The Campaigns of Frederick Barbarossa 1152–1190 AD at Campaign 2017
Sicilian Norman vs Cilician Armenian
This was now deep into Sunday lunchtime territory, but in much the same way as the gastronomic tyranny of the British Sunday lunch can be usurped by occasionally choosing a roast from the menu which is either Lamb or Pork rather than Chicken or Beef, this 5th (yes 5th) game was one where the army facing me had something slightly different - a Syrian ally. So, that'll be mostly Lamb then.
The table, driven by the superior scouting and pre-game planning capabilities of the Sicilians, was again rather bald. Unsure of what would be in the enemy composition, the Sicilians had deployed spread across the table, expecting to feint right or left with the centrally deployed Knight command to reinforce one or the other flanks. Facing them in a tongue-twister of a battle the Feudal German army had a shocking core of spears flanked by a surprising right wing of knights and a left wing of the aforementioned genuinely innovative Syrian bow-armed Heavy Cavalry.
The Cilicians were pretty wide when they extended their line of Knights, giving the smallest Sicilian command pause for much thought as they considered their options. What was a wiseguy supposed to do in a situation like that huh? Maybe some sort of clever tactical withdrawal and redeploy the entire Norman army to the flank away from the most powerful forces in the enemy army? Or was it simply more manly to call in the central commands Knights as well and try and take the enemy on in a matchup of no skill in the hope that sheer numbers would prevail?
Decisions were much easier on the other wing, where 5 Knights fancied their chances against 5 Cavalry (having never fought this sort of opponent before in any of the previous 4 rounds of this event, nor in any of the absolutely zero practice games beforehand).
This was a sophisticated plan that even the battle-addled Milites could understand and implement - they rushed forward in a big long line, only pausing momentarily to slide out the overly-complicatedly-deployed rear rank unit to allow the Syrians to better feel both the width and the quality of the Sicilian horsemanship.
Not wishing to be outdone on the lack of subtlety front, the other two commands had eschewed complexity and tactics and again were opting for the 'overwhelming display of force executed with vim and vigor' approach to warfare. Everything, even the usually hapless crossbowmen, moved up smartly to a date with destiny.
The two arrayed battle lines faced each other, each one somewhat unsure as to who had the most historically appropriate figures for an army of the mid 1100's, that tricky middle ground between Hastings and proper barded knighty-looking people.
Pictures of Turkish-style troops from my Ancients Photo Directory
Ba-da-boom, ba-da-bing! The lines of mounted noblemen were immediately in contact in this no-nonsense, no messing set of rules and table size type format thing. With all knights engaged, it now became apparent to the Cilicians that the Norman army had several more proper combat units on this wing than perhaps they had anticipated, with the two lots of Arab Cavalry as well as the (now all the dangerous stuff was committed to combat) surprisingly confident and competent Crossbow mercenaries pinging away at the rest of the Armenian army.
Taking full advantage of the deep and meaningful strategic analysis of "oh, we have more than they do", the spare Norman units fell like Arabian wolves on the exposed and undefended flank of the line of combat. With two otherwise evenly-matched lines of troops in action, the opportunity to have excess manpower applied to such an exposed area looked like it could already prove decisive - but would the dice gods be on the side of the big battalions this lunchtime?
The previously confident Milites on the other flank were hastily appending the word "over" to the front of that epithet as they sought in vain to come to grips with the jelly-like Arabs who were scattering and evading in all directions as the Normans surged forward and broke up into an incoherent and unmanageable array of individual components. The Arabs shooting had been relentless and accurate and both 1 and 2-hit markers now festooned much of the Norman forces on this side of the table. You gotta problem with that pal?
The more subtle stuff was going better for Sicily, with a fairly decent exchange of counter deployment going on in the protracted struggle of Knight on Knight on the left.
Arming the Norman Knight
With evenly matched troops, breakthroughs were inevitable and they came simultaneously - rendering the battle here a swirling mass of confused men, striking at each other with swords and maces and furiously flicking through the rulebook to try and work out how the side-to-side conforming rules actually work in practice.
The Syrians on the other flank had now started to reach the end of how far they could retreat in the face of the surge of Milites coming their way - and the answer was greatly concerning for the Armenian infantry, as it appeared to be "some way behind your flank". The Normans were in a quandary - carry on chasing the Syrians to the board edge or send off a unit or two to have a nibble at the more tasty target of the end of the spear line - but in the process risk being outnumbered by the Syrian horsemen too?
After a very brief debate the Milites decided that they were absolutely brilliant and undeniably fabulous so could easily do both things at once, as glory would surely be theirs as a result - two units of Knights and the oversized General swung off to harass the Armenian spear whilst more Knights ploughed forward against the remaining Arab cavalry. A Capiche?
"As far back as I can remember," Henry Hill says "I always wanted to be a Sicilian Norman mounted Knight"
Say hello to my little friend! The mercenary Arabs on the Norman army were doing sterling work in helping with the rolling up of the Armenian line on the opposite flank - the Cilician noblemen had nowhere to go but into the casualty pile as Knights and Cavalry swarmed over them from all directions.
Time was surely running out for the viability of the Cilicians on this flank as the end of their line got ever closer to the centre of the table.
Seeing the end as nigh, the Arabs and Crossbowmen pushed forward to threaten the Armenian skirmishing horse as the last remnants of Cilicia's chivalry were dragged from their horses and overwhelmed.
With their Knights all swept away on their right, and the Syrian cavalry retreating on their left the Armenian infantry had good cause to be irritated as enemy horsemen appeared seemingly from all directions to assault what they had hoped would be a solid line advancing in a stately fashion down the middle of the table sweeping all before it.
This was chaos and pandemonium as the double envelopment by the Normans approached its bloody and inevitable conclusion. What's a wiseguy supposed to do when Knights, Arab cavalry and LH, and even light infantry bowmen all joined in the fun as the Cilician army dissolved in a sea of Normans.
The Syrians had run out of table to fall back across, and attempted to make a stand uphill near the camp - this did not deter the Milites, who ploughed forward anyway, secure in the knowledge that they had kept the Syrians from influencing the battle in the areas of the board where it was even now being decided in Sicily's favour.
The Armenian centre was crushed in the Norman vice - They sleep with the fishes now. The battle was over as a decisive win for Siciliy!
The Result is a win for the forces of Siciliy ! The nay-sayers are silenced and everyone can go now and celebrate in the olive and lemon groves!
Click here for the report of the next game in this competition, or read on for the post match summaries from the Generals involved, as well as another episode of legendary expert analysis from Hannibal
Post Match Summary from the Sicilian Norman Commander
Finally, a different - although not wildly so - opponents and a different result as well! This is now two wins on the spin for the Milites charge, and I have high hopes now of ending the weekend on a net positive score as I go into the last match with 2 wins, 2 defeats and a draw.
This was a classic validation of my army selection and tactical theory for using this army - an open field, avoiding the heavy foot core of the enemy until their flanks were well and truly stove in, and a swift attack on both wings propelling me and my army to ultimate victory.
The Arab shooty cavalry provided an interesting opponent for my Milites - they at times seemed to be on the verge of winning an unlikley victory but became too widely scattered to regroup for a possibly telling flank attack. I am of course a braver leader than anyone I have faced, and this game is no different and as a result I might have been tempted to stand with the Arabs once I had done some damage to the Norman Milites and then tough it out, but perhaps U underestimate the +1 better factor for Knights vs Cavalry ?
Anyway, onwards and upwards I expect
Hannibal's Post Match Analysis
Here you got many thinks right - and having the right plan and being prepared is important, but doing so with class and style is more important still. I always say that you can get much further with a kind word and a gun then you can with a kind word alone
You almost came unstuck on many occasions here today. desire to take on spearmen with Knights continues to amaze me, and it is only a matter of time until this will hurt you, and hurt you bad.
It takes many steppingstones, you know, for a man to rise. None can do it unaided and here you were well helped by the bravery of your men, and the lessons taught to you by the men who gave you beatings in the previous rounds. Those lessons need to stay learnt, not to be forgotten like last nights cold canneloni.
This life of ours, this is a wonderful life. If you can get through life like this and get away with it, hey, that’s great. But its very, very unpredictable. There’s so many ways you can screw it up. Let's see how you fare in the next game
Click here for the report of the next game in this competition