Sunday 12 May 2024

The Battle of Jebel Al-Rami, with Soldiers of God

A large game of Soldiers of God, which we pushed to 350 points aside, just to get more toys out and as the tabletop is large enough for it, at 7 x 5.

The invading Crusaders had selected a ‘right echelon attack’ plan. The right battle was their strike force of knights and hospitallers, supported by some mounted men-at-arms and a turcopole unit, with a Charge! card to drive them ever on. The centre was infantry, dismounted knights and templars supported by, err… armed peasants and monks, they would March in support. The left flank was light infantry, but crossbows, archers, two light war engines, some men-at-arms (as a baggage guard) and  skirmishing out front, two units of turcopole horse archers. They had a Loose card to use, and that was a lot of loosing! They also had the True Cross and rolled a max +6MV, for 42 MV total. God was with them…

The Emir of Aleppo’s army chose a ‘harry and advance’ battle plan, with the centre the main strike force of ghulam and the emir’s al-halqa royal guard cavalry, to lead the attack. On the right, all the horse archers, a cloud of them, with an advance, loose, retire, card to use (what else?). That would be one hell of an archery duel with his left. The Saracens left was mostly infantry, mercenary Sudanese and mujihadeen with mere ahdath levy in support, but in front was a skirmish screen of light infantry archers and crossbows, and in front of them (4 lines deeps!), camelry, to charge forward, do some (any) damage, slow those knights and, no doubt, die, but gloriously for Allah! They too had an advance, loose, retire card, so skirmish like mad! Total MV was just 32, big deficit to make up, but surely Allah would provide.

The battlefield was set. The Crusaders would play the first card and kick-off what would be become something of an epic clash.

The initial moves saw the crusader’s right, their knights and turcopoles, move up quickly and the saracen left’s skirmishers moved up to meet them, as a screen of light troops in front of the battle lines, to harass and slow and cause pain before the knights got to charge. This would be the ‘hot spot’ for the first few turns. The Saracen right moved up, but didn’t as yet risk the frightening missile duel it faced. In the centre, the cavalry marched up and moved across, the Al Halqa and their supporting ghulam aiming at intercept his holy order knights, in a match up of the elites.

The skirmishing started, with the camelry getting shot-up by turcopoles, then running in to throw javelins, to good effect. Archers behind lob-shooting over and the damage mounted… but it was then rallied off by determine knights, but the turcopoles broke and fled. Still, the skirmishers were doing their job, running into and out of the rocky ground on top of the jebel. This rocky ground, not effecting the skirmishers, would slow the knights further, a good reverse-slope defensive position to work with. Behind it, the infantry line got into shape, ahdath levy in support of the mercenaries, until one unit panicked and fled, the mere hint of battle enough to see the raw levy rout – useless cowards!

As the knights pressed on up the hill and into the difficult ground of the rocks, they charged and rushed the skirmishers, reaching them. One round of one-sided combat later and the skirmishers managed to disengage and fallback through the rocks… and then rally. Saving them, a miracle of cards, to dish-out more missile pain later.

On the right, the impatient crusaders surged forward and thus, opened the heavy missile duel, their loose card seeing crossbows and arrows, bolt throwers, all reigning down on the horse archers by the river, who responded as they do, but running in, loosing back, and riding out again. We traded missile cards and it was carnage, lots of disruption, one horse archer unit breaking under the lethal reign in a gory massacre, but the crusaders needing to rally too… we’d resume that pitiless duel next turn.

In the centre, the hospitaller knights charged the al-halqa cavalry and fought an indecisive melee… no-one was winning quickly there.

Back to battle on the jebel, the knights rolling poorly and having more trouble with the rocks, leaving more archery and javelins incoming. Painfully, this main attack was stalling, and only a fortunate ‘god wills it’ special event saved one knight unit from breaking under the barrage. The other flank’s archery duel, now turcopoles and horse archers in swirling mess, galloping through the river and back, churning into a muddy quagmire, and both sides hurt the other, but the turcopoles took too much damage and broke… the horse archers needed to rally too, but did, and were getting on top, maybe! The plan here had been to use the turcopoles to charge and deny the horse archers mobility and firepower by locking them into combats… but you need a charge card, and they didn’t get one, and so were shot down. Not all plans work...

To the finale, with both sides losing MV, the Crusaders slightly more, but it was close. Things turned when the hospitaller knights, now charged in the flank by more ghulams were finally overwhelmed, they needed some help, but the infantry was too far behind and another unit of ghulam was facing them down anyway, then fled back to avoid being charged. That was a big swing, but then the knights final burst from the rocky hill top and rode down hill into the camelry and archers before them. They cut through them with holy vengeance, and broke both camelry units and the archers (another massacre)… the fight fully was on on that flank, could my mercenary infantry hold out? I needed to win it on the other flank, the horse archers rode in again and extracted their toll, breaking an archer unit… and then the Armenian mercenary infantry as well… who collapsed rather tamely and fled the field. Both commanders were worried about our left flanks. One arab light cavalry unit went on bold flank march, and passed their discipline test on the third time of asking (tense roll that), to reappear in the crusader’s centre rear, ride up and start throwing their javelins in the back of the armed monks (as peasants), which also broke, jumped from behind. The Crusader force was whittling away. At the end of the turn they had just 7 MV left, the Saracens 9!

So close, but the crusader’s best chance to win was with their knights, they threw all the cards they could at it, but the Sudanese spears rallied and just survived (lucky card that). More ghulam had wheeled from the centre and charged into the flanks… and this helped stop the knight’s advance. It was a more even fight now. The other ghulam and al-halqa had their own bows out and were peppering his centre with long range archery… whilst the sneaky arabs were behind them, attacking with javelins too. The Frankish line was crumbling… on the right, my horse archers pressed again, destroyed the crew of a ballista with archery and then fled out of crossbow range again, whilst more horse archers cut down armed peasants and broke them… had they done enough?

The final MV tally saw my total drop to 6, the crusaders, -1, when his peasants broke in the centre… his line was a mess, and the horse archers were looking like mopping up over there. An epic tussle… close all the way, both sides utilising the cards well…, the heroic knights just couldn’t carry the day in time, my infantry (and those skirmishers) did a great job of not dying too quickly. The handy rocks had been a factor too, delaying his advance a lot… heavy cavalry through rocky ground, vs lots of light skirmishers hadn’t worked too well, but the knights had taken the beating and soldier through it. The cards had maybe, just favoured the Saracens… oh for a Charge card or Rally when you need it!

A top game, great fun in 4 hours… always love playing SoG… glory to Allah today… 

Saracen deployment, infantry left, heavy cavalry centre, horse archers on the right.

All the horse archers, facing massed crusader missile troops.

The strike force, ghulam and al-halqa, one infantry unit guards the baggage train.

Infantry lines, 4 deep, camelry out front, skirmishing archers behind, then the main fighting line of infantry mercenaries, then the ahdath levy support, hiding at the back.

The crusaders begin, thundering across the desert towards the rocky jebel.

Al halqa square up with the advancing hospitallers.

First charge, the knights reach the skirmishers, but they immediately ran way back into the rocks.

Skirmish line out on the jebel, harrying the enemy advance.

Crusade's briefly occupy the village, before moving through it.

The crusader left, a mass of missile troops on the river.

Hospitallers spur in and the melee of the elites begins.

Pulling back through the rocks on the jebel... you have to go forwards, to have room to come back into.

Horse archers reach the river... trees are just for show, no terrain effect.

Abandoned the jebel, whilst the knights move up through the rocks, still under archery shooting though...

The skirmishers have come back as far as they can. Trapped in the crush, knights bearing down on them.

Charge! Deus Ai! The knights finally arrive.

Horse archers see the chance to attack mere armed peasants... easy pickings and loot...

Ghulam wheel around and charge in to counter the knights from the flank.

All in, ahdath too, can the line hold? The ghulam champion won two challenges... promotion for him.

Horse archers, still lurking on the river... they have done excellent work, but the archery duel could have gone either way... sometimes, it's best to meet fire with fire... they shoot you, shoot back harder! Really, the crusaders needed a march card to press up again and force them back, getting their crossbows in range to do serious damage.