Tuesday, 19 May 2020

The Andalusians

To do battles between the Zanj and Abbasid will require new terrain pieces. Unfortunately, with restricted movement due to the current situation, visiting the necessary shops will have to be planned for next month. In the meantime, I will occupy my free time with a project that can be completed in two weeks, the Andalusians.

The Andalusian collection will focus on the period following the breakdown of the Caliphate into the independent states known as “taifas”. Its size will be similar to the others, 24 elements, and when completed the Andalusians have a number of opponents among the Christian kingdoms to fight or among other taifa kingdoms.  

The figures are drawn from the huge reserve of Colonial Sudanese which still remains large. Infantry make up two-thirds of the army strength with light troops counting for over half of that number. The two commands will be recognizable for the number of black troops in one and Berber troops in the other; flags or banners will also help for easy recognition.

Turbans will be needed for the black spearmen, tassel decorations for some shields and saddle cloths will be lengthened for a few mounted figures. Many figures lack shields and an order was placed on Donnington for these.

Lances were repositioned for all the Essex heavy cavalry and where needed; horse tails were shortened to avoid the inconvenience of placing them in column. The infantry and light horse are Old Glory which have weapons partially held against the body or head; these were cut free and repositioned. This was the most tedious task, but the effort was worth it as they do look more aggressive.

As of this moment, painting has progressed rapidly and photos of the completed Andalusians should be posted next week.  

Tuesday, 5 May 2020

Time line Zanj Revolt

Note: Abbasid leaders are highlighted in red while Zanj commanders are in bold type. 

869      Ali bn Muhammad raises the banner of rebellion around the port of Basra. An attempt by local militia to suppress the rebellion is ambushed and annihilated (Day of the Barges). 

870      The Abbasid renew their effort but this proves unsuccessful as mounted troops are hindered by the landscape. A Zanj assault by land and sea capture and sack Al-Ubulla destroying most of the city’s goods.

871      The fall of Suq al-Ahwaz to the rebels sends the people of Basra to flee the city. The Abbasid renew their offense defeating the Zanj near Nahr Ma’qil. Nonetheless, the Zanj surprise the Abbasid in a night assault of their camp forcing the Abbasid to suspend further attacks. A full-scale assault of Basra is successful and the city is sacked (September). An Abbasid relief force is beaten off after ten days of continuous fighting.  

872      Around February, the Abbasid commander Muflih al-Turki led a large army to the Basra region catching Ali ibn Muhammad by surprise. A Zanj counterattack put the government forces to flight and during the retreat to al-Ubulla, Muflih died of his wounds.

In the north, a second Abbasid force led by Tashtimur al Turki caught up with Yahya ibn Muhammad near Nahr Abi al-Asad, however, the massive area of swamp made reconnaissance difficult. In a brisk engagement, Yahya was caught and transported to Samarra where he met his end.

Further Abbasid activity was delayed by an outbreak of disease. Recovering, government troops led by Abu Ahmad, moved to Badhaward to resume their campaign against the Zanj. Government troops destroy a stronghold and nearby villages, yet superior numbers of the Zanj forced Abu Ahmad to return to Badhaward. A wind storm destroyed Abu Ahmad’s camp forcing the Abbasid to abandon the campaign. 

In the east, the Abbasid are occupied with the suppression of the Saffarid secessionist movement in Persia curtailing further activity against the Zanj for the remainder of the year.  

873      The rebellion expands to Suq al-Ahwaz. Several campaigns are planned to eradicate the Zanj from the region. Ishaq ibn Kundai would lead a column to Basra, while Ibrahim ibn Sima marched on Badhaward. Under pressure, the Zanj fell back to their headquarters near Basra. The series of attacks and counterattacks produced little results and by mid-875, a number of government commanders are replaced.

876      The invasion of Iraq by the Saffarid forced the Abbasid to withdraw troops from Wasit and the Tigris districts presenting an opportunity to threaten the north. Sulayman ibn Jami was instructed to proceed to al-Hawanit and Sulayman ibn Musa to Batihah.

877      Caliph al-Muwafak comes to terms with the Saffarid enabling him to take command of the campaign against the Zanj. Joined by his son Abu al-Abbas their combined force cleared al-Ahwaz driving the Zanj back to their capital of al-Mukhtaran south of Basrah. Elsewhere in the region, an army led by Rumays al-Jubba’i was forced to retreat on Wasit. The Zanj continue to plunder the region while evading pursuing government forces.

Confronting this latest threat, Zanj leaders Sulayman and al-Jubbai unite to meet government troops led by Aghartmish and Khushaysh. Concealed among the reeds, the Zanj successfully ambush the Abbasid traveling by water routing Aghartmish’s forces and killing Khushaysh.

(map 1)

878    A second government force led by Takin al-Bukhari was attacked by al Jubbai who feigning a retreat led al-Bukhari’s pursuing troops into an ambush by Sulayman’s awaiting cavalry. Government forces resumed their offensive attacking Zanj villages and are able to inflict a defeat upon al-Jubbai. The Zanj retaliated and successively defeated several government forces reaching al-Rusafa to the south of Wasit and plundered the town.

879    Suleyman advances on al-Shadidiyyah and despite heavy losses defeats Takin al-Bukhari. The governor of the region, Ahmad ibn Laythawayh marches against Suleyman and in a two-day engagement is defeated opening Wasit to an assault. Sweeping aside the garrison, Wasit is captured, plundered and burned. Suleyman spends the next month in the district of Junbula, but a reconstituted Abbasid army, led by Ahmad ibn Laythawayh forces Suleyman to retreat to Tahitha where he remained for the rest of the year.

(map 2) 

880      Renewing the campaign against the Zanj, a well-equipped army led by Abu al-Abbas cleared the Tigris districts of rebel troops. Successfully defeating the Zanj near Wasit, he enters the town to establish himself and construct barges. In the months following both sides attempt to provoke the other to attack, but gaining the upper hand Abu al-Abbas forces Suleyman to retreat. Pursuing the Zanj, Abu al-Abbas is ambushed barely evading capture.

Continuing the campaign, al-Abbas attacked the Zanj stronghold of al-Mania. Baiting the enemy with some barges, these were easily captured by the Zanj who found themselves surrounded. In the ensuring battle, the Zanj flee losing their own vessels and leaving al-Mania to be burned. 

In September, Abu Ahmed al-Muwaffaq reinforced the troops of Abu al-Abbas as reports arrived of a Zanj build up. Al-Muwaffaq joined his son and together they moved south toward Sulayman’s stronghold of al-Mania. Government forces advanced in two columns and Sulayman seeing the full strength abandoned the city. Al-Muwaffaq pursued Sulayman while al-Abbas captured the city freeing its captives.

Following the sack of al-Mania, al-Muwaffaq sent al-Abbas to capture the rebel depot of al-Hawanit in an engagement lasting until nightfall. Learning that Sulayman was at al-Mansura, al-Muwaffaq proceeded with his cavalry. In a clash with rebel forces outside of al-Mansura, the rebel commander al-Jubbai was mortally wounded. Al-Muwaffaq orders his infantry, cavalry and watercraft to the assault of al-Mansura. Overcoming its defences Sulayman flees abandoning a great number of stores.

881      With the area of Tahitha secured, al-Muwaffaq restored government control over the region. Further actions against the Zanj resulted in the seizure of thirty galleys leaving many rebels to defect. By mid-February, al-Muwaffaq was ready to attack the Zanj headquarters of al-Mukhtaran.   

The siege of al-Mukhtarah lasted two and half years with both sides attempting to dislodge the other by stratagems. Battles took place inside and outside the city fortifications with all the remaining Zanj commanders committed to its defence. Government troops construct a new city to serve as a depot.

883    In the spring, the western side of al-Mukhtarah fell followed by the eastern side in August. During this latter phase, Ali ibn Muhammad is killed bringing the rebellion to a virtual end. 

Tuesday, 28 April 2020

The Zanj

Following the completion of the Arab restoration project, the homeless elements that remained unused seemed to cry out for useful employment. There were plenty of archers, cavalry and camelry. My first thought, these could become the core of a Qaramita army, however, to do this would require a substantial order of camel mounted troops. Thinking further, the four elements of Zanj were made for the Abbasid and an army of Zanj (III/50) would prove to be a better option.

The great Zanj Rebellion was carried out for the most part by African slaves with cavalry and leaders coming from the Arab tribes. The slaves could easily be converted from the large collection of Dervishes in my collection, these have a large contingent of Hadendoa.

To make these, the slave troops would need a different hair style, or wear a turban or head band. The troops selected are seen in photo one and in the foreground are two boxes brimming with Sudanese and Hadendoa.

Aside from the Hadendoa the Sudanese figures would serve for the leaders and archers are extra Biblical Nubians. The spoon shaped swords were trimmed to become the standard saif model and trimming the hair-do would make room for a turban or headband.  

By the end of the week, the army should be completed and with photos posted to the blog.

Between painting, I have been working on a variant set for DBA3 to simulate the amphibious nature of the conflict. Before posting these to the blog, I will complete a timeline of events to give readers a sense of this unusual and long conflict.

01- 05- 2020

The Zanj in battle array.

In the forward rank are the formidable swordsmen (4Bd) supported by archers (3Bw). On the left of them are the skirmishers (Ps) and to their rear, the Zanj horde (5Hd) and positioned on the opposite flank are the tribal Bedouin light horse (LH) supporting the rebellion. In centre are the command elements in three options; Cv, 4Bd or 3Bd.

Next week, the timeline of the Zanj revolt.

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

East Romans vs. the Hamdanid

Raiding parties had become a perennial occurrence for the Byzantine Empire and by the mid-10th century, the Bedouin felt emboldened to strike deeper into the Anatolian plain. As general, Nicephorus Phokas revitalised the East Roman army well enough to not only counter the raids but undertake punitive expeditions into the heart of the emirates of Aleppo and Mosul.  

Game one
Pursuing one such raiding party, Nicephorus sent a flying column to block its passage through the Taurus mountains. Traversing the Taurus mountains, Bedouin scouts reported Romans were blocking their path.
Despite the narrowness of the terrain, the Bedouin commander deployed infantry on both flanks with a screen of light cavalry in centre. Behind this line, heavy and light cavalry were positioned as a reserve.

The opening moves by the Bedouin fell foul to some miscommunication leaving the right wing to move forward unsupported. The infantry of the right wing quickly took casualties as the East Romans counter attacked with such rapidity not seen before.

The Dailami were first to fall leaving the hills on the right in East Roman hands. Roman cavalry charged the Bedouin spear and overwhelmed a number of units.

In an effort to counter balance the situation on the right, the Bedouin commander ordered units on the left and centre to engage the Romans. The effort gathered little momentum. Seeing the right wing broken, the Bedouin fled leaving their plunder behind. Score 8 – 1 for the Nikephorian Byzantine.  

Nikephorian Byzantine
2 x general (Cv), 8 x kavaillaroi (Cv), 2 x light horse (LH), 2 x Klibanophoroi (6Kn), 6 x skoutatoi (8Bw), 2 x Rus auxilia (3Ax), 2 x archer (Ps).
The Emir of Aleppo
2 x general (Cv), 2 x lancer (Cv), 8 x Arabitai (LH), 2 x Dailami (4Ax), 8 x thughur (Sp), 2 x archer (Ps).

Game two
With the East Roman army fully occupied with the Emir of Aleppo, the Emir of Mosul sent his own raiding party into former Armenian land. Gathering his forces, the Strategos moved to intercept the Bedouin before they could cross the frontier. To his surprise, the Bedouin were arrayed for battle with infantry in their centre, the Bedouin light horse on the left and Kurdish allies on the right.

The East Romans led with their right wing with the cavalry (Klibanophoroi) of the centre moving in echelon behind. The Arabitai did not stand their ground but moved away exposing a second line further back.  
Hesitation struck as the East Romans found themselves outnumbered and their flank threatened.

The hesitation was an invitation that the Bedouin gladly accepted. The ensuing clash of proved devastating for the East Romans leaving survivors to recover their wits as they fell back on their reserve formation. This had a knock-on effect as Cavalry formations in centre now ground to a halt leaving the Strategos to shift his effort elsewhere.

It was at this moment; the Kurds decided to demonstrate their prowess and charge the East Roman cavalry with the shock sending them back on their second line. The situation became desperate as East Roman were quickly suffering casualties on both wings. To relieve the pressure, the Strategos ordered the infantry forward.

In less than an hour of combat, both wings of the East Roman army were neutralised and the final indignity was the loss of a unit of Klibanophoroi to Kurdish bowmen leaving a flummoxed Strategos to call a retreat. Score 8 –1 Dynastic Bedouin.

Nikephorian Byzantine
2 x general (Cv), 8 x kavaillaroi (Cv), 2 x light horse (LH), 2 x Klibanophoroi (6Kn), 6 x skoutatoi (8Bw), 2 x Rus auxilia (3Ax), 2 x archer (Ps).
The Emir of Mosul
2 x general (Cv), 2 x lancer (Cv), 8 x Arabitai (LH), 4 x thughur (Sp), 2 x archer (Ps) plus Kurdish allies: 4 x cavalry (3Kn), 2 x archers (3Bw).

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

The Tulunid/Iqshidid Egyptian (29-03-2020)

The Tulunid/Iqshidid are next in the queue. Photo one is an overview of the elements collected for this army. All the infantry will be rebased to improve the distribution of poses among the blade and bow. Infantry on the left of the photo will have their javelins replaced with spears. At their rear are two elements of cavalry which will form three light horse leaving the Ghulam cavalry the only elements untouched.

Photo two displays the ravages of bases lost with the figures now repositioned on their new bases. Next step is to replace javelin with spear.  

Clothing – Having rebelled against the Abbasid Caliphate, I had doubts about using black for their clothing and as a minor concession, the turbans would be painted mostly dark colours with a few in white. Topcoats would follow a similar palette as the Fatamid, red, blue and two shades of brown.

Banners – Most likely banners would have remained unchanged from the Abbasid model and colour. Therefore, banners are black with some colour sections and/or tails with gold lettering. If not accurate at least they would look cool.

The Egyptians in battle array

Compare the older paint work in this old battle report between the Tulunid Egyptian and the Abbasid.

The Abbasid (07-04-2020)

These complete the refurbishing project. I have lost count of all the turbans I have painted, but the experience was well worth the time. The early figures used as Zanj found their way to one of the three armies and new ones were needed as both ‘a’ and ‘b’ sublist of the Abbasid require them. 

The new Zanj blade are Fuzzy Wuzzy from the Old Glory colonial range. Hair was cut down and filed as were their shields. With small amounts of Milliput I attempted to fashion skull caps which did not work well, but other head gear did and some have dreadlocks. I am pleased with the result and also for the fact that this took one week to complete.

Clothing – Turbans remained black, but topcoats are painted in various shades of red from their original black. The colour may not have been historical but they would look very smart. The same colour scheme was used for the mercenaries and skirmishing troops as well. Mounted units had very little clothing to see as they were covered in chainmail, vambraces and metal leg protection. 

Banners – New flags were made. These remained black, but I added an additional colour to give an accent to the banner. Those for the infantry are a standard shape and large triangular banners were made for the Ghulam cavalry. 

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),