I must admit that I have always had a love for the assorted Islamic armies of this fascinating period and within the context of this game they really do have a lot to offer players both in terms of their unique fighting style and their painting/modelling options.
In Outremer: Faith and Blood a warband that is drawn from the Saracen Army List is able to heavily focus on moving around the table fast and using this sheer level of swiftness to ruthlessly out-maneuver their foe.
Saracen mounts tend to be slighter and faster than their massive counterparts within the Frankish armies, although their inherent swiftness is somewhat offset by the fact they are marginally less effective in melee.
It is not just their horses that are able to move swiftly and this focus on speed is also evident within the Saracen infantry. This reflects the fact that the fighters in these forces tended to have better knowledge of the terrain than their Christian foes and were also far more acclimatised to the heat of the Holy Land. Within Outremer: Faith and Blood this is represented by Saracen infantry receiving a small movement bonus for any fighters who are clad in only light armour.
It is fair to say that in the East there was a real focus on ranged warfare during the Crusader period and as such the armies of Islam were able to field some of the best archers to grace the battlefields of these bloody times. This is something that I have tried hard to ensure is reflected in the faction's special rules.
Firstly all Saracen Commanders would have been trained in archery from a young age and as such they are presumed to be accomplished bowmen with a natural affinity for ranged combat. Therefore any warriors who come from the Islamic Commander career path are equipped with a free bow as part of their initial starting cost. This means that right from the start of a new campaign a Saracen warband will be able to field a high degree of effective firepower with which to both suppress and wound enemy fighters.
Additionally during this era it is fair to say that technologically the armies of Islam were considerably more advanced in comparison to their Frankish foes who had only recently managed to emerge from the barbarism that had swallowed up the West since the collapse of the Western Roman Empire.
One of the defining technological marvels that the Saracens have access to within the setting of the game is the Compound Bow which has a greater range than the standard bow that is available to warbands of other factions.
Like their Christian enemies the Saracen fighters who fought and died in Outremer were also fighting for both their God and their beliefs. Thus they too are able to call upon learned religious men to support the martial efforts of their troops on the field of battle.
These Imams might not be great fighters themselves but they are able to enhance the other warriors around them using both their spiritual presence and prayers to draw out the best from their brothers-in-arms.
Overall a Saracen warband will suit players who like fast moving forces that are able to keep their foes constantly on the defensive and trying to react to your relentless assaults.
Whilst the Islamic fighters within a warband might not be as robust in melee as warriors from the other factions this is more than made up for by the fact that they are able to outshoot most opponents and whittle down their numbers from a distance.
Next time we will take a quick look at the forces of the Military Orders....