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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Caesar's Gallic War is a block wargame of Julius Caesar's conquest of Gaul, a conflict made famous through Caesar's writings. His account is a superb mix of campaign narrative and travel log, as well as being a rare example of propaganda without heavy handed histrionics. Caesar's Gallic War may not be a classic, but it is a fine attempt to simulate a difficult topic.

Gameplay (28 out of 28): Caesar's Gallic War takes it cues from Hammer of the Scots. It is a block wargame, which means strategic fog of war is an important element. Like Hammer, cards are played by each side, indicating the number of areas that can be activated. The units in this game are mostly homogeneous: Roman legions, tribal leaders, and the barbarians who Caesar wishes to persuade. These units do not vary wildly in quality, unlike the menagerie of unit ratings found in Gettysburg: Badges of Courage and Texas Glory: 1835-36.

The Units


However, Caesar's Gallic War is no mere rip off of Hammer, even if it is not wholly original. For one thing, card use is far more flexible, as each side can use cards to convince tribes to join them, with the Gallic player (technically the Germans are those opposing Caesar in game, but I find this silly, so I'm ignoring it) has a better chance of getting more tribes through card play, as opposed to war. The struggle is over who can gain the most tribes, so battle is a means to a political end.

The Cards



Combat is handled just as it is in other Columbia Games, with blocks going in alphabetical order, and low rolls hitting. However, with all Roman legions rated A, and the Gauls only having 1 A unit (a small optional cavalry unit), they are forced to defend the fortified towns. The result is the Gallic player will never attempt offensive action except under the most favorable circumstances. Fortunately though, destroyed Roman Legions offer you victory points.

That is the gist of the game and how it plays. There are rules for naval movement, neutral tribes, and weather. Supplies however, warrant more discussion. For one thing, wintering is random according to harvest, and the Romans must use supply points to replenish their forces and garrison Gaul. The result is that the supplies can diminish with the wear and tear of battle, and with the supply raid optional rule (which I recommend) you really get the feeling of a superior army limited by strained logistics.

Strategic (4 out of 5): Caesar's Gallic War is a textbook case of asymmetrical forces and objectives. The Roman army is vastly superior, to the point where the destruction of a legion is difficult. However, they must conquer Gaul in order to win and mind their tenuous supply situation. The Gallic army is passive. In fact, this passivity might be why the game is not beloved. The Gallic player literally relies upon card play to get most of the tribes on their side, while massing forces to hold off the Roman onslaught. Due to the map and the Gallic player's defensive posture, the game can devolve into World War I, but so too can the venerable Hammer of the Scots. The game's greatest problem though is that out of the box it favors the Romans, unless a massive revolt card is drawn early. My advice is to use all three of the optional rules that favor Gaul.

Accessibility (4 out of 5): Like all games from Worthington, Caesar's Gallic War is a simple game. The rules are not too difficult, and they actually do not suffer much from the usual defects of Worthington's rulebooks: vagueness and poor organization.

Components (3 out of 5): The components are nothing too dazzling. The map is functional, and neither good nor bad. The unit images are good, but in the case of the barbarians redundant. Overall, this is not a knock out, but certainly is not an eye sore. The biggest problem is that a fortified town was not printed on Sequani. I find this helps the hard pressed Gallic player, so keep that in mind when you play.

Components are Solid


Originality (0 out of 2): Beyond some tweaks to take into consideration the situation, this game is a direct descendant of Hammer of the Scots, which the designer does not deny.

Historical Quality (3 out of 5): It is on this point that many have crucified this game and I feel unfairly so. For instance, some say the tribes, once subdued, have a tendency to keep coming back a bit too easily. However, the tribes actually represent an amalgamation. Still, I understand there problems and I have my complaints. Like many wargames, Caesar's Gallic War does not reward aggression, so the Roman player will almost never penetrate as deeply and as quickly into Gaul as Caesar did. It also does not encourage the Gallic forces to ever attack Caesar's legions unless they are weak. The strangest thing is that the Gallic player is technically the Germans, although their activities in the war were rather limited. This ranks as one of the weirdest things I've seen in wargaming.

The Nervii, a fierce Belgic tribe that nearly crushed Casar at the Sabis (my favorite battle of ancient history) are not here. According to this theory the Nervii are represented in the abstract, but then where is there fierce warrior spirit? Therein lies the games greatest fault: the units are far too uniform. All Roman legions are of the same quality except for X Legion. All tribes are the same. I think this sameness is why people do not like Caesar's Gallic War nearly as much as they like Hammer of the Scots. Hammer is a fun game, but it plays fast and loose with history. Hell, when will you ever see Bruce become king of Scotland? Caesar's Gallic War is actually more true to the history, but Hammer offers a variety of units and is based on a popular theme (Mel Gibson had something to do with this...). Also, in Hammer neither side has a vastly superior army. In Caesar's Gallic War the Roman Army is superior, but it is an army trying to conquer a hostile land, where revolts are common and logistics are as important as battle. Caesar's Gallic War captures the feel of history as well as most other block games. However, it lacks the excitement of other titles.

Overall (42 out of 50): Caesar's Gallic War is an underrated game. While not a classic due to its limitations, it is far too maligned by my fellow wargamers. In an accessible package, Daniel Berger has made a difficult situation playable without insulting history. It is unfortunate that this game has not received its due. In fact, I would normally rate this game an "8" but I have given it a "9" out of charity (the cheapest kind no doubt). Besides, it is a fairly popular game with my group.

It Ain't Easy Being Gaul, I mean Germania
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Kenneth Stein
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Nicely done review! There's been too much carping about the historicity of CGW. Folks, it's a game. Some of us like "light" wargames as long as they present a strategic and tactical challenge for both sides, which this game does very well. Hail Caesar!
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Peter Stubner
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Good review of the game.

Also, in regards to game balance, note that there is missing fortification.

See this file for clarification.

Clarifications and Errata


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Chad Marlett
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With no certain future, and no purpose other than to prevail
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I know a difficult compromise was that a truly historical simulation of the event would require multiple players for the tribes and even more superiority for the Roman armies; playability and balance constraints certainly overruled including some historical reality.

Good and fair review.
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Daniel Berger
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Nice review. Thank you!
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Daniel Berger
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Quote:
the Gallic player (technically the Germans are those opposing Caesar in game, but I find this silly, so I'm ignoring it)

Originally it was the "Gallic player" but I changed it. I think I changed it (or perhaps WG suggested it - I can't remember now) because both players could potentially control Gallic tribes. The change was meant to avoid confusion.

Regarding your review title "Hammer of the Gauls!", the title I originally proposed for this game was "Hammer of Gaul". I had submitted this game to Columbia Games first, and thought it appropriate. Worthington Games wanted to change it, primarily to avoid any issues with CG. I agreed, though mainly because Charles Martel (8th century AD) had been given that nickname, while Caesar never had.
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Daniel Berger
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kenstein wrote:
There's been too much carping about the historicity of CGW. Folks, it's a game. Some of us like "light" wargames as long as they present a strategic and tactical challenge for both sides, which this game does very well. Hail Caesar!

Indeed, I found it a strange complaint, especially considering the vast majority of block games are NOT historical simulations. Block games, by their very nature I think, tend to be too high level for that. I think the only block game I've played that might be close is FAB: The Bulge. But even there, games like Bitter Woods or Ardennes '44 are probably going to be your game of choice if you're looking for more of a simulation.

See the designer's notes (posted in the Files section) for my overall design goals.
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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Quote:
Regarding your review title "Hammer of the Gauls!", the title I originally proposed for this game was "Hammer of Gaul". I had submitted this game to Columbia Games first, and thought it appropriate. Worthington Games wanted to change it, primarily to avoid any issues with CG. I agreed, though mainly because Charles Martel (8th century AD) had been given that nickname, while Caesar never had.


I suspected this was a design first submitted to Columbia, not that that is a brilliant observation. I'm glad Worthington gave you a shot.
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jeff miller
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Sean, in my one and only playing (and probably last) of this game I found that while the Romans win nearly every battle quite easily, because of the wintering rules they cannot sustain an offensive to get at the Germanic player. If as I did the Germanic player simply avoids battle it is impossible for the Roman player to collect enough VPs to win. The gameplay was IMHO so arduous as to be anything but fun which is one of my main requirements in a game.
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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Quote:
Sean, in my one and only playing (and probably last) of this game I found that while the Romans win nearly every battle quite easily, because of the wintering rules they cannot sustain an offensive to get at the Germanic player. If as I did the Germanic player simply avoids battle it is impossible for the Roman player to collect enough VPs to win. The gameplay was IMHO so arduous as to be anything but fun which is one of my main requirements in a game.


That honestly reminds me of when I played A Victory Lost and Here I Stand: both were more work than fun. To each his own, but I thank you for giving another view in opposition to the positive ones being discussed here.
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Daniel Berger
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jeff miller wrote:
If as I did the Germanic player simply avoids battle it is impossible for the Roman player to collect enough VPs to win.

Clearly we need to pair you up with one of the guys who thinks it's impossible to win with the Germans.
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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btw, any other game design plans Mr. Berger?
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Daniel Berger
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gittes wrote:
btw, any other game design plans Mr. Berger

I've got a card driven First Punic War game in the works. Still in the planning and development stage.
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Reinhard S.
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[q="gittes"]Caesar's Gallic War is a block wargame of Julius Caesar's conquest of Gaul, ...

Here lies the games greatest fault: the units are far too uniform. All Roman legions are of the same quality except for X Legion. All tribes are the same. I think this sameness is why people do not like Caesar's Gallic War nearly as much as the like Hammer of the Scots.

q]

(1) Lack of Diversity / Flavour:
This could be corrected in a simple way by an updated Sticker-Sheet couldn`t it?
Different Strength: Giving some Gauls 4, 3 or 2 steps instead of the uniform 3 steps. Giving some leading tribes more units (Aedui, Sequani, Averni). Giving some Gauls a Cavalry! Adding some Roman Auxiliaries (Numidian Light Inf., Balearic Slingers, Cretan Archers), Giving different abilities to Roman legions.

This would make it much more colorful, without any more complex rules...

(2) Weird constellatio with "German vs. Roman"
I can understand the irritation of many Gamers. I think, this should be "Free gallic vs. Roman". Some stickers could be colour-codes as to not be allowed to bee used as pro-roman). The Germans could be "neutral" with both sides being able to get foreign (german) assistance, the Gauls perhaps more easyly so. The Roman Cavalry could be omitted (a second German Cav. instead) and would have to be bought for help by the Roman Player (i.e. one VP and one Supply Pt). As the "heart" of the Free-Gallic resistance there could be 2 or 3 Political Blocks moving around ("Druid" or so..).

Any comments?

Greetings, Reinhard
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Daniel Berger
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Well, so much for that:

http://valleygames.ca/our-games/tactics-line/hamilcar-the-fi...

I may still pursue my own design, though. I don't think you can just expand the original game and get a real flavor for the 1st Punic War.

EDIT: I turned it into what is now Hands in the Sea.
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Edwin Tait
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Daniel, I wondered if the "German" designation was influenced by Colleen McCullough's novels, in which the Germans are presented as Caesar's ultimate antagonists behind the scenes. In McCullough's telling of the story, Caesar's goal is to unite Gaul under Roman rule in order to prepare for the ultimate Germanic invasion (and he even makes a speech to the Gallic chiefs at one point trying to persuade them of this). I find this approach terribly anachronistic, and part of McCullough's tendency to glorify Caesar and whitewash his more unsavory behavior (such as his ruthlessness in Gaul--not that he was any worse than any other Roman in this regard, as far as I know) as part of some great historical pattern in which Caesar is "on the side of the angels." But I wondered when I read the initial review if this might have influenced how you set up the game.

Apparently not?
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Daniel Berger
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No, my decision was not influenced by Colleen McCullough. I think I read The First Man in Rome ages ago. That's the only book of hers that I've read. Nice fiction, but that's it.
 
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michael esposito
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Can't get over the German/Gaul thing.......
 
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Geoff C
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mike_espo wrote:
Can't get over the German/Gaul thing.......


Yeah sorry what is going on there? What is this thing....?
 
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