila on the flank. Fortunately James held and after a few turns, Chris' barbarians were broken.

On my end of things, I was struggling to get my troops to do anything. I was rolling consistent bad command rolls, which left me stuck. However, I was able to repulse and then push back the initial Barbarian rush against my dilatory auxilia.

My dice kind of came back for me, even though the auxilia remained pretty immobile throughout. I hit back at the Goths with my legionaries and after a bit of a tussle, managed to throw them back.

Aiding me greatly in my fights were my commander and "Legionary Titus Pullo" who was an addition to the rules by Chris to represent the critical effect of a good centurion. He added 2 dice to a melee; the legion commander added only 1. Those +3 dice made a difference.

By now, my flank was fully engaged and the legionaries were starting to evaporate a few barbarian units.

Our right was in trouble. Despite breaking Chris' cavalry, James auxilia were beaten up. Chris brought his renegade legion into play and started pushing back James troops.

Eventually, James' commands were on the brink of breaking. However, Eric's two commands were also getting close. He'd stopped his offensive push and was starting to recoil to avoid getting his last units hit.

I managed to get my auxilia cavalry, after several failed attempts, to charge home and take out another warrior unit. On the same turn, my legions who were fighting in the center had turned against Eric's right. In a volley of javelins, my legionaries broke another Gothic warrior unit. 

In the center, I just missed breaking Eric's other command when, having lost a melee by -5 with a shaken unit, he rolled box cars for morale and still just a unit shy of breaking.

We ended the game in a bloody tie. They's lost two commands broken and we had. The usurpers survived.

I've only played Jail Caesar a few times. I like the system, but as my readers know, I'm disinclined to paint big armies for it. Even the way Chris does it is too much. He uses stands of eight figures (foot) and three figures (cavalry and skirmishers) to represent whole units. That reduces the number of figures to play a big game, but legion was still 56 figures and was one of four commands on our side. That's a lot of skirmish armies.


  1. Thanks for coming down for our game day at Wizard's Keep. Talking about gaming and history with you guys was fun and interesting. Look forward to seeing you and Kevin next month.

  2. Excellent looking Chariot Rampant game the Hail Caesar game looks like a ton of fun!
    Best Iain