Thursday, April 3, 2014

Romans vs Persians -- My first Hail Caesar loss

Recently I clashed with GG of the Richmond Leisure Society. I have been expanding and prettying up my Persian army, and GG has been doing the same for his Romans, who saw some action against my Greeks in months past. So we get the (unhistorical, but who cares?) match up between Early Imperial Rome and Achaemenid Persia.

My Persians


GG's Romans


This overhead shot shows you a beautiful sight -- look how much bigger a 420ish point Persian army is compared to 420ish points of Romans. That's because my troops are cheaper, carrying flimsy wicker shields, wearing their pajamas for Pete's sake. But almost all of them have bows.

Neither GG nor I suffered from the phenomenonof bad command rolls. My line all moves in the first round. I don't want to close with the Romans, who are superior in hand-to-hand combat. But I don't want to hug the table edge either, lest they force me off.

Here, I get some early good news. GG's medium cavalry charged my medium cavalry before the real clash ever got started. But on their way in, I got off a closing shot (my cav have bows). The dice liked me and frowned on GG, so his cavalry was routed before it even got to melee. I was actually feeling sort of bad for that improbable roll and the significant early advantage it gave me.

Here you can even see my line starting to envelop the Romans.

This is me maintaining a nice 12" distance from most of GG's line. My plan was to do the standard Persian thing: shoot so many arrows that they blot out the sun. Here's the problem: Romans can take a testudo formation which makes them pretty much immune to casualties from missile weapons. A few lucky rolls with bows held GG at bay, forcing him to retreat six inches here or there. My arrows could have wiped out his archers and remaining cavalry if my rolls had been luckier.

The other cavalry engagement: On the north wing, GG's medium cavalry ignores the Nubian levies and faces off against my light cavalry and camels.

GG destroys my camels. Hail Caesar doesn't give camels any special rules (some games give them the ability to frighten horses), so this was just a small, light unit of cavalry (mine) versus a medium unit (his).

Here are some of my chariots not quite managing to flank GG's legionnaires.

And now for what I failed to photograph: Eventually I impatiently charged GG's line, without waiting for my cavalry to round the wings and get in the Romans' back field. I had designated my elephants and chariots as reserves and they never even touched the Romans. My infantry hit his with superior numbers and, in one case, a flanking bonus... and it was for naught. The unarmored Persians just got outfought by the better armed, better trained Romans. A unit of sparabara routed. The game was not unwinnable but it was past eleven on a school night and GG clearly had both the points and the momentum. So I flipped the table. Just kidding.

This loss was OK, useful even. It's my first Hail Caesar defeat, which is good, because if you win all the time, nobody wants to play with you. Useful tips for me next time I play Persians: Don't hold back with elephants and chariots. Crush his flanks before you engage the main body of infantry. And for the love of Ahura Mazda, paint up some more sparabara and light cavalry so that I don't have my (gorgeous but ahistorical) Sherden guard or Saracens mucking up my Achaemenid ranks. Always something to paint!


  1. A loss that you learn from is more valuable than a win that teaches you nothing.

    (Unless, of course, there's money on the line.)

  2. Well said, my friend. And for a lesson like this, I would have paid a few dinars.