There are a hundred ways which could be used to destroy even the most powerful and numerous armies, on the field of battle. Throughout history, commanders and generals have used flanking to their advantage, rendering their enemies helpless and confusing their own commanders. Flanking is arguably the most effective way to defeat an enemy army, and today we shall discuss how to prevent your men from suffering the same fate as many others did.
For the purpose of this tutorial, I shall fight 4 battles with 4 factions which would best represent, in my opinion, the composition and troop types of the rest of the factions.
Countering flanking attempts does not have to do only with battlefield tactics and the like, you have to keep your armies prepared for these kinds of military maneuvers by placing units that could counter a flanking attempt successfully, depending on what kind of troops your enemy can field.
Arguably the most powerful and versatile of all the other armies, the Roman legions have a great variety of unit types which when used properly, can eliminate any possibility of being flanked, or reduce it's effects.
Rome has some powerful cavalry too, which can be used to fend off any cavalry-led flanking attempts.
Now, I shall simulate a battle with a small number of men, and the same tactics can be used for larger armies as long as the troop composition remains the same. In this battle, the House of Julii will defend an attack by an army of the Gauls. The battle will also be done on VH difficulty, so that if you master the tactics displayed here, fighting against enemies with a lower level of difficulty will not be a problem.
This is how the Roman army starts out. Classic formation, heavy infantry at the front, cavalry at the flanks.
As usual, the enemy will try to flank your main formation, or outflank you. The proper approach to such a situation is quite easy and simple, but nevertheless I shall demonstrate it here.
As you can see here, the enemy will try to lure you to charge his swordsmen with your cavalry, so that they may use their cavalry to charge yours which are already in combat.
Now I really didn't expect that the enemy is this stupid, but they have charged their cavalry at our Urban Cohorts, which is a rather stupid thing to do. Nevertheless, your general can be used to charge at enemy units when your own are in danger. Always use him where your men need him the most, preferably against cavalry or light infantry. Using him against heavy infantry might not produce the desired consequences, and might actually cause him to rout.
Now, it's time to be proactive. When your enemy has miserably failed in flanking you, the rest of his men will usually start to panic and may attack your troops head on instead of reorganizing. Use your cavalry to outflank the enemy, once most of their forces have routed or no forces dangerous enough remain.
A clear victory, which shows us how useful can counter-flanking tactics be when used correctly.
Although lacking in mobility, the phalanx formation was very popular in ancient history and used by many armies, until it was obsolete several hundreds of years later. Here, we shall see how effective a regular Macedonian army would be against a Roman legionary army. The phalanxes would prove invincible as the advancing Romans are not as powerful, but it is in such situations where a cavalry charge at the unprotected flanks of a phalanx unit would decisively end the battle. This is why it is of
Macedonian Army composition: 1 Armoured General, 4 Phalanx Pikemen, 2 Companion Cav.
Roman Army: 1 Armoured General, 4 Early Legionary Cohorts, 2 Legionary Cavalry.
The conditions for this battle have not changed much. The enemy will always attack your cavalry and when they're done, they will attack your phalanxes. You must charge the enemy cavalry with your forces, and use your general to support your cavalry fighting at either flank. You should also use any idle phalanx unit to support your cavalry if it is attacked from the rear, this will devastate enemy morale as well. Once done with the attacking enemy forces, use your cavalry to outflank the rest of the enemy forces and cause mayhem among their ranks, they will be forced to attack your main line
This time, instead of cavalry, we'll be dealing with chariots, a menace to all who face them on the field of battle. There is a simple trick to deal with chariots, and that is; don't do anything. Yes, that's right. Just don't do anything. Chariots will charge your men head on, and simply put, tight formations are
Cavalry might be a little different to use against chariots. Cavalry die easier since their formation is not as tightly packed as infantry, so staying put isn't always the best idea. The best way to deal with chariots is a hit and run tactic, order your men to charge, withdraw and charge again would devestate the chariots as cavalry, based on my experience, tend to target individual charioteers and attack them at once. This will make it somewhat easier for your cavalry.
Seleucid composition: 1 armored general, 4 silver shield phalanx, 2 companion cavalry
Egyptian composition: 1 chariot general, 4 pharaoh phalanx, 2 chariot (melee)
Hint: Always deploy on higher ground if you can. Charging uphill will be exhausting for your enemy and will be less effective, while charging downhill for your men will give them more momentum thus increasing the impact of the charge.
Most of the enemy flanking attempts were as usual, conducted against our cavalry, so the best thing to do is to counter-charge, as chariots can easily wipe out cavalry units if they stand still.
In cases where the enemy general has archers on his chariots, the best thing to do is to wait until they have used up their arrows. Take your main phalanx units and make them face the enemy so that their shields can absorb the impact of the arrows. Once they are out of arrows, they will be forced to go into melee combat with your men, and then, you can easily crush them.
The Parthians and their horse archers put the advance of the Roman legions to a halt when no other army could. Why? The answer is simple; horse archers. The Romans had no means of protecting their legions from the Parthian horse archers with a lack of archers and slower cavalry. Their testudo formation also made them susceptible to heavy cavalry charges which were simply devestating. This time, we will see how well can we do as Parthia, against a force of Romans with a considerable number of accompanying cavalry.
Parthians: Armoured Eastern Gen., 2 eastern infantry and 4 persian horse archers, along with 2 cataphract camels.
Romans: Armoured General, 4 Urban Cohorts, 4 Legionary Cavalry.
HINT: If you play as the Romans and have some difficulties with the Parthians in situations like this, it is best to have some cavalry auxilia around as the lightness of their equipment can enable them to move around as fast or even faster than the Parthian horsemen.
And we begin.
The best tactic to lure the enemy units away from the main army, you can do that by sending in your horse archers early on and have them attack the enemy. They might send in their entire army or their cavalry, and you might get lucky if they send in their general. Use your heavy cavalry to charge the enemy before the rest of the units catch up, but beware, the cohorts are fast.
In these kinds of battles, the Parthians have no heavy infantry to match that of the Romans. Your best bet is to charge at the enemy cavalry, using the baiting technique described above, and preferably when they are alone. Once you rid the Romans of their mobile units, they will have absolutely no way of attacking your horsemen, and you can enjoy watching them die in pain.
The thing about most Eastern factions, is that they have cataphracts. These can crush almost any enemy unit, be it cavalry or heavy infantry, with ease. They are especially useful at flanking and outflanking enemy forces. They might be more suited to that role in a more regular army, like that of Pontus. However, a commander with enough brains can easily use the cataphracts to his advantage, regardless of what infantry he has in his possession.
It is men like these that make our days at battle hilarious. These men are perfect targets for your heavy cavalry, their testudo formation reduces their ability to fight properly, and you can easily encircle or crush them.
The Parthians' might lies in their horsemen, not their infantry. An all-cataphract army of even 3 units can destroy an enemy by using flanking maneuvers to their advantage.
SUMMARY: My personal favorite, the Parthians have the some of the most powerful cavalry armies in the world, from horsemen to the deadly cataphracts. A clever tactician can annihilate all of his foes with a few cataphracts and horse archers. Using the baiting and hit and run tactics displayed above, your foes will bow before your might. Cataphracts and horse archers can also be problematic for all commanders, regardless of their experience or skill, as their apparently random actions and unusual methods for combat are unpredictable and thus, enemy commanders won't be able to formulate proper plans to counter your cavalry. Another advantage of the Parthians is that they need not deploy any infantry to protect their lands, they have innumerable horses and horsemen, and these alone will make any invader think
Refusing a flank is a simple and easy-to-apply tactic, in which one of your flanks will be left completely exposed, preferably with fast units in place, while the other flank will have your most elite and powerful units. This tactic might entice inexperienced commanders into charging at your exposed flank, thus revealing their own flanks. With your heavy troops, you can easily flank or even outflank the opponent's army (depends on it's size) and thus crush the enemy. However, it should be noted that this tactic may not always work, some commanders will see through your trick while others might prefer to charge head-on into your stronger side, therefore there are some risks present when using this tactic.
The tactic is demonstrated here, with the Roman faction. It's a general purpose tactic and as such can be used with almost all the factions.
The method for deploying your troops is simple in principle. The best way is to deploy your lighter and faster units at the refused flank, while your heavier troops are at the other. This way, you can annihilate your opponent's force as his flanks are exposed to your elite troops.
Note the presence of two units behind the army; these are reserves, and should be called upon whenever the units holding the flank are about to rout.
The enemy commander will usually start bringing his entire army in the direction of your exposed flank.
Your opponent would most probably throw most of his army at your unrefused flank, and his cavalry behind your men. This is where you start acting.
You should start by evenly spreading out your forces at the unrefused flank in an elliptical manner, and approach the bulk of the enemy forces. This will ensure that they will be completely enclosed and have nowhere to go.
Remember to leave the enemy an opening for escape, disregard what I had said earlier. Your objective here is to drive out a numerically superior force against which you have little chance of winning in a head-on fight.
By now, several enemy units should be routing.
And eventually, you should be victorious.
However, I must warn you that this tactic does not always work. It only works when the commander is extremely foolish, or easily provoked and impatient. If the commander is experienced or smart he could see through your strategy and devise a counter for it.
The Macedonian Fist is a simple yet effective tactic, which involves deploying almost all of your cavalry on one flank and deploying a small force to guard the other. When the battle takes place, your large cavalry force can easily flank and annihilate the main enemy force while the cavalry on the other flank defend it from the enemy's flanking forces.
Most of the cavalry has been deployed on the right flank.
As usual, the enemy always tries to flank you no matter the odds.
You should counter any flanking force, and proceed to flank the enemy on
After you annihilate the enemy, you should mop up their routing forces.
I hope this guide has helped you in protecting your men from flanking maneuvers, as well as launching your own. Good luck in your future battles and conquests, general!
Links coming in a couple of minutes.
Edited and updated according to AE's advice.
I appreciate your advice Terikel, but unfortunately I wont be putting in the RTW battle pics for the refused flank tactics; the AI is unpredictable in some cases and disregards the weaker flank. I would be putting up illustrations instead.
- Cormac McCarthy, The Sunset Limited.
"We are a species that ravages, plunders, kills, destroys, rapes and enslaves in the name of progress."
[This message has been edited by Hannibal the Conqueror (edited 04-18-2016 @ 06:34 AM).]