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Thread: Order of battle question

  1. #1
    Member Member Frtigern's Avatar
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    Default Order of battle question

    I have a question to the battle hardened veterans of EB. Where do you place your veterans and your green troops? Veterans up front and greens in reserve or greens up front and veterans in reserve? I ask this question because history has shown us that the Romans put their younger hastati up front with the veterans in reserve. Other commanders would do the same in various armies in later eras, but why would you? It is been said that barbarians usually put their veterans up front, is this necessarily true for all barbarians or just Gallic tribes? What's the best reason for doing this? Did the Roman system change after the Marion reforms? Were cohorts lined up according to the amount of experience they had? I know the first cohort was a veteran unit always on the right flank. Why was this? Did that mean the last cohort on the far left column of the legion was the least experienced?

    One that I've found is that generals would put their green soldiers up front not necessarily to be cannon fodder but to slow the enemy momentum and break up their formation, so while the green soldiers would break and run, they would be faced with a fresh veteran line waiting to meet a disorganized and semi-fatigued line. But a more important aspect of putting greens up front would be to give the survivors battle experience. Is this how you play your EB battles? I know later on, we can consolidate stacks composed of all veterans, but what about when you have to fill it in with a green unit? Where do you place them? I mean melee troops.
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    EBII Hod Carrier Member QuintusSertorius's Avatar
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    Default Re: Order of battle question

    I deploy by troop type, irrespective of experience. I rarely have veterans of any significant measure anyway, since I don't retrain.
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    Arrogant Ashigaru Moderator Ludens's Avatar
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    Lightbulb Re: Order of battle question

    That the far-end of the right flank was considered the most prestigious position may have something to do with our right-hand bias. Most soldiers would carry their weapon in the right hand and their shield in the left. The right-hand side was therefor unshielded and more vulnerable. It makes sense to deploy seasoned troops there. (That doesn't mean the units in a formation were ordered by experience, by the way. You can bet the general would select a trusty unit for the covering left flank as well.)

    As for putting the rookies up front: the first ranks would suffer higher casualties due to things like fatigue and missile fire. They faced the enemy while he still was fresh and formed up. That being the case, it makes sense not to expose your better troops to the first assault. (Incidentally, we have no reason to assume that the Principes only started fighting when the Hastati routed, and the Triarii when the Principes did. It seems unlikely that the Hastiti were expected to fight to near death - and casualties would have been enormous. More likely, the Romans rotated their units during lulls in the fighting. Presumably, other nations would have done the same.)

    A second reason is that routs usually started in the rear of a formation, rather than the front. Putting the more reliable men in the rear made a unit less likely to break. (This is not simulated in the TW engine, BTW.)

    The pre-Marian Romans did indeed put the rookies up front and the veterans in the back, but post-Marian armies usually deployed in two lines rather than three. I don't think we know much about the ordering of the lines, other than that a legion would contribute to both the front and rear line. There was an occasion were Caesar held two inexperienced legions back (i.e. they did not contribute to either line), but that was probably an exception rather than a rule.

    The Successor armies often deployed all infantry in a single line. However, their phalanx units would still have the rookies in the front rank and the veterans in the back.

    As for the barbarians, this is too diverse a group (and the accounts of them too influenced by literary cliches) to make a unified statement. That said, putting the best troops in the front rank often happened in armies with little C2 (command & control). If the commander was expected to lead from the front, he would have had no oversight, making it hard for him to decide when to deploy the tactical reserve. He may have preferred to take the best men with him, anyway.

    It may also have been useful when the bulk of the army consisted of poorly-trained and equiped militia. A front-line of veterans would have ensured that the line held, while the militia could still contribute by stabbing their spears over the shoulders of the first rank (cfr. the battle of Hastings).
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    Default Re: Order of battle question

    Thanks for an informative post, Ludens.

    I wonder, however, if a phalanx (Macedonian or Greek) would need to have veteran troops in the front rank too, rather the greenest rookies at the front. Because the front rank is the rank that needs to step off when the phalanx advances (any hesitation in the front rank will disrupt the entire phalanx) - and also, the front rank is the one that needs to dress its line correctly, as all the following files base their spacing off the position of the man in front of them.

    I would put veteran soldiers in the front 1 or 2 ranks, then the new recruits, then the rest of the men in ranks of increasing experience, with the oldest and steadiest men (the ones least likely to flee) as a file-closer in the rearmost rank.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Order of battle question

    The only thing I remember reading was from tyrtaios. He "ordered" the Young Spartiates to man the first line. This however does not help all that much as:

    we don't know if they actually did, because he's not the commander.
    What applies to sparta may be horribly wrong for other greek cities or even the Successors.
    Young does not necessarily mean "recruits" considering the spartan training, so this probably is not a direct link to the Roman Maniple system.

    It does however show that the first line was most presigious.
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  6. #6
    Arrogant Ashigaru Moderator Ludens's Avatar
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    Lightbulb Re: Order of battle question

    Quote Originally Posted by Titus Marcellus Scato View Post
    I wonder, however, if a phalanx (Macedonian or Greek) would need to have veteran troops in the front rank too, rather the greenest rookies at the front. Because the front rank is the rank that needs to step off when the phalanx advances (any hesitation in the front rank will disrupt the entire phalanx) - and also, the front rank is the one that needs to dress its line correctly, as all the following files base their spacing off the position of the man in front of them.
    The Macedonians apparently disagreed. Presumably, they drilled their recruits sufficiently for it not to be an issue.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ca Putt View Post
    The only thing I remember reading was from tyrtaios. He "ordered" the Young Spartiates to man the first line. This however does not help all that much as:
    True. Also, Tyrtaeus lived several centuries prior to EB's time-frame - and we really shouldn't assume that Spartan culture and warfare remained unchanged in the interval.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ca Putt View Post
    It does however show that the first line was most presigious.
    Could you explain this? I can think of several reasons for him to want to put the young first.
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    ΤΑΞΙΑΡΧΟΣ Member kdrakak's Avatar
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    Default Re: Order of battle question

    It all depends on the circumstances. Certainly in EB battles, but real battles as well. Where you place what unit and why is subject both to standard practice, but also particular plans. Defending a high ground, attacking broken terrain, hunting for the general, fighting superior forces (in numbers) playing it safe against a devastating cavalry charge or avoiding a grinding melee (and all the reverse of that). Green troops or veterans, elite or militia.... use appropriately.
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    Default Re: Order of battle question

    Quote Originally Posted by Ludens View Post
    The Macedonians apparently disagreed. Presumably, they drilled their recruits sufficiently for it not to be an issue.
    Perhaps, although dressing the line and keeping formation under (arrow) fire doesn't sound like an easy thing for inexperienced phalangites to do. It would scare the hell out of me!

  9. #9
    Arrogant Ashigaru Moderator Ludens's Avatar
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    Lightbulb Re: Order of battle question

    Quote Originally Posted by Titus Marcellus Scato View Post
    Perhaps, although dressing the line and keeping formation under (arrow) fire doesn't sound like an easy thing for inexperienced phalangites to do.
    Certainly. But that's what drill is for: to repeat the motions until it becomes an automatism, so that the soldiers can carry them out even when they're not thinking straight.
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  10. #10

    Default Re: Order of battle question

    Quote Originally Posted by Ludens View Post
    Certainly. But that's what drill is for: to repeat the motions until it becomes an automatism, so that the soldiers can carry them out even when they're not thinking straight.
    I see... so, the less experienced the soldier, the less likely they are to think straight - and therefore the more likely they are to follow the drill? ;)

  11. #11
    Arrogant Ashigaru Moderator Ludens's Avatar
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    Lightbulb Re: Order of battle question

    Quote Originally Posted by Titus Marcellus Scato View Post
    I see... so, the less experienced the soldier, the less likely they are to think straight - and therefore the more likely they are to follow the drill? ;)
    For the record: it's all speculation on my part. We really know very little about the "mechanics" of close-combat during this age. (Much has been written about the famous "hoplite push", but the evidence for actual pushing is far slimmer than some of its proponents realize. In any case, it's not relevant for phalangites or legionaries.)
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  12. #12

    Default Re: Order of battle question

    I think Experienced soldiers in the back give the younger ones hope. They know that if they fail, they will be able to retreat, allowing them to fight without the fear of being massacred. Younger troops also will be the first to be killed in ambushes, if the front of the column is attacked. However, I think Experienced veterans should be in the battleline and not waiting by the side. They give much more morale close to the troops than sitting and waiting to flank or till the battle turns critical.


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  13. #13
    One of the Undutchables Member The Stranger's Avatar
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    Default Re: Order of battle question

    i usually keep some veteran (or elite units) in the back to reinforce the line or counterattack where needed.

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