1. Welcome to the Fantasy Writing Forums. Register Now to join us.

Ask me about Warfare

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

  1. 2WayParadox

    2WayParadox Sage

    377
    43
    28
    War is not a good thing, but there are times when it is useful as a political tool. There are times when conflicts have been resolved by relatively small armies fighting each other in a decisive battle, sometimes in a place determined beforehand. I associate this type of warfare with armies that are pretty professional and try to avoid involving the civilian population. Sure the conflicts they worked for were border conflicts between states and not empires, but the principle is better than large scale wars.

    What I'm trying to say is that I don't expect to eliminate war, but the plan is to mess up logistics and wartime leadership for a long time, every time the scale becomes too big. Returns should drop and costs rise, leading nations to opt for smaller, more professional armies.

    Am I making sense?
     
  2. thecoldembrace

    thecoldembrace Sage

    266
    128
    43
    Gotcha.
    First and foremost, War is a tool of the State. As, Clausewitz states, war is politics by other means, and its purpose is to remove willful resistance. Your ideal of a professional military force which does not engage the civilian population is predicated that war is fought with the same rules applied to both sides. Every general at the start of a war must understand the rules by which the war will be fought and anticipate what the other side will abide by. These rules are rarely the same.

    If you have war in your world fought by professional armies without involving the civilian population you will have to do several things. Your governments must all abide by some sacred rule, preventing them from involving the public. These wars must be fought on designated fields, and the side that loses must abide by the victor's claims. The populace at the same time must abide by these new claims. Soldiers must be kept in check from doing anything extra that could endanger the populace.

    Let me know if we are getting somewhere :)


    -Cold
     
  3. 2WayParadox

    2WayParadox Sage

    377
    43
    28
    Yup, that's the gist of it.
    So the objective is to go from a warring states setting with endemic warfare to this almost ritualized type of war. It's fine to see this plan as requiring decades or centuries.

    There are so many possible tools: assassination, removal of key human capital other ways, guerilla tactics, economical means, bankrupting key figures, propaganda, spreading information about the way the war is progressing (potent if it's going badly for both sides)

    A big handicap is the need for secrecy, the organization wants to remain under the radar because each of the empires does have the resources to wipe it out. But if they don't realize what it is they're up against, then they can't act. It's even more important to hide the transportation network, although that's secured to an extent.
     
  4. thecoldembrace

    thecoldembrace Sage

    266
    128
    43
    In order for me to get a few of my new classes into the excited mood that I expect from them when they walk into my room I have begun an experiment, one that I'd like to get those that are interested on this site involved into. I noticed a good deal of talk about fantasy warfare from several sets of students as I walked through their unnerving hushed masses.

    So, because I am amazing professor I have been doing short segments of lecture on how I think certain races would commit to fighting a pitched battle.

    It has proven rather enjoyable for both me and those minds that I am trying to mold. I would like to extend this same courtesy to ya'll on here. For those interested, ask but let us stick with the "traditional" fantasy races, as I do not know all your wonky creations, nor honestly do I have time to sit down and read about those you have created, regardless of my personal curiosity.

    What say you?


    -Cold
     
    Sheilawisz likes this.
  5. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    5,324
    2,343
    313
    I don't have any actual need for that kind of information for my writing at the moment, but I think it might be an interesting topic to read about anyway. Are those lecture segments available somewhere online or would you consider putting them up in some accessible format, like essays or articles or such?
     
  6. thecoldembrace

    thecoldembrace Sage

    266
    128
    43
    I can clean them up and put them up somewhere. That is actually a good idea, thank you Svrtnsse.
     
    Svrtnsse likes this.
  7. Queshire

    Queshire Auror

    1,077
    241
    63
    I second the request for them.
     
  8. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    5,489
    3,485
    313
    Two great ideas here. First, I also vote thecoldembrace puts up however much of his lectures as he can manage. Free school! Second, I love the idea of discussing the art of war of fantasy races. But, -Cold, will we re-name the thread "Tell me about warfare"? :)

    I know you said you didn't want goofy races. I've got goblins, but I readily admit I have mucked with them. First, let me establish a couple of principles. If Fantasy Race X is man-sized, bipedal, and intelligent with no magic, then it's probably going to evolve pretty much the same styles of war. The key variables, it seems to me, are physiology, technology, and magic. Unless there's some significant variation in one or more, you pretty much wind up with human war.

    So, that said, here are my goblins and how they fight.

    First, physiology. My goblins are slightly smaller than human but are built differently. They have powerful hind legs that let them leap anywhere from twenty to fifty feet, though this is mostly leaping for distance not height. They have rather long forearms that can double as front legs when they run. They are faster than humans over the short distance but lack endurance.

    They have no technology. Their weapons are the nasty talons on their forearms and shark-like teeth. They rely on speed and numbers.

    For, my goblins are a swarming breed. Normally, they operate in small packs of three or four. Sometimes a leader will emerge and they can form bands of a few score or even a couple hundred. Once in a very long while, a leader of leader emerges (called the Gniva) and a Horde is created. It can number a couple hundred thousand and up. Records are sketchy. It's really only at the Horde level that we can properly speak of warfare.

    Although it's a Horde, goblins still attack in packs. Their nearly universal tactic is for one in the pack to leap, aiming for the head of the enemy. Their hind feet are also clawed, so they can strike with any of the four appendages, aiming to slash or even tear off the head, but at least to stun. The other two or three then attack on the ground. This is the way they hunt. As bands, it's how they raid villages. As a Horde, the tactic becomes how they overwhelm an army.

    There also are halb-goblins, who have magic. By performing a ritual (it usually requires a group of them), they conjure up a purplish-black fire that they can hurl, maybe a hundred feet forward and fifty feet high. I haven't worked out the physics there. Yes, it's rather like Greek fire, but it cannot be produced; it can only be conjured and only by halb-goblins. Naturally, these creatures become a kind of king's guard to the Gniva. As you might imagine, goblinfire is devastating to pretty much any formation of human soldiers.

    Anyway, there it is, so far as I have it worked out to date. For context, I have the Battle of Hadrianople in mind here, and its aftermath. I make rather more of the siege at Constantinople, which was a brief bit of business for the Goths, who quickly decided there were easier pickings. But it does make for good story telling as the goblins come down through Dacia, work out a way to cross the Danube, and get finally to the big battle with Valens.

    Comments and questions are more than welcome.

    PS: for other novels I have in mind other creatures, so I am very interested to hear how ogre, orc, elf, dwarf, gnome, kobold, etc. battles might play out.
     
    thecoldembrace likes this.
  9. thecoldembrace

    thecoldembrace Sage

    266
    128
    43
    So, what I will do here is clean up my lectures, as I tend to have them built for oratory and less for people to sit and read, with a slight chaos to my method. I will create a separate thread, as ogres, orcs, elves and the like do not exist in our world, likely a thread in worldbuilding. This will allow comment and discussion on those topics while keeping this thread open for those who need research and information on warfare aspects of our world.


    -Cold
     
    SM-Dreamer and Svrtnsse like this.
  10. SeverinR

    SeverinR Vala

    3,530
    505
    113
    I Skimmed through and didn't see this asked;
    Down and dirty in battle. Typical fantasy has prolonged battles.

    *Did an individual soldier keep pushing forward until the finally were exhausted and killed,
    or did that actual fights not last long periods or after a time did soldiers drop back for rest and hydration, while fresher forces pushed on?
    Trying to plan out a battle, not expecting a prolonged engagement, but I might mention it to the youthful Page(just short of becoming Squire) in his first battle experience. (Basically, this fight is a small city under siege early spring after along winter, caught with most of its livestock in the field outside. So the people inside are starving, while the military outside roasted the animals upwind of the city, so the smell of cooking meat was taunting them, even more so, their own animals.)

    It's basically a writing exercise, but like all writing I can learn from it and grow.
     
    thecoldembrace likes this.
  11. X Equestris

    X Equestris Maester

    653
    232
    43
    It really depended. Most battles of the time were fairly short affairs. It takes a lot of energy to fight these types of battles, after all. I can't speak for medieval practices, but the Romans had their formation set up in such a way that a man who was wounded or exhausted could step to the right and let the man behind him move forward. Of course, the Romans were fairly exceptional in this regard, so I'm not sure how useful that is.
     
  12. SeverinR

    SeverinR Vala

    3,530
    505
    113
    I did forget to mention period-
    I would say 12-13th century period, not anywhere near firearms, but with most fantasy weapons available.

    Thank you for the Roman period. Not sure my military would be that organized, but will remember that as an option.
     
  13. Russ

    Russ Istar

    2,163
    1,127
    163
    Unless surrounded medieval soldiers almost never fought until they were exhausted and dropped.

    Most often they fought until a key moment when something bad happened and one side fled. Quite often most of the casualites were suffered during the retreat not during the battle proper.

    Off hand I cannot think of any medieval battles were troops were withdrawn from contact, refreshed and recommitted to the combat. There are lots of examples where fresh reserves are committed to turn the day, but very little formal rotation.

    I am not sure their command and control structures were developed enough to allow it.
     
  14. thecoldembrace

    thecoldembrace Sage

    266
    128
    43
    Battles are generally short, bloody affairs. The crash of battle is short and to the point, not a long drawn out slug fest that is often depicted. While this time table does change depending on the amount of men in press or the number of armies all converging at the same place at once, it still holds true that, especially in the medieval period that men cannot maintain a maximum exertion of energy in heavy or medium armor for long periods of time.

    For "lesser" soldiers, i.e. men raised from a levy or pressed into service the battle could be much longer than it would be for someone of higher importance, like a knight. Often times those of higher value could move in and out of battle when tired or injured. The regular infantryman would fight until ordered to stop pressing forward.

    However, this isn't to say that they were thrown to the wolves and expected to fight until exhaustion killed them. Fresh troops were held back by commanders to replace tiring or thrashed units to maintain a strong frontal line for longer periods of time. Timing in these cases are crucial and was a heavy factor in good generalship.

    I also wanted to add that the more organized a military the more they introduced the replacement timing. Take the Romans for example, whom Charlemagne and several other commanders used as inspiration in their military doctrines. The Roman legionary was actively replaced in combat by soldiers right behind him. Whistles or horns loud enough to be heard would blast telling the front line to move to the rear while the second became the front. This kept men fresh to harvest more meat per swing.

    Hopefully that helps, and thank's SeverinR for reviving this thread.


    -Cold
     
    Sheilawisz likes this.
  15. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

    1,474
    397
    83
    One exception might be attacking a held point: if you couldn't take it, you'd stand back and wait for reinforcements, to build siege equipment or try other tactics, or for the commander to say "the battle doesn't have time for this, we try it again!" Although a true siege would settle in to the defender outwaiting the attacker (and tying up his army outside), and knowing any of the above might change it, or the defenders' strength or will just dwindle too much. Or the defender might have reinforcements show up too...

    And I've heard that with shieldwalls, some of this might apply for a limited time: soldiers could make "battle presses" to break the other's line, fail, and fall back a short while to consider their options.
     
  16. Velka

    Velka Sage

    332
    226
    43
    I must have copied and pasted at least 50 posts to this thread into my research file! What an amazing resource.

    One question I have, that I didn't see addressed, is the difference in how an army would prepare/advance for sieging a city vs. open field combat.

    My idea is that a vastly larger army is coming to smash down the walls and defeat a city. City knows that this army is coming for them, so they decide to surprise them by marching out of the city walls and engage the advancing army in an open field scenario.

    My thinking is that the advancing army would have a bunch of stuff like cannons, trebuchets, etc being pulled along for the ride, making them ill-prepared for open field combat. City army would have horses and an element of surprise, considering that staying behind the city walls would be the safer and more viable option.

    Right now my imagined army sizes are 40K for advancing army and 20K for city army.

    Thoughts? Opinions? Please poke many holes in this considering all I know about warfare and tactics are from wikipedia!
     
    thecoldembrace likes this.
  17. Russ

    Russ Istar

    2,163
    1,127
    163
    For this to work, the leader of the larger army has to be a bit inexperienced, cocky or something.

    When one is heading out to lay siege to a fortified position, one is almost always in enemy territory and thus subject to attack as your travel. In addition, the idea of sallying out to attack besieging armies from a city under siege is pretty well known. IIRC correctly the formal term is "Sortie".

    A disciplined army just keeps its engineers and/or siege equipment in the middle or rear of their formation, like the classic baggage train so it is not vulnerable to direct attack, or at least you have to get through the fighting troops to get to it.

    Also keep in mind, depending on what equipment you were using a lot of seige equipment was built on site not dragged with you.

    So it is entirely possible that a sallying force could catch a advancing larger army unawares, but it would be more related to traditional elements or surprise, bad leadership, or a lack of discipline that would result in such a situation rather than any inherent weakness of a besieging army to engage in a field battle.
     
    Velka likes this.
  18. thecoldembrace

    thecoldembrace Sage

    266
    128
    43
    First of all thank you, Velka, for restarting our sleeping thread here.

    So let's address your question.

    I will begin by making some assumptions according to what you have written. First of all, numbers. A 2 to 1 ratio of attackers to defenders is where I'd like to start, along with your massive numbers.

    I like to quote Sun Tzu when I can because my old professors seemed to hate him and I do so enjoy getting back at them now that I am one.

    "It is the rule in war, if our forces are ten to the enemy's one, to surround him; if five to one, to attack him; if twice as numerous, to divide our army into two."

    Most historians ascribe the 10 to 1 ratio as standard for siege warfare. There are many reasons to this. One the enemy has a significant advantage when pressed into defensive combat when inside a well fortified position. They know and control the areas of significant importance and can allocate troops accordingly to snuff an attacker.

    I am going to do one more quote here, I hope you don't mind.

    "The highest form of generalship is to balk the enemy's plans; the next best is to prevent the junction of the enemy's forces; the next in order is to attack the enemy's army in the field; and the worst policy of all is to besiege walled cities."

    With your ratio of attackers to defenders, the defenders in my view would be in dire straits if they allowed themselves to hole up when they can be much more effective in the field. A 2 to 1 ratio allows the advantage of terrain or other factors to make a fight just about even if not in favor of the defenders who would know the land better.

    As a defender your job is to drive off the foe, send them packing and you do this by making their lives miserable, their campaign a march through knee deep mud. You want to do this before they devastate your land.

    Now let's assume the ratio changes and we are at that 10 to 1 stage and the defenders are in their city. Before the enemy gets there in force there will still be forces in advance trying to drive as many people into a city as possible, to cut off supplies and to halt the transfer of communication to any outside forces. These advance forces, light and maneuverable will scout and bring valuable information to their commander for the preparation for a siege.

    The defenders on the other hand will want to be stocking provisions, finding the weak points in their defenses and preparing the killing field in front of the walls, clearing obstructions to their fire while adding obstructions to concentrated attack and siege equipment. This is clearing trees, boulders, and altogether making the field something that will break up formations of advancing men, and slow down or stop the wheels of war-machines.

    The sally is something used when the enemy has begun it's siege and it has droned on for a period of time to allow relaxation to occur in the attacking ranks. Relaxation is death for anyone in war. Using a fast moving force the sally is only there to attack war machines, command elements or supplies, not to engage in open battle where they'd be quickly overwhelmed.

    Again they must make it hell to take the city, to make it take as long as possible. Winter can soon be approaching which will often drive off a force until spring thaw. Taking their supplies will diminish morale and increase the defender's own. Everything has a targeted goal of breaking the will for the attackers to sit in place and stare at a wall for months, years.

    Early in a siege an enemy is prepared, is ready to defend their prized war-machines. They won't even bring them to the fore until the ground is secured. A defender would have to wait, or should wait for the most opportune time to deal them damage.

    Also, rethink your numbers. 20k defenders is a LOT of men inside a city defending the walls. They will eat provisions at an alarming rate. The same is applied to 40k attackers. They will strip the land like locusts and churn through a state's treasury like mice to cheese. The same feeling of awe inspiring numbers can be applied with smaller troop concentrations.

    Let me stop here and see if you have questions to go along with this.
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2015
    Sheilawisz and Velka like this.
  19. Velka

    Velka Sage

    332
    226
    43
    Thank you for thoughtful responses Russ and thecoldembrace!

    That is a factor in things. Attacking army is so used to everyone hiding behind their walls when they come knocking, the idea of the defenders facing them head-on is a possibility that is going to be dismissed by leadership.

    So you're saying that an army, experienced in sieging cities, would be bringing ten times the men they were expecting to face that are defending the city. My math needs to change!

    Glad to hear my idea of having them bring the battle to the field, instead of turtling in the city isn't completely preposterous. For story reasons I can't have a prolonged siege of the city, I need a much "faster" battle between the two armies.

    I totally get what you're saying about the mass amount of money, and resources needed to sustain both the defenders and attackers. At this stage I am still in outlining and planning stage, so I am free to change numbers. If there were 1500 defenders, how many attackers would an experienced army bring (who is operating under the assumption that the defenders will hide behind the walls)?

    Is there any tactical advantage (to the defenders) by forcing the battle to be open-field instead of the prolonged siege situation the attackers are expecting?
     
    thecoldembrace likes this.
  20. thecoldembrace

    thecoldembrace Sage

    266
    128
    43
    Well ten times is what most commanders would like. Few can actually call that many. Most make do with the 5 to 1 ratio, enough to attack so long as a well conceived plan is thought of and conducted to lower the casualties that will inevitably occur.

    Now when you say an "experienced army" I assume you are referring to a rare unicorn where everyone is a veteran of siege battles. I say this because veterans are not often many in medieval or ancient warfare. The veterans you have are leading the more "raw" or "green" troops which make up the bulk of generally any medieval or ancient force. Most of these green troops are not true soldiers either, most are likely levies pressed into service in times of war.

    But, for the sake of argument let's say you have a veteran army. They know they are facing around 1500 defenders. Commanders would like to bring the x10, but most likely would field a believable army of around 8000-11000. It gives you some room to finagle your numbers.

    This amount of men would allow for attrition and still have men to spare. Disease is the largest cause of loss of life in war, it beats all other forms that cause men to die. Men often literally camp, sleep and eat right next to where their waste is. Many men will die from various forms of disease while waiting for a siege to end, both inside the walls and outside. Commanders try to combat this by discipline "go out into the woods away from camp and use the bushes," and by adding more men to their ranks to fill the inevitable holes.

    Now with the above being stated, an outnumbered army will always tend to look for a safe haven to hole up in. When numbers prevent even the land from truly helping you defeat an army on the field you must find a level playing field. Walled cities are the bane of any campaign or commander who wants an swift end to a conflict, hence why most noted generals throughout time only resort to siege at last resort.

    Taking to the field is a compromise. Commanders know they will lose a lot of men in a short span of time, but a single battle can decide the rest of the war, or lose it. The advantage might be in your case, using the veterancy and likely pride of the invading army against them. If your defenders can pull the enemy into a battle where their numbers can be taken away, and suffer a defeat you can force blunders by enemy commanders. Understand your foe, everyone has a weakness, everyone overlooks something.

    Lastly I will say if your force which you have stated uses a lot of cavalry, sitting behind walls might be detrimental to their success. A few good defenders behind walls could force an enemy to siege it while your best men on horse can stay outside acting as stinging raiders, cutting their supplies and making life miserable. When the enemy is at their lowest tolerance they make mistakes and invariably that is when good commanders strike a decisive blow.
     
    Velka and Sheilawisz like this.
Loading...

Share This Page