Saturday, 7 March 2020

Refurbishing the Arab Collection

The Task
Several years ago, the Dark Age project was expanded to include a number of Muslim armies, Fatamid, Bagdad Buyid, North African to name a few. In my enthusiasm I painted ten in quick tempo and looking back at recent photos decided to re-do them with a bit more care.

As we play more double size commands, I decided to consolidate the Muslim collection as the principle enemies of the Nikephorian Byzantine, the Fatamid, Dynastic Bedouin and the Iqshidid Egyptian. 

Clothing would be given a dark base colour and highlighted in a lighter shade, dark blue – light blue, dark green – light green and so on. The turbans, painted with a bit more care, have more folds, the clothing colours have better eye appeal as do the archers. Colour schemes and banners set apart the three main adversaries and this is explained below.

The Fatamid
Clothing - All turbans have a colour which is also found as a topcoat for another miniature and these are red, blue, and two shades of brown. The same colour selection is used for the shields with a few painted with a horizontal bar painted in an off white or cream.

Banners – From D. Nicolle’s Medieval Warfare Source Book, volume II, the Fatamid had green and yellow flags in a variety of size and shapes. Further searching I found it was not uncommon to have quotations from the Koran painted on the banner. Inscription will be done in gold or white.

Second on the list are the Dynastic Bedouin, specifically, the Emirate of Aleppo. These took less time to paint and were a joy to do.

The Dynastic Bedouin
Clothing – These differed somewhat from the Fatamid; turbans would be mostly white with a few tan coloured in between, Topcoats had fewer brown, but more red, blue and purple. I reasoned the brighter colours would be prevalent among the settled inhabitants. This also can be seen among the shield colours.

Banners – These would be of similar size and shape but basic colour would be an off-white or cream. A dark vertical bar would have text painted is silver or white. Kurdish allies would have similar flags, but painted red.

Useful Sources
Armies of the Dark Ages 600 – 1066, Ian Heath, 1980
Medieval Warfare Source Book, David Nicolle, 1986
Saracenic Heraldry, Leo Aryeh Mayer, 1933

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Nikephorian Byzantine vs. Iqshidid Egyptian

During the last decade of Iqshidid rule (935 – 969 AD) financial constraints had reduced the number and quality of the army guarding the northern frontier of Syria (al-Sham). By contrast, the Byzantine army experienced a resurgence under the guidance of their future emperor, Nicephorus Phocas. These reforms included the implementation of new formations and weapons, a revision of tactics for both foot and mounted troops and rigorously honed by constant training and drills.  

Game one.

The Iqshidid Egyptians deployed their battle line with spear and sword armed infantry in centre with light troop holding the rocky ground on both flanks. Ghulam cavalry were positioned behind in support and on the far right, the Bedouin light horse. In contrast, the Byzantine positioned all their cavalry as its main battle with the Klibanophoroi taking a central position. Both kavaillaroi wings were supported by an equal number of skoutatoi.

The Egyptians opened battle by bringing forward their skirmish line on the right. The Byzantine replied by moving their own psiloi on the right and brought forward in echelon the kavaillaroi and Klibanophoroi. 

The Byzantine kavaillaroi charged first followed by the Klibanophoroi. The Egyptian line buckled but held. Both sides lost casualties, but the Byzantine were gaining ground. To quicken the pace, the skoutatoi supporting the right wing were moved forward.

The supporting skoutatoi was fortuitous as the loss of a few kavaillaroi now exposed the Ghulam cavalry to a withering fire. A constant shower of arrows sent enemy cavalry scrambling safety. 

Keeping the initiative, the Strategos reformed his kavaillaroi for the final phase and moved forward the skoutatoi on the left flank. The situation was now desperate for the Egyptians as Byzantine skoutatoi loosed their arrows with devastating effect on both infantry and remnant units of cavalry. finally sending the Egyptians in rout.

Score 8 – 4 Nikephorian Byzantine.

Game two
Pursuing the Egyptians further south, the Strategos found the enemy prepared for battle. This time the cavalry took a centre position with infantry forming on either flank. The Byzantine deployed in standard formation, but due to the constricting nature of the terrain kept units close together. To match the enemy line, the Rus and psiloi were positioned on the far left using the rocky ground for cover.

The charge of the Byzantine kavaillaroi and Klibanophoroi shattered the first line of Ghulam cavalry. Reforming the kavaillaroi allowed the skoutatoi time to take up their new position to support their next charge. Further to the right of the Byzantine line, other kavaillaroi pursued enemy light troops into the rocky ground eventually cutting most down.

Harassed by archery fire the Egyptian foot on the right made several attempts to close with the skoutatoi. Unfortunately, their effort was in vain as the deafening sound of a thousand hooves could be heard signalling the end.

Score 8 - 4 Nikephorian Byzantine.

The Nikephorian Byzantine continue this series with battles planned against the Dynastic Bedouin (Emirate of Aleppo) and the Fatamid Egyptian.

Thursday, 6 February 2020

Consular Rome vs. Numidia

Following the death of King Micipsa in 118 BC, the succession to the throne was intended to be jointly held by Jugurtha and Micipsa’s  two sons Hiempsal and Adherbal. Not wishing to share the throne Jugurtha had Hiempsal killed and forced Adherbal to an open battle. Defeated, Adherbal fled to Rome for help to which Rome sent emissaries to mediate. A decision was reached resulting in the division of the kingdom into two equal parts.

In 112 BC, Jugurtha resumed his war with Adherbal finally besieging him in his capital of Cirta. Rome again sent emissaries but Jugurtha postponed the diplomatic talks until Cirta was captured. Jugurtha succeeded, however, seizure of the city had cost the lives of many of its residents including the Italians. Their deaths were unfortunate as it brought Jugurtha in direct conflict with Rome which they responded by sending an army under the command of Lucius Calpurnius Bestia. 

Game one
Jugurtha took up a defensive position with hills and wood protecting his flanks. Bestia deployed his troops in a traditional manner to confront the mobile Numidians; hastati and principes in the first line flanked by the allied troops with reserve troops behind each wing.

Seeing little activity from the Numidians, Bestia moved his right wing forward to pin the enemy’s close formation troops against the wood and ordered the left wing to seize the hill near the enemy's centre. From the position on the heights Roman infantry could pin Numidian reserves while the main assault took place. 

The lack of activity from the Numidian proved deceptive as their light cavalry attacked the supporting allied cavalry enabling a small number of Numidian horse to encircle the Roman right wing inflicting severe casualties.
Meanwhile, the battle for the hill became hotly contested with Rome gaining little ground; both sides suffered heavy casualties 

Allied cavalry recovered well enough to send the Numidian light horse in retreat and the timely support of reserve allied troops neutralised the threat to the Roman right wing. In centre, velites kept the Numidian elephants occupied while the triarii added their weight to the battle to tip the balance. Jugurtha called for a general retreat, giving Rome a costly victory (8 - 6).

Game two
Pursuing Jugurtha further south, Bestia found the Numidian army amongst similar terrain. Numidian light troops covered the slopes of the hills on their left and the woods to their right. Deployed as before, Bestia would send his allied infantry to clear the enemy light troops before committing the centre.

To Bestia’s surprise, the Numidian centre opened to allow the elephants to move forward to engage in battle.

The elephants successfully pushed the centre line back but Roman hastati and principes easily dispersed their opposition; both battle lines quickly became disordered as units became isolated. Dust clouds could be seen in the distance signifying the approach of Numidian cavalry. 

The situation became desperate as Roman casualties quickly mounted (6 – 2), not only did Numidian cavalry threaten both flanks but the elephants were causing serious damage in the centre.

The Numidian whirlwind slowly died (low pips) giving Rome a brief respite to redress their formations; reserve troops strengthened the centre giving both flanks time to fend off the Numidian cavalry. Having seized the initiative, Numidian casualties began to steadily mount. After a hotly contested battle lasting four hours (16 turns), the Numidian host left the field giving Rome a second Pyrrhic victory, 8 – 7.

Historical note.
Jugurtha later surrendered to Lucius Calpurnius Bestia and negotiated a favourable peace treaty. Bestia's rivals in the Roman senate were not pleased and named a new consul, Metellus, to continue the conflict. Equally unsuccessful, it would take the efforts of a newly elected Gaius Marius to set in motion the capture of Jugurtha, earning him a triumph in Rome.

Consular Army
2 x General (Cv), 2 x equites (Cv), 8 x hastati/principes (4Bd), 4 x triarii (Sp), 4 x allies (3/4Ax), 4 x velites (Ps).

Numidian Army
2 x general (Cv), 8 x horsemen (LH), 8 x javelinmen (Ps), 2 x elephant (El), 4 x Roman trained javelinmen (4Ax),

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Umayyad vs. Alan

Not all the people known as Alani moved westward during the period of the great migration. Those Alani who settled in the northern Caucuses sought a life as farmers and cattle herders, nonetheless, in emergencies they could muster a cavalry force of nearly 30,000 according to Arab sources. As early as 715 AD, the Umayyad invaded the Kingdom of the Alani only to be repelled. Later invasions by the Umayyad and equally unsuccessful, encountered the Khazar allied with the Alani.

Game one
Awaiting the arrival of the Alani, the Umayyad positioned its infantry in centre with the bulk of its cavalry deployed on the open right flank. Hills secured the left flank and here, archers supported by cavalry were placed. The approach of dust clouds finally settled revealing the bulk of their army facing the Umayyad right flank forcing their general to revise his plans.

To meed the impending threat, the Umayyad general shifted his reserve formations from its position on the left flank to the right. No sooner were the orders given the Alani were seen moving forward. 

The situation on the Umayyad right becam desperate as new lines were adjusted to meet the Alani attack. In the maelstrom of charge and countrecharge of lancers and horse archers, the Umayyad subordinate general was severely wounded and carried off the field. A panic gripped the Umayyad right forcing the Umayyad commander no alternative but to call a retreat. Score 8 - 2 for the Alani.  

Game two
With reinforcements, the Umayyad continued their campaign north of the Caucuses and found the Alani prepared for a fight. A light cavalry screen shielding their heavy lancers positioned in a second line and meet the Alani deployment, Umayyad spearmen, supported by archers formed the Umayyad centre with the bulk of the cavalry forming a reserve. Smaller detachments of cavalry protected the extreme left and right flank.

Umayyad infantry line right wheeled so as to approach the enemy better and have the left less exposed to an Alani flank attack. On the Umayyad right, Jund cavalry easily dispersed Alani light horse but the threat on the left flank was now critical. 

Moving relentlessly forward, the Umayyad infantry drove the Alani light cavalry back and seized the rough ground to threaten the Alani position. This forced the Alani to commit their lancers to action. 

Casualties fell heavily on both sides, yet both commanders were determined to battle despite the cost. The anticipated Alani attack on the enemy’s left flank however, could not gain ground and pressure from the Umayyad right forced the Alani commander to call for general retreat. Score 8 – 7 for the Umayyad

Both armies are doubled in size as single commands (24 elements).
1 x general (Cv), 3 x Jund cavalry (Cv), 3 x spearmen (Sp), 2 x archers (3Bw), 1 x archer (Ps), 2 x Bedouin and Ghazis light horse (LH).
1 x general (3Kn), 3 x nobles (Kn), 7 x horse archers (LH), 1 x camp follower archers (Ps).

Tuesday, 7 January 2020

Consular Rome vs. Iberians

Following Rome’s victory over Carthage, ending the Second Punic War, the senate reviewed its overseas policies with respect to Hispania. During the conflict with Carthage, Rome successfully invaded the peninsula at two areas which later to became the provinces of Hispania Ulterior and Hispania Citerior. Following the war, the process of Romanization of the Iberian tribes would take nearly two centuries to reach its completion during the reign of emperor Augustus. Hispania would prove a vital testing ground for tactics and reforms of the military. 

Game one
After a period of capturing towns and villages, Rome found the Iberian horde offering battle positioned between two steep hills. A village split their line in two and this offered the consul an opportunity to defeat the enemy in detail. Holding the Iberian right wing back, Rome would focus its attention on the Iberian left wing, first clearing the hill of its defenders to take advantage of an exposed flank. The Iberians had other plans and caught Rome off guard with the rapidity of their assault on the Roman left. This placed the Roman left-wing scrambling to establish a new defensive line. 

The situation on Rome’s left escalated such that reserve units of triarii and hastate were taken from the main assault. This kept the Iberians in check but had the unfortunate result to weaken the main assault easily held back by the Iberian centre. Losses on both sides were high but seeing no opportunity to turn events around, the consul called for a retreat.  Score 9 – 8 for Iberia.

Game two
Following their victory, the Iberians pursued Rome forcing them to give battle. Near an abandon village, Rome deployed in its familiar formation with legions in centre and on its flanks, the allied infantry. 

The Iberians began the battle moving its right flank against the hill position held by velites and allied troops. Outnumbered, it was not long before the hill position had been swept clear of its defenders giving the Iberians a view of an exposed Roman left. 

Seeing the rapid assault on the hill position, the consul ordered a rapid assault on the Iberian centre. Reserve units of triarii were repositioned to deal with the Iberian threat from the hill, but as the Iberians were busy plundering the Roman dead the threat did not seem imminent. 

The Roman assault on the Iberian centre quickly gained ground as the hastati and principes cut through their line. Seeing the collapse of his centre, the Iberian warlord called for a retreat. The battle proved costly to both sides, but Rome held the field. Score 8 - 7 for Rome

Both armies are double sized single commands.
Polybian Roman
1 x General (Cv), 1 x equites (Cv), 4 x hastate/principes (4Bd), 2 x triarii (Sp), 2 x allies (3/4Ax), 2 x velites (Ps).
1 x general (Cv), 1 x horsemen (LH), 6 x scutarii (3/4Ax), 4 x caetrati (Ps)

Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Middle Imperial Rome vs. the Carpi

Taking advantage of the crisis situation that struck the Roman Empire, hordes of Goths, Vandals and Sarmatians led by King Kniva crossed the Danube intent on pillaging and capturing slaves. The Carpi joined the venture but directed their attention further west to the province of Moesia Superior. Before confronting the Gothic horde, the Carpi must be dealt with and Emperor Decius led a mobile column to join the provincial governor Gallus near Naissus.

Game one
Securing both flanks on a village and wood, Rome deployed in three lines; the first to slow the barbarian rush, the second to shatter the warband and a third, to clear the field of any left standing.

The auxilia did performed their task but a number of barbarian columns were able to pass through and surprise the second line. To help contain the situation, elements of reserve cavalry were ordered forward to restore order.

The charge of the Sarmatian lancers proved devastating and to remian on the field would incur a severe set back. Decius called for a retreat. Score 9 -3 for the Carpi (35”).

Game two
Reinforced, Decius resumed the campaign and met the Carpi on an open plain. Placing the majority of his cavalry on the left, beyond the woods, the main body formed two lines. The entire auxilia component formed the first line with units of legionnaire interspersed among them. A second line consisted of the remaining legions and guard cavalry.

The Carpi gambled on a quick victory and marched forward their warbands at Rome’s first line. Seeing the dust cloud created by Roman cavalry, the Sarmatian allies halted their advance. To contend with the flanking attack, a screen of Carpi light horse and falxmen were positioned to delay them.

Not waiting for the barbarian assault, Roman auxilia moved forward to intercept the Carpi left wing. Despite Roman losses, this had the effect of greatly reducing the number of Carpi that eventually reached the Roman line. To add further complication to Carpi plans, Roman guard cavalry advanced forward. 

The situation for the Carpi proved threatenning as the flank attack scattered the Carpi screen. Recovering their order, the Roman cavalry resumed the advance on the Carpi commander's reserve.

Despite the situation to their rear, the Sarmatian lancers charged the Roman line. The legions held their ground and further effort destroyed a number of Sarmatae cavalry and Carpi warband. Sensing the battle was lost, the Carpi fled the field. Score 10 – 6 for Rome (45”).

Both armies are double sized single commands.
Middle Imperial Rome
1 x General (Cv), 2 x equites (Cv), 1 x equites (LH), 4 x legionnaires (4Bd), 4 x auxilia (4Ax).
1 x general (Cv), 1 x horsemen (LH), 6 x warriors (3Wb), 2 x falxmen (3Bd), 2 x javelinmen (Ps)
Sarmatian Allies
2 x nobles (3Kn) + 1 x javelinmen (Ps).

Historical side note:
Decius did repulse the Carpi invasion to continue his campaign against the Goths of King Kniva. His reign as emperor came to an abrupt end at the Battle of Arbritus.

Tuesday, 17 December 2019

Carthage vs. the Iberians

Carthage vs. the Carpetani (220 BC)
Following the death of Hasdrubal in 221 BC, Hannibal took command of the Carthaginian army in Hispania and in a series of campaigns along the Ebro and in the west defeated a number of Iberian tribes, among them, the Vaccaei and the Carpetani. This provided the historical backdrop to further experiment with the large command of 24 elements using one die for pip scores.

Game one.
The Vaccaei had abandoned the village to established a defensive line on either side of a steep hill not far away. Hannibal proceeded to move against the enemy left using his Carthaginian infantry, Gallic mercenaries and the elephant corps while skirmishing against its right wing with his light troops. Unfortunately, the Vaccaei were not of like mind and launched an aggressive right hook catching the Carthaginians flat-footed. The rapidity of the assault quickly eliminated the Carthaginian screen setting the Gallic cavalry scrambling for cover. The Vaccaei left wing proved tenacious against Carthaginian infantry and elephants. Sweeping down off the slopes of the hill were more Vaccaei forcing Hannibal to break of the battle. In five turns, the Vaccaei scored an 8 - 2 victory.

Game two.
Unvexed by a minor setback, Hannibal continued his campaign finding the Vaccaei and Carpetani in battle formation between hills and wood. Tempering his eagerness for a quick victory, Hannibal devised a plan to utilise Mago’s cavalry wing.

As expected, the forest edge was brimming with enemy while the enemy centre edged forward. The Carthaginian held their position giving Mago time to execute his planned manoeuvre. Anticipating an attack on their rear, the Carpetani were ready to engage the Punic and Numidian cavalry.

Seeing little movement of the enemy centre, the Vaccaei launched an assault against the hill position to their left, from there they could attack the Carthaginians in the flank. This move proved difficult as the Carthaginians stubbornly held their ground despite being attacked by twice their number.  

A foreboding sense of doom settled on the ranks of the Vaccaei and Carpetani as trumpets were heard further to their rear. This was the awaited signal from Mago at which Hannibal launched his centre against the enemy line. Caught front and rear, the Vaccaei and Carpetani broke and fled the field losing nearly half their number. A clear Carthaginian victory, 10 – 2.  

By Alcides Pinto - Based on the map done by Portuguese Archeologist Luís Fraga, from the "Campo Arqueológico de Tavira". The reference map can be found at this location [1]., GFDL,