A Very British Civil War in Ireland

The aim of this post is to provide some background to my AVBCW project in Ireland, primarily Northern Ireland/Ulster. This is still a bit of a work in progress, but think I’ve got the general background worked out now.


For those unfamiliar with the world of “A Very British Civil War” it is an alternative history scenario, wherein King Edward VIII does not abdicate in 1936 causing Parliament and the CoE to take a huff with him, so he installs Oswald Mosley, of the British Union of Fascists, as Prime Minister. Many people consider this an affront to tea and crumpets and good British sense so England fractures into a staggering array of squabbling factions, Scotland declares independence, then fractures into a few squabbling factions itself, Wales implodes, the Cornish secede, Communists pop up everywhere, Prince Bertie invades at the head of a Canadian army, and Ireland annexes Ulster.

People's Front of Judea (PFJ) - Home | Facebook

Essentially it’s like if P.G. Wodehouse wrote the Spanish Civil War and peopled it with Dad’s Army and the People’s Front of Judea…

The Irish aspect of this always struck me as a bit dull. Given the zany antics of the rest of the British isles, it seemed a shame that Ireland was given such short shrift. Now to be fair Ireland has had its fair share of bloody internecine conflict through the real 20th Century, something I well know having grown up during the tail end of the euphemistically named “Troubles”, and still see the legacy of it all around, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t fun to be poked at lampooning stereotypes. I have no intention to cause anyone offence and the factions will be mostly fictional or heavily fictionalised versions of the history, and certainly not intended to be taken in any way seriously.

To that end, I’ve come up with a slightly altered version of the timeline. The events on the mainland proceed much as the standard narrative suggests, but there’s a few key divergences in Ireland. The primary one is a very different outcome to the Irish Civil War.

Real Irish History 1922 – 1937

In our timeline, after the Irish War of Independence, the British and Irish put together the Anglo-Irish Treaty that would make Ireland (excluding the 6 North Eastern counties) a Free State, though still nominally part of the British Commonwealth and still swearing allegiance to the monarchy. Those favouring the treaty saw it as a sensible stepping stone to full independence in future given how close they were to surrendering to the British at the end of the war, while those opposed felt it was giving into British demands and would accept nothing less than an all-island independent republic as declared during the Easter Rising.

When the treaty was ratified by a majority of just 7 votes in the Irish parliament, the Anti-Treaty members who had lost the vote walked out. Tensions continued to rise between the Anti and Pro treaty sides in the run up to the 1922 elections. Any attempts at reconciliation were scuppered by British insistence that the treaty terms must be followed to the letter and no republican constitution could be made. When the Pro-Treaty party won the elections, those tensions came to a head and violence broke out.

The Anti-Treaty forces consisted of around 12,000 men, mostly IRA veterans, while the Pro-Treaty forces numbered around 8000 former IRA and WW1 veterans. The AT forces held much of the south and west of the country, but despite the higher numbers and more land held, they were poorly equipped and uncoordinated. The PT forces, with arms, vehicles and equipment shipped over by the British, were able to grow the newly formed National Army into a much more effective fighting force and eventually overwhelm and defeat the AT forces, ending the conflict a year after it started. The Free State was formed and many of the Anti-Treaty politicians returned to parliament as a new political party, Fianna Fáil.

The conflict was bloody, as is often the case with a civil war, with many comrades from the War of Independence just a few years prior now bitter enemies. Atrocities were committed on both sides and indeed the legacy of the conflict still shapes much of the politics of Ireland to this day. Even the nominally independent Catholic Church took sides, supporting the treaty and refusing the sacraments to known Anti-Treaty IRA members.

All in all the conflict proved somewhat futile when in 1937 the Irish Parliament, now led by a resurgent Fianna Fáil, ratified a new republican constitution, with no mention of allegiance to the British monarchy and Irish independence was gained without British objection, much as the Pro-Treaty advocates had always claimed would be the case.

In my alternative timeline, things turn out a little differently…

Alternative Irish History 1922 – 1937

The British take umbrage at the attempts by the Pro-Treaty politicians to amend the treaty with a republican constitution to appease the Anti-Treaty side and when war breaks out are much less willing to provide supplies to the nascent National Army, though still do offer some begrudging support. As such, the Anti-Treaty forces are able to hold onto much of their territory and the war drags on for many years leading to deeply divided and embittered Ireland. The Pro-Treaty forces push south as far as Waterford and north around the borders of Ulster. Wary of the threat of the war spilling over, the British fortify the borders of Northern Ireland, absorbing Donegal into the state and creating a line of defence across the entire North. The Anti Treaty forces manage to seize the Pro-Treaty Co. Galway, connecting their south western territory to their north western territory. Exhausted by the conflict and lacking the resources to push into the enemy territories, both sides settle into an uneasy stalemate, fortifying the “T Line” that has divided them across the top and down the middle of Ireland.

Throughout the conflict, Communism International had come to see the Anti-Treaty side as allies in their movement. In our timeline they provided mostly moral support to “the struggling Irish national revolutionaries” and offered to “assist all efforts to organise the struggle to combat this terror and to help the Irish workers and peasants to victory”. In this alternative timeline, given the war dragged on for longer that a year, this support moved from the moral to the material, with equipment and vehicles flowing into the West to aid their fight. This, combined with the rejection by the Church and a longstanding hatred towards the Anglo-Irish landholding elite, leads the Anti-Treaty Irish to declare themselves the Citizens’ Republic of Ireland, a socialist republic with strong ties to Soviet Russia and Communism International. Dissenters and elites are suitably purged and the military is reformed among Soviet lines as the “Green Army of the CRI”. The Starry Plough, gold on a field of green, is officially adopted as the flag of the new Republic.

The flag of the Citizens’ Republic of Ireland

On the Pro-Treaty side, bitterness towards the British grows and though paying lip service to the treaty, division between them increases. Eoin O’Duffy and his proto-fascist Blueshirts are able to grow from strength to strength and become even more fascist in outlook. In our timeline they petered out in the early thirties, being subsumed into the Fine Gael political party. Here they come to be the dominant party in the Irish Free State (what was left of it) and their corporatist and militaristic rhetoric resonates with a people still at war and feeling surrounded and under threat. In 1932 Eoin O’Duffy becomes Taoiseach and declares that henceforth the Irish Free State would now be the fully independent Irish Social Republic. Having been in close contact with the Italian fascists for some time, the army is reorganised with Italian supplies as the National Guard and the new Republic takes as it’s flag the red St. Patrick cross on a field of blue.

The flag of the Irish Social Republic

When the Spanish Civil War breaks out, both sides are well positioned to assist the rival factions. In real history, Eoin O’Duffy raises an Irish Brigade to go off and fight for Franco, but in this timeline, given his position as head of state, he’s able to provide much assistance to the Spanish Nationalists throughout the war. Balancing this, and seeing an opportunity for a proxy war with their bitter rivals, the CRI send support to the Republicans. During the war, any time the two Irish sides met across the battlefield the fighting would become particularly intense, akin to the “Bad War” of the German Landsknechte and Swiss Pikemen of the 16th century. This pushed the war to its conclusion faster than in our timeline, finishing in the autumn of 1938.

The Nationalists are triumphant and, grateful for the Irish Social Republic’s support, agree to an alliance with O’Duffy, meaning Spanish Nationalist support flows into the nation, adding to the Italian support and bringing along with the grudging acknowledgement of Nazi Germany. Meanwhile, the defeated Republicans flock to the west of Ireland to take refuge with their socialist brothers in the Citizens’ Republic of Ireland, bolstering their ranks considerably and shifting the Soviet focus more directly to the British Isles.

In the meantime, the abdication crisis has kicked off in England and the British have pulled out of Northern Ireland to deal with the situation on the mainland. The Ulster Unionist government initially maintains control but without the full force of Britain behind them, other forces start to arise and new factions seize control.

A Verry N’orn Ayrush Civul Warr – Ulster 1937

The British withdrawal from Northern Ireland is pretty hasty given the state of affairs on the mainland. The Ulster Unionist government moves quickly to requisition whatever military hardware the British don’t carry off with them and immediately drafts the now disbanded provincial regiments of the Royal Ulster Rifles, the Royal Irish Fusiliers and the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers into a new military force, the Loyal Ulster Defenders and declares themselves the Loyal Democratic State of Northern Ireland. They are not yet clear just what it is they are loyal to, just that they are loyal in general. The former Rifles are deployed from their base in Ballymena to secure Belfast and the Parliament building at Stormont, while the former Fusiliers, operating out of their base in Omagh, attempt to re-secure the defensive lines along the North-South border.

Taking advantage of the dramatic reduction in military forces in the region, and the chaos that it is causing, the regional IRA forces, re-branded as the Irish Democratic Republic Army in opposition to the abandonment of the Republican ideals by the South, move from their low level guerrilla campaign to an all out uprising, seizing large swathes of territory in the western counties as well as instigating risings in the sympathetic Antrim Glens and West Belfast. In Omagh, they besiege the token force left at the St Lucia Barracks, leaving the government the difficult decision of whether or not to order the troops away from the border defences.

With socialist uprisings across England taking root and the socialist state of the CRI in the south, socialist and communist groups in the North had been growing from strength to strength in recent years. Many of the working class of Belfast, as well as areas of south-central N. Ireland had developed a strong socialist tradition, and while having many divergent viewpoints, a loose grouping of many different organisations, calling themselves the Socialist Workers of Ulster United, rise up in revolution, tacitly supported by the Soviets and the CRI influence. Riots and uprisings break out across Belfast as revolutionaries flood in from the surrounding regions to the southwest. The revolution coalesces on Stormont, besieging the government there and forcing them to begin a retreat out of the city with the aid of the former Royal Ulster Rifles to set up a government in exile at the newly built St Patrick’s Barracks in Ballymena.

In Co. Down a growing movement of radical protestants with fascist leanings had grown with close links to international fascist movements, especially in Germany. The popular Ulster Youth organisation, having run “educational” events and meetings for children and young people over the past decade had raised a generation of young men and women who were militant in their faith and outlook and well drilled and disciplined in military maneuvers and armaments. The parent organisation, the Ulster Protestant League, had been formed by a former army chaplain turned firebrand preacher, known as “The Big Man” Commander John Campbell, whose particular brand of populist preaching had seen many churches align with the UPL. Seeing the opportunity the chaos presented, the UPL quickly mobilised, with sympathetic factions in the Palace Barracks in Holywood opening the gates to the Commander, the UPL sets up their base of operations there. While appearing to be aligned with the fascist government in England and claiming “loyalty” to them, there are whispers that The Big Man has much different plans in mind.

The powerful southern states look at the fragmentation of the North as a key opportunity to gain an advantage over their rival, though for now, neither side is prepared to make the first move. The military buildup of recent years resulted in some very tempting targets in the northwest, especially the military airfields, and control of the region would give the owning side a clear means to encircle their enemy and move to unify the entire island.

And so it begins.


In a future post I’ll go into more details of the various factions, as well as some of the setup for the narrative campaign I’m planning. I’ve still a bit of thinking to do around that, as well as more details on the individual factions (e.g. who leads the CRI? A moderate de Valera trying to control a cadre of spittle mouthed communist die-hards? Or maybe a Citizens’ Council?). Also need to work out a mechanic for the ticking time bomb of southern involvement in the north, as that’ll kick things up a notch. I want the campaign mechanics to act as a narrative guide rather than be a hard set of rules to follow, just to keep a bit of randomness and interest. I plan to have a few variables within the wider campaign to trigger different outcomes, for instance having levels of resource, morale, and factionalism. These will likely be scales of 1-10 with different affects on point values, experience levels, and trigger new special events such as new factions spawning.

At this point I’ve only a few units made up for it, I plan to use Blitzkrieg Commander IV as the primary ruleset, though may look into others for variety in time. I know Bolt Action is very popular for squad-based combat so may suit some scenarios. The plan will be to start with a few small actions to get a feel for the rules, then start looking at dealing with the currently disputed areas, the Seige of Stormont and the Battles of Omagh and Armagh for a start, maybe some guerrilla conflicts in the Antrim Glens, and work out what the hell is going on around the Foyle!

I still don’t quite know what to call this project, I’d initially gone with A Very Northern Irish Civil War, but it’s gotten a bit more widespread, AVBCW in Ireland is too much of a mouthful, and A Very Irish Civil War doesn’t quite sound right. Given the main theatre initially is in and around N. Ireland, AVNICW will likely do for the time being.

Thanks for reading,

Matthew

Projects Update – June 2020

I’ve made some good progress on a few things this month. Switching to doing smaller units has kept up a better momentum and I’ve finally been getting a bit more time to do hobby stuff this month. I also did some sorting and reorganising of my hobby space, partly to make a bit of space for working from home that was a bit of a change from the kitchen table, partly because I was running out of space to put things!


First up, got the basing on my Crusader infantry all done, figures are mostly Pendraken/TB Line but I also repainted and rebased some of my MM bill men, which were some of the first 10mm figures I ever painted! These were over 200 figures that I’ve been painting over the past while and as the bases I needed arrived this month it was good to get them all based up and finished.

Some crossbowmen. These can be fielded as their own unit or attached to infantry. I probably need to do another couple of packs if these at some point.

Attached

Knights of Jerusalem (TB Line). So much lovely turquoise.

Yes I’m a mad fool who paints his flags. Easy enough when they’re crosses though. Adds a certain homeliness to it.

Also in the mix are some some rebased MM knights as Men-At-Arms. I painted these a year or two back, but part of my gradual rebasing of my old Crusader cavalry from the 50mm to 40mm squares.

Finally a few bits for camps and bases:

Think the tents are Irregular Miniatures. The buildings were resins off eBay I got ages ago.

In the rest of my crusades queue I’ve a pack of foot knights to paint up, some Eastern infantry as Armenians, more tents and civilians, a bunch more mounted knights and a handful of marker pieces. For now. I’m not too far off being able to do Arsuf either, my original plan for this project, though will likely do Dorylaeum first and write the accompanying Flippant History. I’ve also a TtS! game prepared with them and will be starting a Soldiers of God campaign in the near future too, so keep an eye out for battle reports.


A new project next, moving to ancient China for the late Warring States/Early Imperial period. These are based on a 40mm frontage initially, though long term hope to upgrade to 80mm frontage. Initially doing some Qin and Chu forces, though will be also doing a Han army and probably some rebel factions in the future. Figures are mostly from Newline, though a few (like the spearmen) are from MM’s range. The MM figures are a little more squat and cartoonish than the Newline ones but fit okay on separate bases.

First up Qin mixed infantry (Ji halberd and crossbow) needing a bit of static grass brushed off their shoulders:

And some more:

Qin Heavy Cavalry:

Qin chariots:

Qin General:

Then onto some Chu infantry (Ji halberd and swordsmen):

And from a different division of the army:

Some (un)impressed spearmen:

Some Chu crossbowmen:

The Chu will be organised into two large army divisions with a small detached overall command, hence the white and grey and white and purple colour schemes.

The Qin will have four smaller army divisions plus a command division.

This is to represent the difference between the more militaristic Qin who gave greater autonomy to their well trained troops and the largely poorly trained conscript armies of the Chu under often competing noble commanders.

My Han army lists are different still, to give each it’s own distinct flavour and play style. More on those in a future post.


I have been having a go at filling the biggest hole in my wargaming collection…terrain! The trees I got on eBay a while ago so they’ve been mounted on thick card and flocked.

This is thick cardboard cut to shape then flocked and scatter added. Took ages to dry!
This scatter piece has a card base then the shape was carved from polystyrene then covered in wall filler. Then painted, flocked, etc.

I’ve also got two hills made of card and polystyrene to paint and flock but will hit them next time I’ve the airbrush out. Finally I’ll have terrain that isn’t just bits of card with colouring pencil terrain drawn on! I’ve also done some more experiments with the gridded battle board idea. Magnetic grid points make it pretty reusable for other things, but is a bit more fiddly to do. The tile spacers, doubled up for height then painted or flocked to fit in with the board are actually looking pretty decent and may be the way I go. Also need to think about the terrain style for the board, I’m thinking fairly lush and use for my Aztecs since I intend to keep them at a 40mm frontage and not double up to the 80mm like I do with some other projects. The 70mm grid that my foam board will allow will also suit them well, whereas it would be too small for many of my other projects which will need an 80-100mm grid.


I’ve also started working on a Trojan War project, though as it’ll be a reasonably “fixed size” project in terms of number of units I’m tempted to go for bigger bases for a more diorama look. I’ve a handful of figures painted but not based yet. I could go with my current basing style and use it as the seed of a broader bronze age project, but think it might be nice to do something a little more special for this epic conflict. I may make a battle board for this some point in the future too with fixed terrain, though that’ll be a while off yet.

Experiments and test figures

Finally, I started working a project I got some samples for last year but haven’t done anything with yet. This is moving things into the 20th Century for a bit of alternative history based around the “A Very British Civil War” scenario, though in my own region of Northern Ireland/Ulster. I’ll have some more posts in the future about the back story and factions I’ve been thinking about but started with a unit of infantry for the Ulster Protestant League, a faction of extreme Protestant fascists. Black and purple have a strong link to Protestantism in the region along with the better known orange. As orange tends to be a bit more political associated and purple a bit more religious associated I’m saving the orange for a faction of government loyalists and using purple and black as the UPL faction.

The figures are Carlist Requetes from Pendraken’s Spanish Civil War range. I understand the historical troops were ultra-Catholic nationalists, so there’s a bit of delicious irony in them being used as ultra-Protestant nationalists. I didn’t realise this when I picked them, I had just envisioned these guys in berets and the figures seemed appropriate. The sashes were blankets for the original troops, but I felt the sash more thematically appropriate than a blanket.

I’ve a few more bases in progress from this project, but that’ll just have to wait until the July update.

I confess to being a complete novice when it comes to 20th-century warfare and equipment, having been more interested in history than hardware. I’ve a decent knowledge of the broad historical strokes but when people start talking about gillies vs boots and what helmet that division wore in that region and whether Mark III or Mark IV of the J-33 “Doddler” Tank was in use in a particular battle (yes I made that up…) I’m completely lost. So the alternative history mishmash of WW1, SCW and WW2 that AVBCW (or AVNICW – A Verry No’rn Ayrush Civul Warr*) offers is a nice gateway to the period without getting bogged down in the details. Though in truth it may evolve into an Ireland wide conflict given some of the alt-history I’ve been putting together! More on that in another post to come soon.

Hopefully, next month will be as much of a varied mix. I’ve taken to deciding what unit to paint next based on a dice roll against a table of potential projects, which is quite a nice way to keep the momentum going on different things. I doubt I’d have started the AVBCW project any time soon if it hadn’t come up on the dice and there are a few more unstarted or untouched projects on the list that may come up at the whim of the dice roll!

It’s also been some time since I played a game, so I’m hoping this month to get the Crusades forces out again for a game of To The Strongest! and possibly kick off a Soldiers of God campaign.

Until next time, thanks for reading.

Matthew


* For those unfamiliar with N. Irish regional accents, this should be said quickly, somewhere between the back of the throat and the nasal passage, with proper emphasis put on the Rs at the end of words. I’m looking at you non-rhotic English speakers – excepting the Yanks, the Scottish, West Country folk, and pirates who all have a proper appreciation of the arr!

Projects Update – May 2020

It’s been a while since I posted any progress updates so this is a bit of a summary of what I’ve been up to the past 6-8 months. There’s a fair bit more not pictured as they’ve still to be based, but those should be done in the near future.

First up some new command elements for my Crusaders and Saracen forces. I have an idea on using these guys for a campaign so you’ll be seeing them again in future complete with names and backgrounds when the Barony of Nusquam and the Emirate of Lamakan come to blows in the far reaches of the Middle East.

Figures are a mix of Pendraken and Irregular I believe.

The Crusaders:

The Saracens:

And as a bonus a few marker units to represent spears/lances/heroes:

Next up filling the major gap in the forces of Islam is a whole lot of light cavalry and hordes of horse archers.

Around Christmas last year I went on a bit of a rare fantasy binge after watching too much Critical Role and playing a few fantasy games like 4 Against Darkness. I plan to use these for Sellwords and Spellslingers if the fantasy urge comes round again.

I had a lot of fun with the Pendraken fantasy range and used it to experiment with different techniques for painting and basing, for instance airbrushing, different use of dry brushing and highlights as well lighting and metallics. Was a nice change of pace from batch painting large armies.

Shambling slowly up to the plate, some undead:

The necromancer I spent a fair bit of time experimenting with, especially the glowing eyes on his staff and the light and shadow effects from that.

And now the good guys:

This guy was a character my wife created for D&D when I almost convinced her to give it a go….
If only I had a thunderstorm backdrop!

And given the time of year I was painting these added a bit of festive cheer:

Next up we’re taking a bit of a diversion into another scale and looking at my 2mm forces for the British and some Turkish allies in the Crimean War. I’m fairly sure I’ve another 10 or 15 bases of these in a box with the start of the French army but there’s enough here to get the gist. I also have around 50 bases of Russians to prime and paint at some point and the French to assemble. All in all, should have enough to cover most of the BBB Crimean War scenarios.

Infantry commanders:

Light infantry/skirmishers:

The single line is for veterans, the double line standard infantry:

The Turks in the back:

Artillery, cavalry and general:

And finally we travel to Mexico for some of the glorious Aztec range. These models are beautifully sculpted and a joy to paint given the detail and opportunity for colour. I fear I don’t do them justice.

In the one’s below I’ve picked a colour theme for each group but I have some more awaiting finishing touches that are a riot of colour and will be adding even more units soon.

Skirmishers:

Eagle and Jaguar Warriors:

The atlatl thrower on the small base is a shock missile marker.

City infantry with attached hero marker:

Some “wargamers eye view” shots:

Close-ups of the markers, some of these came out a little darker than I’d hoped but the heroes have face paint and tattoos:

And these poor sods who were mangled in the name of casualty markers:

One thing I’m planning to work on over the next little while is some additional terrain and a battle board for the Aztecs (and others). As I plan to use To the Strongest! for this a grid is required, so experimenting with some options on gridding before committing to putting it on my actual board (which is a repurposed wedding table plan).

I asked on a couple of forums for ideas and some good ones popped up like using tile spacers or magnets.

I initially used single spacers then added filler around them but they got hidden after painting. At the top left I’ve tried with doubled spacers and waiting some bits to dry. May need another layer of flock on it. At the bottom I’ve just stuck some new spacers on top of the hidden old ones and flocked around.

To the right of that I’ve hidden a magnet under the flock and have a small clump on ferrous paper drying at the bottom to see how it works. I used a fairly small thin (10 x 2 mm I think) magnet as I don’t want to interfere heavily with any of my magnetically based units. Some of those thicker rare earth magnets would have units sailing across the table as if my magic!

Since taking these pictures I’ve also painted up a small unit of Early Imperial Chinese halberd men, and primed a unit of Mycenaean spear men so will showcase them when based up. My master plan of basing to a 40 x 20 mm standard is somewhat scuppered by the forward pointing weapon, which would cause issues with base to base contact, so will have to do these on a 40 x 30 mm base and hope it still looks distinct enough from a 40 x 40 “deep” base.

Thanks for reading,

Matthew

The Great Basing Debate

One of the most difficult and daunting aspects to any new wargaming project for me is the question of how to base the armies. I spend a considerable amount of time with bases and figures and blu-tac trying out endless combinations then once I settle on one end up changing it or rethinking it soon after. Having been overthinking it again the past few nights as it’s causing a holdup on a number of projects I think I’ve come to some conclusions. What follows is mostly a bit of a ramble to sort out my thinking on it, but perhaps others may find it interesting, or have gone through similar issues themselves. I can recommend a couple of other blogs looking at “downsizing” that provide some inspiration, namely https://inredcoatragsattired.com/2020/03/13/making-alterations/ and http://battlefieldswarriors.blogspot.com/.

The 120mm frontage does require a largish play area, but it is nice for the look and feel of the period. I could potentially shave this down to a 90mm or even 60mm frontage though if my ancient minimisation works out, but the visual impact will be severely reduced.

When I first got into wargaming a few years back my first rule set was Hail Caesar. In it, it recommended 40mm squares for infantry and 50mm squares for cavalry, using a few to make up a unit. After plenty of Googling I didn’t find any issues with this so started to use it for my crusades armies. Typically an infantry unit would be a 120mm frontage and a cavalry 100mm. Over time I was exposed to different rule sets with different basing requirements ranging from the complete agnostics (e.g. To The Strongest!) to the very strict (e.g. DBx). With my second project, the English Civil War, I agonised a long time over basing. I ended up maintaining the 120mm frontage, but as a combined unit of pike and shot. For the horse, I kept the 100mm frontage, but with a 40mm depth and did end up with something I’m happy with.

I had some concerns on the basing choices for the crusades, however, namely:

  1. 50mm squared cavalry for 10mm is a bit silly. The frontage difference is negligible for gameplay, the depth is unnecessary, and rules that do require multiple bases and matching frontage (e.g Soldiers of God) mean some things need fudged.
  2. Most 10mm packs come as 30 infantry. With 3 40mm bases per unit, that’s 10 infantry on each, which can look a bit loose on the base. Okay for irregulars but not for close order or formed infantry.
  3. Bigger bases are more awkward to apply basing material to. Maybe I’ve a poor basing technique but trying to get PVA into the nooks between figures in the centre usually results in flock and sand attached to figures rather than bases.
  4. It takes a long time to make an army. As I’m generally making both sides myself the time from starting a project to having something to put on the table is considerable. While I’m not necessarily a slow painter, I’m usually only able to get a few hours painting in a week, which means I’m maybe averaging one unit a week.
  5. Larger bases means larger table. While I do have the means to set up and play a large game, it usually requires the guts of a day to do it, as need to rearrange furniture, get fold up tables from the roof space, then set it all up, play the game and then pack and return everything to normal. At such I’m only getting a game in every few months at best.
Horse archers on 40mm squares

So with these in mind, for future projects I want to explore a different basing style and standard that will allow me to get armies on the table quicker and allow me to play on a smaller space, while still looking visually appealing and be scaleable if I ever want to go larger in future. I’ve already start implementing some changes to new units in my crusades forces, switching to 40mm squares for new cavalry and will likely rebase the existing cavalry at some point in the future. For the moment I will keep to the 40mm squares for the crusades, given how heavily invested in it I am and future expansions will likely be only a few units here and there. I’ll have some updates on this in a future blog post once I get the varnishing can out!

For the moment I’m mostly thinking about ancients, as gunpowder armies and beyond will have different considerations. The primarily drivers for this are twofold:

Not quite what I’d hoped for

The first is my Aztec project. I planned and purchased a large collection of figures for this based around a new basing style of 25mm squares, making units 3 or 4 bases wide and two deep. On getting the first unit painted up and test based I dislike it. Too fiddly and just didn’t look right. As formations aren’t of much importance to the period I tried a few larger single base options, which looked okay but would have the awkward flocking issue mentioned previously and the game size issues.

The second is my desire to do the ancient world. All of it. My love of history started at a young age with the classical Greeks and that never went away, though it’s spread much further and wider since then. I want to fight battles with armies across the breadth of the ancient world, all on the same basing system, and to try and do so at my current rate is just unrealistic in any reasonable timeframe.

So… where does that leave me? I recently picked up a copy of Horde of the Things and DBA 3.0, which use a basing style commonly referred to as DBx basing. This is mostly aimed at 15mm figures and generally has units on a single base 40mm frontage, with varying depth and figure counts to indicate different unit types. E.g infantry are typically 15-20mm deep while cavalry, chariots, etc tend to be 30-40mm deep. I had encountered this before and been unimpressed as 3 figures on a 40x15mm base doesn’t look like a unit of troops to me. In DBx this isn’t a concern as a base is not quite the same as a unit, but for use in other rules it doesn’t pass the “looks right” test. However, having seen some people using the basing in 10mm at a higher number of figures the look does get a lot closer to what I’d expect a unit to look like at minimum size. It also satisfies several of my requirements in that it would be quick to get an army put together and need less space to play so I wanted to experiment a bit and see how well I could represent everything I wanted using similar basing sizes.

I started with some of the most complicated units in the ancient world, the Republican Roman maniples. How do I represent them in a way that is historically and visually accurate but in a small space. A Roman maniple was 120 men strong, arranged ten men deep as best we can tell. It was made up of two 60 man centuries, but always fought together so the maniple is the smallest tactical unit required. I’m sure I’ll go into more details on the different types of maniple and method of fighting another time but essentially the were 20 maniples arranged in two lines in a chequerboard pattern with a screening force of light infantry in front and a line of veteran spearmen known as the Triarii behind. The spearmen were half the size of a standard maniple at 60 strong. So a basing system that represents those differences is important. It would be reasonable feasible to a roughly 1:10 ratio here, 12 figures to a unit definitely satisfies some requirements and arranged in two or three ranks will generally “look right”. But these are small units, tiny in the case of the 60 spear. What happens when we move to a Macedonian phalanx? It’s a 256 strong 16×16 man square, so would probably need 25 figures per unit in a 5×5. Not unfeasible by any means but getting into larger territory. What about a Greek hoplite phalanx? It would vary frontage and go for 4 to 50 men deep in extreme cases, though as standard it would be 8 men deep up to 12 men deep for larger units. So roughly half the depth of the Macedonian, but often a much wider frontage, with probably a lot more men still.

Attempting an accurate 1:10 ratio would prove a step too far, especially given unit sizes outside the Greco-Roman sphere are patchy at best. That way madness lies. A better approach would be a method that gives the appearance of this without being tied to strict numbers. Can I represent each of these and more on the same frontage and similar depth? What are the key visuals for these? A Macedonian phalanx should be a square and around twice the size of a maniple. A hoplite phalanx should be similar depth to a maniple but wider and more densely packed. Looking at other unit types, a warband should be big and irregular, while skirmishers should be loosely formed. Javilinmen, medium infantry and formed bowmen should be more regular than skirmishers but not as dense as heavy formed units.

To that end I’ve mostly settled on the following approach for infantry:

  • Maniples will be 4 figures wide by 2 deep on a standard base.
  • Triarii will be 3 figures wide by 2 deep or 4 wide and 1 deep on a small base.
  • Macedonian phalanx will be 4×4 on a deep base.
  • Hoplite phalanx will be 5×2 on a standard base.
  • Warband a loose formation of 12-15 figures on deep.
  • Skirmishers a very loose 5 figures on standard.
  • Medium infantry a loose formation of 8-10 figures on a standard.

What size for a standard, small and deep base? 40×20 or 50×25 are the best options for standard and 40×40 or 50×50 for deep. 40mm is more standardised across the industry while 50mm gives more space without figure squeeze. Small bases cause some issues as in some games they’re expected to be narrower frontage, while in others narrower depth. At the small scale there are being constructed at any such differences will be negligible though, so again it will be more about getting the look right.

Buckle in, things are going to get numerical. Most gaming systems using tape measures can be easily modified to allow large battle fields in small areas. For instance, converting inches to cm can give you the equivalent of a 10ft x 6ft gaming table on a standard 120cm x 70cm dining table with small frontage units. The main issue comes from grid based systems. For the purposes of this, I’ll be using To the Strongest! as a basis. In TtS it recommends a 50mm grid box for a 40mm frontage. This works, but is a bit tight, and wouldn’t quite fit the three lines of the maniples, plus the various counters and tokens required for the game. On the aforementioned 120x70cm table I could go all the way up to 100mm grid squares and still fit a 12×8 grid as required by the rules. I find the best choice is to go with grids about 20-30mm bigger than the frontage. With a 120mm frontage I’d tend to use 150mm squares. Extrapolating this down, for a 40mm frontage I’d probably want a 60mm grid square, and for 50mm frontage a 70-75mm grid square. With a 60mm square the 12×8 grid would feasibly fit on a large coffee table or pin board. While you can of course use smaller bases in bigger squares, it starts to look a bit strange. If I was to use a 40x20mm unit in a 100mm grid square there’d be around 60mm between each unit and it’s nearest neighbor in the line of battle. That just doesn’t quite sit right.

For a 100mm grid square my maximum base size would probably be 80mm frontage. This fits well with a 40mm frontage original basing as doubling a 40×20 up as armies grow can lead to a 80×40 quite nicely, which will still fit well on a dining table size play area.

I still have some testing to do, but it is looking more and more likely that a 40x20mm standard will be the route I take from a speed, ease of use, visual appeal, and scaleablity perspective. I do have a few more questions to ponder though. What of cavalry? 10mm cav will fit happily enough in a line on a 40×20, but a 40×30 would give a nicer visual appeal. This would however make a 60mm grid box a squeeze for two units to occupy. I could push up to a 65 or even 75 grid box, but then the 40×20 infantry may start to look a little lost. I need to think some more on small units too, whether it’s better to drop them to 30x20mm, or keep 40mm frontage but drop the depth to 15mm or even 10mm.

Well done if you got through this far! I’d like to say you get a gold star, but really you probably just get a pile of regrets from the time you just spent reading this. As you can see I spend far too much time over thinking these things. If you did read all the way to the end and have any thoughts or comments please do share them as I’ll be keen to hear from those with more experience in the hobby than I have and those who’ve gone through similar thought patterns themselves.

I hope my next post will be much more colourful and interesting, with lots of pictures of what all I’ve been working on these past 6 months or so once I get everything photographed. There’ll be the next installment in the Crusades history series coming at some point, I’ve just to base up some infantry to fight out the battle of Dorylaeum to inspire the accompanying historical post.

Thanks for reading,

Matthew

The Battle of Nicaea – May 1097

To tie in with my post on the history of the battle and siege of Nicaea in the First Crusade, I thought it would be a good time to play a small battle set up in a similar way. As a ruleset I used Soldiers of God and I’ll give some further thoughts on that at the end. The battlefield was set up with a steep ridge at one end (treated as rough ground and a hill) along which the Turks deployed with the Crusaders deployed in the plains below. The armies were built to reflect the forces used in the real battle. It’s been five months since I’ve played any battle, and longer still since I last used SoG, so was a little rusty on a few bits, however I got to grips with things again pretty quickly and the battle proceeded well. I apologise for the poor lighting in the photos, the sun did not want to play ball.


The Turks were a little surprised to find a force of Crusaders awaiting them on the plains.

As the battle opened the armies began their advances towards each other. Kilij kept his better trained cavalry on the ridge top awaiting an opportunity to use them while the Turkoman light horse on the flanks swept down the ridge. The crusader knights surged forwards, with the infantry moving up slowly behind. The advance began to test the resolve of both sides, the crusaders right flank had a minor wobble but recovered while a handful of Turkomen on the Turkish right fled from the field completely!

Turkish right flank looking a little leaner than before. The eagle eyed amongst you will also note one less unit in the Turkish centre, I’d accidently put out one unit too many but removed before the battle started. Oops!

The crusader knights move up to charge the light horse. The left flank unleashes it’s missiles but the Knights plow on undeterred, causing them to scatter. The Turkish left is more successful and manages to cause disorder amongst two charging units of knights, slowing their advance.

The Knights attempt to charge down the nimble Turks.
The Turkish right flanking the Crusader left.

The beleaguered knights call on God for strength and prepare to surge forward with renewed effort and despite taking heavy losses they make contact with the enemy in a crushing blow, shaking off any trepidation in the bloodbath they enter, routing the tribal horse. The rest of the light horse flee and scatter from their charge. Kilij, seeing the crusaders are reaching the bottom of the ridge, starts sending his trained cavalry down to take advantage of any weaknesses in the Christian lines.

Kilij begins his advance

As the Turkish ghulams close with the crusader knights they start to feel a little wary of these heavily armed monsters and have no desire to charge headlong into a melee. Instead they take potshots with their bows, doing no real damage. The Turkomen cavalry are more effective with their archery, causing some consternation amongst the crusader ranks, though one unit strayed too close to the infantry crossbows and took some damage for their troubles, before being caught by the crusader infantry in a melee. They took some damage but their speed and maneuver ability kept their confidence high.

Not quite nimble enough Mr Turkoman

The Christian knights were stalled at the ridge edge, being unable to maneuber over the steep ridge and seeking a path they could use to assault the enemy lines. The infantry move up, pushing out on the flanks and assaulting the light horse. The Knights regroup and pull back to give themselves space to move and the ghulams move away from the Knights to focus on the infantry. On the Turkish left, the horse caught by the infantry is destroyed and flees from the field.

The battle on the flank turns bloody
The knights begin to pull back

The additional space allows the Knights to turn about and line up fresh charges at the flanking Turks. All hell broke loose. Knights charged into enemy formations left, right and centre, the Turks responded with mad charges of their own to deflect some of the impetus of the knights. Arrows tore into advancing lines as the melee crashed and circled. As the dust cleared, it was evident the fight had been a bloody massacre. A unit of knights and crossbowmen were clearly wiped out, but so to were a unit of ghulam, not to mention Kilij himself along with another of his generals had been wounded and dragged from the field. The morale of both sides was spent and they withdrew to lick their wounds. On any other day this would be a mutual defeat but as the goal of the crusaders was to prevent the Turks getting into the city, they could just about claim a pyrrhic victory. Barely.

A massacre as Kilij joins the fight
Things fare little better on the other flank
The final positions

All in all it was a good game. It went a little bloodier than historically for the Crusaders, I think due to not giving enough plains space on the table. The Turks were able to quickly retreat up the ridgeline, when in reality the knights had time to charge them before they got there. Nevertheless it turned out out well. After a slow moving turn or two while the knights repositioned, violence erupted across the battlefield and in a single turn the battle was over. Both sides were reduced to below zero morale (though much more negative for the Turks with the loss of two commanders) so it was a mutual defeat.

In the past I’ve had issues with Soldiers of God being a bit of a slow paced game at times, there was a bit of that here, but given the higher ratio of cavalry than in previous games things did move a lot faster and the battle turned vicious in the blink of an eye.

I’m not sure if I’ll do every battle I write about this way, but it might be interesting to do some of the main ones. I’ll need to paint up a lot more forces though, especially horse archers of whom I never seem to have enough! Hopefully there’ll be more of that to come in the near future.

Until then, thanks for reading!

Matthew

A Flippant History of the Crusades – The First Crusade – Naughty or Nicea?

In the last post, we looked at some of the key players in the First Crusade on both sides and how the various Christian leaders made their way to Constantinople (Byzantium).

A brief summary of where we are so far: The Byzantine Emperor Alexios sent a request to the Pope to put out a call for some good Christian knights to aid him in his war with the heathen Turks who had overrun eastern Christendom. Rather than a small contingent of elite nobles as hoped, thousands of cross-sworn soldiers of all levels of social standing turned up at the Emperor’s gate. Alex, wary of what such a horde of heavily armed troops might do if left to their own devices, asked the leaders to swear oaths to him that they’d return all reconquered territory to their rightful owner, i.e. him, and ferried them across the Bosphorus with much haste. Their first target? The ancient city of Nicaea.


Nicaea (or Nicea) at this time was under the control of the Seljuk Turks, specifically Kilij Arslan, Sultan of Rum. The lands of Rum covered much of modern-day Turkey and were so named because when they conquered the area from the Byzantine Empire, the Byzantines rather confusingly called themselves the Romans, so the Turks assumed that was the name of the land they had conquered – Rum.

Nicaea, a great city on the edge of a lake going back to ancient Greek and Roman times, was the Turkish capital for the region and where most of the Sultan’s treasures and family were kept. This was somewhat unusual for the nomadic Turks who valued pasture land for their vast herds of horses over pesky immovable cities, which they viewed as little more than tribute givers to provide funds for the army. On the whole, they tended to work like a national scale extortion racket1, sideling up to a city and passing suggestive comments in how flammable those thousands of buildings looked, all it would take is a few hundred clumsy oafs dropping torches and we’ve had such a long ride and our arms are tired holding these flaming sticks and what’s that? You’re wanting to give us all your precious belongings just out of the goodness of your heart? Well, thank you so much!

Anatolia and surrounds at the time of the First Crusade

This did, however, show an increasing trend towards a more settled status for the Turks and indeed when the Crusade arrived, the Sultan was off at the other side of his domain, attempting to forcefully settle some land away from another group of Turks known as the Danishmends. When word first reached Killy that a force of Christians had arrived, he dismissed them. His previous experience with the recent People’s Crusade lead him to believe this was another rabble of troublesome peasants who could be dealt with after he was done with the Danishmends. He was very much mistaken.

The crusaders besieged Nicaea on 14th of May 1097. Godfrey was the first to arrive but was soon followed by Bohemond and the others as they were transported over from Constantinople. They were joined by Peter the Hermit, who was still floating around with the remnants of the People’s Crusade2, as well as a small Byzantine contingent sent along to keep an eye on things. Raymond and his large army was, however, several days behind as was Robert. The city was well defended with multiple tall, broad walls, a deep water moat fed by the lake and by hundreds of towers equipped with ballista (giant crossbows firing huge heavy bolts).

How are we supposed to get up there?

As was standard for the time, the crusaders launched an attack as soon as they arrived to try and overwhelm the city, but the city had known of their coming and had time to prepare the defences and barricade the gates with earth and rubble. The attack was thrown back by the defenders and the Christian forces settled down for a siege. As Nicaea was bordered by marshy ground to the south as well as a large lake to the west and they hadn’t any ships to blockade the port, the crusaders focused their siege to the north and east.

By this point, Killjoy Arslan had received word of the real size and strength of the first crusader armies and gave up his squabbles in the east to rush back to his capital, arriving just a day after the first Christians. Scouting out the crusader position he realised the south was poorly defended and the armies were not all there yet, so he could attack quickly and move his forces into the city to bolster the defence. Things started to go poorly for the Sultan when several of his scouts fell into Christian hands and after a little “gentle persuasion” revealed the Turkish plan, allowing the crusaders to prepare a defence and send word to Raymond to stop dawdling and move his arse along to get there in time for the attack with the rest of the army. A forced march ensued to arrive just in time for the battle the following morning.

The elite core of the Sultan’s army, around twenty per cent of the troops, were the personal household troops, the Askar (army), along with some Ghulam/Mamluk3 slave soldiers. These were well-armoured, well-equipped and well-mounted troops, highly trained and veterans of many battles. They were armed with powerful composite bows, sharp swords, and sturdy lances and were highly proficient in their use. They could ride rings around crusader infantry, unleashing storms of arrows into their ranks, then go toe to toe with the knights in a melee. They were exceptionally badass and looked the part with golden shining shields and jewel-encrusted standards that glittered in the sunlight. The rest of his army, the vast majority, was made up of the Turkomen, light tribal cavalry archers, who would swarm across the battlefield like wasps, using their arrow stings to wear down the enemy then melting away in feigned retreat if charged, only to circle back and attack again when the coast was clear. This made for a fast and flexible force that could cover large distances in short times and outflank and outmanoeuvre their enemy.

The crusader forces, in contrast to the all-mounted Turks, was primarily an infantry force. This infantry would be equipped with a wide array of weapons and armour and was well supported with large contingents of crossbowmen known as arbalists. The crossbows of this time were weaker, less accurate and couldn’t keep up the rate of fire of a bow. Regardless, crossbows were cheap, lightweight and easy to produce and they didn’t require the years of and experience that a bow experience. This made them an easy and obvious ranged weapon to equip masses of inexperienced peasants with and could be devastating when used effectively in combination with the heavy European infantry and cavalry. So much so in fact that various Pope’s over the years tried (unsuccessfully) to prevent Christians from using them against other Christians4. Around fifteen to twenty per cent of the armies were made up of the knights. These heavily armoured cavalry troops were the cream of European society, equipped with the finest armour5 and weaponry of the time period. Their horses were also larger and heavier than the nimble horse of the Turks, which gave increased weight to their charges when they crashed into Turkish lines. While these weren’t quite yet the “tanks of the medieval battlefield” they would soon become, they were a force to be reckoned with and the impetuous charge they so loved would break many an Islamic army in battles to come.

Ray-Ray arrived just in time to take up position to the south and as the Turkish horses poured over the ridgeline to the south, instead of a wide-open space and a sleepy camp of dozy Christians, they were met with the fully armed lines of Raymond’s army, and the rest of the crusader armies moving up in the east. The Turks surged forwards and unleashed a hail of arrows at the Christians, before turning back and fleeing in what seemed to be wild panic. The crusaders cheered and surged forward, assuming their ferocious presence had scared the Turks into flight. They were met with another wave of horsemen who unleashed their arrows then turned in feigned flight. The crusaders were meeting for the first time the famous hit and run, feigned retreat tactics of the nomadic horsemen. Archers would move in and out of the battle, attempting to disrupt enemy lines and draw contingents out into the open, where the heavier horse could ride them down.

The Christian knights, well trained and well-disciplined, held their lines and moved forward as one, rather than splitting into scattered and easily defeated groups like they were supposed to. The knights churned into the Turkish lines and this time the Turks fled for real, having no desire to cross swords with these heavily armoured monsters. They charged back up the ridge and disappeared into the mountains. The knights, on their larger and heavier horses, were unable to follow and went back to resume the siege, though not before beheading all the Turkish dead and wounded and parading the severed heads back through the camp. Some of these were kept as trophies on saddles and spears, some catapulted into the city as a message of fear and warning to the inhabitants, and a cartload or two sent to the Emperor as a gift.

Present for you my good chaps, will really help you get “a head” in life, ha ha.

Kilij had had his fill of killing (being primarily on the receiving end of it) by this point and abandoned the city to its fate. He would encounter the Christians again soon but he was out of the picture for the moment. The crusaders then put their full efforts into taking the city. They started using stones instead of heads to launch at the walls and built various battering rams, mobile sheds, and siege towers to break down, undermine and assault the walls. These were generally ineffective as the rough ground around the city and the numerous defensive towers made the approach treacherous. The sources tell of one of the first engines, “The Fox”, a heavy mobile shed full of sappers to burrow under the wall tipping up at an angle when reaching the wall, then collapsing in on itself, killing all inside. While the walls were hard to approach, they were equally difficult to breach and the stone-throwing catapults hadn’t enough force to do any serious damage to the thick walls. Hunger and disease ravaged their camps, as although the Byzantine supply lines kept the flow of goods coming to them, the hefty price tags they attached meant those who could afford it had enough to eat. Bobby Blah and the last of the crusaders arrived at this time, completing the encircling of the city. Well, semi-encircling, as the lakeside of the city was wide open allowing the inhabitants to resupply easily.

There are several tales of individual heroism recorded during the siege. One tells of a mad knight who was so frustrated with the inability of the siege engines to breach the walls that he ran up to the wall by himself and started hacking away with a pickaxe in one hand and a shield held over his head in the other. He shouted encouragement to the others to join him and hack down the wall themselves without the cover of the useless mobile sheds. Sadly he soon learned why his colleagues preferred a bit of cover for such tasks when after weathering a hail of rocks and javelins from above, he was crushed by a large rock. The defending Turks had their own heroic madmen, including one who single-handed stalled a crusader assault by firing crossbow bolt after bolt down on them, then switching to rocks and whatever else he could find when his ammo ran out. Despite going full Boromir and being pierced by around twenty shafts from the attackers, he still fought on ferociously, to the point that Duke Raymond himself, an expert marksman, had to be called to the assault and under the shield cover of several knights, delivered a mortal shot on the hapless Turk.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane?
No…its a honking great rock about to
crack open your skull, you ninny!

Assaulting the walls was never a pleasant task as would require weathering hails of missiles and showers of naphtha, a horrific flaming liquid known as Greek fire in the west, that stuck to and burned everything. One particularly embarrassing defence tactic for the attackers was to throw down hooks on long lines to snag on crusader armour, then to pull them up the walls, kill and strip them and then hang their corpses over the wall to discourage the enemy. Despite this, over time some of the besiegers began to undermine the walls by tunnelling under them, building wooden braces, then setting fire to them to weaken and collapse the foundations. Unfortunately for them, burning out the tunnels to collapse them could take some time and often the walls would subside during the night, giving the defenders time to reinforce and rebuild them before the morning assault, leading to more fruitless deaths and having to start the mining efforts anew.

The siege had been going on for about five weeks when the crusaders finally admitted they couldn’t take the city by force alone. After some discussions back and forth with the Byzantines, Alexios agreed to send some ships to finish the encirclement by taking the lake. The only problem was that the lake wasn’t connected to the sea, meaning these ships had to be transported at great effort overland. Along with these new ships the Byzantines sent more troops along, primarily archer contingents armed with more powerful and efficient bows than the crusaders to drive the defenders from the walls. The harbour now fully blockaded, and the siege engines beginning to weaken the walls again, the Sultana6 and sons of Kilij attempted to flee the city but were captured by the Byzantine fleet. With this and the ongoing crusader attacks, the Turks realised the situation was hopeless and sent word to the Byzantine fleet commander that they were willing to talk terms. Crucially at this point, the Byzantines failed to inform the crusaders that this was happening, leaving them to continue dying in their assaults against the walls.

As the crusaders prepared for another assault someone shouted out and pointed to the walls. Where the battered flags of the Turks had once stood, new flags with Byzantine markings now flapped defiantly. The city had surrendered, not to the crusaders who had been fighting and dying in the assaults the past six weeks, but to the Byzantines who turned up at the end to take the city and the credit. To add salt to the wounds, the Byzantines allowed the Turks safe passage with all their personal possessions and even enlisted many of them into the Byzantine army, leaving the crusaders next to nothing to show for all their blood, sweat and toil. There’s a reason that Byzantine is a byword for deception, craftiness and manipulation. The Byzantine commander, Butumites (I am sure that the Crusaders came up with many unpleasant nicknames for him) was given the title of Duke of Nicaea. Emperor Alexios, wary that the crusaders were a tad upset, reminded them of their oath to return the former Byzantine lands to him and gave them a large sum of money for their troubles, drawn from the Sultan’s treasury that had been left in the city.

This did assuage a few noble egos, but many of the soldiers were left with a bitter taste as they had nought to show for their endeavours but a handful of copper coins rather than their well earned looting and pillaging. This was only one of many encounters between the Eastern and Western Christians that would turn their relationship increasingly sour, but with nothing left to do at Nicaea, the crusaders turned south and began their long trudge through Anatolia.


Hopefully it won’t be quite so long until the next one, but in the meantime if you’re interested in a battle fought in simulation of the battle of Nicaea, please check out this post!


1 Or “government” in modern parlance.

2 Who by this point were probably wishing this mad Pete fellow had stayed a hermit rather than leading them all into a Turkish bloodbath.

3 The terms are used interchangeably depending on time and region but they were essentially non-muslim slaves (that’s all the words mean) who were trained from a young age to be a powerful military caste, completely loyal to the Sultan. This practice began with the Abbasids in the 9th century and would continue in various forms, such as the Ottoman janissaries, up until the early 19th century. Some would become powerful figures in their own right, even founding their own dynasties in Afghanistan and Egypt.

4 Their use against heathens and pagans was, of course, completely fine and even to be encouraged.

5A brief note on armour. The word knight often conjures images of men on huge horses clad head to toe in plates of gleaming armour charging with lances couched. This would be centuries off at this point. The knights here were primarily those of the Norman style, as seen in the Bayeux tapestry, in steel mail over thick cotton gambisons with kite shields, swords and spears. They were, however, the most heavily armoured people on the battlefield of the period.

6 The Sultan’s wife, not a dried fruit snack.

For King and Parliament First Outing

This morning I was able to get FK&P onto the table for the first time. Been working on the ECW troops for the last year so it’s good to finally get them out.

Unfortunately the second table I’d ordered didn’t arrive but was able to get a decent setup using the one I had and the kitchen table. For those who aren’t aware, FK&P by Simon Miller and Andrew Brentnall is a playing card driven, grid based game for the British Civil Wars. It’s based on the To The Strongest! Ancients ruleset with many additions and tweaks to suit the period. The basic concept is you activate a unit by drawing a card, then continue to activate units drawing cards until you draw an Ace or a lower card in a unit with a higher card. Those activations can then be used to move and attack, drawing various cards for hits and saves.

Below is a picture set up with the grid. The grid corners are laid out using small stones and tussocks made from glue and flock – glue gun blob, flock, PVA spray.

The effect is quite subtle and doesn’t really get in the way once the game begins.
The Royalist veterans, Rupert leads the horse on the right, Sir Jacob the foot on the left and King Charles looks on.
The Parliamentary forces. Cromwell leads the horse, Skippon the foot and Fairfax as overall commander.

The Royalist order of battle consists of two standard units of foot, Prince Ruperts Bluecoats and the King’s Lifeguard of Foot, as well as a pike heavy unit of mixed regiments, the various leftovers of broken battalia from a long war forming a tercio under Sir Henry Bard. There are also two units of horse, Sir William Vaughn and the Northern Horse. All units are rated as veteran and the horse have attached shot, small units of musketeers to provide some extra initial firepower.

The order for the Parliamentary side is three standard units of foot, John Pickering’s, Sir Hardress Waller’s and Phillip Skippon’s own, as well as a unit of commanded shot, two field artillery and two units of horse, Nathaniel Rich’s and Edward Whaley’s.

The miniatures are all 10mm Pendraken and based on 120mm frontage for foot and 100mm frontage for horse and commanded shot. The grid was 150mm squared.


The Royalists make the first move and press the advance. Cautious of the enemy artillery the horse sweep round the flanks while the infantry surge forward to try and close before too much damage can be done. Bard’s motley crew lag behind the other foot but still press forward. The Parliamentary horse rush to greet the advancing Rupert but both sides draw off after an initial clash ends in stalemate. The Parliamentary foot move up on the flanks hoping to envelop the smaller enemy force while the concentrated firepower batters their centre, but at this distance the shooting from both sides proves ineffective.

Vaughan managed to get a bit ahead of the Northern Horse so Rupert went to badger them along. The Parliamentary horse moved up in good order together.
The foot stare each other down, laughing off the long distance potshots. The artillery, a little perturbed by the Royalist’s rapid advance, miss their targets badly.

The Royalist advance moves up to closer range, exchanging fire with the ill-prepared artillery and driving them from the field, but Skippon and Waller fill the gap and lay down retributive fire, inflicting heavy casualties. The Northern Horse join the flank fight and both sides battle hard, neither giving any ground.

Fight on the flanks heats up with Whaley’s horse taking some damage.
The devastation of close quarters musketry takes its toll on both sides.

Vaughan breaks Whalley and sets off in persuit, but the arrival of Cromwell gives Rich’s men a fresh burst of vigour and they press the fight against the Northern Horse, breaking them and setting off in a persuit of their own. While Rupert’s foot fall back to regroup from the fight, the King’s Lifeguard launch a brutal salvee charge into Waller’s men. The sturdy Roundheads take the punishment and push the redcoats back, turning their muskets on them and unleashing wave after wave of shot until their red coats become redder still. The Lifeguard break and flee the field.

A brutal exchange ends in a Parliamentary success.
Bard is feeling a bit lonely at the front
“Eh guys…you’re going the wrong way!”

As the foot start to tire from the heavy fighting, Bard launches a half arsed charge, but is driven back by the concentrated fire of the enemy. They have no desire to press the advantage though and take the respite where it is available. Rupert, in a rare moment of awareness, realised the foot were struggling and managed to rally his remaining horse while Cromwell charges after the jubilant horse calling them back to the fray unsuccessfully.

In a bit if a role reversal, the Royalist horse pull off from the persuit while the Parliamentary horse charge on.
The foot stand off. Notice that fresh unit of Pickering’s relaxing in the rear.

Cromwell finally manages to pull his horse back in line and gets them turned round and back towards the fight in short order. Rupert struggles with his own horse as, unused to continuing the fight after a good rout, they mill around in disarray but eventually get turned in the general direction of the enemy. The foot battle back and forth, slowly grinding each other down.

Horse finally facing the right way
The bluecoats eye the wavering troops of Skippon’s regiment

The bluecoats surge forward in a last ditch effort and break the heavily disordered Parliamentarians. With renewed effort they launch an attack on Pickering’s reserve troops but are thrown back by the fresh troops. Rupert urges his horse onwards towards the exposed flank of Waller’s regiment but the long day has tired them and Waller has time to turn his men to face the incoming attack, stopping it short. With a ripple of musketry from the Parliamentary shot, Bard’s beleaguered troops finally break and flee from the field. Seeing his centre broken and Cromwell’s imminent return, Charles sounds the retreat. The day goes to the Parliamentary forces, but the Royalist veterans put on a brave fight.

The main forces at the end of the fight, viewed from the Royalist side
The view from Cromwell’s position
The view from Rupert’s position

Overall this was a lot of fun. The difference between the staying power of the veteran Royalists vs the numerical superiority of the Parliamentarians gave for an interesting balance. The fight got pretty close at the end. Had Rupert got one more activation and managed to hit Bard’s flank it might well have been a Royalist victory.

As far as the rules go, I do think they’re an improvement over TtS! and can see a lot of the modifications that have been added to the predecessor come to their fruition here. I suspect we’ll see those come into the ancients rules too in the next version.

The game started a bit slowly, partly due to my constant checking of the rules for things like range, and what numbers I needed to get, but after the first turn or two I didn’t need to check them again and got in the swing of things. The first few turns had high cards for activations and low cards for attacks, the opposite of what you want, so that slowed things down a bit too, but once the range closed the fighting got much faster and more furious. I particularly liked the persuit mechanism as it was something very important in the outcome of fights of this period and something not all rules cover well.

The most awkward part of it all is the set up process. The tussocks and stones worked well to not distract from the game, but laying out the grid with measuring tapes was time consuming and awkward. My two options going forward are to either use my felt cloth and mark out the grid directly on that, or else make some form of template to make it easier to lay out quickly.

I know I made some mistakes with the rules, but hopefully only a few small ones. I’ll have to have another read of the rules now I’ve had a game to put it all into context. I’ll definitely get some more games in the future and have a few more units in the queue to add to the forces in future. I didn’t use a few of the rules available as this was a test game, but will be more confident with using then in future.

Thanks for reading,

Matthew

What am I at?

This year has been one of the busiest of my life, both in work and personally. Hobby time overall has been pretty small compared to what I’d like due to time and budgetary constraints.

However, while work continues apace, my personal life has become a bit quieter and a bit less expensive for the moment so all being well I can focus some more time on hobbies!

The past few weeks I’ve been getting into my lead hillock and clearing it down a bit. First up, some additions to the Islamics for the crusades. This was primarily Arab tribal units and horse archer units with figures mostly from Irregular miniatures, though a few from Pendraken too.

Arab light infantry/skirmishers
Horse archer (Pendraken) marker unit
Arabic tribal light cavalry
Arabic tribal light cavalry
Horse archers
More horse archers
Even more horse archers

I’ve also made up a few “minor” command bases for the Crusaders. These can operate as sub commanders, though I intend to use them as the main commanders in a campaign that I plan to do between two minor (imaginary) Crusader and Islamic states. Figures are again a mix of Irregular and Pendraken.

Next up a little preview of some work in progress. I’ve settled on the Crimean War as my 2mm project and have started putting together the British units. Still toying with basing design and flags.

There’ll be plenty more to follow in the near future. Initially I’m doing the Battle of the Alma with BBB so will need to fill out the British, French, Russians and a few Turkish too. Depending how I feel about things after this I may expand the forces out to cover the entire set of BBB Crimean War scenarios.

This week also marks the arrival of a fairly large order from Pendraken:

This contains the seeds of multiple projects to keep me going for the next little while, plus expansions to existing ones.

The main new project is from their Aztec range, where I’m hoping to do some of the pre-Columbian wars between the various states such as the Mexicans, Tarascans and Tepanecs.

There was also a few models from their early 20th Century ranges and a copy of Blitzkrieg Commander IV to experiment with a “Very Nor’n Irish Civul Whar” project, more on that in future posts.

There’s a stack of figures from their fantastic fantasy/dungeon ranges to have a stab at some fantasy RPG games. I’m mostly interested in historical, but the odd foray into fantasy can be fun and it’s a good way to draw others in.

There are several figures to round out my ECW armies, as well as some packs from their newly (re)published TB Line medievals to expand out the Crusader armies. Their figures, especially the cavalry, are a bit bigger than Pendraken’s normal cavalry figures, which works well as most of my knights are currently from Magister Militum, which are generally a bit chunkier and taller anyway.

Lots to keep me busy! I’m sure I’ll also be getting back to the Flippant History posts at some point too, though they’ll probably take a back seat for a while to painting.

Thanks for reading!

Matthew

English Civil War Progress Update

As I’ve mentioned a few times in past blog posts, I’ve been working on an English Civil War, or British Civil War, or War of the Three Kingdoms (but that just makes me think of China and all the potential there…) project. It has been somewhat slow going, mostly due to this being a pretty busy year (one of the busiest of my life to be honest) so in the past ten months I’ve only been able to produce a couple of small forces.

I’m basing the project on the Battle of Naseby, a turning point in the Civil War that saw the Parliamentarian New Model Army overcome the rag tag Royalist veterans. I de-scoped my initial plans a bit to focus on producing two smallish forces that I can game with, then add to and expand into the full order of battle I want.

I’ve now (finally!) finished these small forces and as of today have them varnished and drying. I decided this would be a good time to photograph them as well. Alas my photography skills are poor, and I’ve only my phone camera and poor lighting. Though typically the sun came out after I was finished! Awh well.

I’ll be putting together an order to “finish” the project in future, but want to take a break from the period for a while and focus on other things. I’ve a bunch of odds and ends for the Crusades projects to paint up and I think I’ve settled on a 2mm Crimean War project next.

So without further ado…here are the pictures. You can click on them to enlarge.

The Royalists

Parliamentarian New Model Army

Bits and Bobs

Various markers that can be used for attached shot, hero markers, etc. I’ve some casualty markers too, but I haven’t photographed them, so you’ll have to wait for when I get a game in for that!


I’ll be expanding there forces gradually over time. More horse, more foot, some dragoons are all on the agenda. I’ll also try and get a game in at some point as I’ve been looking forward to trying out the For King and Parliament rules.

Thanks for reading,

Matthew

A Flippant History of the Crusades – The First Crusade – The Road to Constantinople

In the last post we looked a little at the background of the Crusades and the state of the (relevant) world before the launch of the First Crusade. We also looked at the less than stellar performance of the People’s Crusade, sometimes known as the Peasants Crusade, Crusade Zero, or a huge mob of mislead poor people making a mess of everything except what they were supposed to. In this post we’ll take a look at the “real” First Crusade, the Princes’ Crusade and the characters and events therein.


To summarise where we are up to: The Byzantine Empire, or the (Eastern) Roman Empire as they liked to call themselves, was feeling the pinch from decades of internal instability, being overrun in the East by the Turks and threatened in the West by the Italo-Normans. At this time the Christian world was split in two, the eastern and western halves having mutually excommunicated each other half a century prior in the Great Schism1. The current Byzantine Emperor being a bit more Westophilic and pragmatic than prior Emperors, reached out to his Christian brothers through the Pope and asked for the help of a few hundred western knights against the Turks, and hopefully distract the Italo-Normans from conquering his westerly holdings in the process. Filling the Pope with (somewhat exaggerated) tales of the horrendous onslaught of the Muslim Turks and the great suffering their fellow Christians were being subjected to worked2 and at the Council of Clermont in France the Pope incited hordes of people to take up the cross and prepare for an armed pilgrimage to the Holy Lands to help retake Byzantine holdings in the Near East and onwards to Jerusalem3. While a bunch of upstart peasants got a bit overexcited and went charging ahead to their deaths, the main bulk of the western armies spent a year preparing for a mighty campaign. The First Crusade was underway.

Key Players

Before getting into the story, I think its best to explain a little background to who the key figures are and the roles they will play in the events to come.

The Forces of Allah

In this section we’ll introduce the main figures in the Muslim lands against whom the Crusade will be targeted. A quick note on titles and their rough English equivalent:

Sultan: King/Emperor (secular ruler)
Caliph: King/Emperor (secular and religious ruler in one)
Emir: Lord/Commander/Prince (usually the ruler of a small state/city subject to a higher ruler)
Atabeg: Turkish title indicating a high placed governor, advisor and leader who was also charged with the care and upbringing of the Sultan’s heirs.

Just look at that ferocious ‘tache!
(Not a real picture)

First up, Sultan Kilij Arslan I, who had to have one of the best names in the time period. It’s like someone took the English words Kill, Pillage, Arson and Slain and mashed them together into a cool sounding name, which just happened to mean “Sword Lion” in Turkish. I mean…is it any wonder the Turks were so fearsome with a leader named like that? He forcefully reunited the Turks in Anatolia and reformed the Sultanate of Rum when the previous Sultan of the Great Seljuk Empire, Malik Shah, died leaving a fractured empire. He had previously been a prisoner of Malik Shah who was jealous of Arsalan’s awesome name and so insecure about his own he had to call himself King King in two different languages just in case anyone doubted his position.4 Name coolness rating: 10/10.

Yağısıyan, I think pronounced a little like “You-aah-uh-suh-uh-you-an” or “Yah-gi-see-yan ” based on my sketchy understanding of wikipedias phonetics5, was the Emir of Antakya, or as it is better known in the west, Antioch. Not much is known of him beyond this and that he was a brother of Malik Shah. When Antioch was besieged by the Crusaders (spoilers!) he did reach out for help to the other Emirs in the region, but the divisiveness that had grown after Malik Shah’s death played against him. Name coolness rating: 5/10.

Maybe I should steal all the pictures from Crusader Kings II

Kürboğa/Kurbaga, I believe pronounced “Kur-booh-a” though I’ve heard it said as “Kur-bo-ga”, I’m fairly sure that ğ is meant to be silent and extend the preceding vowel.6 Regardless, he was the Atabeg of Mosul giving him great power and influence as well as being a famous soldier and military commander. He would attempt to attack the Crusaders at Edessa and Antioch, without much success. I’ll give him an 8/10 on the name coolness rating as it sounds a little like something a Ninja Turtle would say while kicking some righteous posterior.

Sultan Radwan of Aleppo, was the successor to the Syrian throne when his father, Tutush I, died. He ruled from Aleppo and despite a minor quibble with his brother over ownership of a city or two (see below) had a reasonably successful early reign. Most of this was due to Janah ad-Dawla al-Husain, Atabeg of Homs, who was the real governor of Syria. When Janah was assassinated, literally, by one of the original Assassins, Radwan had to fend for himself. He managed to retake Damascus after his brother’s death, but got his nose bloodied by the crusaders, specifically the Norman Prince, Tancred, eventually being reduced to a tributary of the same. Name coolness rating: 7/10, the “Rad One” is a little dated but still has some charm.

Duqaq was a buddy of Yaghi-Siyan and brother of Radwan.He revolted against his brother with the help of Yaghi and split Syria in half, becoming the ruler of Damascus in his own right, one of the key cities in the region. He joined up with Kurbaga to try and retake Antioch after the successful Crusader siege without much joy. After taking a few punts at the Crusaders over the years and grabbing the city of Homs after the previous ruler was assassinated, he grew sick and died leaving his rulership to his young son under the stewardship of his loyal Atabeg, Toghtegin, who promptly took over and established his own dynasty. Name coolness rating, 2/10. I’m sure its a delightful name in Arabic, but in English it sounds a little like something you don’t want to step on in the street. Condolences.

This is all I thought of while reading about him

Al-Afdal Shahanshah, the Excellent King, the Glory of Islam and Protector of the Faith, was a modest man born in Acre who went on to become the vizier to the Fatimid Caliphate in Egypt, maneuvering a child Caliph onto the throne rather than the more competent older successor so he could take the reigns himself. He went on to reestablish Fatimid control over much of Palestine after it had been lost to the Seljuk Turk invasions. Mistaking the Crusaders for mere Byzantine mercenaries, he approached them looking an alliance against the Turks, only to be rebuffed when the Crusaders didn’t stop their conquest at Antioch and continued onwards towards Jerusalem. He fought multiple times against the Crusaders and put up a fearsome resistance, but gradually the peripheral edges of the Fatimid holdings were ground down and taken over by the upstart Christians. The Egyptian core stayed strong, however, and proved fertile ground for the next generation to show the Crusaders what was what. But that’s a story for another time. He already has so many glorious titles attached to his name, a mere mortal such as I is not worthy to rate it.

Danishmend Gazi, who is not a Dane on the mend you’ll be surprised to hear, caused the Crusaders a little consternation in Asia Minor by getting in their way. He did not last long. Name score, 6/10.

Iftikhar al-Dawla was governor of Jerusalem until the Crusaders unceremoniously booted him out. He then went on to rule Ascalon, until the Crusaders unceremoniously booted him out. “Lift a car al day-a” deserves a 7/10.

The Forces of Christ

Portrait of Emperor Alexios I, from a Greek manuscript

Alexios I Komnenos, Emperor and Autocrat of the Romans was a bit of a badass as far as Byzantine emperors go. The Empire had been in a long slow decline, losing territory to the various Muslim and Turkish invaders in the East (culminating in the devastating Battle of Manzikert) and to the naughty Normans in the West. Alexios was able to turn things around for the Empire and kicked off a restoration movement that lead to military, economic and territorial recovery. While he didn’t forestall the slide into ignominy permanently, he did rage brightly against that dark night of the Empire’s decline. Much of what we know of him comes from the writings of his daughter, Anna, who being unable to enter politics herself, did what many of those excluded from the circles of power do and wrote about it instead. The “Alexiad” is obviously heavily biased towards her father and the Byzantines, but is an invaluable resource for the period. Alexios was a consummate politician and we’ll encounter many of his crafty political wranglings as we move on in the story.

The Five Armies

Rather than go through all the figures in Christendom involved in the Crusade I thought it best to break them up into the five main contingents that left Europe on their way to the Holy Land and talk about the individuals there in that context. This has the advantage of moving the story long a bit faster as I’m sure you’re asking when the Crusade will actually start!

Map of the region prior to the First Crusade showing (if you squint) the paths of the various armies progressing towards the Holy Land.
You can boil my hat to make bouillon

The Army of Godfrey of Bouillon7
Headed up by Godfrey, Duke of Lower Lorraine, himself along with his younger brother Baldwin (take note of him, we’ll be hearing a lot more from this one), it was drawn from the germanic region in and around Lotharingia, roughly equivalent to modern Belgium and Lorraine in Eastern France. Godfrey sold or mortgaged off large portions of his land to several “charitable” bishops to raise funds8 to gather a large contingent of knights and an army potentially as large as 40,000 strong and set out in 1096 on the overland route to Byzantium.

This was the same general route used by the People’s Crusade and when Godfrey and his troops turned up on Hungary’s doorstep, the King was understandably reluctant to let thousands of potential pillagers into his lands. Eventually they agreed on a compromise with the Hungarian king keeping some of Godfrey’s family as hostages, including his wife and younger brother, to insure the army crossed the land peacefully. They managed to do so without any plundering, quite the achievement by Crusader standards, and his family was released. Now they were into the Empire proper and arrived to camp outside Constantinople two days prior to Christmas. Alexius suggested Godfrey (and the other Crusaders) swear an oath of fealty to him before setting out on the Crusade. Needing the support of the Byzantine supply lines, Godfrey agreed to a modified oath that would return some of the lands conquered to Alex.

Take that!

Army of Robert Curthose of Normandy and friends
Lead by Bobby Shortstockings, Duke of Normandy and eldest son of the previous Duke of Normandy (and King of England), Billy the Bastard. Since losing his claim to the English throne to his little brother William II, who was in the right place at the right time, he was left with poor old Normandy and had to mortgage his lands just to raise the funds for the Crusade. The forces were drawn (unsurprisingly) from Normandy and England and joined up with the armies of his relatives Robert II, Count of Flanders, and Stephen II, Count of Blois9.

After a saunter through France and Italy he and his men hopped on some ships and sailed to Constantinople, swore the required oath to Alex and set off for the Holy Land. It was said Robert was an excellent field commander, but had no head for strategy. This might explain why he was found sleeping in, drunk and naked when his other brother Henry, now King of England due to patiently waiting in England for his brother to die rather than swanning about on crusade, decided to invade Normandy and relieve Bob of his Duchy, his liberty and eventually, his life.

Army of Hugh the Great
Hugh was Great. Like really great. The greatest. He was the son of Henry I, King of France, which made his extra great as well. He married the Countess of Vermandois, which was pretty great because it made him the Count of Vermandois. He set out with a small band of fellow great knights on the jolly jaunt to the Holy Land, taking a cruise from Italy to Constantinople. He was so great, the Pope gave him the Banner of the Holy Roman Church, which he was sure to wave heartily as he sashayed his way into the city. He was the first Crusader to get there, how great is that? And of course considered himself the clear choice for leader of the crusade.

Look how great he is.

He’d already sent word to the Emperor on how he expected to be greeted, “Know, Emperor, that I am the King of Kings, the greatest of all beneath the heavens. It is fitting that I should be met on my arrival and received with the pomp and ceremony appropriate to my noble birth.” Alexius, crafty bugger that he was, wined and dined him and impressed him so much that Hugh swore that he would serve Alexius and relinquish any lands conquered by the Crusaders back to the Empire. Later in the Crusade, he would be sent back to his new bestie, Alex, for reinforcements. When none were forthcoming, instead of returning to the Crusade and making his way to Jerusalem, he went back to France to tell people how great he was. Shamed by not fulfilling his oath to Jerusalem, he made another attempt to do so a few years later only to be killed by the Turks. So great.

Who me?

Army of Bohemond I, Prince of Taranto
Representing the Italo-Normans was Bo Taranto, son of Bobby the Weasel, conqueror of Italy. When all these Crusader fellows started drifting through his lands talking of land and riches to be had in the Middle East, the canny prince’s interest was peaked. Together with his nephew, Tancred, he gathered a hefty Norman force and headed for Byzantium. His army, while small, was one of the most experienced to go on Crusade, having tested their skill against the forces of…eh…the Byzantines for many years. Understandably, Bo and Alex were a little wary of each other, but when Alex hinted that there might be some nice shiny gold in it for Bo, and that with all his combat experience he’d make a pretty good leader of the crusaders, he was happy to swear an oath of loyalty. Distracted by his old enemy swearing the oath, Alex didn’t seem to notice that Bo’s nephew, Tancred, had snuck through Byzantine lands without technically swearing the oath of fealty. Oops!

The Army of Adhemar of Le Puy and Raymond IV, Count of Toulouse

This was the largest of the armies to set off and was lead by two of Southern France’s leading figures. Adhemar of Le Puy Lentil was the designated papal legate and “official” leader of the crusade as the pope’s representative. He had the honour of being the first to take the cross at Clermont. Never one to let his bishop’s robes get in the way or a good fight, he could often be found in the thick of battle leading knights against the infidel.

See that? I own that. I’m rich you know, so rich I paid an artist to knock a few years off my painting.

Ray was the richest of the crusaders and also the oldest, a venerable ancient at 56 years old. It’s said he lost an eye when he travelled to Jerusalem on pilgrimage, after getting into a fight with the doorman of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Possibly he was refused entry for being too drunk on the holy spirit. The rich old cripple was a devoutly religious man and had no greater desire in life than to die in the Holy Lands. His wish was fulfilled, though not in the way he’d entirely expected. As the leader of the largest army on crusade as well as being the oldest, and did I mention richest, member of the noble crew he felt himself the natural leader. That must have been a bit awkward when traveling with Adhemar and his “official” command, but maybe Addy was just humouring the old boy. Regardless, he turned up in Constantinople with only an incy wincy tiny little bit of looting of Christian lands by his army and being far too old and rich to swear any oaths of fealty to some upstart young whippersnapper of an emperor, instead swore an oath of friendship and offered to support Alex against Bo and the Italo-Normans if they got uppity again. This seemed to be sufficient and he and his army were ferried off to Asia minor with the rest of the Crusaders.

Finally, the crusade had left Europe and was en route for Jerusalem. First stop, Nicea. But that’s a story for next time…


You may have noticed a common theme here. These aren’t two unified sides clashing against each other in an epic battle of Empire. These are two large groups of diverse leaders who often end up fighting and disagreeing with each other as much as against the enemy. This will continue to reveal itself throughout the First Crusade, and in no small part the success of the Christians is due to the fact they were able to pull together slightly better than the various enemies they faced. Though… that isn’t saying much…


Footnotes

1I didn’t mention this directly last time, it’s pretty important. They did not get along. The division between the Greek and Latin church had been growing for a while, ever since the Bishop of Rome did what had previously only been the prerogative of the Patriarch of Byzantium and crowned a new “Holy Roman Emperor”, Mangy Charlie, on Christmas day 800 AD. In the centuries since then things had only gotten worse and in 1053 the divorce between the two traditions was formalised. They were all, however, still technically Christians.

2This also helped the Pope redirect western knights and lords from fighting each other and attacking someone outside of Europe for once.

3The Byzantines didn’t particularly care about Jerusalem and the Holy Land at this point, having gutted it of most of it’s holy relics and shipped them back to Byzantium (now Constantinople) before it went under new management with the Muslims. As far as the Byzantines were concerned, their great mother city was their holy place.

4This is probably not why he was imprisoned, but Malik does mean King in Arabic and Shah is King in Persian. Then again, when your full name is Jalāl al-Dawla Mu’izz al-Dunyā Wa’l-Din Abu’l-Fatḥ ibn Alp Arslān, Malik Shah is less of a mouthful.

5Deepest apologies to any Turkic speakers for my horrendous butchery of this and any other names.

6Aren’t linguistics fascinating!

7The region in Belgium, not the tasty broth.

8Also rumoured to have extorted money from nearby Jewish communities too, as was a popular Christian pastime in medieval europe.

9Better to be called the Count of Bleh since he fled the battle of Antioch and ran home, never reaching Jerusalem. He did make another attempt a few years later, only to be killed by the Fatimids.