Deus Vult: 1097 AD, Siege of Nicaea
Posted on 09/04/03 @ 12:00 AM (updated 09/08/03
Title: DEUS VULT: 1097 AD, Siege of Nicaea
Game: Stronghold Crusader
March 1097, the First Crusade. The Crusader army, comprised of 50,000 knights and 500,000 footmen, crossed into Asia Minor, challenging the entire mussulman world. Divided in many corps, the Crusaders had reunited at Constantinople and decided to reach Jerusalem travelling by land. After leaving Constantinople, the Crusaders next stop was the city of Nicaea, the capital of Turk, one of the most fortificated cities in Asia Minor, the former glory of the Byzantine Empire.
During the First Crusade, Nicaea was ruled by Kilij Arslan, a sultan of Rhum. Strategically important, the city fell to the Turk in 1078 but was recaptured shortly afterwards, only to be taken again in 1081 and recaptured once more. It fell for the third time in 1086.
The city lies in a fertile basin to the east of the Ascanian Lake which provides it a natural defence on the west side. To the south and north there is a range of hills, expecially to the south where Avdan Daglari range rises to 800m high, overlooking the city. A wide plateau completes the circle to the east, leading towards Ankara. The fortifications of Nicaea have been made largely in the middle of the fifth century. It is surrounded by a double line of walls: the inner wall is very thick and high and the outer lower and less substantial. Both walls are strengthened by 370 towers, placed at frequent intervals. There are three posterns and four main gates: the Constantinople Gate to the north, the Lefke Gate to the east, the New Gate to the south and the Water Gate to the west.
During the siege of 1097 its population was mostly Christian, but it was guarded by Turkish garrison of 5,000 elite soldiers. The sultan Kilij Arslan had left for the campaign against the Danishmend for the control over Melitene, leaving his goods and family inside the city. He had taken with him the army of almost 150,000 men.
The Crusaders arrived at Nicaea in perfect order and made camp at its very gates, prepearing the equipment for the siege. Small rivers crossed their camps where they rised walls of bones of unburried Christian bodies found in the area, due to the lack of stone and wood. Anna Comnenus, daughter of the Emperor Alexius, wrote that they "rised a tomb for the dead and a house for the living in but one construction".
The chroniclers talk about the true christian spirit showed by the crusader warriors since the first days of battle. Godfrey of Bouillon and Robert of Flanders took their position on the east wall while Bohemond of Tarantum was sealing the city in the north, laying the siege on the northern wall. The southern wall was left unblockaded, awaiting the arrival of Raymond of Toulouse. Towers moved towards the walls, arrows filled the air, boiling oil burnt the unlucky soldiers, the catapults launched their deadly cargo in the skies that crashed unto the defenders, tearing to pieces stone and flesh. Soon after Raymond arrived and took the position to the south, closing the circle and joining their brethren.
And then the sultan came back.
10,000 turkish raiders swooped out from the wooden hills, heading directly for the Raymond's position, getting deep inside the camp. However the Crusaders haven't been caught unprepared. At the head of their heavy armoured knights, Godfrey, his brother Baldwin, Robert of Flanders, Bohemond, Tancred and Hugh of Vermandois clashed violently with the new enemies. Soon another 50,000 enemy raiders arrived and joined the huge, bloody battle, observed with terror by the besieged citizens of Nicaea.
The battle ended with the victory of the Crusaders who lost 2,000 men against 4,000 dead infidels.
The next day, the Christians turned back to the siege of the city. Again the screams, arrows and smoke filled the skies. The dead bodies of turkish warriors had been decapitated and the catapults launched thousand heads towards the terrorized defenders. Some towers fell on the southern wall and the wall itself had been breached in many points but the besieged citizens menaged to fill the holes each time, before the Crusaders could enter.
In the meantime the Emperor Alexius, the ally of the Crusaders, begun secret negotiations with the defenders. He was reluctant to be involved directly, because if the Crusaders failed, it would make relations with the sultan impossibile, so he tried to persuade the defenders to surrender before the Crusaders breached the walls for the last time.
And he succeeded.
At the next sunrise, at the beginning of what should be a new day of struggle, the siegers stood still, staring with disbelief at the flag of the Emperor Alexius, that waved gently in the morning wind at the top of the towers of Nicaea.
Along with the siege of Nicaea, ended the good relationship between the Greeks and the Crusaders and begun an enmity that would increase in the next months of the First Crusade.
The Crusaders have never conquered Nicaea, taken by stealth by their greek allies, but today you can make your own end, an end that was desired by the crusader leaders since the beginning. Defeat the sultan's approaching army and then breach the walls and take the city.
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This is a really good map. The work made to reconstruct faithfully one of the most important moments of the first Crusade is just great. I am a big fan of historical maps, so I only have good words to say about this map, Millenium. Here are my ratings.
Playability: As i said I really love historical maps. I strongly recommend that you read the beautiful story that Millenium provides with the zip file, before playing the game. Then start the map and you will think you are launched back in 1097, in command of a huge army of your fellow Christians, ready to assault the massive walls of Nicaea. The atmosphere is just great and it even gets better when the Turkish armies show up trying to relieve the siege and attack your flanks. Using your 70(!) knights against the columns of lightly armoured horse archers that try to disrupt your attacking forces is a thrilling experience. The only reason I didn't give a 5 for playability is that the scenario is rather easy to beat at the end, and that there's a small bug in the design(the moat around the town walls is player's 1 and not player's 2, so the Muslim engineers leave the walls and start filling it up!).
Balance: I understand the map was intended to be historically accurate, so the attacker (you) had to be really strong. You will command an attacking force of 100+ swordsmen, 70 knights, 400+ speramen and others, for a total of 1000+ men. Maybe the city's garrison could be reinforced a little, to slightly increase the challenge.
Creativity: Great work. A faithfull reconstruction of the city's fortifications and of the historical events.
Map design: Way above average. The city design is very good, you can judge by yourself if you check out the floorplan of the walls provided in the zip file.
Story and instructions: Just excellent.
In conclusion, I want to say that this is a must-see map, especially if you are interested in the history of the Crusades. Some expert players might not find it that good from the playability point of view, but it still remains an essential download in my opinion. I am really looking forward to more maps from the author!