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Thread: Swords vs Phalanx

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    Amanuensis Member pezhetairoi's Avatar
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    Default Swords vs Phalanx

    Okay, here's the situation. You're playing the Brutii, you're in the early game with not even one measly unit of archers, and (if you're lucky) at most one of Cretans. You have 2 units of velites and 6 units of hastati. You've got 4 generals.

    The enemy is Greek, has 3 hoplites and 3 militia hoplites, and one general in the city. How will you take possession of the breach with limited missile troops and a bunch of swordsmen who get poked to death on a bunch of long pointy sticks? Or let's increase the contrast. Instead of Hastati, let's have Iberians. Instead of Velites, try skirmishers. How would you go about winning the battles?

    Right now my idea has been to shower the enemy with whatever missiles/stones/arrows/javelins/frying pans that I have, then rush my iberians into three breaches adjacent to one another, with the generals following a few seconds later. It's worked, but the casualties are not very pleasant.

    Are there any better ways of doing this?


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  2. #2
    Chief Biscuit Monitor Member professorspatula's Avatar
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    Default Re: Swords vs Phalanx

    Against phalanx units, and only having weak sword infantry and basic skirmishers, you can expect heavy casualties in frontal attacks during a settlement battle. Phalanx units at their most lethal in these narrow-quarter battles.

    You're on the right track though, showering the enemy with missiles. Before you enter the city, the AI often wastes its men by walking them within skirmisher range and in front of the gates. Keep firing at these idiots when they walk past. If missiles are running low, turn off fire-at-will mode, and only tell your skirmishers to throw their javelins when the enemy are walking from left to right so that their shield is on the wrong side to protect them from the missiles. (I'm assuming this is a wooden wall city and not a stone one.)

    And then prepare for carnage as per usual I suppose. If you have the time, try and make one breach around the side of the enemy settlement, so that when your main army attacks through the front of the city, you have a couple of units able to sneak in and attack the enemy from behind. Won't work if the enemy keeps some units in reserve at the Town square mind. Cavalry is good for flank/rear attacks though.

    You'll really rely on making on the enemy rout when attacking them in the streets. Once they rout and they have their back to you, cavalry will finish them off fast. Routing them is the tricky thing though. You need to break up the phalanx formation. Cavalry charges can work well, but if the initial cavalry charge comes to nothing, you'll take large losses. To break up the phalanx line, you could tell you cavalry or infantry to attack a unit behind the nearest phalanx unit, so that they try to run through it. This may sound suicidal, but your men will try and break through the line of the first phalanx unit to reach their goal, hopefully breaking up the rigid phalanx formation, and forcing the hoplites to use their rubbish swords which makes them easier to kill. Often if you just click on the first phalanx unit to attack, your men get stuck on the spears and struggle to get near enough to inflict damage. See near photo-realistic demonstration below:

    Eg:
    HHHH -- Hoplites waiting to poke your men, Attack these
    HHHH -- Hoplites poking your men
    IIIIIII -- Your infantry getting poked.
    IIIIIII -- Your infantry waiting to get poked and possibly wetting themselves at the thought.

    With Hastati, the battle is easier: have them on fire at will mode and line them up behind one another when you enter the city. Let the Hastati fire at the enemy on their own accord, and each volley should wipe out a large number of the enemy hoplites. A couple of volleys at close range might rout some hoplites too.

    Try and hire some merc hoplites for battles against the Greeks. They'll help level the playing field.

    And that's all the useless information I can give regarding your situation. Try bringing along some dogs or Scutarii or whatever else you can next time to give yourself more options.
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    Member Member Productivity's Avatar
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    Default Re: Swords vs Phalanx

    I assume that we're talking wooden walls here. Multiple breach points, you have eight foot units, they have seven units total.

    That means that they can at best plug seven holes in their walls. So put eight (or more if you feel like going over the top) holes in their walls, and look at what hole they leave uncovered. Move that unit in, and then watch as they move their units to meet it, leaving more holes uncovered, move those units in etc. By the end you should be able to get a little maneuvering going, until you can hit one enemy unit in the back.

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    Nobody Important Member Somebody Else's Avatar
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    Default Re: Swords vs Phalanx

    Breach the walls, in at least two places - I usually go for the gate and the wall next to it. Use javelins to force the enemy away from the breach, as soon as this is done, rush the infantry in and have them deploy facing along the wall so as to receive the counter-charge. Then, move in the cavalry through the other breach and hit them in the rear. Mop up as necessary.

    If you can't lure them away from a gap, and there's one phalanx unit blocking the breach, send in two units of infantry, or cavalry. They will engage the enemy - make them disengage, anr run in opposite directions - with the phalanx unit in between. Then make a phalanx sandwich.
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    Humanist Senior Member Franconicus's Avatar
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    Default Re: Swords vs Phalanx

    Break the gate. They will propably block it with a phalanx. Pepper this. Then break the wall on the left and right. Let your swords attack the phalanx from the side. Maybe use javelins from the other. Use your general only to fight their general.

    I once fought a unit of triarii that blocked a hole with British head hurlers. It was increadible efective. I killed 2 of 3 without casulties.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Swords vs Phalanx

    I rarely use my general in sieges, especially against factions with factions.. Usually send him in when the other troops get to the center, as a gesture of triumphalism..

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    Member Lancome's Avatar
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    Talking Re: Swords vs Phalanx

    If I were you I would get Merc Hoplites and Poke them back. Anyways, I go agree w/ the multiple Breaches in the Gate and 2 on the walls Next to the gate. Yea, Breaching from the Flanks is a good Idea since its a free invite to your units, If you have any Cavalry rush'em to the main battle and hit those Hop's from the Rear !!!!!!!!!!

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    agitated Member master of the puppets's Avatar
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    Talking Re: Swords vs Phalanx

    i won't attack at all, be a tactician dude! just lay seige until they starve (unlikely) or salley forth. when they salley put your skirmishers to harrass them as they walk twards your mass of hastati. when they get close hastati throw pila and run. enemy follow. during this time your general cavalry is inching around the flank of the hoplites. send one to engage and chase away there general and the restr to attack them in the back. the moment the lines are fractured charge in all infantry, even depleted velites and overwhelm them.

    thats how i'd do it.
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    Member Member hoom's Avatar
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    Default Re: Swords vs Phalanx

    Multiple breaches is too cheap.

    Train up some more people & take the hits.
    Merc hoplites is a good idea if you can find em.
    Also, make sure your swords are off defensive mode so they can get round to the flanks.

    If its stone walls just scale them & chopem up.
    maybe those guys should be doing something more useful...

  10. #10
    Senior Member Senior Member Oaty's Avatar
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    Default Re: Swords vs Phalanx

    Swords beat spears

    Merc hoplites is the #1 option IMO. You can use the hoplites to tie them up frontally and then hit a flank with your hastati.

    But before you breach the walls have fire at will off. This way when you breach or are about to breach you can unload volleys on them causing them to back away and let you come in freely on the breech.

    The killer unit is always that 1 unit that stayed at the town square and if your out of missiles you can't lure them out.
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    Amanuensis Member pezhetairoi's Avatar
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    Default Re: Swords vs Phalanx

    Great advice from all of you, thanks! But some questions... Someone Else, wouldn't making the phalanx sandwich at the walls be dangerous? What with the hoplites blocking the breach they'll take pokes at your hastati while they run to either side... Master of puppets, the problem with your idea is that I work on strict schedules so I don't like to wait out sieges...if that were the case it would take the Brutii forever to conquer the east since they're all phalanx civilisations.

    I had a custom battle where the hoplites just waited in the road leading to the square from the gates, just out of velite range and just near enough to kill velites as I tried to get them through the gates to put them in range of the hoplites. That could be a problem.

    And also, about the cavalry charging through a phalanx into the one behind tactics, just curious, but...what if there -isn't- a phalanx behind? Does it still work? Never tried...

    Aaaaaand... dgb, your tactics may be a little timewasting :-P Firstly to make eight breaches without using the same ram, it'd take you 8 rams which correspond to 2 turns' building time even with a full-stack, and the full duration of the battle in manoeuvre... But still it's an interesting option to try in times of boredom! ^_^

    I shall now go home to try out the suggestions on Corinth and Sparta... Thanks everyone! My name may read 'Master Strategist', but too bad there wasn't enough space to put in the other half, 'Mediocre Tactician'. I'm serious.


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    Member Member Productivity's Avatar
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    Default Re: Swords vs Phalanx

    Quote Originally Posted by pezhetairoi
    Aaaaaand... dgb, your tactics may be a little timewasting :-P Firstly to make eight breaches without using the same ram, it'd take you 8 rams which correspond to 2 turns' building time even with a full-stack, and the full duration of the battle in manoeuvre... But still it's an interesting option to try in times of boredom! ^_^
    You underestimate how bored I can get. I once went around and broke down every wall in a city with only two rams .

    Well it would work, even if it would take a while to do it. I also fail to see why it's a cheap tactic. It's hardly exploiting the AI.

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    Member Member CMcMahon's Avatar
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    Default Re: Swords vs Phalanx

    You know what I don't get? Why phalanxes can't be used on stone walls. That and the fact that if I was guarding a fortress, I'd most definitely put siege weapons on top of those towers. And repeating ballistas on the ends of the walls.

  14. #14
    Nobody Important Member Somebody Else's Avatar
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    Default Re: Swords vs Phalanx

    Quote Originally Posted by pezhetairoi
    Someone Else, wouldn't making the phalanx sandwich at the walls be dangerous? What with the hoplites blocking the breach they'll take pokes at your hastati while they run to either side...
    Yes, some will die - but hastati are cheap, just make sure they don't have another phalanx ready to come in and counter-flank. The thing is, the AI doesn't stick its blocking units close enough to the gap to actually block it. Anyway - I only do this when I've had spies open the gates for me, and I don't want to go through a siege. It actually works better using the general units - as they have a couple of hitpoints which help get past the phalanx in the first place, and a double charge from both sides should be enough to finish them off.

    The double breach thing is still a better method, gives a little more room to play around, and do the crucial thing, which is to hit the phalanx units in the rear, or flanks.
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    Member Lancome's Avatar
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    Default Re: Swords vs Phalanx

    I agree w/ multiple breaches. Imagine Charging at a group of sparts head on in a breach. Sparts = Screwed.

  16. #16

    Default Re: Swords vs Phalanx

    After you breach the enemy walls in multiple areas (don't have to be as many as 8 in my experience I usually breach 3-4 and it works well on H/H AI) don't rush your breaching units in immediately. Then see which gap they leave open, and rush your main assault force in from there (usually the AI will heavily defend the area around the gate, leaving 1 unit at the city corners to flank). If your breaching units stand in front of the breaches without attacking it would cement any AI units attempting to hold the breach where they stand, thus your main assault force can flank them. If they turn away from the breach, your breaching units can rush in and flank them. Its a good way of holding enemy units stationary without casualties (you can also throw javelins, rocks, your missile of choice at them while you're standing around).

    The AI will also have at least two of his better units in the city square (and posibly his general as well) at all times and 1-2 units in the streets further into the city so by units you will locally outnumber him possibly 2-1. Hastati should take on militia hoplites with relatively acceptable losses and AI will only have 1 hoplite if he keeps two hoplites in the city center. Make judicious use of your general's cav, take advantage of the fact that all your units can move faster and react faster than theirs (since they're in phalanx), you should be alright.

  17. #17

    Default Re: Swords vs Phalanx

    Here's the basics of anti-phalanx maneuvering I've posted quite some time ago.
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------


    1. The failure of the standard battle line against phalanx lines

    Deploying one's forces parallel to enemy lines is pretty much the standard tactic in most every occasion. This method is literally 'standard', and has no serious drawbacks, but possibly, the fact that it is "standard" is itself a drawback in that against highly 'specialized' enemy forces, it does not offer any kind of real mobility. Most often the initiative is lost, and you are forced to fight the enemy at their own terms - because, you are being passive.

    For example, look at the following picture:



    Typically, assuming equal numbers, a standard battle line against the phalanx is ineffective at best, with often catastrophic results. The basic principle of tactical maneuvering is to surround and destroy, while avoiding being surrounded yourself.

    However, with equal numbers deployed on the battle field, the chances are, against phalanxes whatever forces you send to flank will not be able to get the job done in time. The phalanx is immensely powerful in its frontal areas. When a collective of enemy center advances, your center just will not be able to hold line long enough until you flanking attacks meet some kind of success.


    2. Strengthening the center is NOT an alternative

    The situation is pretty self evident.



    In response to the problems of the center being pushed, what happens if you strengthen the center lines with more units? The attempt to flank enemy units will not work at all. And still, your center will be eventually driven back.


    3. The Epimenondas Alternative

    Deploying your forces in an echelon pattern, with one side stronger and the other side weaker, is a classic response to fighting enemy forces with superior frontal attack.



    Your objective is to hit one corner of the enemy line with all your strongest section('forward wing'), while the weaker rear section('rear wing') remains ready to react.

    The problem with the standard, parallel battle line, is that holding the battle line is in fact, sacrificing your best advantage against enemy phalanxes - mobility. There is no reason to think that all of your forces have to be nearly arranged in a single line. As long as you can react, and control your forces fast enough, a battle formation split into multiple numbers can become a quite powerful alternative.



    When your forward wing hits one corner of the enemy line with all its might, the phalagites are forced to react.




    If they break the phalanx line to engage your forward wing, disengage your forward wing and lure enemy phalanx units to the forward wing. At the same time, your rear wing begins to react and hits the few rear units of the enemy phalanx, picking them off one by one. If you observe closely, you will notcie that by hitting one corner of the enemy line, and forcing them to react, you are able effectively "surround" individual enemy units with ease. By grabbing the initiative and striking the first blow, you force them to react in a certain way you expect - and this, is the key importance of aggressive tactics, as opposed to the 'standard' methods of tactical formations which are inherently defensive and passive.




    If the enemy phalanx lines chooses to temporarily ignore your flanking attacks, and advances to your weaker, rear wing in an orderly fashion (hoping to deal with the rear wing first), then you can keep attacking its same corner with the forward wing, gnawing and tearing apart the corner units one by one. Your rear wing will continuously retreat in an orderly fashion, luring the enemy centerline to it... while the forward wing gets its job done.




    If the enemy phalanx units choose to retaliate your flanking maneuver in an orderly fashion, disengage your forward wing and regroup them nearby enemy advancement as quick as possible. At the same time, your rear wing moves to the opposite corner of the phalanx line. This rear wing, now becomes a new forward wing.


    ...

    The essentials of such tactical maneuvering is; a) always move faster than the enemy, b) always make them react. Don't wait for them to make the first move. Try to be aware of what happens in the battlefield as a whole, and keep moving your units into positions that matter.


    In the end, with equal number of units, a standard swordsmen unit has no chance to beat a phalanx unit if you fight them on their terms. They are hard spears - they need the battle formation to stay intact. They need to face you to attack. Always move around, and force them to break battle formation as much as possible.
    Last edited by Ptah; 07-02-2005 at 14:59.

  18. #18
    Member Member Horatius's Avatar
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    Default Re: Swords vs Phalanx

    The Senate gives you ten turns to complete the mission. So just starve them to death.

    They will Sally forth, and just take them with missles as they move out and attack them from the side.

    Try to hit the militia Hoplites with your missles and charge to the side, militia hoplites have low morale and they will route faster then the regular hoplites.

  19. #19
    Amanuensis Member pezhetairoi's Avatar
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    Default Re: Swords vs Phalanx

    Ah, but we're assuming I'm not in a rush. But I work on strict campaign schedules and usually assault cities the turn after I besiege them, which negates the 'starve-out' part.

    Mein gott, Ptah! Wonderful diagrams! Did you do them yourself?


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  20. #20

    Default Re: Swords vs Phalanx

    Yes, pez, I made them and have posted them during the early days of RTW when people were talking about a lot of ways to defeat phalanx. I've been thinking about ways to defeat Greek armies with Roman units, without numbers advantage, without siege/range weapons, without cavalry, and without elite units.

    Naturally, I've arrived at the conclusion that the only way to do that is to move faster than the phalanx, throughout the entire battlefield. It was tricky at first, but I did succeed afterwards, and made these diagrams to share my experiences.

  21. #21
    Villiage Idiot Member antisocialmunky's Avatar
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    Default Re: Swords vs Phalanx

    If you shoot at a phalanx unit from THEIR right side, they lose their shield bonus because their shields only defend their left and front... everyone being right handed and all.
    Fighting isn't about winning, it's about depriving your enemy of all options except to lose.



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    Voluntary Suspension Voluntary Suspension Philippus Flavius Homovallumus's Avatar
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    Default Re: Swords vs Phalanx

    Historically the weakness of the phalanx was the lack of mobility and fact that they have to walk, because once you get around their flanks they are screwed. You don't neccessarilly even need a centre. You can just attack with two flanking forces. That dirty great wall of spears is no use if it has nothing to smash into.

    Ultimatly though if you are assaulting you've already lost. You lose a huge proportion of your army, usually less troops than the enemy loses and you've damaged the walls, so if you have to defend next turn you are trying to plug all those lovely breaches that you made.

    a Siege is a waste of time and resources, more so than a pitched battle, but an assault is worse. So says Master Sun.
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    Amanuensis Member pezhetairoi's Avatar
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    Default Re: Swords vs Phalanx

    I discovered that the only way to crush the enemy is to swarm them. This is 6 principes and 3 generals 2 equites against 2 armoured hoplites, 2 hoplites, 1 militia hoplite and 1 general. I make three breaches, push through one principes into each to engage whatever comes, then quickly swarm all my cavalry into the breach where the most formidable unit is defending. In this way I quickly crushed the two armoured hoplitai before they were able to do more than take out 30 Equites and 3 bodyguards. Meanwhile through the other breaches the remaning principes are pushing through. It's impossible otherwise without taking nasty casualties. The cavalry must make a concentrated charge, preferably right through the enemy and hit the rear. But the gate is so crowded that they are actually quite vulnerable, and the first units to contact the enemy will be killed before they can hit a single blow.


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    Villiage Idiot Member antisocialmunky's Avatar
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    Default Re: Swords vs Phalanx

    Something else I might add which was probably said a while ago. In RTW, unlike MTW or STW, there are no dedicated classes of troops. Phalangites(Germans not included) and most auxillary infantry all carry around swords for close in fighting so most everyone are technically swordsman. The higher up phalanx units can fight quite well in melee. I wouldn't rely on the old TW system of Cav > Swords > Spear > Cav.

    The thing about RTW and phalanxes too is that if you're playing a human player who doesn't form a giant box of phalanx and uses them intellegently, they'll just take them out of phalanx to move and then reform with or without the cover of cavalry. Ph34r the Macedonican Lancers and the Companions.
    Fighting isn't about winning, it's about depriving your enemy of all options except to lose.



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  25. #25

    Default Re: Swords vs Phalanx

    Quote Originally Posted by antisocialmunky
    I wouldn't rely on the old TW system of Cav > Swords > Spear > Cav.
    Yes. That's the problem with the gameplay in RTW. Basically spears = swords. So, the melee tactics are simplified to Cav > Swords since the third component is mostly lost. To some degree you still have Cav > Ranged > Swords, although, I don't think this is true for the better armored units. In either case, the cav has no effective counter. Flanking is highly effective, but the fast combat resolution reduces that aspect to one mostly advantageous to Cav except in SP where the AI constanly exposes the flanks of its units.

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  26. #26

    Default Re: Swords vs Phalanx

    Nice diagram. That is exactly how I attack a phalanx.

    I also put my secondary troops (like velites or what have you, but high-attack flankers work best) in the center and my heavy legionaries on the flanks. I make my center stand in front of their center and not attack, and just attack their flanks.

    If they turn to face the flanks, they will expose a new flank to your center. If they do not turn, they will be systematically cut down by your flanking attack with heavier infantry. Either way they cannot maintain a solid phalanx line against you, and you won't have to suffer undue casualties trying to hold their line when you can hold their line without actually engaging (if you throw javelins at them their center will come forward, making your flanking maneuver even more effective). Most of the time the AI just stands there and gets slaughtered.

    I think Publius Scipio did that to Hannibal Barca's brother around Massilia and it worked pretty well.

  27. #27
    Villiage Idiot Member antisocialmunky's Avatar
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    Default Re: Swords vs Phalanx

    Quote Originally Posted by Puzz3D
    Yes. That's the problem with the gameplay in RTW. Basically spears = swords. So, the melee tactics are simplified to Cav > Swords since the third component is mostly lost. To some degree you still have Cav > Ranged > Swords, although, I don't think this is true for the better armored units. In either case, the cav has no effective counter. Flanking is highly effective, but the fast combat resolution reduces that aspect to one mostly advantageous to Cav except in SP where the AI constanly exposes the flanks of its units.
    I think in RTW , still somewhat along the lines of Cav > Ranged > Swords > Cav but more unit specific.

    Catanks > Swords
    Horse Archers > Everything - especially those Parthians
    Roman Legionairy Pilumm > Cav and everything

    That kind of thing.
    Fighting isn't about winning, it's about depriving your enemy of all options except to lose.



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