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Thread: I need some advice on Roman artillery tactics and formation

  1. #1
    full_too_pale's Avatar Ashigaru
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    Default I need some advice on Roman artillery tactics and formation

    Can someone explain to me the best way to use the Roman Scorpians, Repeating Balistas, and Stone Throwing Siege equipment in battle(Obviously i understand how to use the Stone Thrower for a siege)? Most of my Legions consist of a General, Legionary 1st Cohort, 9 cohorts, some archers, and some cavalry. If i added some artillery, where would you place them to do the most damage to the enemy? I have never really used them cause of the time it takes to train and cost, so i am comfortable with them. I have always relied on the strength of my Legionaries because they always get the job done for me. Thanks.
    "But I being poor have only my dreams. I have spread my dreams under your feet. Tread softly, because you tread on my dreams." -W.B. Yeats

  2. #2
    Pinkie Pie's Avatar Tribunus Augusticlavii
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    Default Re: I need some advice on Roman artillery tactics and formation

    If I remember correctly ROman tactis tended to favour the Balistae as a device to break enemy formations, cause disruptions within the enemy ranks and to lower enemy moralwhen fighting in the field.

    For siege I do not believe they had the power required to bring down larger walls and were used to keep defenders heads down while the infantry advanced or to discourage counter-attacks.

    I would wait for someone else to confirm this before taking it as the abosulte fact though. (preferably someone with a decree in history )

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    ur-Lord Tedric's Avatar Pili Posterior
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    Default Re: I need some advice on Roman artillery tactics and formation

    Firstly - whilst I can understand the 'fun' in the Repeating Ballista and the fact that it can be used against timber walls as well, which makes it kind of flexible - I certainly wish it were taken out as I am fairly sure that such a thing never really existed (as a serious weapon), or more practicably in fact was ever used.

    A 'stone thrower', however, or the classic 'scorpion/ballista' certainly were, however. Supposedly each of a legion's cohorts was responsible for one 'stone thrower' (for 10) and each century for a 'scorpion' (for 59 or 64, I prefer the latter).

    Stone throwers were almost universally kept for siege assaults, and occasionally for siege defences, if they could be mounted - and used as anti-Towers/Rams, etc. Essential in RSII for the former, but not so useful in the latter.

    It would be nice if the 'scorpions' could be used in settlement defence, but they aren't allowed to go on the walls, and you have to rely on the unreliable pseudo-bolt throwers in the towers. They can be used in open field battles, particularly with their long range. Perhaps best used at river crossings (where indeed the Romans used them too).

    One of the main issues about using either/both, however, is the preponderance of trees on the battlefields now - which really restricts, and mostly precludes, their use. A couple of bolt-throwers in more desert areas and when elephants might be about - and almost any time when there's a good defensive opportunity, may be viable.

    In the main, however, a couple of fresh cohorts instead may be of more benefit.

    PS - I will note that there has been a particular time I have wished I had some bolt-throwers - and that's when the enemy are attacking/making a river crossing; and they bring siege engines. Your troops take a goodly number of casualties, and you cannot reach the enemy engines with arrows alone.
    Last edited by ur-Lord Tedric; February 22, 2013 at 08:20 AM. Reason: PS
    "VH campaign difficulty is bugged out (CA bug that never got fixed) and thus easier than Hard so play on that instead" - apple

    RSII 2.5/2.6 Tester and pesky irritant to the Team. Mucho praise for long suffering dvk'.

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    Pinkie Pie's Avatar Tribunus Augusticlavii
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    Default Re: I need some advice on Roman artillery tactics and formation

    Personally I prefer a few extra cavalry over siege weapons, used properly they can help route an enemy army much faster than the siege weapons and are more usefullfor hunting down fleeing enemies after a battle is won.

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    ur-Lord Tedric's Avatar Pili Posterior
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    Default Re: I need some advice on Roman artillery tactics and formation

    Quote Originally Posted by Pinkie Pie View Post
    Personally I prefer a few extra cavalry ........
    I quite understand - and indeed only wish that cavalry were reduced in 'combat power' more. Perhaps charge bonii should be halved...
    "VH campaign difficulty is bugged out (CA bug that never got fixed) and thus easier than Hard so play on that instead" - apple

    RSII 2.5/2.6 Tester and pesky irritant to the Team. Mucho praise for long suffering dvk'.

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    Pinkie Pie's Avatar Tribunus Augusticlavii
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    Default Re: I need some advice on Roman artillery tactics and formation

    The charge bonus for cavalry is quite simple to reduce actualy, I would do so on mine but I have no idea if it is that way for balancing reasons. On the other mods I have played charge power is about 1/3 as high as it is here but then again so is defence and attack stats.

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    Paladin247's Avatar Centurio
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    Default Re: I need some advice on Roman artillery tactics and formation

    Once they are available and I can afford them, I always have four onager batteries with each legion. So my composition is ten legion cohorts, two archer cohorts, two cavalry alae, four onager batteries and a legate (general). This leaves a space open for whatever is handy or the tactical situation demands, missile cav ala, infantry aux cohort, archer cohort (vs. Parthia esp.). I don't equip auxiliary cohorts with onagers which historically they wouldn't have. Occasionally, I'll give them scorpions altho I don't know if that's historical.

    The problem with tactical placement of scorpions or ballista in field battles is the flat trajectory of their missile fire, more on this below.

    Some advice on using onagers for field artillery as opposed to seige arty. Boulders are the more accurate ammo, but fireballs are the deadliest against infantry by far, nothing like the gruesome lethality of those huge fireballs against dense packed infantry like Greeks/Macedonians. This is why I always tote them everywhere even tho it slows legion movement down by about 40%. They inflict massive casualties.

    Something else about onagers, if you're not careful or the tactical situation cramps your placement, they can inflict a wicked amount of friendly fire casualties because they can't stop dribbling fireballs down their bibs onto nearby friendlies. So if possible it's best to place them in front of own forces and move your infantry thru them as the enemy closes. In bridge and river battles they need to be off to the side on the flanks so any short rounds don't fry your own defenders.

    I screwed this up a few nights ago and after I subtracted the enemy's kills from my losses found out I'd had 240 friendly fire casualties, the most I've ever had. Now the onagers killed 1100 Roman Rebels. It likely would have cost me more than 240 legionaries to kill those 1100 in hand to hand, but even so best if you can save them.

    So in field battles, I place the artillery just in front of my formation of legionaries w/ archers/slingers behind the legion, legate behind them, cav behind the legion's flanks. Playing on medium BAI, it seems the enemy sets some percent of casualties they will take from arty/missile fire before they charge you. On rare occasions it's zero and they charge from the outset. However, it's often 25%, but can be 50% and sometimes if you're lucky, they'll just stand there and take it until your arty runs out of ammo in which case you'll likely kill 40-50+% depending on how densely packed their formation is. Once I see them start to advance on us, I immediately run the legionaries to just out in front of the arty to protect the artillerymen. It doesn't take many such battles before your gunners are gold chevron guys so I always keep them out of harm's way.

    This is why I hardly use scorpions or ballista because of the flat nature of their trajectories, you can't put friendlies in front of them so in the above case the arty would have to cease fire once the legionaries moved forward thru them to meet the enemy. This is not the case with onagers whose rounds (hopefully) loft over the friendlies. In the case of aux infantry cohorts w/ scorpions or ballista, I place them on the flanks of the infantry with cav behind because the enemy cav likes to attack flanks.

    Hope that helps.
    "With a population of around a million, Rome (in Claudius' time) was a vast city even by modern standards. It is worth pointing out that during the early Renaissance the population of Rome was no more than fifteen thousand-- living amid the ruins of a civilization that dwarfed their own. It was not until the nineteenth century that the population of Rome returned to the levels it had enjoyed under the Caesars. That is eloquent proof of the fact that human history is not a tale of steady progress towards greater knowledge and achievement." Simon Scarrow

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    full_too_pale's Avatar Ashigaru
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    Default Re: I need some advice on Roman artillery tactics and formation

    Thanks a lot guys, i appreciate the help.
    "But I being poor have only my dreams. I have spread my dreams under your feet. Tread softly, because you tread on my dreams." -W.B. Yeats

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    Signifer
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    Default Re: I need some advice on Roman artillery tactics and formation

    If you scroll to p. 136 here is Arrian's theoretical formation. I tend to go for something a bit similar but with the artillery / missile troops a bit further out and canted in a little more to give a better field of fire ahead of the main force.

    http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=5...0alans&f=false

  10. #10
    Libertus
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    Default Re: I need some advice on Roman artillery tactics and formation

    You can have fun with the large stone throwing artillery even outside of siege battles. I like to move up the stone throwing artillery just within range of the opposing army. I dedicate an aux spear group or a regular cohort to protecting the artillery. I place it right beside the artillery (never right in front...to many friendly fire causalities.) THis protects the artillery if the opposing army tries to attack it with calvary or infantry. I find that many times the opposing army will start moving forward if they start getting blasted by the artillery. If they don't just park your army and let the opposing army continue to take causalities.

    I place my archers in front of my infantry and enable skirmish mode, so that if they get attacked the automatically run behind my main infantry line for protection. I only start moving forward my infantry once i've exhausted most of my artillery and missiles. Slingers I group with a cohort or aux spear group for protection and run them around the flanks of the opposing armies to hit them from the sides or behind. The spear or cohort grouped with the slingers usually is good enough to protect them from calvary charges.

    Once most of the arrows and artillery have run out (you have usually killed 30 to 40% of their army before moving in the infanty), I move up my infantry slowly to pila range. I try to exhaust all my pila before charging with my infantry.

    I also like to group my calvary together to run them around the flanks to attack the opposing armys missle calvary. It is a bit of a cat and mouse game and you have to avoid the spearmen they peal off to attack your calvary, but it is simple enough. Because you grouped your calvary together you can eventually chase down their missile and regular calvary one by one and take them out. Sometime you can get lucky enough to take down their missile unit in the process. I like to rest them a bit until my infantry charges then charge into the back of the opposing army's infantry rolling up their lines. Once my infantry is engaged I bring around my slingers and hit them from behind as well.

    I like to have fun and try different formations to see what works best. You can get creative depending on the terrain. I've had many battles where I've killed 90% or more of their troops and I only have 5 to 10% causalities. Have fun with it.

  11. #11
    ur-Lord Tedric's Avatar Pili Posterior
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    Default Re: I need some advice on Roman artillery tactics and formation

    Quote Originally Posted by tjohnsoniv1200 View Post
    ....... You can get creative depending on the terrain. .......
    This element is one of the reasons anyone will find it harder to use artillery in field battles - for you can have trouble even deploying them, let alone being able to move them, because you cannot use artillery amongst the wooded areas.
    "VH campaign difficulty is bugged out (CA bug that never got fixed) and thus easier than Hard so play on that instead" - apple

    RSII 2.5/2.6 Tester and pesky irritant to the Team. Mucho praise for long suffering dvk'.

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    Paladin247's Avatar Centurio
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    Default Re: I need some advice on Roman artillery tactics and formation

    Quote Originally Posted by ur-Lord Tedric View Post
    This element is one of the reasons anyone will find it harder to use artillery in field battles - for you can have trouble even deploying them, let alone being able to move them, because you cannot use artillery amongst the wooded areas.
    It depends. I've found that when the terrain denies a pre-battle placement command, or an in-battle movement order for the arty, if you give them an attack command they will often move through the previously denied terrain to get into a firing position. It's pretty hit and miss, but works about half the time except in really forrested areas.

    I suppose some will think this a cheat; perhaps. I prefer to think that a legion would do whatever it took in the way of disassembly and reconstruction to get its most potent weapons into play.

    For myself, I refuse to risk valuable legionaries when there is a viable alternate tactic at hand.
    Last edited by Paladin247; March 14, 2013 at 06:18 PM. Reason: Add two paras.
    "With a population of around a million, Rome (in Claudius' time) was a vast city even by modern standards. It is worth pointing out that during the early Renaissance the population of Rome was no more than fifteen thousand-- living amid the ruins of a civilization that dwarfed their own. It was not until the nineteenth century that the population of Rome returned to the levels it had enjoyed under the Caesars. That is eloquent proof of the fact that human history is not a tale of steady progress towards greater knowledge and achievement." Simon Scarrow

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