So far we have only managed one game at the East Leeds Club with 4 of us, it was a great taster game for me, but our usual big games need enough troops for 7-9 players in a 15 by 7 foot table. The cause gained a boost as Chum Jerry decided to re-base his Normans and then add an army of Muslim troops himself, Mark also decided his few units of Christians for the first Crusade would be re-based and Dave decided his Christmas present to himself would be a force of Berber Black Guard. New chum Simon let me know he has a force of Normans to throw in too. Chris Charlton has a small Christian force too but was not available for this game. Shame really, there are not many of Chris's troops so far but they are lovely.
All this has meant that we have more than doubled the number of troops available so we decided a big game at "The Barn" with Chris Flowers was now on the Cards.
Our rules of choice for big battles in the ancient and dark age time frames are Hail Caesar, they are quick play but also feel right, we have used them for Arthurian and late Roman with great results and also the test El Cid game so I thought they should work well for our new period.
I was clear from the start that no matter what, every figure we had would be used so that people could see the hard work of painting and collecting their armies put to good use. So if any of this looks slightly less than historical sorry, my bad, but a means to an end.
As it happens the forces have ended up quite balanced, the two sides have equal numbers of troops but the Christians are far better armoured and have the queen of the battlefield for the time, Armoured Mounted Knights, in abundance. So giving the Moors a slight advantage in terrain the sides should be fairly evenly balanced, well that was the plan anyway.
So first the Moors:
5 Divisions of foot totalling 18 units of Spears and 8 units of archers/crossbows
4 Divisions of Horse with 4 units of horse archers, 3 units of heavy cavalry and 11 units of light horse
Thats 44 units in total.
Then the Christians
4 Division of foot totalling 17 units of spears and 6 units of archers/crossbows.
5 Divisions of Horse totalling 3 units of light horse and 18 units of armoured knights
Again 44 units in total but a lot more are armoured
The key attributes we gave to units was as below;
Long Spears - Enemy loose charge bonus, dis-order enemy cavalry on 1 or 2 (Berber Foot)
Crossbows - Enemy saving throws capped at 5, no closing or traversing fire (Both sides)
Mounted Crossbows - Only fire mounted at short range on a -1 (Andalusian militia crossbow)
Lance - Enemy morale saves lowered by 1 (All Christian Armoured Knights)
Parthian Shot -May use closing fire and evade (Horse Archers)
Marauders - Ignore distance modifiers for command roles (All archers, mounted and foot)
About half of the forces belong to chum Jerry, his figures are mainly Gripping Beast and very colourful indeed (see the forces in the fort below) Mark brought along a couple of units of Perry Knights whilst Dave contributed his fledgling force of Artizan Berber Black Guard. Most of the rest of the troops were from my eclectic collection which includes over 9 manufacturers both in metal and Plastic.The end result was very colourful indeed.
The battlefield had 2 small hills and 5 small woods, a ruined fort in the centre occupied by Andalusian troops and a small tower in front of the Moorish left flank holding a unit of archers. This meant that the Christian Knights would be funnelled to some degree where the archers could shoot into their flanks, evening things up with the Christians being so much better armoured.
A bit of mayhem at the beginning of the game as my carefully laid plans had to be re-hashed with 2 players unable to attend and a couple of units per side would not materialise, but overcoming this we laid out the armies and cracked on.
The Moors won the initiative but chose to have the Christians go first, clearly they had decided the best form of defence was actually defence.
The armoured foot and horse of the Spanish Reconquesta rumbled slowly forward.
Mark had teken the role of the Count of Asturias, the army commander and gave himself the toughest job holding the middle agaisnt Jerry with the best Moorish cavalry and a runined fort to fight from. Mark had the only Christian unarmoured horse and foot too.
On the Christian right Richard had 2 divisions each of 4 units of armoured knights supported by a division of of 4 units armoured foot and a unit of archers.
On the left Steve had 4 units of armoured foot, two being large units, and four units of horse of which one was large, to keep things simple these were given an extra dice in the melees. to represent being a little larger.
The Moors had a slightly more random set up. I had placed the Andalusians in the centre around the ruined fort but the rest were to be slightly random. This meant that the flank was held by a strong division of 6 Berber medium foot. the fortified tower had a unit of archers and the wood beside it another unit of archers. Chris then had a division of light cavalry, 2 horse archer units and three Berber light horse. He quickly threw the horse archers forward to harass Richards Mercenary Knights. His division of foot moved slightly forward and on the right Andy moved the lBack guard to the reverse slope of a hill to await Steves armoured troops.
Richard responded to Chris's harrassing fire by charging 4 units of knights at them, narrowly missing catching them and following up with the second division of armoured knights.
Meanwhile on the Muslim left flank the Mercenary Berber division is happy to sit things out, they are getting paid and not having to fight after all.
Jerrys heavy Muslim Cavalry first forced Marks un-armoured foot back and then broke 2 out of 3 units. Amazingly their commander (Charlton Heston so perhaps not that surprising) managed to ensure that the last units passed its brigade morale test and stood firm in a sea of Muslim cavalry.
On one flank Steve and Andy face each other with pretty intact foot divisions but both have been surrounded by enemy heavy cavalry, whilst on the other flank both sides have most of their forces intact but remain on their own base boards happy enough to see if the other will do anything.
Its all to play for and we reckon on needing at least 2 or 3 more hours of gaming to get to a conclusion. In the end both teams were claiming a winning draw but going home happy after an enjoyable game.
Our second Hail Caesar for this period and it confirms my thoughts that it is a really good fit and relatively fast play for the large numbers involved.
Larger numbers of missile troops and terrain worked in balancing the increased fighting ability of the heavier Christian troops.
For the future we want more of the Christians in less armour and an increase in Andalusian troops.
The dizzying shifting politics of early medieval Spain mean that you can mix the Christian, Berber and Andalusian troops in almost any proportion as they make and break alliances with and against each other, so future games should incorporate this. After all El Cid himself was a Mercenary for the Andalusian kingdom of Zaragosa against first the Catalans and then both Muslim Valencia and Ben Yusufs Almoravid invaders.
That said we are planning to put the game on at the Partizan show at Newark in May and I dont want to change this scenario too much for that game.
So all in all a great success and lots learnt about gaming this most colourful of periods.
A couple more posts with updates on figures for this game and a write up of a small WWII game at Steve Shanns then I am back on with the Great northern War.
Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed it.