Dave K and myself, keeping things fresh in the mind had another, slightly impromptu, game of Crusader this week with a start on the forces of Aragon and Jaime the Conqueror to get a feel for the forces.
Another game where we both tried something a bit different, me trying out the Berber tactic of lining up archers in the back rank of spearmen in big chunky units and a few more light cavalry using amended army lists taking out the little errors and Dave with a huge chunk of Heavy Cavalry but just with spear (no lance).
We both played it a bit cagey with the light cavalry skirmishing back and forth on the Berber left flank and a small (and rules illegal) unit of skirmishers managing to see off a unit of light cavalry and the Berbers getting the better in the cavalry skirmish too.
On the other flank there was a bit more jockeying for position and no one wanting to comit and end up in the open.
The Infantry centre's stayed pretty static with the Berber infantry edging forward and shooting at the Christian skirmishing bowmen and not achieving much.
I then saw the best opportunity I had to deal with Daves' cavalry (thinking then that he had lance and I didn't want him to get the charge/counter charge bonus) I charged my Hasham Guard cavalry at his Noble skirmishing types who fled and revealed the Heavy cavalry, who were 'surprised' and couldn't counter charge.
Now I knew the likely odds of success were poor but it was my best shot. I was unfortuntely right about the odds with 8 rolls needing 9's or 10's versus 12 roll's need 5's + I was really on to a hiding to nothing. And bang, I lost a stand and a bit against the HC loosing a stand (lucky that the Guard Cavalry unit was upgraded to veterans) the unit broke due to the combat resolution. On Dave's turn he charged my light cavalry had to get out the way and the automatic response for my guard cavalry was to evade which took them off the table.
I think both myself and Dave both realised pretty much at the same time a slight issue with the rules here. With Daves large Heavy Cavalry unit and the rule mechanism of completing a units whole move to completion including melee/morale results before the next unit, there was nothing on the table that could effectively fight such a large unit of knights. The knights may eventually be worn down but it would take at least half the enemy to do so.
To prove the point I tried charging the cavalry with a nearby infantry unit which outnumbered the cavalry but with similar dice needed the result was much the same. I've also noted (remembering from when we had played the rules a couple of years ago) that the use of the massed archery rules is not very affective use of points. It does give the otherwise vulnerable spearmen an effective response to light cavalry which would otherwise harass and wear them down) but it ties up a lot of points in a 50% less effective group. Archers were marginally more expensive than the spear but halved their attacks in the back rank and so couldn't do much to any serious opposition. Shooting seemed to be pretty ineffective generally usually needing 9's or 10's even when point blank, so I'm not sure about the slightly more expensive points values.
Though the unit of Heavy Cavalry was legal as far as the rules are concerned (8 stands for cavalry and 12 stands for infantry being the maximum sizes), we both thought that such units should effectively be limited to 3 or four stands (though the rules state that the minimum size for a unit should be four, mainly that for less stands the staying power of most unit types in three stands or less is practically nil, again as we found out in this game).
For post game dissection, I've come to the conclusion that as with most 'quick play' rules Crusader have a pretty small window of operations, and though the mechanics are simple and indeed quick, they really lend themselves only to a set piece scenario or set piece battle where the forces are drawn up in matched unit sizes etc. Otherwise all you need to do is have one really big unit of your best guys and charge!
Though still not finished with the Crusader rules,I'm going to give War and Conquest a go for the Malaga campaign by way of experiment and see if they might give a more naturally balanced game.
All in all it's fun going through this investigation and we haven't even started the campaign yet.