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Dictator: Caesar Module» Forums » Reviews

Subject: A review, 21 years later rss

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The Dictator module dates back to 1995 and is, unfortunately, long out of print. It contains 2 scenarios from the fading days of the Roman Republic, each featuring unique military systems. At Vercellae, 101 BC, we are introduced to barbarian warfare, something that we will get much more of in Caesar: Conquest of Gaul. At Chaeronea, 86 BC, we return to Greece to have one last look at a descendant of Alexander’s Macedonian model.

Dictator also provides an introduction to Marius and Sulla, both major players in Rome's first civil war. Consul Gaius Marius was a great military reformer who changed the look of the Roman legion altogether. His replacement of the three line manipular formation with a modular cohort-based system created a legion structure more adaptive to the wide variety of Roman enemies. Great Battles of Caesar: The Civil Wars, and in turn, Dictator, reflect the Marian changes and we soon discover that we are no longer in the SPQR era.

The module itself is typical 1990’s GBoH fare. We get a an historically informative 12 page booklet, one sheet of counters, and no additional maps. Both scenarios are played on Caesar’s Pharsalus maps, and demand a large playing surface.

In regards to counter quality, I’m afraid we find Dictator still in the dark ages. A razor blade is needed to extract the counters from their sprue, and an Oregon Lamination 2mm clipper certainly goes a long way in bringing them up to snuff. Graphically, however, we still get the wonderful Rodger MacGowan treatment, so all is forgiven.

Vercellae, 101 BC

Here we find Consul Marius and his general, Sulla, vastly out-numbered by King Beorix’s Cimbric forces. A huge cavalry faces Marius’ left and a smaller one on his right. These cavalries provide the greatest threat to Roman success, but are let down by their supporting cast of axe-wielding Germanic troops in the center. These poorly disciplined warriors are governed by Barbarian Impetuosity rules, which induce them into aggressive and often ill-advised attacks. They are, however, granted a Wedge Formation as a means of attack, but keeping them in this formation will prove a challenge.

In all, Vercellae should be a walkover for Rome, and the scenario finds itself in the ever-growing “For Historical Interest Only” category of GBoH battles.

Chaeronea, 86 BC

In a time when fear of foreign invasion ran high, military strength was granted political strength, and Sulla’s success in the Social War made him a household name. When King Mithridates of Pontus threatened in the east, Marius and Sulla both jumped at the chance to lead Rome into battle. After the honor was awarded to Marius, Sulla and his faithful legions seized Rome itself. Following a purge of his political enemies in the senate, Sulla marched to Greece, and ultimately, victory at Chaeronea.

Playing Chaeronea is a fairly straight-forward affair, without many extra rules. We are, however, introduced to chariots, and the rules governing them appear to be adopted from The Great Battles of Alexander. While they do provide a bit of historical flavor, these chariots prove useless in combat and remind us why they had fallen out of favor centuries before.

A second novelty of this scenario is the representation of the Pontine Army’s use of slaves for their phalanx. As this formation requires discipline and training to orchestrate properly, we have good reason to doubt its overall troop quality. To reflect this, all slave phalanxes undergo a check to determine the TQ of the unit, which means the Romans won’t know what they are up against until they engage the enemy.

Like Vercellae, Chaeronea should prove to be a relatively easy victory for Rome, and gamers are given the standard recommendation of a Rout Point Bid Method to even things up. While I find myself adding this disclaimer to many scenarios in the GBoH oeuvre, I don’t view the imbalance as negative aspect of this system, but rather a reflection of the historical outcomes. It is here that we must individually decide what we expect from a game, but regardless, Dictator succeeds as a harbinger of the Roman Empire and also presents gamers with colorful military opponents of divergent styles.
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Paul Brown
United Kingdom
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Nice overview of this module. Playing solo, I am totally OK with 'historical interest' studies rather than balanced games. Then again I guess the Vercellae thought they had a chance else why march out and fight? I got lost in the complexity of standard GBOH so turned to SGBOH to play these out. Quite instructive seeing the Pontic phalanxes get chopped up by the Legionaries.
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