…And we ended up playing the Third Crusade scenario for Onward yesterday.

After playing the small 2nd Crusade scenario twice in a row, it was almost startling to see the system back in it’s full glory. It really pointed up just how limited of a scenario 2C is. As it turned out, we both wanted different sides, and I ended up with the Crusaders again. (My Dad wanted to be on the defensive, and I wanted Richard.)

At any rate, the scenario picks up in medias res, with Richard I just arriving off the coast of Cyprus, Philip II having just arrived near Acre while the combined armies of Guy and Leopold sit and besiege Acre with Saladin encamped nearby.

Historically, Richard took Cyprus (from the Byzantines), landed at Acre, took over the siege while ill, fought off a couple minor attacks, took the city, headed south, won a deservedly famous victory at Arsuf, but was unable to take Jerusalem when Philip and Leopold left him to return to Europe; nor was he able to secure a peace that could guarantee the long-term viability of the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

Not wanting to disturb a winning formula, the major event of the first turn was Richard taking Cyprus. However, instead of proceeding directly to Acre, Richard then landed in the Holy Land at friendly (but neutral) Tripoli.

Richard eventually decided that the siege of Acre was well in hand, and moved north up the coast, taking Jabala as he went before stopping to assault Lattakiea. Saladin moved north, worried at the possible loss of Antioch and Edessa. In two pitched battles Richard defeated Saladin, allowing him time to take the city, and Saladin retired to get more troops and perhaps face someone a little less energetic.

Saladin came south, gathering a mighty host from various garrisons and arriving reinforcements along the way, and hit the Frankish army lead by Philip at Acre, where the siege was slowly grinding away. Philip was forced to retreat with moderate losses, ending the threat to Acre.

Fate intervened at this point, with a revolt in Hamah, which forced Saladin back north in a hurry with a minimal force. Richard would have liked to test him again with nearly equal armies, but was held up at Antioch. Saladin was, however, able to fly back south and resume control of his army fairly quickly.

Faced with an army too big to safely fight, and with Richard far away and with too small a force to face Saladin, Philip gambled: He marched around Saladin and down to Jerusalem as the rainy season started, which was defended by a small force under Taki. Too small for Philip’s combined force, however. Philip established a siege.

Richard tried to race down the coast to help, or at least do something while Saladin was distracted, but was stymied by the rains and the need to support his armored knights (3 AK + 1 army size +2 weather—soon +3—really slowed him down, even with a ‘5’ campaign rating to continue with). Saladin staged out of Jericho and attacked the Crusader army.

Saladin, however, was not up to his usual mettle, and Philip’s army stood its ground. In a second battle, things went even worse, and Saladin was forced to retreat. He had, however, accomplished his primary goal: Philip’s army was now too small to besiege Jerusalem effectively. Philip grimly determined to continue to ravage the countryside and assault the walls, to force Saladin to continue bleeding his army against him, while the other scattered factions of the Crusaders collected themselves.

And then fate intervened again. Saladin launched a third attack against Philip and again failed to dislodge him from Jerusalem. However, Saladin himself took an arrow in the eye during the battle, and died shortly thereafter. With no effective Saracen leadership left nearby, Philip was able to carry the walls of Jerusalem during the winter of 1191. This ended the game, and no doubt left Philip as the primary figure of the history books.

It was a very good game, and exciting all the way through. I considered my move to Jerusalem to be very risky, but worthwhile if I could avoid any true military disasters, as Saladin’s larger army would bleed down faster than mine, and would allow time for Richard to collect a slightly more effective force as Saladin was pretty much forced to react to the game-ending threat. Continuing after the siege had failed was a gamble I was pretty sure would backfire, as if I took the city, Philip would either have to defend outside it anyway, or let Saladin assault when the walls were still only worth ‘1’, making it easy to loose the entire army. Saladin dieing was extremely unexpected, especially as both Saladin and Philip had rolled ’11’s for the leader loss check in the previous battle.

Anyway, the next game will probably be on Tuesday, and I’ve been pressuring my Dad to try out Pursuit of Glory—we’ll see though.