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Thread: [REVAMP] -- Of Crosses & Crescents: A Crusader States AAR

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    Default [REVAMP] -- Of Crosses & Crescents: A Crusader States AAR

    Well, another year, another attempt at an AAR. Finished my Associate's degree at university and currently job hunting to help out with finances at home. Since I'm not going to university right now and not yet hired, I've got more free time than in the past. Hopefully, this means I'll be able to actually make something substantial out of an AAR for a change. This is a reworking of my old Crusader States AAR that used a previous version of SSHIP. I decided to go triple the turn length of the last AAR's first and only post in an attempt to make up for never continuing that one. My apologies for anyone who wanted to see more of that one, and here's to this one going somewhere.

    Of Crosses & Crescents: A Crusader States AAR

    Game: Total War:Medieval II

    Stainless Steel 6.4

    Stainless Steel Historical Improvement Project 0.9.6

    Campaign Difficulty:
    Very Hard

    Battle Difficulty:
    Very Hard

    Manage All Cities:
    NOTE: Sometimes, the game glitches and turns off forced auto-management. Not sure why. If it happens in this campaign, I’ll do my best to remember to manually turn on auto-management when I leave a settlement governor-less.

    Show CPU Moves:
    Battle Time Limit: ON
    Campaign Length: Long

    Personal Additional Goals

    1. Conquer the Entire Middle East
    2. Conquer the Byzantines
    3. Capture Rome


    NOTE: The first portion is a repost of the previous AAR's opening. This is because I always begin Crusader States campaigns in SSHIP the exact same way (by capturing Halab, Ar-Raqqah, and Ascalon), so nothing is affected.

    Turns 1-60: The Perpetual Struggle in Egypt and Connection of the Eastern Christian Kingdoms

    The year, 1132 AD. The situation, desperate. The Crusaders had managed to link most of their territories together by capturing Acre and Tripoli, but Edessa in the east still remained disconnected due to the Zengids' control of Halab, a great citadel sitting in the middle of Greater Syria. Moreover, down south around Jerusalem and Aqaba, the Fatimids seemed to be more than ready to continue hostilities, if the army massing inside Ascalon was any indication. Add in a few powerful independent regions to fill the gaps, and it was never clearer to King Foulques and everybody else that they were alone in this part of the world. Still, being surrounded by disgruntled enemies waiting for the chance to push them right into the sea instilled a certain resolve in the Crusaders. They had no intention of letting all the work they'd done up to this point be for nothing, and with God's blessing, grit, and a little luck, the Crusaders would not only firmly reclaim the Holy Land, but build themselves into a mighty empire that would serve as a testament to all of the power and glory of God.

    Since the States weren't a kingdom in the traditional sense, King Foulques knew that the other generals weren't under any great compulsion to listen to him all that much. However, he did hold some sway over some generals, particularly Payen le Bouteiller down in Aqaba (who was trying hard to get the place in working order. "Seriously? This place doesn't even have a basic barracks? Well get one up on the double! We need proper facilities up yesterday!"). Complete unity would ultimately be important though in the long run, if the Crusaders were to survive.

    Being a little short on florins for their current size, the States' construction projects were slow going. Plus, most settlements' populations utterly resented the idea of raising the taxes. Foulques got away with gouging the taxes in Jerusalem though, which happened to be the most profitable city at present.

    As far as military operations were concerned, the Crusaders faced an interesting dilemma. The Fatimids in Egypt were by far their biggest threat, but the Zengids posed no small problem to them either since Zengid lands cut right through their own. And, the Zengids had a marvelous power base in Halab. So, Halab was a natural candidate for where the Crusader generals in the north would strike next. However, the cities of Damascus (northeast of Jerusalem) and Ar-Raqqah (south of Edessa) also seemed tempting, not to mention the fortress of Sis (north of Antioch), which lay under the rule of an independent general known simply as Leon.

    Gen. Raymond de Poitiers in Antioch was all for subduing either Sis or Halab (preferably Halab, to connect with Edessa), as was Gen. Pons de Toulouse in Tripoli. Gen. Joscelin de Courtenay though, his trials leading up to and including Edessa's conquest had left him with soft nerves as he'd come close to death a few times in heinous melees. He was partial toward moving against Ar-Raqqah, which was very lightly garrisoned at present. Although De Poitiers and De Toulouse were impatient men who craved action, De Courtenay, over the course of several meetings and series of letters, managed to caution them into first consulting with King Fouques on the grounds that they all held the whole of the northern Crusader armies under their command, and whatever action they took should be carefully planned and then diligently pursued once started. After all, if they threw away their men on misguided adventures, there wouldn't be anyone else to prevent the Zengids or the Rum Seljuks or the Georgians or even the Byzantines from moving in and benefiting from the groundwork they had spent thousands of florins and men laying.

    Foulques contemplated the generals' words and the options for a long time before responding with a very daring gambit: attacking both Halab and Ar-Raqqah at once. His logic was that if they could hit the Zengids very hard immediately, it would shock their men and economy to the point of helplessness for the foreseeable future. Also, the greatly increased influx of coin would certainly help fund the war effort down south. De Poitiers and De Toulouse were to combine their forces (and rake together what mercenaries they could afford) and assault Halab, while De Courtenay was to capture Ar-Raqqah. Imagine all three generals' complete and utter surprise upon receiving these orders! De Poitiers and De Toulouse jumped at the chance to prove themselves by taking such a prize as Halab; De Courtenay, to the contrary, was fit to be tied. Still, De Courtenay ultimately complied. In order to try and maintain public order in their cities while they were away, all three generals commissioned the construction of many gallows and other outward displays of criminal punishment to remind everyone to keep in line with the skeleton garrisons' orders.

    Meanwhile in the south, Foulques understood that idleness was a failing strategy against any opponent, especially one as large and strong as the Fatimids. So, he decided that the Crusaders should take Ascalon, a Fatimid castle a ways west of Jerusalem. Since he had to remain in Jerusalem to keep the populace in line, Foulques entrusted this mission to Payen le Bouteiller.

    While all this was going on, inexperienced Crusader diplomat Colin was diligently petitioning the Pope for an official alliance with his people. After much deliberation, the Pope agreed. Gautier Corbet, another inexperienced diplomat who was hanging around in Jerusalem, saw the futility in trying to meaningfully negotiate with the Fatimids and struck out east, intending to journey to Georgia and see if he could cultivate favorable relations with other nearby Christians---even if they were Orthodox; if things went well with Georgia, he then planned to beseech the Byzantines.

    Not long before it was time to go through with the three sieges, Foulques received word from some of the nobles who had come on the Crusades and decided they were important enough to advise the king on matters. They wanted him to send men to capture Damascus, which Foulques knew full well was firmly under an independent king's control. It took a fair bit of restraint for Foulques to not laugh at the absurdity of these men demanding that he pursue a fourth target when the States' economy and military were already at their limits maintaining three sieges at once. The besieging generals even had to spin wonderful yarns to their mercenaries of the endless rivers of plunder they would find in the settlements, just to keep them from disbanding due to not receiving their pay. It'd worked this time, but who knew for how much longer? Foulques told the nobles that he'd get around to Damascus "in due time." This placated them for now, but he had a feeling they'd only continue being thorns in his side.

    De Poitiers and De Toulouse were the first to begin their assault.


    The Battle of Halab - 1132 AD

    It was a gray afternoon that fateful day, and the Crusader army had just finished massing in front of the tall and imposing beige stone walls of Halab, the jewel of the Zengid military. The Crusaders had worked quickly and didn't have much to assault the walls with: four sets of ladders and two battering rams (one of which was a spare). Still, they outnumbered the defenders by a rather large margin, and that was what the two generals were counting on. If they could just crack that initial layer and overpower the defenders early on, maybe they could blitz through the two inner layers while the Zengids retreated in disorganization.

    After a short and inspiring speech, De Poitiers (taking the lead for the battle) ordered the ram and ladders forward. The ladders swiftly ran up to the walls while the Armenian infantry carrying them endured an endless downpour of arrows. As they advanced, the reserves could clearly see the cool gleams of the mailed corpses trickling from them---the first casualties of what everyone felt certain would be a long and bitter struggle.

    The ram crew (Syrian axemen), in addition to the same deluge of arrows, had to brave a barrage of flaming ballista fire. The giant bolts whizzed past the men's heads, throwing up puffs of dirt as they burrowed into the ground or clusters of wood chips if they struck the ram. As they pushed the ram forward, rain began to fall from the dark clouds that had been gathering above, first lightly and then heavily; this helped protect the ram from the flaming bolts, and the Crusaders took this event as a sign from God that they were destined to succeed in their assault.

    De Poitiers knew how vital it was to maintain morale during what would become a vicious fight, and so he personally rode up near enough to the walls so the droning of his horns and the fervent war cries of himself and his bodyguards could be heard by the men. Those that glanced behind them marveled at the sight of their general braving the archers and ballistae and resolved to not disappoint him.

    Once the ladders had been placed on the walls, a few reserve units rushed forward to reinforce. Eventually, the ram reached the gate and started battering away at it. Boiling oil poured down from murder holes above, causing those operating the ram to huddle together tightly beneath the ram's roof. From atop the walls and the other side of the gate, the roars and taunts of the Zengid defenders bellowed forth; some of the spearmen even tried thrusting at the ram crew through the gate's holes.

    After what seemed like an eternity in their oily, spiky purgatory, hammering away with the ram, the bent and cracked metal gate finally gave way, throwing back a group of soldiers that'd shouldered up against it in a vain attempt at bracing it. The Syrian axemen immediately charged through, eager for revenge on those blasted spearmen. The rest of the reserve infantry followed close behind, with a few marinae clubmen grabbing the ram in preparation for attacking the second layer's gate.

    Superior numbers won the first layer of walls for the Crusaders, and the few surviving Zengids ran like madmen for the secondary walls. The Crusaders reformed in front of the second layer, with the marinae clubmen slowly shoving the ram up the incline leading to the gate. The angle left the crewmen more open to missile fire than usual, so men kept having to replace shot operators.

    Not long before the clubmen had reached the gate, the Zengid general himself, Nur ad-Din Zengi, charged out with his bodyguard. The surprised clubmen quickly routed at the site of the ornately armored cavalrymen wielding lances and swords, but De Poitiers saw that the clubmen were being good bait. The Crusader general ordered his spearmen and cavalry to swarm the general and take him down. The plan worked. Trapped between spearmen to the rear and a multitude of cavalry to his front, Warith and his bodyguards perished quickly; Nur got yanked off his horse and repeatedly skewered by the spearman sergeants.

    With the enemy commander dead and the gate left wide open, De Poitiers ordered his men through, and through they charged. The mounted sergeants were the first through, soon followed by the infantry. A horde of Fari cavalry met them just inside, but they were quickly repulsed. Then came a unit of ghulams, and De Poitiers knew from experience that ghulams were tough nuts to crack. It took completely surrounding them plus javelinmen hitting them from afar to finally break them, but they eventually routed and fled inside the third layer walls.

    The ram was brought up to the final gate, and after it bashed it open, the Crusaders poured through, knowing that there weren't many defenders left. The few remaining Zengids stood nearly to the last man in the citadel square. Once they were all dispatched, the Crusaders celebrated their hard earned victory.


    De Courtenay chickened out of personally leading the siege against Ar-Raqqah, so the responsibility instead fell to Captain Roger. Luckily for De Courtenay, Roger was a competent soldier and led his men to an easy victory. Not like it was much of a contest anyway, there only being a single spearman unit and a very unlucky Zengid prince inside. The Zengid militia got completely demolished by the Crusader spearmen while Roger's crossbowmen shredded the Zengid general's cavalry. In the end, only the general himself remained to stand against the entire Crusader force. The general surrendered, but was summarily executed following a sacking of the town.

    The closest contest was undoubtedly Le Bouteiller's assault on Ascalon.


    The Battle of Ascalon - 1132 AD

    It was about midday when Payen decided to launch his assault. The desert sun beat down upon the two forces, making the Crusaders gleam silver and the Fatimids gleam gold and bronze. Payen delivered a rousing speech to his men to steel them for the task ahead. He hardly had more men than the Fatimids, and there were some elite troops in their army---ghulams both mounted and dismounted, and many highly trained African mercenaries, by spy Foucaud's report.

    Payen ordered the ram and ladders forward, and things began going wrong from the start. There were five sets of ladders: three to the left of the gate, and two to the right. One of the left-hand ladder crews was somehow unclear on where exactly to place their ladders (as they'd been ordered to not go around the sides of the castle), and after a bit of bumbling around amid enemy archer fire, they threw down their ladders and followed one of their fellow crews who'd managed to reach the walls. Upon the ladders rising up to the wall tops, the Fatimid archers began retreating so the melee infantry could intercept the invaders. However, they picked the wrong direction to run and crowded on one specific section of wall near to the gate. This resulted in overcrowding, and more than a few Fatimid soldiers fell from the walls in the ensuing chaos. Slowly, the Crusaders carved out a foothold, but they ended up sandwiched between two great, densely packed bodies of infantry. Payen adopted the risky strategy of riding up to the walls to bolster his men's resolve.

    Over to the right of the gate, the other ladder crews had better success at first as they chased some militia spearmen off the walls. But then, a squad of ghulams came to the rescue, and the Crusader sergeants were slowly whittled down by them.

    During all this, the ram crew had made it to the gate and began ramming it. African mercenary spearmen jeered at them, mocking their strength and daring them to set foot through the gate if they happened to actually get through it. Slowly but surely, the gate bent, then bowed, then fractured, then finally broke open. The remaining Crusader infantry and the mounted knights charged through, knowing they had to try and take the heat off of their comrades on the walls. Unfortunately, Fatimid spears slew Crusader knights just the same as Crusader spears slew Fatimid knights, and many of Payen's horsemen perished in the initial charge---mostly the Jerusalem knights, although the Hospitaller lost a fair few men as well. In the end, Payen was forced to even call in the crossbowmen to reinforce the rest of the infantry.

    Then, while all of this transpired, a large unit of ghulam cavalry charged down the main road right for the Crusaders. Payen barely ordered his remaining spearmen to the road in time. Working together with the Hospitaller knights, the sergeants slowly plowed through the ghulams. Eventually, through sheer luck and attrition, the Crusaders ground down these initial defenders and hastily regrouped to finish the enemy off in the castle square.

    Foucaud had warned Payen that the Fatimid prince himself led the defense. Payen had no reason not to believe him, especially after that brutal engagement at the gates. But when he saw the immense number of heavily armored horsemen with a particularly decorated rider somewhere around the middle of them, it really hit home. The Crusader general observed his men worriedly; they were tired, bloody, and scared.

    Payen wracked his brain for a feasible approach. Then, he remembered how he'd defended against the ghulam cavalry. He positioned his spearmen on either side of a small passage between two buildings just outside the square, and then put his crossbowmen in between, in direct view of the enemy cavalry. The crossbowmen fired a couple of volleys, and the cavalry responded how Payen had hoped. They charged the crossbowmen, and right before they reached them, the spearmen sprang out of hiding. Payen and his bodyguards and some Turkoman horse archers who'd spent all their ammo joined the fight, and it ended up being a massacre. The Crusaders then finished off the stragglers in the square.

    Payen himself led his men in a hysterical celebration. They'd won, but at the cost of many lives.

    Eager for revenge against the Crusaders, the Fatimid prince Abdul-Malik marched on Ascalon with a sizeable army. The Crusaders, still weary from how rough Ascalon’s capture had been, scrambled to cobble together a force to oppose it. King Foulques himself led the effort to break the siege, with assistance From Prince Guillaume and FM Philip d’Ivry. Spy Gilbert du Fay, over the course a couple of weeks, reported that Abdul-Malik’s army had brought a small cell of assassins with it. With the Crusader espionage network still in its infancy, these Fatimid assassins would likely remain unopposed for a while yet.

    King Foulques launched his attack before Abdul-Malik’s assassins had time to put any assassination plots into motion; he needed all the leadership he could muster for the battle. FM’s Alain de Besancon and D’Ivry reinforced his army with their own. When the battle began, it became glaringly apparent that the Fatimid prince had made one grave error in the composition of his army: He brought almost no cavalry with him. As a result, the Crusader knights steamrolled the enemy infantry and shredded the light cavalry archers who’d failed to properly organize. King Foulques and Prince Guillaume personally led their company of Knights Templar in a charge against Abdul-Malik’s personal guard. The fight was a slaughter that evaporated the Fatimid bodyguards completely. Abdul-Malik, realizing the battle was destined to be a crushing defeat, rode full-gallop into the ranks of De Besancon’s approaching forces and was swiftly butchered by it. As it turned out, the Crusader king ended up not needing additional support. He and his men completely crushed the Fatimid forces, leaving only three survivors to flee back to Egypt and let the caliph know the Lord was coming for him.

    Meanwhile in the north, Gen. De Poitiers sent the spy Thomas Febre to Sis to keep tabs on the fortress’s aging general Leon. De Poitiers hoped to eventually capture the strongly garrisoned rebel fort, but he knew he would need time to assemble a proper army first.

    With the Fatimid military threat neutralized for now, the Crusaders started to focus on infrastructure and formation of a navy, the later of which would ideally allow for military incursions from the shores around Damietta and Alexandria. Prince Guillaume eagerly awaited the day when he could sail down and strike at the Egyptian heartland without having to fight through Philistia first.

    It seemed as though the dreamed-of Crusader monopoly on Georgian gold and silver would be smoothly realized as silver merchant Lanfrank d’Artevelde turned the tables on Zengid merchants come to overthrow his fledgling business.

    One alliance down for Gautier Corbet…

    Diplomat Bertrand de Montbard managed to catch a traveling Almoravid diplomat at Ascalon and, under King Foulques’s carefully worded instructions, hashed out favorable political and economic relations that would hopefully not be viewed unfavorably by the pope. Although, if the pope ended up disapproving of the relationship, Foulques was fine with telling him to deal with it. He was out here doing God’s work under miserable conditions, and if he had to “pollute” the States’ coffers with Muslim money to keep this operation afloat, then that was fine.

    Newly minted Admiral Godefroy led a wonderful victory against the Fatimid naval forces and blockaded Damietta’s port while Prince Guillaume continued to build up his army.

    A Fatimid force under the new Fatimid prince Abul-Khayr appeared from the east and besieged Aqaba. Luckily, Crusader spies along the road to Tayma (the base of operations for Fatimid forces in the area) warned Aqaba of the attack in time, and FM de Bescon sent reinforcements from Ascalon. Robert de Flandre managed to assassinate Abul-Khayr one night in his tent, leaving his army leaderless. As a result, Payen easily crushed them and sent the few survivors running back to Tayma.

    Prince Guillaume’s army was almost completely comprised of militia and levies, but since he intended to surprise the Fatimids from the sea, he didn’t reckon this would be that much of a problem.

    Over in Egypt, the Fatimids’ troubles just kept mounting. The Crusader assassin Aubert de Chabannes and spy Baudouini de Sancerre proved to be a devastating team. De Chabannes continued systematically assassinating noblemen, including one princedom claimant. De Sancerre had been sewing the seeds of unrest in Damietta for a long while, and his work finally paid off when the city revolted.

    Two alliances down for Gautier Corbet.

    King Foulques had long been trying to carve a path to Cairo, but the caliph’s armies continued to stand in his way. So, he did battle with them one by one and defeated each one of them. Unfortunately, these victories were hard won, and his army bore the scars and weariness of men who’d spent a long time away from home. While Fatimid counterintelligence efforts had significantly damaged the Crusaders’ intel gathering in Egypt, De Chabannes and De Sancerre were able to feed enough information of King Foulques and Prince Guillaume for them to confidently proceed with their campaigns. Guillaume stood poised to besiege the lightly defended Alexandria while Foulques appeared to have the best shot he’d ever have at conquering Cairo.

    Economically, things were strained to capacity. Byzantine encroachment on the silver mines in Rum Seljuk territory and Muslim merchants’ expansion into Georgia threatened to derail the expensive military campaigns happening right now.

    Well, it’d take the death of De Chabannes, but the Crusaders finally succeeded in causing enough turmoil in the Fatimid courts for their political system to crumble entirely. Caliph-ship quickly passed between three nobles, the first two of whom were assassinated while the third was caught alone by King Foulques’s army. With their deaths, no strong leaders remained and the Fatimid territories became independent rebel city-states. This pleased the Crusader king and prince, who could now act against Alexandria and Cairo without organized resistance from all of Egypt.

    FM Payen le Bouteiller attempted to move against Tayma, but a large force of rebels with tons of horsemen crushed his army and sent him back to Aqaba.

    Meanwhile, King Foulques found himself sandwiched between Cairo and a large rebel army to the east. He managed to withdraw just in time and slip away north, where he decided to shift his focus to Damietta. He ended up capturing the city with little trouble.

    While King Foulques could never get the Pope to acquiesce to calling a Crusade on any of his targets, someone managed to persuade the old man to call a crusade on Zengid-held Damascus. Luckily, the city was already under siege by Crusader forces led by FM Jehan de Poitou. Upon receiving word of the Crusade, De Poitou delivered a rousing speech to his men and sent the word out to the surrounding countryside. After swelling his ranks with pious recruits, De Poitou launched his assault before anyone else could show up to contest ownership of the city. Due to sheer numbers, an easy victory was secured.

    Down in upper Egypt, Crusader spies remained hard at work assisting Foulques and Guillaume’s armies. Alexandria fell after a two-year siege, and then Guillaume captured Cairo shortly thereafter thanks to his spies working overtime to create a window of opportunity before the main rebel force could return from the east. And just like that, Upper Egypt passed into Crusader hands.

    While he was excited beyond measure at how much the Crusaders had accomplished in such a short time, King Foulques would often sit in his office and stare out over the northern sea in contemplation. The other Muslim nations surely wouldn’t sit idly by and let his people grow unopposed. He knew that retribution loomed, and the one thing he feared above all else was the jihad: a holy war uniting the Muslim soldiers of all nations against a common enemy. He wondered how much longer this good fortune would last.

    In the north, two captains, Richard de Gael and Benoit Hurepel, had made names for themselves cleaning up small bands of rebels that’d been springing up. The remnants of the Zengid army that’d lost Damascus during the crusade had seen fit to besiege Halab despite there being two armies within range to relieve the citadel. Hurepel moved to relieve the siege while De Gael, having learned that three Zengid generals (including Prince Warith Batu) were coming to assume command of the army, moved to intercept and eliminate them. The end goal was to completely cripple the Zengids and let them rot in their capital of Aw-Mawsil until time and resources allowed for the city’s capture.

    As for those Zengid generals...

    And after Hurepel crushed the Zengids at Halab, De Gael decided that the time to take Al-Mawsil was now. He marched east and besieged the city while it still reeled from its latest military disaster.

    And, Gen. Raymond de Poitiers finally got to realize a long-held pipe-dream: capturing Sis. Working with spies, he was able to infiltrate the lightly garrisoned fortress while most of the army was keeping watch up north.

    In the meantime, infrastructure building.

    The rebels north of Sis eventually figured out their base had been captured, and so they laid siege. With De Poitiers back in Halab, the fortress’s defense fell to Captain Eustachei.


    The Second Battle of Sis — 1143 AD

    The morning sun peeked over the top of the mountains like the ruby of a ring, casting reddish-gold rays of light across the mountain steppes upon which Sis rested. The Crusader garrison took up positions grimly on the walls, knowing they faced a likely impossible defense. Captain Eustachei attached himself to one of the Adath archer units in the hopes that having their commander nearby would dissuade routing. The cavalry massed at the secondary gate while the few melee units (some spear militia mostly) not committed to the walls waited behind the main gate for when the rebels’ ram inevitably breached it.

    The battle began well for the Crusaders, who chased unit after unit from the ladders. Eustachei had his unit remain on the ground and fire into the sides of the rebels that made it on top of the walls. Caught between swords on both sides and arrows from below, most of the rebels routed soon after alighting.

    The wall archers used fire arrows to try and set the siege towers afire before they could reach the walls. One siege tower managed to reach the wall before it caught fire, and the unit pushing it had begun climbing it without noticing the fresh flames leaping from the dry wood. By the time they realized their mistake, it was too late to retreat back out of the tower; the tower collapsed with them in it, surely killing most if not all of them. The other tower remained functional and soon spewed forth heavily armored swordsmen who shredded the Crusader archers like scythes reaping wheat.

    The ram soon arrived at the main gate and began pounding on it. As the defenders slowly lost the struggle for the walls, the ram bowed the gate more and more until the metal eventually snapped apart. Rebel soldiers flooded through the gateway as Crusader infantry rushed to plug the hole.

    It was now that Eustachei signaled the cavalry at the secondary gate to ride out and around the walls to attack the rebels from the rear. This they did. The Jerusalem knights rode around and into the rear of the rebel horde wedged inside the gateway. The cavalry archers skirmished with their rebel counterparts till their quivers were exhausted and then joined the knights in hitting the rebel rear. Alas, for as much damage as they did, they failed rout the enemy in time to save the frontline. Eustachei himself whirled around just in time to see an Armenian horseman’s spear barrel right for him; he caught the spear square in his chest and joined the enormous pile of dead and dying at the gateway.

    The few surviving Crusaders fled for the castle square, but in their mad haste to escape the enemy, they forgot to shut the inner gate. The Crusaders were rounded up and finished off in the square, and so reversed became De Poitiers’s conquest of Sis. Still, the rebels had retaken their base at great cost.

    Would the Crusaders try again? Only time would tell, but considering De Poitiers didn’t get to where he was by quitting at the first sign of hardship, few on either side doubted the answer to that question.

    Rebels besieged Edessa, which, like most places, had exhausted its troop supply contributing to the effort against Sis. Hurepel in Antioch spared some men, and the rebels were chased off.

    After ignoring one request by the Pope to kill the heretic Andrzej, King Foulques had assigned the assassin Reinald d’Arles to hunt him down in the mountains of the Seljuk Turkish Empire. Some wretched illness had begun troubling Reinald during his journey, and just when the spy Jean d’Aguilers had finally narrowed down Andrzej’s whereabouts, Reinald’s illness worsened to the point that he could scarcely move or speak without great pain igniting across his body. Reinald silently cursed his luck as the heretic began journeying somewhere else. When Reinald asked Jean why he couldn’t kill the bastard, the spy simply answered that his “line of work” didn’t involve killing people. If he could’ve mustered the strength and pain tolerance, Reinald would’ve punched him.

    King Foulques’s son, Baudouin d’Anjou, had finally come of age in Damietta, from where Prince Guillaume sent him west to Alexandria where minor bands of rebels had sprung up in places. This was to be the young lad’s first steps on his way to becoming a great military leader just like his father.

    Young Baudouin turned out to have his old man’s mind for tactics after all.

    Over in the east, Crusader agents around Baghdad began reporting that the Seljuk Turks had been encroaching on Abbasid land for a while now and had finally besieged Baghdad itself. If the Abbasid capital fell, would the whole caliphate follow suit?

    News of a jihad being called rippled throughout the States and eventually reached King Foulques’s ears down in Cairo. His heart stopped momentarily before learning that the jihad had been called to reclaim Mecca from rebels. He thanked God that Jerusalem or Cairo wasn’t the target.

    After several years, Al-Mawsil’s siege ended anticlimactically when the Zengids surrendered without a fight. Not the showdown De Gael had hoped for, but it’d do.

    Another year, another crusade…seemed like the Pope called one every other season. This time, the target was Kayseri, a large military complex under Rum Seljuk rule. King Foulques wondered who twisted His Holiness’s arm hard enough to get this one approved, seeing as how he’d requested a crusade on Kayseri several times before now. Well, after he cooled off, the Crusader king didn’t think much of it. He was sure that Raymond de Poitiers had already heard about the Crusade and was already massing an army.

    Welp, the Crusaders in Edessa had been playing the long game with Malatya, even going so far as to assassinate the governing rebel general Sangur Gazi. But, it seemed that Gazi’s murder inspired the rebels instead of disheartening them.

    And then, in just a few short months, the political landscape of the States changed forever. Both King Foulques and Prince Guillaume passed away, and instead of Foulques’s son Baudouin d’Anjou receiving the crown, Payen le Bouteiller (known as the Wrathful) was crowned the new king. Problem was, he never expected to become king and was…shall we say, underprepared for the station. Only time would tell if the other generals would stay part of the States.

    Foulques’s presence was the only thing keeping Cairo from rebelling. With him gone, other Crusader nobles went to the city in an attempt to keep order, but it seemed to be a losing battle.

    As it turned out, the Cairo situation was indeed not tenable. The city revolted, and rebels from the east joined in to crush the Crusader forces. King Payen died to a headsman's axe after his surrender, and now Benoit Hurepel in Antioch found himself the States' new king. At least Benoit's baptism by fire in the wilds between Antioch and Halab had made him into more of a man than Payen had ever been.

    The political chaos had proven too much for Acre, where some nobles with dreams of establishing their own kingdom had overthrown the pro-Cursader forces and stolen the castle. Gen. Pons de Toulouse led the effort to retake the fortress. The attack was unsuccessful due to De Toulouse underestimating the defending forces and not holding back to properly direct the ladder crews. Said ladder crews just circled the outer walls until finally chased down by enemy infantry and quickly killed.

    Once De Poitiers had finished assembling his professional forces in Halab, he hired on various mercenary companies and set out for Kayseri. He stopped to take revenge on Sis along the way, and after a long and bloody fight that cost him half his army, he finally recaptured the fortress and put down the last of the rebel soldiers. There then followed a mass execution of most of the fortress's inhabitants just to ensure that nobody got the bright idea to rebel again.

    The Fatimids return! After years of infighting and squabbling in Cairo, a charismatic noble named Abu Rifa'ah managed to unite the various factions under his banner. Hailing him as "the Righteous," this coalition proclaimed itself the second coming of the Fatimid Empire. FM Baudouin d'Anjou could only observe the situation from Damietta, where tensions still ran far too high to leave.

    Caliph Abu-Rifa'ah laid siege to Alexandria, which was expected by both sides to fall due to its smallish garrison of militia that found themselves facing a large force with many high quality troops.

    Disgusted by De Toulouse's failure to reclaim Acre, King Benoit took it upon himself to do so. With an army of militias from Antioch and Tripoli supplemented by mercenaries, he laid siege and then attacked as soon as the equipment was finished. The battle was hard-fought, but it was ultimately won. Benoit put the rogue nobles, their surviving soldiers, and any civilian sympathizers to the sword to make sure the remaining people truly understood which kingdom they belonged to.

    Meanwhile at Kayseri, Raymond de Poitiers was pulling his hair out trying to get all of the crusading armies that'd shown up to cooperate. Armies from Hungary, England, Venice, Poland, and Sicily had all congregated around the siege encampment that De Poitiers had set up, but whenever the frustrated Crusader general proposed some sort of cohesive assault, all the other leaders inevitably fell into petty arguments that defeated any sort of unity. De Poitiers reiterated again and again that every day they spent arguing over who would lead the assault and who would claim the citadel after the battle was another day Rum Seljuk reinforcements had to arrive from the west.

    Crusader spies in and around Tayma reported the presence of a rather large Almoravid army near the castle. King Benoit hoped they were just on their way home and didn't stop by Jerusalem to spit on the old alliance formed under Foulques's rule. Luckily, this was the case.

    And now a German army had come to add to the confusion at Kayseri. Fed up with it all, De Poitiers declared that in one week, he was launching his attack on Kayseri and that everyone else could do what they wished. The Venetian army under Gen. Naimero the Lewd pledged their support in honor of their alliance with the States. The attack ended up being a smashing success, and Kayseri fell under Crusader rule. While the contented Venetians began the long journey back home to Italy, the other armies' leaders demanded some kind of compensation for the trouble of raising and dragging expensive armies all the way out there. De Poitiers simply laughed them all out of the fortress and got to work whipping it into shape. When asked by his advisors why he treated the European kings and nobles so harshly, De Poitiers simply replied, "Because they've done nothing but cause me headaches for two years and did nothing to help in the battle. Let them shuffle back to Europe with their hollow imitations of glory and dissatisfied armies."

    Despite his popularity in many circles, King Benoit still had many detractors. Deciding that the best way to cement his authority and right to rule was to go crush the reborn Fatimids, he collected the best soldiers in and around Jerusalem and marched west. Once he reached the Nile Delta, he was joined by Prince Baudouin d'Anjou with what men he could take from Damietta without public order tanking. If God willed, Egypt would submit again—for good this time.


    The Battle of Cairo — 1151 AD

    If there was ever a man to which a king might bend his knee, King Benoit mused that this man was none other than the spy Baudouini de Sancerre. Following the death of De Chabannes over a decade ago now, De Sancerre had worked tirelessly to hold together the beleaguered Egyptian branch of the Crusader intelligence network. Operating out of Cairo, he had witnessed firsthand the chaos that Abu Rifa'ah had masterfully manipulated into recognizing him as the caliph of the reborn Fatimids. He watched the internal division Rifa'ah desperately tried to hide from the common people in order to maintain the illusion of complete unity. And he faithfully sent report after report to Baudouin d'Anjou and King Benoit throughout the entire ordeal.

    Thus, when the Crusader king and prince showed up to Cairo with their armies, De Sancerre drew upon his years of experience in manipulating Egyptian politics to ensure that soldiers most loyal to certain nobles stayed confused over whether or not to leave the gates open so their masters might sally out. On the eve of battle, messengers informed the Crusaders of which gates would be open the following day.

    A deep red sun dawned on the deserts surrounding the fortified city. The silver and white of the elite Crusaders' armor caught the morning rays and cut orange streaks through the ranks of the militia. The golden helmets of the walls' defenders rested atop determined faces; by their hands and Allah's grace, Crusader steel would shatter upon Egyptian stone this day.

    The main army under Benoit immediately rushed forth while Baudouin's men cautiously approached the rear gate. Benoit's men exploded through the gateway, braving the stones and oil of murder holes. Units of ghulams sandwiched the Crusader horde at the gateway. A protracted melee ensued that for a time looked bleak for Benoit's crusaders, who fought alone while Baudouin inched his way through the streets. In a desperate bid to free his men from this meat grinder, Benoit charged his personal guard and the Jerusalem knights into the throng of Fatimid infantry. Though many of the Fatimid soldiers wielded spears, they didn't expect horses to suddenly materialize among the enemy foot-soldiers. The gambit paid off and the Fatimids routed.

    Benoit gave chase through the city streets toward the square while Baudouin finally found some urgency and actually beat Benoit there. Although, the brash young prince really should have waited since he was the backup force rather than the main one. His smaller army managed to do some damage to the Fatimid ranks, but the enemy's abundant cavalry shredded it relatively quickly. Benoit and his men reached the square just in time to see the young prince get knocked from his horse and trampled under the hooves of ghulam cavalry.

    The fate of the battle's remainder rested on the next moment. Benoit knew that Baudouin's death would shatter his men's morale, and he could probably no longer count on them. On the other hand, if he could finish off the Fatimids in the square before the caliph's reinforcements arrived, then he might have a fighting chance from within the walls. He had to rally his own men. He held his sword high, roared "For Baudouin d'Anjou!" and charged into the square. He hoped that he had built up enough of a reputation among the soldiers for them to follow him.

    And follow him they did. The Crusaders stormed into the square and cut down the remaining Fatimids in a bitter melee. Once that was accomplished, Benoit began organizing his men in preparation to face the caliph's army. While he did this, scouts from across the city reached him with a report that lifted an enormous weight off his shoulders. De Sancerre had managed to get the gates locked again after the Crusader armies had accessed the city. The scouts brought Benoit atop the wall and showed him Rifa'ah's army a short distance from the city.

    Benoit ordered De Sancerre brought to him so he might personally thank him for his instrumentality in the Crusaders' success. As part of this show of gratitude, Benoit granted the old spy a luxurious retirement in Alexandria.

    Cairo was won, and ecstatic merriment ensued.


    With Cairo back under Crusader control, crushing disillusionment gripped the remaining Fatimids. While the bulk of the remaining soldiers still clung to Rifa'ah's promises of glory, a substantial amount of them forsook the nation-less caliph and returned to their lives as rebels.

    Regardless of who or whatever they served, King Benoit knew they needed to be eliminated before he found a large and organized army knocking at Cairo's gates. Combining Baudouin's army and his own into one, he set out to finish things.

    First, he went after Rifa'ah. When they met on the battlefield, it seemed like things could go either way. The Crusader and Fatimid infantry lines slammed into each other and fought viciously while Benoit's cavalry attempted to maneuver around the enemy cavalry and charge the infantry's rear. Once the Crusader cavalry got off a few charges, the Fatimid line crumbled and the enemy cavalry fell under the full might of the Crusader army. When the battle was over, Rifa'ah's corpse lay among those of his bodyguards and their horses.

    Afterward, Benoit moved to crush the remaining rebel army, which he caught up to at the bridge southwest of Cairo. Having no general or anyone else with the sense to use the immense terrain advantage a bridge provides, the army went down with minimal resistance.

    With the rebellion in Egypt quelled, King Benoit earned the respect of the other generals. For the time being, he was king. How long he stayed king would depend on his future actions.

    Following King Benoit's successful campaign in Egypt, upgrades to the States' infrastructure took place and several new generals rose from captain-hood via their leadership abilities. FM Regnault de Coucy besieged the rebel castle of Heskif while FM Francois de Brie began a long overdue campaign against Tayma and Mecca.

    Then came a political quandary for King Benoit. Playing the long game with Malatya had backfired for the Crusaders by allowing the Byzantines to capture it first. This increased the territorial boundaries by a substantial amount, and even the Georgians were expanding rather nicely. When word reached Benoit of hostilities between the Byzantines and Venetians, he realized he faced the unsavory lose-lose choice of severing ties with either a longstanding source of steady international income or a huge militarily powerful nation literally right next door. In the end, he decided to back the Byzantines and hoped the Pope and Venetian doge would understand his logic.

    At least the Byanztines would have their work cut out for them fighting the Crusader States.

    On a humorous note, it appeared that a certain Sicilian nobleman named Matteo Vallano had gotten his army lost during the Crusade for Kayseri, either overshooting the target or departing for home in the wrong direction. However he ended up there, he found himself trapped near Malatya by Byzantine armies who refused to let him pass. Furious over these ridiculous delays, Vallano sought the assistance of Crusader diplomat Gautier Corbet, who had spent the past couple of years enjoying Malatya's hospitality; Corbet did his best to negotiate Vallano's release, but the Byzantines weren't having it. For the time being, Vallano and his men were their prisoners.

    FM Francois de Brie conquered the rebel Tayma well enough, but he didn't have the chops to defeat the Rum Seljuk army at Mecca. Sultan Ilyas rallied his outnumbered men and put his cavalry to good use in the battle. Though De Brie held out for a long time, the Rum Seljuk cavalry was ultimately too much for the Crusader ranks to handle. De Brie was forced to retreat from Mecca in utter defeat.

    The Egyptians might've been crushed twice over by this point, but that still didn't stop them from protesting Crusader rule. King Benoit in Cairo found himself quickly running out of options to keep things peaceful. He was at his wit's end when he heard reports of a plague sweeping through Antioch. Having tried everything else and failed, he ordered that some diseased people and vermin be imported. Maybe if the population was deathly ill, it'd be too preoccupied with lamenting its plight to riot.

    After licking his wounds back at Aqaba, De Brie renewed his bid for Mecca. This time, he found the city pitifully garrisoned and captured it with ease. On the bright side, the Crusaders now enjoyed Mecca's wealth. On the downside, they drew all of Islam's ire. When King Benoit heard of De Brie's actions, he was more angry than grateful. Had the Muslims called a jihad against somewhere like Jerusalem, sufficient numbers could be mustered to face them; holding Mecca against such strength would be another matter entirely.

    It appeared that perpetual plague was indeed pacifying the Egyptian people…

    Oh, and it seems that Gautier Corbet finally managed to convince the Byzantines to let Vallano return home.

  2. #2
    Turkafinwë's Avatar The Sick Baby Jester
    Civitate Content Emeritus

    Join Date
    Nov 2013

    Default Re: [REVAMP] -- Of Crosses & Crescents: A Crusader States AAR

    It's interesting to see the similarities and differences between both campaigns you played. Like you said, for most campaigns with the same faction the starting strategy is usually the same. It seems the Crusader States are looking rather good in this one. You've also set some impressive goals with capturing the Byzantines and Rome. I hope to see more of this one!

  3. #3
    Alwyn's Avatar Frothy Goodness
    Content Director Patrician Citizen

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    Feb 2014
    United Kingdom

    Default Re: [REVAMP] -- Of Crosses & Crescents: A Crusader States AAR

    It looks like you've set yourself ambitious goals and this is an impressive start. I enjoyed the need for Payen to think of a way to win at Ascalon as well as the twists of fate which followed.

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