Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Battle#1: Sicilian IV/5c attacking Early Crusaders

The following is a report by Petrù di Rometta, a sicilian monk who found himself in a tight spot:
"[...] Hearing rumours about our young prince passing through their lands the dark-clad assasins sent hostages and left their strongholds in the mountains to join our forces. The army was confident. [...]"
The Sicilian Army:
- a green prince from Apulia (3Kn General).
- The 100 Knights of Aragon, the household guard of the prince (3Kn)
- The Wild Muslim Horsemen (6Kn)
- Some unruly and proud german knights (6Kn)
- The Berber Bows from Agrigent (8Bw)
- The Berber Light Horse (LH)
- The fatimid Assassins from the mountains (4 x Ax, 2 x Ps)

"[...] But the crusaders stank. Even the lord must have held his breath that most unfortunate day. We saw their army drawn up in a long battleline. Their wing opposite to our right was concealed by a hill and a wooded patch in the distance. I stood amidst our forces behind our mighty prince there and heard him order the develish assassins(4 x Ax 2 x Ps) over to the right to make haste and to charge that hill. We could hear the clamour of armoured troops(4xSp), the shameful howling of fanatici (Wb) beyond and the boasting of enemy knights(3Kn) behind the trees.
I myself was feeling safe. The Knighthood of Sicilia is all around us and the strong Berber Bows(8Bw) and Light Horse are bound to shelter us from any evil. But, woe, our noble knights start to grumble as they see the enemy bows(2xBw) right in front of them. But the prince(3Kn) pulled his guard(3Kn), The Wild Muslim Horsemen(6Kn) and the german Knights(6Kn) together and told them his battleplan.
He had seen: the crusaders general stood alone amidst his heavy spears and the bows. The other enemy knights stood at the wings. So he decided to dare a glorious charge against the general after a slight wheel to the right, just enough as to avoid the bows. He counted on his Berbers(LH+8Bw) to his left to delay the enemy advance and give shelter for the knights. The Assassins (4 x Ax, 2 x Ps) were already climbing the hill, their banners flickering in the wind like black tongues
Hundreds of years later archeologists found a badly fragmented parchment in the latrines of a norman palace in Palermo. The experts believe it to be a rather clumsy schematic depiction of the battle (See picture on top of this post). The Situation looks something like this:

Sicilian Battleline. The following elements are lined upnext to each other:
Sicilians left wing: Lh, 8Cb
Sicilian center: 6Kn 6Kn 2x(3Kn in column, the general as a reserve)
Sicilian right wing: Ax Ax Ax Ax with 2xPs support

Crusader Battleline.
Crusader left wing: Kn Sp Sp Sp Wb Sp
Crusader centre: Kn(Gen) Bw Bw
Crusader right wing: Sp Kn Kn

Gentle hill in the centre on the Sicilian right
Bad going in the centre on the Sicilian extreme right, it touches the gameboard

But let's get on with Petú's account: "Confusion started when a number of Wild Berber Horsemen(6Kn) were brought down by enemy bow. Our muslim comrades fell back and as I looked they where already gone, swallowed by clouds of dust . Swiftly the enemy moved forward and pestered us even more with their arrows.
Then Aragon(3Kn) and the noble German Knights(6Kn) slammed into the wall of enemy spears and the earth opened and total mahem broke loose. The Assassins (4xAx and 2xPs) had barely secured the hill when the enemy stormed their position. Our left wing was still screaning us as the Berber Bows(8Cb) finally had managed to get close enough to the enemy bow.
But our bonnie prince saw with dismay that his plan was thwarted: we wanted to kill the enemy leader with the first charge. But we missed him! There he was in his stinking crusader cloak! Bellowing orders our prince moved his troops around the germans. But we could not reach him! Enemy bow held us back! But our german friends gloriously broke through enemy battleline and rushed down the hillside shredding the enemy spears.
On our right up along the ridge our allies fought bravely against the crusader tide and received the charge of the slobbering fundamental christians(Wb. Commander: Crazy Monk Georgius Guilhelmus Frutex) and several hundred speartroops (2xSp). They stood their ground.
Aragon(3Kn) was fighting hard. But the sword of Aragon was blunt that day. He charged enemy spears downhill and was pushed back - up the hill again. He didn't know where to turn his horse, he didn't know where to stick his sword! But the prince 's piercing glance sent him back to battle straight away and he fought bravely, recovered his former position and forced the enemy back.
[the map shows the final crusaderbound after the movement phase. The numbers indicate the sequence of combat, I think 5 Elemnts got killed...]
"The fighting was fierce and long. Now my horse is dead, my tongue is dry and my troops are gone. I saw the end and fled the aftermath. I have seen my friends die and anything I ever wanted to live for. Our bonnie prince is gone! And I only live to tell the tale. But to fulfill my initial pledge I will relate the last deeds and final stages of this lost battle.
I saw Assassins' fire eventually cease, trampled under foot of the fanatici(Wb) and the tightly packed frankish spearwall. The hill was lost, enemy foot closed in on us.
I saw our Berber Bows(8Cb) and light Horse(LH) bravely receive a charge by the enemy knights and spears. The Berber Bows' standard fell and the Light Horse recoiled and thus our left wing collapsed.
I saw the enemy general(3Kn) attack the impetous Germans(6Kn). They frantically turned but our noble friends where swept away, straight into the enemy and perished [...]"
So far Petrú di Rometta. This looks like a 4-2 crusader victory (crusaders: 2ax+1kn+1Cb sicilians: 2Sp)). History tells us the prince of Sicilia perished in battle. He probably got dragged off to Antiochia and sold to Aleppo. He probably ended up in a harem or something.
Final remarks:
This scenario is made up. That prince is fictious. The Sicilians never attacked the Levante. Frederico II did some crusading over there but negotiation was rather his style. The Sicilians do not figure as enemies of the Early Crusaders in the Army Book.
Was the Bonnie Prince's battle plan any good? The Sicilian Army is fast and light. Did they have any reasonable chance of reaching and killing the general(3Kn) before taking to much losses on their weak wings? Answer: Yes & No, if anything it was at least a daring plan. But it's a very delicate plan and timing is crucial! In the battle the Wild Berber Horsemen(6Kn) blundered into enemy bows and - shwoop- everything fell apart. And managing PIPs is hard with many groups of elements (in this case 3 - 6 groups). Bringing up the Wild Berber Horsemen was not possible (bad PIP dicing). Where were they?? Still counting holes?

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