Review – Hail Caesar: Army Lists: Biblical & Classical

Rating: 4 stars

As soon as Hail Caesar hit the wargaming public back at Salute (was it only 7 months ago?) an outcry was seen on many different forums…

Where were the army lists? Where were the points values? How could gamers possibly be expected to play this game without them?

I must admit, I found this attitude completely baffling. I have never been a huge fan of army lists that are driven by points values, and find them, at best, a necessary evil. I thought that Mr Priestley’s attempt to write an ancients ruleset which was intended to be used to refight scenarios, rather than matched points battles, something of a breath of fresh air.

It seems, however, that there has been something of an inevitable bow to pressure and thus we see this, the first of two supplements of army lists.

This particular volume covers the period of biblical and classical armies – starting with Old Kingdom Egyptians and ending at the time of Imperial Rome.

It contains no less that 63 army lists.

Given the size of the publication, most armies take up a single page, and essentially consist of a list of units for an army, along with its suggested stats, special rules and points value. Historical background is kept to the thinnest gloss – entirely the intention of the author. Indeed, he has gone as far as to add a list of keywords in the introduction of each army – simply type these into you internet search engine of choice to discover much more background information – a very nice touch.

As to the army lists themselves, any reader who is familiar with the likes of Warhammer Ancient Battles, Warmaster Ancients or Field of Glory will be comfortable with how these are presented.

To his credit, Mr Priestly includes a full page of notes on how he sees this volume being used – very much a helpful starting point and a collection of guidelines rather than a definitive set of rules to be adhered to at all costs,

He repeats the ethos of Hail Caesar in several different ways – it’s a ruleset which is simply not designed to be played using matched armies in a competitive setting.

The book itself is well produced, with a neat and clean layout. The army lists are clear and concise, and whilst the book is not lavishly illustrated, there are enough photos (primarily of tabletop miniatures) to please the eye without gratuitously adding to the page count.

I’m sure that players that are new to the Ancients period will find this book helpful, and I am pleased that Warlord has decided to limit the number of army books that it is producing (I, for one, found the sheer number of army books produced for Field of Glory, for example, to be somewhat excessive)

Many will applaud Warlord Games for listening and responding to their customers with this volume, and you certainly can’t blame the company for taking advantage of the demand in this way. However, there is part of me that is saddened to see this book. I thought Hail Caesar was a great attempt to bring a different approach to gaming to the ancient period. I can’t help thinking that this army list supplement, despite its obvious quality, is a return to conformity and an admission of failure to convert its target audience.

Disclosure: A review copy of this game was provided by the publisher

1 Comment on Review – Hail Caesar: Army Lists: Biblical & Classical

  1. I read this review and in general agree with your comments. I too don’t like the use of army lists and see them as a necessary evil. However, I don’t quite agree with your closing comments. I don’t feel that Warlord have given way and returned to conformity. Yes, they have bowed to pressure and given a book of lists to those customers who asked for them, but the basic rulebook and concept remains unchanged. So for all those, like myself, who prefer to game scenarios rather than with lists, we can still do that while others can continue with the lists, until such time that they feel confident enough to let go of that security blanket.

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