Knights of Granada
The Fall of Moslem Spain, now available as
a download that you can quickly assemble yourself,
is one of our most beautifully-designed games, and
one of the best as a two-player contest. Players lead
either the forces of Granada trying to stave off their
kingdom's extinction, or the united forces of Castille
and Aragon who are out to wipe out Islam in Iberia.
like a woman for what
you could not defend like a man."
Granada's last king makes submission.
Painting by Francisco Pradilla Ortiz.
The game is based on the final war for Granada, which lasted form the invasion
by Ferdinand and Isabella in 1480 until Granada fell by intrigue in January,
1492. Players win through capture or retention of Granada's castles, the strategic
key of the early Renaissance.
The Spanish player's striking power lies in the knightly orders of Santiago,
Calatrava and Alcantara. These are the strongest and most numerous Spanish units.
Knights of Santiago
Saint James (Santiago) is the patron saint of Spain, his name itself a battle
cry for Spanish soldiers of this era. King Fernando II of León created
the "Military Order of Saint James of the Sword" in 1162 by knighting
a number of lesser noblemen who had taken on the task of defending pilgrims
along the roads to Santiago de Compostella, the shrine where Saint James' remains
The shrine as it appears
Over the following centuries, the order became wealthy and powerful. At its
height, it counted over 700,000 members. Knights swore an oath to defend the
poor, aid the sick, and to follow a vow of "marital chastity" (sex
with wives was approved, sex with others discouraged).
The order grew weaker in the decades before the final campaign of the Reconquista.
Civil war broke out between the order's Castillian and Aragonese chapters in
1445 when a new Grand Master could not be chosen. The order lost over a quarter
of its membership through fratricidal combat, murder, and resignations.
The knights entered Ferdinand and Isabella's campaign in Granada determined
to wipe out this stain on their honor, and fought fanatically as a result. In
the first campaign, the king entrusted command of the force facing Malaga to
the Grand Master of the Order, Don Alfonso de Cárdenas.
The Grand Master led his army into a trap, as Muhammed al-Zagal lured him into
a series of narrow valleys and cut his army to pieces. The Knights of Santiago
maintained discipline as the army fell apart, but eventually broke up as well
when the Grand Master fled. "Oh God," the Grand Master cried out,
"You have changed the cowardice of these infidels into desperate courage!"
Several hundred knights and thousands of other Spaniards fell captive to the
Moors, who also took the Order's sacred banner.
The Order fought on throughout the 12-year war, and Ferdinand honored them
by allowing them to be the first Spanish troops to ride into Granada after her
surrender. The recovered sacred banner finally flew from the city's Alhambra.
Knights of Calatrava
The Knights of Calatrava began as an order of fighting monks. In 1147, the
Knights Templar abandoned the recently-captured fortress of Calatrava, claiming
it could not be held against Moorish counter-attack. Abbot Raymond of the Cistercian
monastery at Fitero offered to hold the castle with his brothers. A retired
knight had trained the monks in sword and lance, and they were fanatically eager
to die for their faith.
King Alfonso IX of Castille, probably expecting them to do just that, agreed
to let them try. For three years they held off the Muslims, and as a reward,
Alfonso knighted them. Following the Cistercian rules of poverty, chastity and
obedience, the fighting monks became the spearhead of the Reconquista, fighting
in all its campaigns. Successive kings of Castille and Aragon rewarded the order
with castles and lands. By the 14th century, the monks had lost their fanatical
edge, intriguing instead over control of the order's wealth.
The order's Grand Master, Lopez de Padilla, put the knights' vast wealth at
Ferdinand's disposal and financed the final war with Granada portrayed in the
game. The knights fought in all the important battles, but when Granada fell,
Padilla believed the order had no further mission. It was dissolved, with some
members returning to a contemplative life, and others seeking new worlds to
conquer as secular knights.
Knights of Alcantara
This order began as a small group living under monastic rule and fighting the
Muslims, called the Order of San Julian from the small town where they were
founded. In 1213 the order took over the fortress of Alcantara from the Knights
of Calatrava, who did not wish to maintain a major base so far from their other
holdings, and became theoretically subject to that order.
By 1318 the Knights of Alcantara had acquired lands and castles of their own,
and ignored the orders of the Grand Master of Calatrava. A civil war broke out
that year over election of a new Grand Master of Alcantara, and rival Grand
Masters vied for control until 1473. In that year, Ferdinand of Aragon imposed
an outsider, Juan de Zuniga, as the new Grand Master.
Zuniga re-directed the order's energies toward the war with the Moors, and
was a major instigator of the dual monarchs' decision to conquer Granada once
and for all. The knights fought throughout the war, but were never as militarily
important as the other two Spanish orders. Zuniga served as a military commander
during the wart, but his role was primarily as a political advisor.
After Granada fell, Pope Alexander VI celebrated by naming King Ferdinand Grand
Master of Alcantara for life, without so much as consulting Zuniga. The previous
grand master bowed to the inevitable two years later. Like the other two orders,
the Knights of Alcantara lost their reason for existence the moment Granada's
last king handed over the keys to his city. The order declined rapidly thereafter,
abandoning celibacy in 1540. It remains in existence, as do the others, still
holding great wealth despite the best efforts of Napoleon, the Popular Front
and Francisco Franco to dispossess them.
This piece originally appeared in December 2004.
Granada is now available at a terrific price — just download,
print and play!