Monday, 21 October 2013

THE BATTLE OF JEZIRAT, 1152 AD



Somewhere on the desert borders of Syria, battle lines are drawn between the armies of Emir Asifi of Aleppo and the defenders are the Kingdom of Jerusalem, under the command of the impetuous Lord Reynard de Chatilon.

Bit of a change from the usual tank battles, and the first time my Saracens and crusader armies had seen a tabletop in 4 years, but well worth the wait. We were playing a homebrew version of Piquet rules, with lots of my own alterations, omissions and inclusions... including my own army lists. It produces a very different gaming experience, and I really like the unpredictability that Piquet brings, never quite knowing where the battle will go next, or how much impetus you will have to move/shoot/fight with, but the game as written is (IMHO) rather fussy, slow and weighed down by too many factors. My house-version streamlines the rules a lot, to make for a more player-friendly game (and it still took over 4 hours to get a result).

The chosen armies were as follows:
Emir Asifi’s Army
3 units of Ghulam (medium cavalry)
1 unit of native Arab horsemen (light cavalry)
1 unit of native Arab camelry
5 units of horse archers (skirmishers)
3 units of archers
2 unit of regular mercenary infantry
1 unit of Sufi fanatics (infantry)
5 units of Ahdath militia infantry (peasant rabble)
21 units, morale total 29. 

Lord Reynard de Chatilon’s Army
2 units of mounted Knights
1 unit of mounted Knights Templar
3 units of men-at-arms
2 units of archers
1 unit of arbalester (skirmishers)
9 unit, morale total 19.

Before deployment each force had to be divided into a left wing, ring wing and centre, each ‘battle’ under its own commander (each side also had an independent supreme commander and a baggage train).
The Saracen’s divided their army into a centre of infantry (all 11 units!) massed together, militia (cannon fodder) to the fore, backed by infantry and archers. His right flank was made up of all 5 horse archers units. His left flank was the Ghulam, backed by the camelry. The Arab horsemen were left back as the baggage guard/ final reserve. So, an infantry centre and two cavalry flanks – the classic crescent.

The Saracens deployment, horse archers, infantry and cavalry in that order.

 

The Crusaders divided their far smaller army into a centre of the Knights Templars, a unit of infantry and a unit of archers, deployed as skirmishers into the buildings. The right flank was just the two mounted knight units, my main strike force. The left flank was more infantry, backed by archers, and screened by skirmishing crossbows, deployed out front.

Crusader's left wing looking towards the centre

The Knights on the right...

 Battle lines drawn...

Models deployed, it was time to roll of for impetus in the first turn, and see who could seize the initiative. Oh, and the random draw of morale totals required result in the Muslims having 29 morale, to the Crusader’s 19, a serious deficit for my army to start with (I was the crusader commander – for the first time ever).

The Saracens gained the first initiative and began spending impetus with a bold advance. First the entire centre stepped off and marched towards my meagre lines, a horde of spears and swords. Then the first horse archer probed on my left, as the light cavalry raced in and unleashed their first shots of the game, to little effect on my crossbow screen. Out of impetus, the Saracen’s phase ended and we rolled off again for impetus, and again the Muslims won. On came the horde in the centre, banners waving. And again the horse archers raced up to loose arrows, causing disruption to the crossbowmen, who opportunity fired back this time and scored the first kills. Their archery vs crossbow skirmisher duel would last all game.


 Horse archers and crossbowmen trade first shots on the left

The crusaders archers also let fly into the infantry hordes, and caused a few loss and a few of the woeful militia infantry to become unformed (which has a negative effect in later combat). All ready they were half way across the board.

Piquet’s rules throws up such variables, as yet I’d only been able to use my interrupt archery to attack the Muslims, who looked like a tidal wave about to crush the few crusaders. There had been no movement on the Muslim left yet, the pride of the emir’s cavalry was saving itself, trying to draw my knights into the main battle before coming forwards to attack weakened and disorganised knights (rather than the well ordered, fully rested and keen mincing-machine the units start out as).

Finally, my army won some impetus and could react. The crossbows fell back, faced with three horse archers units peppering them with arrows. They then reloaded and were ready for fire again, but I ran out impetus to complete this action. Everywhere else my infantry braced themselves for the onslaught, whilst my archers reloaded and loosed again, causing more disruption in the Saracen ranks – good!

Levied militia advance en masse in the centre, a mismatch of the very best troops
(Templars) and the very worst.

 Men at arms and their commander cut a swathe through Saracen archers.

Peasant archers occupying the buildings
On my left flank the see-saw skirmish duelled continued, my crossbows rushed forwards again and shot at short range, seeing off more horse archers. One horse archer unit broke round the extreme left and headed for the gap beyond my lines at top speed. The others advanced and hailed arrows upon my crossbowmen, causing a few more losses and forcing them to pull back again.

In the centre the Ahdath militia’s front line was now within movement distance of my single infantry unit, and rather than be charged, they counter-attacked into the Sufi fanatics. This unit had good morale, but where no match for my well armoured men-at-arms in the melee. It was messy, and the Sufi broke and ran, pursued by my infantry into the (now unformed) archer unit behind. At last I got a cavalry move card and my knights could get going. On the right both units advanced to threaten the infantry flank with a devastating charge, but that brought the Ghulam forwards too in response. If I charged the infantry flank I do a lot of damage (to some poor combat units), but risk losing my knights to a flank charge from the Ghulam. Instead we faced off, my knights were outnumbered two to one as the two side’s best cavalry squared up to charge. Both commanders though it would be here that the battle was actually decided.

 The contest between Knights and Ghulam approaches on the right. Ghulam archery had little effect. The camelry have fallen behind, and later ran off!

It was not to be so. In the centre my lone infantry continued their heroics, cutting their way through a unit of archers, who also broke and ran. The Knights Templars, my last reserve, had been held back, confident that the poor militia facing them would not have the necessary morale to charge a ‘fearsome’ unit. They didn’t, and the Saracens impressive infantry attack was now a disorganised mess, as units were running and men dying. 

Men at arms, their pursuit in the centre stopped, now face the native Arab light cavalry, between them and the Saracen baggage train. A face-off in which neither side had the impetus to close in.

On my left the fast horse archers used their ability to ‘flow around’ enemy units as mounted skirmishers to get past my crossbows and infantry line, and although they took more losses to archery (one unit was wiped out), the lone flanking unit was now behind my lines – and had their eyes fixed on my undefended baggage train.

End runners on the left, causing alarm.

 Horse archers bypassing the infantry

 Behind the lines, the lone horse archer unit eyes the undefended baggage train.
 
The heavy-weight contest on my right got underway when my knights plunged in. No point in hanging around any longer. The attack was less than spectacular as the knightly charge failed to inflict any losses and managed to only push the Ghulams back a bit, it was stalemate. Lances broken, it was time to draw swords in a slugging match, with the Ghulam’s greater numbers counteracting the knight’s combat ability. Both sides best troops were now locked in a battle of attrition.


The swirling cavalry melee, neither side could break the other quickly.

The battle now was very even. Stalemated on my right, the centre was going well, but the left was now impotent to do much to stop the horse archers, who were all around them it seemed (infantry cannot charge skirmish cavalry).  I couldn’t save the baggage train, and the next time the horse archers got to move (which is often in the Saracen’s cavalry-heavy action deck), the baggage would surely be doomed (the loss of the baggage train has a drastic effect on morale and might well cost me the game). 

Horse archers reach the baggage, but just too late, as their army's morale gives out before the combat could be resolved - a close shave.

It was now, crying ‘Deus Vult!’ that the Templar Knights finally charged. I needed to smash the remaining enemy infantry centre and hope it would be enough to break the Saracen army. If not, then the Crusaders would probably have lost the battle, doomed to die in the desert without their supplies. But divine inspiration and good dice were upon the Templars, and their charge smashed the first militia unit to pieces, and raced on it the second rank, killing more infidels. The resulting heavy damage saw the Saracen commander forced to give up his last morale counters. With all 29 counters now spent, the Saracens had to withdraw from the field. Victory to the defenders of Jerusalem. 

Flee for your lives! The routers from the centre pass their Emir, watching on from high ground
(and none too impressed).

Deus Vult! The Templars dispatch the infidel infantry to win the battle. 

It was good to get the models out again, dust it off and have a game. As I said, it lasted over 4 hours, with no breaks and going hard at it, and this is Piquet ‘Lite’. It might have taken twice that time with the full game, which has some very good ideas behind it, but just is so unwieldy. The game got me thinking hard about getting on with my own Crusades rules again, which I started several years ago under the working title ‘Soldiers of God’. I might have to put some time aside to resurrect the project.

















































2 comments:

  1. A riveting battle report, that really came down to the end. Thanks for posting.

    ReplyDelete
  2. A fantastic AAR, with beautiful pictures...I like your figures and terrain, great job!

    ReplyDelete