Wednesday, 20 July 2011

III. Thessaloniki's defence - Muzzafar is slain and the Egyptians fall back

Hello again! Our bloody campaign continues, this time with a battle which points to the implications of the rules we followed. The Egyptian army is numerically inferior (10 elements against 13 Byzantine units) due to the first battle's outcome (2 Arab casualties which were not replaced). Our reinforcement (and the whole 'initiative' system) works like this: the loser of a battle decides first what to do, retreat one or two areas. If he retreats one, he rolls the dice and subtracts one for every area between the area he goes to and his capital. The result is the number of casualties to be replenished. After the first battle e.g. the Byzantines retreated one area and rolled for 6-1 (only Thessaloniki between them and the capital) and managed to fully recover. If the loser retreats two areas, his army is fully reinforced. 

Then the winner decides whether to follow or stay (or even go back but that is another story). Then he rolls with the same rule. This implies a more favourable reinforcement for the loser who is forced to retreat. If the winner stays, he gets to roll but gets also a bonus of half his lost units back. And then the loser decides whether to counter-attack. In our case, in the first battle, the Egyptians lost two units and the Byzantines three. The latter retreated one area and got two units back after rolling. The former got none. In the second battle, the Byz lost three units and got them back for the third battle (and a mercenary, a topic of another time). The Arabs got none back. Thus, 13vs10 in Thessaloniki.
Among Roman arches and old fortresses, general Dukas deploys his army in a long front, placing his infantry on the road.
As the sun is setting on the Greek fields, Al-Muzzafar thinks of a bold but risky plan. He places most of his troops on his left flank. (We are missing a photo after this one but it was rather a straight march for both armies. The Egyptian plan was to charge the right Byzantine flank on the mountain, ignoring the slow Greek infantry on the road.)
CHARGE! The mass of the Arab cavalry smashes on the Byzantines on the mountain slopes. A difficult uphill battle for the Egyptians.
Fatal mistake by Al-Muzafar. No space to recoil and Berber light horse goes down by Mercenary Crusader spears. On the mountain the battle continues with the Byzantines horsemen holding their own. The Greek left is slowly but inexorably advancing.
Elation! The Egyptian general is slain! His men are shocked and suddenly uncertain.
The crusader mercenaries (Sp) take down sudanese bowmen and the battle is all but done.
Dukas coordinates his men with perfection. Victory is at hand.
At last, the Arabs are fleeing! The Byzantines give chase to the retreating men.
The sun has almost set but the Greeks had one more thing to do and the Pecheneg light horse takes the Egyptian camp. The Byzantine empire is safe (for now...)

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

II. Pinios - The Egyptians march through Greek lands. The Byzantines are thrown back to Thessaloniki

And so our campaign continues! Perhaps with each battle report I can offer some context on our series of battles: the campaign rules we employ come from a few rule variants for two-player campaigns from the fanaticus page and our own ideas. Our battles follow a 'piston'-like progress; we have a map of seven areas which are linked like a chain (Constantinople, Thessaloniki, Thessaly, Crete, Damascus, Alexandria and Cairo). The three first belong to the Byzantines and the three last to the Egyptians.

Our first battle took place in Crete, a 'neutral' area. From then we move on to the next area depending on who won. After our first battle, the Egyptians were the winners so the next battle is in Thessaly (Pinios is a famous Greek river).  I should note that there are cases when we move two areas directly because we follow a slightly complicated system of 'initiatives' in which a player may move back two places if he was beaten badly so that he can replenish his army. This relates to our 'reinforcements' system, a method in which we can account for casualties of former battles and decide strategically whether to attack, stand ground or retreat (in the campaign map). More in the next post :)

A short note in relation to the battles' outcome: the casualty margin in our battles is from a variant and from our own ideas. When an army loses three units, the player needs to roll more than the number of difference in casualties, otherwise he flees. E.g. If I lose 3 units and the opponent loses one, I need to roll (that round and every round from then on unless there are more casualties) at least 3 (3-1=2). If I roll less, my units flee (like in normal fleeing), 500 paces for all mounted and 300 for all infantry, until they reach the end of the board. That is why often an army loses after 3 casualties.

General Dukas prepares his troops to cross the river while he plans to move in the road with his infantry.
Olympus looms over the battlefield and Al-Muzzafar prepares to move his troops who are gathered on the right.
Will the Greek infantry march on the road quickly enough? The marginal Byzantine numerical superiority (11 vs 10) may prove decisive but speed is of the essence for Dukas. 
The Arabs are moving all their cavalry to the Greek left flank.
Dukas unravels his plan. More troops move to the right to follow the road, hoping to strike the Arabs on the flank. Two units of cavalry and a light horse are left to secure a small farm beyond the river which is not easy to cross. The Egyptian infantry stays back to defend the left flank, while a unit of psiloi climb the mountain. The Arab cavalry move inexorably. 
The Arabs smash on the kavallarioi (Cv) and two units are run over. The kwharizmians (Cv) and the berbers (Lh) celebrate and prepare to smash the Pachenegs (Lh).
It is done... The Byzantine left flank is destroyed and open to the Egyptian horse.
Dukas is shamed again. His slow advance on the right and his weak left proved disastrous.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Introduction and first battle report - I. Battle of Samaria (Crete) - A pyrrhic victory for the Egyptians

Hello everyone! This blog has been something we wanted to do for some time and here it is! 

We are two friends, DBA enthusiasts, who were looking for a cost-economic alternative to metal figures and a time-economic alternative to painting and preparing miniatures. So there it was, PAPER! Any hesitation we had in the beginning was soon overcome once we saw and felt the battlefields of our DBA sessions. Most of the things you will see are made of paper, cardboard, styrofoam and other inexpensive materials (including natural ones like branches, sand and others). Most of the paper miniatures were printed from a wonderful website for making a paper army.

Our first posts will be about a campaign we completed (13 battles) playing the Komnenan Byzantine against the Ayyubid Egyptian. Our time is generally limited so we don't know how often we will post but we hope to complete the campaign's reports and maybe describe also how to make terrain and armies made of paper. We are still learning ourselves so advice is more than welcome! 

So, here it goes, the first battle of the Cross and Crescent Campaign between the Emperor Komnenos and the Sultan Saladin, and their generals, John Dukas and Michael Palaiologos for Byzantium and Al-Muzaffar Taqi al-Din Umar and (take a breath) Turan-Shah ibn Ayyub al-Malik al-Mu'azzam Shams ad-Dawla Fakhr ad-Din (no kidding :) for Egypt.

The Byzantine flag flies high while the Greeks deploy. Cavalry to the left and right flanks and infantry to the centre to cross the gorge.

The lines are drawn. The Egyptians are out of the ships and rush forward. They will meet the Byzantine cavalry head on with their own and fight for the centre with their infantry.

Al-Muzzafar orders his men forward and they negotiate the rough Cretan landscape. 

The Byzantine Kontarioi (Sp) meet the Arab jarwajaraya (Ps) on the mountain slope. On the right, the Byzantine mercenary horsemen prepare for the charge.

On the other slope the Varangian Elite Guard (Bd) prepare to take on two Egyptian units, Iraqi psiloi and Saracen infantry (Wb).

First blood! The Arab jarwajaraya (Ps) are shot down by Cuman archers and the right slope belongs to the Greeks. Next to them, the horsemen join battle.

Al-Muzzafar's left is in shambles. The Ghulams (Cv) and the Khwarizmians (Cv) are close to being surrounded and overrun by Kavallarioi (Cv) and two units of Pachenegs(Lh). The gorge however is still contested and close to being won by the Arabs.

Bird-eye's view of the battlefield. The Horse Berbers (Lh) are closing in on the centre to support the Saracen footmen (Wb). The Egyptian left flank is all but done as the Ghulams (Cv) go down by the Pachenegs (Lh).

First Greek blood. The Cuman archers are cut down by the Saracen footmen (Wb) with the help of the Berber light horse.
Disaster for the Greeks! The Varangians (Bd) are chopped down by the Egyptian psiloi and Berber light horse on the slopes. The general Dukas (Kn) senses victory sliding away slowly...

It's done. Another Byzantine foot unit, this time the Kontarioi (Sp), goes down by the Saracens (Wb) and in the gorge there are only Arabs.

Retreat! shouts Dukas and the army falls back in an orderly fashion. Al-Muzzafar has won the day although the war is far from over...