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

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