Battle Report – The Battle of Dorylaeum (1097)

A relief bringing cool breeze* swept lazily over the hot, dusty plains of Dorylaeum in the summer of 1097. To the east stood the forces of Kilij Arslan upon their innumerable steeds. To the west stood the glittering battle line of Bohemond’s vanguard of crusaders, protecting the camp that lay directly behind them by the marshy banks of the Thymbris river. Many miles behind them camped the main force of the Crusaders with Godfrey. Seeing the mounted hordes of Turks on the horizon, Bohemond sent messengers to Godfrey requesting aid, and prayed to God that they could hold off the Turks long enough for him to arrive. It would be a long day.

*i.e. a standing fan.


The field of battle
The view from the Turkish lines
The Crusaders look on defiantly

The battle opened with the Turks surging forward on their right flanks, the swarms of horse archers supported by the small contingent of heavy cavalry led by Kilij himself. Their left flank proved slower off the mark, somehow missing the order to advance and lingering by the river overlong.

The Turks surge forward

The knights, seeing the advancing enemy, charge forward recklessly to meet them. Brave as they are, the storm of arrows that come their way from the Turkish archers catches them off guard and drives them back. It is all Bohemond can do to rally them and get them back in the fight.

The knights run away

The horse archers continue to unleash their arrows into the charging knights, causing confusion and disorder among them. As the knights close with the light horsemen they throw their spears and skewer a few of the screaming pagans with their unholy demonic cry of “Allah Akbarghhhhhh…”, while those with lances lower them into couch positions and prepare to drive through them when they seem to just melt away. The cries of “Deus Vult!” die in their throats as their disordered ranks find themselves facing the well formed ranks of Kilij Arsalan’s elite heavy cavalry, who unleash a hail of arrows themselves before charging to meet the intruding Europeans. The horse archers charge up the slopes and attempt to sweep round the flanks of the Crusaders, though are slowed by a few lucky shots from the defending crossbowmen.

“Now you see us, now you do..oh no they have shooty things too!”

The Turkish horse archers on the left finally rouse themselves and begin to move forwards, not liking the look of the heavy cavalry melee nor the solid line of shields and spears that was the infantry, they plunged into the marshy river grounds, attempting to use the terrain to flank around the enemy. They gain some success, with the two sides exchanging potshots at each other as they moved past.

Nothing to see here…

The melee between the two heavy cavalry forces continues, with the battle ebbing back and forth throughout the morning. The Crusaders seem to be getting the better of the fight to the North, but to the South the Turks are pushing the knights back towards the lines of infantry. Both sides are in rough shape, but the Turks take courage from the sight of the horse archers flowing around the enemy infantry and towards the camp at their rear.

“If we move really quickly maybe they won’t catch us.”

The melee continues with both sides taking heavy losses, but a group of knights manage to reform and charge deep into Kilij’s Guard Cavalry, and with a roar of triumph drive them from the field. Kilij moves to take control of another group of his heavy cavalry, these fresh from fertilising the valley floor with the blood of the infidels and attempts to turn back and attack the knights in the flank, but as he turns another group barge into him at a charge, disrupting his troops and engaging in a frantic combat. The knights prevail and from their midst the one known as Tancred, nephew of Bohemond, launches himself at Kilij in mortal combat. The two fight valiently, but the Norman proves the stronger fighter and slays the great Sultan, raising his bloodied spear in victory to God Almighty and screaming his victory cries. Urged on by his glorious combat, the knights drive the remaining Turkish heavy cavalry from the field.

There were troops here a second ago.
Kilij Wuz Here

Meanwhile, Bohemond, aware now of the Turkish flanking action, sent word to the infantry to fall back to defend the camp.  They turn about and start a march back towards the camp, exchanging fire with the swarming horse archers as they do. The Turkish horse fall upon the camp, but the Crusader infantry aren’t too far behind and attempt to drive them off. Bohemond turns his knights around and rushes to join the infantry in the defense of the camps.

“About face!”

The horse archers run rampant through the camp and attack the infantry from a distance, but just as they feel their victory is assured a dust cloud on the horizon materialises into a contingent of knights charging down the valley at them. More worryingly still, the dust cloud behind them seems considerably larger. Where did these knights come from? There surely can’t be another Crusader army coming?!

“Behold, The Godfrey”

Godfrey arrives at the head of the army, having charged well ahead of the rest of the troops. As his knights join him in drips and drabs the Turkish horse archers gather to try and drive back this new threat and give themselves space to flee, while the Crusader infantry closes in behind them and the original knights, tired though ebullient, begin moving around their flanks.

Chaos ensues

More knights continue to arrive down the valley as the noose closes tighter around the now panicking horsemen. With the full forces of the Crusaders bearing down on them, slaughtering them in their hundreds, and no sign of their great Sultan anywhere, the horse archers break and flee into the hills and marshes. The pursuit lasts long into the evening as the rest of the army arrive, eager for blood, while the weary victors plunder the camp of the great Sultan.

A ring of horse archers greets the new Crusaders.
The battle at the camp
One last Deus Vult for old times sake

God clearly smiled down upon this mighty crusading endeavour.


All in all a good fun game. I used Hail Caesar as the rule set as I’d not had a game of it in around a year and a half. The scenario I designed worked out well, though I may make a few tweaks if I play it again. It gave a good fun game and I think had the Turks not been so sluggish on their left for the first few turns it could have gone a different way. For the scenario I decided the Turks could have a minor victory if they managed to plunder the Crusader camp for a few turns without being driven off, and a major one if they were able to break and drive off the Crusaders. The Crusaders would have a minor victory by just holding on until Godfrey’s full army arrived on Turn 10, though I had units of knights charging ahead of the main force start arriving from Turn 6 on a dice roll (6+ Turn 6, 5+ Turn 7, 4+ Turn 8, etc). If I play again, which I hope to some day, I’d probably make a few tweaks. I would perhaps add another unit of heavy cavalry to the Turks, or, possibly more likely, reduce the number and strength of the Crusader infantry. I had the infantry causing a -1 to-hit on ranged attacks which made them very difficult to damage. I had a special rule (that I didn’t use) that the knights could be ordered to dismount and join the infantry, which would convert them from medium to heavy infantry units, on reflection I should probably have kept the -1 to-hit for then too, though perhaps a faster acting Turkish action could have collapsed the Crusader flanks as at least one unit was on the verge of being Shaken. I will have to play again sometime to see.

I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I did playing it and as ever, thanks for reading!

Matthew

P.S. if you want to read about the real history that inspired this battle you can do so here.

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

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!

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

Crusades progress update

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.

Thanks for reading,

Matthew

Saladin and Richard meet again!

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.

Thanks for reading,
Matthew

Richard vs Saladin – The First (Official) Encounter

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.

Thanks for reading,

Matthew

Crosses and crescents and sand…Deus Vult!

As I mentioned in a previous post, I stumbled on the Crusades project almost by accident based on sampling different scales. My interest was initially taken by the Third Crusade, mostly because the characters of King Richard and Saladin were too damn fun to pass up and it would let me use the Holy Orders as well to add some flavour to the Christians. Most of the forces can be stretched into other Crusade periods as well and will be expanding them in future.

First up my generals starting with King Richard and Saladin themselves:

Grand Master Garnier de Nablus and Grand Master Robert IV de Sablé of the Hospitallers and the Templars:

Emir Muzaffar ad-Din Gökböri (“Blue Wolf”) and General Al-Afdal:


I plan to add a couple more generals to this mix in future including Saphadin and Guy de Lusignan.

The mighty Mameluke cavalry under the esteemed Saladin, Sultan of Egypt:





Ole Dicky Lionheart here (with his infantry borrowed from Henry V):








The billmen and archer’s, while flavourfully English, are not the most period appropriate. I have been using them here and there, but plan to replace them all with more mixed infantry appropriate to the period.

Al-Afdal’s plucky militia troops, with some skirmishers and light archers from the Sudan:








Now we have the Holy Orders bringing their forces to bear with Knights, Sergeants and Turcopoles:











Last up the Sudanese forces, I’m less happy with these, especially the basing on the warbands at the back, so may rebase them at some point in the future:








 

That’s it so far. I’ve plenty of areas to expand into, including adding another couple of commanders – most likely the pathetic Guy de Lusignan and the esteemed Saphadin. I’m aiming to put together a scenario for the Battle of Arsuf, for which I’ll need:

1) Hordes of horse archers. This is the gaping hole in the Saracen forces – light cavalry and horse archers. I’ve noticed this in games where I’ve only had foot skirmishers and then heavier Mamlukes for mounted archers. I proxied some Turcopoles as Turkomen in a recent game but I’m going to need a lot of them for Arsuf.

2) Crusader infantry. Now that I’m a lot more knowledgeable about the period than when I first started, the billmen and archers feel out of place and I’ve avoided using them. At present, the only period infantry I have are the Hospitallers infantry, so I plan to make a matching set of them for the Templars and then make some use of a mix of medieval and dark age infantry to do some mixed foot units and crossbowmen.

3) Terrain. Mostly trees, maybe some scrub. I have a bag of premade trees from eBay so can hopefully base them easily enough to provide a bit of sparse woodland.

4) Rebase Sudanese infantry. I originally based these in loose formation on 60*40 bases for large warbands, but I rarely play them as such and I don’t like the look. Not strictly necessary for Arsuf but I reckon I could get three units of close order infantry by rebasing them onto 40*40. I now regret basing with milliput…

5) More knights. I have about half a units worth painted from before, so would like to pick up enough to finish it and maybe do a unit of the Knights of Jerusalem in their fetching turquoise and gold outfits.

I’ll post up some past battle reports I have photos of for these forces in posts to come.

Thanks for reading,

Matthew