Yet one more not-so-typical session report from the Boardgames Chronicle! As I had a pleasure of playing in short succession the Caesar Battle of Bibracte (58 BC) using both Mark Herman Great Battles of Julius Caesar (GBoH) and then Richard Borg Commands Colors Ancients (CCA), I would like to share a “comparative” session report. What we will do is to look into the details of the engagement, historical result, how it went on the board(s) and what conclusion was achieved. But I will also evaluate differences and similarities between both systems based on this practical experience. Should be fun!

PS. You can check similar “comparative” session report for another battle here: Great Battles of History vs Commands & Colors – Battle of Callinicum (531 AD)

The Systems

Let me first tell you a little about both games and systems.

Great Battles of Julius Caesar

Great Battles of Julius Caesar Deluxe Edition brings together Caesar: The Civil Wars, published in 1994, and Caesar: Conquest of Gaul, published in 1996. These always were some of the most popular volumes in the Great Battles of History Series, following titles like The Great Battles of Alexander or SPQR. As such, the Deluxe Edition uses the same “basic” system as the preceding titles in the series. Let me briefly point them out:

  • Troops activation & sequence based on Generals ratings and initiative system (with possibility for trump and momentum!)
  • Battle resolution based on units types, direction of attack, size of units, weapons system, etc.
  • Cohesion and Troops Quality as decisive metrics of soldiers experience and value in battle
  • Rout, Rally and Depletion aspects, allowing the broken units for return to fight
  • and many more mechanics making this system pretty detailed simulation

Of course, this volume has some special characteristic, with new type of veteran Roman legion, special Roman command system as well as pretty wide variety of scenarios – from Roman warlords like Sulla and Marius, through Caesar, his conquest of Gaul and Civil War with Pompey, up to the Roman Empire conquest of Britain.

Commands Colors Ancients

Commands & Colors: Ancients is a cornerstone of the Commands & Colors game system and by design is not overly complex – especially in comparison to Great Battles of History series. We have the deck of Command Cards that drive movement while creating a “fog of war,” and the battle dice that will resolve combat quickly and efficiently. The stylized battlefield scenario maps emphasize the important terrain features and highlight the historical deployment of forces in scale with the game system.

The C&C system in Ancients is very flexible, and second expansion brings Rome vs Barbarians battles, introduction of Julian Legion, Caesar special rule as well as many additional, small tweaks, which are so characteristic for this system.

Now, let us move to Historical Background!

The Battle

You are probably interested what was the reason for the battle of Bibracte (58 BC)? The answer differs based on whom you ask.. Migration of Helveti tribes endangering Roman Republic interests? Or unfulfilled ambitions of one 42 years old patrician who wished to rule the world? Let us see:

Gaius Julius Caesar, an ambitious Roman noble, had entered into a political alliance with Gnaeus Pompey and Marcus Licinius Crassus, which became known as the “First Triumvirate.” Caesar used these connections to obtain an appointment as proconsul for Gaul. As Caesar arrived to govern his province, the Helvetii were migrating from what is now Switzerland into Gaul to find new lands.

Caesar surprised and defeated one detachment of the Helvetii. He then doggedly followed but avoided conflict with the main body, as he was badly outnumbered by the barbarians and needed to find an advantageous position for a decisive battle. After a fortnight, Roman supplies were running short and Caesar fell back toward Bibracte to replenish.

The Helvetii followed and formed for battle against the Romans. Caesar withdrew and formed his six legions on a nearby range of hills – his four veteran legions in front, and his two newly raised legions in the rear. The Helvetii charged forward and were met by a shower of pila. The Romans then counter charged downhill with swords drawn. The disorganized barbarians started to fall back when allied Boii and Tulingi tribesmen marched forward and gave the retiring Helvetii the heart to continue.

Caesar again led his legions forward against the combined tribes, and they fled in disorder back to their camp. During the night Caesar attacked the enemy camp and completed the rout.

Great Battles of Julius Caesar Session Report

Let me start with the GBoH session which I actually brought to the table first. I was paying solo, trying to achieve best result with both sides – and managed to surprise myself how well I was doing with Helveti up to some point! As for the report, I decided to use pictures which probably convey most information and allows Dear Readers to easily follow the flow of events. Enjoy!

Remember, you can always click on the image to enlarge them in the new window.

The map for the GBoH Bibracte battle. Roman camp and two conscript legions at the top. Potential entry of Helveti reinforcements to the left / top. Main forces in the valley.
The first game turn and Helveti actions. Full-scale charge with some forces moving to left and right. Cavalry outflanking maneuver. No breakthrough, two own units routed though many cohorts badly mauled.
Roman response – four legions charge, destroying 9 Helveti units in the process (65 Rout Points – that triggers special Repositioning rule). Many more Routed units stayed on map, including 4 Roman cohorts.
Repositioning of Roman forces – Caesar orders Legio VII to guard flank (against Boi & Tulingi), while VII, IX & X will charge uphill .
The barbarian reinforcements are ready to enter – they will be on map first thing next turn!
The final forces disposition at the end of withdrawal & repositioning – you can observe huge mass of Helveti one the hill and Boi & Tulingi ready for flanking maneuver.
During the next turn Tulingi got pretty lucky with two momentums, closed on & mauled Legio VII, routing two cohorts.
In the end, after some maneuvering, Tulingi were caught between Legio VII &cavalry and obliterated in the process.
On Turn 4 Boi were tremendously successful in their charge (2 Cohorts eliminated)! Unbelievable! Still, taken between Legio VII and Cavalry, routed. But not without inflicting serious losses on Romans!
Caesar was steadily approaching the hill (Turns 3-4) and then surprises barbarians with his elite commend before they could charge downhill (Turn 5). Losses were huge on both sides but in the end Helveti started to break and routed! Then the usual retreat slaughter commenced and game ended.
Overview of the situation after the last turn – hills are the center of fierce fight.
After hard battle Romans prevailed 121 to 39 Rout Points vs Helveti. Both Boi and Tulingi were too crushed.

That was much closer than Rout Points indicate; there were many routed Romans near Aquilia. Also, the Boi and Tulingi entry into the game – and their tremendous charge – really mauled the Romans. Not to mention a very difficult attack through the river and uphill. Still, the history was repeated in the end!

Commands & Colors Ancients Session Report

Let us see how the battle unfolded in C&C game. Remark here – I was using fantastic GMT One CDG Solo System which worked tremendously well!

Everything prepared for the session – board, scenario instructions, special mats for cards as well as CDG Solo rulebook.
Helveti started pretty aggressively, overrunning Roman Cavalry on the right and pushing in the center.
The exposed barbarian Medium Cavalry was curt off and destroyed but the leader survived!
Then Helveti charged uphill left, mauled Medium Infantry only to..
…cut down one of the bowmen with unsuspected turn to the center. Really, it was time for Caesar to finally act and settle the score!
And so he did – charged downhill, broke some units and allowed Rome to start gaining the momentum.
The final battle was very fierce and both sides were taking heavy causalities. Wider tactical choices (6 cards for Romans, 4 for Barbarians) gave anyhow advantage to Caesar who managed to finish the game with decisive strike.
Look at the map at teh end of the game – which finished in decisive 7-3 victory for Rome. Although if Helveti would score 1-2 more points that would be fully deserved.

Again fast and brutal battle and again victory for Rome – as in case of GBoH pretty decisive on paper, much less sure on the map 🙂


After those two sessions with two titles let me now share some of my impressions and thoughts how one battle plays in each of the systems. Below observations would not be very ground-breaking but will definitely confirm some of the facts you might suspect:

  • Let me start from the most obvious – the final result of the battle. In both cases, Rome won and won decisively. Also, in both cases this was much closer call on the map than in points. Barbarians fought bravely and valiantly before they had to succumb. Looks like really good balance of scenarios.
  • As mentioned in my previous article, the scale is a huge differentiation. Please have a look at the maps and number of units – you can see that we talk about completely different extent. Each unit in CCA represents many more troops than the counter in GBoH; that is of course reflected in number of block formations (fewer) than the chits (many more).
  • Detail of the terrain features – GBoH always was much more detailed but in this battle it is vividly visible. Not only the sheer number of various hills levels but also its impact on cohesion of units. Also, one feature not represented in CCA was the river in the center of the GBoH map.
  • Last but not least – time to play. CCA is much easier and straightforward system and plays in maximum 60 minutes – which was the case here. For GBoH 2 hours was barely enough. Of course, that comes with the level of details both positions represent.

That was definitely great experience and I had tons of fun playing both games. Comparing the systems, reenacting same battle using different rules and being able to compare both experiences was time well spent!