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Are Byzantine heavy infantry really necessary?

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Are Byzantine heavy infantry really necessary?

Post by Alan Knight on Tue May 20, 2014 10:33 am

Although I have been wargaming with Byzantines for almost forty years, I confess I am struggling to get them working in Impetus.
Byzantine Kavallaroi/Kataphractoi are expensive and are vulnerable to Impetus dice attack.
But my concern is the requirement to take Byzantine heavy infantry, Skutatoi. They are large units and you have to take take at least two of them. Some lists allow you to take up to 12 units of Skutatoi. I don't think there were that many Skutatoi in the garrison at Constantinople. This many heavy infantry don't leave much room for the cavalry for which the Byzantines were justly famous.
Byzantine military texts (EG Maurice's Strategikon) show how heavy infantry can serve as a pivot for cavalry. But they also show how cavalry can operate independently or with only light infantry support.
The Wargames Reseaerch Group lists make Skutatoi an optional extra.
I think they should also be that way with Impetus.
Your thoughts?

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Re: Are Byzantine heavy infantry really necessary?

Post by Jim Webster on Tue May 20, 2014 11:01 am

I used them over the weekend in a battle against the Bulgars. Took two large units and with a unit of Varangians they managed to hold up a large chunk of the enemy whilst my cavalry concentrated on the other wing.
If you can find them a blocking position they're very useful unless the enemy has more heavy infantry than you
Certainly enemy mounted struggle to shift them cheaply

Jim
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Re: Are Byzantine heavy infantry really necessary?

Post by Alan Knight on Tue May 20, 2014 11:12 am

I accept Skutatoi can be useful. But should they be compulsory?
Alan

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Re: Are Byzantine heavy infantry really necessary?

Post by Jim Webster on Tue May 20, 2014 11:45 am

It is a moot point. Everybody remembers the entirely cavalry forces that used to shepherd enemy raiders back out of the territory, but nobody ever uses the entirely infantry forces that used to ambush them in the passes and defiles  Shocked 

The manuals discuss the deployment of forces composed entirely of cavalry so I think we can assume that they existed, so all infantry should be voluntary.
But if you have any infantry, you should probably have decent amounts. Perhaps for pre-Alexius we ought to keep the lists but say that the infantry aren't compulsory unless ANY infantry are used,in which case you have to follow the full list.

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Re: Are Byzantine heavy infantry really necessary?

Post by Axebreaker on Tue May 20, 2014 1:24 pm

I assume after 40 years of gaming you well aware of this, but I'll throw in a friendly reminder and chirp in that army lists are guidelines of others opinions and not absolutes unless involved in a pre-framed tournament. If you see your Byzantine army as cavalry only or cavalry based with only light infantry as support then by all means do so, but make sure to check with your mates first of course. Wink If your friends are not flexible then you will need to live with the given list or find a more open minded opponent. Best of luck. Smile 

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Re: Are Byzantine heavy infantry really necessary?

Post by Jim Webster on Tue May 20, 2014 1:58 pm

I think there's the issue of what army lists are for

Basically if they're not historically accurate they're a waste of time.
BUT they're not compulsory in games between consenting adults.
But again,they're a useful guide to what is reasonable and some competitions have them as compulsory to ensure that things don't get silly  Shocked 

As if they would  pirat 

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Re: Are Byzantine heavy infantry really necessary?

Post by Gaius Cassius on Tue May 20, 2014 5:26 pm

I play Byzantines a lot and have found that my appreciation for the Skutatoi has grown over the years. They are fragile troops for sure but provide an important anchor for the cavalry in the Byzantine attack. I certainly don't have any problem finding space to deploy the cavalry in 350 point games. Byzantines are an expensive army to put on the table and don't generally take up that much space.
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Re: Are Byzantine heavy infantry really necessary?

Post by Alan Knight on Tue May 20, 2014 10:45 pm

Thanks for the erudite responses Jim and Christopher. Lists are a compromise which allow orderly games within historical parameters. But lists are difficult to produce given the length of the Ancient era and the lack of good data. There is still debate over exactly where some famous battles took place, let alone the nature, size and uniforms of the units who contested them.
Without agreed lists however, it would only be a matter of time before some-one turned up with Spacemarines as late republican Romans. On the other end of the scale, we all have to deal with pedants willing to argue over commas. These folks sometimes confuse personal preference with historical accuracy.
The best way to improve lists, I reckon, is to have discussions like this one. So congratualtions on the new discussion group.

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Re: Are Byzantine heavy infantry really necessary?

Post by Jim Webster on Wed May 21, 2014 5:10 am

You're right Alan, part of the impetus behind producing lists was that people started turning up at competitions with armies that included troops whose inclusion as distinctly dubious.

What can tend to happen without lists is that in competitions ancient armies tend to evolve into bland variations of the same tournament tiger.

Which is a shame really because you loose half the fun of ancients in that the armies are so different.

Jim
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Re: Are Byzantine heavy infantry really necessary?

Post by selaurant on Sun May 25, 2014 2:08 am

In this instance the issue could be resolved by a single simple errata:

"The infantry minima are compulsory if any infantry units are included in the army list."

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