Normans & Their Enemies at WAR 2023
Fatimid Egyptian vs Konstantinian Byzantine
A one day competition on a Saturday? Well, given it was only a short jaunt down the motorway, why not? And with that flimsy rationale the 3rd round of the Southern League 1-Day circuit hove into view on a sunny(ish) Winnersh morning
The theme was The Normans and their Enemies, and having already fielded a Norman army earlier this year in, erm, Normandy I opted to take another never-before-seen force out of the lockdown painting locker and put the little-fancied Fatimids on table for the very first time
The Fatimid Egyptian Caliphate, ruling from the 10th to the 12th century, had a well-organized and professional military. They maintained a standing army known as the "Askariyya," which consisted of Arab, Berber, and African troops.
The Fatimid army employed cavalry, archers, infantry, and siege equipment. They were known for their use of skilled archers and light cavalry in hit-and-run tactics, as well as the deployment of well-trained infantry.
This was an Arab army that always seemed to be overlooked as there were always better ones to choose in any given theme, but as I had painted up some novelties in the shape of Arab Al-Shirayah Pikemen, some (OK, these were supposed to be Palestinian) Clubmen and a load of normally unfancied mixed Medium spear and shooter units, the opportunity to cook up a list with all of this nonsense in it was too hard to resist
This would however prove to be a knight-ey period and my first game was against a Konstantinian Byzantine, with double-equipped lance and bow cavalry and some Medium Knights. A real test straight out of the box for the Fatimids!
The lists for the Fatimid Egyptian and Konstantinian Byzantine from this game, as well as all the other lists from the games at WAR can be seen here in the L'Art de la Guerre Wiki.
With a suitably desert-ified table to play on the Fatimids felt immediately as much at home as if they had been dining in their grandmas kitchen, not fighting a war against a mortal enemy and regional superpower of the age.
Stretching from one side of the table to the other (OK, leaving gaps on both flanks) they found themselves staring down a wall of dual-equipped Byzantine cavalry and eager Knights
The Fatimid Caliphate
Kushari! The blue-clad Sariyaha Pikemen were not entirely convinced themselves that they actually existed, but with a nice set of Donnington open-handed figures, some broom bristles and a slap of contrast paint they looked good enough to overcome their own self-imposed scepticism as they faced up to the mounted chivalry of the Byzantine right
Feteer Meshaltet! The Fatimids weren't messing about. With the Byzantine cavalry ahead of them being of dubious quality, this was the time for heroic deeds, the like of which shall be told in the bazaars and souks across the shimmering sands of historic Egypt
With bated breath the Fatimid lancers charged ahead, their hearts aflame and their formation firm, like a steel-clad symphony of riders bound by their faith to be brave in the attack and bold in defence as well.
This would be a clash of empires and religions, writ large in the language of mortal combat, two cultures vying for supremacy around the very liquid cradle of civilization, the warm and inviting waters of the Mediterranean Sea.
The Fatimid army had a huge and unexpected blob of Medium Foot, with Dailami, Guard Swordsmen from The Arabian Nights, Clubmen, mixed spear/bow combos and pure play bowmen all sweeping through some rough terrain which surely the Byzantines had expected would protect their left flank?
Fava Beans and Falafel!
The Fatimid mounted lancers, their turbans aflame in the morning light were practically dancing on horseback to hold up the Byzantine centre
Their scimitars flashed in the almost-midday sun as the Byzantines struggled to build up a decent head of steam in the face of the strong Egyptian resistance
The Byzantine tactic of shooting their enemies into submission before charging home was rapidly coming unstuck as the Fatimids returned fire with alacrity and shoved ever-more numerous solid blocks of pikemen and spearmen into the enemy line, crushing it from both sides in a desert-scented vice.
Here's My List: Command by Command
1 A'Bid Al Sherah ½ Medium spearmen ½ Bowmen ----
2 Arabian Lancers Heavy Cavalry Impact ------
2 Al Sirayah Pikemen Pikemen Mediocre
1 Mamluks Heavy Cavalry Bow Elite
1 Mamluks Heavy Cavalry Bow ------
1 A'bid Archer Light Infantry Bow ----
1 A'bid Archer Bowmen Mediocre
1 Bedouins Light Cavalry Impact ----
This eclectic and spreadsheet-busting mix of troops is led by a Brilliant Commander, boosting the army Initiative score and allowing this large block of troops to be used as 2 "virtual" commands, one foot and the other mounted
The 2 Pikemen operate with the Mixed shooters, protecting them from over-confident mounted opponents who would otherwise risk a charge at the Mixed troops in the open. This in turn gives a shield from which the 2 archer units can harass enemy cavalry, forcing them to stick or twist when neither option is really optimum for the horsemen
The two Heavy Cavalry Bow, 2 Lancers and 1 Light Lancer is a decent sized aggressive mounted command with the lancers able to be hurled into combat to pin back he enemy even unsupported by other troops as the command and army can risk their loss. Even without them the 2 HCv Bow and Light Lancer formation is just about big enough to operate on their own, and can if needed be supported by the shooting infantry too
Pharaoh's Curses! Like a desert storm they circled around, striking the Byzantines with fury unbounded
The Fatimids nimble steeds swooped in like desert hawks, outmanoeuvring the cavalry of Constantinople even as their attention was distracted by the fast-approaching Egyptian infantry.
Sizzling Sphinxes! The Byzantines now found themselves being eviscerated from the inside out, their battlefield being painted with tales of woe as the Fatimids turned the screw ever tighter
Byzantine Battle Music
The fleet-footed horsemen of the Fatimid Ghulam Corps were by now starting to work their deadly dance on the outriders of Byzantium, stretching the battle line out to the extreme flanks and overwhelming the enemy cavalry with a flood of horseback archery too.
Faced with these myriad threats and irritations the Byzantine commander had all but lost control of his headstrong knights and as they rushed forward the Arabs swooped to crush them from all angles
The clash of civilizations was fast turning into a rout of one of them as the Byzantine centre simply ceased to exist as it broke upon the unrelenting anvil of the Fatimid spearmen.
Baba Ganoush! In this epic middle eastern theatre of battle the oriental sophistication of the denizens of Cairo had very much trumped the Byzantine assembly of mercenary warriors, creating legends of the Fatimid infantry to be acclaimed in some future Turkish tapestry woven into the annals of lore.
The sweeping attack of the Dailami and Sultan's Guard polished off the Byzantine foe, tipping their army into defeat by chasing enemy skirmishers off the back of the table to flee back home towards the shores of the Black Sea.
Byzantium is Undone! Egypt now rules the eastern seaboard of the entire Mediterranean!
The result is a stunning first outing victory for Fatimidaria!
In Fatimid lands, spearmen danced with glee,
In Byzantine' back yards they went on a spree.
With spears very lengthy,
They'd poked horsemen a-plenty,
But still managed to fight with esprit!
(Unknown poet, Cairo)
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 Fatimid Egyptian Commander Al'Shearer
It was a remarkable experience, leading this Fatimid-Geordie squad against a formidable opponents from Istanbul. The energy in the stadium was electric, with passionate fans from both sides filling the stands. As the captain, I knew I had a responsibility to inspire my teammates and guide them towards victory, especially with all that oil money sloshing around and raising expectations sky-high
Before the match, I gathered the team in the dressing room and delivered a passionate speech, emphasizing the importance of teamwork, discipline, and a never-give-up attitude. We had trained hard, studied our opponents' tactics, and formulated a game plan that we believed could outsmart them.
From the first whistle, our army demonstrated a relentless spirit. We quickly established our dominance, pressing high up the pitch and playing with fluidity into the rough terrain on the flank. Our midfield of spearmen controlled the game, swiftly transitioning from defence to attack, providing our attacking cavalry with ample opportunities to break through the opponent's defence.
Finally, in the dying minutes of the game we were awarded a crucial free-kick just outside the penalty area. I stepped up to take it personally leading my cavalry forward, feeling the weight of the entire team and supporters on my shoulders. With precision and power,I curled the vital bowshot over the defensive wall of shields and into the soft squishy bits of the enemy troops to level up the score.
The stadium erupted in thunderous cheers, and our momentum continued to surge. In the final moments of stoppage time, our Elite Ghulams expertly dribbled past the Byzantine defence and unleashed a thunderous strike, smashing their cavalry into the back of the net. That secured our victory, and the scenes of jubilation that followed were unforgettable.
Hannibal's Post Match Analysis
Congratulations on your victory Caliph. Your troops fought bravely and exhibited admirable tactics. However, I must say that my experiences and military intellect would have allowed for a more decisive outcome, so it is a shame I was not in command
Throughout my campaigns I honed my understanding of the art of warfare, exploiting weaknesses and seizing opportunities that others might overlook - and a mere military pygmy like you did of course overlook it too. My strategies emphasize flexibility, exploiting terrain, and effectively utilizing a range of military assets, ensuring overwhelming strength at the critical juncture of the battle. My genius and focus allows for greater cohesion and coordination, amplifying the impact of our manoeuvres and utterly demoralizing the enemy. Additionally, my experience in surprise attacks and flank manoeuvres would have enabled your army to better exploit vulnerabilities more effectively, creating confusion and disarray among your adversaries
Of course, Commander. I do not seek to undermine your achievements or those of your troops. I merely offer an alternative perspective based on my extensive experience in the art of war. It is through respectful exchanges of ideas and a constant pursuit of improvement that you can learn from me, refine your strategies and become even more formidable in the next game. I however have nothing to learn from you.
Click here for the report of the next game in this competition