In another post, I’ve hinted that I was about to begin a new project. Well, it’s officially started: I am going to do early medieval Spain for element-based large battles. Yes, we dyed-in-the-wool skirmish gamers are going for mass combat.
Why this period, you may ask? I was looking for something medieval that includes non-European armies, that demands different tactics from what we usually play and that is colourful. By chance I read about Spain at the end of the 11th century and was hooked. For one thing, there are a lot of options for army building: The Christian kingdoms, the Islamic Taifa kingdoms of Al-Andalus and the Almoravids from North Africa. Even better, everyone fought against everyone else, so there are also a lot of options for gaming (more than with the typical crusader line-up of Christians against Moslems)!
For research, I first got the obligatory Ospreys (El Cid and The Moors), which are a bit disappointing as they cover a wide period and only contain superficial information on the stuff that interests me. I then read The Quest for El Cid by Richard Fletcher. This is a fabulous book which I can’t recommend enough. Even if you are not interested in the period, it’s a masterful example of historical writing, combining a lively, engaging and witty style with a critical approach towards the sources. I also got a second hand copy of the old Warhammer Ancient Battles supplement El Cid, which is inspiring and helpful for putting together armies.
So which armies will I collect? I decided to go for a Christian one, as it allows to field Rodrigo Diaz himself, which in turn allows to field Islamic allies and auxiliaries, and an Almoravid one, as they have colourful and unique troops and interesting tactics. I will paint some Taifa units which can be used for both sides. Incidentally, I find the Taifa kingdoms to be the most likeable of all the factions, so I might paint up enough figures to field them on their own.
For figures, I ordered something from almost all of the 15mm manufacturers. Christian troops were no problem as Dark Age Normans work very well. For the Almoravids, it was more complicated. As they have a distinct look, most generic Arabs won’t work well. Some companies offer Berber troops, but only in limited poses. It took me a while to discover the Arab Conquest line of Museum Miniatures , which has just the right figures for the job. Those are now going to make up the bulk of my Almoravids.
Rules wise, I intend to use Hail Caesar. I’ve read good things about it and already bought the book. I like very much what I’ve seen so far: The style is laid back and the author stresses that the rules offer a tool box and should be adjusted to the players’ needs. They are scenario based and seem to give pretty fast games.
Now Hail Caesar is explicitly written with large battles in mind. The recommended unit sizes made my eyes water – there is no way I’m going to paint that many figures! However, the author also stresses that, in fact, it doesn’t matter how large the units are as long as their frontages are consistent. So I am going to follow the DBA standard for basing as this will allow me to play all kinds of rules (not least DBA, which I played once and enjoyed more than I would have thought). But how many bases to use for one unit? After much humming and hawing, I decided to go for 4 DBA bases for an infantry unit and 2 DBA bases for a cavalry unit – I don’t think I am brave enough to paint more horses than that.
That’s still a lot of figures to paint. But then, I’m in no hurry. K. already told me that she is not too keen to learn yet another set of rules in the near future, so I will approach the whole thing rather relaxed.