This game was originally played over three sessions from April to July 2007. I'm cross-posting the session reports from my blog.
Had Patch and Mark over yesterday for another round of Onward Christian Soldiers. We definitely have a much better handle on the rules now. Got about as far through this time as last, but yesterday was a short day, since Mark had another engagement that called him away, so we were really going much faster. Things are definitely looking interesting enough that we've written down where we are and will be continuing the same game next time.
For this game, I took the Muslims, while Patch and Mark split the Crusader factions. Their general plan was to march south with the North and South Franks, while the Germans and Normans stay behind to clean up the North. I've been benefiting from having a better understanding of how troop assignment works to gather my armies into forces that stand some sort of chance against a crusader army. Sadly, even my best leaders just aren't very good, and most of them don't have a chance against the better Crusader leaders.
An interesting dynamic of the First Crusade scenario, is that the Muslim leaders are generally cheap to activate, which means they get lots of activations when compared to the Crusaders. On the other hand, they generally can't do as much during an activation, and there's only three leaders who can even possibly get a good formation in battle, and a poor formation is about as bad against the incompetent Crusader leaders as against the good ones.
I have been abusing some good die rolls, and gotten myself into trouble. The North Franks sent Robert of Normandy down the coast past Tripoli, presumably to seize a base to take Jerusalem from (which is the only thing in the south that's truly defended). I managed to surround him with a couple armies and cause some losses. Then, Adhemar (of the South Franks) trapped Duqaq (my better leader, who had moved against Robert from the north) between him and Robert. It's going to be... interesting to see if I can get myself out of that. But while the size of my army is dwindling, I haven't suffered any outright defeats(!), which is keeping me from having too big a disaster (yet).
Meanwhile, Both Antioch and Aleppo are under siege. Aleppo is a bit more worrisome, as one of my better leaders is trapped in there. Kerbogha, my best leader is set to arrive this turn with a large army. There's a lot I'd like him to do.... Namely rescue Ridwan in Aleppo, break the siege of Antioch, and rescue Duqaq from the armies surrounding him, but he'll probably only have a shot at one of them.
Me, Patch and Mark got together for monthly wargaming today. We continued our earlier game of Onward Christian Soldiers. We're near the end now, and when we continue, we're going to need a second game to play afterward.
When last we left our heroes, the Crusaders were besieging Aleppo and Antioch, and Kerbogha was was set to come on board and start causing trouble.
I figured (rightly) the situation with Duqaq was more immediate, so Kerbogha set out to rescue him from the armies that had surrounded him, and leave Aleppo to it's own devices for a bit.
In the actual First Crusade, Kerbogha arrived at the seige of Antioch just after the Cruaders took it, failed in an attack on the Crusaders in the city, had his alliance break up, and retired from the war without really doing anything else. His poor historical luck seems to be following him in the game.
He's a good leader, and he's got a gigantic army by the standards of the game. He has suffered from poor attrition rolls, and has been very timid in battle against these barbaric invaders. In about four straight battles he rolled "cautious" for his tactics (which is good for most First Crusade Muslim leaders, but is his poorest choice, and should only happen 1/3 of the time). He failed to break through to Duqaq, who got his army cut to ribbons by the continual harrying of the Crusader armies around him, and got captured, putting one of my best leaders out of action.
Kerbogha pulled out and headed to Aleppo to break the siege there. Meanwhile, Antioch fell to the Crusader forces there, freeing up one of the more powerful armies.
Aleppo turned into a disaster. I had a good leader and army trapped there, and the Crusader assaults on the walls were getting closer to succeeding. By the time it was done, I had wrecked a couple of armies trying to break the siege (and got another one trapped and lost Balduk, a not-quite incompetent leader), and Kerbogha's army was dangerously depleted. Aleppo fell, and Ridwan was captured, taking out another of my good leaders. Winter brought an end to the campaigning as the Crusaders started to head south again. Soqman, another of my second-string leaders managed to ambush and halt the march south.
In any battle you roll two dice for every leader involved. On a 2 or 12 they are eliminated or captured. Mark and Patch had been playing with fate, rolling lots of 3s and 11s all day. Finally, it happened and I captured his leader. And then I rolled a 12 and Soqman was captured in turn.
In all, I've had five leaders captured. There's automatic replacements for all but one of them, but they aren't worth much more than shuttling troops around. Meanwhile the Crusaders are getting dangerously depleted, with some factions with a bare handful of men left. But my poor leaders can have trouble fighting anyone, no matter what the odds. The game doesn't have far to go (about four turns), and if Kerbogha can keep from getting himself killed, we figure I'll win. But we're uncertain on how the victory points will pan out, so we're going to have to finish it off to really know.
Well, finally got Patch and Mark over and we finished off our game of Onward Christian Soldiers today.
It... did not go so well for me. My position at the end of the previous session (too long ago), was not bad, but the Crusaders, seeing the end of the game looming (we only had three turns left to go) assaulted a few cities and took them.
I figured out a little while later that I'd been misunderstanding the assault rules all this time. (Gets a little complicated....) And at least some of them should have held out, but it was way to late to fix it by the time I figured it out.
In the mean time, I was trying much the same thing in the north, to retake a few early cities while the Crusaders congregated around Jerusalem. But my rolls were pitifully poor, and I couldn't make any headway. Out of three cities I attempted to (re)take, I only got close on one, and even there my army was melting away alarmingly fast. Seems to be Kerbogha's lot in life....
I also attempted to cause some sort of loss to the Crusading forces with the garrison in Jerusalem before the city fell and automatically eliminated them. That was a disaster. I lost the entire army in the fight, and didn't even hurt the Crusaders.
In the end, my VP (an average of all the factions you controlled) was 2. Mark got 12.5 and Patch won at 14.5. Not the results we expected a couple months ago.
Assaults generally take a long time to succeed in cities like Damascus, Jersualem, and Antioch.
It's been long enough that I don't quite remember what I was going for, but it wasn't any of the really big cities. I think it was a couple different cities, including Aleppo and probably Edessa and/or Hamah. With an SDR of 3 and a couple turns, you can get somewhere, but not with my rolls.