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Total War History
|Topic Subject:||Historical Strategy & Tactics v. Video Games|
posted 01 November 2017 02:07 EDT (US)
I was reading
Mixed forces and combined arms were both historical and represented in many games. However, actually understanding the characteristics of different military units and forming a cohesive plan was much harder than in a game where everything is recruitment lists and numbers. Also see further sections on the symmetry of deployment.
Little attempt was made to standardize Hellenistic troop types. On the contrary, the Hellenistic states reacted to contact with non-Greek military systems by incorporating yet further weapons and troop types of foreign inspiration within their lines of battle, and by devising further formations of their own.Strategic Reserves are a common technique in operational and strategy games. But for intelligence and maneuver reasons they do not seem to have ever been intentionally used in the ancient world.
The need to keep garrisons in various parts of an empire naturally created an ad hoc strategic reserve. When Ptolemy I annihilated Demetrius’ army at Gaza in 312, the latter was able to raise another one by stripping occupation forces from various provinces (Diod. Sic. 19.80.5). There is no recorded case, however, of forces being left concentrated in the rear of an area of operations solely to serve as a strategic reserve.Pitched battles were usually easily avoided, and were only a small part of the actual warfare. In most games, pitched battles are the ONLY kind of battle that happens.
In the pre-gunpowder era, the advantages conferred by natural or artificial defensive positions were such that an inferior army could often deter enemy attack simply by standing on a hill or staying within a fortified camp, while relying on city walls to protect its civilian population. Pitched battles were fought only when neither side felt at a disadvantage, and so they often occurred only after months or even years of cautious campaigning. When they did occur, this dependence on a degree of mutual consent tended to give the battles a certain set-piece formality almost akin to a duel.Deployment was usually symmetrical, with units fighting similar units, rather than the sort of opportunistic min-maxing that usually occurs to exploit differentials in strength. Such differential pairing usually only happened after a portion of the enemy army had actually collapsed. Also, the use of a single strong flank - which is very effective in most games - was mainly a tactic of the Greeks and most other armies preferred a strong center and double-envelopment.
The standard army deployment throughout this period consisted of heavy infantry in the centre in one or more lines, with cavalry on both flanks, and light infantry skirmishing in front. If one wing rested on rough terrain, then light infantry rather than cavalry might be deployed there, as at first Chaeronea and Issus. Elephants or chariots, if present, were usually spread out in front of part or all of the battle line. The result of this rather formulaic deployment pattern is that, in battles between combined arms forces, similar troop types tended to find themselves fighting one another – cavalry against cavalry, light infantry against light infantry, elephants against elephants, and so on. Only after their enemy counterparts had been defeated, or if the enemy lacked any similar troops of his own, were the various fighting arms able to engage dissimilar troop types and thereby to exploit the offsetting strengths and weaknesses within the combined arms mix.Extended front lines, very common in tactical games, were not typically used, even when massive superiority in numbers existed.
Another interesting aspect of symmetry occurred between rather than within the opposing armies. Although in Alexander’s battles it was quite common for cavalry to be deployed opposite enemy infantry, in later engagements in which both sides had large numbers of good-quality heavy infantry, the norm was for the infantry lines to be of roughly equal length even if one side had a significant numerical advantage. Armies with large numbers of heavy infantry tended to deploy their men in greater depth (as at Cannae and as with the thirty-two deep Seleucid phalanx at Magnesia)Tactical reserves are likewise something that is a much more modern innovation, and while effective in games was not practical in most real battles.
Maintaining a reserve of uncommitted troops behind the main fighting line has become an axiom of modern military wisdom, and this principle was far from unknown in antiquity. However, in this period, the principle was honoured more in the breach than in the observance. Leaving aside skirmishers, elephants, chariots and camp guards, the troops in non-Roman armies were usually deployed in a single fighting line.In many games, skirmishers, slingers and archers are very effective even in pitched battles - in Rome: Total War archers fire directly into enemies in front of your line, and are light troops are often used to maneuver around enemy flanks. Likewise in Field of Glory 2, and many other tactical games. However, this would probably be suicidal and impractical - light troops were used to screen, mostly fought each other and cavalry, and had little role in the battle itself.
The first to engage were normally the light infantry skirmishers, who screened the deployment of the rest of the line, and who duelled with their counterparts (sometimes for several hours) until their missiles were exhausted, at which point they retired through gaps in the main fighting line and played little or no role in the battle thereafter.
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