“The Prophet has commanded us to rule the world. Where in all your land of Spain is the glory of Allah? When men speak of you they speak of poets, musicmakers, doctors, scientists. Where are your warriors? You dare to call yourselves sons of the Prophet? You have become women! Burn your books! Make warriors of your poets! Let your doctors invent new poisons for our arrows. Let your scientists invent new war machines! Infidels live on your frontiers. When they are weak and torn, I will sweep up from Africa, and the empire of the One God, the true God, Allah, will spread, first across Spain, then across Europe, then the whole world!”
…with these words the Berber warlord Ben Yusuf entered popular culture in the epic film, El Cid….
The following series of posts will chronicle my efforts of putting together an Almoravid/Almohades (Berber) army for the invasion and conquest of Medieval Spain in the time of El Cid (plus or minus a good many decades).
This was a fascinating era in Spanish history, of which I confess, I knew to little but for a recent trip to Spain that saw me atop several Moorish castles wondering what it was all about. Everywhere I went from Granada in the south up to the line of the Duero and finishing in Toledo, Al Andalus, Christian, and Moors history was dotted around.
The first thing to do was to chase down some good books to read and find out more. In this, from a wargaming perspective, the easiest inspiration was to drag out my old copy of WAB El Cid that I picked up at swap meet which for the uninitiated, rates as one of their best. I devoured it from cover to cover and quickly got a handle on who was doing what. From there the standard entry point book was to get Richard Fletcher's 'Quest for El Cid' and start to get some solid history into the equation with a full discussion of the times of Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, El Cid, and the many others that populate the scene of 11th and 12th century Spain, of which the Cid is but the most well known in the English speaking world.
Further digging reveals many other titles and articles on the internet and a nice assortment of Osprey's and all at reasonable cost such that a very good picture of Spain and the contest between Islam and Christian Spain, the numerous taifa and regional warlords along with the many mercenary bands that blended together that make for such fertile 'gaming' opportunities at this time in history. Off course one cannot miss out on the epic 'El Cid' as portrayed by Charlton Heston in the 1960's classic movie of that name to light the imagination, even if some details are 'Hollywood' (who cares!)
Having got up to speed the question of which lead and/or plastic was available and a check for multiple manufacturer compatibility and then to decide on which and what sized armies and for what rules I intend on using these troops...if the title picture didn't give it away, I am going to try my hand at something different....a Berber army of invasion in the late eleventh century (though it will have uses both before and after that time as little changed excepting some small details).
This will form the basis of a series of posts to help others who may be looking to go down the same path. In a nutshell, they will start as a force to be used in Lion Rampant games (maybe Dux Brittaniarum as well) and ultimately one large enough for a grand sweeping force in the vain of James ‘the Cid’ Morris’ armies in his WAB supplement (if you haven’t got it, track one down!), suitably inspired by Scrivs’ Cid armies and GuitarHeroAndy’s stuff…all cracking good gear...great work guys!
In fact these chaps have almost cornered the market on quality large scale El Cid games so I can't hope to reach the dizzy heights their group can put together. However I can offer some tips for others that might be in easier reach for them to construct a force reasonably quickly for this fascinating period.
...who could not be inspired by this! (photo from here)
..next post we will look at the figure choices I'll be looking at to create my Berber army.