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


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.


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.


Sgt Steiner said...

Great stuff look forward to hearing how it goes at the show

Simon Miller said...

Such a fine looking table, James! Really impressive.

Epictetus said...

If a stratagem is active does a group march card have to be used for the affected command?


Thanks SS and SM.

Hi G. No. It would be up to the player - he could nominate another command and not act.

BTW. I looked at the op fire rule again. I've decided to make life simple.

"Shooting during a player’s reactive phase:
A ‘reactive’ unit can shoot at targets that move or shoot providing the reactive unit has a stored missile resolution opportunity[it is loaded]. Reactive shooting always takes place at the closest range possible. There is one exception: Horse archers that ‘move – shoot – retire’ are never eligible targets."

Contact is now a NC modifier on the shooting table. Short Up 1, Effective & Contact NC, Long Down 1.

I think that is the simplest way to deal with it.

David said...

Fine looking game once again. Hope it goes well!

Michael Manning said...

A great scenario. I heave eagerly snatched it up, made a few minor conversions to the mechanics of a different rule set and am anxious to play it. Alas, I have just begun painting my crusader and Saracen figures.