Abby the Wargamer

Last fall Sandy and I watched the first season of the HBO series Rome. Since I am interested in military history and am a wargamer, it got me interested in the Roman Civil War. I guess I was good because for Christmas, Santa Sandy got me Julius Caesar, a wargame on the war between Julius Caesar and Pompey the Great that ended the Roman Republic and started the Roman Empire.

I was excited to play it and even Sandy was interested after watching the tv series. It's a block game, so to get it ready I had to apply the stickers that identified the individual units to the wooden blocks that are the game pieces. I even got files off the web and printed a larger map than the one that came with the game so it would be easier to play.

Can you spot the replacement piece that I made?

I had explained the rules to Sandy when I noticed that Abby wasn't under the table anymore. She likes to stay close to her humans so that is where she usually is when we are sitting at the table. Sandy looked around and didn't see her. We figured that she must be upstairs on the bed taking a nap.

I had the starting position set up and was just doing a final check of the units available as reinforcements. "That's funny, one of the pieces...". I didn't even finish " missing." I was up instantly and looking for Abby. Sure enough, I found her lying on the stairway landing with a mostly-chewed wooden block in her paws. She had eaten a whole Roman legion! Well, not exactly. It was a cavalry unit. But still. We hadn't even played a single turn of the game and Abby had already wrecked it.

Well, all hope was not lost. Columbia Games includes one extra block for each side. I guess that way even if there is an error when they are packing the game, people still have enough blocks to play. Or if they have a dog who eats one of the blocks. "I lost because the dog ate my army." That excuse never worked with my homework either.

VASSAL is a program that lets you play boardgames on the computer. There are modules for about two thousand different games, mostly wargames. One of the cool things about it is that several wargame manufacturers support VASSAL (and promote their games) by providing the original graphics used to print the boardgame for use in the VASSAL module. That way the electronic version looks just like the real boardgame. And there is a VASSAL module for Julius Caesar. So I downloaded the module and looked up on the web how to extract the graphics files. That allowed me to get a good, high resolution digital image of the original sticker that came with the game. I played around to get the scaling right and then printed it on label paper. Then I cut it out and applied it to the spare block. Turned out it wasn't perfect, the color wasn't quite as bright as on the original sticker, but it was pretty darn close. Take a look at the photo and see if you can tell which is the replacement block.

So it had a happy ending. I had a complete game. And Abby didn't have to spend the rest of her life in the dog house for wrecking one of my games. Sandy and I have played Julius Caesar twice now. We both like it and so far the score is even. We have each won a game.