For a long time, I’ve been aware that almost any pre-modern wargame has problems with seasons. Carrying on a campaign in winter is the next thing to impossible, and many games ignore the entire ‘winter quarters’ aspect entirely. Even those that do have it abstract it a lot; each turn is several years in Here I Stand, but you only send your troops back to shelter at the end of the turn, and that’s still one of the better representations there’s been.

So, Levy & Campaign has been of interest to me since Nevsky was announced, but me and Mark only recently got to try the series out with the first scenario in Almoravid, which is just two turns. That doesn’t get into my main point above, but it is implicit in the structure, and even in a short scenario, it’s leaning towards one of my other thoughts from medieval reading, where you’d  spend a long time in a game trying to raise money so you could pay your troops for a campaign.

I had the Muslims for this scenario. The Christians start with Toledo under siege, though most of their forces are still in Sahagun. The Muslims have three Taifas active, and would have a hard time matching the Christians in a stand-up fight; the more so as they’re scattered, and Alfonso VI counts as a marshal, who can move everyone with him.

The initial parts of the first turn took quite a while to get through, as we were also getting a crash-course in medieval logistics. Figuring out just what could be done during the main part of the turn was needed just to have an idea of how to prepare for it. It’s tempting to just call up all the vassals you can, but the restrictions on feeding everyone showed that going with what we had was going to be the order of the day. (Considering there should be an attrition of troops through the game, I assume vassals will start showing up as the lords’ forces deplete, making them necessary, and easier to feed.)

Sancho I did call up his vassal, while the main Christian army concentrated on transport. Abu Bakr did the same, while Al-Mustain II levied one vassal, and Al-Mutamid pulled out Andalusians and Alrama as capabilities.

The first card/activation of the game was Sancho who started a siege of Barbastro. Al-Mutamid brought in supply and moved to Morena, while Alfonso VI marched the Christian army to Somosierra. Al-Mustain moved to besiege Jaca, accepting a reduction in service since there was no provender. Pedro used his extensive transport train to do a pair of supply actions, and Al-Mutamid drew supplies from his seat, and moved to attack Alvar at Toledo.

This was a somewhat even battle, with Al-Mutamid having more, lower-quality troops. But the dice were not with Mark. Interestingly, the number of hits generated in combat has no luck, instead it is all defense rolls, and the side taking the hit generally decides who takes it, so you can go for high-odds defense, or make sure you preserve your best troops. Missile fire saw my light horse and Mark’s knights rout, the mounted round saw Mark’s sergeants rout, and the foot round saw mine rout (on their third roll). Mark conceded the battle for the second round, and his last two units routed during missile fire. However, I lost my light horse permanently, while Mark only lost the serfs (who are always eliminated if they take a hit).

Garcia successfully foraged for provender once on two tries, while Al-Mutamid used his train to draw four provender from his seat (thanks to Hasham which I had forgotten until this point). Alfonso VI then moved the main Christian army to the gates of Toledo to start a siege, while Al-Mutamid closed the gates and put the provender under strict guard. Al-Mustain advanced his siege, reducing service again in lieu of pay. Garcia passed (Mark looked at him moving off to forage, but it was judged best to keep together for the three lords needed to properly besiege Toledo), and Abu Bakir gathered supplies before the siege advanced in Toledo with a second marker and Abu Bakir made his way to Baniskula.

Turn 2 levy got Mark some Crusaders, who went to Alvar, and Freebooters ravaged Calahorra. Al-Mustain paid his troops to stick around a little longer (running him out of coin as well). Mark had no mustering (Alvar was the only one not in a siege to begin with). Taifa Marriage (held at the start of the scenario) let Abu Bakir muster his vassal and take a couple of capability cards.

Sancho lead off the turn again, this time heading back to Jaca to break the siege, which he promptly did. He conceded the field straight off, and his army quickly routed, as did a Muslim sergeant, and he withdrew into the town with the permanent loss of one knight. But it forced me to feed the troops, which I couldn’t do, so they disbanded.

This turned my first two cards (Al-Mustain) into passes. Alvar attempted to find provisions for the main Christian army, but this was more complicated than anticipated, since of course moving supplies means consuming some, and ending at Toledo, where he’d be an extra mouth to feed if the siege progressed, so he just foraged two provender, and then moved in on his second activation. Abu Bakr moved along the coast to Lerida. Pedro drew supplies, and Abu Bakr raced up to put Jaca back under siege. The siege of Toledo finally advanced to a third marker. Al-Mutamid sallied from the fortifications, destroying the last two siege markers, but routing before getting to the foot phase, and losing both militia, though Alvar lost a sergeant permanently.

This also ran the Christians out of provender, and forced some reductions in service, which was made up in extra pay. Pedro then attempted an assault with only minimal protection, but quickly found himself routed before anyone else could join in.


Technically, there was another Christian activation left (and two Muslim), but that assault was a desperation move to force the walls before the scenario ended, and it’s failure effectively ended all operations. Abu Bakr also had a card coming up, but he couldn’t do anything with the lack of supplies.

Taking a defended stronghold is hard, especially the larger ones who have a good garrison, and it’s hard to see how it can be done here, though I expect much more knowledgeable play would give a much better chance. Certainly more time would, since the main problem is supplying the large army with provender with every siege operation. Of course, I did get a bit lucky with that early combat. Just putting Al-Mutamid inside toughened things a lot as Toledo then couldn’t succumb to a surrender roll, but the real win was being able to pull in lots of supplies before the siege started again. Between that, Al-Mutamid’s service limit, and three coins in his treasury, he wasn’t going to starved out short of a protracted siege. On the other hand, the Muslims just can’t stand up to the troops that Alfonso VI can bring with him in the field.

The rules have some decided problems. One is that its hard to see just how the opening situation could have come to pass within the confines of the rules. That’s… okay. There’s places where that needs to be done. But thinking it must be possible leads you down blind alleys of trying to figure out how a siege of a neutral fortification works, and the rules need to be very up front about the fact that it can’t happen (worse is a passage that implies it can). The more overarching problem is layout and organization. Some important rules have lots of sub-rules that need to be better organized, and are done in a larger all-caps font than the actual section header, which then disappears when skimming the rules. Just fixing the header styles would do a lot to make things easier to read, and then it would be possible to tell what does/doesn’t need rework from there.