(Edit: For those of you coming here from the Boardgame Chronicle article about our game, welcome! I hope you check out the rest of the blog. If you’re finding this page some other way, check out that blog for the Roman side of things. It’s also much more detailed.)
It’s great having Internet friends.
Recently, GMT Games charged and shipped a couple of my P500 games that were ready to roll.
Unfortunately, due to COVID and the closure of the US-Canada border, I won’t be able to get my copy of the two games until well into 2021. (The last time GMT Games shipped two games to me up here in Canada, I got charged duty so I decided to have these games shipped to our US mailbox instead).
However, the Internet is a wonderful place and Internet friends are even better!
My good friend in Poland, Michal who does the Boardgames Chronicle blog, agreed to play a game of Caesar: Rome vs Gaul on the VASSAL platform as a PBEM (Play-By-Email) game. We used Discord as a way to pass files back and forth and to communicate in real-time when we had to.
The game is designed by Mark Simonitch with art by Dariusz Buraczewski, Chechu Nieto and Paweł Kurowski. It tells the story of Caesar’s invasion of Gaul from 57-52 BC.
I was the Gauls and Michal was Caesar and the Romans (figuring that he knows more about wargames than I do, so would get the need to be aggressive).
How did it go?
It was my first real wargame in 25+ years, so how do you think?
But it was still extremely fun.
Let’s take a look.
Caesar: Rome vs Gaul essentially takes place over 6 turns where each player will be taking 8 actions. It’s a card-driven game because each player will play a card to take their 8 actions. Sometimes you will use the card for the event on the card. Sometimes you will use the Action Points given.
And some “Bonus” cards will let you do both.
The Gauls start the game with potentially three tribes on the board (there are times you may want to hold a tribe in reserve). The Romans have their own set starting place.
At that point, Caesar has to decide how he wants the invasion to commence.
A big part of the game is the placement of Influence Markers (IMs). The circular markers in the picture above show the Roman influence. If you have an Influence Marker (or perhaps some other piece like a Fortified Town) in the majority of the circular spaces inside of a province, you control the province.
At the end of the turn (8 actions, remember), Rome gets Governance points based on domination of both Celtica (the yellow area) and Belgica (the green area). Domination is just controlling more provinces than the other player.
If they don’t dominate, they get a fewer amount of points for just being present in the region. They can also lose points for not being in control of the red region provinces, Provincia and they gain a point for being in the blue region, Aqvitania (doesn’t matter if they dominate it or not).
Turn 1 started with the much-needed Roman assault as Caesar roamed throughout Gaul. I spent a large part of my actions placing influence trying to keep Rome from dominating the area.
At the end of Turn 1, Rome had established themselves but Gaul had held off the incursions into Belgica. I restricted Michal to 1 VP on this turn!
It wasn’t to last.
Turn 2 saw the Gauls start to wither away a little bit under Caesar’s onslaught.
As the Gauls, I had trouble figuring out exactly when I should be aggressive and when I should be passive. I think the Gauls can do a bit more to inhibit Caesar than I was able to do, unfortunately.
Turn 3 saw the whole thing really change.
Rome was getting too complacent and I was tired of doing hardly anything except for influence and hoping that the Romans would take some losses during a siege of the various fortified towns inhabited by the Gauls.
So I went on the offensive.
That may have been a mistake.
Caesar was besieging one of my towns and I had a fairly high concentration of Gallic tribes that almost put me on an equal footing with the Roman legions!
I had the chance to do some serious damage to the Romans. I probably wouldn’t survive much, but he would be very much weakened.
And then I rolled terribly. And Michal rolled well!
Yes, all of my Gallic tribes were wiped out, which means the town he was besieging ceased to exist as well. Not only did I not do much damage (maybe 2 hits?), but I made it so he didn’t even have to continue the siege (if the Gallic tribe that’s linked to the town is eliminated, the town is eliminated as well)
Thankfully Caesar moved on to besiege another Gallic town and ended rolling “no hits”. Thus, he would be delayed even further if he was going to continue the siege.
Small comfort, though, as most of my Gauls were gone.
The situation at the end of Turn 3 was dire.
It didn’t help that the random draw of 3 Gallic tribes for Turn 4 (at the beginning of each turn, the Gauls draw 3 tribes to place on the map) ended up having none of them come out this turn (Rome already dominated their provinces and there was nowhere to put them).
On Turn 4, round 2, I decided to try and make another attempt to wipe out some Roman legions, taking advantage of the fact that the Roman stack was weaker than usual.
I attacked with 10 strength against 8 for the Romans.
Yeah, that didn’t work out very well.
I took 3 hits and barely did any damage to the Romans.
Yes, my luck is bad even with the Discord Dice Bot.
At the end of Turn 4, it was looking very bleak for the Gauls.
Turn 5 wasn’t any better.
The Romans were everywhere, and Caesar can pounce on you from a long distance away (the 5 movement points is a killer!).
Basically, at the end of each turn, you total up the Roman Governance Points based on how much of Gaul they dominate and they either get 1 or 2 Victory points (potentially they could get zero, or even suffer an automatic loss if they don’t get enough points!).
At the end of Turn 6, the Romans win if they have 12 VP. We were wondering why it wasn’t just an automatic victory when they reach 12, but Ananda Gupta pointed out that the Gauls could still cause an automatic Roman defeat and thus you should continue to the end.
At the end of Turn 5, I didn’t see that happening.
We ended up calling it after Turn 5 because we didn’t see any way that the Gauls could cause an automatic Roman defeat in the next turn.
All it takes is Roman presence in both Belgica and Celtica (even one Influence Marker (IM)!), and there’s no way the Gauls could eliminate every Roman IM in one of those regions. While the Romans could lose points in the red territory (Provincia), if the Gauls spent any time trying to make that happen they’d be neglecting the rest of Gaul, allowing domination there.
Basically, it was a no-win situation so we called it at the end of Turn 5. We just didn’t see the fun in dragging things out.
All in all, this was a fabulous game. It works really well as a PBEM game as long as you have some real-time possibilities using Discord or some other chat function. If you are doing things totally by email, it could take a long time when a battle happens.
I’m glad I bought the game and I can’t wait to play it on the table with somebody! It’s a wargame, so there’s no way my wife would play it.
Thus, I’m happy to leave it in our Washington mailbox until the border re-opens and we are able to pick up my copy.
I can’t wait to get it, punch it, and just smell the newness of the pieces and everything.
For my first wargame in 25 years, I think it went pretty well!
I hope Michal agrees (I think he does).
Does this sound like a good game to you? Have you ordered it and played it? What about wargames in general?
Let me know in the comments.