Thursday, 16 October 2014

HARRAN 1104 AD - A demo-game for Fiasco 2014

A Brief Historical Account


The Strategic Positions

Following the release for ransom of Bohemond of Antioch in 1103 AD the northern Franks celebrated by launching two offensives. The first was against the region around Alleppo from which they extracted tribute to pay back loans made for Bohemond’s ransom. The second was against the Byzantines who were trying to reclaim the Cilician territories to the northwest.

By the spring 1104 AD the northern Franks felt secure enough to turn against the Moslem states to the east. Their strategic goal was to take the mighty fortress of Harran. If this could be taken it would cut communications between the Moslems of Syria and the Moslems of Iraq and Persia, and it would secure the link between Edessa and Antioch. In March 1104 AD they began to raid Harran and it became clear to the surrounding Moslem states that it was only a matter of time before the Franks besieged the place.

Harran, independent of Mardin and Mosul, was in a state of turmoil following a successful uprising against its ruling general, called Qaraj. His successor Mohammed of Isfahan was murdered by a servant called Jawali, a former page of Qaraj with whom Mohammed had become unwisely intimate. Jawali’s succession was weak and he was incapable of governing and protecting Harran effectively. When Frankish raids against Harran’s fields and trade routes began in the spring of 1104 AD he was in no position to counter them.

The year 1103 AD had also been a time of division for others in the Moslem world. Following the death of Kerbogha of Mosul, Soqman the Ortoqid prince of Mardin had failed to gain the succession and was at war with its newly appointed Seljuk atabeg Jekermish. The threat to Harran, which was vital to the security to both Mardin and Mosul, forced Soqman of Mardin and Jekermish of Mosul to patch up a peace and form an alliance; together they launched a counter offensive against Edessa to save it.

Hearing news that the Moslems were massing 70 miles from his capital, Baldwin of Edessa sent for help to his lieutenant Joscelin of Turbessel and Bohemond of Antioch. They would beat the Moslems to the punch by marching on Harran immediately. The armies concentrated before Harran and had they stormed the place it would have fallen easily. But the Franks wanted the place intact and they quarrelled over whose flag would fly above its walls once it had been taken. Before the argument had been settled the combined armies of Soqman and Jekermish had swung south and were upon them; this move forced the siege to be broken. 
The two opposing armies met on 7th May 1104 AD some distance from the city.

The Armies 

The combined strength of the two Christian armies was put at more than 3,000 cavalry and 9,000 infantry, including many Armenian subjects from the Edessa region. By stripping every garrison of available men it represented almost the entire fighting strength of the northern Franks.

The best guess at Saracen numbers is 10,000, all of which were cavalry. I have seen certain accounts that break down this figure to 7,000 from Mardin and 3,000 from Mosul, but we have chosen to go with Steven Runciman (A History of the Crusades 2. The Kingdom of Jerusalem) who states “Soqman with a considerable force of Turcoman light cavalry and Jekermish with a slightly smaller force composed of Seldjuk, Turks, Kurds and Arabs.” In game terms this works much better.

The Battle

The actual site of the battle is uncertain. There are two possibilities: It either took place on a plain opposite the small town of ar-Raqqah two days march from Harran, or it took place on the River Balikh some 7.5miles from Harran. We have chosen to follow Runciman and site it at the river.

The battlefield was split north to south by the river Balikh. The river was fordable along its entire length, though the banks were muddy in places. To the south west (the Frankish side of the river) lay a large hill. All of the surrounding ground was gently undulating scrubland strewn with bushes and stunted trees; this did not hamper movement, but goes someway to explaining why visibility was hindered.

The Frankish plan of battle was cunningly simple. The Edessanes would hold the open ground in the centre / centre left and draw the Saracen into a close quarter fight. Once the Saracen was entangled, the Antiochenes would emerge from their ambush position, behind the brow of the hill (right flank), and crush the Saracens from flank and rear.

The Moslem plan was somewhat similar. Firstly, Soqman’s Turcoman cavalry would engage with the enemy then feign flight back across the river. If the plan was successful the Franks would be drawn into pursuit and then crushed by fresh cavalry set in ambush on the Moslem side of the river.

As it was, the Saracen’s plan succeeded and the Frank’s plan failed. On seeing the Turcoman horse archers fleeing, the Edessanes thought the battle won and fell into pursuit. Once they had crossed the river thousands of fresh cavalry fell upon them from all sides and they were utterly destroyed. Baldwin and Joscelin were captured and brought before Soqman.  Bohemond’s Antiochenes did not enter the fight. On cresting the brow of the hill, brushing away some light resistance as they did so, they saw the slaughter of the Edessanes in the plain below. Bohemond, seeing the day was lost, ordered a retreat.

The after effects of the disaster were not as bad as might have been feared. Following the battle Jekermish’s Seljuks attacked Soqmans tent and carried Baldwin off. This act triggered the reopening of hostilities between Soqman and Jekermish. Soqman retired from the war with the Crusaders and left Jekermish to continue alone. This gave the Crusaders time to consolidate. In the absence of Baldwin, Tancred took control of Edessa and strengthened its defences. With the help of loyal Armenian subjects he successfully held the city against subsequent attack by Jekermish. It is interesting to note that whilst defending Edessa Tancred captured a high born Seljuk princess. So highly did Jekermish value her that he immediately offered 15,000 besants or Baldwin’s return as her ransom – Tancred (the new lord of Edessa) and his uncle Bohemund took the money and Baldwin spent another four years in captivity - I can hear their words, even now "We're all in this together". 

The War Game

The Scenario
This war game scenario is not intended to be a rigid historical reenactment of the events of 1104 AD. It is a game scenario based on historical deployments and intentions. As such it should be a much closer and harder fought affair - much more fun. 

There are several scenario specific rules to help the battle's main events unfold as they did historically. Some of these rules are built into the sequence cards used by the players. Others are more general in nature. There are rules that allow the two ambushes to be set up in plain sight of the players. There is a rule that might allow the Turks to successfully perform their feigned flight and draw the Edessanes forward. Unhistorically, Bohemond and Tancred will not leave Baldwin and Joscelin to their fate and there is a special rule that might even allow them to attack early.

The general rules in use are Ager Sanguinis 2 by James Roach. These rules, because of the use of sequence cards rather than a strict move sequence, are ideally suited to this kind of scenario generation.

The Terrain

There are only two notable terrain features. Any other terrain is a movable feast, added for aesthetic purposes, and will have no effect on the game.
  • The hill is low and gently sloping. It is classed as type I terrain but troops must stop at first contact with it. It gives a terrain advantage to troops uphill in melee. It counts as uphill to shooters firing from it to targets on the plain but not otherwise.
  • The River Balikh. It is classed as a type II water feature along its entire length. Troops defending a bank attacked from the river count a terrain advantage in melee.

The Ambushes
 The forces of Mosul under Jekermish can be activated by the Saracen player at any time. They are automatically activated if any Crusaders cross the River Balikh. Until this force is activated it is deemed to be in 'dead ground' and cannot be seen.
The forces of Antioch cannot be activated by the Crusader player unless the forces of Mosul are active, or any Saracen unit crests the hill. Until this force is activated it is deemed to be in 'dead ground' and cannot be seen.
The Feigned Flight

On the first appearance of the Saracen Stratagem sequence card the Saracen player may choose to order the Turcomans of Soqman's Vanguard to make a feigned flight.

If the option is taken, each Turcoman unit of the vanguard will immediately make an evade move, ignoring the terrain effect of the river, towards the Saracen's long table edge. 
If the feigned flight is made, each unit in the commands of Baldwin and Joscelin must roll a D6 Vs D12. A die roll failure (D6 <  D12) will result in the unit making a triple move forward at full rate (stopping at contact with the river) -in uncontrolled advance. Units in uncontrolled advance must must move at full rate on each subsequent Crusader March card until they contact the nearest enemy or they are rallied on a Crusader Command card.

After its appearance the Stratagem is discarded.
The Patrol

On the first appearance of the Crusader Stratagem sequence card the Crusader player may choose to take control of the Turcomans of Soqman's Patrol. These troops represent the light opposition brushed off the hill by Bohemond and Tancred and might serve to activate the Antiochenes early in the battle.

Any motivation die rolls and physical movements will be governed by the Crusader player (other actions will be governed by the Saracen player) until they come within 8" of the Antiochenes when full control is restored to the Saracen player. They always operate on the Saracen sequence cards.

After its appearance the Stratagem is discarded.


The Forces in Miniature


We have, where possible within the confines of our miniatures collection, tried to reflect the historical composition of each force. Figure scale is approximately 1:33. All figures are Perry Miniatures. All figures were painted by James Roach.

Count Baldwin of Eddessa (Motivation Die: D10):
  • 1 unit of mixed Frankish and Armenian knights.
  • 1 unit of Frankish sergeants.
  • 2 units of Armenian spearmen. 
  • 2 units of Armenian bowmen.
Lord Joscelin of Turbessel (Motivation Die: D10):
  • 1 unit of mixed Frankish and Armenian knights.
  • 2 units of turcopoles. 
  • 1 unit of Frankish sergeants.
Prince Bohemond of Antioch (Motivation Die: D12): 
  • 2 small units of Knights.
  • 2 units of Frankish sergeants.
Prince Tancred of Galilee (Motivation Die: D12):
  • 2 small units of Knights. 
  • 2 unit of Frankish sergeants.
Soqman the Ortoqid Prince of Mardin (Motivation dice D12):
  •  2 units of Ghulam cavalry.
  • 1 unit of Syrian heavy cavalry.
  • 2 units of Turcoman horse archers.
Soqman's Turcoman Vanguard (Motivation Die: D10): 
  • 5 units of Turcoman horse archers (Vanguard).

Soqman's Turcoman Patrol (Motivation Die: D8): 
  • 1 units of Turcoman horse archers.
Jekermish the Seljuk Atebeg of Mosul (Motivation Die: D12): 
  • 1 unit of Ghulam cavalry, 2 units of Kurdish heavy cavalry, 2 units of Arab light cavalry, 1 signal band (musician stand).
Jekermish's Seldjuk Archers (Motivation Die: D10): 
  • 4 units of Seldjuk horse archers.



Army Dice, Morale Chips & Sequence Decks

Crusader

Army Die: D10
Morale Chips: 25
Sequence Deck:
  • Army Morale: 2
  • Look Sir, Army Morale: 1
  • Artillery: 1
  • Command: 3
  • Manoeuvre: 2
  • March: 3
  • Group March: 1
  • Melee: 2
  • Aggressive Melee, Up 1: 1
  • Group Melee: 1
  • Missilery: 3
  • Tactical Advantage: 3
  • Lull: 4
  • Stratagem (Patrol): 1
  • Buying Time: 1

Note: Sequence Cards in italics are cards from the Army Characterisation Deck.

Saracen

Army Die: D10
Morale Chips: 25
Sequence Deck:
  • Army Morale: 3
  • Artillery: 1
  • Command: 3
  • Manoeuvre: 2
  • March: 3
  • Group March: 1
  • Melee: 3
  • Group Melee: 1
  • Missilery: 2
  • Like Hail, Missilery Up 1: 1
  • Group Missilery: 1
  • Tactical Advantage: 3
  • Lull: 4
  • Stratagem (Feigned retreat): 1
Note: Sequence Cards in italics are cards from the Army Characterisation Deck.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Can you identify this?

This piece of 'trench art' was probably picked up in Egypt some time between 1938 and 1948. I think it is the timer from a shell fuse. Can you identify it? What type of shell? What nationality?




Thursday, 9 October 2014

Harran 1104 AD - The set up for Fiasco continues

Last night Peter, Graham and I set about checking the Harran scenario for Fiasco 2014 at the Royal Armouries on 26th October. I have made the changes to the initial set up in the hope that it works somewhat better than in my solo test game last month.


You can see that the river now crosses the table obliquely rather than running roughly lengthwise and the hill is in a new position. 

The hill and the Antiochenes under Bohemund and Tancred are now placed at end, and on the 'Saracen side', of the table. This looks, at first glance, a rather silly way of making the game run across the table rather than up it but, it achieves something that the other set up did not: It opens up the left flank of the Antiochenes to possible attack by Jekermish (primarily); the Antiochenes are unable to anchor their left flank on the artifice of the 'Crusader' table edge (see above pic).
 Except for their angle on the table, the set up for the Edessans and the Mardinians is roughly similar to the original set up. There have been some minor changes in force composition. The main change is the make up and classification of the Edessan knights.
These units are now made up of mixed western knights and Armenian heavy cavalry. I believe this is probably nearer to their actual composition given the ethnic demographic of Edessa. I have chosen to class them as full units of elite, professional, close order cavalry, in medium armour using couched lance. 

Just behind them is a small unit of Antiochene western knights.
Jekermish's deployment, excepting the composition of his force, is unchanged. 
As well as the odd village, largely added for the storage of dice and stuff if the table at Fiasco does not have a spare trestle table for the 'bumf of war', the game features a couple of camps. This one is a Turcoman camp with supply camels. 

The resin Yurts, BTW, are by Grand Manner. They are very nice, if a little expensive.
 The village and camp is mirrored at the Crusader end of the table.
 The Battle
 The Crusaders under Baldwin went forward eagerly. Though they lost some of their Turcopoles in a hail of arrows the process.
 It looked for a moment as if the Turcoman horse archers might be caught with their backs to the river.
 They managed to evade just in time. The Edessans were running out of steam.
 As they stalled Jekermish came forward and began to cross the river Balikh.
 Three hundred cavalry coming at you always looks intimidating. The effect was spoiled by Grahams inability to roll command group  activation dice: He rolled five natural '1s' on his polyhedrals in quick succession. 
 Jekermish's activation allowed the Antiochenes to activate.
 They reached the river in no time at all and started pelting the enemy with crossbow fire.
 Soqman's Turcomans re-crossed the river. The arrows were now flying in both directions.
 At the end of the first evenings play, this was the overall position. 

Baldwin has tried to form a flank but it was still hanging in the air and is being threatened by Jekermish's cavalry. The Antiochenes are well and truly poised to press their own attack. Soqman's heavy cavalry are at the river bank.

It now comes down to a race. Can Jekermish get behind the open flank before the Antiochenes can intervene.

Next week we will finish the battle. This week I aim to finalise the full scenario notes. I'll post them here as soon as they are done.

I also intend to write up the amendments to my Ager Sanguinis rules so that everything is written down before Fiasco. This will also serve to refresh my memory - we haven't played AS for so long that I had to check up several things during the evening. 

Lots to do.......

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Advertising Poll Added

I've been thinking for some time about allowing "Adsense" advertising on this blog. The reason is obvious. I could use any money that advertisement might generate to buy more of the shiny stuff - the money would be ring fenced. I can't imagine it will make all that much money. I really have no idea how much money these things make. So, is it worth it? 

The thing is, although I don't mind seeing an ad' or two on the blogs of others I've been led to believe that many people hate it. I wonder how many and how strong the opposition is. Obviously, comments as well as votes would be most welcome.

So, I'm largely leaving it up to you guys. I've set up a poll in the side bar. Please take the time to vote.

A "Yes / Don't care either way" majority will not automatically lead to it happening - it just means I'll look into it more closely. For a handful of figures a year it would not be worth it. For a handful of units, it might. Once a year we could have a poll on what the money should be spent on - that might be fun.

Thanks,

James


RESULTS

Yes
  33 (27%)
 
No
  35 (29%)
 
Don't care either way
  52 (43%)

When it comes to peoples opinions about the inclusion of advertising space on a hobby blog there seems to be a very mixed view. It is, as they say, as clear as mud. I'm actually surprised mostly by the majority who don't care either way. From conversations I've had in the past I expected the vote to be more polarised.

So what does it mean as far as this blog is concerned? It means there will be no advertising space on this hobby blog.

Thank you for taking time to vote and comment. Peace returns to the hustings.

Painting Report - Italian Wars

It might appear that I haven't painted much over the last few months. Certainly, after the hard slog to get the SYW Zorndorf game ready I was in need of a break. I've also been snowed under with work for clients, and still am, so my personal painting has been somewhat limited by available time. I've dabbled, with things like the Cardinal figure conversion, but until about six weeks ago I had painted almost nothing. 

Next year I'll be putting on Marignano 1515 at a new show (for us) in the north (to be announced) and rather than end up with the mad dash of earlier this year I've begun to make an early start on the few hundred figures I'll need. This painting has led to a rather drastic act. As one of the game's requirements is several dozen more skirmish infantry I had to make a final decision on basing. Originally, I had decided to base my skirmish infantry units twelve figures strong on four 60mm x 40mm bases (three figures per base). I can't remember why. Everything else I have based is on a frontage of 45mm, with formed foot four to a base and pike six to a base. 

I have re-based all of my skirmish infantry on 90mm x 45mm bases in units of sixteen, the same as number of figures as there are in my formed missile troops. I have also added quite a few additions. Some of the new painting has provided new units and some has bulked up the unit numbers from twelve to sixteen figure units. 


 Here are all of the figures, new and old, all based on the new bases. I have not changed the basing of my skirmish cavalry, these are new troops.
 Here are the newly painted figures - sixteen cavalry, five units of formed infantry and five units of skirmish infantry.
 There are three units of formed shot. One Italian unit with TAG figures. A unit of Landsknechts mainly comprising OG figures with a couple of Foundry. A unit of Spanish comprising OG figures.
 Two units of formed crossbow using Foundry and OG figures. From the front.
 From the back.
 Two units of mounted arquebusier by TAG (with a Foundry officer to make 16 figures in all). I really like these figures, so I've taken a few pics. Unit 1.
 Unit 2. The Foundry figure is wearing a cloak.
 Both units from above. 45mm frontage, 90mm depth bases give quite a nice 'skirmishing' feel.
 Three units of skirmish crossbow and two units of skirmish shot. The two shot units were bulked up units so only about half of these figures are new. The crossbows are new units, they are a mix of OG and Foundry figures. The shot are a mixture of OG, Foundry and TAG.
 Another pic of the same troops. Shot are Landsknechts and Swiss / Italian.


Sunday, 14 September 2014

Solo testing the Harran 1104 scenario - part three.

So we come to latest solo testing session. I played the game for a couple more turns. This is what happened.
 Baldwin's knights supported by Crusading foot sergeants tangle with Saracen heavy and light cavalry cavalry in an attempt to buy some time for the Antiochenes to come up.
 Baldwin's lieutenant, Joscelin, is still in uncontrolled advance and charges into a mass of Saracens under Soqman.
 Bohemund and Tancred are advancing in support as fast as they can and their line is becoming disjointed and vulnerable.
 Baldwin's time is running out. Now flanked, his situation is dire.
 The general situation looks like this. The Eddessans under Baldwin and Joscelin are scattered all over the place and being pressed by overwhelming numbers of  Saracens everywhere. Baldwin's cavalry are destroyed and Baldwin is killed.
 Joscelin's knights are flanked but, somehow, he manages to beat them off. He is cut off from the rest of his force. He is surrounded. 
 Bohemund forms a line at the foot of the hill. Tancred is more tardy (he rolls some rubbish motivation dice). Just across the river....
 ....Joscelin, with losses and in disorder, tries to break out.
  The dice are in his favour yet again!.....
 .....and, by some ungodly miracle, he makes it back to his own lines.
 New lines are forming. I am, BTW, liking this scenario set up less and less: The table edge is becoming a hindrance to free movement.
 Behind the Saracen, an isolated band of foot sergeants is surrounded and pounded to destruction. The Saracens are poised for their final thrust....
.......and that is where I choose to leave this battle because I have learned all I need to know. I have learned:

  • That the special rules regarding all of the contingents largely worked to an acceptable extent. The only one that might need tinkering with is the one regarding the compulsory advance by Baldwin's army (including Joscelin of Turbessel). I think I might change the definition of the Saracen's Stratagem card to an immediate Momentum March (plus one move for infantry and cavalry) card affecting Baldwin's army. This will ensure at least one lurch forward. Baldwin's units must rally or move at full rate on subsequent March cards to move to with the easiest to reach enemy, and then attempt to resolve melee. I think I will keep both Stratagem cards in the deck, but have only the first apply, Hmmmm.
  • I found that Jekermish was overly strong in unit quality. I will change the composition of each of the Saracen forces whilst maintaining the numerical strength of each. The overall numbers and types of units will not change. I will also downgrade some of the command group Motivation Die to D10. Only Soqman and Bohemund will be D12.
  • The sequence decks were quite nicely balanced so I will make no changes there - the new expanded types of card worked nicely.
  • Rivers. The general terrain rules in AS don't work that well for troops in rivers. As a blanket rule I think that there should be a penalty modifier equal to the type of river - e.g. in this battle a type II river gives a down 2 modifier - to all troops in it and the other terrain type modifiers should be ignored. If the river bed is firm, cavalry reduce the penalty by one. Troops defending the bank get the terrain advantage modifier.
  • Finally, I stopped the battle where I did because instead of it being a free flowing battle on a fairly open plain, it became a head on assault, by the Saracen, on an artificial isthmus created by the table space. I need to try to prevent this somehow. The change of axis, largely due to Jekermish's position and direction of attack, will usually create an artificially closed flank. I am going to have to orientate the table differently to extend the Crusader's left rear and / or the position of Jekermish; Jekermish might even be lost as an 'independant' army.  I fear that the game will generally do what it did in the solo test and become an end to end, rather than side to side, battle unless I do something fundamental to the initial set up.