Wednesday 6 December 2023

The Battle of Hattin - a 28mm Crusader Wargame

Hello All and welcome back to the Shed. 

Today I am going to report on our attempt to refight the 12th century Battle of Hattin. By all accounts this was the first and most deadly nail in the coffin for the Crusader states in the Palestine and the growing powerbase of the Saracen King, Saladin.

We have already fought one of the other major battles several times in this period - the Battle of Arsuf - This Link will take you straight there, and I was keen to develop another option that could be hosted as a game for my Shed Wars Experience.

This game would be played twice over consecutive nights with learnings from the first game incorporated into the second. This post will share the orders of battle , a short summary of the games and of course lots of photos.

Before I proceed I should acknowledge that inspiration and the basis of the orders of battle  was taken from an Italian blog site and the link can be found here.

Background to The Battle of Hattin

The Battle of Hattin took place on the 4th July 1187 between the Crusader States lead by the King of Jerusalem , Guy de Lusignan and the army of the Ayyubid Sultan Saladin. The actual battle saw the destruction of the Crusader standing army and therefore their ability to take the war to the growing Moslem influence in the Levant. This defeat prompted the call for the third crusade which began two years after this battle.

The battle itself took place along the old Roman road that crossed Palestine towards the settlement pf Tiberias on the sea of Galilee. Also known as the Battle of the Horns of Hattin the topography was shaped by a waterless arid landscape dominated by the escarpments and hills of Hattin (an extinct volcano).

The Crusaders had amassed an army of almost 20,000 when word was received that the Kings wife had fallen captive to Saladin at the capture of the Crusader citadel at Tiberias. Urged by his commanders not to risk an ambush by Saladin in the wastes of the Desert the King decided otherwise and marched his army to rescue his wife. It soon became apparent that he should have listened to his advisors.

The army set off along the road and in the heat of the July sun the force soon depleted its water reserves and began to be harassed by the swarms of light Saracen horse. As darkness fell on the eve of the battle the army was some 6 miles from the settlement of Hattin with a known water source. Out there in the darkness lay Saladin's forces marching towards them from Tiberias. Weary and thirsty the Crusaders endured a night of living hell. As dawn arrived the encampment were confronted with the prospect of another day of marching, harassing fire and no water. Saladin had other ideas. 

Taking advantage of a dry hot westerly wind the Saracens set fire to the scrub, fanning the additional heat and smoke into the Christian forces. Saracen forces encircled the Crusaders. 

King Guy realised his only hope was to get to the waters of Hattin quickly. Forming his troops into three large formations with the infantry shielding his precious knights and mounts they marched forward. As the day progressed more me succumbed to the heat and the arrows of the Moslem horde. The Crusaders endeavoured to push their way through Saladin's forces and some even managed to escape but for the vast majority it was over either dying from thirst or being hunted down by the lighter marauders. Saladin achieved a total victory.  

The Game - Using Hail Caesar Rules 

In our first game we determined that the objectives were simple - the Crusader army either had to break the Saracen force or reach the waters of Hattin with 50% of their forces. Should they fail to achieve this within the allotted time they would lose. The game would last three hours. All the Saracen had to do was to hold the Crusader force for this period or break the Crusader army.

To reflect the heat exhaustion and earlier skirmishes every Crusader unit will have suffered one casualty thereby giving the a starting stamina of 5 (as opposed to 6)

The Crusader forces are set up in three boxes with all troops in march column. The Saracens are spread across the table. The fires have been lit along the northern edge of the table and their smoke would obscure targets for shooting (-1 to hit).

Orders of Battle



Cavalry Commander - rating 8

1 x unit Templar Knights

1 x unit Crusader Knights

Infantry Commander - rating 8

4 x Heavy Infantry (mixed units of spears/xbows/bows)

Middle Force

Cavalry Commander - rating 8 (King Guy de Lusignan)

2 x units Crusader Knights

Infantry Commander - rating 8

4 x Heavy Infantry (mixed units of spears/xbows/bows)

Rear Guard

Cavalry Commander - rating 8

1 x unit Hospitaller Knights

1 x unit Crusader Knights

Infantry Commander - rating 8

4 x Heavy Infantry (mixed units of spears/xbows/bows)

Saracen Forces

At Waters of Hattin (Ahead and East of Crusaders)

Infantry Commander - Saladin rating 9

2 units of Medium Archers

3 units of Medium Spears

Cavalry Commander - Rating 8

1 x unit heavy Mamluks with Lances/Bows

3 x units of Turcopoles (small units - stamina 4)

1 x unit Bedouin Camels

South Flank of Crusaders

Cavalry Command rating 8

1 x unit heavy Mamluks with Lances/Bows

4 x units of Turcopoles (small units - stamina 4)

Cavalry Command rating 8

1 x unit heavy Mamluks with Lances/Bows

4 x units of Turcopoles (small units - stamina 4)

West of Crusaders (Rear)

Infantry Commander - Command rating 8

2 x units of Medium Archers

3 x units of Medium Spears

North of Crusaders (fanning the fires)

Infantry Commander - Command rating 8

1 x units of Medium Archers

1 x units of Medium Spears

1 x unit of Fanatic Ghazis

How did Game 1 play?

The first game featured myself and Alastair as the Saracens. Glen and Vince would lead the Crusaders. The pictures relate to the game on the first evening.

Vince and Glen initiated proceedings with the column pushing outwards and trying to establish a barrier at the rear of the column. Suffice to say they achieved all their commands and by the end of the first turn they could begin to pour heavy crossbow fire into the Saracens awaiting in the wings.  

The first few turns for the Saracens went badly with very few of the units moving. The crusaders gained an early advantage and quickly pushed back one division of Saracen light horse and routed a heavy unit of Mamluks.

Elsewhere the Crusader knights thundered forward challenging the lighter Turcopoles to a fight - they of course declined.

As the battle progressed the saracens just couldn't get into gear and despite outgunning the Christians in archery they were both struggling to find the mark and when they did the heavy armour of these western knights was superior.

By now the rear of the column was being threatened by Saracen horse but once again they proved they were not up to the task.

Both Crusader flanks were secure by midway through the game and they could begin to march forward.

Slow progress was made and again despite the more numerous lighter troops the Saracens just couldn't find the target. However reaching the waters of Hattin was going to be tough in the time allotted.

The Crusaders pushed forward engaging the horse near Hattin. An inconclusive melee and plenty of evades from the light turcopoles. The Crusaders charges just wouldn't go in.

Despite this frustration Saracen casualties are wracking up and yet no Crusader unit has been lost despite some heavy losses.

It becomes apparent that time is the Crusaders enemy - had another hour of play been possible the Christians would have certainly broken the Saracen force and achieve their goals.

The Crusader Generals are masters of the field but will run out time to achieve their goals.

Game 2 - Following the success of Mondays game I played again on the Tuesday this time with Mark as the Saracens and I would lead the Crusaders.

I felt the first game had been too kind to the Crusaders - there was no sense of urgency in their actions to reach the water instead they were more content to fight a pitched battle with the Saracens. And as we have seen they achieved most of what they intended. This replay would be different.

Firstly the -1 stamina for the Crusaders would remain in play BUT at the start of each Crusader turn every Christian unit would throw a die. If a 6 appeared that unit would suffer a further casualty. If the unit was already shaken or would be shaken by this roll the unit would collapse and disappear.

Secondly the objectives for the Crusaders would be the same BUT the Saracens would win the game if they either break the Crusader force or prevent any units from reaching the waters. 

With just two of us playing we probably played only 2/3rds of the turns achieved in the first game but this did not influence the outcome of the game. 

Mark played a blinder with his Saracen horse archers - they repeatedly weakened my armoured force and combined with the addition heat exhaustion roll by the end of the evening the Crusaders had lost almost a third of their force. Comparable losses were scored on the Saracens .

Unlike the first game the likelihood of the Crusaders achieving a victory by the end of the evening was extremely unlikely. Too many units had too many casualties and the Saracens still had plenty of archers left.

All in all two thoroughly enjoyable games and with a further few tweaks I think Hattin can be a very useful addition to my Crusader scenario list...

Don't forget that if you ant to take part in one of these games my Shed Experience is open for business - just hit the link button at the top of the page and drop me a line.

Up next - another update on my Greek army

unitil next time 


  1. Fabulous looking game! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Very pretty and very interesting. Thanks for including the link to the Italian treatment. That was also quite impressive.
    There is also a solo treatment of this historical battle by one of the main guys involved with the TRIUMPH! rules. You can, if time and interest permits, find a video report of the refight on the Triumph Wargame YouTube channel.
    Look forward to your next work of art. Will you and your mates be putting on a Christmas or end-of-year battle?