Friday, 17 April 2009

Harran 1104 AD. A 'solo' scenario.

The Strategic Positions
In 1103, following the release, for ransom, of Bohemond of Antioch 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 north west.

In the spring 1104 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. In March 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.

1103 had been a time of division for the Moslem world. The Seldjuk Sultan Barkiyarok and his brother Mohammed had been at war. Peace was made between them by the division of territory in January 1104; but it was an uneasy arrangement that suited no one. Following the death of Kerbogha of Mosul, Soqman the Ortoqid prince of Mardin had failed to gain the succession (he had backed the wrong horse in the civil war) and was at war with its newly appointed Seldjuk atabeg Jekermish.

Harran, independent of Mardin and Mosul, was in a state of turmoil following a successful uprising against its general, Qaraj, and the murder of his successor Mohammed of Isfahan by 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 he was in no position to counter them. Seeing the threat, should Harran fall to the Franks, Soqman of Mardin and Jekermish of Mosul patched up their differences and launched a counter offensive against Edessa.

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 immediately it would have fallen easily. But the Franks wanted the place intact and they were quarrelling 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; forcing the siege to be broken. The battle that followed would take place across the river Balikh (the exact location of the battle is unknown, but it is certain that it took place some distance from Harran itself).

The Battle
I should restate, here and now, that this is a solo scenario. If you want to use it as a multi player game, and you are not the umpire (and the game will need an umpire in this case), I suggest you stop reading now. What follows is a brief description of the battle as it occurred on 7th May 1104 AD.

The battlefield was split north to south by the river Balikh; which was fordable along its entire length. To the south west (the Frankish side of the river) was a large hill with gentle slopes. 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 Edessans 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, over 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 Turcomans flee the Edessans thought the battle won and fell into pursuit, but once they had crossed the river thousands of fresh cavalry fell upon them from all sides and they were utterly destroyed and their leaders captured. Bohemond’s Antiochenes did not even enter the fight; having crested the brow of the hill, brushing away some light resistance as they did so, and seeing the slaughter of the Edessans in the plain below, Bohemond retreated with his force intact.

The Scenario
I have devised this scenario to be played with Ager Sanguinis rules, published in Miniature Wargames Jan 09 (issue 309) and associated army lists. Primarily it is devised to be played solo, and the scenario notes have been written with this as the prime objective. It will take little effort to convert it to a multi player game provided an umpire sets up the table and the players are only aware of their own ambushing troops (Jekermish and the Antiochenes) which will only be deployed when they move or are discovered.

The terrain and the forces should be deployed as per the deployment map. The forces of Jekermish and the Antiochenes (Bohemond and Tancred) are deemed to be ‘invisible’ to all other forces until they move, shoot, or are discovered. The Antiochenes will only be discovered if Soqman sends Turcomans to reconnoitre from the hill (see below). The troops from Mosul (Jekermish) will be discovered by the first Frankish unit to cross the river.
The scenario will run using the normal rules plus the special rules allowed under the ‘Special’ cards detailed below; when playing gambled ‘Tactical Advantage’ cards on a won lulls, remember that they can be used as a wild card including any of the ‘Special’ cards. Remember also that, the best way to get a good game when playing solo is to ruthlessly play for every advantage that the army in question can gain during its initiative phase. The Piquet mechanisms used in Ager Sanguinis are ideally suited to solo play in this fashion.
Edessa and Antioch
The combined strength of the two armies was put at 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. For this battle, and using my own units, my figure ratio was roughly 1: 40 – 289 figures.

Army Die: D10; Morale chips: 23 + 1 ace; D10 sequence deck with the following additions:

Add ‘Special 1’ card to the army’s sequence deck: On the appearance of this card the Antiochenes, providing their position is not known to the enemy, can make a triple move as per ‘Move’ card counting it as ‘even’. For the remaining initiative pips in their phase, any enemy unit they contact may not evade, and, where required, any ‘Tactical Advantage’ cards can be used in place of a melee card for a single melee resolution. Its use represents a perfect ambush. Remove after use or the Antiochenes are discovered.

Add ‘Special 2’ card to the army’s sequence deck: On the appearance of this card, if the Edessans have moved uncontrollably across the river, Bohemond and Tancred must immediately test as though an Army Morale card test had been failed. This is the slim chance, that if the game is progressing historically, the Antiochenes will see discretion as the better part of valour and remove themselves from the field. The game is more balanced if they don’t, but it all adds to the tension of the solo player. Remove after use.

Baldwin (Motivation Die: D10): 1 small unit of Knights, 1 unit of Frankish sergeants, 1 unit of Armenian spearmen, 1 unit of Armenian bowmen.
Joscelin (Motivation Die: D10): 1 unit of ‘Armenian’ Knights, 1 unit of Frankish sergeants, 1 unit of Armenian spearmen, 1 unit of Armenian bowmen.

Bohemond (Motivation Die: D12): 2 small units of Knights, 2 units of Frankish sergeants.
Tancred (Motivation Die: D12): 2 small units of Knights, 1 unit of Frankish sergeants.

Mardin and Mosul
The best guess at Saracen numbers is 10,000, all of which were cavalry. I have seen certain modern accounts that break down this figure to 7,000 from Mardin and 3,000 from Mosul, but I 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.” For this battle, and using my own units, my figure ratio is roughly 1: 40 – 228 figures.

Army Die: D12; Morale chips: 20 + 1 aces; D10 sequence deck with the following additions:

Add ‘Special 1’ card to the army’s sequence deck: On the appearance of this card, Soqman may, provided he is within 12” of a Turcoman tribal leader and he succeeds in beating a D8 roll with his motivation die (D10), may order any or all of that command group’s units to reconnoitre from the summit of the hill. On no other occasion, except perhaps that of pursuit, may any Saracen unit venture towards the summit of the hill – the Antiochenes position is OUT OF BOUNDS. This possible movement, in all likelihood by the two unit tribal command group deployed immediately to Soqman’s left, represents the light resistance met by Bohemond as his troops crested the hill.

Add 2 ‘Special 2’ cards to the army’s sequence deck: These are the feigned flight cards. On the appearance of this card, any Turcoman unit in contact with an enemy unit may challenge it into an uncontrolled advance by making a rout move away from it. The Saracen rolls his Army Die (D12) Vs the Frankish unit’s Defence Die. If the Saracen roll is higher the Frankish unit must advance uncontrollably, and any Frankish unit within 4” of it must also test (for the purpose of this rule Armenians are Franks).
Units in uncontrolled advance are vexed; they must move towards the nearest enemy on every move allowable on a ‘Move’ card, at 150% normal move rate; they may only be rallied by a leader not in uncontrolled advance; rallies count a down 2 modifier; they automatically rally from uncontrolled advance if they have a melee initiated against them.
Units in feigned flight count as routed, except that when rallying they do not count the down 2 routing modifier; any unit in feigned flight that is contacted by the enemy is properly routed.
Soqman (Motivation Die: D10): 2 units of Ghulam cavalry.
3 Tribal leaders (Motivation Die: D10): 1 with two units and 2 with three units of Turcoman horse archers.

Jekermish (Motivation Die: D10): 3 units of Seldjuk horse archers, 1 unit of Ghulam cavalry, 2 units of Arab / Kurdish heavy cavalry.

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