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My name is Gavin McClements. I am a wargamer and family man, living in Los Gatos, which is a suburb of San Jose, CA. Building terrain is one of my favorite aspects of the wargaming hobby - in fact, lately I've become more interested in making my battlefields "pop" than in actually playing.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

How Warmaster compares to Hail Caesar - for 10mm

I love rulesets, like most gamers. I love rulesets more than most, I suspect, because I love to read and edit - it's just what I do. But mostly, I love to see how different people introduce similar concepts (really, how many ways are there to describe how to measure range, for example?).

I also like shiny things, and next-gen rulesets are often that. Unless your company has the initials "GW" in it, it is usually assumed that the latest edition of a set of rules improves upon its predecessors - not always, but usually.  I believe this is the case with Warmaster, Warmaster Ancients, and now Hail Caesar.

There are quite a few reviews out there for Hail Caesar. Among them, I found:


The thread I started on the Specialist Arms forum is a good one, too, I think:

First, let me link this here - the whole reason I bought Hail Caesar was because I caught wind of Ady's Fantasy mod for HC. I have since joined the Hail Caesar Fantasy Yahoo group, but Ady's work will be my foundation, I believe.

I want to make some of my own detailed notes about the differences and similarities between Warmaster and Hail Caesar, mostly because I am really interested in playing HC (up til now, I've only been reading and digesting the book over and over).

Hail Caesar has been called "Warmaster with less dice". Other differences as noted on https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/659828/difference-between-hail-caesar-and-warmaster-ancie:
Each unit is given one order, how well you succeed determines how many moves the unit can make.
A unit doesn't loose stands, only reduces in effectiveness.
You roll far less dice in a HC combat.

 1. In WMA, most units consist of three stands. Units in HC come in varying sizes: standard, large, small, and tiny. Unit frontage is a key factor, and most units are at least two ranks deep. While there are different unit sizes - only small and regular make much sense in game. Tiny are really only for scenario specific stuff, and large seem to get very little benefit for their increase in footprint. Frontage is what matters, depth is not really very important.

2. There is a wider range of troop types available in HC. There is also a much greater variety of possible unit formations. Not sure there are really that much difference in number of troop types. Also while HC has several prescribed formations - in WM you can arrange your formation as you wish.

3. In WMA, each unit may be given up to three commands per turn, with each command and die roll being made in succession. In HC, the unit's orders must be stated out loud, then a die roll determines whether the unit can make zero, one, two, or three moves to complete its orders. Move distances are also a bit smaller in HC. Move distances are smaller in HC? Light Cavalry can move huge distances in HC

4. In WMA, each unit has a single Attack value. In HC, each unit has two separate values for ranged combat (Short and Long), and two separate values for hand-to-hand combat (initial Clash and Sustained fighting). Clash / Sustained is only different for Cavalry - and this is good - it makes cavalry good on the charge, less good after round 1.

5. There is no Armour Save in HC, although the Morale Save serves a similar function. In HC, each unit also has a Stamina value - if a unit takes more hits than this value, it becomes Shaken and suffers various penalties. Under certain circumstances, units being attacked in ranged or hand-to-hand combat also must take a Break test to see if they hold, give ground, or break and run away. Armour Save / Morale save - same thing, different name. The Break test in HC is key - this is a 2d6 result that determines the result of a combat. This can make or break the game for you. Its possible for a very good unit to rout off the table after getting 1 wound from missile fire. We house ruled that you rolled 3d6 for break tests, and kept the best 2 dice. This helped stop some of the crazy fluctuations in results.

6. HC also includes a number of useful optional rules to add historical characteristics and flavor to various units. Yes HC lists all the optional rules together - but WM just lists them with each army list - no real difference here.

7. In WMA, armies tend to be built to standard point values. HC is much more oriented toward scenario play, with little emphasis on points-based armies. The HC rulebook includes seven complete sample scenarios. Points - while the core HC book had very little in the way of points, there have been several army books since that are much more points focused. 

Things that seemed a bigger difference to me would include:
More streamlined combat - no more endless rounds of WM combat.
Simpler combat - no fiddling around with single stand removal, fall backs and follow-ups.
HC has longer combats between heavy infantry - these turn into long slugging matches not a knock out punch
HC Knights are much less strong than in WM (which is good)
Skirmishers work well in HC
HC proximity rule works fairly well to limit movement when close to enemy, but can be a bit fiddly, and can be exploited.

Movement in HC is still pretty free an easy (like WM)
Light Infantry is very good 

The above was cut-and-paste from the thread I started, and it was what I focused on the most during my explorations. I have to say, however, that there are a few other things that seem to really make a difference to me as I read the HC rules.

Divisions (formerly called brigades) - these are assigned before the game. A commander must be included in a division, and can only give orders to that division. The neat thing is, units must be within 6" of each other to receive a Division order - so they dont need to be touching.

Basing - I plan on using my Warmaster armies for HC, and I plan on using them as-is - so my infantry will be 3 bases of 40m x 20mm, cavalry will be 3 stands based to the short edge, etc. If this proves unwieldy or unfair, I'll revisit it, but that is my plan for now. Note also that I plan on using measurements as-is, instead of converting to centimeters or halving ranges, as some have mentioned elsewhere.

Orders - in Warmaster, you could easily have a situation like this: Your Ld 9 hero orders a unit forward. After his first move, now the unit is within 20cm of an enemy (-1), has a unit to its flank (-1), and is more than 20cm from the issuing hero (-1). Its second order (-1) will be at a 5-...ouch.

HC seems to only have distance mods, but they're stretched out to 12" range bands instead of the 8"/20cm bands of WM. This means that orders will go off much more reliably than in WM, especially since only one roll is made to determine how many orders a unit may make (and many unit or formation types ignore this distance penalty!). In the above example, if, one the first Command roll, the roll was 8+, the unit would get one order. On a 6+, the unit would get 2 Orders, and on a 5+. the unit would get 3 Orders.This seems like such a better version!

*NOTE* This seems confirmed in the "Author's Notes" of Hail Caesar, even though this opinion is not shared by some on the Warlord Games forums (seen in THIS thread) -

Hail Caesar, p172, 2nd paragraph in right column:
"Modifiers to the command rolls have also been reduced to that for distance only."

It is in the discussion of how HC differs from Black Powder, and includes discourse on the shortened movement rates, extended melee, and desire to keep HC as a less maneuverable, more "reliable" game of "slog forward and brawl". So this makes me feel confident that this is the right model for me...

Free Moves - many units, including those in columns or with special traits, can make a free move after a failed order attempt. This can really prevent stagnation, I believe, and looks really good in theory. I havent analyzed the extent to which units have been given this Drilled special rule in Ady's conversions, but I approve.

Proximity Rule - this looks to be the most fiddly rule that I can see. It will take some getting used to.

Disorder - basically "Confused" from WM, seems to happen on a 4+ instead of a 6 in many cases.

Combat Modifiers - HC seems to hand out dice modifiers instead of extra or less dice. Like the Elves with their +1 to hit in ranged, or a Defended unit being hit on 5+, these can really adjust the odds instead of the dice thrown. I am in the "More dice is better" camp, but that's because I love dice. I do NOT think the d6 is the ultimate randomizer, but it is what it is. The other day, I threw 17 dice on a charge and only got 4 hits - so more dice isnt always better! :)

This isn't always the case, it seems. Ranged attacks do get Dice Mods.

Combat Results - after combat is determined by the usual manner, the loser rolls Break tests - that is, they test on a chart (which has been mentioned above as being "bursty"). Giving Ground is automatically 6" back, and yes, victorious units can pursue.

Commanders - Commanders can take wounds, I believe, and when "Wounded" they can no longer fight but still may issue orders. If for some reason a Commander is killed, the player gets a free replacement, at 1 less Leadership value than the dead commander. I think this is a good rule.

Summary - there is a super 9-page cheat sheet at the end of the book that really encapsulates the rules into a nice chart. The more I read the rules, and refer back to the Summary, the more I am convinced that this will be a fantastic play.

I may have some of these summaries wrong, but I've read and reread the rules and am really looking forward to getting this on the table. Hopefully I'll report once that actually happens!


This thread has a really great idea, posted by one of the Warlord Games moderators:

Q: My initial plan was to do 40x20 for all units and maybe 20x20 for comand and such.
If I go this route would say 3 40x20's for large unit 2 40x20's for standard and a single 40x20 for small work out? You think formations would be an issue using the 40x20 bases or should I get some 20x20's also for certain formations?

 A: That would be the way I would do it. [For formations,] I would use a marker of some sort. For a column, I,would line all the bases up short edge to short edge, just as you would a battle line, but have a marker, like a coloured ring, to mark the head of the column. Otherwise, use a series of folded card markers that state the formation. Honestly, it won't really matter because most of your units will be in line of battle for most of the time. Light units in open order will be depicted by separating the bases slightly. Skirmishers might benefit from being on smaller 20x20 bases to represent the "cloud" effect. Easy to spot, they can't form into close order and as I said earlier, the commanders on pennies stand out from them.

So...This looks like an even better solution to my above-mentioned 3 bases...I'm really happy I found this!


  1. Gavin- thanks for the comparisons and review. I've played Black Powder a few times ( the Napoleonic version of HC) and found I had a hard time dealing with the movement system over WM, but I'm willing to give it a try or two with you!

  2. I think the movement system looks very easy (ignoring the "Role-Playing" aspect of issuing orders), with the "Pinning" aspect being the most confusing - but honestly, we're pretty advanced gamers. I think we can do without as needed :)