Sunday, 25 September 2011

V. At Thessaly again - The Egyptians march on, deep inside Greece

Well, back after the summer break. We hope you enjoyed your summer vacation (not very summery if you spent it in The Netherlands) :( Greece is better for vacation, trust me.

So, where were we? Ah, yes, the Byzantines are pushed back to the Greek mainland and the Egyptians are pursuing. Once again the war is taken to Thessaly and the river Pinios. Now the Greeks are led by Michael Palaiologos, an ancestor of the dynasty which later ruled the empire. Turan-Sha is leading the arabs, who are in high spirits after their last victory. This time the Byzantines have hired two mercenary units of crusader bows. Mercenaries can be hired if there are extra 'points' left after rolling for reinforcements. They cost 2 (Kn) or 1 (the rest) points and appear only in that battle. One cannot hire more than 4 mercenary elements for a battle. Such a recruitment may not take place if one attacks directly after a win. So the egyptians for instance could not bring any mercs to this battle because they just won. If the egyptians stayed in Samaria after their victory, they could hire mercs for the next battle; if the greeks counter-attacked then they would be able to as well because they spent one round (the arabs' round) without moving. As you see, with the two mercs the Byzantines are outnumbering the Arabs by three units.

On to battle then!

The river separates the two armies and a large hill dominates the center of the battlefield. Palaiologos orders his men to split into four groups. He places all his Lh in a column formation at his left, two bowmen and his varangians (Bd) behind them in the center and two cavalry units, beyond the river, with the mercenary crusader bowmen screening them. The Greek general himself is behind another bow and behind him  kavallarioi.
The Egyptians have formed a solid line with all their cavalry at the left and center, and light units (Ps and Aux) with bows at the right flank. Turan-Sha's plan appears straightforward; take the hills with the light troops, defend the (ordinary) river with the bows and attack the Greek right flank with all the cavalry. As you shall discover soon, the plan of the Greeks was more intricate than that :)
Indeed, first move brings the Arab horsemen as a solid front towards the right side of Palaiologos, while the Aux and Ps take the hill. The Byzantines are moving troops at their right, redeploying the crusaders.
Turan-Sha inexorably moves his troops forward and even joins the formation himself. the hills are full of Egyptian units, while the Greeks bid their time...
The line at the Byzantine right has deployed with two kavallarioi in the center and the bowmen flanking them. Ghulams and Kwharizmians are trotting, preparing for the charge.
CHARGE! The Egyptians smash with ululations on the Greeks who stoically take the brunt of the impact. Another kavallarioi unit is coming for support from behind.
Success for the Arabs! The latin bowmen go down and the kavallarioi recoil. On the rightmost melee, the kwharizmians are pushed back by the brave crusaders.
Another mercenary unit is slain and Turan-Sha is content. Things look grim for Palaiologos who is still silent.
The trap is sprung! The Greek bowmen take a few steps, they aim and shoot down with ease the ghulams. For a terrible moment the Arabs are shocked...
The whole Greek army explodes in movement! The bows are crossing the river, while the Egyptian cavalry falls back, and...
...the pachenegs are rushing forward on the left and the varangians get ready to cross as well.
Turan-Sha hesitates no more and orders his light troops down the hill while preparing for an attack on the Greek bowmen with his own Iraqi archers and a ghulam unit.
The pachenegs on the left are getting ready to attack a lonely berber light horse left behind as reserve. On the center, one Greek bow retreats back into the river while another crosses.
Last all-out charge! Almost desperately, while the plan of the Greeks is in full motion, the anatolian auxilia rushes from the slopes to attack the Greek bowmen with jarwajarayas (Ps) flanking them, ghulams (Cv) charge latin bowmen and iraqi archers exchange arrows with another Greek bow across the river. Final push for Turan-Sha...
It's over... Another bow of Palaiologos goes down and the Greeks have had enough. The Byzantine general can't believe it! He concedes the field but promises to return...