After reading the rule booklet a couple of times in the preceeding weeks, my wife and I finally got the chance to put Caesar at Alesia on the table. My wife is not one for war games, but the idea of an ancient seige between the Romans and the Gauls intrigued her enough for her to agree to try this one.
The Set Up
Kris wanted to play the Gauls, so I played the Romans. We spent a good 20 or 30 minutes organizing our respective forces, and then positioning them. The Gallic set up is pretty easy: all the besieged units start inside the city of Alesia in the center of the board...
The beseiged Gallic forces, in Alesia
...and all the relieving Gallic units start on sector I of the Off-Board Movement Chart (OBMC).
For the Romans, it requires a little more thought. There are 23 stationary forts to place, as well as the 154 units (legions, slingers, archers, cavalry, etc.) to create a containing force which is defending on both sides: the inside of the "donut" against the Gauls trapped in the city, and the outside of the "donut" against the relieving Gallic hordes who are trying to liberate Vercingetorix (the Gallic leader).
Not really having much of a clue about good placement, I started by fairly evenly distributing the 23 forts around and on the outer ramparts. Then I manned each fort with three 5-8's (attack factor [AF] 5, movement factor [MF] 8) - those being the bulk of the Roman force. The 6-8's and 4-7's I laid in a ring around the city. The few slingers and archers were placed on the outer ramparts with the remaining 5-8's, and the cavalry units were also available near the outer ramparts. Caesar started with his bodyguard somewhere in the northwest, inside the outer perimeter, and Labienus somewere on the east side of the city...
The Roman Legions positioned, ready for the Gallic assault
The First Assault Period - Turn 1
As expected, the initial enemy forces came in from the south west. The Gauls movement phase is first, and a few units moved in to engage the Roman legions on the perimeter ramparts. Dice rolls were thrown for the effect of the "outer works" on Gallic units landing on them, and two units were immediately lost. Two cavalry units made a run for it through a gap, but one of them was hit and eliminated by a shot from a seige engine in one of the forts.
There is also some "movement" behind the box lid, as units are moved on the OBMC, north and east. The indicator chart is updated. Who knows where the bulk of the Gallic force is going?
A couple of hand-to-hand battles were fought, with equal casualties on both sides... This is just a handful of Gauls, most of the army is still hidden from Roman sight.
The first Gallic units engage with the Romans in the southwest
Now it is the Romans' turn to move. Leaving one unit in each fort, a number of 5-8's are moved in to try and mop up the first Gallic units in the southwest. With unknown quantities of units marching east and north, many of the other Roman legions held their current position.
The First Assault Period - Turn 2
About twenty more Gallic units approach from the south east. But the Gallic commander is still holding back the bulk of her attack force. They must be heading north or east, but still no clues as to relative sizes of those forces. One unit is knocked out by a good shot from a seige engine in one of the forts.
This turn, two Gallic 7-6's get past the outer perimeter, and head inwards. Nine Legions manage to converge on these two units, and engage at 45:14 which, boils down to 3:1 (defender's favor). A dice roll of 3 produces a "Battle Rages" result, and all units involved in the battle are inverted to show that they will continue to fight next turn. Kris considers this with a certain amount of glee, when she realises that two of her units have tied up nine of mine.
I also take the opportunity to spread out the legions on the inner ring, making sure an unbroken Zone of Control (ZOC) surrounds the city. Since a unit must stop moving on entering an enemy ZOC, this should help halt any breakout attempt by Vercingetorix.
2 Gallic units engage 9 Roman units, in a "Battle Rages" result
The First Assault Period - Turn 3
I remind Kris that the beseiged Gauls in Alesia may not leave the city until after 10 or more relieving force units have landed on the outer works in the same turn. (This was to simulate the lack of coordination between the besieged Gauls and the relieving hordes). So this turn she successfully accomplishes the task of landing about 12 units on the outer works in the south east.
By this time, a medium sized force of Gauls moves in from the north west, and head toward's Caesar's position. (The Roman player cannot win if Caesar is captured/killed). On the Roman turn, Caesar gallops off to the east, with his bodyguard, out of harm's way.
Gallic units moving in from the northwest
It is also during this turn that, on re-reading some of the rules, we realize that we had forgotten the rule that any Gallic unit totally surrounded by Roman ZOC (not totally surrounded by Roman units, as I had thought), with an attack ratio of at least 2:1, was immediately eliminated. With this new information, the Roman's easily took out a few more Gallic units.
What did you say the time was?
A look at the clock, and we were surprised to see that it was midnight already! We had started at 9pm. 3 turns in 3 hours, and the turn chart has 2 assault periods with 12 turns each (one turn simulates one hour of the battle). No way we were going to finish this game!! So we spent another 20 minutes packing the game up.
Packing the game up after 3 hours of play
It was when I re-read sections of the rules that I realized some of the things we had been doing wrong.
Firstly, we had been throwing for a result on the Outer Works table every time a Gallic unit landed on an outer works hex. We should only have been doing this if that hex was in a Roman ZOC. When there are no Roman soldiers nearby, the Gauls have the time to pick their way through the traps. It is only when they are pressured by the presence of the enemy that they succomb to the traps.
Secondly, we had been resolving the outer works casualties at the time the unit moved onto or across the outer works. We should have waited until after the Gallic movement phase had been completed. (A much simpler task, once you realize that you only throw for outer works in Roman ZOC, and the Gallic unit must stop when it lands in a Roman ZOC). This then allows the Gauls no chance to bring in reinforcements when they lose men to the outer works traps.
Thirdly, (which we realised while playing), we had not realised that a Roman force of 2:1 odds would eliminate Gallic unit(s) if they had no retreat path (totally surrounded by Roman ZOC.
Fourthly, the Roman leaders provide a morale boost to the soldiers they are with: in any battle that Labienus (Caesar's Lieutenant) is in, a second die roll is made, and the Roman player gets to choose the most favorable outcome. Any battle that Caesar is in, two further die rolls are made, and the best result of the three is used.
Despite the mistakes we made, we had a good time trying this classic Avalon Hill epic. We look forward to trying it again. But when are we going to have 6 or more hours to see it through to a successful conclusion?
Don't rest on your laurels...
- Last edited Thu Nov 30, 2006 12:01 am (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Mon Jan 16, 2006 6:19 am