Fatimid Egyptian vs. Seljuk Turks
Another game of ‘To the Strongest’ at the club. Between games of TtS and ‘Poor Bloody Infantry’ the club tape measures lie rusting in the cupboard. This time it was my Fatimid Egyptians against Al’s Seljuk Turks. The Fatimids are easily the worst army I own in terms of results, which is fair enough really given that they were in terminal decline at this time, but they look nice and that’s the main thing. The problem with fighting Turks is dealing with the hordes of horse archers. TtS is a game that works on activations, a unit may be able to activate more than once in a turn, and horse archers are allowed to shoot and move backwards as part of the same activation. The tendency is for the enemy to get drawn into a cloud of Turkish cavalry to the point where they lose formation, have left their infantry behind and can no longer protect their flanks. This time, rather than over-committing to an early massed cavalry charge, I was going to try and fight as close to my infantry as possible, and exploit any potential advantage when it appeared.
We used the ‘stratagems’ option, and here I drew the flank attack. To be honest, I wasn’t that thrilled about it as it would mean having a unit less in my main line which would already be outnumbered. But I detached a unit of Bedouins to attack the enemy right flank on my third turn. Perhaps they could cause enough confusion to coincide with a counter-attack through the difficult terrain there.
^ The Fatimid deployment. The infantry is to provide a solid base from which the cavalry can attack. The bow-armed Ghilman are in the front rank to be able to compete with the Turkish archery.
^ The Seljuks deploy. The Ghilman are mainly concentrated on a strong left wing, which immediately put paid to my plan of a main attack from my own right wing.
The game started with a general Turkish advance, attempting to gain as much ground as possible in order to have more space to fall back into and erode the enemy advance. The Fatimids, for their part, advanced their main infantry onto the hill and formed a line off them.
^ The Turks advance.
^ The Fatimid response.
Initially the Fatimid archers did well. In TtS, formed archers may shoot twice in one activation, so they would be able to out-shoot the horse archers. Overall, however, the archery exchange was about even, with the Turks slightly edging it.
^ Fatimid Ghilman (on left) under pressure. The black counter indicates that they have taken a hit and one more will destroy the unit. White markers are ammunition, yellow indicates a one-use lance.
^ The view from the Turkish side. Their cavalry mass on the left and pressure is being put on the junction between the Fatimid infantry. On their right, they keep their distance, where the terrain will frustrate any Fatimid counter-attack.
Command in TtS involves pulling chits to activate units in a command one at a time until a unit fails whereupon that command’s turn is over. So some thought is necessary on the order in which to do things. I rather foolishly lost the opportunity to charge with the Arab cavalry on my right in the above picture, due to first trying to get the infantry to rally. There was a 90% chance that they would to charge, and one is tempted to blame bad luck, but had I moved the general there first, his ‘re-roll’ ability would have made it 99%.
^ On the Fatimid left, the terrain is likely to slow any attempt to catch the Turks in a counter-attack, and the cavalry here is low on missile power. So they wait and hope that the Bedouins will turn up and pin the Turks.
At this point the Fatimids had had slightly the worse of the archery exchange, losing one unit of Ghilman to archery alone, and had failed to launch any meaningful attack to relieve the pressure. The right was looking in danger, and the left looked unlikely to be able to intervene productively.
^ The battle is in the balance. The Fatimid cavalry on their right has had to move out from behind the infantry to cover the flank, leaving the circled Ghilman dangerously exposed. On the Turkish right, the Bedouins (lower right of picture) appear from behind their flank.
^ The circled Turkish Gilmen would attempt to turn into the flank of the Fatimid cavalry. The latter, however, would successfully evade the charge and take refuge behind their infantry.
^ The Arab cavalry now has a better chance to rally behind its infantry (not that it ever did actually succeed in rallying!). The Turkish cavalry is bunched up and is ripe for a counter-attack.
On the Fatimid left, the Bedouins had just failed to attack the Turks in the rear, and some Turkish horse archers were able to turn and disperse the Bedouins through archery alone. However, this had left the Turkish cavalry facing in different directions and had inhibited their ability to evade any charge. Negotiating the terrain would be tricky, but the Fatimid left had to charge now. With opportunities for productive attacks on both left and right, caution was out of the window. The Fatimid plan became: ‘attack everything and Inshallah we will win.’
^ A great display by the Fatimid commander on the left. Leading his own cavalry into the midst of the Turkish horse, scattering them, the Ghilman (arrowed) attacked the centre, while the other Arab cavalry mopped up the small Turkish cavalry by the village.
The aftermath of the attack, the Fatimid commander has pursued into the distance, following a remarkable chain of activations.
On the Fatimid right, the infantry has joined in the attack and the situation has turned around.
The Fatimid infantry stand resolute on the hill. Out of ammunition, they await their commander’s order to join the attack.
The Seljuk commander senses defeat. The little dice represent ammunition, the playing card chits are for unit activations.
The Fatimid attack has turned the battle, their following turn would be an all-out assault to try and break the Turks. However, the Turkish army would break before that. A rather rare victory for the Fatimids.
The aftermath. The Turkish right has been smashed, and the left pushed back.
Another good game of TtS. This time I managed to stay resolute to the plan of fighting close to my infantry, and pick the right opportunity for an attack. Fortune favoured me in the last turns, particularly with the chain of activations on the left wing. All in all, TtS handled the period well again. As a generic set of Ancient-Medieval rules, they will inevitably fall down on some periods, being more aimed at classical warfare, but they are also abstract enough to be tailored to the specifics of other periods. So far, it’s worked well for ‘Turks v Arabs.’ Anyway, ‘To the Strongest’ is well worth a try in my opinion, but if you get sucked in to it you might need some WD40 for your tape measures.