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-Combat in Ancient Warfare -by Paul Bruffell-


I suspect many of you make the same mistakes I do when playing an Ancient Warfare battle. I see it time and time again when I play opponents. We are men of the 21st Century. When playing battles in our childhood we probably focused on WW2 or even more recent warfare. So it is difficult to make the mind change required to successfully conduct warfare associated with combat over 2,000 years ago.

Here are 10 tips to remember:

  1. For Medium and Heavy Infantry formations – Keep the Line, keep a solid continuous line of units in a straight line. This gives bonuses in morale tests, provides maximum frontage on combat and prevents enemy units getting in amongst your formation and attacking individual units in the flank. Keeping a solid Line is crucial for pike formations.

  2. To achieve point 1 above, I usually have a second line of units directly behind who can move in to fill the gaps as they occur during a melee.

  3. To provide protection from outflanking enemy movement or surprise attacks from the rear, I usually place a group of units to the rear of the main line. This group also provides morale test bonuses to a group to its front if within 5 hexes of that group. I tend to use a mobile cavalry group for this purpose to ensure it can respond quickly to any threat.

  4. When moving an army forward you need to ensure the gaps between your groups are not more than 4 hexes. Anything larger than this and the enemy could penetrate through to your rear without a fight.

  5. Place our best troops where you intend to attack or where you believe the enemy is going to attack if your role is more defensive. Ancient armies often routed when more than half the army still remained on the field but losses or fatigue had reached a high enough level to demoralise the rest of the army. Use your Veterans for the killer blow as they are more resilient and will fight on longer.

  6. Try to avoid your units becoming isolated and susceptible to attack from the rear. Ancient warfare units do not fight all round like a Company of WW2 infantry. The units of ancient warfare form up pointing in one direction only. If attacked in the rear your losses will be very high.

  7. Missile units are not like WW2 artillery. Only archers with the composite bow can fire overhead (indirect) and the range is short. Skirmishing is a crucial command required most of the time for Light Infantry with javelins or slings. If your Light Infantry are caught in the open against cavalry or heavy infantry your losses will be high. Protect your missile men with a unit of Medium or Heavy Infantry close to their rear. Ensure the combined stack strength does not exceed 100% then your rear infantry can charge through when the enemy is in range or the skirmishers can retire through your heavy infantry to safety.

  8. Combined arms – This is the way you are more likely to win on the battlefield. Alexander the Great was the greatest exponent of the Combined Arms approach but it requires skill to manage a mixed army. Generally cavalry are placed on the wings for rapid movement, looking for the opportunity to outflank the main body of the opposing army and hit them in the rear. Light infantry / skirmishers are at the front of the army to run interference and weaken the enemy before the main bodies make contact.

  9. Fatigue - Men in ancient warfare tire easily (fighting with sword and shield is exhausting work) and a formation can rout easily if not monitored. Keep an eye on the fatigue level. Once it goes over 40 you should look to take that unit out of combat and rest it. Once the fatigue is below 20 it is good to go in again. If you allow a unit to fight until it routs, the unit can loose many men from enemy action and simply by desertion. Getting a routed unit to recover and return to combat is very difficult to achieve. To release a unit in combat move in a stronger unit to the same hex and then pull out the exhausted unit.

  10. Commanders are crucial to your army's mobility and ability to respond to changing conditions. So, protect them. Do not leave them exposed out in front or near an enemy group without a support unit in the same hex. Keep checking your commander's range of influence / orders to ensure no friendly unit becomes Fixed (without instructions).

More to come...