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Posted on Apr 22, 2021 in Boardgames, Front Page Features

“The greatest enemy will hide in the last place you would ever look.”―Julius Caesar – Caesar Rome vs Gaul Board Game

“The greatest enemy will hide in the last place you would ever look.”―Julius Caesar – Caesar Rome vs Gaul Board Game

Rick Martin

“Caesar Rome vs Gaul”  Board Game Review.  Publisher: GMT  Games   Designer:  Mark Simonitch  Developer:  Mitchell Land   Price $60.00

Passed Inspection:    Easy to learn; fast game play; beautiful and useful components; printing is large enough for “mature” eyes to read; high replay value; easy to solo play (contrary to the low solo listing on GMT’s website); almost everything you need is on the game board; excellent value for the price

Failed Basic:     influence counters cover town names; subdued tribes don’t count towards victory points; no solo rules included; no zip lock bags included for the counters

components

Julius Caesar’s campaigns in Gaul needs no introductions to most war gamers thanks in no small part to Caesar’s own writings on his campaigns.  I first read Caesar’s Gallic Campaign book when I was fifteen years old and it brought ancient history to life in a whole new way for me.  Now you can bring that same ancient history to life through this game!

GMT’s Caesar Rome vs Gaul was released in the later half of 2020.  It is designed by Mark Simonitch  and developed by Mitchell LandIt’s game system is the same system used in 2008’s Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage.  Caesar Rome vs Gaul is a card driven game which utilizes a point to point movement system.

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Caesar Rome vs Gaul’s artwork painted by Pawel Kuroski is simply stunning.  The mounted map board is illustrated and designed by Chechu Nieto while the counter art is by Dariusz Buraczewski. From the box cover to the illustrations on the action cards, this is one great looking game!  I love that almost all the rules you need are either on the aid cards or on the map board.

box art

The game components include:

  • One 24 page rule book
  • One 22″x25.5″ mounted map
  • 55 Action Cards with sleeves included
  • Two die-cut sheets of playing pieces
  • Two player aid cards
  • Three plastic leader stands
  • Four 6-sided dice

The 24 page rule book is logically laid out with designer’s notes, examples and a complete index.  Also included are strategies for playing both the Romans and the Gauls.

 Set up is well illustrated in the rule book and fast.  The game can be set up in 15 minutes or so.

The map board is divided into six Regions—Celtica, Belgica, Aquitania, Provincia, Germania, and Britannia. Each Region is comprised of one or more Provinces. Each Province contains multiple spaces and each space contains a circle with a town, walled city or stronghold’s name in it.  The spaces are connected by lines and this is the point to point movement system I wrote about earlier. 

the game board

There are status counters; counters for noting which side has influence in a specific area and leader and army counters.  Each armed group or legion is rated for their battle rating, combat strength and movement allowance.  Additionally, the Gallic units have a number showing which home province on the map board they come from when spawned during a turn.  Some units such as the Xth Legion are marked as elite units.  Each leader is rated for their battle rating, command rating and movement allowance.  Additionally, Gallic leaders are rated for their combat strength.  The printing on the counters is large enough that even mature eyes (cough, cough) can read them without the aid of a magnifying glass.  Thank you GMT!  The leaders are represented two different ways – one is by a standard counter and the other is as a stand up counter which fits in to a plastic stand.  I preferred the stand up counter as the art is really stunning on those.

Types of Units
Caesar Attacks the Bellovaci

The action cards are the horses which pull the chariot (so to speak) of this fine game.  Each action card is color coded to either apply to the Romans or the Gauls or to both either side.  The number on the upper left hand of the card shows how many action points you can use to perform actions during your turn.  Alternatively, there is an event on the card.  You can either use the action points (if they match your side) or the event, never both.  Each card features an exquisite painting which illustrates the event.  Some examples of events are Caesar’s Legions which allow you to activate an extra legion if it is not stacked with a leader or with Caesar and the devastatingly powerful Druidic Influence which can totally disrupt Roman influence in a province.  Action card sleeves are included in the game and will protect your cards from wear and tear or the spilled mug of ale.  I only wish that GMT had included zip lock bags for the counters in the box as they do for most of their other games.

Cards

When used for their action points, action cards allow a unit to move and battle, place an influence marker (IM) for your side in an area or convert an area from the other side’s influence to being influenced by your side.  Each point on the map has a name of the town or city in the circle.  When you put an influence marker on the circle it covers the area name.  It’s a minor critique but I would have preferred the area name be printed besides the circle so as not to be covered up by the influence marker.

The turn sequence is as follows:

1. Reinforcement Phase

A. Gallic Reinforcements

B. Roman Replacements and Reinforcements Skip on Turn 1

C. Place Caesar Segment Skip on Turn 1

D. Roman Legate Segment Skip on Turn 1

E. Both players are dealt eight cards

2. Gallic Spring Muster Phase

All Gallic Tribes and Leaders may move 3 MPs

3. Strategy Phase

Play Strategy Cards one at a time, Gallic player first, alternating back and forth between the players until all cards have been played

4. Winter Phase

A. Return Home Segment

• End Sieges

• Remove Mercenaries

• Tribes Go Home

• Leaders Relocate  

B. Roman Winter Segment

• Place Caesar in Rome

• Return one or both Roman Legates to the draw cup. If a Legate is kept set it aside.

• March Legions to Winter Camp

• Roman Winter Attrition  

C. Isolation Segment

(a) Remove Roman Isolated IMs

(b) Remove Gallic Isolated IMs

D. Political Segment

(a) The Roman player Scores Governance Victory Points

(b) Victory Check

E. End of Winter  

• Remove all Devastation markers from the map

• Place Roman IMs in all spaces containing Roman Legions and no other Control marker

• Resolve Fading Promises  

5. End Turn Phase

If this was Turn 3, reshuffle all Strategy Cards . If this was Turn 6, the game is over. Otherwise, advance the turn marker.

The turn sequence quickly becomes second nature as it feels organic to the flow of the game. 

Turn Tracker

There are a few forms of combat in the game.  All the combat is very abstract as the macro nature of the game makes a wealth of low level details unnecessary. 

There is army to army armed combat.  You add up the Combat Strength and add in any bonuses and then each side rolls on the Battle Table and reduces the units by the amount shown on the table.  Many units have a reduced side so you would flip them over for 1 step loss or remove the unit as functionally destroyed if they suffer two step losses.  Roman Legions have specific bonuses based upon the professionalism and discipline of the legionaries which are also factored in.

Brutus Leads a Siege

There are also rules for sieges and the reduction of a fortress’ defensive strength.  If the siege happens to be of a port city or fortress and the side conducting the siege controls the sea in that area, a specific event card allows for bonuses based upon naval actions.

In the event that a Roman armed force is three times greater in strength than the other side’s forces, the weaker Gauls will surrender and submit to Caesar’s will.  As a player, I would think that Rome would gain victory points by winning a conflict in that way, but for some reason, Rome does not.  Rome does get victory points if it defeats an enemy in armed combat though.  I don’t understand why subduing an enemy without bloodshed would be worth no victory points.

The game mechanics do a wonderful job of representing the asymmetrical nature of the Gauls’ attacks on the Roman forces.  Playing Caesar you have to maintain your supply lines from the “civilized” Provincia area while exerting Roman influence to “civilize” the Gaulic towns and cities in the other provinces.  Meanwhile you are trying to build up your forces for an invasion of both Germania and Britannia in order to score extra political points with the Roman Senate, many of whose members view you with some degree of caution and suspicion.  They think you have overstepped your mandate and are inclined to make yourself a dictator.  And while the Roman Legions are powerful, there are never enough troops to police all the areas.  It’s like a game of Whack-A-Mole.

Influence Markers

As a Gaul, you have to fight an asymmetrical war while trying to bridge the local prejudices between all the tribes.  Use the Druid card to great effect and have them shift the influence in an entire province.  If you can cut off  Roman influence in a critical area, you can create a chain reaction which can shift the influence in other provinces.  Through ether an action card or through the leader Vercingetorix, you can place devastation counters (which represent a scorched earth plan to keep the Romans from foraging for food and shelter in a given area) to disrupt the Roman’s lines of supply and chains of influence.

Cardurci Raiders

Both sides have to beware the Germanic tribes who are powerful and not allied with any other faction but, if Caesar is lucky, he can gain the services of very high quality German cavalry forces who will fight for a season or two for the Romans.

German Raiders

Surprisingly enough GMT did not include any solo rules in the game nor are any posted on the support page for the game on GMT’s website.  The box even lists that the game isn’t really suitable for solo play.  I had a great time playing it solo from the Roman perspective and it worked just fine.

For solo play, I simply had the Gaul side draw their 8 cards at the start of the turn as normal but I drew them face down.  Then, for each turn for the Gauls, I turned over two cards and played them in the most advantageous way for their side.  If they got no cards used for Gallic actions, they skipped their turn for that phase.  This easy solo system was good enough to win the game by keeping me from scoring 3 much needed victory points in the final turn of my solo play.

The entire game can be played in three hours or less and is great fun.  This is one game I believe I will play over and over again.  Hail Caesar! Hail Vercingetorix!

Mark Antony

Armchair General Rating:  96% (1% is bad, 100% is perfect)

Solitaire Rating: 4 (1 is not suitable, 5 is excellent solo play)

About the Author

A college film instructor and small business owner, Richard Martin has also worked in the legal and real estate professions, is involved in video production, film criticism, sports shooting and is an avid World War I and II gamer. He designed the games Tiger Leader, The Tiger Leader Expansion and Sherman Leader for DVG and has designed the solo system for Forsage Games’ Age of Dogfights.  In addition, Rick can remember war games which came in plastic bags and cost $2.99 (he’s really that old)!

8 Comments

  1. Excellent review. Not an ‘autobuy’ but will pick this one up when opportunity arises.

    • Thank you. I’m glad you enjoyed the review. I hope you like the game.

  2. “ I don’t understand why subduing an enemy without bloodshed would be worth no victory points”
    It is my humble opinion, this would make the game much better, a little more balanced, and interesting choice is added. (As Gaul simply play spoiling actions and be conservative. You’ll always win!)
    I love the game, but so far in many play through – Rome always loses. Highest is 11. Imho, giving Rome 1 VP if at least 3 tribes in subdued box may very well fix this, as now Gaul must decide if they bring tribes out or not, and Rome can also achieve a VP by blocking ability to bring them back.
    I too highly recommend the game – it’s a lot of fun!

    • I like your rule idea. I played again yesterday and also achieved 11 victory points. I think I’ll use the 3 tribes subdued = 1 victory point

    • I played again on Sunday using your victory point for 3 subdued tribes and won the game as Rome with 14 victory points! It was the first out of 3 plays that I won.

  3. Thanks for the great review, especially the solo rules suggestion. I was going to give this game a pass as I only play solo, but this is one of my favorite periods in history, so I will go over and buy it now. 🙂

    • Glad you enjoyed my review. I hope you like the game.

    • Ervin, have you tried playing this game via Vassal? It’s a pretty solid module and it’s one of the easier games to play on Vassal. I’ve been playing quite a bit and I enjoy it more every time I play. Send me an email at mark (at) grognard.com if you want to play a game sometime.

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