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Thread: Non-Cavalry Tactics

  1. #1

    Default Non-Cavalry Tactics

    Hey there,

    I'm having a bit of trouble diversifying my battle tactics enough. I find I can pretty consistently get heroic victories just by routing the enemy cavalry one by one before the lines meet, and then just hammering the anvil afterwards. It's gotten a bit stale. And it means I don't use a lot of the unit types in the way they could be used (as tactical flankers and whatnot) just because they seem so much less effective than cavalry.

    I've had a few thoughts, to lower cavalry's dominance. One might be to not allow myself to charge-retreat-charge-etc. into the back of an enemy unit, so I really have to make sure the cavalry charge will be decisive or they will get chopped up in the fray. Another, that I can't just send my cavalry forward before the main lines advance and cheese the ai into attacking me after I've defeated their cavalry.

    Their ability to morale-break is just so strong, and so simple to execute.

    Anyone have any thoughts or similar experiences with the game? Or ideas about how to diversify infantry combat maneuvers beyond "engage the line"?

  2. #2

    Default Re: Non-Cavalry Tactics

    i set back my cavalry once they are tired/winded, which is usually soon into any battle, and only reengage them when they are ready again. seems more realistic, and you won't find yourself spamming the horse-hammer 30x in a battle with exhausted cavalry. walking cavalry to position them, also, over having them stampede around the map, prevents you from overuse. seems like most of the battles i have are 90% positioning, then the 10% is engagement and the ensuing route, win or lose

  3. #3

    Default Re: Non-Cavalry Tactics

    What factions are you playing, and how much cavalry are you bringing? I limit myself to no more than four units in total (including FMs), and often the only non-FM cavalry are skirmishers.
    It began on seven hills - a historical house-ruled Romani AAR
    Heirs to Lysimachos - a semi-historical Epeiros-as-Pergamon AAR
    Philetairos' Gift - a second attempt at an Epeiros-as-Pergamon AAR


  4. #4

    Default Re: Non-Cavalry Tactics

    You're not the only one, every TW player overuses hammer and anvil . Here's an interesting article on basic Roman tactics and not one of them is hammer and anvil: https://romanmilitary.net/strategy/legform/.

    And if I may mention this, since increasing all infantry morale by 3 points (as part of my submod), I've found hammer and anvil tactics to be substantially less effective. I ended up losing several battles where the odds were against me because I tried to go in and magic up a win with hammer and anvil as I've been accustomed to. Cavalry charges to the back without the easy routs are simply not decisive.

  5. #5
    Beckitz's Avatar Tiro
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    Default Re: Non-Cavalry Tactics

    Not to be 'that guy', but truly, in my experience there's one unitary tactic to winning battles, which is to bring a lethal amount of force to bear against the individual enemy units. Cavalry are only 'unique' in this regard because of their special mobility and charge properties. If you can get infantry there in time, they're just as good. You would get exactly the same result from using an all infantry army except it would take a minute after your flankers engage to trigger the rout and if the enemy has cavalry, then they might defeat your attempt. My tactic is virtually the same for every battle. It's merely using the good principles of warfare fundamentals. I engage the enemy along his whole battle line but in a favorable segment, I deploy an extra-heavy complement of forces to break through his formation. Once this section routs I can redeploy the forces which were tied up to roll up his whole army. Cavalry are excellent at this but infantry work just as well, and indeed I always use some as flankers.

    I have to say, I've never thought about using tactics for a reason other than to win the battle. I can't speak to that as much, but in this scenario, I think the infantry are just slower but you'll get the same effect once they reach their target. Do you play on Hard battle difficulty? The difficulty of individual battles, in my experience, depends on the composition of yours vs the enemy's army. Some battles just aren't very hard because the enemy army isn't a big threat to your troops. The battle AI is solid and rarely accounts for the 'whole reason' for a defeat save some occasional instances where they miss a very high level maneuver. You could just as easily boast about being a skilled player, since it's pretty obvious why you're dominating if you're making heads up plays like tying up enemy units, distributing your battle lines effectively, etc.

    On a similar note, I find that the elite-level tactical play of EBII is in the movement micromanagement. In my opinion, you will get better results by some considerable amount if you are willing to walk your units manually into and through combat from time to time. I pay very close attention to the unit flag, as that constitutes the unit's 'position' for movement purposes, and use that to move units very precisely into just the right position. This trick is almost mandatory in siege battles. At least for cav. And it's especially useful to seize the enemy gates. Send in one unit of competently-armored line troops like Assyrian Spearmen or Blah-Blah Hoplites and right afterward walk two AP assault squads through your own ranks to burst into the middle of the enemy formation. You will slaughter their force, and if your assault troops have good armor too, it will almost be a pitiable sight.

    ~Bobsy

  6. #6
    Jurand of Cracow's Avatar History and gameplay!
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    Default Re: Non-Cavalry Tactics

    This discussion comes back every then and again . My short opinions are here. I can't help not recalling Mary Beard : “Roman military tactics were much over-rated. All the clever ones had the same idea, which was to go round the back.”

    However, I'd be interested if somebody has played the recent Ancient Empires mod for ATW. I've played it a bit and they indeed go in the EBII direction (or rather EBI; I don't think it's possible with the Warscape engine to provide such a good mod as EBII is). In the battles, stamina is now much more important, but I feel they also fall into the same hammer-and-anvil trap. Has anybody an experience and comparison between the mods?

  7. #7

    Default Re: Non-Cavalry Tactics

    This is going to sound a bit flippant (I guess it actually is), but if your issue is that you don't diversify your tactics enough and the battles all feel the same or are too easy because you just charge and charge and charge with cavalry, then why don't you simply use less cavalry?

    Similar to what Quintus said above, I also tend to use more mixed armies (though I have never willingly deployed light skirmishers like akonistai) and only have a limited number of heavy cavalry in any given engagement. Part of this is just good sense, given that spears and pikes are common to so many factions and can take apart heavy horse somewhat distressingly if they're lined up right, and part of it is also because there are certain counterattacks that require heavy infantry or ranged units or skirmisher cavalry to be really effective. The only time I ever use a lot of cavalry, and certainly the only time I have numerous heavy striking cavalry, is when I play as a cav heavy faction like Sauromatae or Saka Rauka. But other than that, it just makes sense to have a more mixed army (cavalry is also really expensive, making them sometimes not as cost effective).

    I guess my short point is: If you're bored with your tactics, then change them.
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  8. #8

    Default Re: Non-Cavalry Tactics

    I even take Akontistai and other levies out with my armies, another of my house rules is no more than two of the same unit. So variety is enforced.
    It began on seven hills - a historical house-ruled Romani AAR
    Heirs to Lysimachos - a semi-historical Epeiros-as-Pergamon AAR
    Philetairos' Gift - a second attempt at an Epeiros-as-Pergamon AAR


  9. #9

    Default Re: Non-Cavalry Tactics

    Yeah battles with charge with cavalry into the rear is a must in these mods sadly, I wish there was some factions with different winning conditions, but that just a wish.. EB2 team: your goal was to make battles longer-standing, so the player can adjust and maneuver his units proper to battle conditions and maybe even enjoy battles more, but cavalry routs whole armies charging into the rear and after that battle ends in 15 seconds, ironic isn't it? Take for example Numidia, their core is cavalry, historically and gameplay wise, you can't win battles without their cavalry spam.. maybe it is time to adjust morale on infantry? just a proposition..
    Last edited by bordinis; June 04, 2018 at 02:53 PM.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Non-Cavalry Tactics

    I will reiterate the same point I made above. If you don't like that a heavy cavalry charge can make your battle only last minutes, then use a mixed unit roster and let it play out longer. I rarely have a battle that takes only a few minutes because I use the map, feinting to draw in enemy units and then picking them apart one at a time. It would seem that if you exploit certain mechanics of the game (cavalry have a high charge and are fast; no good way to change that) then it is on you if that makes things boring to you.
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  11. #11

    Default Re: Non-Cavalry Tactics

    Quote Originally Posted by bordinis View Post
    Yeah battles with charge with cavalry into the rear is a must in these mods sadly, I wish there was some factions with different winning conditions, but that just a wish.. EB2 team: your goal was to make battles longer-standing, so the player can adjust and maneuver his units proper to battle conditions and maybe even enjoy battles more, but cavalry routs whole armies charging into the rear and after that battle ends in 15 seconds, ironic isn't it? Take for example Numidia, their core is cavalry, historically and gameplay wise, you can't win battles without their cavalry spam.. maybe it is time to adjust morale on infantry? just a proposition..
    I see people make these claims, yet never provide any evidence of this happening. If you pack out a large proportion of your force with heavy cavalry, of course you'll roll up the enemy quite easily.

    Please demonstrate how you can do this with a Numdian army. Your choice whether screenshots or a video.
    It began on seven hills - a historical house-ruled Romani AAR
    Heirs to Lysimachos - a semi-historical Epeiros-as-Pergamon AAR
    Philetairos' Gift - a second attempt at an Epeiros-as-Pergamon AAR


  12. #12

    Default Re: Non-Cavalry Tactics

    Hey Cryoshakespeare,

    I was just thinking to myself that you asked a serious question, and the flippant responses are a bit rude, so here is a serious answer.

    First of all, I find that battles are more enjoyable and a bit more unique and longer-lasting if I enter them with a sort of guiding philosophy (kill as many enemies as possible, capture as many as possible [perhaps to ransom later], avoid as many friendly casualties as possible, etc.). Having this in mind will affect how you go about your positioning and what your general aims will be, as for each of these goals there are more subtle and effective ways to achieve them than simply hammering an anvil all day. This is especially the case if you have a somewhat more limited unit roster (some factions have hammers but not anvils, some are the opposite, some only excel in ranged units and have neither hammers nor anvils, etc.). In general, my go-to battle philosophy is one of casualty minimization, where I do whatever I can to make sure I lose almost no one, no matter what that takes. As this strategy is pretty cost-effective, making your armies last longer and reducing retraining costs, it also has a nice broad positive impact on a number of other factors in empire-building. This aim also makes me have to do a lot of micromanagement on the battlefield, with lots of repositioning of units, and constant attention to exactly where everyone is at, making each battle something of a challenge, and making me always be very mindful of the lay of the land (improves uniqueness of battles).

    I also have general troop dispositions I use for these purposes and general tactics I use, but for now, maybe just consider approaching your battles in this broad way, with a particular aim in mind that is more specific than merely "winning". Also, let me know if you're interested in hearing more specifics about how I go about fighting this type of battle. I'd be happy to elaborate here, but on the first run didn't want to spam you with a massive excursion concerning my battle tactics.
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  13. #13

    Default Re: Non-Cavalry Tactics

    Take for example Numidia, their core is cavalry, historically and gameplay wise, you can't win battles without their cavalry spam
    Yeah but as an experienced Numidia player, their cavalry is also paper thin. One wrong move in an engagement and you lose a lot of them. I certainly didn't have an easy time fighting any armies with heavier infantry than me(eg. Carthage or Rome) without sufficient heavy infantry of my own to counter them. Their cavalry just won't do the job. Phalanxes are especially deadly to cavalry, especially the paper-thin kind the Numidians have. They're great light cavalry, but they are far from line breaking like some of the other heavier types in the mod--even the Gldts(sp?) are rather squishy.

    Actually routing caused by cavalry is just one problem in the equation listed here. I've played my share of battles with either little to no cavalry(eg. I usually have no cavalry in my town garrisons since the larger troop numbers from infantry give more public order and cost less to boot), and IMO the really big advantage that cavalry gives is router-chasing. When you have little to no cavalry in a battle, you still rout enemy units but you can't chase them all down and thus prevent them from regrouping. This really really toughens up the difficulty of a battle, since router-chasing is basically no longer an option, unless you want to isolate your much slower-moving infantry during a prolonged chase. So even when you do a hammer+anvil with pure infantry, the amount of routers that escape vs. those that escape from a cavalry hammer+anvil(very few) is significant.
    Last edited by Genghis Skahn; June 05, 2018 at 08:45 AM.

  14. #14

    Default Re: Non-Cavalry Tactics

    That's a good point, some of my most exciting battles have been siege defense, where my (mostly levy) garrisons sally out and have to fight off larger and better quality besiegers. There the only cavalry, if I have any at all, is the FM-governor, and you can't afford to use them as proper cavalry unless the attackers have none.

    Even if they don't have cavalry, you can't afford to range far from the main body of your troops, because levies will rout if not under their commander's eye.
    It began on seven hills - a historical house-ruled Romani AAR
    Heirs to Lysimachos - a semi-historical Epeiros-as-Pergamon AAR
    Philetairos' Gift - a second attempt at an Epeiros-as-Pergamon AAR


  15. #15

    Default Re: Non-Cavalry Tactics

    Some very interesting responses people, thank you.

    Quote Originally Posted by hlidskjalf View Post
    i set back my cavalry once they are tired/winded, which is usually soon into any battle, and only reengage them when they are ready again. seems more realistic, and you won't find yourself spamming the horse-hammer 30x in a battle with exhausted cavalry. walking cavalry to position them, also, over having them stampede around the map, prevents you from overuse. seems like most of the battles i have are 90% positioning, then the 10% is engagement and the ensuing route, win or lose
    I really like this idea actually, something I hadn't thought of. I tend to use the same cavalry for the pre-line engagement extermination of their cavalry, then also for the hammering of the anvil, and finally also to chase down routers. Certainly, it would be a good limitation to force myself to rest them after one of those jobs if they become fatigued. And I agree with you on the point that battles are often 90% positioning. And actually, as a non-cavalry tactic, it gives light skirmishers a great and realistic job as chasing down routers after they've unloaded their javelins!

    Quote Originally Posted by QuintusSertorius View Post
    What factions are you playing, and how much cavalry are you bringing? I limit myself to no more than four units in total (including FMs), and often the only non-FM cavalry are skirmishers.
    Well, a brief game as the Lougiones got me thinking about this, as even their light skirmisher cavalry was more than enough to rout enemy forces (granted, I was fighting equally poor tribal levies). But I've found in nearly all of my games, even with only two units of skirmisher cavalry, that their capacity to break the line and cut down all of the routers is just too strong. But the above seems to be a nice solution.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kilo11 View Post
    Hey Cryoshakespeare,

    I was just thinking to myself that you asked a serious question, and the flippant responses are a bit rude, so here is a serious answer.

    First of all, I find that battles are more enjoyable and a bit more unique and longer-lasting if I enter them with a sort of guiding philosophy (kill as many enemies as possible, capture as many as possible [perhaps to ransom later], avoid as many friendly casualties as possible, etc.). Having this in mind will affect how you go about your positioning and what your general aims will be, as for each of these goals there are more subtle and effective ways to achieve them than simply hammering an anvil all day. This is especially the case if you have a somewhat more limited unit roster (some factions have hammers but not anvils, some are the opposite, some only excel in ranged units and have neither hammers nor anvils, etc.). In general, my go-to battle philosophy is one of casualty minimization, where I do whatever I can to make sure I lose almost no one, no matter what that takes. As this strategy is pretty cost-effective, making your armies last longer and reducing retraining costs, it also has a nice broad positive impact on a number of other factors in empire-building. This aim also makes me have to do a lot of micromanagement on the battlefield, with lots of repositioning of units, and constant attention to exactly where everyone is at, making each battle something of a challenge, and making me always be very mindful of the lay of the land (improves uniqueness of battles).

    I also have general troop dispositions I use for these purposes and general tactics I use, but for now, maybe just consider approaching your battles in this broad way, with a particular aim in mind that is more specific than merely "winning". Also, let me know if you're interested in hearing more specifics about how I go about fighting this type of battle. I'd be happy to elaborate here, but on the first run didn't want to spam you with a massive excursion concerning my battle tactics.
    I like this idea of differing guiding philosophies, you could even base it off your commanding general's traits. And don't worry about the flippant response, I had it to myself when I asked the question initially (why don't you just stop using them in a way that's not fun ), but I figured it could stimulate some interesting conversation anyway. And I would be curious to hear more of the specifics of how you fight battles, especially, do you split up your infantry contingents from the main line at all? I've always liked the idea of sending some infantry up a forested hill near to the line to have them ambush with javelins, but it always seemed a little unnecessary.

    Quote Originally Posted by Genghis Skahn View Post
    Yeah but as an experienced Numidia player, their cavalry is also paper thin. One wrong move in an engagement and you lose a lot of them. I certainly didn't have an easy time fighting any armies with heavier infantry than me(eg. Carthage or Rome) without sufficient heavy infantry of my own to counter them. Their cavalry just won't do the job. Phalanxes are especially deadly to cavalry, especially the paper-thin kind the Numidians have. They're great light cavalry, but they are far from line breaking like some of the other heavier types in the mod--even the Gldts(sp?) are rather squishy.

    Actually routing caused by cavalry is just one problem in the equation listed here. I've played my share of battles with either little to no cavalry(eg. I usually have no cavalry in my town garrisons since the larger troop numbers from infantry give more public order and cost less to boot), and IMO the really big advantage that cavalry gives is router-chasing. When you have little to no cavalry in a battle, you still rout enemy units but you can't chase them all down and thus prevent them from regrouping. This really really toughens up the difficulty of a battle, since router-chasing is basically no longer an option, unless you want to isolate your much slower-moving infantry during a prolonged chase. So even when you do a hammer+anvil with pure infantry, the amount of routers that escape vs. those that escape from a cavalry hammer+anvil(very few) is significant.
    Hm, personally I've found even skirmisher levies can do a decent job against most medium/heavy infantry, just if you have enough factors lowering their morale at once for them to break (missile fire, outnumbered and surrounded, dead/fleeing general, and of course the cavalry charge to break the camel's back ; EDIT: oh and of course, a high command star general, wouldn't go so hot without that ). But you really do need a significant cavalry force in that case, maybe four units (Numidians are just fine), just so you can ensure enemy cavalry don't break your levies morale or counter-charge your cavalry. I agree with you though that the two-fold strength of cavalry very largely comes from their ability to chase routers as well. As above, again, I think that houserule of not using tired cavalry for a new job could very nicely change that balance, or the number of roles you can have any given unit of cavalry fill in one battle.
    Last edited by Cryoshakespeare; June 05, 2018 at 10:53 AM.

  16. #16

    Default Re: Non-Cavalry Tactics

    Quote Originally Posted by Jurand of Cracow View Post
    My short opinions are here. I can't help not recalling Mary Beard : “Roman military tactics were much over-rated. All the clever ones had the same idea, which was to go round the back.”

    But that is not true...like, at all?

    Most of their victories were won by good use of terrain and proper launching of counter attacks.

    Dudes like Publius Bassus, Caesar etc. never got even close to encircling the enemy, hell, Caesar even got encircled himself twice lol

  17. #17

    Default Re: Non-Cavalry Tactics

    Hm, personally I've found even skirmisher levies can do a decent job against most medium/heavy infantry,
    They're not bad, of course, but not as good as cavalry--especially since if they get isolated, they can be easily routed by enemy cav. Plus, they're still infantry so movement across the field still takes much longer than lightning-speed numidians for example.

  18. #18

    Default Re: Non-Cavalry Tactics

    significant cavalry charge impact seems to be one of the 'hard-coded' features of MTW2, iirc? i wonder if reducing heavy cavalry units to 80 men would help blunting the charge damage a little?

  19. #19

    Default Re: Non-Cavalry Tactics

    Quote Originally Posted by Cryoshakespeare View Post
    I would be curious to hear more of the specifics of how you fight battles, especially, do you split up your infantry contingents from the main line at all? I've always liked the idea of sending some infantry up a forested hill near to the line to have them ambush with javelins, but it always seemed a little unnecessary.
    Well, I always go with the philosophy of minimizing friendly casualties as much as I possibly can, for a number of reasons. First, it has all those strategic advantages I stated above (saves money, keeps front-line armies ready to rock, helps experience stack more quickly...). Second, I often like to play with a fringe faction, and those are usually hurting in a real way for money and troops at the beginning, so that extra bit of care makes a difference (the one exception to my "fringe-phelia" is Rome, which I love to play as, but where I can always replenish terrifying amounts of heavy infantry negating the need for all that careful maneuvering). Third, I think that is just my baseline mentality; I aim to minimize harms in general, and that bleeds into my gameplay decisions.

    Now, given that I am always aiming to save my own boys' skins, there are some general and specific things I regularly do. First, I always have a good number of long-range units. And by that I mean the longest range I can pull off with that faction. Part of this is so that (ideally) I can shoot when the others can't, and also so that I can lower enemy morale before the actual engagement so that my line troops are really just there to break theirs or to hold theirs while other weaker units get into morale affecting positions (i.e. the flanks). I also always like to have some light/medium cavalry for maneuvering. These are also used as hammers in the battles, but the most important function I use them for is really just maneuvering, in order to draw out enemy units from their line (and into my arrow range) or to make their lines bunch or pull back (in the case of their ranged units which will retreat from a cavalry unit). Then my general strategy is to put my ranged units out front, with the heavy line right behind them, and throw every arrow, stone, or bit of loose brickwork I have at them. If they advance I push my line through the archers to just ahead of them, and then move around the edges with my cav to distract their ranged units. Then there is usually a bit of chasing around archers and skirmishers with one or two cav units (though usually little to no engagement of them) and then running my archers and skirmishers around the line to hit their melee units from the flanks. From their I can then force the rout with a couple well placed charges into the rear.

    Importantly, I am not charging often in these battles, nor am I using a "simple" hammer-anvil tactic, but instead I really micromanage each unit in order to get their army into disarray or to split off their ranged units. I also never hesitate to pull back and even to fully retreat if it looks like we'll lose a lot of men. I don't mean retreat when we'll lose (many times when I fall back we could easily win), I mean falling back to minimize casualties by finding better ground. Which brings me to the final point: the field of battle. In aiming for casualty minimization and doing so by some judicious use of ranged units, I put a lot of effort into getting the enemy armies into areas with hills, rivers, or other natural barriers/uneven positions so that I can push them to a bad location. This makes the strat map a bit more interactive as well, since I am trying to bait their armies to uneven ground or I'm seeking them out when they hold such positions. It also makes it so each battle requires a lot of quick evaluation of exactly how the terrain will affect fatigue and whether or not I can get to the high ground more quickly than the enemy. If I can't, I always have to do some quick engagements with the medium cav to tie up their troops while my infantry gets itself in line. All of these things, while being general strategies that I use, require a lot of fine-tuning for each battle, making the whole experience more engaging and interesting. And using these types of tactics I can often win victories with less then 5-10% casualties on my side, without using more than 1 or 2 proper charges of my cavalry.

    So that's the long answer. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on the whole thing.
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  20. #20

    Default Re: Non-Cavalry Tactics

    Quote Originally Posted by Kilo11 View Post
    Well, I always go with the philosophy of minimizing friendly casualties as much as I possibly can[...]

    So that's the long answer. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on the whole thing.
    Interesting stuff. What I've found personally is that I don't need to be all that careful to get out of a battle with minimal troops losses, really the big killers are heavy missile fire, cavalry charges (and routs), and troops fighting through exhaustion against a superior foe. But with the way I fight battles, neutralizing enemy cavalry with well coordinated tag teaming before the lines engage, and having enemy missiles focused on a sparse group of shielded levies standing in front of the main line, I find very few of my troops die in combat, like you I'd say I get away with around a 10% casualty rate.

    But in particular, it's because I've found killing the ai's cavalry early with your own and then running your cav behind them very consistently causes them to charge your main line no matter how far they are away, and so you just position your forces on the nearest hill and it becomes a slaughter.

    Now, with the proposed houserules to cavalry use, I think the kind of maneuvering (especially on the strat map) you're talking about could be beneficial, especially with infantry like the Theureoporoi and their combined line and skirmish capabilities.

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