CAESAR-ALESIA is an operational simulation, at the cohort/group/squadron level, of the desperate final two days of fighting between the Roman army besieging Alesia and the host of Gallic tribesmen who attempted to relieve it. A Roman force under Caesar and Labienus, numbering approximately 50,000 men, had trapped and laid siege to the rebellious Gallic chieftain Vercingetorix, and his army of 85,000 infantry, and 15,000 cavalry in Alesia. Before he was completely encircled, however, Vercingetorix dispatched his cavalry to enlist the help of warriors throughout Gaul. In anticipation of the Gallic relief effort he knew was coming, Caesar ordered the construction of some fourteen miles of defensive works, palisades, and towers which faced both inward and outward. As expected, a Gallic relief force of some 250,000 Belgri (Gallic tribesmen) arrived in answer to the encircled garrison’s appeal.
At the point in the siege that CAESAR-ALESIA begins, the assembled relieving force is preparing for an all-out assault to smash their way through the Roman lines and lift the siege. To win, the Gauls must open a corridor, before the end of the second day, so that Vercingetorix can escape from Alesia and exit the map without ever being adjacent to a Roman unit. If Caesar is eliminated, then the Romans can only achieve a draw, even if Vercingetorix is eliminated or fails to exit before the game ends. Historically, the Gallic relief force was dealt such a crushing and bloody defeat by the Romans, thanks mainly to Labienus, that the demoralized defenders in Alesia surrendered both the town and Vercingetorix without further resistance.
CAESAR-ALESIA can be played by two to four players. In the three player version, two of the players must play the Gallic side: one (Vercingetorix) commands the Gallic force in Alesia; the other the relieving Belgri. In the four player version, the Romans also have two commanders (Caesar and Labienus). To prevent an unrealistic degree of cooperation between the Alesia garrison and the Gallic relief force, units in Alesia must delay movement against the Roman fortifications until a minimum of ten units from the relieving force have entered the outer works. This delay will vary between one and three turns, depending on luck and whether there are one or two commanders for the Gallic forces.
The game turn sequence of CAESAR-ALESIA weaves movement and combat together in an innovative and quite ingenious manner. First, the Gallic player moves all of his on board units and enters any units he wishes from the OBMC (Off Board Movement Chart); during the Gallic movement phase, the Roman player executes defensive fire attacks against any targets within range using fort missile engines, archers, and slingers; after Roman defensive fire, the Gallic player completes all of his off-board movement and adjusts the OBMC accordingly. Next, the combat effects of the Roman outer works are resolved against all Gallic units in Roman zones of control; only after these results are determined, does the Gallic player finally get to resolve hand-to-hand combat against adjacent Roman units. Once the Gallic combat phase is completed, the Roman player moves his units and resolves his own combats on the hand-to-hand table. These operations complete one turn on the assault record track. Assaulting the Roman defensive works in CAESAR-ALESIA is a daunting task. To succeed, the Gauls need to attack a thinly held section of the Roman position and break into the siege works before substantial Roman reinforcements can arrive. If their assault is repulsed, it means that the Belgri must pass through the gauntlet again in order to close with the Roman defenders. Between experienced players, the two armies are a lot more evenly matched than appearances might suggest. Fifty thousand Romans versus 350,000 Gauls may seem like long odds, but it should be remembered that it was the Romans who won the actual battle.
CAESAR-ALESIA offers only the historical situation; there are no alternative (what if?) scenarios. This does not, however, limit the variability of the simulation, or restrict the game to a few obvious lines of play. The challenges intrinsic in the Roman situation: a besieging army being itself invested by a much larger army, ensure that the game never becomes dull for the Roman player; while the options available to the Gallic player, in the hidden deployment and commitment of his relief force, means that no two games need ever be the same. The designer of CAESAR-ALESIA does propose a few Optional Rules as a means of increasing realism or improving play-balance. Among other things, these optional rules include: allowing the Gauls to fill in portions of the isolated trench; shortening the assault periods from 12 to 11 or even 10 impulses; or removing a Roman player (in multi-player games) from active participation in the game if his commander counter is eliminated. The game also offers an optional Roman Reconnaissance sub-routine (complete with Reconnaissance Chart), which allows the Roman player to recon the OBMC zones with cavalry.
- Time Scale: 2 hours per game turn (12 assault impulses per day)
- Map Scale: 150 meters per hex (estimated)
- Unit Size: cohort/group/squadron
- Unit Types: leaders/chiefs, legionary infantry, Caesar’s Numidian light infantry, Gallic infantry (assault groups), Gallic cavalry, Caesar’s mercenary German cavalry, Caesar’s Numidian archers, Caesar’s Balearic slingers, and Roman Forts
- Number of Players: 2-4
- Complexity: average
- Solitaire Suitability: low
- Average Playing Time: 3+ hours
- One 22” x 33” (three piece) hexagonal grid Map Board (with Off-Board Movement Areas incorporated)
- 448 ½” cardboard Counters
- One 8½” x 11” Rules Booklet (with Terrain Effects Chart, Hand-To-Hand Combat Results Table, Archer/Slinger Table, Missile Engine Table, Outer Works Table, and Reconnaissance Table incorporated)
- One 8” x 11” combined Assault Period Chart (Turn Record Chart), Gallic Off-Board Presence Indicator, Hand-To-Hand Combat Table, Archer/Slinger Table, Missile Engine Table, and Outer Works Table
- One 11” x 14” Off-Board Movement Chart (OBMC)
- One 5½” x 8½” Avalon Hill Catalog
- One 5½” x 6½” Avalon Hill Customer Response Card
- One six-sided Die
- One 11¼” x 14½” x 1¼” flat cardboard Game Box