Battle Report – Crusaders and Saracens with TtS!

It’s been quite a while since I’ve played a game and even longer since I played a game of TtS so since I have recently finished a slew of crusades forces it seemed a good time to get a game on the table.

This game fit nicely on the kitchen table with a 12×8 grid of 100mm squares and I was able to utilise some of my newly made terrain pieces and newly acquired chits.

To the Strongest uses an activation system whereby each unit under command attempts to activate until it fails, at which point activation switches to the next command. The game is intended to use a deck of cards for this and while I do like this variety from using dice, it requires a fair bit of space to place the cards down with the units. The author suggests chits or d10 can be used for smaller scale games and I’ve opted to use the chits here for activations while retaining the deck for combat. This worked reasonably well, though I will probably attempt to use a d10 for combat in future too for comparison.

The forces today are two evenly matched armies at 130 points each. The Crusaders have a smaller, tougher force of heavy infantry and knights, while the Saracens have swarms of cavalry backed up with a mob of poor quality infantry. It’s an age old match up of quality vs quantity.


The battlefield at the start of the battle. Crusaders at the bottom, Saracens at the top. A dense wood to the right and a patch of rough ground on the left make up the terrain, with stones and clumps marking out the grid.

The cavalry heavy armies of the Saracens edge out the slower moving Crusaders in the scouting department and take the first move. Hoping to deny the enemy the centre and unleash a flurry of arrows before pulling away the Saracens surge forwards towards the Christian lines.

“You infidels will soon feel Allah’s wrath!”
“We laugh at your excuse for a flank!”

The advance goes well, but before they can get into bow range horses and men start screaming and falling. A wall of steel tipped death roars towards them as the crusader infantry unleash their deadly crossbows into the face of the advancing cavalry. The light cavalry are no match for such an onslaught and are cut down in droves before fleeing in panic.

“Offendi, where’s my horses?”

The Crusaders feel victory in their grasp and while their original plan of securing their flanks with the terrain in the centre is stalled, their flanks take advantage of the panic to sweep forward, the Holy Orders keen to wet their blades with the blood of the heathens.

“Forward for God and Glory!”
“For Jerusalem!”

The advance on the flanks puts the Saracens on the backfoot as they struggle to reform their lines and prepare a counter attack. However, Crusader arrogance pushes the Christian knights into overextending themselves, pushing too far forward and separating themselves from their support. The Templars find themselves cut off and surrounded multiple flanks with horse archers swirling away from them unleashing their arrows. The Knights of Jerusalem and Turcopoles find themselves being potshot on the flank and the Hospitaliers grind against the Islamic infantry on the far side. The Crusader infantry attempts to move up to support the Knights, taking a few shots at swirling horsemen ahead of them but soon running dry on ammunition after their initial bombardment. With the solid line behind them the cavalry push forward against the enemy, wounding the enemy captain but not breaking their resolve.

“Typical Knights, always charging off ahead and getting themselves into trouble!”
“We got your backs, now get to it!”

Despite the forward momentum of the Christians, the Saracen forces are able to seize the initiative again and the infantry hordes run forward to swamp the tired knights while the cavalry forces on the Saracen right break through the Crusader cavalry, wounding then eventually killing their captain, wiping out the Crusader left and threatening to roll up the line if infantry that is starting to look a little more shakey.

“Allah wills it!”

The Hospitaliers, worn out from their long fight, pull back to let fresh reserves of knights take their place against the masses of Ghazi warriors and Islamic levies, though to little effect.

“Those guys are crazy!”

On the Saracen right, the cavalry line up for a charge while the horse archers disrupt the infantry with well placed archery. The cavalry charge again and again, and while the Christian infantry prove resilient they are pushed back and eventually, worn down by the onslaught of lance and bow, broken.

“Here we come, ready or not.”

With one flank destroyed and the other ground to a halt, and with the infantry shaken and breaking, the General calls for the retreat. God was not with the Crusaders this day and they flee the field in the shame of defeat.

The view from the Saracen right at the end of the battle with the location of the lost Crusader infantry marked.

All in all it was a good game with a close fought matchup. At first I thought the Crusaders were in for a sweeping victory after a successful first few turns and a series of poor activations for the Saracens but fortunes soon changed and with Crusader ammo reserves running dry the Saracens were able to use their superior numbers to surround and destroy the Christians. The quality vs quantity played out well with the Saracens able to absorb greater losses while every destroyed Crusader unit bit deeply into their remaining victory points.

The chit and card combo worked well, the chits fit well into the small grid without looking too intrusive and the cards gave a rapid play drama to the combat and saves.

I probably got a few things wrong, I suspect I made an illegal move or two and I’m not sure I used generals entirely correctly. I forgot all about the strategems for much of the game, or rather I kept thinking I must use them only after they would have been useful! Awh well.

I’m looking forward to getting these rules on the table more with a couple of in progress projects aimed at making use of them, and it was nice to be able to fit the game on the kitchen table without having to set up large tables. Making the grid is still a bit of a faff so think I’ll start marking out permanent grids in future and make my own boards and mats for some of the smaller projects.

Thanks for reading,

Matthew

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