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Ask me about Warfare

Discussion in 'Research' started by thecoldembrace, Mar 3, 2014.

  1. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    While I am confident I am not one of your old profs, I stand with them on Sun Tzu. Highly overrated to me.

    Give me Vegetius any old day of the week.
     
  2. Velka

    Velka Sage

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    Overall, my plan is for it to be an experienced army. This is their people's thing and pretty much all they do. You are right though, not everyone can be hardcore experienced, due to the high turnover war causes with death and dismemberment. The 'green' troops wouldn't be completely useless though, as everyone would have military training since they were young (kinda like Spartans). Commanding ranks would be experienced, but acknowledging the rate of attrition constant warmongering and sieging would cause, this actually does open up more opportunities for the defenders to have a plausible chance against the attacking army.

    I do like the idea of having disease also play a factor in weakening the attacking army, but like I said, I don't want this to be a long, drawn out battle (over in less than 2 weeks is what I'm aiming for). I'd have to take a look at the incubation times of common diseases that would afflict them and see if I can throw in some good old fashioned cholera or something.

    The more I'm fleshing this idea out, the more I want to use hubris as their downfall.

    I like this. I imagine the raiding parties would be small, perhaps 10-20 people each for speed and element of surprise?

    Thank you again for all this. I'm going to muck about with it some more and see where it takes me.... then I'll likely be back with a tonne of new questions, or to run ideas by people who actually know what they're talking about.
     
  3. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    Two weeks is pretty fast, but for a siege busting illness you can't beat our old friend dysentery!
     
  4. thecoldembrace

    thecoldembrace Sage

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    Yeah, I am no expert in any sense on disease activation times. I would second Russ's idea of dysentery. Even if it doesn't kill the soldier it makes them weak, and weakness in battle is death. Also you could use something airborne. I remember reading some time ago about a failed invasion that an invading army was thinned by the plague after raiding and sacking a small town where the disease was already prevalent. The disease did enough damage to the invaders that they just went home. You could do something like this.

    -Cold
     
  5. Zadocfish

    Zadocfish Troubadour

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    From the "without bows or arrows" thread: Would a nation without meaningful ranged weaponry be able to compete against a nation with bows... or catapults? I'm beginning to doubt my position on that.
     
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  6. X Equestris

    X Equestris Maester

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    There are a lot of factors at play there, but I doubt it, at least if there isn't some way to neutralize the enemy troops with ranged weapons. European forces had a long history of trouble dealing with Middle Eastern and Central Asian horse archers, and they didn't stop being a serious problem until well after gunpowder came along. Keep in mind that Europeans had ranged weapons, too.
     
  7. Zadocfish

    Zadocfish Troubadour

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    I would imagine defenders with the ability to increase distance quickly coupled with an accurate ranged weapon would be nightmarish for an invading army... So I can see where horse archers would be hard to deal with.
     
  8. DMThaane

    DMThaane Sage

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    There's an easier solution than this while playing more into the hubris angle. Simply have the attackers move at a forced march, assuming that they'll meet no meaningful defence and can rest up after putting the city under siege. Having decided that the defenders would never be foolish enough to fight in the open, they don't bother to effectively scout ahead, causing their exhausted army to blunder into a rested and organised force. The battle proceeds in accordance with the requisite styles of the two armies, the attackers route and the defenders gain a significant victory against the odds by acting against expectations.

    This has the added bonus of the unlikelihood of the defender's tactics being the very thing that causes them to succeed.
     
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  9. thecoldembrace

    thecoldembrace Sage

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    If your nation without any meaningful ranged weapons was to engage one that used them to the tactics they are ascribed for, yes, it would have a significant hurtle to overcome in each engagement.

    Ranged weapon systems are meant to endow men with two capabilities. To harass, not kill at a distance (killing is just a bonus) and to keep the man employing the system the ability of speed should distance be closed. Ranged weapon systems cause fear, fear of injury, fear of death, and fearful intolerance at not being able to strike back.

    For your nation I can think of a couple of things that "might" allow them to compete. If your ranged nation had not developed significant penetrating power with their missiles, your non-ranged nation could have superior armor along with tactics of using shields to a higher degree. This is all theory mind you, and while people suddenly think of the Roman testudo, I hold very little confidence in that formation for reason's I'll not get into on this current question. But, something like it could be effective, minding the fact that the group using it would need to find a way to stay mobile.

    Terrain: Have your non-ranged nation use this to effect. People think of archers in trees a lot, and while that is a nice image, in large drawn out battles its rather useless. Trees prove to be shields and obstacles archers must overcome and it is extremely difficult to unleash a large deal concentrated of fire in thickly wooded and brushed areas.
    Flat land, area enough where armies can employ their men in extremely loose formations and avoid bunching would be another.

    You may have a ranged nation, but do they use horses effectively? Could your non-ranged nation rely on light cavalry to get around and chase down often weak and unprotected archers so that your infantry in traditional formations can fight evenly against theirs?

    I know I probably added more questions than answers, but it will give you stuff to finagle your original idea with. Hope it helps some, Zadocfish.


    -Cold
     
  10. Zadocfish

    Zadocfish Troubadour

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    Oh, I'm not the one with the idea. I was on the side of the fence saying that a world without ranged weapons would be very nearly impossible due to how effective and easy-to-invent they are.
     
  11. Velka

    Velka Sage

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    That is an amazing idea! (And much more fun to write than an army crapping themselves.)
     
  12. trentonian7

    trentonian7 Troubadour

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    I know I'm way late into this thread, but I was wondering if anyone could help me understand just what made the Roman legions so effective. I understand of course the logistics and organization were a large part, but I'm not sure if their battlefield tactics were that revolutionary, or if they even fought differently at all. They maintained large numbers of heavy infantry, light cavalry on their flanks, skirmishers in the front, archers, and reserves; this seems fairly standard from what I can tell. I understand they launched their javelins before entering hand to hand, but how exactly did they engage? I don't think they used the phalanx and my current impression is that they advanced with their shields locked??? Did they extend their spears and move towards the enemy, drawing their swords when combat became too thick for spears? I apologize for the disorganization and any false information, all input is appreciated.
     
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  13. thecoldembrace

    thecoldembrace Sage

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    Hello there, trentonian and welcome to the Scribes.

    As to your question, lets get started.

    The Roman military was the world's first 100% professional army. There is a major difference between an army that is only risen at certain times of a year or campaign season, or one that is risen only in times of threat and one that is there all the time, every day of the year. Going into this army is a great deal of structure, discipline, maneuverability and flexibility.

    Training is key for the Roman war machine. 4 months of basic training drilled soldiers into professionals. Anyone who couldn't match the pace would either be discharged or put on a ration of a nasty barley porridge until they got the drills right. Dummy weapons weighed twice as much as the real thing to build muscles and stamina. Each man had to be able to march 20 miles within 5 hours wearing a full pack that weighed up to 50 pounds.

    Discipline was a high priority with each man upon recruitment made to swear an oath to follow all orders for the Roman state. Even the smallest infraction was punished severely. Camp sentries who fell asleep were often stoned to death for putting the entire camp in danger.

    At the end of a day of marching the legionary would often have to build a fortified camp of ditches and a walled palisade that would keep the men inside safe from attack throughout the night even deep in an enemy territory. This also provided the psychological boost of lessening stress on the men which was also heavily part of their mind set.

    The early roman military used a system of maniples (handfuls) to replace the rigid phalanx of the greeks. These maniples where made up of 3-4 parts of velites (who were often the poorest and armed only with slings and javelins), hastati, principes (these two as the mainstay infantry and triarii (older men who where also armed with spears. These maniples were extremely maneuverable, used in a variety of ways to stay as flexible as possible with terrain and enemy tactics, and could be used to get around an enemy's flank and rear.

    The later roman military under the Marian Reforms did away with the rule that only property owners could join the army and opened it to all citizens. This gave the military a massive influx in manpower, allowing the romans to often field forces that outnumbered their foes. It also saw a change in the individual soldiers, standardizing the legion. The maniples changed from the four tiered system to a standardized whole, making the cohort. Each legion was well led by career soldiers who had been in dozens of campaigns and understood through learned experience how to deal with most problems facing the army.

    The spear was never really key in the roman military, the stabbing sword was. Close hand to hand fighting was how the Romans dealt with their foes. They used their shield both as a defensive tool and an offensive weapon, and used the gladius to stab, not to slash, generally at the belly where there was no bones to get the weapon caught. Pila were carried and thrown before battle to take away enemy shields, and to break up enemy formations so that when the hand to hand came into effect the roman machine could chew them up.

    Men in the front were moved to the back during fighting in successive waves, keeping men fresh and keeping the machine moving forward. Basically the legion was a meat grinder, and because of it's flexibility in combat was very difficult to defeat.

    Its good to note that when the roman army was most often defeated it was when they had lost their prized maneuverability. When they were bunched together to the point they could no longer successively operate their swords they were generally slaughtered.

    Equites where kept on the flanks and used to harass and break up enemy formations so the infantry could punch through the enemy lines.

    Reserves were held behind the lines to make sure the enemy could not envelope them or turn the army's flanks.

    Hope that helps answer your question.


    -Cold
     
  14. X Equestris

    X Equestris Maester

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    Typical Roman legionnaires didn't use spears. They carried heavy javelins, called pila. These were thrown just before making contact with the enemy, after which they drew their swords: the famous gladius. In earlier times, the last rank of maniples, the triarii, had spears, but they didn't usually engage. Later auxilia units did have spears, though. Rarely were enemies able to go toe to toe with legionnaires and win. Most defeats of the post-Marian reform Roman armies by foreign opponents were in ambushes, like what happened at Teutoberg. And as thecoldembrace says, getting bunched up was common when the Romans lost, as that messed up their cohesion and maneuverability. Of course, by the Imperial period the Romans had few foreign opponents at all. Of these, Parthia was the only one that remotely equaled Rome.

    Roman cavalry was often very poor, and this was a factor in their defeats by Hannibal. By the time of the Late Republic, Rome relied on mercenaries and cavalry from client states. In the Imperial period, they typically recruited cavalry from the populations of Gaul and Pannonia. The same is common with their skirmishers: the velites were eliminated after the Marian reforms, and were replaced by mercenaries and contributions from allies/clients. Cretan and Syria archers, Rhodian slingers, etc.
     
  15. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Archmage

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    New question from me!

    If say the Hellenistic world was not military and politically conquered by the Romans but instead the phalanx continue to be developed and improved upon, how would you say that it would come about as the centuries passed and new enemies rose and fell? Is it likely that it would survive the arrival of the stirrups in the way that the old Roman legions did not? Would it develop into the Late Medieval/Renaissance pike formations? I'd love to hear some comments and get some insight into this.
     
  16. X Equestris

    X Equestris Maester

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    I honestly don't know. The greatest weakness of the phalanx were the gaps that often developed during battle. With their more flexible formation, the Romans were able to exploit these gaps to great effect. As a formation, the phalanx doesn't work too well in rough terrain for this reason. The gaps can get truly gigantic in this situation. I believe this happened to Alexander once during his campaign against the Persians, though he still won the battle.

    If the phalanx were to endure, I think it would need to be an equal part of a combined arms system, with very good skirmishers and cavalry alongside it. So good they could break the wings of an opposing army and execute a hammer and anvil before the opposition can exploit any gaps that develop in the phalanx.
     
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  17. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Archmage

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    Do you think that it would be correct to think that reasonably the phalanx would develop larger and larger supporting unites until the point that the phalanx is entirely disbanded from the armed forces? And that a Roman Legion-style army is likely to take its place, grown up from the various supporting unites created to originally support the phalanx?

    EDITED: I don't per necessity need to known how the phalanx would develop as such, only know in general how Hellenistic warfare would reasonably develop in the absence of a Roman enemy to conquer it.
     
  18. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    War in the west is a funny thing. It changes and it can change quickly. It is a dynamic process that has to react to changes in its environment and what the opponent does.

    If you look at history, no tactic or style of fighting remained dominant forever when faced with foes of a similar technological/economic base.

    If the Romans had not broken the phalanx, in time, someone else would have. Or, someone else would have presented a military threat that would have forced the Greeks to move away from that tactic. War fast tracks many changes, and with flexible intelligent belligerents the fighting style and/or technology is one of the things that gets changed the fastest.

    So, for a very practical point of view I think that the Greeks, even if the Romans never showed up, would have changed their tactics over time.

    Having said that, if one of the goals of your work is to highlight the culture or history of the hellenistic period, or if you are using the phalanx for its symbolic or representational value, I would say "be damned" with military evolution and stick with the phalanx. However if you are trying to write "hard" alternate history you have to look carefully at time frames, environment, technology and opponents to try and figure out how long the phalanx would have remained dominant with or without the Romans.
     
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  19. Jerseydevil

    Jerseydevil Minstrel

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    This is going into the realm of Alternate History and some major speculation, but here we go.

    Horse archers from the late Roman periods (Huns, Alans, etc) would absolutely devastate a phalanx. The large, densely packed blocks are a perfect target for the archers, who would simply run around the formation and pepper it with arrows. This was always a problem for phalanxes, as seen at the battle of Sphacteria. Spartan hoplites were harassed constantly until they were forced to surrender, unable to come to grips with light Athenian skirmishers. Also, the Thebans made very extensive use of missile troops when they defeated Sparta later on.

    If Rome and its system never existed, it is possible that the phalanx would disappear anyway, as there were constant innovations, such as increased use of missile troops and cavalry, which can rip apart a phalanx if it hits from the side or rear. Europe, (provided that the Greeks expanded into Western Europe, like the Romans did), would have developed more of an emphasis on ranged weapons to counter this.

    The rise of pike formations in the late middle ages is European military planners rediscovering the ancient methods and trying to incorporate it into their armies. The main method for warfare was heavily armored knights to charge straight down the center and hit the enemy head on, which would shatter the formation, which could be ridden down at will. Pike blocks are very effective to counter this. If this type of warfare did not develop, then pike block would not have been created as a response to it. European warfare would probably be more based on missile troops to counter the phalanx, rather than the heavy cavalry based warfare.
     
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  20. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Archmage

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    Thanks for the answers! The kind I was hoping for. :)

    EDITED: I had written a new reply but decided that I would remove it since it was kind of not leading anywhere. Again, thank you for your posts!
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2016
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