Friday, 28 April 2017

The Battle of Antioch - 15mm using "To the Strongest" Rules

As mentioned in my previous post, on Friday Julian and I refought the Battle of Antioch - first Crusades 1098 I believe.

The background was that the Crusaders had taken Antioch from the Muslims but when a Muslim army arrived, realizing there was no food in Antioch to sustain them through a siege, they decided to exit the town and give battle. The Muslim army, being true gentlemen, allowed them to plod out of the city and get themselves arranged for battle, rather than attacking them as they straggled out in column of march.....

In the real battle, the Muslims were in total disagreement with each other and as a consequence, as soon as the Crusaders attacked, half of them buggered off. The Crusaders won the real battle quite would our refight turn out?

The Muslim forces were in three distinct groups - a small force of militia who had sneaked back into Antioch and reoccupied it as soon as the Crusaders decamped; the main force facing the Crusader army; and a third force to the rear of the Crusaders left flank. The Crusader army was made up of four separate commands plus a group of "pilgrims" on a hill near the gate to Antioch, one of whom claimed to have found the tip of the spear used to pierce the side of Christ at his crucifiction......that's convenient!

Below is the map from the scenario book we used

And here are a few pics of the troops set up, prior to the first move being made. Some of the images are not that great but I left them in anyway - I deleted about 10 that were really terrible.....

Above - a view along the table, from the Antioch end - Crusaders on the left, Muslims on the right. The Muslim force in the Crusaders right rear can be seen in the top left of the photo

 The Christian Pilgrims covering one of the bridges from Antioch to their rear
 One of the Crusader commanders and his heavy knights
 The Muslim left flank - light horse archers backed by heavy Saracen cavalry and one of the four leaders
 More Muslim light cavalry archers, backed by foot archers - the Muslim army was overwhelmingly composed of units of light cavalry archers - I only had about 4 infantry units
The centre of the Muslim army - more mounted archers, a unit of spearmen, and two units of heavy Saracen cavalry.

I have decided not to try to do any maps for this report - the action was so complicated and ebbed and flowed so much during the course of the game, it would be very hard to do these accurately! In essence, the Muslim army struck first from the right rear of the Crusader army, forcing that wing of the army to turn to face the attack. In the very first move, I destroyed a unit of Julian's heavy infantry, reducing his army morale pile of coins from 9 to 7 (I also started the game with 9 coins). The whole Muslim army advanced towards the Crusader line to engage with the mounted archers, with the exception of a couple of units from my right flank who went off to support the forces coming in from the Crusaders rear. Meanwhile, the commander of the Antioch garrison with his heavy cavalry unit emerged from the town to move along the rear of the Crusaders army, causing some consternation!

On the Crusaders first move, their heavy knights, true to form, charged forwards in an effort to catch and destroy the swarms of mounted archers who had been plaguing them with showers of arrows. Fortunately for me, and by pure luck recreating the genuine tactics of these armies, all my light archers managed to evade these charges, drawing the units of knights farther and farther out away from the rest of the Crusader army.

 Above  - first moves of the game, my force 3 (from the scenario map) attacks the flank and rear of Julian's force A and scored an immediate success by destroying a unit of heavy infantry
 Some archers from force 1 move along the flank to link up with force 3 and add more pressure to the flank attack on the Crusader right wing - forces A and D
 The same units advancing along the high ground to the flank
 Meanwhile, in the centre, the light horse archers swarmed forward towards the Crusader lines - forces B C and D.
 An early success - the leader of Crusader force C was disrupted by archery
 The Muslim flank/rear attack develops
 A unit of Crusader cavlalry fails to activate at a crucial point .....
 The Crusaders in force A turn to face the threat to their flank - behind the infantry, their commander and his knights have been disrupted by archery
 The Crusader heavy cavalry in commands B, C and D charged forward to destroy the archers but through good card turning, I succeeded in having every unit so attacked fall back - the knights advanced to occupy the positions I had vacated but were unable to achieve any successes in terms of destroying units
 My mounted commander of the garrison of Antioch marched across the bridge behind the Christian Pilgrims of force E. He then failed a command and his force was left in column of route for the Pilgrims to charge them in their flank - fortunately I again drew the right card and they were able to evade. In the next move, they captured the Crusader camp, relieving Julian of another 3 coins - his army morale was now down to 4 and I still had my original 9.
 The cavalry from force D drive back the light Muslim troops in front of them
 The garrison commander in the Christian camp - a crap photo but I left it in anyway!
 Frustration for the Muslims - they fail to beat a 3 and cannot make a flank charge into a unit of knights
 Frustration for the Crusaders - the leaders unit turned a 10 and attempted a redraw to get a better card - anything but a 1 would enable them to charge forward against a disrupted unit of light cavalry.....!
 The Muslim right centre in the mid way of the game - force 1 v's force D. The knights have a disrupted unit of archers pinned on the table edge - meanwhile, their supporting heavy infantry has been disrupted by Arab spearmen. Two units of Muslim cavalry have turned inwards in support, but they in turn face the possibility of a flank attack from another unit of Crusader heavy cavalry in the top right of the picture..... what a mess!
 In the left centre of the Muslim line, disrupted foot archers face the disrupted leader of force B
 The Muslim left flank adjacent to Antioch
 The attack by force 3 on the right rear of the Crusaders continues - light cavalry attack the flank of the units that have turned to face the mounted archers on the high ground
 Closer view of the assault
 The same area from a different view and a bit later in the game - the archers who made the charge have been driven off by the heavy knights in the centre of the picture, but not before the Crusader foot archers had been disrupted
 The mess in my left centre - units from both forces heading in a variety of directions!
A general view along the table from the Antioch end. The Christian Pilgrims managed to recapture their camp from my cavalry and regain 3 of their coins - at this stage I think it was 7 -4 in my favour

 My heavy cavalry on the left flank are disrupted in a melee with the Crusader heavy infantry - next to them is a unit of Muslim light archers, also disrupted
 On the right wing, my heavy cavalry charge the disrupted archers, with two hits available as they are using their lances for the first time in the game
 The charge was successful, and Julian's last two remaining coins were removed with the destruction of this unit
 Close up view of one of the Crusader leaders
Close up of one of the Muslim commanders

This was a hard fought game in the end - at the half way point, it had all been one way traffic, with the Muslims sitting on the original 9 coins and the Crusaders down to 3 or 4! However, the Crusaders managed to hold on for another hour or so thereafter. There was much frustration on both sides but the Crusaders probably had the worst of things - their knights in particular were great at saving throws after successful Muslim assaults, but when it came to striking back, their card turning was atrocious! On the other hand, I was hovering on the brink of victory for the second half of the game but just could not overcome the Crusaders excellent saving turns - time and again I got hits on an already disrupted unit but they would turn over a 7 or 8 to save themselves from destruction!

The most pleasing thing was that by luck of the card turning, the lighter Arab cavalry army was able to reproduce the type of tactics that helped them succeed against the heavier European armies - massed bowmen who were able to retire in the face of the knights charges but then continue to engage them from another location, then retire AGAIN when charged a second time!


  1. WHat a great looking game, beautiful armies and camps!

  2. Thanks Phil - none of these figures are mine so I cant take any credit