Thursday, 17 August 2017

Historical Matches – Umayyad vs. Later Moors.

After the conquest of Egypt and brief expeditions along is southern frontier, the armies of the Umayyad continued their conquest of regions bordering the Mediterranean . They overran Byzantine held strong points but the Berber tribes (Later Moorish); problematic. Of these, the Zenata tribe proved the most tenacious.

The Later Moorish are for the ;most part light skirmishing foot and mounted troops. Although they lack troop types capable of delivering a decisive punch, their speed and mobility more that make up for that deficiency. With practice, they can generate some nasty surprises. 

Game 1
The Umayyad stiffened their first line with Jund cavalry. To their right all the archers were deployed with the remaining cavalry formed behind them. Moorish infantry took advantage of the rough ground and hill leaving the open spaces between them for the cavalry.

The Moorish infantry moved quickly to seize the hill flanking the Umayyad left while other foot threatened the Umayyad battle line.

The hill however, was hotly contested by Umayyad skirmishers and Dailami infantry. This changed the battle as the Umayyad infantry were getting the better of the struggle. Moorish cavalry unfortunately remained inert (low pip scores) leaving the Moorish commander no further option than to add his presence to the battle. Too little and too late, the Moors conceded handing a 4 – 1 victory for the Umayyad.

Game 2
The area between hills and rough ground allowed both sides to deploy extended formations. The Umayyad retained a similar plan by placing all their cavalry in the centre. All the Umayyad archers were placed on their right to support their assault on the Moorish centre.

The Moors surprised the Umayyad with an audacious seizure of the rough ground in front of their spearmen. This move was ably supported with more infantry and Moorish light horse.

The struggle that followed developed into a tenacious fight with both sides losing heavily. However, the Umayyad edged out the Moors to win with a 4 – 3 victory.

Game 3
As defender, the Moors made use of a dry river bed to secure their left flank while positioning their infantry on both slopes of a difficult hill. Constrained by the limited space the Umayyad formed up in two lines.

Mountain warfare is characterised by a number of small independent actions and commanders must be ideally placed to maintain a constant link with their troops. For both sides, this battle developed into a surgical operation with gains of ½ BW is a small victory.

With Moorish infantry well contained with the fight on the hill, the Umayyad cavalry clear the field around the hill of any enemy cavalry.

As the Umayyad cavalry were fully engaged, the signal for a general assault was given and the Umayyad spearmen began their attack up the hill. This was risky, as the ground would disorder their ranks but such was the nature of the fight. The last bound saw five casualties removed from the board. Score 6 – 4 for the Umayyad.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Historical Matches – Umayyad vs. the Christian Nubian

The Arab armies had conquered Egypt in 640 AD effectively cutting the Christian Nubian from the Byzantine Empire. Two years later, the Arab armies probed the frontier region of Nubia but that expedition met a disastrous end at the first Battle of Dongola in 642 AD. 

Nubian resistance was to be tested a second time at Dongola (652 AD) with the Arab force meeting a similar result. The Umayyad, would continue their expeditions up the Nile to test Nubian strength. Army lists for both forces can be found below. 

Game 1
The Nubian army would attempt to clear the rough ground ahead of enemy and pin the Umayyad against the dunes at their rear.

This plan succeeded well, but it was a combination of well aimed archery and poor communication among the Arabs that gained them a victory. Score 4 - 1 for the Christian Nubian.

Game 2
The terrain offered both forces good defensive positions, however it was doubtful if the dunes were a viable option as the Nubian army had camel mounted troops among their number.

The Umayyad moved forward in left echelon and archers placed on the left flank would hopefully deter the camel troops from entering the dunes.

The timely assault by the Umayyad cavalry secured a well earned victory. Score 4 -1 for Umayyad.

Game 3
The Umayyad made good use of an oasis and rough ground to deploy between. The Jund cavalry formed a second line to serve as a reserve. The Nubian army would try to seize either the rough ground or oasis to turn the Umayyad line. 

The Nubian army performed a right wheel and would attempt to pin the Umayyad spearmen against the rough ground while Nubian camel troops and light horse moved around the Umayyad left to draw off their reserve cavalry.

Behind the oasis the mounted troops of both sides clashed as the battle lines of both armies moved forward and closed to combat. The Umayyad had the better of the hand to hand to secure a second victory. Score 4 – 0 for 

III/31 Umayyad Arab 661 AD – 750 AD,
1 x General (Cv), 3 x jund cavalry (Cv), 3 x spearmen (Sp), 2 x archers (3Bw), 1 x Bedouin (LH), 1 x Dailami (4Ax), 1 x archers (Ps). 

III/12 Christian Nubian 550 AD – 1500 AD,
1 x General (Cv), 2 x Camel warriors (Cm), 2 x light horse (LH), 3 x warriors (4Bd), 3 x archers (3BW), 1 x archers (Ps). 

Friday, 11 August 2017

Historical Matches – Umayyad vs. the Nobades

Umayyad forces, having conquered Upper Egypt, moved further south reaching the Nubian kingdoms. Muslim commanders no longer led the infantry heavy armies of the earlier period, but now commanded a balanced army with an equal number of cavalry, infantry and archers. Further change would be needed as its organisation still adhered to old tribal division which were a source of friction for many Muslim commanders. This would be solved when Umayyad armies became a paid military force.  

Historically, the campaign against the Nubian kingdoms resulted in very little success. Meeting stiff resistance and finding little wealth to plunder they redirected their attention elsewhere, along the shores of North Africa and further west. 

Game 1
The terrain is ‘dry’ and would remain relatively unchanged for the upcoming battles. In many aspects the armies were nearly identical in troop type.

The Umayyad attempted to clear the difficult hill on the Nobades right as preparation for the main assault from the centre. The delay by the Umayyad to attack was an opportunity quickly seized by the Nobades. This resulted in the Umayyad line quickly crumbling leaving the Umayyad reserve cavalry to look on is despair. Score 4 – 0 for the Nobades.

Game 2
Despite an overwhelming victory, the Nobades remained cautious and made good use of the difficult hill to anchor their left. To give their archers ample opportunity to use their weapons, the main Nobades line deployed further back as did the cavalry reserve.

Nobades archers were taken out by their Umayyad counterpart; this left the main battle line with little option but to attack. Unfortunately through mixed signals (low pip score) the cavalry reserve remained behind.

The delay in support cost the Nobades dear as their commander signalled a general retreat. Score 4 – 0 for Umayyad.

Game 3
As the attacker, the Umayyad was able to catch the Nobades forces in the open. This time, the Umayyad all their cavalry on the left to attack from the Nobades open flank while their infantry closed with the enemy line.

The Umayyad attack was moving as planned.

Umayyad cavalry swarmed over an isolated Nobades group. In desperation, the Nobades fought as demons to see the Umayyad commander carried off the field. Umayyad cavalry recoiling from their effort could now see half their strength littered the field.

An archer volley despatched another casualty to offer the Umayyad another reason to go home, which they did. Score 4g – 2 for the Nobades.

III/31 Umayyad Arab 661 AD – 750 AD
1 x General (Cv), 3 x jund cavalry (Cv), 3 x spearmen (Sp), 2 x archers (3Bw), 1 x archer (Ps), 1 x Bedouin (LH), 1 x Dailami (4Ax). 

II/55b Nobades Army 201- 831 AD
1 x General (Cv), 2 x cavalry (Cv), 4 x spearmen (Sp),, 4 x archers (3Bw),  1 x archers (Ps).

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Historical Matches – Christian Nubian vs. the Nobades

This is the first of a series of historical matches for the armies of the Black Banner project. There are a dozen armies involved which will be played out in chronological order.

The conflict between the Nobades and Christian Nubian takes place on the southern frontier of Umayyad controlled Egypt. The Nobades are the aggressor for the initial encounter and subsequent battles the loser of the previous match is the defender. Both sides have ‘dry’ as home terrain, but for game three, either player may use allies if available as an option.

Game 1
The Nubian army formed their line at the base of two large hills facing the Nobades deployed between the village and rough ground.  Forgoing the positioning of a reserve, the Nubian line extended further than that of their opponent.

Nubian archers gave supporting fire while the spearmen closed with the Nobades line. Nubian camel mounted and light horse was ineffective against the Nobades archers, but neither could the archers claim any casualties.  

The struggle in the centre turned for the worse for the Nobades as their infantry were cut down in significant numbers leaving their commander no recourse but to leave the field. Score 4 – 2 for the Christian Nubian.

Game 2
The positioning of the terrain offered both sides an opportunity to rest one flank on good ground so now each could extend their lines to matching lengths.

Moving first, the Nobades eagerly attacked while their amassed archers covered their right flank from enemy Camelry. Nobades light troops were despatched to clear the rough ground of enemy troops.

The speed of the attack caught the Nubian off balance and throughout the remainder of the battle; they held the initiative to ultimate victory. Score 5 – 2 for the Nobades.

Game 3
The Nubian, as defenders selected a site with an oasis, rough ground and dunes; the latter being ideal terrain for camel mounted troops.

With clockwork precision, Nubian troops on the right cleared the rough ground on the right as the infantry centre slowly progressed forward. The presence of the camel mounted troops in the dunes held the attention of the Nobades cavalry to let the infantry do their work without the threat of enemy horse. Score 4 – 1 for the Christian Nubian.

III/12 Christian Nubian 550 AD – 1500 AD, terrain type: Dry, Aggression: 1
1 x General (Cv), 2 x Camel warriors (Cm), 2 x light horse (LH), 3 x warriors (4Bd/4Ax), 3 x archers (3/4BW), 1 x archers (Ps). 

II/55b Blemmye or Nobades Army 201- 831 AD, terrain type: Dry, Aggression: 2
1 x General (Cv), 2 x cavalry (Cv), 1 x archers (3Bw), 4 x spearmen (Sp) , 4 x archers (3Bw or Ps).

Friday, 4 August 2017

Arab Indian

While compiling events and dates to write a timeline for this project, I noted the early Umayyad invasion of the Indian sub continent. These and other campaigns are covered in the Wikipedia under Caliphate Campaigns in IndiaIn broad strokes, the early campaign reached the Sindh and after a period of time struggled against a number of Hindu counter thrusts.

As a prospective addition to the project's list of armies, the Arab Indian basically mirrored the Umayyad and Abbasid lists but for one unique feature, the Arab Indian could have ‘tropical’ as its home terrain. My current tropical terrain are dated, so these will require some refurbishing and new items will be added. When completed, I will post a short tutorial with photos to my second blog as the project is completed. 

The complete Arab Indian army was culled from an existing collection of later period Indian which totalled nearly 60 elements, so a dozen or so elements would not be sorely missed. The majority of the infantry are Essex with some Old Glory thrown in, but as the bases were thin, these were redone to become standard with the rest of the collection. 

The cavalry are exclusively Essex, but these have the problem of static poses and horse tails that protrude beyond the base; the latter were shortened and all spears were freed so as to create a variety of poses. 

The figures were already painted and as the colour selection was already Indian in appearance, these were kept essential as is. These should contrast nicely with the bland Umayyad 'white'. The general’s banner, which will be made later, will have a similar shape as the Abbasid model, but have a pale blue ground colour in place of black.

In battle array.

III/38 Arab Indian 751 – 1206 AD, terrain type: Tropical, Aggression: 3
1 x 1 x General (Cv), 3 x Arab cavalry (Cv), 2 x Arab spearmen (Sp), 2 x Arab archers (3/4Bw), 2 x Hindu archers (3Bw), 1 x Hindu javelinmen (Ps), 1 x Hindu swordsmen (3Bd).

Map: Arabs in Al Hind 643 – 778 AD

By Maglorbd - Own work, CC BY 3.0,

Thursday, 3 August 2017

The Baghdad Buyid

Of a number short lived kingdoms that evolved after the collapse of the Abbasid Caliphate, the Baghdad Buyid were one of the more successful. At their core were a Dailami Dynasty with family members holding key provinces in Western Iran.  Looking at the army composition, their infantry are mainly the Dailami zupin-men supported by archers and crossbowmen with mounted troops supplied by the ghulam units.

During the political transition, many Ghulam units simply changed employers offering their services to the highest bidder. The Baghdad Buyid army list also includes Indian swordsmen, religious fanatics and a small number of Bedouin light horse. Of interest, the Baghdad Buyid are one of the few Muslim armies to have allies, the Kurdish troops, who can supply a good number of elite class cavalry. 


The miniatures
The Baghdad Buyid were not on my original list, but were generated out of a moment of desperation, as I received only a partial shipment. I received only heavy cavalry, plenty of archers and a pack of Dailami infantry. I decided the Baghdad Buyid would do nicely. 

One third of the army are Dailami troops and these were painted with a greater assortment of colour; clothing as well as shields. The Kurdish allies come from an large Mogul Indian collection, most of which are Essex figures. These were re-based and lances re-positioned to give them an animated appearance. Where necessary, the horse tails were shortened to allow better positioning on their bases.

The banners
Banners now show religious script, but how this is placed on the flag does vary between depictions. I will use as a reference, the Andalusian illustrations which show the script running vertical on a coloured background. Each of the Kurdish knights will have them to set them apart from the standard Buyid cavalry. The C-in-C’s banner will display the gold disc which is prevalent at this time.   

The Baghdad Buyid in battle array.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

The Umayyad

The Umayyad Caliphate was the second established after the death of Muhammad. After the first Muslim civil war (661 AD) Syria became its power base with Damascus its capital. Readers wishing to dig deeper into the political structure and organisation of its army, I recommend Armies of the Caliphate by Hugh Kennedy.

The Umayyad Caliphate is best known for extending Islam to as far east as India (Sind) and to the Spanish peninsula in the west. The rapid expansion of its frontiers was frequently punctuated by rebellion within the empire; internal strife that rose from old tribal rivalries and economic recession. After a rule of nearly nine decades, the Umayyad are supplanted by the Abbasid in Syria, while other regions made use of the opportunity to become independent, such as the Umayyad in Spain and Sind.

Map: From the Islamic History blog/Umayyad Caliphate.

The collection.
The figures are Old Glory 15’s. Infantry are painted in the standard ‘white’ that is recorded for Umayyad troops while the mounted are now heavily armoured, leaving little to see of clothing colour. A second command was collected and painted so the civil wars could be played.  

 III/31 Umayyad Arab 661 AD – 750 AD, terrain type: Dry, Aggression: 3

1 x General (Cv), 3 x jund cavalry (Cv), 3 x spearmen (Sp), 3 x archers (3Bw or Ps), 1 x Asawira (Cv) or Bedouin (LH or LCm), 1 x Ghazis or Turkish horse archer (LH) or Dailami (4Ax) or Syrian hillmen (3Ax or Ps).