The Long Line in the Sand

By dad_savage

I just found a rather effective means of deploying phalangites and hoplites. Now I can't say this is entirely 'new', but I've yet to see a topic on it. The way I stumbled across this is simply by playing as Greece. I like Greece and oddly enough I'm not a big fan of hoplites or phalanxes. So I usually wind up with a small number of them in proportion to the rest of my army. In one battle I desired to attempt to deploy my men in an unorthodox method. I stretched out each Phalanx into two very long lines. Then I lined them up behind each other so the back lines spears went over the heads of the first line. Then I lined up a unit of Heavy peltasts 'under' the spears of the foremost unit (set to stand ground without skirmish mode), so as to create a very long front line with only six units. The rest I arranged here and there to defend the flanks and so on.

My initial thoughts were that it would be harder for my line to cave; as if they broke one unit then it wouldn't create a hole, but rather thin my line, and as a means of protecting my peltasts from enemy charges. I was dead wrong. It did far more. When the enemy charged my peltasts they held out for a disturbingly long time with the hoplites poking their enemies over their heads. When I eventually drew them back I had four lines of hoplites fighting the enemy. Essentially doubling the effectiveness of the Greek Phalanx. Needless to say the enemy broke rather quickly!

I've tried this many times now and come to the conclusion that using phalangites is a better method as four units (eight lines) of them can fight rather the three units (six lines) of a Hoplite Phalanx. And their longer spears give greater cover to any screening unit. This is, aside from just generally being a great way to protect the likes of slingers and skirmishers without them having to run all over the shop, a means of doubling the offensive qualities of your phalanx. It's also surprisingly durable. As if any point of the unit is gutted by an overwhelming force of cavalry the horse-men's small range of attack will result in so few casualties that your soldiers will rarely break before you can counter-attack with your own cavalry. If one of your lines does break then, as I observed earlier, your line will not cave. It will 'thin'. As for troop usage I've come to the following conclusions about effectiveness with each phalanx nation. As well as a rating as to the effectiveness of the nation for using this strategy.

You can divide the Phalanx deployment into two categories, based on spear length. Phalangites and hoplites. With the Phalangite nations being represented by Thrace, Macedonia, Pontus, and Selucia and the 'hoplite' nations being represented by Germania, Greece, Egypt, Carthage and Armenia.

Hoplite deployment will look like this (regardless of cultural unit variants):

Phalangite deployment will look like this:


In campaign Pontus can achieve relatively good results with this strategy as the computer is less capable of a cohesive assault. Also free experience (by way of temples) equates to a total of +3 attack +3 defence on top of smithy upgrades. This makes Hillmen or Eastern Infantry a viable screen to sit under the spears of your main force. I would not however recommend using this strategy for Pontus in multiplayer for the simple fact that their phalangites are of uneven numbers and without free exp their basic infantry are simply not cost-effective. This reduces the depth of your recruitment pool. However simply lining bronze shields in this fashion could be an effective means of creating a strong centre in a cavalry heavy army at the cost of only four unit cards.

hillmen, eastern infantry, archers or skirmishers . Hillmen would give your front line more killing power, easterns would give it more staying power, archers would give you a solid range attack but on harder difficulties may panic if charged despite the phalanx cover. Skirmishers present a modest combination range and melee ability, but it's nothing to write home about. I wouldn't recommend skirmishers however as their slightly spread out line will mean the foremost units are not covered by pikes.

Phalanx lines:
Bronze shields. There's no denying it. If the enemy breaks your lighter troops you'll want to stop them here and your only infantry with true staying power are these hardy fellows. With front-line bronze shields you could compose the rear lines of phalanx pikes, but ideally the entire body of this formation would be formed of bronze shields.


Is there anything the Seleucids aren't good at? Sometimes I hate this nation. Their phalangites are deliciously symmetrical in comparison to the Pontic variants and they can fight four units deep as opposed to the three units of the Greek, Egyptian, Armenian and Carthaginian variants. They also have fantastic screening troops; the silver shield legionaries and amazing cavalry to guard your flanks.

Silver shield legionaries present a hardy screen to your opponent when supported by pikes. Excellent defence, attack and the use of pilla give these puppies some major killing power and even better staying power.


The Thracian's are hardly the masters of phalanx warfare. But what they lack in elite pikemen they made up for with a nightmarishly tough screening soldier; namely the Bastarnae. The only problem is defending your flanks.

Bastarnae. With solid morale and decent stats you can bet your opponent will have a "fun" time trying to dislodge these two hit point monsters with your pikes continually shoving them back.

Remaining Lines:
You've got a choice of phalanx pikemen, more phalanx pikemen or phalanx pikemen. Oh! And there's also - Phalanx pikemen. But don't be afraid to have reserves of falxmen or more Bastarnae for counter-charging through your line at wavering troops.


Though I was skeptical about the Macedonian's at first I have come to realize that what they lack in the campaign (good screening troops) they more than make up for in multiplayer with Illyrian skirmishers. These are essentially a more potent mixture of missile and melee abilities than the standard peltast or heavy peltast unit.

I'd put my money on Illyrians. But peltasts or Cretan archers are also available, although Cretans tend to freak out if they get charged on higher difficulties, but they are surprisingly good in a melee if they do stick around. However it should be noted that both these units employ a loose method of deployment that will cause their first line to be outside the influence of your pikes.

Phalanx lines:
Ideally; a crap load of royal pikemen. Phalanx pikemen or levy Pikes if you're poor or any mixture of these three that happens to tickle your fancy.


Like almost everything Carthage does this is lent a special level of lethality on the sole premise that you'll have the nigh-on unbreakable sacred band involved. Along with a major scare-factor due to the unavoidable presence of elephants..

Skirmishers, slingers and Bealaric slingers are all workable options. But beware the downside of their loose formations; especially with the shorter Carthaginian pikes. I would recommend using Spanish mercenaries in this role, personally, as a cheapo take on the silver shield front the Selucids can employ. But slingers can be effective in punishing your enemy if he tries to outflank you while in range and also make solid chariot-killers. You can always console yourself on the basis that you'll have more money left over to splurge on elephants and sacred band cavalry.

Phalanx lines:
Sacred band. These nutters have disturbing morale and fantastic stats to boot. You can build your phalanx core with three lines of sacred band if you have the cash. If not fill lines with Poeni infantry until it becomes economical.


This can surprise the crap out of people. There's no denying it, and it can be employed with a small enough number of units that you can still field plenty of your nightmarish cavalry.

Armenian legionaries. Not too shabby!

Phalanx Lines:
Heavy Spearmen, these are your only choice.

Using only a single unit of each infantry you can still have sixteen unit slots held over to field your precious cavalry. This can surprise the crap out of a Parthain player who thinks, just like him, your entire army will be mobile with no centre.


The most stable of all nations to use this strategy aside from the Selucids, but with the inclusion of Spartans this formation can take on a whole new dimension of lethality. The Greek advantage comes mostly from their solid selection.

Heavy peltasts are the most conservative option. Their tight formation allows them all to draw up under cover of the hoplites spears and they can dispense both missile and melee attacks with moderate succsess. Rhodian slingers or Cretan archers (Cretans noted in the Macedonian section.) Rhodian slingers have the same downfalls of the Bealeric variants, and the same good points.

Remaining lines:
For a cost effective option I would, personally, recommend one line of Armoured Hoplites, one line of Spartans and a last line of normal Hoplites. But any combination of the above can work. Spartan's will work best on the front line against cavalry as they're not likely to break, or in the second line against infantry to maximize their huge attack by fighting 'free' while the armoured hoplites play keep-away. Ideally you could employ three lines of Spartans, but it is not likely to be an economic choice.


Despite the relative weakness of their spearbands the Germans can give a good account of themselves in this method due simply to the selection of solid screening troops.

Night Raiders can be fun. They're scary and even scarier when your enemy is being stabbed in the head by spearbands when they're trying to fight them! Chosen Archers are a hoot with big range, chunky damage and their none-too-shabby armour value for the inevitable melee. For a true barbarian who thinks armour is for women and the only measure of a true man is carrying a ****ing huge axe, chosen axemen are the unit for you. These lunatics can dispense horrible damage when covered by pikes.

Phalanx Lines:
Spearbands represent your only option here.


The effectiveness of their force is entirely dependant on how deep your pockets are.

Pharoan archers, ideally, as they have a good melee ability combined with excellent ranged attacks. Though you could use anything from desert axemen to slingers, with each of these units having unique pros and cons (many of which are described earlier - see desert axemen as a weak yet armoured variant of chosen axemen).

Phalanx Lines:
Any combination of Pharoah's guard, Nubian spearmen and Nile spearmen.

So there are my notes on composition. Of course you will still need cavalry and the like to defend your flanks. But one of the most pleasing elements of this strategy is your ability to field a wide, durable, centre with minimal amounts of infantry. This may be an infantry tactic but it actually leaves a huge amount of unit slots free to then go on and build other strategies around it.