401 BC. While the legitimate shah, Artaxerxes, has gone east to quell a revolt, his brother, Cyrus the younger sees an opportunity to fill the vacuum. He declares himself king, wins the loyalty of Asia Minor and the Levant. Getting word of Cyrus' mischief, Artaxerxes heads west with the royal guard (including the famed Immortals and some newly-painted heavy cavalry. Cyrus hires 10,000 Greek hoplites (whose story is chronicled in Xenophon's Anabasis) to match his brother's forces and heads west. They meet on the bank of the Euphrates, 40 miles from Babylon, near a little town called Cunaxa. That much is history.
Last night I hosted and reffed this game for two history professors, Professor T and Professor D. The first to arrive at my house, prof T, took on the role of the firstborn son , Artaxerxes and prof D, when he got there, played the second born, Cyrus.
Here's our play area, not a bad bit of terrain if I say so myself. The sand is just a variegated, sort of tie-dyed looking brown/tan felt I bought at a fabric store. The river is tie dyed craft paper. There was no difficult terrain here, but I ruled that the Euphrates was deep and swift along this bank, and that any unit forced to give ground or withdraw into the river would be lost.
As Atraxerxes' levies retreat, both sides have seen a lot of casualties, but only Cyrus still has anything resembling a battle line.
And then Cyrus led a unit of takabara against an elephant. And some dice got rolled. And Cyrus got his fool head stepped on. In Hail Caesar, of course, every time your leader contributes dice to a battle, there is a small chance that he will die. And so he did; and with the death of Cyrus the question to succession was settled. (In real history, Cyrus's death in this battle abruptly ended the civil war. The Greek mercenaries offered their services to another Persian; they said that they could make him king, but he declined, because his blood was not noble enough). Professor D was kind of surprised by this quick end, leading me to wonder if I had made the victory conditions for this scenario entirely clear at the beginning.
This was a great scenario; everybody had a blast, and I would not mind running it again, perhaps at a convention. I have to make sure that the generals are highly motivated to stay in battle because I WANT this battle to get resolved by the death of either Artaxerxes or Cyrus, and in Hail Caesar you have the option of keeping your generals VERY safe as long as they aren't contributing dice to a battle. What fun is that? A little house ruling is needed.