Tuesday 17 May 2022

The Battle of Arsuf - a 28mm Crusade wargame


Morning Folks

Following on from my two month project to rebase and add to my Crusader and Saracen armies (see previous two posts) it was an opportune moment to get these chaps onto the table. As with our attempt to refight the battles of the Wars of the Roses I thought I would use the Battle of Arsuf in the Holy Land for my inspiration for this engagement. Although not on the same scale as some of our other later medieval battles this did feature around 800 28mm figures on the table including some 250 horse. It looked colourful and spectacular.

I was delighted to play the first game alongside Alastair as the Crusader commanders and facing us were Mark K and Stuart as Saladin's Generals. With a bit of luck we will be refighting this game later in the week with other members of the shed fraternity. 

Just a quick update on our proposed move to Somerset - things are progressing slowly so there are likely to be more games in the shed over the next couple of weeks.

Battle of Arsuf

The Battle of Arsuf was a battle during the Third Crusade which took place on 7 September 1191.

The battle was a Christian victory, with forces led by Richard I of England defeating a larger Ayyubid army led by Saladin.

The battle occurred just outside the city of Arsuf (Arsur in Latin), when Saladin met Richard's army as it was moving along the Mediterranean coast from Acre to Jaffa, following the capture of Acre. During their march from Acre, Saladin launched a series of harassing attacks on Richard's army, but the Christians successfully resisted these attempts to disrupt their cohesion.

As the Crusaders crossed the plain to the north of Arsuf, Saladin committed the whole of his army to a pitched battle. Once again the Crusader army maintained a defensive formation as it marched, with Richard awaiting for the ideal moment to mount a counterattack. However, after the Knights Hospitaller launched a charge at the Ayyubids, Richard was forced to commit his entire force to support the attack.

After initial success, Richard was able to regroup his army and achieve victory.

(source Wikipedia)

Saladin's forces on the move 


Wargaming the Battle of Arsuf

Richard I was keen to get his army to the safety of the city of Arsuf, after the constant harrying of his troops by Saladin’s mounted archers, his men were tired, thirsty and in need of rest. Richard realised that safety lay in his forces maintaining their cohesion and escorting their baggage along the coastal road.

With the city in the Crusader’s sight Saladin chose to attack en masse the strung out column. This re-enactment attempts to reflect the events of that day in the Holy land. Victory can be achieved by the Crusaders if they can get their baggage and the bulk of their forces into Arsuf intact. Losing troops or baggage to the Saracen hordes is not going to be pleasant.

Richard I's column marching along the Levantine coastline towards Arsuf

Aerial view - baggage on the road, Knights in the centre flanked by the Infantry. Marauding screens of allied Turcopoles cover the enemy

Victory Conditions

The Crusader Army must attempt to gain the safety of Arsuf. For each unit that reaches the safety of the town the Crusaders win victory points. These points are dependent upon the type of unit

Baggage – 2 points

Infantry Units – 2 points

Mounted Sargeants – 2 points

Knights – 3 points

Hospitallers/Templars – 3 points (can only be awarded if all the baggage has safely reached Arsuf)

Half points are awarded if the unit reaches the town shaken

Total Points available – 45


Major Crusader Victory – 25+ points in Arsuf

Minor Crusader Victory – 21+ points in Arsuf

Minor Saracen Victory – 16 – 21 points in Arsuf

Major Saracen Victory – under 16 points in Arsuf

If either side breaks (i.e. exceeds their break point a major victory is achieved)

This map was the inspiration of my set up

Listed below are the orders of battle chosen for this engagement using Hail Caesar rules. These are very much what I have to hand in my Crusader and Saracen armies. Ideally the Saracens would have more horse and less infantry but beggars cannot be choosers. A typical standard unit of either infantry or cavalry will be six bases/stands and smaller units either 3 or for stands. The forces and stats have been taken from the Hail Caesar army lists


Forces arrayed as the Saracens approach

Crusader Army

General – Richard I of England – The Lion Heart – Command Rating 9

All other commanders rating 8

Division 1

I x Mounted Knights Templar

Division 2

3 x Mounted Knights

1 x Turcopole Allies (small)

Division 3

4 x Heavy Infantry (plus Xbows/bows)

1 x Turcopole Alles (small)

Division 4

4 x Heavy Infantry (plus Xbows/bows)

1 x Turcopole Alles (small)

Division 5

2 x Mounted Seargeants

Division 6

1 x Mounted Hospitallers


4 x Baggage Trains

Total (excl baggage)

18 units (Break 10)



Saladin atop the hill surveys the killing field in front of his forces

Saracen Army

General – Saladin – Sultan of Egypt & Syria – Command Rating 8

All other commanders rating 8

Division 1

3 x Turcopoles (small)

2 x Camel Riders (small)

1 x Mounted Mamluks 

Division 2

2 x Medium Infantry

1 x Medium Archers

1 x Ghazi Fanatics

Division 3

3 x Turcopoles (small)

1 x Mounted Mamluks

Division 4

2 x Medium Archers

3 x Medium Infantry

Division 5

3 x Turcopoles (small)

1 x Mounted Mamluks

Division 6

1 x Medium Archers

1 x Medium Infantry

2 x Ghazi Fanatics


27 units (Break 14)



Special Rules for the Game


The Crusader Army is advancing up the coast in a large mass – baggage etc on the road. In the centre are the knights and mounted men at arms with the exposed flank facing the Saracens comprised of the Heavy Infantry. Richard apparently decided his foot soldiers would protect the horses from the heathen’s arrows. The vanguard of the army is a force of Templar knights and the rear guard Knights Hospitaller. Outside the column are the few Turcopole mercenaries acting as a skirmish screen.

Initial Harassing phase

The Crusader’s column has been harassed by archery fire all day – for each infantry unit roll a d6+1 – this is the number of hits it has received. These hits can then be saved against the units morale. Any unit shaken is removed (unlikely). Units will not be disordered in this phase.

Baggage Train

The Baggage wagons must NOT deviate from the road NOR may they pass through another baggage train or unit in front of them (friendly or otherwise). They do not afford cover.

Each train s deemed to be its own command and players may elect to either accelerate movement on a command roll (rating 8) – failure means no moves OR they may move the wagon 6” (its standard movement rate).

Baggage trains cannot blunder – treat as a standard fail.

Baggage trains can be attacked – they have 6 hits with no armour save. When all six hits have been accumulated the train is removed. Baggage trains are not disordered and cannot be rallied.

Units forced into the sea are lost.


All Commanders add +1 die in combat if attached to unit, Saladin will not put himself in harms way but Richard if joining a unit adds +2 die to combat.

Action Report

To kick things off we initiated the early harassment fire on the Crusader forces. All 8 units of infantry took between 2-7 hits (d6+1) and then had saves. Unfortunately Alastair's dice rolling was not so hot and at least three units suffered three casualties and one unit was almost shaken. Before the battle had even started the Crusaders were on the back foot.

With the Saracens fielding significant numbers of archery units, both mounted and on foot their plan was to continue to harass the Crusader forces for as long as possible whilst trying remain out of harms way. So with the first turn commencing Saladin ordered a general advance to attempt to get into bow range

The Turcopoles and allied camelry surged forward across the table

Whilst their light horse were advancing they would act as a screen for the numerous infantry and heavy cavalry units.

The Saracen horse poured forward unleashing their bows (sadly for the Christians we forgot a) the -1 penalty to hit at long range and b) the plus one morale save heavy infantry enjoys from archery all game) and started to inflict further casualties.

The entire Crusader line was under fire and when it came to their commands their commanders were completely stunned as the entire army refused to move !

The Saracens continued to advance...

and continued to unleash their bows to good effect

Finally the Crusaders started to move - the vanguard templars raced free of the column to try to stem the Saracen advance.

At the rear of the column the Knights Hospitaller had also broken free from the shackles of the column (just like the rear battle) and charged into the advancing Saracen foot. 
A devastating charge that broke the first unit, routed their supports and continued to charge into the mass of Muslim soldiers. Poor Stuart was rolling horrendously when it game to break tests.

The Hospitallers pushed despite suffering 5 casualties (near break) and routed a further unit. At this point they retired. Sadly they were shot to buts a couple of turns later dying to a man, however the damage had been done.

Mean whilst at the front of the column the Templars had got themselves into a right old pickle. Locked in combat with a unit of heavy Saracen horse their fate was sealed as they were charged in both flanks and rear by swarms of horse archers. Not a pretty sight ! 

Elsewhere the columns infantry had finally mustered the will to break out of column and into fighting blocks. Soon they were trading missile fire with the Muslim horde.

With the templars despatched the Saracens turned their attention to the head of the column. One unit pinned down the baggage train - it was going no where whilst his supports unleashed a storm of arrows into the next emerging unit of Crusader horse.

Fortunately their arrows bounced off the heavy armour and the knights prepared to charge into the advancing infantry. They had learned the hard way that charging the light horse was going to get them no where.

Screened by infantyry a second unit of Knights emerged at the head of the column

Back in the centre the two side were still trading missiles with few results.

A unit of heavy Saracen horse emerged from the lines receiving several bolts for their troubles and being driven back in disorder

By now the Crusaders at the head of the column had slammed into a unit of Infantry - destroying them and their supports in swift measure. Things were looking up for the Christians.

The picture below shows the Saracen infantry have now disappeared

To the rear of the column the foot soldiers had steadily advanced creating an opportunity for the Crusader horse in the rear to move. 

They did so with some panache and ranked up ready to charge the facing enemy

Onward Christian soldiers - the foot marched into battle

The Crsader knights and their men at arms charged - it was stirring stuff

Three Knight units hit their targets but a combination of stout defence and poor attack die caused the Knights to falter. This wasn't in the script.

By now the advance of the column had petered out and the two remaining knight units at the head of the column had been routed from the field by archery fire and a dazzling charge by Saladin's personal bodyguard.

Across the field units were locked in combat...a tally was made of the break points achieved by both sides. Both sides could lose if three more units were either shaken or routed.

The melees were conducted - just at the time Richard felt the battle was won a series of horrendous rolls caused all the attacks to fall in the favour of Saladin - a victory for the Sultan of Egypt and Syria.

What a battle - a close run thing and a fantastic story. A definite re-match required. 


A victory for Saladin but it could have been so very different. The early failed command rolls for the Crusaders and the damage caused by the initial harassing fire certainly created a number of issues at the start of the game for Richards men. This was more than counterbalanced by the dreadful morale rolls for the Saracens in the early stages of the battle as units faced with the heavy metal onslaught of the Crusader knights fled the field.

Taking on the lightly armed Turcopole cavalry was a nightmare for the Christians - they constantly evaded the attempts to bring them into hand to hand. Hindsight has shown that we were playing the evades wrongly and command rolls would have been needed to perform this maneuver. Failure would have resulted in the evading unit being destroyed. A learning for next game.

Finally the baggage train was a bit of a distraction - it became evident that the Christian army could only win by breaking the Saracen forces as opposed to retreating to Arsuf. I think I'll keep the train in play for future games BUT give the Christians victory if they can retreat all the baggage into Arsuf regardless of casualties elsewhere.

Once again Hail Caesar has delivered an epic, fast flowing game and one that will be remembered for some time to come.

More soon

Sunday 15 May 2022

The Saracen Army takes to the field

 Following my last post about the Crusader army it was time to turn my attention to my Saracen army. This had lain untouched for the best part of six years and needed some tender loving care.

The full force was rebased (as per the crusaders), varnished and more flags added. A full month was spent bring this force up to speed with a further 8- Gripping Beast foot added and another 12 mounted archers.

The total army now consists of...

10 x Command Stands

30 x  Mounted Archers

55 x Light Mounted Horse

22 x Heavy Horse

9 x Camels

28 Archer Stands (84 figures)

54 Infantry stands (216 Figures)

Approx;  450 figures 

Pictures below of the various troop types..starting with light horse and horse archers. These are a mix of Black Tree, Gripping Beast, & HaT

Heavy Horse and Camels - Black Tree?

The Foot and archer units - mostly Gripping Beast plastics with a few Black Tree figures thrown in

These Chaps get to fight their first battle tomorrow,,,

More soon