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.
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.
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.
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.
First up, SultanKilij 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.
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.
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
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!
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.
Army of Robert Curthose of Normandyand 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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
Last week I was able to roll out some of the 2D armies for some games. I’d put together forces for the Boyne, Culloden and Gettysburg and got a chance to play a couple of games with my father.
Culloden didn’t get onto the table, though as it was the one I was least interested in I wasn’t too concerned. For the Battle of the Boyne I used the Pike and Shotte rules with my own custom scenario for the battle. For Gettysburg I used the excellent Bloody Big Battles ruleset with a scenario from the BBB Yahoo group.
The magnetic tape the paper counters and labels were attached to worked well, giving the playing pieces some weight and other than perhaps cutting some of my flexible ferrous paper into movement trays to keep them all together on hills, I’m pretty happy with them. I’ll definitely be using the tape for future projects, provided I can find a way to cut it a bit more regularly square. I suspect patience and care is the answer but life’s too short for taking your time!
I’d initially scaled the games for dining table play but the discovery of a table tennis table at the place we were staying was too good an opportunity to pass up. With a little tweaking I was able to stretch them to suit the larger space.
I’ll be sharing all the resources I used here at the bottom of this post so stick around if you’re interested in any of it for yourself.
The Battle of the Boyne
The Battle of the Boyne is quite the appropriate one to play given the proximity to the 12th July, the traditional “celebration” of the battle in my home country, complete with bonfires, bowler hats, orange sashes, marching bands, protests, riots and flags on every lamppost (I counted no less than sixty on my short walk to work). If you don’t know of what I speak, Wikipedia is a good place to start!
Controversial as the “celebrations” may be all these centuries later, it is still an important turning point in the history of the British isles and as a battle offers a lot of fun opportunity to game.
Queen Mary and her consort, Prince William of Orange, had recently been welcomed by Parliament as the new Queen and King of England when the last King of England, James II, having the audacity to declare himself a Roman Catholic, was promptly deposed. It’s said when William turned up on England’s shores for some light invading, King James decided to do nothing about it due to having a bit if a nose bleed, which was enough to make even the most loyal of royalists rethink their position. Supporters flocked to William and Mary in droves and James, in a petulant temper, chucked the the king’s seal* into the river and fled the city. This gave Parliament the convenient excuse of claiming James had abdicated. Huzzah to the Glorious Revolution! All nice and neat. Now William…er well his wife Mary (James’ little sister) could be Queen and after some legal wrangling and red faces in the House, William and Mary were declared joint monarchs.
James ran off to Ireland to drum up support with the help of the French and started making trouble in his neighbourhood. He got in one little fight and then got scared and ran off to be the king of … nothing. That fight was the battle of the Boyne, part of a wider campaign by William to bring the unruly Irish (who seemed to think they should be allowed to practice religion however they wished, the horror!) under full control. In truth the battle was less significant at the time than the battle of Aughrim a year later, which ended the Williamite War in Ireland, but as James and William were both present at the Boyne it tends to get all the press.
Interestingly, it was the anniversary of Aughrim that was originally celebrated on the 12th, with the Boyne taking over in importance a century later and stealing the date (it was fought on the 1st by the Julian calendar). Also, if seen in the wider context of European politics it is interesting to note that the Pope at the time was in fact an ally of William in the League of Augsburg arrayed against the French, a bit of an odd quirk of history given the sectarian nature of the war and remembrance of it.
The battle was preceded by a feint by William, sending a small contingent of cavalry far down the river to ford while bringing his main force towards Oldbridge where the river was more easily forded.
James mistook the feint for the main attack and sent around two thirds of his force to intercept. They pulled up opposite sides of an impassible marsh and stared at each other until word reached them that William had crossed already at which point James promptly ran away.
* The kind used to stamp things, not the noisy sea mammal, who would be unperturbed by a dip in the river.
I decided to focus the battle at the Oldbridge crossing, here are some shots of the setup:
Oldbridge Town, the main objective of the game to hold/take. The fields in the distance cover the whole area enclosed by the hedge (as I said, expecting a smaller table!)
I’ve set up two crossing points, one a ford, the other an island with slightly different rules for each. There’s marshy ground on the other side of the island.
The sheep in their enclosures. No sheep were harmed in the making of this battle.
I took on the role of James’ understaffed defenders while my dad decided to lead King Billy’s forces across the river. William started his advance by sweeping the cavalry round towards the island, and moving his elite infantry up to the ford. He opened combat with a somewhat ineffective artillery barrage. The defending forces deployed the dragoons along the hedges and moved the cavalry over towards the ford to try and support the Oldbridge defence. The infantry fired a few potshots across the river to no real effect. William’s cavalry moved across the island with great elan, only to end up mired in swampy ground and milling about in skirmishing disorder for most of the battle, while the Irish dragoons picked them off one by one. The infantry began their inexorable advance across the river ford under the fire of the defenders. The Dutch guard advanced up to the walls and hedges of Oldbridge before being thrown back by the king’s foot guard. The Irish cavalry tore along the river towards the encroaching enemy but stalled in confusion under the harsh battering from William’s artillery barrages, eventually becoming broken and scattered. William’s infantry kept advancing under heavy fire and getting thrown back by the elite King’s Foot Guard at the walls. Confident in the defense ability of the guard, two units of infantry hopped into the open to enfilade the enemy and managed to break a couple of units before getting bogged down in combat. A shaken unit of Williams infantry (mistakenly) advanced on the guard and despite drawing combat, the support of the units coming up behind was enough to cause the foot guard to take a break test, inexplicably breaking completely without having taken a single casualty. Luck of the Irish…
The Williamite forces surged forward seizing the town and taking the victory. James turned up at the end to see what was going on, far too late to do anything worthwhile.
Some shots from the game, Dutch in Orange, Irish in Green. Obviously!
William’s forces advancing towards Oldbridge
Some milling cavalry
The advancing cavalry, looking frisky, unaware of the artillery barrage about to cause them some consternation
All in all the scenario played out well. I think I managed to organise the forces well and the terrain added a lot of flavour to the game and helped balance the overwhelming numbers of William. I did get a few rules wrong, only one of which really altered the overall play, but was a good close game regardless.
I might make a few tweaks to the scenario if I play again, but all in all, I was pretty happy. This was my first time playing P&S but found them to flow as well as the HC games I’ve played. It would have been good had I time to play them solo first to iron out a few rough edges as was teaching my dad as I went. His summary was it was good but a bit too complicated to remember all those rules!
Next up was the Battle of Gettysburg using BBB. This as a cracking game played over two days and was a close one in the end.
I’ll not go into the history as I did with the Boyne as my ACW knowledge isn’t so deep (an area I’m working to improve) but this is another attacker Vs defender scenario with the fresh faced Union troops attempting to hold their ground against General Lee’s Confederate veterans.
Dad took the dirty rebs, I took the upstanding army of the Union.
Here’s some pictures of the layout, ran out of brown tape (having used it at the Boyne) so grey and brown indicate roads, black is railway (and later rifle pits) and blue the streams. Sorry about the poor lighting, though as you can see by the light it’s been a glorious day outside.
The rebels swept in from the north but fell like wheat to the scything gunfire of the Union forces. All day they pushed forwards but couldn’t make ground on Gettysburg. They did better on the western flank, after a bit if a stalemate over ttje railway line, they broke it and proceeded to push the Union back from the railway, forcing them to retreat up Seminary hill and pushing forward to threaten the west of Gettysburg.
Night fell with nothing more gained and the forces pulled back to recover their troops and give space for reinforcements to.make their way to the field. Day two opened with a smattering of ineffective gunfire from the Union on the west, but a devastating barrage on the east against the rebel artillery position caused some damage.
The rebels pushed forwards with great gusto, advancing on Gettysburg from the north and west but the concentration of fire from the Union lines held them at bay. A Union assault up Benner’s hill was repelled by the rebel artillery but a further Union barrage swept the hill wreaking havoc amongst the rebel artillery corps.
Some shots of where things are halfway through “day 2”:
Fighting intensified in the second half of day 2. Pender lead the assault from the west of Gettysburg while McLaws and Anderson pushed from the North and Rodes advancing cautious from the North East. Early and Heth sat back and licked their wounds. The invincible Hood charged the rifle pits of Barlow against withering fire from across the hill, pushing them back to the river then obliterating them in a follow up assault.
The assault on Gettysburg was a success and in the closing hours of day 2, despite the valiant defence from the Iron Brigade they were shaken out if Gettysburg and the victorious rebels swarmed into the town for a well earned night’s rest. The forces consolidated their positions over night and brought in their last reinforcements. The cavalry was still engaged in battle on the east field so didn’t make an appearance.
Day three opened with the Union moving swiftly up to defend their western flanks and trying to take the round tops and devils den against Pickett and Hood moving up the West. The northern lines sent a smattering of fire into Gettysburg without much impact. The rebels launched their assault on cemetery hill, throwing everything they had at the position and quickly overwhelming the defending Union troops. Good and Pickett, overcautious of the Union artillery after the damage they’d done in the previous day’s hung back, attempting to silence the artillery position before assaulting up the steep slopes of the round tops. They succeeded in silencing them but we’re unable to take advantage of this before the fresh Union reinforcements made their way to the hills and the den. The Union made a failed attempt to retake the cemetery and as the day drew to a close the rebels in the North threw their forces against Culps hill in one last desperate charge but was thrown back by the combined firepower of the Union.
The battle ended in a draw. The rebels had fought hard to take Gettysburg and cemetery hill, but were completely spent by the efforts. Both sides drew back to leave the fight to another time.
All in all a close run thing. Had the rebels taken Gettysburg earlier in the game they could probably have swept to victory. As it was, the solid defence put up by the Union troops broke the Confederacy troops down and managed to hold in to a draw.
Assault on Gettysburg
Assault on Cemetery Hill
Pickett’s not charge
Below are links to download the labels, scenarios and templates I used for these games.
Welcome to my new series exploring history in a fairly lighthearted way! A detailed treatise this is not, but rather a general gloss of the periods and events covered with a (hopefully) humorous twist. My aim is to give you enough of an introduction to peak your interest enough to delve deeper into the serious stuff and look into the fascinating details that make up the history, if you so wish.
My interests tend not to lie with modern history (though that may change in future), so I suspect most of these will end up being pre-20th Century periods. This also helps avoid the tricky line between humour and respect when dealing with recent history and those who lived it, or have loved ones who did. While time and distance should not lessen the human experience or suffering, as people we will always be more affected by those we can identify with than those we cannot and I have no desire to make light of such matters while there are still those around in living memory to be hurt by it. Apologies to any erstwhile time travellers who feel I have disrespected your time period, I promise it comes only from a good place. I mean if we can’t laugh at ourselves as a species what are we even doing here?
The first series I’m beginning is covering the Crusades, unsurprising given the topic matter on this blog thus far! To begin with, I thought I’d provide a little context to the world before the initiation of the First Crusade. This will be a fairly rapid march through a few centuries of history, future entries will be a bit more focused on shorter time spans. I suspect this will have a somewhat western-centric approach, mostly due to the fact that that most of the resources available to me in English will have a western perspective. Anyway…
Islam exploded out of middle east in the 7th century and quickly rampaged its way across the Mediterranean, conquering everything from Morocco to Afghanistan before butting up against the Byzantines in the East and switching direction towards Spain and Italy. An Umayyad Caliphate commander called Tariq led a raid into Iberia that accidentally turned into a full-blown conquest. They named a mountain after him, Gibraltar in modern parlance.
The Franks suddenly realised they had some new neighbours that weren’t particularly friendly towards them when the Moors (as they were calling them, because Muslims was too hard to say) came knocking on their door with twenty thousand armed men. Thankfully the Franks had a secret weapon in the shape of Charlie Hammer, who crushed the invaders at the Battle of Tours. A generation later, his Great1 grandson took the fight to Spain, got nowhere fast and turned around to go home. There’s a famous song about the last stand of one of his knights, Roland, and how the entire army got badly bloodied by some Basque hill tribes during the retrea….backwards advance.
Meanwhile, other Islamic forces started scooping up islands in the Mediterranean and into southern Italy, because… why not? The Italian island of Sicily became a major Islamic stronghold from which Western Europe could be threatened. The Europeans as a whole were not fans of this.
Eventually, the Islamic invaders got into difficulties with the Germans (calling themselves the Holy Roman Empire) in the north and the Byzantine Greeks (calling themselves the Romans to add to the confusion) in the east. Some Norman mercenaries, fresh from conquering everything they laid eyes on (it wasn’t just Billy the Bastard2 you know), realised that there were some fine pickings to be had in Italy. They called in their buddies, mostly from the Hauteville family under the leadership of Bobby the Weasel and went on to build the Italo-Norman Kingdom in Southern Italy and Sicily. From here, they were able to start fighting those pesky Greeks to the east who dared to think they had claims over lands that the Normans could see just because they’d ruled them for a few centuries. Fools.
Back in the east, the nomadic Turks, gradually coalescing into a single force known as the Seljuks, turned up in a weakened and fractured Anatolia asking “Where’s the Rum3?”
The Byzantine Emperor, Alexios I Komnenos, feeling the Turks eyeballing him from their newly conquered capital of Nicaea, went to the Pope for help. “Papa, old buddy, old pal, how are things in the West these days? I know we haven’t always seen eye to eye but you’re an urbane4 fellow and we’re all good Christian brothers so I don’t suppose you could ask your western barbar…good Christian knights to come and fight the Turks for us? I mean, help us fight them, because we obviously have a great and powerful army, we just need a little help from our friends to take back Nicaea. Now I’m not saying we’ll give up our Orthodox ways and turn Catholic or anything but…you never know…”.
Pappy Urbanus thought this a marvellously good idea and went straight to his old stomping ground of France to preach to the feisty Franks, whipping them up into a frenzy by suggesting they take up an armed pilgrimage against the infidels who were polluting the Holy Land with their heathen presence. Oh and Nicaea, they had to take back Nicaea for the Greeks, then ONWARDS TO JERUSALEM! GOD WILLS IT! DEUS VULT! And other such stirring incitements to mass violence.
There were a few mutterings of approval from the crowd, but someone chirped up with the ever present question in any call to action… “What’s in it for us?”. The Pope thought for a moment, then with a smile and an expansive gesture declared “Why you’ll be forgiven all of your sins of course…even those you haven’t committed yet!”. The crowd went silent for a moment while the implications of this sank in then erupted in roars of approval.5
The Pope began handing out cloth crosses to be sewn to the clothes of all those who swore to bear arms to the Holy Lands and so many took the cross that the priests in attendance had to tear up their own vestments to make sure there were enough to go around. A little free sinning was too good an offer to pass up. Word started to spread across western europe and more and more took up the cross in a mass outpouring of religious fervour.
This fervour spread out like wildfire amongst the less noble sorts of the Frankish and Germanic peasantry, helped along by a couple of popular preachers known as Peter the Hermit and Walter the Penniless, who whipped up a storm among the populace. These peasants led by preachers set off in different groups on their own pre-crusades armed with more faith than sense or weapons. They had a merry old time raping and pillaging their way across (Christian) Central/Eastern Europe and slaughtering a few thousand innocent Jews for good measure. After a bit of a minor war with the (Christian) Hungarians over the price of a pair of shoes6, they arrived at the gates of Constantinople (not Byzantium), and ate the Emperor out of house and home until he managed to ship them off in the direction of the enemy.
After the French peasants had a bit of a laugh pillaging the outskirts of Nicea, though not making any real effort to conquer it, the Germans took a side track to the castle of Xerigordos, which they promptly seized, got counter-sieged by the Turks and were reduced to drinking donkey blood and urine before giving themselves to conversion or slaughter at the hands of the Turks. The remaining forces marched on through northern Anatolia until at the Battle of Civetot they came up against a force of Turks with horses and bows and weapons that haven’t previously been farming implements. The pre-Crusaders quickly realised that faith isn’t much help against a face full of arrows. Sadly, they came to this conclusion much too late to avoid the inevitable bloodshed. A handful of survivors limped home, but the People’s Crusade was finished.
Over the next year, the minor nobility of Western Europe mortgaged their holdings, sold what they could and raised the funds to mount a mighty expedition to the Holy Lands. The upper echelons of nobility, being too busy with the business of fighting each other and looking after their kingdoms and duchies, took a rain check on the armed pilgrimage and left it to their lesser Barons and knights to do the heavy lifting.
Among those nobles a few clear leaders emerged at the heads of four different armies. It was August 1096 and the First Crusade had begun7 .
1Charles the Great, or Charlemagne, was Charles Martel’s (the Hammer) grandson, not his great grandson.
2Or William the Conqueror as he’s sometimes known.
3Cause the Rumans…eh Romans? Greeks? Byzantines? lived there. So it must be Rum/Rome right?
4Pope Urban II
5It probably didn’t actually happen like this. There were likely many genuinely devout people who felt it was a holy calling, and the theology of remittance of sins through action had been building up in the background for a while. On the other hand, human nature doesn’t ever really change…
6I’m not even making this up.
7They weren’t known as Crusaders, those marked with the cross, until much later. At this time they were just pilgrims…with swords.
After my recent experiment in 2D wargaming I’ve been busy expanding the project further. I’ve now created digital copies of the troop types than can easily be recoloured and printed.
To solve the issue with the card being too thin to be practical I decided to use magnetic tape I found on eBay. The tape is a couple of mm thick so provides a good weight to the counter and being 25mm is easy to cut to shape. It’s adhesive backed as well so can add the printed and cut paper straight onto it. I also picked up a half width one to use with status indicators.
I like the magnetic tape a lot and may use it as bases for my 2mm armies when I settle on what I do for them. The Crimean being the current front runner, though if I find I like using these counters enough I may just start on 2mm 3D terrain to be multi functional instead.
The benefit of using magnetic material over thick card or MDF is I can affix them all the ferrous sheets for ease of viewing and access, rather than having to rummage around in a bag for the rights bits. It also allows me to make flexible movement trays if I need them.
I’ve also been making unit labels as counters in their own right so that they can be used in the unit and padded out with the generic troop counters. This will be useful for games where there can be a lot of different unit types and stats, or for people new to wargaming as an easy reference.
As you may have guessed from above, Gettysburg is one of the battles on the roadmap. As I’ve a family gathering for a week in June and a father and brother who could be cajoled into a game or three, these counters will provide a good ability to put on some games without being tied down to my meagre miniatures collection, which would be difficult to transport regardless.
My dad tends to be most interested in 17th-19th century conflicts, so it was no major surprises when I asked if there were any battles he’d be interested in recreating. He said the Boyne, Culloden and Gettysburg.
I’ve decided to use the excellent looking Gettysburg scenario from BBB as it seems like it will give a great sense of the conflict. I may need to make some modifications depending on how much space is available for play at where we’re staying, I doubt we’ll get a 6×4 unless we play on the floor so may have to adapt or compress things.
For Culloden, Black Powder seems a good fit, and I found a good order of battle on Junior General that I’ve used to make up the units. Keeping it fairly simple with only a few special rules to add character to the units.
The Battle of the Boyne is an interesting one. I’ve decided to focus on the actual crossing at Oldbridge and Drybridge as that was the significant action of the battle and provides a fun scenario of a weaker force defending the crossing against a large and well equipped enemy. I’m going to use Pike and Shot rules for it and have put together some special modifications to give the scenario a bit more flavour. I’ve based the OOB on this superb project.
I’ve sourced, made or modified some top down printable terrain as well so I can at least add a little more visual appeal than my quick and scrappy sketch approach last time.
There’ll be more to follow as work through the projects and assuming the battles go ahead, some battle reports to follow. I have most of the scenario design and digital work done, so now I’ve a lot of printing, cutting and sticking to do!
I may need to find some way to protect the printed counters from sticky fingers. Brush on varnish tends to smudge, and spray on isn’t much better…
As promised, I’ve rolled out the new 2D armies to try out the Bloody Big Battles ruleset. This let me put together a game to play the rules out despite the fact I don’t have a proper miniatures army.
The scenario I picked was the Battle of The Alma from the Crimean War. The French, Turkish and British forces are attempting to overrun a defended Russian position to open the road to Sevastapol.
The terrain is very much rough and ready, much like the armies themselves!
The Turkish position arrayed for the defence:
And the allied forces entering the field:
Turn one begins with the allies advancing on the two bridges to try and sweep aside the Russians.
The Russians move in to block the way:
Turn two the British push across the river but take a heavy beating from the Russian guns in the process:
The Russians are pushed back by the French but the Russians are still preventing them from crossing the river.
On turn three the Russian assaults continue to hold the French at the river while the British seem to be stalled exchanging fire with the Russians across a stream.
The British occupy a small village and repel an assault by the cavalry.
Turn four and the pressure is on, there are only six turns to take the roads and the allies are far behind where they need to be.
The French slog across the river slowly while the British seem to do little. It seems like they have forgotten they can cross streams without a bridge!
Turn five and the French continue their grinding slog towards the objective while the British slowly, cautiously try to outflank the much weaker opposing forces rather than getting their feet wet and storming them across the stream.
The surge of Russians against the French throw them back from their hard won ground.
Turn six, the final turn and the British finally realise that they can just hop over the piddly stream and give the Ruskies their cold steel. Too little, too late.
The French flail around in disarray. The fight is over, night draws in and the allies retreat in disgrace. There is much to celebrate in the Russian camp that night.
The purpose of this game was threefold. First to try out the cardboard counter armies, second to try out BBB and third to give one of my potential periods for a next project a go.
On the cardboard armies, they fared well enough. My two main issues came from the lack of weight and lack of identification. The identification issue can easily be solved with a bit of prep work to create labels but the weight issues may need some more work. The issue being that the light card tends to bunch up and overlap making it difficult to move about. This could be solved with MDF counters as someone suggested, or by using some sort of sabot system. I’m pondering the use of some old painting sticks to make labelled sabots for the counters to solve both these issues. Regardless, they worked well to get a feel for the conflict and I didn’t mind the abstracted nature of it so I’m sure they’ll come out to play again in future. Best of all, the entire project fits into a small zip up food bag!
As suggested in comments of the previous post and a related thread on the Pendraken forum, there are some great paper armies out there as well as a load of excellent looking paper terrain on http://www.juniorgeneral.org so I’ll be definitely checking that out. Thanks to everyone who commented, the feedback and suggestions are always welcome!
Regarding the Bloody Big Battles ruleset, I really enjoyed them. They’re intuitive and fun to play and keep the action moving at a good pace. I played the entire game with just two dice, rolling against a table for movement and combat rather than the buckets o’ dice or single resolution approach that I’ve encountered previously. I probably did many things wrong (like forgetting that you can cross streams until turn six!) and I’m looking forward to reading the rules in depth now I’ve a sense of the core concepts. I always find the best way to get to grips with a rule set is to get it on the table and fail fast. You learn more from where you go wrong than obsessing over knowing it all before you start. It’s all in the name of fun so no harm in fudging things here and there using common sense where you’re uncertain! I’ll do a proper rule review in a future post once I’ve had another go with them. I’d enjoy playing this scenario again and trying different approaches to see how they fare. There’s plenty of other scenarios to choose from too!
Finally, the next project. I reckon that BBB will be a lot of fun to play in 2mm where you can represent the scale of the conflicts involved. The Crimean War is a potential option. As are the Prussian wars (Austro- and Franco-). At 2mm you can easily proxy armies without it looking out of place so it wouldn’t be too difficult to field multiple conflicts with the same sets of figures. There’s plenty of other rule sets out there too covering these periods that they will adapt well. Some more research to be done!
One of the issues I have with being a relatively new gamer is a lack of materials to play games with. Now I know for many people this gap in their own collection can be covered by combining with friends or joining a club, but for the moment I’ve been pretty much a solo gamer, roping in the odd friend or family member for a battle here and there, but providing everything myself. At present that means a sizable set of armies for the Crusades, a small set of English Civil War armies in progress and no scenery other than a could of bags of unbased trees and a few bags of base scatter.
There are clubs in my area, but having had quite a busy year so far I’ve not really had the time or inclination to go along to any. The aforementioned busy period also means progress has been fairly slow. Last year I managed to put together a couple of usable armies for the Crusades in a few months, however my follow up project, the English Civil War, has been going on for 6-8 months now and I’ve still a few units to finish before I’ll have even a small army to play with.
I’ve not posted yet about my ECW project on this blog yet (though have some progress updates on the Pendraken forum) so there’ll be more on that in a future post and hopefully an outing with them to the battlefield using For King and Parliament rules in the next couple of months. I really need to make some hedges though…
Regardless, this means getting into new periods and rulesets has a steep entry if I want to have two usable armies put together to face off. As I’m getting towards the end of “Phase 1” of the ECW project* I’ve been looking into researching a Horse and Musket era conflict next, to continue my core coverage of the difference periods of warfare. In order to speed up the process (and save some money) I’ve been looking into doing it in a very small scale, getting samples of both 6mm and 2mm. I think I’ve settled on doing the project in 2mm though haven’t decided where to focus it just yet. Mid to late 19th Century is the likely choice given the general uniformity of the… uniforms, compared to 18th Century and Napoleonic periods. This will look better at the very small scale and the scale will also give a better sense of the sheer numbers of people involved in the conflict. If I enjoy it I can plan a more visually appealing project using 10mm at a leisurely pace as I’ll already have a usable army to scratch the gaming itch if it arises. Assuming I don’t fall in love with the massed troops at the micro scales and do more projects there!
This weekend I received a copy of Chris Pringle’s Big Bloody Battles and its scenario counterpart covering the major European conflicts of the 19th Century. The game looks like a lot of fun and is very different from the rule sets I’ve been playing so far, being primarily ancient/medieval focused.
So how to decide what conflict to do? This gets me on to the title of this post. If I want to get a feel for what it is to play games in this period I need something to play with. If I want to do this with miniatures then I need to pick a conflict and spend time and money putting forces together. Bit of a catch 22 if I’m trying to decide what conflict. I’d have to just pick one that seemed interesting and dive in. Or…
Alternatively, I could make some very abstract units out of cardboard counters and use them to play some battles and get a feel for different armies and periods. With some different markers and clear differentiation I could even use these counters to represent just about any conflict I wanted.
While 2D counters will never give the same look and feel and satisfaction that painted, based miniatures would give, they do allow test games, rule teaching and versatility at a very abstract level. So rather than spending a rare free Saturday afternoon painting and basing my ECW Royalists as I’d intended, I instead went “back to school” with cardboard, rulers, scissors and colouring pencils to put together some cardboard troop counters and scenery pieces to use.
Simple red vs blue set up. Those with a horizontal line across the top represent infantry. Those with flags can be used as centre point stands or command as needed. The diagonally halved ones represent cavalry, the triangles artillery (despite looking a little like sail boats) and the circles with flags are generals. I can add markers or different symbols to show different units and statuses as well. If I use these for ancient battle I can use crossed swords, spears, bows, etc on the reverse to show different troop types.
To make up for my lack of scenery I’ve also started creating some 2D terrain to work with these.
This also has the added bonus of being highly portable. I’ve a family get together for a week next month that I might be able to get a battle or two in with some family members. While it would be impractical to transport miniatures while traveling, cardboard counters have no such issues.and would allow me to put on games in periods that might peak their interest.
Now, not only did I have some free time today, but I should have a few hours free on Sunday too and hope to put these troops into action in one of the scenarios from BBB. So stay tuned folks for the next post covering how they were to use in battle, how I found the rules and any other general ramblings that spring to mind.
Thanks for reading!
*There’ll likely always be more added to the armies as I play out scenarios and want to expand more, as I have been with the crusades and continue to do so. Indeed I’ve a stack of Saracens on my painting sticks along with the ECW at the moment.
Taking a break from the ECW for a bit, I decided to tidy up some of the bits of the Crusaders backlog along with one or two other things I found to do.
First up, after listening my way through Dan Jones excellent narrative history “The Templars”, I’ve learned that the Knights of the Temple went into battle under the fabled piebald banner, or the Baucent, the black to symbolise the Templar’s ferocity towards their enemies and the white their kindness towards their friends. I’ve updated the Templar command banner accordingly.
I also found a few painted knights lurking at the bottom of one of the figure boxes. At the time I’d not wanted to include them with the general knights as they were too heavily armoured for the period, but they work well as hero characters, markers or even lower level command figures. I’ve based them so they can be used as such.
Next up, first installment of the horse archers for the Saracens.
And finally, the biggest job of all, was rebasing the Sudanese infantry. If you look back on my earlier posts the Sudanese were spread in loose formation on huge bases. I’d intended this as a warband look but it never really worked out. I’ve rebased them into tighter formations to match the rest of the army and converted a few figures to standard bearers. Banners are hand painted because I’m slightly insane that way (and it’s a good way to learn how to get better at detail painting) and the writing on them says “God is Great” in stylised Arabic. Or so Google tells me. Didn’t quite have enough for three standard units having used some on command bases, so have it done so they can be run as two standard, two large or four small units.
Continuing on with my delve into past photos and battle reports, here follows another report between the Crusaders and Saracens, this time using the Soldiers of God ruleset. I should mention that these reports and pictures were all originally published on the superb Pendraken Forum. I have a thread there for the Crusades project.
Following up from her excellent Christmas presents of To The Strongest! and For King and Parliament, when my birthday rolled around I was furnished with a copy of Soldiers of God by my future wife. It’s an interesting rule set, quite different from my (limited) experience of wargaming rules in general. The game is driven by action cards with combat resolved with dice. This provides a lot of room for drama and storytelling to unfold throughout the game depending on what action cards come up! It focuses heavily on the morale of the armies, with various actions and results causing changes to the overall army morale. Once the morale drops to 0 the army breaks and runs. I played a quick test game prior to this to get familiar with the rules, but it wasn’t worth reporting on.
This was just prior to getting the kitchen ripped out (as I type we have it mostly fitted with just a few bits to still do) so please excuse any stacks of boxes or piles of rubbish lurking at the corner of the pictures! This made getting good shots and angles somewhat difficult, not aided any by the poor light conditions at present. With the kitchen ripped out, I lose my main playing area (an oversized kitchen island) but will hopefully have more space to put up some fold-up tables for games in future.
A vast plain of featureless dirt and sand is the setting for this battle as so many battles were in the period, and not at all because I don’t have any terrain…
King Richard and his knights are joined by some detachments from the Holy Orders of the Templars and the Hospitallers to face down Saladin’s Saracen horde. Choosing a right echelon attack battle plan, Richard loaded up his right flank with heavy hitters from the Hospitallers while keeping a solid centre and anchoring his left with the Templars and some Turcopole skirmishers.
Saladin spread his forces out quite evenly to provide a wall of archers and skirmishers supported by Mamluke cavalry, Sudanese infantry and a mix of militia and levy troops as a last resort, choosing to hold the line and harass the Christians rather than commit to an all-out attack.
Saladin throws out skirmish screens on his left to try and slow down the Hospitalliers and starts advancing the right to harry the Templars and commands his centre to hold as the Crusaders begin their advance.
The men at arms under Richard start to waver a bit as they advance towards the distant Saracen line, but word spreads about the holy relic Richard had recently acquired and carried into battle, no less than the big toe of St. Philmius of Nicea. With such a sure sign of God’s favour, the morale of the Christian forces is bolstered. Meanwhile, in Saladin’s camp, disgruntled mumblings amongst the Sudanese infantry result in their refusal to follow any further orders until they’re paid what they think they’re worth! Saladin ignores them for the moment, he has more important things to consider at present.
The Hospitallers begin their thunderous advance and some archers flee in terror before them, but their companions remain firm and filled with fire by Allah they surge forward with the other skirmishers and unleash a huge volley of arrows and javelins into the oncoming knights. The knights crash into the skirmishers, obliterating them in a bloody massacre, made all the worse by the panicked archers firing into the melee and wiping out some of their own! The morale of the Saracen forces is crushed as the knights press home their advantage and surge into the line of archers.
On the opposite flank, the turcopoles are pushing forward to try and sweep away the skirmishers but are met with a face full of javelins that stops them cold. The centre continues its steady advance but surprisingly the archers on the Saracen left, though shaken, manage to hold up the Hospitalliers charge and stall them in their tracks before pulling back to the safety of their lines. Perhaps they wished to wash away the shame of killing their own with the blood of the infidel.
The turcopoles continue to come under vicious assault by javelins and arrows, dropping men and horses to the blood-soaked sand. The Christians in the centre march on forward but the bloodshed to their left causes the men at arms, already less than steady become even more shaken as they march inexorably towards the solid Saracen line past the hail storm of death ripping apart the wing.
Saladin commands his right to push the advantage against the now routed turcopoles and put pressure on the Templar flank while the Hospitallers charge once against into the archers, destroying them once and for all and preparing to meet the Saracen cavalry on the next charge.
In the centre, Saladin’s forces unleash a cloud of arrows towards the oncoming Crusaders, but too soon and they all fall short. The Christians push ever onwards, the centre marching headlong into a wall of missiles as the Saracens launch volley after volley at them, slowly wearing them down.
On the Hospitaller flank, the Knights press on and crash into the Mamluke cavalry causing devastating losses for the Muslim force. Allah was with them and they rallied valiantly to continue the fight, but the Hospitaller assault was relentless and finally routed the Mamluke cavalry from the field, killing the commander of the flank in the process and leaving the infantry wide open to the next attack.
On the opposite flank, the Templars were coming under increased pressure from Mamluke cavalry, archers and skirmishers as missiles keep them at bay.
The Crusader centre finally grinds into the Saracen centre and routs some of the horse archers in a bloody brawl. Momentum wasn’t with them however and the advance stalled while everyone prepared for the next slog.
Finally tired of the torrent of pinpricks the Templars unleash a furious charge against the overconfident Mamlukes while the commander leads his bodyguard at a gallop to wreak merry hell on the skirmishers.
In the centre, feeling the pressure from the Crusaders, Saladin agrees to a few more bags of gold to the Sudanese to bolster their lines in preparation of the Crusader advance while in an epic clash between a renowned Saracen champion and King Richard himself, Richard strikes the killing blow, shaking the Saracen troops who stood witness. The militia on the Saracen right, far from the action of their compatriots, see an opening on the Crusader centre and wheel to prepare a charge in.
The Hospitallers, fatigued from their continuous fighting, hit home against the infantry but break many horses and men against the awaiting spears.
The men at arms in the centre begin to waver again at the sight of the militia moving at their flank but inspired by Richard they push forward regardless to support the knights ahead, who are advancing into a cloud of arrows to meet the next line of Saracen forces. Hoping to break the Templars, a Saracen commander charges his bodyguard into the exposed flank of the Templar commander’s bodyguard while he’s distracted chasing skirmishers. The steady knights, unperturbed by the flank attack strike back with losses on both sides.
The Hospitallers churn through the infantry on the flank with renewed vigour, while the battle is joined in the centre and the clash on the far flank ebbs and flows between the Templars and the Mamlukes.
The attrition on combat wears both sides down, but the quality of the Crusader troops holds them together and when the Hospitallers finally collapse the Saracens left flank, Saladin’s army breaks and runs in disgrace.
The Crusaders hold the field and the road onwards is clear…for now.
It was a good game, lots of back and forth between the two sides. For a while it looked like the Saracen archery would carry the day, but the Hospitaller advance turned the tide in the end.
In my test game, it has been a bit of an attrition grind without much happening for long stretches. I went with smaller forces this time and it seemed to work out better without the battlefield getting bogged down. Interesting to see just what impact the battle plans can make and how they lock you into a certain predetermined action, much as a general would have been at the time. There is enough flexibility to make some decisions within that battle plan, but the game proceeded along the same lines as the original plans put in place. This gives a nice bit of historical flavour to the game. I’ll have to try it again with some of the different scenarios provided in the rule book.
I’ve played a few battles with the Crusades armies using the Hail Caesar ruleset. I’ve found its worked well and provided fun battles. Sadly I didn’t take much by way of pictures from them so don’t have anything to show in relation to a battle report. I’ll be sure to do so if I use them again in future.
As a Christmas gift from my wife-to-be, I received a copy of To the Strongest!, which covers a similar period to Hail Caesar (i.e. EVERYTHING prior to the invention of gunpowder, and even a little into that). I played a quick test game using some hastily assembled forces, then the next day put together a proper order of battle from my collection.
If you’re unfamiliar with TtS! it works on a grid-based system with squares slightly larger than your standard base size (in my case I went with 150mm squares for my 120mm bases) and is driven by drawing from a couple of decks of playing cards rather than dice. You can also use chits to provide a similar experience or use d10 to provide a more linear/less interesting probability flow. Each turn you draw cards to activate a unit at a time and continue to do so until you draw a card lower than the last card you activated with. You can activate the same unit multiple times but gets risky as the card values mount! Similar card drawing is used to resolve combat and special actions.
This was just a straight battle with a moderate army of 150 points each on open terrain.
The Saracen forces under Saladin:
The Crusader army under Richard:
Facing each other down:
When cards were drawn for the initiative, Richard thought for sure he had lost with a measly 2, only to be pleasantly surprised when his arch nemesis drew an Ace, ceding the first move to Richard.
The Knights Templar leapt into action, rapidly advancing up the left flank in an attempt to ride down the archers and cavalry before they could unleash their hailstorm of arrows on them. The Holy Order Knights crashed into the Mameluke cavalry pushing them into disorder, but they fight back valiantly and the knights find themselves disordered as well. The turcopoles fire off a few timid potshots at the Sudanese skirmishers but their arrows fly wide. The mounted sergeants on the far left of the Templar line move sluggishly up, showing an unholy hesitancy unworthy of their devoted brethren!
More cautious than the headstrong Templar, Richard moves his forces up to the centre preparing in good order, sending a detachment of knights to back up the left’s advance. The Hospitaliers on the right, usually even more ferociously unruly than the Templar, follow Richard’s push to the centre in good order showing a rare restraint.
Undaunted by the rapid advance of the Templar upon them, the Sudanese archers and skirmishers showed their worth, unleashing a devastating rain of projectiles into the exposed turcopole cavalry, leaving nothing but the cries of the fallen infidel where two units had previously stood. On the left flank, a steady advance upon the Hospitaliers ended in a stalemate, with the projectiles falling short and leaving the Crusaders unharmed. Meanwhile, concerned about the Templar advance on his right flank, Saladin peeled off two units of cavalry to intercept them while moving the rest of his forces up to meet Richard’s.
The cavalry launched themselves forward unleashing arrow after arrow into the Templar flank. Allah blessed each shot so that it found its mark, obliterating the mighty Knights of the Holy Order and severely wounding Grand Master Robert IV leaving his few surviving men to drag him from the battlefield. The Templars had suffered a devastating blow. Richard’s knights, seeing the mightiest of God’s soldiers brought low by the arrows of the heathen began to waver.
The Hospitaliers on the right flank prove sluggish in their actions, perhaps wary after news reached them of what was happening to their Templar brothers. A half-hearted charge by the knights was repulsed and the crossbowmen failed miserably to hit anything. Richard, knowing he had to do something drastic or face the collapse of his lines raised his sword above his head and with a roar charged headlong at Saladin’s elite cavalry bodyguard. His archers unleash a volley to soften up the ranks before the mighty knights crashed into the elite guard and with the Almighty at their backs, they tore through the cavalry and swept around the back of Saladin’s lines. Saladin himself escaped the fall of his guards and found refuge amongst another unit, though Richard was not far behind him. Mesmerised as they were by their king’s charge, the rest of the units under his command didn’t manage to do anything of significance. On the left, the remaining Templar forces failed to recover from the shock of their loss and did nothing.
Reeling a little from the bold charge of the Crusaders, Saladin’s forces in the centre do little but consolidate their ground, however the flanks pick up the slack with the right picking off some more of the shocked turcopoles and the left pushing forward into the Hospitalier lines, doing some damage, and putting some unwelcome pressure on Richard’s rear, forcing him to evade.
Remaining in a torpid stupor, perhaps they were too much in their cups the previous night, the Hospitaliers do nothing but hold their lines on the right. The infantry in the centre launch their attack on the Ghazi fanatics under Saladin’s command and after a volley or two of arrows the heavy infantry charge forward. The Ghazi put up a heroic fight but the Crusader infantry steamrolls over them. Buoyed by his previous success, Richard launches a foolhardy charge into a unit of spearmen, escaping with his life but leaving his knights dead under their skewered horses.
The demoralised Templars left on the field attempt to shoot and retreat, but their hearts are not in it and their arrows fall short. Their retreat is foiled by Saladin’s careful use of a stratagem and the knights rather than retreating towards the camp move forwards into the mouth of the Sudanese archers, pulling up at the last moment just out of range. The Sudanese, being out of arrows, bring their infantry up to put pressure on the remaining infidels.
A mighty barrage of arrows from the left flank of the Saracen forces punishes the Hospitallers for their complacency, utterly destroying the Crusader infantry and leaving the knights in disorder.
Saladin’s infantry push forward while his cavalry sweep round to let fly the last of their arrows into Richard’s troops and with his right flank in retreat, his left in disarray and his centre assailed from all sides, he wisely sounds the retreat and cede’s the victory to Saladin. Praise be to Allah!
All in all a fun game. There were a few moments that it could have gone either way; had the Hospitaliers been a little more successful on the right flank it could have tipped the scales despite the losses on the left, but such is the way of war.
This was my first proper time playing this rule set, having only done a demo game working through the rulebook before. It’s an enjoyable game and movement doesn’t feel too constrained for being on a grid. There are, however, a few bits that lacked clarity in the rules and I spent a good ten minutes flipping through different parts of the book trying to determine what to do when a general was hit, which really ruined the flow of the game at that point. Since then I’ve discovered a number of errata, additions and plenty of additional material on the publisher’s website, so it’s well supported and provides a lot more clarity through that. There is a new rule set of the version due in future, but they’re focusing on a Renaissance version at the moment which I believe is an expansion of For King and Parliament, an English Civil War rule set in a similar vein. I also own FKaP and will be posting my thoughts when I finally get enough of my ECW armies done to play a game!
I had a good time playing it and will definitely be bringing the rules out again. Maybe playing a similar battle with both TtS! and Hail Caesar and seeing how they compare would be interesting. The flipping of cards for combat resolution was quite satisfying and the tactical decisions on how to use limited ammunition supplies and what activations were the priority gave the game depth.
Apologies that some of the photos are a bit blurry or shadowy, my photography skills need some serious upgrading and I’m just using my phone camera.