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To the Strongest- Suits you sir!

What makes for the best wargaming set of rules? Do you want a simulation of actual combat or a fun “ game” of toy soldiers. Do you see defeating yourself opponent as the goal or else would you wish to embark on an anecdote rich free for all? Most importantly, can you wargame without dice or tape measures?

First step with To the Strongest; learn to shuffle cards! I must admit I’m a real klutz with shuffling but Steve was much better!
Cards! Love them or hate them. Steve gave me that look which says, “ I see you’re trying something new, but really?” look!
The Ottomans arrive!

I was fielding my beloved Ottomans. I love the colour and character of the his late medieval juggernaut. Out front are the Akinji “ raiders” , fast bow armed light cavalry. Two “ madmen” delis light horse units have javelins. Three sipahi “ boys” units add to the firepower, plus finally the sultan’s guard Qapukula horse with lance and bow. The foot naturally contained the elite Jannisaries or “ new troops”, taken from their Christian homes to serve the despots. Those sneaky Hungarians had been selling their wares again to the highest bidder, a massive bombard was the centrepiece of the army. Two units of Arab “ batchelors” skulked uneasily around the camp. A Swiss army type army; manouverable and lots of shooting but how would it do against the barbarian Tartars of the Golden Horde?

Straight from Hell or Tartarus!

The Tartars were all about mounted firepower of course. Six elite light horse units and four noble cavalry units, all with bow and four ammo chits( another welcome game innovation). Their Black Sea possessions also provided a unit of Fryazei Italian mercenary crossbow and a raw unit of raw levy bow. The taciturn Alans also joined the ravening horde; three units of light horse bow.

I was quite confident that my centre could hold but my usual envelopment strategy might be opposed by the Tartars’ own plans. I put my madmen Dellis in the marshes and massed my horse on the left. It was in those marshes that the engagement looked to begin..
The fickle cards! No Tartar attack through the marshes to open the game. It would be the Turk who advanced under the ominous boom of their artillery!
The rules effectively capture a swirling melee. Don’t be offended by the cards, they are taken off at the end of each round!
Obviously the Tartars ( too) feared the big gun too! The Golden Horde considered its options.
The Ottoman left wing horse intent on sweeping away the Black Sea menace. The mercenary Italians shoot from the low hill!
Turn three and finally the Tartar nobles advance. Or rather, one brave unit leads the way towards the ranks of blue.
It’s a miracle, or a palace coup, the jannisaries fail dismally to unhorse anyone.
Battle is joined from left to right. TTS does give you that mass battle effect!
Could the Turkish centre hold? This game was set in the late 1300s so earthworks were not a feature as yet of Ottoman deployment.
The dam cracks! Elite Tartar light horsemen on my left hold the Sipahis charge and then claw their way back. A brave Turkish lad tries to turn the tide but to no avail. Another TTS welcome inclusion; heroes!
But it’s the Turkish right where things are deteriorating fast. After a fierce combat, the Ottoman general is first wounded then captured by the Alan auxiliaries. Two extra victory points are awarded.
Not content with one general, the Tartars wound another Ottoman general. With those cards perhaps the commander should have stayed in the harem!
The last Ottoman general attempts to break through on the left but to no avail. Tartar arrows fly and the breakthrough never happens…
With no flank support, the wily Tartar rolls up the Turkish centre. Double cards are drawn for a flank attack: ouch!
A Tartar victory!

From start to finish, the game had played smoothly and without too much referring to even the QRS. It is a quality set of rules, well suited I would say to multi- player games. We played the standard 130 point game and were finished in about two hours. Our one reservation about the perhaps unsightly cards disappeared when the battle is joined and you start throwing down cards like a Las Vegas card shark. Steve did suggest smaller cards or alternatively I also have chits from Simon Miller’s web store that we could try. Truly a great game and most importantly great fun!!!!

It’s a winner!


  1. Great post. I have had a few games of this and liked the concepts. PIGS is currently looking at it as a regular Ancients gaming set of rules as it is reasonably quick and we can get a game finished in a few hours on a mid week evening.

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    • For mass battles and multiplayer it’s a definate winner. Something like our other staple, L’art de la Guerre is more “ granular” but TTS is so brutal!

      Liked by 2 people

      • I’ve noticed that too: we have tried successive waves of attackers but that just leads to a jumble of players trying to access their troops. I suppose it’s quite realistic for each general to be given an area of responsibility or objective to prise from an opposing commander?

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      • It is but you do tend to loose the narrative I find in larger multi-player games. People see their own little area of the game and no the wider sweep of things. To be honest the best everyone interacts multi-player games I find are plane games. Both Check Your 6 and Blood Red Skies have everyone engaged and laughing at everyones successes and failures, yet are fast enough for all players to be involved during the game. But thats the wrong period of course…

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      • Good points! Those wings of war games do seem to attract the crowds! The other failing I’ve noticed , on land at least, is that no one wants to be left out? By which I mean, in a real battle, some commands would be held in reserve or on the defensive. What we usually get is a mad rudh to contact as ll along the table. Still we’ll keep working on it!

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  2. Sounds like a good game and loadsa nice figures! 🙂 My first reaction after reading through the start of it was that the Golden Horde might just pull off a victory, which is what happened! Shame for the Ottomans (and yourself of course) – they are one of those armies that I’d like to build but will probably never get to! Despite my initial thoughts, I was rooting for the Ottomans!

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    • Yep- I will be avaenged! More artillery and earthworks! Most of the games I’ve played with the Ottomans they have faced Western knight hosts so this was a real change, to be out manoeuvred!
      I love the Ottomans ; you do get to cover 500 years of Empire with the same figures too! I’m longing to get to Turkey and see the Army museum in Constantinople / Istanbul.

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    • Thanks mate! I’ve got to admit that my brain can’t hold much in the way of complexity! Two hours of frantic card throwing and a chicken burger is perfect!!!!!!

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