Late medieval skirmish rules

Including pictures of a "knights of the dinner table" skirmish game.

PDF skirmish rules

(Note on picture lighting variations: this game spanned three days, being played both during the daylight and nighttime hours, necessitating the use of flash. The strange white mass in the center of the table is Conrad's effort to disguise the random dinnertable junk with napkins: he claims it represents some kind of chalk or other whitish stone mass. Okay. But it photographs poorly. I avoided it as much as possible, and having to do that cramped my style.)

Chapter Five

The failure of his assault on his father's castle plunged prince Merlin into a complete funk. Soon after this sorry event, Merlin's father, the old king, died. As his sentimental wish was law to the less wise of his subjects, king Merlin's recently declared intention, to disinherit his son and crown his grandson prince Richard instead, has divided the realm: some want Richard, and some want to continue with legality (to avoid future chaos in determining the succession), and so they support prince Merlin's rightful claim. Richard himself is having second thoughts, but he is very young and flattered by the possibility of becoming king instead of his father.

The Black Knight is still in the neighborhood, and he visits with his melancholy friend from time to time. The months pass.

Then prince Merlin decides to have another "go" at ousting his "upstart son", who remains in possession of the main fortress of the kingdom, along with the officers of the royal court. Merlin informs his friend the Black Knight that he wants the use of his services, yet again. The Black Knight silently disputes this latest plan: his troops have supported Merlin in at least three campaigns so far, and have suffered more than they have gained for their pains. But he grudgingly agrees to join forces with Merlin's retinue, for another assault on the royal castle.

Hearing of his father's bellicose plans, prince Richard and his supporters search for allies, and discover that the mercenary emir, Ibn Ali al-Mumit al-Masaffah, is also nearby and interested in being employed.

When the Black Knight and al-Masaffah learn that they have been employed to fight each other, the Black Knight starts to get other ideas. He contacts his Muslim opponent, and, reminding him of the rest of his ransom still pending, the Crusader captain offers the balance be paid in service rather than loot. Al-Masaffah is interested: what is that service to be? The Black Knight says: "We shall join forces, instead of serving these two squabblers in their family feud. Let us attack prince Merlin and reduce his castle, then we can turn on the inexperienced boy prince and finish him off. You can have Merlin's domain and I shall take possession of the other castle and the lands pertaining to it."

Al-Masaffah finds this arrangement agreeable, and so without warning, their combined armies show up one afternoon before the walls of prince Merlin's abode.


Conrad joins Ricky and Me for a round of "knights of the dinner table"


View from the crusader siege tower

With rapid professionalism, a siege tower is constructed and manned. The Muslims take the left, the Black Knight's men the right.




Al-Masaffah's infantry raise ladders.

The tower is thrust right up to the walls. Defender fire almost ignites the wet hides, but no more than smoke is the result. The drawbridge drops and the pikemen make a strong attack in front of them, driving one defender down instantly.

While the assault from the tower begins, al-Masaffah orders his spearmen to attack in support by using ladders. One of the defenders on the wall is the victim of a thrown javelin. The spearmen only manage to place one ladder out of three, but soon the man at the top is killed and the ladder thrown down. The Sudanese archers claim another defender.


The crusaders both gain the parapet, and suffer a reverse

One of the crusaders in the front rank is nearly killed and panics (he failed his morale check in combat).

By this point, prince Merlin's garrison had suffered five casualties and inflicted none on the crusaders.





Then a defender kills his man and mounts the drawbridge in his place. The infidels and their ladders are held off, and finally routed, precipitating the Sudanese into a rout as well.


Prince Richard's forces come onto the field

When Richard had learned of a compact between his erstwhile mercenaries, and his father's treacherous "friend", he knew at once that the kingdom was about to be defeated in detail. So, not letting the past prevent him from doing the wise thing, he mustered his retinue as quickly as possible and entered his father's realm. The Black Knight and al-Masaffah learned of Richard's approach, but felt confident in reducing the castle before he could intervene.

"Ah! Ahah!", exclaims Merlin in dismay, upon seeing his son's banner approaching up the vale. "What's this? My son has thrown in his lot with my enemies?" His men nearby look at each other and shake their heads but say nothing.

Soon enough, it is evident that their assailants are not to benefit from Richard's presence. The Black Knight and his horsemen move toward the castle, and upon coming even with the assault tower, they turn about to meet Richard and his knights, who come on ahead of their foot at a brisk pace: then, drawing near, spur their horses into a charge.


The crusader assault strengthens

Prince Merlin's men suffer yet another casualty.

And then there remains ONE dismounted knight with his two-hand sword holding off six-to-one odds in pikemen who can stick him. He wields his sword effectively and breaks a number of the pikes thrust at him. This goes on for quite a spell while the battle rages below: finally the knight's sword breaks and he snatches up the flail of a fallen comrade.


The Muslim spearmen rally and return, and soon the Sudanese archers rejoin them as well

At this moment, the tide shifted dramatically....


The Black Knight and his horsemen are charged by Richard and his mounted troops


And the Black Knight is thrown down heavily by Richard's champion. He doesn't rise!

In the first moment of contact, the Black Knight more than meets his match in Richard's champion: this warrior had seldom ever been defeated, had twice nearly killed or captured prince Merlin himself, and now is the instrument by which the perfidious crusader captain meets his fate.



The attack from the tower turns into a rout

At the instant the Black Knight falls, his men begin to panic. The standard bearer, who has dismounted to join the forces in the assault tower, turns away instead and remounts his horse with every intention of fleeing the field. His abrupt abandonment spreads to the crusaders in the assault tower and their attack is turned instead into a full rout. Desperately they stampede to the rear and fight to get down the ladders.


Prince Merlin opens the gate and orders a sally

The first man to come out, a halberdier, is ganged on by al-Masaffah and one of his spearmen, and is quickly killed.

A sort of panic grips the defenders and they abandon their counter-attack, to regain the shelter of their walls.


Prince Richard's infantry arrive and attack the few spearmen left standing, and the last resisting crusader knight


The cavalry, commanded by prince Merlin, charge out

Prince Merlin with his horsemen disdain the fearful retreat of the footmen, and brush past as they sally through the opened gate.

They charge out. The first enemy troops contacted go down.


An archer draws down on the officer commanding the spearmen...


...and gets his man

At this point, al-Masaffah orders a retreat.


Al-Masaffah is unhorsed

The emir steers his horse between the last of his fleeing men and the thronging enemy. His lance keenly lifts one of Richard's knights from his saddle. But an axe-wielding footman brings down al-Masaffah's horse.


The muslims and dregs of the crusader force flee


Al-Masaffah is almost rescued by one of his horsemen

The emir manages to get on the crupper, but is seized upon and dragged to the ground and captured.

The crusaders suffered heavily, the Muslims mostly escaped; and prince Richard's army only suffered a single casualty, the knight unhorsed by al-Masaffah: the knight was not mortally injured and recovered. Prince Merlin's garrison had been roughly dealt with, but only two of the six or seven wounded men died.

The Black Knight was found dead on the field. Prince Richard gave his prisoners to his father, as the first open gesture that his desires and intentions had undergone a change.

Richard humbled himself before his father, declaring that he didn't want to rule, after thinking everything over since the death of his grandfather the old king.

So the realm has a king again, Merlin II.

He allows his Muslim prisoners to ransom themselves with easy, generous terms; thereby causing Ibn Ali al-Mumit al-Masaffah to feel in his debt: which of course impinges upon the emir's honor. He will repay what he owes to the king of the small Frankish realm in the mountains, in his own way and in his own time.

Richard will not submit as a subject to his father's rule: he makes that very clear. Merlin is willing to allow his son half of the realm as his patrimony, free from royal taxes and other demands: as long as Richard will be united in the welfare and defense of their tiny realm. If they remain amicable, it is just possible that in the midst of the mountains, as they are, they might hold onto their lands for a generation or two more at least. At least until the Muslim jihad sweeps all Frankish fiefs from Outremer....

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