Thursday 30 December 2021

Taifa of Cueta

The Hammadid meet the Almoravid

The breakup of the Caliphate of Cordoba in the early 11th centuryb had local governors forming independent entities, that would be known as Taifas. Their number would nearly reach thirty, but many smaller realms would later bend the knee to the eventual eleven strongest on the Iberian peninsula. Taifa independence did not last long as Al Andalus would become later unified under Almoravid rule. Across the strait in North Africa, the Taifa of Cueta, would be the first to encounter the rising power of the Almoravid. 

The forces

The year is 1062, governor of Ceuta, Buluggin ibn Muhammad, assembled an army to meet Yusuf ibn Tashufinin and his Almoravid host near the hilly region to the east of Fes. The North African Muslim list is to be used for the Army of Ceuta and the Islamic Berber for the Almoravid replacing the Tuareg camel rider for Ghuzz horse archers.  


Using the standard game

A thin line, bristling with spears, formed the army of Cueta. In support, the majority of cavalry formed its second line with difficult hills protecting both flanks. Facing them, the Almoravid line stretched beyond the Ceutan line, clearly intent on a flanking manoeuvre.

Both infantry lines clashed, giving little ground, and on the Almoravid right, light cavalry probed the Ceutan left for any weaknesses.

An over zealous Arab cavalry where caught and put to flight, exposing the entire Ceutan left wing, giving the Arab general no option but to leave the field. Almoravid victory, 4 – 3.


Uping the stakes (double size command)

Both armies mirrored the other’s deployment, even positioning light horse on the right flank to flank the enemy’s line.

The Ceutan army opened the battle with an advance in right echelon bringing the Arab spearmen to make first contact. Adding the the clash of spear point on shield, Ceutan light cavalry attacked the Almoravid left from the shoreline.

The Arab left now joined the battle, bringing both sides in a general slugging match. The pushing and shoving generated a few casualties, but both lines remained unbroken after an hour of fighting (4 turns).

Desperate to reach a decision, the Ceutan commander sent his uncommitted light troops to seize the hill on the Almoravid right. From their new position, they could harass the enemy rear from aiding the battle.

Unfortunately, the order to move forward came too late as exhausting overcame the Ceutan army as both flanks collapsed exposing the army to a potential encirclement. A general retreat was called, giving the Almoravid a second victory, 9 – 5.  

Thursday 16 December 2021

The large terrain mat

The small mat served well as a test, but before tackling the larger mat, I have selected 26 terrain pieces to be used with the Mediterranean style mat; these are roads, hills, waterway and templates for BUA and rough ground. 

These were given a similar treatment like the test mat, but not flocked, that would be done with the large terrain mat. 

Clearing the old grass from the 120cm x 80cm mat proved more work than I anticipated, requiring an extra day. The underside was painted first to prevent curling, this proved effective as the topside remained flat after its primer coat. The end result was appropriate for Christmas and was left overnight to dry before applying earth tones.

The topside was painted Warm Grey and left overnight to thoroughly dry. This was to ensure subsequent colours (diluted) would not “lift” the previous coat of paint. The work was checked before moving to the final step, the flocking.

Terrain pieces were flocked first, as these required precise work, beginning first with the BUA and rough ground templates. To develop some practice the strainer, I spread the flocking first without glue. Satisfied, I sprayed the diluted white glue, two or three pieces at a time, after drying, the loose grass was tapped off exposing the actual coverage. 

After all the pieces and terrain map have been treated, a second layer of grass can be added where needed. 

All the terrain pieces are done which leaves the large mat as the final step. This has been a fruitful exercise and there are plans developing to redo the 'arid' terrain mat in the same technique but with lighter colours. This will also require new terrain pieces (hills, roads, rivers, etc.) to match the re-newed terrain mat.  


Here is a photo of the completed terrain mat. 

Amazing how little time is spent applying the grass flocking as compared to the preparation and clean up afterwards. I am tempted to begin work with a second terrain (arid) mat, but I miss the dice and measuring sticks enough that I will make a start on a few scenarios.

Tuesday 14 December 2021

Timeline - Charles Martel


Charles is born to the second wife of Pepin, Alpaida, unfortunately, there are no records of his early activities before 714. Pepin’s eldest son, Drogo, died in 707, leaving the next eldest, Grimoald, Mayor of the Palace of Neustria, to continue with his responsibilities. Grimoald would die in the same year as his father in 714.  


On his deathbed, Theudoald is named Mayor of the Palace of Austrasia by Pepin of Herstal and in Neustria, King Dagobert III, names Penfriend as mayor the death of Grimoald, thereby initiating a period of crisis.  


The crisis escalates as King Dagobert III dies and is succeeded by Chilperic II, igniting a civil war between Theudoald of Austrasia and Chilperic II. At the Battle at Compiègne, Theudoald is defeated and flees to Cologne. Chilperic II pursuit gathers allies en route to Cologne.


Chilperic II and his newly reinstated mayor, Raganfrid, besiege Cologne while Frisian allies engage and defeat Charles Martel, forcing him to retreat. Charles rebounds, gathering a new force to pursue the army of Neustria. 


The Battle of Vincy, near Malmedy, was a major victory for Charles and returning back to Cologne begins consolidating his power. 


Chilperic II and Raganfrid create an alliance with Odo of Aquitania, together they met Charles near Soissons. This ended in disaster for the coalition and concluded the civil war. Chilperic II, Raganfrid and Odo make peace with Charles, now the undisputed Dux Francorum. 


Radbod I dies, leaving Frisian resistance against the Franks fragmented. Bodda (Poppa) succeeds his father and is quickly attacked by the Franks, advancing as far as Lake Flevo, leaving Poppa no other option but to conclude a truce with Charles. 


The campaign in Frisia now concluded, Charles marches against Duc Aldgisl of the Saxons, near the headwaters of the Ruhr and Lippe rivers. The year 720, also marks the initiation of missionary activity in the region. 


Campaigning in Bavaria, to reassert Frankish suzerainty over independent Agilolfing dukes, a revolt in Neustria forced Charles must to turn his attention west. 


The revolt in Neustria, led by Raganfrid, the late mayor of Chilperic II, is quickly concluded and hostages are taken. Charles resumes his campaign in Bavaria, passing through Swabia he gathers troops to join in the campaign. 


Another Saracen raid in central eastern France, led by Anbasa ibn Suhaym Al-Kaibi, defeats the local forces of Bishop Emilien and sacks Autun.   


After a campaign of three years, Duc Hukbert of Bavaria submits to Charles and relinquishes hostages.


Alarmed at the subjugation of Bavaria, Duc Lantfrid of Swabia rebels, but is slain in battle. A successor is not named by Charles so it might easily be amalgamated with neighbouring districts.  


In the spring, Abd al-Rahman ravages Aquitania taking Bordeaux and defeats Eudes (Odo). Charles interrupts his northern campaign to aide Eudes against the Saracen incursion and together, they defeat the Muslims at Poitiers recapturing all the plundered wealth of Aquitania. Bordeaux is retaken, but the Saracens still retain territories in Septimania holding it for another thirty years. 

After Poitiers, Charles reforms the military, creating a class of warrior able to fight mounted, thus replacing the previous reliance on county militia. This was made possible through a re-distribution of land, seeding a ‘fiefdom’ loyal to Charles. The county militia did not disappear, but remained as a reserve force. 


Charles is forced to resume his fight against the Frisians and at the Battle of Boarn, he kills Poppa, leaving a disorganised Frisia at the mercy of the Franks. 


The Muslims resume their offensive and from Narbonne (Arbuna) march toward Provence, seizing Arles and Avignon. Burgundy is also pillaged. In the same year, Eudes of Aquitaine dies and his son Hunald I is named successor. 


An expedition to Provence, Charles receives the submission of Mauronte, Duc of Provence. Charles descends the Rhone valley to lay siege to Avignon, and Muslim reinforcements sent to aid the besieged are defeated at the Battle of La Berre. 

Theuderic IV dies leaving the throne vacant for the next seven years. Charles is now maior domus and principes et dux Francorum. His remaining four years are relatively peaceful. 


Allied to Charles, Liutprand, king of the Lombard, retakes Provence and those who collaborated with the Saracens have their lands forfeit. The Muslims retain only Narbonne which eventually falls to Pippin the Younger. 


Charles Martel dies on 22 October and is buried in Saint Denis Basilica in Paris. Continuing the tradition, the kingdom is divided among his three sons; Carloman receiving Austrasia, Alemannia and Thuringia; Pippin the Younger, Neustria, Burgundy, Provence, Metz and Trier; and Grito is given several lands throughout the kingdom. 

Cette image provient de la Bibliothèque en ligne Gallica sous l'identifiant ARK btv1b55013869k/f149, Domaine public,

Compiled from the following:

Philippe Contamine, War in the Middle Ages.

Charles Oman, The Dark Ages, 476 – 918,

Timothy Reuter, Germany in the Early Middle Ages, 800 – 1056.

Ian Wood, The Merovingian Kingdoms, 450 – 751.

Hugh Kennedy, Muslim Spain and Portugal.

Slingshot 273, 274, 276, 279, 280

Thursday 9 December 2021

Another upgrade project.

Renewing a number of ancient, medieval and fantasy collections has kept me quite busy these past eighteen months, on the plus side, it did rein in any expenditure for new figures. Time now to bring the same attention to the terrain. 

The four terrain mats, which vary in size and type, have worked well in the past, but for Christmas I decided to gift myself a new one from Baueda of Italy. This will take a few months before it arrives, then I realised the need to upgrade the current terrain collection to match that of Baueda, see their selection at their webpage

Practice makes perfect.

To test the steps required to reach the colour variation of a Mediterranean style mat, I used an old mat (24 in. x 24 in.) to experiment with. From the photo, you will see much of the electrostatic grass has disappeared leaving the ground colour exposed. 


Step by step.

Step one, I covered the entire mat, including the grass, with a coat of acrylic White household paint, covering the grass would add texture on what would otherwise be a smooth surface.

Step two, using a roller, I applied a coat of Warm Grey over the entire surface, though labelled warm grey it dries a nice earth tone.

Step three, Yellow Ochre (thinned with water) is applied with assorted sponges covering about 20 – 30 percent of the mat.

Step four, next Burnt Sienna (thinned with water) was applied sparingly using the same sponge technique as before. Before doing this, I tested the colour on white paper, gradually adding water to reach a suitable tone. Applied in parallel lines, this should suggest undulating ground. The final effect looked ragged with sharp edges and to correct this, I used Warm Grey to soften the edges.

Step five, mixing Warm Grey with Black, this was applied with a sponge to bring depth and variation of the ground before the last step.

Step six, as an experiment, I sprayed diluted white glue over the mat. This was followed by a light sprinkling of electrostatic grass covering about 30 – 50% of the mat. When thoroughly dry, a second thin coat of diluted white glue was sprayed to fix the grass in place. No need for the grass to stand upright, as the mat will be rolled and stored after use.

Test mat is complete, now everything is ready next week for the larger (120cm x 80cm) mat.   

Some thoughts.

After each application of colour, I let this dry a full day. This was done to ensure each subsequent application of diluted paint would not loosen the previous day’s work. White paper was used to test the quality and consistency before application. 

I found step three, Yellow Ochre, as not really necessary. Using Warm Grey, Burnt Sienna and the mix Warm Grey and Black would be sufficient for the final mat.

Tuesday 7 December 2021

The Saxons and Charles Martel

Since the establishment of the Frankish kingdom by Clovis in 509, the Franks have been at constant odds with the Saxons. The Liber Historiae Francorum recounts an early expedition in 555 to punish them and another passage notes fifteen years later, Chilperic joins his brother with an army to fight the Saxons. The Historian also recounts the battle between the Saxon Bertoald and Dagobert I of Austrasia, ending in a Frankish victory with the timely arrival of reinforcements. 

The Chronicle of Fredegar, writing a history of the Franks, records in 613 of Saxon assistance to King Theudebert of Austrasia in his conflict with the Neustrian King Theuderic. However, Theuderic won the war and in a later passage, Fredegar notes, Saxon promises are not worth much.    

J.M. Wallace-Hadrill, a historian of the Merovingian age, describes the back-and-forth skirmishes between Franks and Saxons were actually attempts to gain a foothold in Frankish tribal lands up to the time of Charles Martel. Saxon expansion took place during a time of upheaval, while Charles Martel was engaged in a conflict with the old regime. Following his victory at Soissons in 719, Charles marched east to punish the Saxons. 

The Saxons did not remain quiet as they rebelled again in 724 and 738, both instances were suppressed by punitive expeditions. Led by Charles in person, he thoroughly laid waste to the region taking hostages. Fouracre notes in his biography of Charles Martel, his campaigns were meant to limit further Saxon expansion rather than conquer Saxony itself, that step would be accomplished by his grandson. 

Political structure

To explain the nature behind the ‘back-and-forth’ contact, Timothy Reuter in Germany in the Early Middle Ages 800 – 1056, describes the political structure of the Saxons in the pre-Carolingian period. At its base was the Gau with a single ruler and the 100 Gau, varying in size and number, formed three provinces; Westfalia, Engraving and Ostfalia. Legislation was made collectively through an annually held assembly, represented by all the Gau-rulers, twelve from each caste; the nobiles, the frilingi, and the lazzi. Through the assembly, legislation could make political decisions negating the need for a monarchical power and decide on military leadership if needed, surprisingly, each Gau was independent to make war or peace. 

The division of the people into castes played a significant role, as the nobiles readily accepted Christianity, some even built churches and monasteries, the lower classes seemingly resisted Frankish rule and retained their pagan beliefs.

 Map Wiki Common

Original sources

Chronicle of Fredegar, begins with the creation of the world and ends in 642 AD.

The Continuations, rework of the Chronicle of Fredegar, new sections bring events to 768 AD.  

Secondary sources

Hadrill, The Long-Haired Kings.

Fouracre, Charles Martel.

Reuter, Germany in the early Middle Ages 800 – 1056.