The Phalanx Class

By Terikel Grayhair

Lesson One: Basic Knowledge

Put the pointy end toward the enemy, and keep your flanks and rear (the not-pointy sides) covered to prevent the enemy from getting at them.

That concludes the lesson.

Any questions?

Lesson Two: What is a Phalanx?

Phalanxes are nothing more than a group of guys crowded together in a block, really tight into each other. They carry spears, since no other weapon would have any effect when wielded in such a press. They also carry shields- sometimes strung up by a band around the neck, to leave both hands free to thrust and jab with the long spear.

Not all spears carried by phalanx troops are called spears. Some exceptionally long spears are called sarissas, or pikes, or other descriptive and melodious names. But for our intents and purposes, this being an advanced beginner course, we shall simplify the terms so that everybody understands what we are dealing with.

So, the phalanx is a block of spear-carrying men standing really close to each other. Anyone familiar with the hand-grenade would wonder why on earth would so many people want to stand so close together. Well, in those days, there was no hand grenade. There were, however, onagers and ballistae which can really ruin a phalangite's day. But more on those later.

Lesson Three: Defensive Power

Phalangites wear crappy armor. A sad fact, but a true one. Armoured Hoplites fight in phalanx and have excellent armor, but they are hoplites, not phalangites. We are talking about phalangites. All they really have for protection is that huge shield, their very long spear, and their buddies. No, the flock mentality of sheep is another subject. We are talking formations here. In the days of old, placing men in formation increased their individual combat power by multiples. Thus generating combat power meant forming up the men who delivered it into the most effective formation possible. Swordsmen need room to swing and stab- thus their formations are somewhat looser. Pikemen, needing only a bit of space to operate their weaponry, stand much tighter- and present an impenetrable barrier of layered spears toward the enemy.

This effect can be invincible when used from higher ground. Men charging uphill into a wall of spears are at two natural disadvantages- one, they are climbing uphill, and with heavy spears, swords, and/or armor, that can be quite tiring. Then, when they finally get up there all tired and out of breath, they have to face the hedgehog of spears leveled at them. Worse, the phalangites are not tired, and can carry their weapons lower and thus with less effort than when on level ground. This gives the phalanx on a hill a tremendous advantage over would-be attackers.

Lesson Four: Movement

Phalanxes have two modes for movement. One is standing still (Movement equals zero). They can perform this superbly. The other is crawl forward. This they do less well.. The phalanx can march forward slowly, but cannot run. Running disrupts the formation thus is not allowed. Those are your choices- walk or stand still.

It can turn, slowly, very slowly, but faster if you turn the phalanx option off. Yes, that is possible! ALT+F does that. ALT-F also turns it back on once the unit is set (you simply depress the keys a second time. Like a light switch- on-off, on-off). The phalanx can also run while not in formation- something any budding general ought to remember. Only while in phalanx formation (Special Ability On) is the spearwall tight and the movement slow.

Lesson Five : Vulnerability

Now, with all those guys standing tightly together, with locked shields and spears jutting forward, a clever man will note that the other, non-pointy sides of the block of men have absolutely nothing in the way of protection. They also have no way to harm an attacker. Thus the clever man will allow a phalanx to chase him, then hit it from the unprotected sides and rear with a smashing, thunderous charge of heavy cavalry (or swordsmen, or skirmishers, or anything, really- it does not matter). That will panic the tight-locked-shields men and destroy their formation. And with their formation falls their strength.

Thus it is imperative that the commander of an army with phalanxes (and hoplites, too, for that matter) GUARD THE FLANKS AND REAR of the phalanx. This can be done by placing a second phalanx next to the first, or by placing other troops on the flank to cover it. Keep your men safe and warm, and they will perform brilliantly.

This is the absolute worst nightmare of any phalanx commander:

Lesson Six: Moving to the Attack

Sometimes you will order an attack, then go somewhere else and when you return, you see your troops off on the other side of the battlefield fighting with swords. Phalangites are horrible swordsmen, and gallivanting off like that is suicidal. Berate them not, for the fault is not theirs. It is yours. One does not order a phalanx to attack a band of hostile warriors- for they will do what they just did. No, one places the in Guard mode, and orders them to walk to a piece of ground. They will kill anything in their path, and if they get bogged down, simply click on them and then Backspace, cancelling the move order. They will stop, form the phalanx, and stand their ground against all comers- until attacked from the sides or rear, but you covered those now after Lesson Five, did you not?

Lesson Seven: Fighting Against a Phalanx

Fighting against a phalanx is not so difficult, though the killing machine is a juggernaut from the front. Simply attack its non-shielded side or rear and it will melt like snow before the summer sun. Archers and skirmishers can have a jolly good time fighting a phalanx- they sit back prettily and happily exhaust their missiles against it. Often this can tease a phalanx out of line to where it can be easily destroyed. Failing that, the phalanx grows much smaller with every volley, which is also useful.

One tactic for engaging a Phalanx coming at you is the 'Get the Hell out of the Way' tactic. One simply follows the directions in the name. By splitting the forces in front of the oncoming juggernaut, you force it to choose between three unhealthy choices: a) stop, in which case its mission does not get accomplished; b) choose one side of the splitting force and attack it , in which case it exposes its own flank and rear to the other; or c) continue forward and get both flanks pounded by the enemy that returns.

Another tactic is the 'fight fire with fire' tactic, of facing it with a phalanx of your own. Cycle-charging cavalry into flanks and rear is also effective. By far the most spectacular is artillery. There is simply no defense against falling rocks or flame pots, and phalanxes move so wonderfully slow as to make artillery rather effective against them. Their lack of speed makes hitting them easier, and their tight-packed formation all but guarantees massive casualties from any direct hit. (Tip: When your phalanx is facing artillery, turn Phalanx Mode off and move like hell to get out of range- either back out of maximum range, or forward beyond the minimum range. Or go to Loose formation so any hits do not kill so many. Remember to gauge the enemy- if they begin to close, tighten up your own ranks.)

In Summation:

Keep the pointy end towards the enemy.
Keep your flanks and rear clear of enemy units and missiles.
Turn off Phalanx Mode for swift movement.
Turn on Phalanx Mode for battle.
Attack a piece of ground instead of units, and keep Guard Mode on.
Beware a phalanx coming at you.

Thus concludes the Phalanx Advanced Beginner Course.