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The Battle of Tours, 732 A.D.» Forums » Sessions

Subject: Changing history near Poitiers (or not) rss

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Marc Figueras

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Here comes a brief report of my first session with The Battle of Tours by Richard Berg...

With the troops deployed between the rivers, the initiative in the first turn goes to the Muslim troops. Cautiously, while heavy cavalry and infantry advance slightly towards the enemy, the mounted archers harass the Frankish lines in the center and the flanks, but without much success. The Franks, then, encouraged by the lack of effectivity of his foes (but maybe too impulsively) advance directly towards the enemy and clash with the heavy cavalry all along the line. Unfortunately for them, though, the momentum of the advance is quickly dissipated: mounted archers fire defensively and avoid combat, while the heavy cavalry stands fast. The Frankish heavy infantry suffers too many casualties and the attack falters without reaching the expected results.

In the following turns, with the lines heavily engaged, Frankish casualties increase and the light infantry has to plug some gaps to prevent flanking movements of the more mobile Muslim troops, which can avoid combat easily. Around turn 6, the situation seems hopeless for the Franks (12 Frankish units eliminated vs. 4 Muslim units), even after the unexpected death of the Muslim leader, Abd ar-Rahman.

At this point, though, Andalusian troops were already quite disorganized, so they disengage in order to reform. This manouvre gives some fresh air to the exhausted Franks, and they manage to reform their lines and kill some scattered Muslim units, left alone in the withdrawal. The Muslim troops, on their turn, also reform and reorganize the units, although the death of his leader punishes the whole army, with some units just fleeing from the battlefield, instead of rallying.

A lull in battle. Both armies disengaged and were trying to reform

During this lull in the combat, the Frankish cavalry, until then not engaged in the fight, advances through the flanks and along the rivers, with the clear aim of reaching the wagon train in the Muslim rear; they cross both rivers to the South and threaten the wagon train. Now the battle seems less hopeless for the Franks, with 13-8 in casualties [the game ends when an army reaches 15 eliminated units]: the last combats, combined with the unsuccesful reform attempts by the Muslims, have somewhat restored the balance.

During the lull both armies seem to look for the weak point in the enemy which could give the upper hand. Again, the Franks go on the offensive, maybe a too risky decision, considering the level of casualties and the lack of Muslim leader. Anyway, the right flank of the Frankish line, with Charles Martel himself, attacked the Muslim left. The match is even, this time. At the same time, the Muslim horse archers quickly pursue the Frankish cavalry trying to reach the wagon train; there the Frankish light cavalry falls under a rain of arrows, just before reaching the low hill on which the wagon was parked. In the end, 17 Frankish casualties vs. 12 Muslim casualties.

End-game: Muslim victory (17-12 casualties). Muslim army managed to fall back orderly, leaving the burden of attack to the Franks.

Have we changed history? Maybe... or maybe not. It is interesting that Geoffrey Parker and Robert Cowley said "For example, several of the battles that Edward Shepherd Creasy listed in his famous 1851 book The Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World rate hardly a mention here, and the confrontation between Muslims and Christians at Poitiers-Tours in 732, once considered a watershed event, has been downgraded to a raid in force." Well, whatever...

All in all, a pleasant session. A game with simple rules, somewhat reminiscent of Infidel and Men of Iron, and which gives a good overall feeling. Some points worth remarking: 1) the exhaustion of combat forces the players to disengage at some moment and reorganize their troops (easier said than done, though), creating lulls in the combat, as was probably in real life. 2) With a good management of the troops, the Franks, which had 12 casualties against just the Muslim's 4, recovered and had even some chances of reversing the situation (of course, the early fall of Abd ar-Rahman helped). 3) The Muslim tactics, leaving the burden of attack to the Franks, proved effective.
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Stephen Oliver
United States
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Thanks for the great report of the battle.

Enjoyable read.
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Richard Berg
United States
South Carolina
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Thanx for your kind comments . . . glad you enjoyed the game . . .and I agree with you - and other historians - that Tours was nothing more than a large loot raid, no conquest intended.

Lots of stuff in that Creasy book is like History Channel on uppers.

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