A follow-up to our last run-out of the Crusades armies with ‘To the Strongest’ rules. Once again it was my Fatimids against Al’s Seljuk Turks. This time we had new terrain tiles, of which more later. Suffice to say we had gone to 4″ squares and many more of them, so the playing area was huge. Incidentally, the photos aren’t great in some cases. I’d just got a new camera on the afternoon of the game and didn’t have time to read the manual!
Last time I had successfully managed to ensure that the fighting happened as close as possible to my infantry archers to support my own cavalry, and this time I set up with a fairly unimaginitive infantry centre with roughly equal cavalry wings.
^ Bird’s eye view. The Seljuks are in 4 commands, 2 of light cavalry on their left and 2 heavier cavalry commands at centre and their right.
^ The Fatimids deploy close to their camp and obviously keen to avoid being outflanked.
^ View of the Fatimid line from their right flank.
^ The Turks begin to advance.
As the Turks began to approach, their centre drifted off to their left and it was clear they were going to avoid the Fatimid infantry centre entirely and attack both flanks, chiefly from their left. Fighting horse archer armies is an exercise in patience, there’s no sense charging into the midst of them as they’ll just pull back and surround you and pick on any unit that breaks formation. So as the Turks advanced, the Fatimids restricted themselves to a bit of minor shuffling. The plan was to wait until they were both close enough and potentially disjointed enough to launch an aggressive attack.
^ Seljuk light cavalry advance along the ridge.
As the Seljuks got closer, it became apparent just how wide they were planning on going, it didn’t look like ANY of their units would be in arc of my archers. I didn’t fancy splitting the infantry to try and support each wing so my right tried to tuck in behind the infantry while my left sought to gain a positional advantage to launch a charge without infantry support.
^As the Turks attempt to go around the Fatimid left, Fatimid cavalry sees the opportunity to hopefully attack the Turkish flank and overwhelm them quickly.
^ On the Fatimid right, Arab cavalry gets into position to launch its own attack, hopefully causing enough damage to retain the initiative and at least break as many enemy units as they lose.
So, after a lot of manoeuvring (almost entirely by the Seljuks) battle was finally joined. The Fatimid left and right wing cavalry both charged seeking to get first use of the lance bonus (in TtS, the lance is a one shot weapon allowing an extra attack on your own turn), as well as using a few ‘heroes’ (basically one-shot combat rerolls). What followed was probably the worst single turn I’ve had in TtS so far. Not a single hit scored, and worse, one received from retaliations. The Fatimids were now out of position, outnumbered and had achieved nothing with their charge. That’s pretty much game over on turn one of fighting.
However, combat in TtS is a rather drawn-out affair, it’s rare to get massive breakthroughs in a single turn, and so the cataclysmic counter-attack I feared didn’t actually come to pass. On the Fatimid left, a confused cavalry melee ensued. While on the right, I was able to buy a little time by feinting an attack on the Seljuk lights and then withdrawing.
^ Confused melee on the Fatimid left. Fatimid ghilmen have swung around to threaten the Seljuk commander (with yellow flag). The confusion isn’t helped by both sides using the same figures. Helpfully the Seljuks all have rounded corners on their bases.
The Fatimid right wing cavalry was being gradually overwhelmed, but hung on long enough for the infantry centre to finally turn towards that flank and begin shooting at the Turks. Ironically, following all the wide manouevres, it was the Turks who ended up being outflanked.
^The Seljuks numbers are too much for the Fatimids, who are left with a solitary unit of ghilmen to stem the tide.
On the Fatimid left, the attempted envelopment of the Seljuk command had been partially successful and eventually led to the Fatimids gaining the upper hand in the fight.
^The Turks surrounded following dogged fighting by the Fatimids.
Finally, somewhat against the odds, the Fatimid left and the infantry archers had done enough damage to break the Seljuks. The last unit of ghilmen on the right had heroically pinned the Seljuk cavalry while the infantry burned through the ammunition tokens like there was no tomorrow. Another victory, albeit close, for the Fatimids in another really good game.
^The Fatimid infantry have got into position and now wreak havoc with massed archery into the Seljuk flank.
In the end, the infantry were the decisive factor. In hindsight, one of the Seljuk light commands could have been better employed in the centre, keeping out of bow range but close enough to prevent the infantry from being able to freely turn to its flank. Once it became clear that there was no threat of imminent collapse on the Fatimid left, there was nothing to stop the infantry being able to join in on the right.
Having done a bit more reading on the Fatimids, it seems that the idea of massed infantry archers with a front rank of spears has been recently challenged, and it’s more likely that Fatimid armies had all-spear units supported by some skirmishing archers. I don’t really fancy rebasing however, so I may use them as spear next time with bow as a secondary weapon to represent the skirmishers. At least until I get some more figures done. . . .
The terrain tiles were made by Al from carpet tiles, with the underside being terrained with glue and sand. These come in 500mm squares, so each tile can make up 5 x 5 10cm squares with no trimming needed. They take up much less space being thinner than foam boards, and they aren’t as prone to warping. The other useful thing is that they retain a degree of flexibility, so can be placed over rolled-up blankets (as we experimented with here) or similar to get a decent representation of rising ground. Rivers can be cut into the carpeted side by cutting/burning away the carpet. Anyway, so far they’re looking to be very useful.
All figures are 15mm Legio Heroica. Camp by Baueda.