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Caesar: Epic Battle of Alesia» Forums » General

Subject: CA Play Balance rss

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Dan Zachary
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Hi,

"Caesar at Alesia" is a old, personal favorite.

I have always been nagged by one thing: the game's play balance.

My game play over the years and hunch is that the game is heavily tilted towards the Romans. Of course, if the Romans make a gross mistake and leave a gap in the line, then things can change quickly. But, given good play by an experienced Roman player, this is an uphill struggle for the Gauls.

Your thoughts?
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John Labelle
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The Romans do have the edge in my opinion. Ramparts, forts, missile engines, archers, slingers plus outer works.

It's up to the Gaul to confuse the Roman using the hidden off board movement. The Gaul decides the flow of the game. He alone decides where and when the attack will come.

His real target is the mind of his Roman opponent. If he succeeds in turning his opponent into a confused, paranoid and paralyzed pile of jelly, then the corridor of freedom for Vercingetorix can be established.

I think that the Romans win more often because to achieve this level of deception, a player has to be very creative and indirect.

That's what makes this game one of the gems from the golden age of wargaming.
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David Dockter
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Momoshiro wrote:
The Romans do have the edge in my opinion. Ramparts, forts, missile engines, archers, slingers plus outer works.

It's up to the Gaul to confuse the Roman using the hidden off board movement. The Gaul decides the flow of the game. He alone decides where and when the attack will come.

His real target is the mind of his Roman opponent. If he succeeds in turning his opponent into a confused, paranoid and paralyzed pile of jelly, then the corridor of freedom for Vercingetorix can be established.

I think that the Romans win more often because to achieve this level of deception, a player has to be very creative and indirect.

That's what makes this game one of the gems from the golden age of wargaming.


+1

Game favors Romans, but, a clever Gaul plan gives them the edge.
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Mike D
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Concur with the points made. A strategy I've never tried though is to utilize the 2nd Assault Period for the main Gallic attack.

While the designer notes briefly caution against this, the assault periods are essentially games unto themselves.

In the first Assault period (which forms THE game almost every time I've played) the Gaul has these disadvantages:

1) The OBMC position is known to be Location I.
2) There is a delay of 1-3 turns before city can act (i.e. some breathing room until at least turn four of the twelve).

If no Gallic attack, except for the landing of ten units on the outer works, is made in the first Assault period this changes:

1) The Gauls could be anywhere on the OBMC.
2) There are a full 12 turns of activity, and time is certainly of the essence.

I realize the Romans are allowed to take a peek at the OBMC before start of the second Assault Phase but this is only done after positioning of Roman units.

The designer cautions that the losses from period one are often too great, and this has been true of any game that I've seen bleed over into period two. But it begs the question whether the advantages from a patient probing strategy in period one would tip the balance.

Has anyone ever tried this as a strategy?
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Francis Small
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I believe the game favors the Gauls if they use a 2nd day strategy.

I played this once a long time ago face to face in a 4 player game - I was the main Gallic player. We allowed the Romans to setup, then informed them that the 1st day passed uneventfully, and showed them the OBMC which showed Gauls spread evenly around the board.

The 2nd day the Gauls attacked in force. To make a long story short, Libenius(sp?) was killed and Vercingetorix escaped.

I later played this as a solitaire(!) game using the same Gallic strategy, and again Vercingetorix escaped. My opinion is that this strategy gives the Gauls a decided advantage. I am tempted to play another solitaire game and write up a session report...

NOTE: Solitaire games with hidden off-board movement is a bit tricky. Game theory essentially states that - with expert knowledge of the game on both sides - both sides will have essentially the same knowledge about the probability of the disposition of the hidden troops. As an example, the Romans might know that in situation X, there's a 50% chance that the Gauls are using distribution A and 50% chance that they are using distribution B. The Gauls would know which one they actually have, but they must act in a manner that doesn't reveal to the Roman which one they are actually using - so the Gauls must act in a manner that is consistent with them having a 50% chance each of distributions A/B. It is a short step from the Gauls actually knowing to the Gallic leader having the same knowledge as the Roman commander of the 50/50 chance - which ensures that the Gauls will act in a consistent manner! In the end, there will be situations that will reveal the Gaul's distribution. Say that the Romans have a defensive crisis which a Gallic distribution A would just crush. The Gauls would choose to reveal and use this distribution if they had it - so I roll a dice to see if the Gauls actually have this distribution or not.

Short story : I have a methodology to handle hidden movement in a solitaire game - though it is a bit tricky.
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Mike D
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Interesting reply Francis. It's a tactic I've wanted to try out.

There was an interesting Roman strategy that I tried a few years ago, in a throwaway game after a few excellent rounds of face to face plays against an experienced opponent.

I dubbed it the "barely legal" setup where the forts are wrapped tight as possible around Alesia, I forget how many hexes distant, but many as possible, close as possible. And then Alesia also surrounded by an inner ring of legionnaires which present low odds target to any attack from inside.

The actual historical fortifications themselves were defended only lightly with a couple spare forts for bridges. Romans strategy was pure mobility... retreat back from outer fortification, form a brief second line between fortifications, drop back to inner fortifications, then the trench, and then back to the tight line of forts.

It actually worked very well, and what surprised me most of all is how the the inner ring of legionnaires are very well able to frustrate any excursions from Alesia while the rest of the defense plays roadblock. The Gauls just run out of time.

Unfortunately it all felt a bit gamey, interesting to see but just not as enjoyable as the intense conventional sessions we'd just completed. John makes a great point earlier on attacking the "mind of the Roman opponent" which was always a wonderful aspect of this game. I still feel that twang of panic to watch those hordes of green counters breaking over the ramparts.

So, do tell about your solo system for off-board. This is one of the few games that I like to drag out every year but just haven't been able to play it alone.
 
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John Labelle
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Thirty plus years later and players still debate "Who" has the advantage.
This is why it's one of the greats!
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Mike D
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Hey John,
I think you made the point earlier. Whoever is reduced to a confused, paranoid, paralyzed pile of jelly has the disadvantage. Repeated playing of the Roman side builds confidence... but then a '6' gets rolled and one fort drops and pow! Gauls everywhere
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