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Medieval Army Lists

Arab Conquest

Our Subject

In 622 AD, the Prophet Mohammed and his followers moved to Medina starting a wave of conversions that swept the Middle East by fire and by sword and continued until power was consolidated under the Umayyad Caliphate in 661 AD. This is the period covered by the Arab Conquest list; a period during which the armies of Islam consolidated Arabia and expanded west through Egypt into North Africa, north to Syria and the boundaries of Anatolia, and east through Persia.


The Arab Conquest army is a balanced, hard-hitting army of Cavalry (3x), Light Horse (2x), Warband (6x) and the option of an element of Bow or Psiloi. For the lands within which it fought, it was more than a match in terms of mobility and striking power for the loosely knit armies of its opponents.


DBA provides the Arab Conquest army with four historical opponents: Later Sassanid (#73b), Later Visigoth (#80), Maurikian Byzantine (#91), and Khazar (#93). While defeat of the Sassanids brought Persian within the Arab conquest, the other three armies were able to effectively mark the boundaries of the Arab Conquest until the rise of the Ummayids.

Notes on Tactics

The traditional tactic of an Arab Conquest army would be to use their mobility to harrass and probe an opponent until a weighty charge led by the cavalry and/or warband at a point of weakness could decide the issue.

At the Battle of Al-Qadisiyyah (637 AD) between an Arab Conquest army under Saad Ibn Waqqas, a cousin of Mohammed, and a Later Sassanid army under Rustam, the armies skirmished and battled for four days, until the Arabs launched a massive attack on the Sassanian center, slaying Rustam and putting his army to flight. Another apparent factor in that battle was that the Arab archers used heavier arrows (referred to as "spindles") that had greater penetrating power than the Sassanian arrow, one veteran recalling "our archer would send the arrow from his Nawakiyah bow, but it would do not more than attach itself to the garment of an Arab; whereas their arrow would tear the coat of mail and double cuirass that we had on."

The Later Sassanid list outnumbers the Arabs in Cavalry and equals them in Light Horse, so the Arabs will normally have to win through decisive use of their foot. The Arab key will be to overwhelm the Sassanian Spear with their Warband. The Arab must also beware the Sassanian Elephant option, which can trample their warbands. The Arab Psiloi option can be employed to contain the Elephant, whereas the Arab Bow option gives some firepower against the Sassanian Cavalry.

The Later Visigothic list adds a "killer" element of Knights to a balanced force of Cavalry and foot (Warband or Spears). The Visigothic Knights can be matched by the Arab Conquest Bow element, leaving the balance of the armies in a fairly even heads-up fight. Beware rough terrain, however, where the Visigoths can optionally field two elements of Auxilia as well as their two Psiloi. The Arabs have only one element of rough terrain troops.

The Maurikian Byzantine army is 2/3s mounted including a "killer" element of Knights, and up to seven Cavalry (or five Cavalry with two Light Horse). The balance are two elements of Spear and Psiloi apiece. Again, the Arab Bow is needed to neutralize the Knights, and Warband can overwhelm the Spear and Psiloi, but some care is needed to ensure that the Byzantine mounted don't overwhelm their Arab counterparts.

Khazar is a variation on the Byzantine theme with anywhere up to 6 Cavalry or Light Horse, a War Wagon, and two elements of Spear and a single element of Psiloi. The War Wagon presents a challenge to the Arab Conquest since it is not subject to quick kill by anything the Arabs can field and its close combat modifiers (+4 vs. foot/+5 vs. mounted) overmatch anything the Arabs can throw at them. The best bet is avoid it if possible, make the Khazar Spear and Psiloi the primary target for your Arab Warband, and hope for good die rolling in the match-up of cavalry.


Here is a large image (119K) of an Arab Conquest army painted by Paul Hannah and hosted by the Northwest Historical Miniature Gaming Society. Notice that Hannah has taken some liberty with the list by mounting his two elements of Light Horse on camels. Also, his Cavalry seems to be only two figures per base, rather than three. The appearance of the army, however, with its colorful banners and careful details is outstanding.

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Comments, questions or suggested additions to this page can be sent to Chris Brantley, IamFanaticus@gmail.com.

Last Updated: Sept. 10, 1998