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Ay, Ay, Ayyubids

Page history last edited by Rob Brennan 9 years, 2 months ago

Campaign is always a great event - it is unique in so many ways. Held in the
middle of a shopping centre in Milton Keynes, we are in among the public and
therefore "on show". It's a chance to chat to people about what we do, how and
why we do it, and hopefully recruit some new blood. I love to chat to the kids
who come along and get all wide-eyed seeing the soldiers. Neil Sutherland and
his boys were in full schmoozing mode with everyone who came to watch; various
chaps arrived to gawp and somehow left promising to pop in at Stoney Stratford
on a Thursday evening. :o)

The other unique feature is 25mm themed competitions on 8' x 5' tables. Full
scale with big toys is a great-looking game. This year for reasons unknown we
cut down to 350AP rather than 400AP, but since the games are only 3 hours, I
think that this is probably about right.

Steve Rathgay and I were delighted to be able to get Tony Dennis back into the
WAR team for this year. Tony was in the Open theme, using his new plastic
Assyrians (nice figures - HaT mainly I think; there were three plastic armies on
show this year, Steve Bainbridge fielding Early Carthaginian and Ian Sims with
something else classical which momentarily eludes me). Steve R fielded his
enormous Lykian mob in the Gaugamela 331BC theme (any army legal in 331BC) and
that left me in the Hattin 1187AD theme. I don't have anything to suit, but
Dave Mather and Steve Rathgay between them lent me enough figures to do Ayyubid
Egyptian, so Salah ad-Din it was. I was very happy to go with that, as I love a
romantic choice!

Practice was limited to the theoretical only, by illness and work, so although a
solo test showed me that the structure could work I had not actually managed to
put the lead on the table before arriving at the MK: Centre. Ah well, that put
me in the position of most ancient generals...

The army was:-

CinC (Reg Cv(S)), 5 Reg Cv(S), 4 Reg Cv(O), 4 Irr LH(O) (2 Irr Bge(F)) - 24ME
Sub #1 (Reg Cv(S)), 2 Reg Cv(S), 2 Reg Cv(O), 4 Reg Bw(O), 8 Irr Ax(O) (2 Irr
Bge(F)) - 20ME
Sub #2 (Reg Cv(S)), 10 Irr LH(S) (2 Irr Bge(F)) - 16ME
Army Baggage - 6 Irr Bge(F) - 6ME
Feigned Flight
Army ME 66

Basic premise was that the CinC's command would be high PIPs, the LH(S) middle
and the foot low, but that if possible after 2-3 bounds I would swap the PIPs of
the two subbies around; hopefully by that stage the LH(S) would be in position
to do it on their own, and the intention was to PIP-swap early enough in the
game that the commands would not have become engaged yet and therefore I could
take the temporary PIP penalty. In the end, I only followed through with that
in game 1.

Game 1 was against Mike Newnham, using Qara Khitan. Well, if I wanted a run-out
finding myself up against an opponent as sociable as Mike and an army
near-enough mirroring my own wasn't too bad an opener. I invaded the Central
Asian Steppe on a bright winter's day. There was a marsh dominating the centre
of the battlefield and various largish patches of rocky flat in my rear and on
the right flank. A road stretched across my rear edge and up the left
table-edge.

Salah ad-Din's command took to the plain on the left. The infantry was in the
centre, with the intention that the Sudanese bow would support the main cavalry
push and the javelinmen could threaten anything of Mike's that threatened to
come through the central marsh. The Turkomans were on the right flank, largely
because I thought Mike would expect them on the road on the left. :o)

Mike deployed with his CinC (mainly Cv(O) and a few Cv(S)) facing my CinC's
command, a sub (ditto, with the addition of a couple of LH(F)) in the centre,
and a larger LH(S) command than mine on the right. Darn it, the hoped-for
surprise package of the Turkomans on the right was looking like a liability!

The game developed slowly, partly because Mike and I were chatting and partly
because we were wooing the public. :o) Mike also decided (clearly without
doing the maths, that my army looked very small and that therefore I must be
flank-marching on the left, to hook-up with the CinC's command. Obviously, I
did nothing to dissuade him of that, and conscientiously rolled my dummy dice,
which proceeded to produce anything but 5 and 6s. :o)

Salah ad-Din spread up wide to the left, looking to outflank the enemy CinC.
The Turkomans ran to the rear and came up the centre, to try their luck against
the enemy cavalry - LH(S) vs Cv(O) is 50/50, but I hoped that feigned flight and
the archers and Cv from the other command would tip the balance. The foot
command pushed forward as far as they could in support.

Mike's LH(F) came out to delay the foot and were shot and shot and shot to no
avail, eventually falling toward the end when run-over by Cv. Mike's LH(S) came
around my rear, where they plundered my undefended camels and were just
beginning to work their way along the road aiming to encircle my rear (stalled
from marching by returning Ax(O) javelinmen). Up at the business end (as I saw
it) the Turkomans charged Mike's Cv(O) and came to nothing, then feigned flight
to get out of range. Mike held rather than pursue unwisely. Saladin's cavalry
had turned Mike's left flank and things were about to get quite heated as one of
his commands was disheartened, but time was called. I had lost my baggage and a
few more, for 10% ME losses, and Mike had lost 10% and a disheartened command,
so 1VP difference gave me a 13-12 result.

Game 2 was a very different affair. This time Salah ad-Din came into the west,
invading Ireland in the summer. The opponent was Dave Pothecary, using Norse
Irish. The significant terrain (various bits of difficult and rough going) fell
in a strip down the far left hand edge of the battlefield, so essentially we
fought on clear, lush, rolling Irish grassland. Mark deployed a large Ax(S)
command on the left, with an even larger (numerically) command of Ax(O) and
Wb(F) behind it. Ostmen Bd(O) were across the centre and a small French ally
(Kn general and 4 Reg Bw(O)) was deployed to hold their right flank.

The Turkomen were on the right, Saladin in the centre and the infantry on the
left.

The game developed rapidly as the Turkomen whizzed up and around the open right
flank, almost immediately surrounding the French crossbowmen, killing all 4 and
breaking that command. Dave's Ostmen were rabbits in the headlights, rolling 3
(or was it 4?) 1s for PIPs in a row as they were assaulted front and flank,
killing 2 Bd at a time thanks to wrapping LH. Meanwhile, the Ax(O) command
(which Dave had hoped would be able to come across quicker to cover the hanging
right flank) arrived in a column, and the victorious Turkomans hit the end and
flank of the column and just chewed down it, eventually breaking that too for a
25-0 win. Dave doesn't play that often, his timing was off, and his PIPs were
worse... :o(

Game 3 (the endurance round :o) ) was against Steve Scott using Alexandrian
Macedonian. Due to missing players Steve and I matched-up out of theme. Like
me, Steve was borrowing figures and had seen his army for the first time that
morning. Alexander invaded Egypt and the terrain was limited to a set of rocky
flat areas scattered across my rear. The business end, therefore was a flat
plain. I'm never a big fan of that in principal. It's kind of what you want as
a cavalry army, but I like to be able to predict what will be where and a
featureless expanse gives you no direct clues.

I deployed first, with the infantry on my left (but in the centre of the table),
then Salah ad-Din's cavalry and finally the Turkomans out wide on the right.
Steve had a large command of Reg Ax(S) on the left, covering the flank of the
central phalanx. On the right Alexander led a cavalry wing of companions,
thessalians, greeks and prodromoi. The greek Cv(I) and LH were held back to try
to cover the flank of the companions and thessalians.

I pushed at the enemy mounted wing, while the phalanx trundled forward and the
hypaspists charged as fast as they could to try to get at the javelinmen and
archers. Alex led the way with a couple of brilliant strokes, but neither came
off (despite, at one point, starting at 6-1!) There were some casualties both
sides, but my line was deeper and once we began to get past and around and punch
holes, the macedonian cavalry couldn't hold. They fought bravely - but died to
a man, not one actually getting off the table!

On the left, the hypaspists had reached the javelinmen and, this being my
low-PIPing command, I was scrapping as hard as I could with limited resources to
try to just slow things down. However, one by one all the Ax(O) collapsed, and
the hypaspists began to turn into the archers, with Saladin desperately throwing
his LH(O) across to try to shore up the gap.

Back to the centre, the phalanx was under siege, pushing forward into the
cavalry to try to make space and also to be able to get at the Sudanese, while
Agrianian Ps(S) came around their rear to stave off the inevitable. However,
when you are fighting in three directions it is just a matter of time, and with
Turkomans charging down Agrianians and into the rear of files of Pk, the
macedonian centre broke just before the losing the sudanese would have cost me
my own left (and possibly rippled on into the other commands). Just less than
20% casualties, so a 23-2 win.

At the end of the Saturday group stages the team was lying second, setting us up
for a match against the 3rd place MK team, and a re-encounter with the Norse
Irish. But that, as they say, is a tale for another night, preferably over a
Guinness. :o)

After the three Sunday games, the competition moved into knock-out phase. The
top-scoring Saturday team played the lowest-scoring one, and the 2nd and 3rd
places duked it out. Winning team from each side would meet in the afternoon to
play off for 1st/2nd, and the losers would meet for 3rd/4th. WAR were in that
middle ground, and this time my opponent was Mark Carmichael, stepping in to use
the Norse Irish.

Once again, no doubt buoyed by the success of the previous campaign, the Ayyubid
forces sailed to the Emerald Isle, battle being offered by the Irish on a fine
summer's day. The terrain was a marsh about a quarter of the way across from
the left and just off my rear edge, then a ring of hills across the front of my
deployment area, one gentle one in front of the march, the rest rocky. A road
ran across my rear edge and up the right flank of the battlefield. There was
nothing of significance on the Irish half of the table.

Mark deployed with his large Ax(S) command (which also had a few Ps and LH(I))
wide on the right, stacked 4-5 deep. Next to that were the Ostmen Bd(O),
deployed 3 deep or so. The French ally (Kn(O) and 4 Reg Bw(O)) were then on the
left flank of the Ostmen and the huge Ax(O) and Wb(F) command was on the left of
these, and set back against the table edge. Despite his enormous numbers, due
to the depth with which he had deployed he only occupied the right half of the
table.

I deployed with the infantry command on the left, Salah ad-Din's cavalry in the
centre, behind the hills, and the Turkomans on the road facing to go up and to
the right. The intention was to draw the Irish forward with their first move,
but then to perform that famous military manoeuvre known as The Hare, turn tail
and run left and out to gather my commands against the relatively soft Ax(O) and
Wb(F) command and French, out on the plain. The CinC himself was attached to
the baggage, to use his own PIP to lead it left to safety, away from the
anticipated onrushing Irish.

That, at least, was the plan...

Mark had great PIPs for most of the game but especially in the early bounds, and
leapt at me swiftly. My generals, on the other hand, had clearly been enjoying
the legendary hospitality of the Irish since arrival and Allah was punishing
them as a result! The CinC's command had the high PIPs, and was able to pull
across and to the left a bit, the Turkomans had the middle dice and luckily that
did come up with a 2 on the first bound, so we could at least turn around.
Thereafter it was stuck with 1 and the Irish were on our tails anyway preventing
us from marching, so we were just keeping ourselves ahead of them and not a lot
more. The low PIP infantry command had nothing but 1s for bound after bound,
and so couldn't get up table and try to freeze the Irish Ax(O) in position to
free the CinC's corps to get out from around and behind the hills. I could have
done with giving them something other than the low PIP dice, of course, but
thank goodness I didn't as if I had allocated any way other than the way I did
we'd have been caught standing where we were, surrounded and massacred as the
Irish poured over the broken hills.

What ensued was one of those games that was tense and enthralling for the
participants, but sounds like a non-event afterwards. The Irish pressed forward
and wheeled around, over the rocky hills. The arabs backed off, continually
just out of range of the Irish and dressing their lines as they went, but never
being able to escape into the open terrain where we wanted to be. It was a
hard, harrying pursuit, no combat but continually tense every time PIPs were
rolled - would I have enough to get away (never quite); would Mark have enough
to press me again and keep his large irregular blocks (particularly the clumsy
Bd(O)) wheeling together without opening-up gaps between them (seemingly
always)?

Of course, eventually we reached the point where we could run no further. I
made a mistake pushing my infantry, and Mark was able to TZ the archers and
javelinmen with his own massed Ax(O) and Wb(F). The Bw(O) turned and shot, to
no effect whatsoever, and then were quickly run down. The Ax(O) fought well,
but were chipped-away at. The Cv(S) and Cv(O) of that command were trying to
break around the flank, but that was shored up by good play by Mark with his
French Kn(O) general, some Ps and Ax and the intervention of the LH(I) from the
far wing. Salah ad-Din managed (just) to throw his own LH(O) across to plug the
gap caused by the loss of the Sudanese, and the battle-lines finally formed
after over 2 hours of play, with the two sides now facing each other at 90
degrees to the way they had started.

Near my back edge, the baggage was safe and Salah ad-Din began the long trek
back to his own troops. The Turkomans, now backed against the marsh, threw
themselves at the Irish noble Ax(S), but facing a formation 4-5 deep had no hope
to do anything other than just try to survive. The CinC's cavalry were facing
the Bd(O) and, on the edge of a rocky hill, the french Bw(O). The enemy archers
were the one weak spot in the line - it would take a miracle (a charge uphill
into 2 ranks of Bw(O), one file of which was in rough terrain - so 4:5 one side,
and 3:6 the other), but killing 3 of those would have broken a hole which poor
PIPs might have enable me to exploit on the flank of the Ostmen. Sadly, despite
several valiant attempts the Egyptian horsemen were thrown back every time.

Things were very tense back among the javelinmen - the command disheartened on
5.5ME gone, and we had by now lost 4 Bw(O) and 2 Ax(O). The Irish were hurling
themselves at us, and the Kurds were giving as good as they got, but due to the
compulsory pursuit it was impossible for either side to get away. Having turned
the battle 90 degrees I couldn't use the feigned flight to do that, even if I
had dared! I could see that the end was nigh - one bad combat roll and the
command would dishearten, and once that happened it would swiftly break leaving
the flank of the CinC's command untenable. I checked my watch - 40 minutes to
go, no hope. Mark looked across the table, sweat on his brow, and asked whether
it was the tension or whether the shopping centre really had got as hot as we
both looked?

And then time was called - I had forgotten that we were playing only 3 hours,
not 3.5! My only losses were in the infantry, and 5ME was less than 10%. Mark
had suffered a lot less - a couple of Ax(O) and a Bd(O). As invader, I took a
thoroughly undeserved 13-12.

The lesson learned was not to tempt the fates by assuming that I would
automatically have enough PIPs to run away and redeploy. I could and should
have thrown a couple of Reg Cv(O) from the CinC out further forward to slow down
the Ax(S) and Bd(O) commands, and a couple of sacrificial Ax(O) from the
infantry command on top of a rocky hill would have served a similar useful
purpose. Deploying the Turkomans right at the back but facing forward, instead
of facing right and along the road would have meant that they could have got out
and around to the left before being march-blocked.

But most of all, Mark played the Irish really well. The temptation with an army
like that is to deploy it wide and hope to outflank the opponent somewhere.
That would have left the French and the Ax(O) command thin and vulnerable.
Instead, he was tight and deep and effectively flank-less and the sheer mass
gave me no hope frontally. Casualties were light (less than 10% each) but it
was unbelievably tense throughout.

Sadly, the overall result of the three games in our half of the draw went
against us, so we found ourselves playing MK Blue, who despite having romped
their games on Saturday had been beaten by the bottom-placed Independents in the
morning. So, our reward was a rematch of our Saturday morning games, against
the toughest opponents in the competition.

For me, that meant the pleasure of Mike Newnham's company again, using Qara
Khitan. We were, of course, both familiar with the other's army. He wasn't
going to fall for the phantom flank-march again! The Ayyubids invaded the dry
steppe in winter, where this time the battlefield was a flat plain, broken only
by a line of low hills on the right.

Deployment last time had seen both sides put their LH(S) commands on the right
wing, this time we both went for the "surprise package" of putting them in the
centre! Mike deployed first, across the middle of the table. His sub-general's
cavalry were on the left, LH(S) in the centre and CinC with more cavalry and a
couple of LH(F) on the right.

I put my CinC's cavalry as far to the left as I could, with the Turkomans in the
centre (effectively lining up two commands on his leftmost cavalry) and hoped
that the infantry would be able to stall out the LH(S) and CinC's cavalry for as
long as possible. The plan was not subtle - charge as hard and fast on the left
and try not to lose it on the right. Since the Turkomans were not expected to
do anything out than go straight ahead, they had the low PIPs, the CinC the high
PIPs and the infantry the middle.

Mike immediately countered by redeploying his CinC's cavalry (with the high
PIPs) from right to left behind the rest of the army. He left his LH(F) behind
just to entertain me, and I threw the infantry command's two Cv(O) out to chase
them and (in an ideal world) see whether they could threaten the enemy baggage
(Mike had command baggage with all his commands, which is always a more tempting
target than army baggage). Out on that flank a sideshow developed as Mike
diverted 3 of the LH(S) to go sort out my Cv(O).

My infantry pressed up slowly, which delayed the Turkoman charge. Salah ad-Din
was using his high PIPs to send his four LH(O) out very wide and into the enemy
left corner. Mike's CinC's command was forced to use its PIPs to divert Cv(O)
to meet them, and this slowed him down from developing the overlaps on Saladin's
cavalry with the rest of his line. As the main battle lines postured, the LH(O)
vs Cv(O) contest in Mike's rear zone was absorbing - threats, counters and
counter-threats each time. I love asking and answering those sort of questions,
and Mike commented that whenever he and I play we end up in a chess-game
somewhere. :o)

Faced with the Cv(S) and Bw of the infantry advancing, Mike let his LH(S) go
impetuous, and they charged past the flank of the Turkomans ploughing into the
quaking infantry. A flank was offered and accepted, another developed and
suddenly the enemy LH(S) were broken and fleeing for home.

My own Turkomans charged into the enemy Cv(O), a break appeared in the line,
which was swiftly plugged by the enemy general, dooming the successful LH(S).
Saladin's Cv(S) hit the enemy Cv(O) in support of the Turkomans and a bitter
battle ensued, push and shove, and my outside flank began to collapse. The
infantry command didn't have enough PIPs to get themselves back up to the fight
quickly enough to intervene - not least because Mike's LH(S) had routed so far
and fast that we weren't impetuously chasing them up the table!

One of the Indian LH(O) had slipped the net of Mike's Cv(O) and had a dash at
the Baggage, only to be repulsed. Mike's sub-general had disposed of a
Turkoman, but was still in the scrap at the back of an echelon of troops. An
opportunity was there - successively the echelon was fought, recoiled and
created an overlap on the next one up the line, and suddenly we had LH(S) vs
double overlapped general - and he was down, disheartening his command. We
needed one more ME from there to break it, but Saladin's own command was
teetering - 5ME lost (2 Cv(S) and a Cv(O)) and the Turkoman command was also
shaky - 3 dead and breaks on 6 lost. If Mike got lucky, killing a couple of
Cv(S) and a LH(S), or 3 LH(S) and 1 Cv(S) would win him the game. In the end,
he was only able to take 1 more Cv(O) from the CinC's command, leaving it
precariously on 6ME, not quite disheartened.

Decision time - should the LH(O) in the backfield have another go at the
baggage, or hit the rear of the enemy line? Was it better to maximise the
chance of killing 1 enemy, or maximise the number of opportunities to do so?
Into the rear - it's what LH are for. :o) The disheartened Qara Khitan duly
fell, and thankfully I rolled high enough not to lose any more from the CinC's
cavalry. Game over for a 23-2 win, with 10ME lost, not quite 20% - 23-2.

Elsewhere for the WAR team, Tony Dennis's Assyrians were having an all-plastic
encounter with Ian Sims' Seleucids, while Steve Rathgay's Lykian horde was
battering it out with Steve Bainbridge's Early Carthaginians. Tony's game was
tense, but eventually the Seleucids were victorious. Steve and Steve took it to
the wire, until with the last dice throw of the last bound of the game a Lykian
hoplite 6-1ed a Carthaginian chariot to win. The net scores were not enough for
us to overtake our opponents on points, but we weren't playing points for the
team event in the weekend. There was a similar reversal of fortune in the
1st/2nd play-off games and thus, the last came first, and the first were last.
:o)

So, conclusions with the Ayyubids? I thoroughly enjoyed them. I got lucky in
places, particularly with poor Dave's PIPs in the second game against the Norse
Irish on Saturday, in relation to the combat dice for my Ax(O) to survive in the
return match on Sunday morning and then again in combats against Mike's Qara
Khitan in the final game. Partly thanks to that but also because of the
"danciness" of the army I didn't lose a command in any of the 5 games.

I didn't fight a Kn/Bw army and really struggled against a tight shieldwall-type
army. There were no Bw(X) around, thanks be! But I felt that they were
definitely playable. Feigned flight is a must and at 400AP I would bulk up the
LH(S) numbers and probably look to throw in some Ps or maybe some more Sudanese
Bw. The naffatun Ps(X) is an attractive option just to have in reserve to scare
away enemy El.

They were certainly more than enjoyable enough to make me wonder whether to buy
them in plastic and start painting them as my next big-toys project. The
ghulams and light horse will form the basis of other arab armies, and arabs and
chinese are definitely missing from my collections at the moment. There are
other things on my painting-table right now, but this has definitely re-piqued
my interest in the horsey-based armies.

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