Wednesday, 20 October 2021

BATTLE OF TAYAAR 'AHMAR, with SOLDIERS OF GOD

For the rest of year, the gaming plan is play one-offs, large games (get the toys out) with our preferred rule sets. One of each game, but with a more ‘historical’ scenario bent. So no campaigns or pick-up games, each of our games will be (or heavily based on) an actual battle.

The first was the Soldiers of Rome game, so time to move on to Soldiers of God. I wrote the scenario for this, basing it on Arsuf. The crusader army is on the moving and about to reach the walled fortress, following the road, having been shadowed by the Saracen forces for days. As they approach the safety of the walls, the Saracens finally strike. The battle would take place between the fortress walls and a narrow river/stream, over which the rearguard of the crusader’s army was fording, the Tayaar ‘Ahmar. We set the points at just about everything the crusaders had, 350 points.

Here was my Saracen force:

Battle Plan: Double Envelopment

Left Battle (Charge!)            stands    pts    MV    
Al Halqa Royal Guard cavalry   4        60      3
Ghulam Cavalry                        4        28       2
Ghulam Cavalry                        4        28       2
Horse Archers                           4        20       1
Total                                                   136      8

Centre Battle (March)
Arab Tribal Cavalry        4        16      1
Tribal Camelry                4        20      1
Tribal Camelry                4        20      1
Horse Archers                 4        20      1
Horse Archers                 4        20      1
Horse Archers                 4        20      1
Baggage Train                 1        0        *
Total                                         116    6

Right Battle (Charge!)
Ahdath Levy                   3        3      1
Ahdath Levy                   3        3      1
Ahdath Levy                   3        3      1
Dismounted Ghulam      4        20     2
Dismounted Ghulam      4        25     2    +Naffatun
Mujahideen                     4       12     2
Sudanese Infantry          4        16     2
Infantry                          4        8       1
Infantry                          4        8       1
Total                                        94    13

Grand Total: 349 pts, 27 MV

The plan was to swiftly attack with the cavalry on the left, with the centre using its missile power to shoot and harass the Crusader’s centre to death, all being light cavalry here. The right would be a sink, a lot of infantry to hold up the enemy knights (in his rearguard), long enough to win it on the left and shoot them to bits in the centre. All three of my army’s ‘battles’ would be aggressive and attack…

The crusaders deployed along the road, facing the castle as they marched, the staggered arrival of the Saracen forces over the first 3 turns would give them sometime to organise and reform to face the attack, it seemed a bit unfair to make them fight facing the wrong way. Still, they’d need the cards to do this.

The game opened with the elite Saracen cavalry galloping in, to attack the head of the crusader column and prevent it escaping into the fortress. The crusaders reacted, some armed civilians fleeing for the safety, most others marching on or turning to face the attack. My horse archers arrived first (of course) to pepper his vanguard. Having seen them cause initial damage, and with good cards, I decided to risk a charge-in and have a go at breaking his Turcopoles, for a quick early win.  It didn’t work, he just held on and the melee then became a stalemate, neither units are very good at the sword-play stuff.  

Turn 2 and on came my light cavalry centre at galloping speed, led by the tribal horsemen and camelry, horse archers behind (they can lob shoot over the front units anyway). The crusaders were turning to face, but then pulled a surprise move. They changed battle plan (these are the three cards a players always has). Instead of being aggressive as first planned, they took up more defensive positions and his centre (including 2 archer blocks, crossbowmen and more Turcopoles) would now have their own Loose! card. When they unleashed their first volleys, the Arab camelry took heavy looses and one unit broke and ran! His centre's missile fire was match for, maybe better than, my own!

Turn 3, and my infantry right flank marched on and pressed towards the stream as fast as they could. The Levy ahdath militia led, each unit in open order for speed. The plan here was for these ‘expendables’ to take the first charge of his knights, die, break, not cost me much (or any) morale value and leave my infantry behind able to counter-charge and thus pin his heaviest hitters in place. Then, extend the combat, using Rallies etc, to keep my weak infantry fighting long enough. It sort-off, mostly, didn’t work… best laid plans and all that….

On the left, my Al Halqa had closed in behind the lead horse archers and their arrival in the melee with the Turcopoles broke them, but left the way clear for a counter-charge by mounted knights, and a new melee erupted here, leaving my Royal Guard heavy cavalry and their horse archer support fighting his knights, and it was very even, although I had the edge. Neither side was going to break fast and that melee went back and forth for the rest of game, with no clear result. Stymied on the left, my archery centre pressed on, but I had few Loose! cards and no (where are they?) Advance, Loose!, Retire cards for my light cavalry to do their thing, they did good damage with their firepower, but not often enough, and the return shooting really hurt… so much that the Arab tribal cavalry broke and fled as well. The centre was now one hell of an archery fight, neither side interested in charging home to melee, we stood off and exchanged a rain of arrows and javelins, etc. With heavy losses, I had to pullback out of range to rally and regroup, ready to go in again. The horse archers did so three times over the battle, each time coming off slightly worse. That Loose! card was a killer. I had to try and time my rushes forwards so I could get out again without too much damage.

On the right, well, the infantry initially did its job, and the ahdath militiamen died… but cost me 0 MV for the loss of 3 units. His Hospitallers and Knights had reformed from their march and advanced over the stream, and the melee started, an epic in which my infantry, ghulam and religious fanatics stood up well, with more infantry support behind. The battle was at its peak, the full length of the table, with nearly all units engaged.

We slogged it out, but steadily my infantry started to lose their fight, I kept them going with Rally cards and throwing away more cards, but after a few turns it became clear, there would be only one winner here. In the centre, I had broken his second unit of Turcopoles and almost routed his men-at-arms and Armenians with archery volleys (and some deserters), but I had also lost the second camelry unit in doing so. The Arab tribal troops had been ruthless ‘expended’.

By now both sides had lost a lot of their starting morale value, the score was 6 MV left for the Crusaders, 7 MV left to the Saracens. Too close to call and tense…

In the next turn, it was my infantry that cost me. The fearsome Hospitaller Knights final broke a dismounted ghulam unit and made short work of the supporting infantry too… the infantry flank crumbled and was running, and on the left I had not yet managed to break his knights with my Al Halqa (I tried so hard… using Fear cards, Challenges, Melees, as well as their Charge!) but somehow he kept his hard-pressed Knights just in the fight… it was enough. The Crusaders had reduced my MV to -1 and won the day, just, but it could easily have gone either way in the last turns, oh for a few more ‘Advance, Loose!, Retire’ cards for my light cavalry to use.

Great game, a really memorable ‘duke-it-out’ battle, with a bit of story behind it and two players who know the SoG rules really well, playing the rules to the full, and pushed to the limit. Here are some snaps of the action. 

The battlefield, Crusaders on the right, along the road, heading for the fortress walls, Saracens arriving on the left, intercepting them. The 'Red Stream' in the foreground.

The village and citadel. Inside the walls was a bonus garrison unit of crossbows.

The ford, where the mounted rearguard of the Crusader force was crossing.

Open desert in the centre, down from the high ground.

Citadel garrison in the tower, adding some harassing bolts to the passing Saracen cavalry.

The Saracen right's infantry blocks, led by ahdath, skirmishing Turcopoles try to slow them down, before falling back over the stream again.

The centre, horse archers and camelry run into a murderous rain of arrows. Another Turcopole unit have skirmished forwards, to disrupt my advance as best they can. Saracens aren't the only ones with good light cavalry... at the back, the cavalry are getting stuck in.

Marching up to the stream, at the rear, his Hospitallers and Knights are still not ready.

They are now. Hospitallers and Turcoples attack and quickly destroy a militia unit, I pushed them too far forwards.

The right, at the village, Al Halqa in the long melee with his Knights, disruption (yellow dice) building.

The centre pulls back, out of archery range for now... everybody is peppered by arrows.

The infantry on the right break, ghulam and religious fanatics, finally break before his knights and holy order knights... the Red Stream gets its name.... my infantry just couldn't hold long enough.




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