Yesterday, I had the pleasure of playing a 28mm Crusader game in our annual Summer Extravaganza to North Devon hosted by my old friend and fellow Devon Wargames member Charles "Chas" Carter.
Chas has regularly hosted this event in our calender, with last years game portraying the Battle of Balaclava. This year's game was based loosely of the Battle of Hattin 1187 when the Crusader army under Guy of Lusignan of about 20,000 men was destroyed by the Muslim army of Saladin numbering about 30,000 men.
Our game assumed the Crusader army had discovered a suitable watering place en route and was marching determinedly to the relief of the fortress at Tiberius; the Saracen army are equally determined to see that that would not happen
Battle of Hattin
The table shows the initial set up with the Crusader army in column of Battles with the Cross of the True Believer carried in the centre proceeded by my own Battle commanded by the "Bonking" Bishop of Acre, a fearsome warrior knight of the cloth, with a bounty on his head due to his terrible reputation for not offering quarter (We commanders, each had to draw a secret trait of our character that revealed positive and/or negative attributes, with my leader worth double the trophy points for any Saracen commander who should cause his early demise).
|The Vanguard of the Christian Forces|
|The King's Battle surround the Cross of the True Believer|
|My character, the Bishop of Acre, directs his battle to cover the exits in the hills|
|Unsure of where the threat lay, the Crusader forces turned outwards to protect the cross|
|The Vanguard pushes forward|
|The Crusaders attempt to form a protected corridor for the Cross|
|The Bishop of Acre's Order of Knights flank the ranks of Volunteer Pilgrims|
|Spear men, Sergeants at Arms and Knights form a solid block|
|The Bishop of Acre encourages his men|
|Saracens move forward to stop the advance|
Quite clearly the Saracen forces were highly mobile, very often more lightly armoured, and practically everyone carried a bow. Thus the predictable tactics of shoot to kill and disorder the more heavily armoured Christian troops, preceding a furious charge by the more fanatical or better armoured elements of the Saracen forces, in an attempt to capitalise on the earlier shooting. The combat system works, using a fairly standard approach, of trying to get as many 4, 5, or 6's on as many d6's as you can muster; with the 6's likely to cause figure losses to the unit affected and the 4 and 5's adding to the number of potential disorder checks needed to be avoided.
|Saracens, "fousands of em"|
|The battle lines are drawn up|
With these few pointers, quickly mastered and absorbed, I waded into battle.
|Saracens attack the rear guard|
|Lots of spears and bows. With all the arrows flying about, many Crusaders developed a feather allergy|
|The Saracen bows "darken the sky" with their volleys of arrows|
|Crusader allied skirmish cavalry take up the challenge|
|The Saracen commander leading the attacks on the rear of the column - Nice work Nick|
|The view with all but one of the Saracen Battles deployed, with a large gap in the centre left. The Bishop's troops, close by the Cross, have about faced to join the King facing that potential area of threat.|
|The same view from the Saracen lines, with a large attack building on the rear of the Crusader column|
|More troops advance on to threaten the front of the column, with fanatical Ghazis closest to camera|
|The Saracens fire arrows into the head of the column with the Crusader spear men getting good service from their shields|
|Saracen spear men support hoards of bow armed light cavalry|
|Saracen spear men and archers make best use of the broken ground on the Crusader flank|
|More cavalry move to assist the Crusader vanguard in holding off the initial attacks|
|And then they appeared. The final Saracen force with the King and the Bishop of Acre's Battles ready to attack|
This deployment was problematic as the counter march had separated the mounted sergeants from my direct control, and thus a powerful mounted formation would not be available to me at the start of our fight. In addition, as part of my attempt to gather all my troops under my direct command, I had left the Bishop nearer to the mounted sergeants in the hope of getting them under command in the next turn. This had left my spear men out of control, and it was they who bore the brunt of the first Saracen charge of fanatical Ghazi infantry.
|Meanwhile the combat develops at the rear as knights prepare to settle matters|
|And the Cross advances inspiring all those who believe and see its progress through the ranks|
|The Bishops spear men, top centre, absorb the first Saracen charge by the Ghazis, as the Naval Volunteers armed with Crossbows peeper the support unit preparing the ground for the Bishops knights to attack. The Volunteer Pilgrims |
|The opposing cavalry clash as the spear men prepare to engage at the rear of the Crusader column|
|Surprise! The Bishop's Knights charge the flak of the Ghazis, as the Mounted Sergeants cover their flank. The Bishop oversees the battle amid his infantry|
|The fighting was fierce and close up at the front of the column as the Saracens attempted to create a gap towards the Cross|
|The Saracen reserve waited to see the outcome of their first attacks on the Crusader Vanguard|
|The battle of attrition was drawing in reserves from both sides as they attempted to achieve a breakthrough|
|The fighting against the rearguard was also unremitting|
|Halfway through the game and both sides are locked in battle along the length of the table with no decisive outcome and all to play for|
|With battle this intense, the Crusaders refresh their troops, with a few of Saladin's boys grabbing a beer as well|
|Units around the table were displaying large gaps in their ranks|
|And still the Saracens kept coming|
|The last reserves are fed into the battle|
|The Bishops knights find themselves flanked having destroyed the Ghazi infantry. The King's Battle turns in support.|
The new Saracen cavalry unit top left is about to charge the Pilgrims in the flank.
|The battle of the Vanguard reaches it's crescendo|
|Frankish spear men at bay with Ghazis to their front and cavalry on their flank|
|The Volunteer Pilgrims are decimated by a Saracen cavalry charge on their flank as the King's troops close in to support the Bishop's forces and protect the Cross|
|The Kings forces close in ready to destroy the Saracen force to their front. The Pilgrims fight desperately to hold their ground.|
|The Saracen attacks on the rearguard start to fall apart|
|Crusader knights take control at the rear of the column|
|The front of the column is still heavily contested as Saracen attacks fall away elsewhere|
|The King's knights with the aid of the Bishop's infantry remove the threat to the Cross in the centre|
I really enjoyed my first game of Deus Vult, it is obvious that they were written with a passion for this period in history and seem to capture that very well. I don't think the rule book is the easiest to follow, set of rules I have read, but that is the only small issue I could point to.
This kind of game takes a lot of planning and preparation and I would like to thank Chas for pulling the day together and to my fellow gamers, Steve H, Steve M, Nick, Mike, Clive, John, Vince, Andy and Nathan for an excellent weekend. Good Times.