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Theban Phalanx at Mantinea

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Theban Phalanx at Mantinea

Post by AncientWarrior on Wed Nov 04, 2015 11:11 am

Gentlemen,

Went back and forth about where to post this (rules or army forum) and then decided it was perhaps more of a general concern or question.

If you have played Mantinea with Impetvs or were going to play the battle with these rules, how deep would you have the Theban phalanx? Would you create any house rule to represent its overwhelming depth compared to the allied phalanx it faced?

Off the cuff, I suppose one could deploy the allied hoplites on both side as just 1-base deep units and then have the Theban phalanx as a 4-base unit, as it seems that the Thebans were four times as deep as the Spartans, Athenians, Achaeans, etc.

Thanks in advance for your suggestions and advice.

Chris

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Re: Theban Phalanx at Mantinea

Post by SteveI42 on Wed Nov 04, 2015 1:15 pm

The list, from memory, allows for extra depth for some theban hoplite large units. Would this not cover the situation?

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Re: Theban Phalanx at Mantinea

Post by Cyrus The Adequate on Wed Nov 04, 2015 1:17 pm

I agree w Steve - the Theban list already allows you to increase the depth of IIRC 3 large units
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Re: Theban Phalanx at Mantinea

Post by Gaius Cassius on Wed Nov 04, 2015 4:29 pm

Impetus is vague enough that we don`t really know exactly what each unit of depth specifically represents.  Most wargame lists can`t really accommodate the extremes of specific battles like Leucrta or Mantinea (where the Thebans deployed in 50 ranks.) Personally I don`t think hoplite units three deep gives the right sense of depth for the Theban tactics at these battles so if you`re planning a specific refight of Mantinea I think Thebans large units of 4 deep could work well.
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Re: Theban Phalanx at Mantinea

Post by Tarty on Thu Nov 05, 2015 6:16 am

For a one off refight yes why not do 4 deep ? couldn't see a problem .....or double the vbu of the back stands so the depth of the unit on the table doesn't blow out. Could be worth considering also.
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Re: Theban Phalanx at Mantinea

Post by Cyrus The Adequate on Thu Nov 05, 2015 8:23 am

but 3 ranks at VBU 5 or 6 IS enough to represent the Theban tactics at Mantinea so why say 4?

Lorenzo didnt pull the number out of the air, it is clear he thought about it and the effect it has in game

The list works perfectly well as it stands

Sources say 50 deep but in reality just how accurate are those sources? As accurate as those that say the Persians brought a million men to Europe?

Of course if you want to play 4 deep go ahead, but at least try the "official" version first - you may be surprised

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Re: Theban Phalanx at Mantinea

Post by jeztodd on Thu Nov 05, 2015 5:52 pm

Hi what happened in the game you played? Might need a historical refresh comparing to what happened originally

Cheers Jez
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Re: Theban Phalanx at Mantinea

Post by Gaius Cassius on Thu Nov 05, 2015 6:29 pm

Cyrus The Adequate wrote:but 3 ranks at VBU 5 or 6 IS enough to represent the Theban tactics at Mantinea so why say 4?

Lorenzo didnt pull the number out of the air, it is clear he thought about it and the effect it has in game

The list works perfectly well as it stands

Sources say 50 deep but in reality just how accurate are those sources?  As accurate as those that say the Persians brought a million men to Europe?

Of course if you want to play 4 deep go ahead, but at least try the "official" version first - you may be surprised


That is a matter of opinion Cyrus. Lists tend to allow armies in the middle range of possibilities which is fine for pick up games and competitions but not always helpful for refights of historical battles. In putting on Magnesia I found out that CP Kataphracts needed to upgraded to VBU7 to have any real chance against the Roman legions they fought and defeated in the actual battle. I have on occasion made up ratings for specific units not found in the lists for specific battles.

As far as the historicity of the claim for 50 ranks I don't see any reason to discount it.

Out of curiosity, when pikes are deployed 3 deep what do you think they are representing? Standard depth of 16 ranks or something deeper? What is a large unit of Hoplites with 2 stands representing? I always presumed it was the standard depth of 12 ranks.

I like your idea Tarty of doubling the VBU of the back stand to try and mitigate the depth problems in wargaming.
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Re: Theban Phalanx at Mantinea

Post by Jim Webster on Thu Nov 05, 2015 8:22 pm

Beware of thinking that base depths have any real relationship to the formation of men on them :-)
If a 80mm base frontage represents 800 men, then that works nicely, it's 80 files, each ten deep.
Which means that the depth should be an eighth of the frontage Embarassed

So perhaps it's only 40 files, twenty men deep, in which case the depth should be half the frontage

In reality the depth of a base has far more to do with the size of figures and what is stable and looks good.

So if you're wanting Theban deep units, three bases deep can portray it just as reasonably as four bases deep.

When it comes to effect in the battle, the Thebans probably hit Matineans as well as catching some Spartans, and the Theban cavalry was victorious on that wing, so the Matineans may well have had enemy cavalry throwing javelins into their flank. So the extra depth probably wasn't the sole cause of the success, but one of several causes.

It's probably better to look at Battle of Tegyra (375 BC) where the Thebans went deep and DID defeat Spartan infantry
For looking at the mechanics of how the Theban column won, they also used it at Battle of Leuctra where the Spartan King was killed. He fell fighting (by definition in the front rank) but his bodyguard managed to recover his body and he was alive when they recovered it and he died being carried away from the battle.

It's only a detail but it showed that the 'steamroller' could be held and even perhaps driven back slightly before it finally won. I think three ranks deep with sacred band in the front rank should be good enough to brush aside lesser hoplites and defeat Spartans after a tough fight which seems to match what happened.
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Re: Theban Phalanx at Mantinea

Post by Gaius Cassius on Thu Nov 05, 2015 8:58 pm

Jim, if 2 stands depth represents a hoplite unit in standard depth of 12 ranks then 3 stands is hardly sufficient to represent 50 ranks. One could argue as Cyrus does, that 50 ranks is a gross exaggeration and hypothesize a less deep formation (20 ranks?.) In that case 3 stands deep is fine. But for 50 ranks or something approaching that 3 stands doesn't seem adequate to my thinking. That is unless we imagine a normal Macedonian phalanx of 16 ranks deep as 2 stands in Impetus and 32 ranks as 3 stands.
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Re: Theban Phalanx at Mantinea

Post by Jim Webster on Thu Nov 05, 2015 9:03 pm

But remember it doesn't relate to the depth of a unit. If it related to the depth of a unit, then hoplites would normally fight one base deep and pikemen two.
The number of ranks is a mechanism to produce a desired result.

So let's assess the effect of a big unit with four ranks of hoplites as opposed to one with three
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Re: Theban Phalanx at Mantinea

Post by Gaius Cassius on Thu Nov 05, 2015 9:08 pm

Jim Webster wrote:But remember it doesn't relate to the depth of a unit. If it related to the depth of a unit, then hoplites would normally fight one base deep and pikemen two.
The number of ranks is a mechanism to produce a desired result.


I agree that depth shouldn't be taken literally in Impetus (ie. 1 stand depth = 6 ranks 2 stand depth 7-12 ranks etc.) But it does represent units of varying depth in a general sense so I can't agree with your general observation.
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Re: Theban Phalanx at Mantinea

Post by Gaius Cassius on Thu Nov 05, 2015 9:08 pm

Jim Webster wrote:But remember it doesn't relate to the depth of a unit. If it related to the depth of a unit, then hoplites would normally fight one base deep and pikemen two.
The number of ranks is a mechanism to produce a desired result.


I agree that depth shouldn't be taken literally in Impetus (ie. 1 stand depth = 6 ranks 2 stand depth 7-12 ranks etc.) But it does represent units of varying depth in a general sense so I can't agree with your general observation.
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Re: Theban Phalanx at Mantinea

Post by Gaius Cassius on Thu Nov 05, 2015 9:09 pm

Jim Webster wrote:But remember it doesn't relate to the depth of a unit. If it related to the depth of a unit, then hoplites would normally fight one base deep and pikemen two.
The number of ranks is a mechanism to produce a desired result.


I agree that depth shouldn't be taken literally in Impetus (ie. 1 stand depth = 6 ranks 2 stand depth 7-12 ranks etc.) But it does represent units of varying depth in a general sense so I can't agree with your general observation.
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Re: Theban Phalanx at Mantinea

Post by Gaius Cassius on Thu Nov 05, 2015 9:12 pm

Something weird happened on the Impetus site and I see my posting has be triplicated!! Only meant to send it once.
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Re: Theban Phalanx at Mantinea

Post by Jim Webster on Thu Nov 05, 2015 9:23 pm

Gaius Cassius wrote:Something weird happened on the Impetus site and I see my posting has be triplicated!! Only meant to send it once.

I thought it was the Thebans coming in really deep Cool

Isn't the internet wonderful!

I think what we have to do is find out what gives the right result in combat, and then see how to show it on the table.

For example you could have three units

6/2
5/2
5/2

Now if that is about the right level of power, adding a fourth unit is going to make things too unbalanced

But you could perhaps then say that the back ranks were less effective, and were perhaps not the best troops (who would tend to be at the front)

So you might have
6/2 Because the Theban sacred band remains the same
4/2
4/2
4/2

This is a bit tougher than the one above, (12VBU in the subsequent ranks rather than 10VBU)

Or if you wanted to keep the 10VBU then you could reduce two of the ranks to VBU3

So you get the aesthetics but don't create a monster that is too overwhelming

Fighting frontally against spartans you have the Spartans who can be

6/2
5/2

This is a total of 11 VBU

Your Thebans coming in as the current army lists suggest have 16VBU so I wouldn't like to give them any more really

Jim
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Re: Theban Phalanx at Mantinea

Post by Gaius Cassius on Fri Nov 06, 2015 1:16 am

Yes Jim. If I can't win the argument with skill I'll go with depth!!

I play Swiss quite a bit. At first this was a powerful army because no one knew how to deal with it. But it is now an average army (win/loss) because other players know its weaknesses (VD and flanks.) Good deep units are pretty easy to jam up with other good units. Over several turns the deeper unit will generally win. In the meantime it is vulnerable to flanking.

Going with a formation this deep (4 stands) would be pretty risky in Impetus and it probably was at Leuctra.  Epaminondas tried to mitigate this risk by moving in echelon. He also deployed his attacking formation on the left wing presumably to disrupt the Spartan attack and take on the best part of the Spartan infantry. If the Spartans could hold this deep phalanx up for a period of time then it might be possible to work its flanks. In the end the Spartans troops opposite the Theban attack broke before this could happen.

I think in Impetus terms the Theban attack has to be decisive in advantage to have any chance. In your examples above I don’t think the advantage is nearly decisive enough and the Spartans could easily win the melee over several cycles. With a depth of 4 units and a VBU of 21 versus 11 the advantage is clear. So I would support AW in representing the main Theban phalanx with 4 stands (actually I prefer Tarty’s suggestion of a three stand unit with the back unit double strength.)

I do want to emphasize that I support the list for Thebes. We are only talking about replaying a specific historical battle.
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Re: Theban Phalanx at Mantinea

Post by Jim Webster on Fri Nov 06, 2015 7:40 am

The problem with refighting Mantinea is that
1) The phalanx may have hit more Mantineans that it did Spartans
2) The Theban cavalry may already have been round the flank

So the Thebans probably didn't need to be all that wonderful
That's why I looked at the other two battles.

If someone is just refighting a particular battle (For example the Society of Ancients will choose a battle every year and at one event it will be fought out using several sets of rules) and to wargame specific battles people will often have to bring tweaks into the rules to cope with specific circumstances.
But these tweaks don't go back into the army list

But when you say "VBU of 21 versus 11 the advantage is clear" you've lost me, because you get that advantage with three units of Thebans
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Re: Theban Phalanx at Mantinea

Post by AncientWarrior on Fri Nov 06, 2015 11:55 am

Gents -
Interesting reading re the variety of comments and suggestions. I am keeping a list so that when it comes time to play Mantinea I can refer to the better brains with regard to the Impetus rules.

Replying to Mr. Webster's most recent comments - I am wondering about the accepted placement of troops at Mantinea. Was not Epaminondas all about thrashing the Spartans? Was not the place of honor on the right of the line, so would it not follow that the Spartans would be on the right instead of the Mantinean contingent? I don't know - I'm just wondering. As to the Theban horse working around the flank, wasn't the allied position bookended by difficult terrain? Perhaps light infantry could negotiate the ridge line but I wonder about cavalry.

I would be greatly surprised to see Mantinea included on a list of suggested battles for a SOA Battle Day event.

Thanks again to all for weighing in on this topic. Appreciated.

Chris

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Re: Theban Phalanx at Mantinea

Post by Jim Webster on Fri Nov 06, 2015 12:43 pm

http://lukeuedasarson.com/Mantinea.html is a nice account of the battle, and Luke is well read

But two comments, as he says, the Mantineans were the 'home team', it was their battle so they would have the place of honour on the right.

The Mantinean cavalry would have to be deployed in the open, so their flank might have rested on difficult terrain, but the flank of the hoplites couldn't because the cavalry had to have somewhere to deploy

Jim

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Re: Theban Phalanx at Mantinea

Post by Gaius Cassius on Fri Nov 06, 2015 5:05 pm

Jim Webster wrote: But when you say "VBU of 21 versus 11 the advantage is clear" you've lost me, because you get that advantage with three units of Thebans

Three units Jim at full value is 16 VBU or about a 50% advantage. 21 to 11 is a 100% advantage. Even with poor dice rolling the Thebans will win the melee in the second case. An advantage of 5 VBU isn't quite enough to guarantee victory in my experience in battles between large units.
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Re: Theban Phalanx at Mantinea

Post by GamesPoet on Mon Nov 16, 2015 2:13 am

An interesting conversation.  If I was planning a game of Mantinea, I'd give it a playtest or a few as intended to see if it could work as is, and otherwise adjust it accordingly.  Thank you for the various ideas!

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Re: Theban Phalanx at Mantinea

Post by Cyrus The Adequate on Mon Nov 16, 2015 2:07 pm

I think GC has got it very wrong. The total VBU of the large units is not the issue, the critical factor is at what point the front unit becomes unsupported and suffers casualties. In a 2 deep Spartan formation this is after 5 casualties, at that point, assuming the Thebans suffer similar losses the Thebans will still have a full rear rank and the Spartans have lost. Making the Thebans 4 ranks deep is of little point
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Re: Theban Phalanx at Mantinea

Post by Gaius Cassius on Mon Nov 16, 2015 4:47 pm

I think Cyrus has got it very wrong. The Spartan phalanx at Leuctra is presumbably in a standard 12 rank deep formation and the Thebans phalanx is 50 ranks deep. One extra unit in Impetus terms doesn't give the Thebans a decisive advantage. Two does. While Cyrus is correct about averages that is not always how melees occur in Impetus. Imagine a melee where the Spartan player rolls a couple of low CTs and the Theban player rolls a couple of 6s for the CT (I've seen this enough times!) A stand can be lost very quickly in Impetus and the advantage to Theban side disappears. The 4th stand pretty much guarantees victory for the Theban side.

The Spartans cannot win frontally nor should they be able to but they can certainly jam up the the Theban phalanx frontally and attack on the flanks. Epaminondas tried to counter this risk with an echelon attack. The question is whether the Spartan side can peel away the Theban flank supports before the Theban super phalanx breaks through the Spartan line.

As an aside, I have certainly seen this in fighting with the Swiss. They almost always win on frontal attacks but are very vulnerable to flank attacks. Notice that the Swiss historically attacked in echelon to mitigate their vulnerability.
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Re: Theban Phalanx at Mantinea

Post by Cyrus The Adequate on Mon Nov 16, 2015 5:58 pm

Sorry but that doesnt hold at all. If the Spartan player rolls low CTs and the Thebans high the result is still the same - usually a single loss each either due to a 6 result OR a disorder casualty. The Theban would have to suffer the equivalent of 5 extra casualties before his depth advantage would be in any way under threat - and assuming a single casualty a melee on the Spartans through disorder that means the Thebans would still be on equal terms if the Spartans were to score 2 casualties a turn. To achieve a hold the Theban would have to roll a long sequence of sixes "A couple" of bad dice rolls will not do it.

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