Monday, 31 October 2011

IX. Damascus - Saladin stops the Greeks on their tracks and counterattacks

This battle developed into a rather new way. For starters, due to the numerical advantage of the arabs and the openness of the terrain, the deployment is very different between the two armies. The byzantines deploy in a defensive formation, with archers and varangians in front, waiting for the egyptians. The latter have spread out wide, preparing to cover the distance between the armies and attack. The egyptian army is composed of thirteen elements, including mercenary camels, very appropriate for the dunes and the oasis (which we got to use for our first time :). After last battle's casualties, the byzantines are down to eleven elements, not managing to succeed in getting any extra reinforcements for this battle. Apart from the desert-like terrains (dunes and oasis) there is also a rough terrain in the corner which did not play any role. So, on to it!

Saladin is not afraid, he mixes his troops and deploys them in a wide line across the battlefield. His intentions seem clear. Close in fast and strike! His special camel unit of nobades is going for the oasis on the right.

Palaiologos forms his army into one big block of men, horses and steel. His archers and varangians are in the front line while a solitary unit of latin bowmen occupy the dunes.

The egyptians spread out with most cavalry on the left and prepare to move to the center of the battlefield. The byzantines separate into two groups, protecting flanks and rear.

Saladin's berber horsemen circle around the left for a flanking move while the greeks start spreading as well with two bow units marching forward on the far left.

The armies get ready to clash! The oasis is contested by greek and egyptian bows together with nobades camels and berber light horse.

The alan bowmen of the byzantines are shot down by the Saladin's sudanese archers and the oasis fills with bodies. The greek left is in peril.

Another greek bow unit is destroyed and things look dire for Palailogos. His left is crumbling and the egyptians celebrate!

The greek general throws in his reserves to his left (two pacheneg Lh) and prepares for the charge. The egyptian line is still forming.

Charge! shout the greeks and they surprise Saladin. They halt their charge and focus on the ghulam warband with their pachenegs. The varangians follow behind while Saladin is still deploying his men to his right.

The ghulams held and now the arabs attack! Saladin exploits his numerical superiority and tries to flank his opponent. 

Blood is spilled again... The greek left is all but done as the camel riders take down a pacheneg light horse. In the center a khwarizmian cavalry is cut down by the kavallarioi and Saladin becomes suddenly exposed. After a moment of hesitation Palaiologos orders his men to retreat.

The battle is over. The greeks are falling back and the enthusiastic nobades chase the varangians during the retreat.

The camel riders pay the price of their over confidence. The varangian elite guard chop them down with their axes, as two more mounted arab units are creeping up on them.

The brave varangian guard is decimated as the egyptian hordes of horsemen run them down. They fought to the last...

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

VIII. Nothing can stop the Byzantines - Saladin himself gets thrown back to Ayyubid lands

Back to Crete and this time things are different. The Egyptian army is down two generals and Saladin himself joins the fight. The Sultan took the failures of his generals personally and now he will lead his men. If he fails it is all over for the egyptians and the ayyubid sultanate is endangered. Palaiologos has gathered a full byzantine force and has sailed to Crete with high morale. He wants to make his emperor proud once again and intends to throw the infidels out of Greece once and for all.

The two armies are fully reinforced but this time the battle is not like the others in Crete. Let's find out...

Saladin is on the defensive and splits his troops evenly. Some ghulam cavalry to the right, some khwarizmian cavalry and berber light horse on the left and a mixed center with infantry, bowmen and the remaining horsemen directly in the middle.

The greeks have just left the ships at the beach and deploy similarly. Cavalry left and right of the two hills and mixed infantry and cavalry in the center, aiming at dominating the gorge. The armies are mirroring each other so it seems this should be close...

The greeks take the hills with albanian and seljuk psiloi, serbian auxilia and the varangians following behind. The arab horsemen spread on the two flanks and block the passes. The main egyptian force remains behind. 

Like a maestro Palaiologos orchestrates his attack. His cavalry protect his flanks and his foot troops have the hills, while two kavallarioi cross the gorge. Saladin's jarwajaraya psiloi and ghulam warband maneuver slowly towards the hill. 

Dead on the slopes! The arab psiloi are destroyed by the byzantine light troops and the timid attempts by Saladin to challenge the gorge are smashed.

The greek push continues and not a moment of rest for the egyptians. The albanian psiloi try to throw back the ghulams on the right hill while the lines are preparing to clash in the center.

The tables turn (metaphorically but also literally; this is the battlefield from the egyptian perspective)! Kavallarioi are brought down by iraqi psiloi at the bottom of the gorge and Saladin's hopes are revived. Meanwhile, the varangians go down the hill and the anatolian bow of the arabs skirmishes with the serbian auxilia on the slope.

The varangian elite guards join battle with the ghulam warband. These two units are made for fighting each other and the stakes are high! On the left hill the serbs are surrounded by the arab bowmen and psiloi.

Back and forth, the men shed their blood under the hot Cretan sun. Noone yields and the fight continues. The army which will control the center will win the battle. The serbian auxilia survive and fall back.

After a long time, the horsemen go into melee. Byzantine cumans and pachenegs, with a support of seljuk psiloi (not visible on their right), charge the two ghulam units while ...

... in the center the last push is ordered! Anatolian bows go against serbian auxilia, jarwajaraya vs kavallarioi, ghulam foot charge the varangians and khwarizmian horse clash with albanian psiloi.

"Komnenos!" shout the greeks and they know they won. Ghulam, khwarizmian horses and anatolian bow are slain, and dead and dying bodies cover the dirt with blood. Was it the hand of (the christian) God floating above or the will of men? For now Saladin knows he must flee and regroup if he can. Palaiologos is already preparing his invasion of the middle east.

The arabs flee to their camp and disperse in the hills of Crete. Saladin keeps them together and prepares for the trip home. He knows that now he must prepare to defend it.

The greeks begin the task of burying their dead but with grim smiles they know it was worth it. The arabs bled bad this time and they should get ready for more.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

VII. This is SALONICA! - The Byzantine empire strikes back.

Well, there is a pattern emerging here. The arabs won and pushed back the byzantines to Thessaloniki twice, where then it became a disaster for them. Apart from the competence of the greek commander when fighting in Thessaloniki (it's his homeland after all :), this is both due to the agression of the egyptian generals but also because of our campaign system. You see, the further in enemy territory one gets, the more difficult reinforcement becomes. The first time this led to a 13vs10 battle favouring the defender. 

This time though things are more balanced: 13vs12 (one mercenary crusader spear for the greeks), so on to the battle then to see how byzantium defends against the infidels (or wait... are the christians the infidels?). Well, I guess this still remains to be decided.

A roman arch dominates the battlefield and, like a gate to Hades, it awaits the dead. Both armies deploy in wide fronts facing each other, on this flat plain. Turan-Sha will lead from the frontline with his ghulam bodyguards, khwarizmians and berbers all around him.

Will it be a personal fight between generals? Palaiologos is similarly in the center of the greek line, preparing for the march forward. On the right a unit of pachenegs (Lh) is already maneuvering.

The egyptians move neatly forward between the woodlands and a monastery. Their plan seems simple. Move forward and stick the enemy with the pointy ends. On the other side, the greek general denies the challenge and moves behind the line.

Not much longer now... The lines are almost symmetrical and the opponents are weighing each other. For the first time the two armies are about to clash in such a wide front.

It's all hanging in the balance. Who will make the decisive move? None of the two armies has the upper hand in an all-out charge while the archers start shooting.

First blood! A gap opens in the egyptian lines as the cuman bowmen shoot down a berber light horse. Once again the bow proves to be a deadly weapon against horsemen.

Again! This time khwarizmians go down (Cv) by the bowmen, and the day is turning sour for Turan-Sha. Will he order the charge and personally go against the byzantine cataphracts?

The iraqi archers are not as efficient on the greek right where they just push back a unit of kavallarioi. The two armies are a breath away from each other.

CHAAARGE shouts Palaiologos!!! Thundering hooves and screams fill the air as the armies clash on the green fields. The varangian guard get the chance to swing their axes while the egyptian general braces for the attack of the cataphracts. The initiative is with the byzantines.

The cataphract charge was too deadly and Turan-Sha's hopes die with him. Next to him the saracen warband are slain by skutatoi (Sp) while the varangians push back the turcomans (Lh). The egyptian lines are broken and they are wavering.

Palaiologos wants to join the fray, having made the empire safe again. His troops are elated and start the pursuit.

The rest of the arab army runs and gallops back to the camp. The greeks chase them off and shout "Long live the emperor"!

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

VI. Third battle of Thessaly - Retreat for the Greeks again.

This time we will move to the battle without much ado. This bout took place in the same terrain as the last one (Thessaly) because the Byzantines returned with reinforcements after the Egyptians decided to stay and replenish their casualties. In fact, the latter could spare extra points and hire two merc elements (crusader bows). The sides are the same as in the last battle for the two armies, with the greeks attacking this time. 

 High noon and Palaiologos deploys his strongest cavalry on the left, his varangians (Bd) and a bow, with the light horse units behind, in the center and a unit of skutatoi (Sp) with bows on the right. The general is riding next to his varangians.

Turan-Sha has gathered most of his strength to the right. Horsemen, bowmen and infantry are in a large, wide column ready to cross the river. On his left he deploys two more units of cavalry and the mercenary bows.

The byzantines are on the move. Their cavalry gallops forth on the left, while the arabs are still crossing the (difficult) river. The greek slow infantry is left behind with Palaiologos himself.

Great danger for the egyptians! They are still crossing while the greeks are ready to smash on them with their kavallarioi (Cv) and pachenegs (Lh). On the other side of the battlefield the lines have barely moved.

 The greek general is content. With magnificent speed, Iraqi archers get cornered by his cavalry while the khwarizmians are helpless in the river.

 Disaster! The arabs are a tough nut to crack and they first push back the greeks and then shoot down the pachenegs. The kavallarioi rush in again to ride them down.

 Shouts of success by the archers! Their arrows are deadly and the second mounted unit of the byzantines is routed. The battle is far from over though...

 Slowly Turan-Sha orders a line to form while the greeks are still fragmented. If the latter manage to keep the egyptians from deploying fully, they still stand a chance.

 Greek kavallarioi, pachenegs and cataphracts against arab khwarizmians and bowmen. Men from all over of the two empires shed their blood next to Pinios for their generals!

 The bow decided the battle... Unscathed, the arabs shoot down two more cavalry greek units and the army of byzantium is in disarray.

Palaiologos sounds the retreat and the remainder of his army march back to Thessaloniki.