Back when SPI was the dominant force in wargaming they offered the ‘folio series’, small format games (half-size, 17” x 22” maps, 100 counters) on a variety of topics. These often came in sets of four games (the ‘Quadrigames’) that shared a common rules set for the historical period, and then each game had a page or two of individuals rules with victory conditions, special rules and so forth: learn the basic rules and it’s easy to play any of the games in series. Overall, the games were intended to be simple, fast playing and inexpensive. They weren’t the best simulations on their respective topics, but quick to play and quite suitable for introducing new players to the hobby.
In 2012, Decision Games, the current holder of the SPI mantle, resurrected the folio game series, and in the process introduced an additional series of even smaller format, the ‘Mini Game’. Caesar’s War is one of the two currently available games in the Ancient Wars Mini Game series.
Components are one of the defining aspects of the Mini Game format. CW comes with an 11” x 17” full-color map paper map, 40 die-cut counters, a four page rules book and a page of individual rules, packaged in a zip lock bag.
My only complaint about the components, which are attractive and serviceable, is the relatively tiny print on the counters and the small cards. Aging eyes will need to play this one in a well-lit room. I liked the look of the map display, a simple point-to-point map grid superimposed over an antique map.
CW is simple enough, playing something like a mini card driven game. Game movement is a point to point on a small network of spaces depicting Gaul, the east bank of the Rhine, Southern Britain and the Roman held area in Cisalpine Gaul. Spaces come in three flavors: sea, wilderness and forts. The latter are the focus of the game, as the Romans win if they can take four of the six Barbarian forts and Vercingetorix is not in the game and the Barbarians are victorious if they can take one of the Roman bases.
On their turn, each player will draw a card from their respective deck. The cards are a big factor in the game, as the card for the turn will indicate what, if any, reinforcement/replacements they might receive and what types of units they may move and how far, and perhaps an event. The card drawn may have little to do with what the player wants to do on that turn, which adds a real luck factor to the game. However, if the player has their supreme commander (Caesar for the Romans/Vercingetorix for the Barbarians) on the map, he can choose to play an already discarded card again. This can turn the whole card mechanic on its head if one of the good cards, with lots of replacements or freedom of movement, is discarded only to be played again and again.
Combat takes place when units are in the same space and is of the ’handful of dice variety’. Each Roman legion/auxilium/garrison/leader and Barbarian warband/garrison/leader has a combat value of from one to five. This number of dice is rolled when that unit attacks, and depending on who’s attacking and whether or not the situation is a ‘siege’ (defender is in a fort), the opponent must retreat or lose a unit. The Romans have a better column for results, but the Barbarians usually get to throw more dice. It’s a bit of a dicefest that strongly rewards rolling 6s.
The game includes some advanced rules, which I recommend, as the supply and Roman camp rules add a bit of strategy to a game that’s badly in need of some.
I have a real interest in the subject matter and was initially intrigued by the game design, but it didn’t hold up when played. The game is rather perfunctory—it works, after a basic fashion, but it’s not that interesting, nor does it seem to be a very good representation of the subject. Given that perhaps the most famous and interesting event in the war, the double encirclement at Alesia, during which Caesar’s army besieging Vercingetorix was in turn surrounded by a Gallic relief army, can’t be simulated in the game and the combat rule for siege (that is an attack on an enemy in a fort) seem to have little to do with an actual siege, is curious and disappointing.
The Romans need to take four Gallic forts to win; there are four very close to the Roman starting positions (three of which are in a row) so the action tends to center on a very small portion of an already small map. Yes, Rome needs Vercingetorix to not be on the map, but since he enters game on a card, it’s possible, if not likely, for Rome to take these forts before he’s in the game.
There’s little reason for the Romans to go out of their way to head to Britain or go across the Rhine—-notable events in the historical war-- unless they’re chasing Vercingetorix. (The Barbarian player running Vercingetorix around the map to avoid battle may be a smart and necessary option in the game, but it strikes me as poor history.)
Perhaps the game would have been more interesting had victory focused on Caesar’s personal ambitions in the campaign. Sure, there was an overall strategic goal of pacifying an area that had been a problem for Rome in the past, but as anyone who’s read much of Caesar’s own account of the war knows, Caesar was looking to use the campaign to build his reputation and power base. Rewarding him for pushing his luck might have made for a more interesting game. That brief foray into southern Britain didn’t have any lasting strategic value, nor is it a likely occurrence in the game, but it was a big hit with the people back in Rome.
Overall, I just can’t recommend Caesar’s War there’s just not that much there. Small format doesn’t have to mean small play value, but that’s the case here.
Game rating: 6
- Last edited Wed Feb 5, 2014 5:32 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Tue Sep 24, 2013 12:58 am
Jonathan "Spartan Spawn, Sworn, Raised for Warring!"
"The Sisyphean dreamer, my fibula and femur hold the weight of the world over and over! I think, therefore I die, anxiety and I rolling down a mountain over and over!"
After about 4 plays my Wife and I agree with you. I got these to introduce her to wargaming and it worked but there isnt much decisions to be made as you said.
We played Belisarius's War: The Roman Reconquest of Africa, AD 533-534 next and liked that one much better. There is way more decisions to be made in it, and with the sea lanes, many more routes in which to do the fighting and more things to worry about defensively.
Might want to check it out, for a 30 minute portable wargame Belisarius seems perfect.
- Last edited Tue Sep 24, 2013 2:07 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Tue Sep 24, 2013 2:07 pm