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Theban Phalanx at Mantinea

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Re: Theban Phalanx at Mantinea

Post by Gaius Cassius on Mon Nov 16, 2015 9:22 pm

It does hold Cyrus. You made a basic mistake in your calculations. You assume that the most hits the Theban phalanx can take in a turn is one. But that is not correct. If the Spartan phalanx rolls 2 or 3 damage then the hits grow. A disordered Theban phalanx taking 3 damage could take 2-4 hits in one turn depending on the VBU of the front unit and whether a general is present. A couple bad melee results and the Theban main assault is neutralized. Remember the Theban attack at Leucrta was overwhelming in nature.
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Re: Theban Phalanx at Mantinea

Post by Cyrus The Adequate on Mon Nov 16, 2015 11:22 pm

The chance of multiple casualties is also there for the Spartans. For your proposition to have any value you would have to have the Thebans suffer multiple bad results at the same time as the Spartans continue a sequence of good results. To make that work the Spartans have to inflict five consecutive 2 loss melees when at the same time losing only 1 casualty each themselves. It is possible but highly unlikely

Sorry but if the aim is to make the result certain then go ahead - but in that case there is no point in playing the game. 3 ranks deep should grant victory over two the vast majority of the time. Four is unnecessary, so why do it?
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Re: Theban Phalanx at Mantinea

Post by Gaius Cassius on Tue Nov 17, 2015 3:16 am

I think you're missing the point Cyrus. Seriously. The Theban attack should unquestionably defeat the Spartan line. That is why I think it would take 4 units to guarantee this. I agree with you that 3 Theban units would likely win but the advantage is not decisive.

The real question is how long will it take the Thebans to break the Spartan line. I think it could take quite a while. In the meantime, the Spartans have a real chance to break the Theban attack column by attacking its flank. In order to do so it will likely have to defeat the Theban supporting units moving forward in echelon. The game then becomes a race against time for both sides. Can the Theban super phalanx break the Spartan forces opposing it or can the Spartan side peel away the support units that cover the Super Phalanx's flanks. That sounds to me like Leucrta. You see, if the Theban super phalanx only was 3 stands then there is a outside but not unreasonable chance that the Spartans can actually hold against it. I personally don't think this is how it should be.

As I said above, depth has its problems. I've seen many a Swiss pike block held up by high quality CP with attached commanders long enough to be flanked and destroyed. I could see this easily happening to the Theban super phalanx.

And finally just to remind you, we are talking about reenacting a specific battle, not about the Theban list for pick up play or tournaments (where 3 stands is quite fine by me.)
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Re: Theban Phalanx at Mantinea

Post by Granicus Gaugamela on Tue Nov 17, 2015 3:54 am

It's been a while since I've done this scenario but shouldn't the Thebans have extra depth on one flank but at the cost of making their centre and other flank weaker?

Could you go with a standard 2 deep Spartan army up against a Theban army with depth 4 on one flank and the centre and other flank being weaker troops who are also only 2 deep?

Thus the battle comes down to the crunching Theban super phalanx trying to smash to victory whilst the others try and hold off the superior Spartans?

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Re: Theban Phalanx at Mantinea

Post by Gaius Cassius on Tue Nov 17, 2015 5:16 am

That's how I see it GG.
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Re: Theban Phalanx at Mantinea

Post by Cyrus The Adequate on Tue Nov 17, 2015 7:28 am

The problem is of course that the 4 deep phalanx will crush a two deep one in exactly the same amount of time as a three deep one will, so taking a 4 deep unit not only is counter the rules but is counter productive as it shortens your line by at least one Large Hoplite unit. Making this amendment actually favours the Spartans.

As for a specific refight, while true EXACTLY the same result will be reached if you play with balanced versions of the published army lists for the two forces. The Sacred Band with its extra depth will push through where it contacts and the rest of the Theban line will struggle with the Spartans.

There is always a temptation to tinker, but in this case the rules and lists offer the chance to produce the result - I say chance, because nothing should be certain if the game is to have any value other than as a dice rolling exercise.

If it ain't broke, dont fix it
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Re: Theban Phalanx at Mantinea

Post by Gaius Cassius on Tue Nov 17, 2015 1:50 pm

Cyrus The Adequate wrote:The problem is of course that the 4 deep phalanx will crush a two deep one in exactly the same amount of time as a three deep one will, so taking a 4 deep unit not only is counter the rules but is counter productive as it shortens your line by at least one Large Hoplite unit. Making this amendment actually favours the Spartans.


We are not talking about an amendment Cyrus but an adaptation of the rules for a refight of a historical battle. I agree with you the tactically speaking Epaminondas took a big risk in piling up his hoplites into such large formations. But that is what he did.

"Epaminondas personally led this column [the deep phalanx] from the front line. Xenophon (Hellenika 7.5.23) described the left wing of that Theban army as "like a trireme, with the spur of the prow out in front."  

What do you think Xenophon is trying to describe with his image/analogy? Does adding an extra stand depth to the Theban phalanx really capture what Xenophon describes? Personally, I don't think so. We use two stands in Impetus to represent Hoplites in 12 ranks depth. One extra stand to represent the other 38 ranks? But more to the point, the 4th stand in my opinion is necessary to guarantee victory.

The analogy of a trireme describes a narrow deep column that attempts to break the enemy at one point in the battle line. It has all the benefits and risks associated with the image and is fairly easy to counter in Impetus (which may be why this formation quickly fell out of fashion in ancient warfare.)

What I love about Impetus is that it can faithfully represent the tactic and counter tactic. In some games destroying 50% of one command (1/4 of  the total army) can bring down the whole army (with some minor losses in the other commands.) Impetus does a great job of showing us what Epaminondas was trying to do by breaking through at one point in the enemy line. The great thing about the refight is that the counter tactic is available to us so that we are not simply throwing dice with the final result guaranteed.
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Re: Theban Phalanx at Mantinea

Post by Cyrus The Adequate on Tue Nov 17, 2015 2:36 pm

Gaius Cassius wrote: Does adding an extra stand depth to the Theban phalanx really capture what Xenophon describes?

YES - it perfectly recreates the tactic of an overly deep formation in game terms. If you insist on 48 ranks and accept a hoplite base is 6 ranks (or rather a large unit is 12) why stop at four bases, surely eight is more appropriate?

Nothing is gained by being 4 deep so why do it? Why not just play the rules and army lists as they are written and see what the result is rather than speculating and over complicating?
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Re: Theban Phalanx at Mantinea

Post by Granicus Gaugamela on Tue Nov 17, 2015 9:13 pm

Cyrus The Adequate wrote:The problem is of course that the 4 deep phalanx will crush a two deep one in exactly the same amount of time as a three deep one will,

True if things go according to plan, but what 4 deep does is give the lower quality Thebans the ability to soak up some extra casualties against the higher quality Spartans AND being 4 deep lets the law of averages come into play and the Thebans are less likely to suffer a "surprise" result based on just one dice roll.

Cyrus The Adequate wrote:
so taking a 4 deep unit not only is counter the rules but is counter productive as it shortens your line by at least one Large Hoplite unit. Making this amendment actually favours the Spartans.

Isn't this exactly what occurred?

The specific tactics to overcome Spartan superiority were to take a calculated risk by having localised superiority in numbers whilst everyone else had to hold and buy enough time for the extra large phalanx to do its job. If you want to model the day then model the day, make it spectacular and go for it.

Cyrus The Adequate wrote:
As for a specific refight, while true EXACTLY the same result will be reached if you play with balanced versions of the published army lists for the two forces.

Or perhaps not. By bulking up the Theban Left you give them protection against the dreaded low-critical-number-high-dice-roll outcome that can see entire ranks disappear. Plus it's what the man deliberately did as his defined strategy to overcome a man-for-man disadvantage and it was his winning tactic. To do a refight without modelling it seems a bit unusual IMHO.


Cyrus The Adequate wrote:
The Sacred Band with its extra depth will push through where it contacts and the rest of the Theban line will struggle with the Spartans.

Who Nellie! The "Sacred Band" is NOT the large phalanx. They weren't even mentioned as holding off the Spartan elite as they had at Leuctra where they were the troops who held off the traditionally placed elite Spartans and thus bought the overstength phalanx time to do its job against the more regular Spartan infantry.

Cyrus The Adequate wrote:
There is always a temptation to tinker, but in this case the rules and lists offer the chance to produce the result - I say chance, because nothing should be certain if the game is to have any value other than as a dice rolling exercise.

If it ain't broke, dont fix it

Absolutely nothing wrong with Special Scenario Rules to model specific events. The problem arises when specific events that weren't common are incorporated into the main body of rules and are allowed to be used on a regular basis.

What "should" happen at Manitea is the Theban cavalry chase off the inferior Spartan cavalry, the Thebans oblique/echelon to get the deep phalanx on their Left into combat first, the Spartans react by trying to outflank the other direction, the big Thebans break through and wheel to roll up the Spartans.

The challenge for the table Thebans is to replicate that, for the table Spartans it is to prevent same.

And a 4 deep phalanx on Impetus type bases would be simply stunning.

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Re: Theban Phalanx at Mantinea

Post by Cyrus The Adequate on Tue Nov 17, 2015 10:51 pm

Granicus Gaugamela wrote:
True if things go according to plan, but what 4 deep does is give the lower quality Thebans the ability to soak up some extra casualties against the higher quality Spartans AND being 4 deep lets the law of averages come into play and the Thebans are less likely to suffer a "surprise" result based on just one dice roll.

Actually as I have been trying to point out, clearly to no avail, it is not "one dice roll". Once engaged it would require many "bad" dice rolls to reduce the Theban advantage. If the Sacred Band and the Theban General are present they will present two large units each at VBU 6, exactly the same as the Spartans but with a decisive extra depth. As for "lower quality" once engaged this has little or no effect on the outcome - as I said both front ranks are VBU6 and the back ranks are VBU 5. Spartans have better discipline against one large unit so gain a single dice in combat but at the same time that unit has a general so is actually better in CT tests. There is in effect no qualitative difference as higher discipline would only come into effect if one side were allowed to disengage and rally - clearly not an option here, and discipline has no impact on the CT.

As it happens I've actually seen this played out quite recently - not as a re-fight but in an actual tournament game and the Theban 3 rank Large Units performed exactly as expected.

You seem wedded to your insistence that a fourth rank of an LU is required, but I see absolutely no reason to accept that. Indeed your whole position seems to be based around a false assumption that a single "bad" dice roll can somehow invalidate the depth advantage the Thebans have. Clearly we have reached an impasse so maybe the best thing is to leave it there.
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Re: Theban Phalanx at Mantinea

Post by Granicus Gaugamela on Tue Nov 17, 2015 11:10 pm

Cyrus The Adequate wrote:
Granicus Gaugamela wrote:
True if things go according to plan, but what 4 deep does is give the lower quality Thebans the ability to soak up some extra casualties against the higher quality Spartans AND being 4 deep lets the law of averages come into play and the Thebans are less likely to suffer a "surprise" result based on just one dice roll.

Actually as I have been trying to point out, clearly to no avail, it is not "one dice roll". Once engaged it would require many "bad" dice rolls to reduce the Theban  advantage. If the Sacred Band and the Theban General are present they will present two large units each at VBU 6, exactly the same as the Spartans but with a decisive extra depth.

You're ignoring that I have already pointed out the Sacred Band should NOT be part of the large phalanx. There were 300 of them in total. They fought well at Leucra where these Theban tactics were first used, there is no mention of them playing a similarly large role at Matinea that I am aware of.

The Thebans in that phalanx should be VBU 4 or at a stretch 5, they were markedly inferior to the Spartans, they knew it, their leader knew it, and the depth was his answer to that problem. Assuming they are a VBU 4 rear rank then it only takes 1 poor roll to blow away a stand, 2 poor rolls to blow away 2 and then they're in the poop whilst also having to watch out for Spartans breaking through their other flank.


Cyrus The Adequate wrote:
As for "lower quality" once engaged this has little or no effect on the outcome - as I said both front ranks are VBU6 and the back ranks are VBU 5.

There is no way that reflects the level of the troops involved. The Spartans being 6 is fair enough, the Thebans in that large phalanx should be 4. Primarily not because they were so much worse fighters but because, man on man, they were far less disciplined and should break more easily which in our game is a function of VBU just as much as fighting dice are.


Cyrus The Adequate wrote:
Spartans have better discipline against one large unit so gain a single dice in combat but at the same time that unit has a general so is actually better in CT tests.

Which is clearly erroneous. The whole reason the large phalanx was deployed as it was was to overcome the clear superiority of the individual Spartan warrior and the clear superiority of a similarly sized Spartan unit against a regular Theban one.


Cyrus The Adequate wrote:
There is in effect no qualitative difference as higher discipline would only come into effect if one side were allowed to disengage and rally - clearly not an option here, and discipline has no impact on the CT.

Discipline is also reflected by the VBU of a unit. The higher the discipline the less likely they are to break. They stay in the fight longer, simple as that. The Spartans have it in spades, the Thebans not so much. But as a seething mass, well they had brainpower applied to overcome that man to man disadvantage.

Cyrus The Adequate wrote:
As it happens I've actually seen this played out quite recently - not as a re-fight but in an actual tournament game and the Theban 3 rank Large Units performed exactly as expected.

Statistically that is always likely to be the case. The fourth rank does 2 things:
1) it makes a statistical anaomoly less likely
2) it reflects the reality


Cyrus The Adequate wrote:
You seem wedded to your insistence that a fourth rank of an LU is required, but I see absolutely no reason to accept that. Indeed your whole position seems to be based around a false assumption that a single "bad" dice roll can somehow invalidate the depth advantage the Thebans have. Clearly we have reached an impasse so maybe the best thing is to leave it there.

My position is based around the concept that if you're doing a refight and a specific strategy was used in that fight and very rarely elsewhere then put a SSR in there to cover it.

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Re: Theban Phalanx at Mantinea

Post by Gaius Cassius on Tue Nov 17, 2015 11:19 pm

Hey Cyrus I played enough Risk in my youth to know that a series of poor die rolls can cause surprising results. I've seen enough Impetus to know that a series of poor rolls (no one is talking about one bad roll) can burn through stands quickly.

Talking about what one has seen recently I saw a large warband simply eviscarate a large 3 stand pike phalanx in one turn through a series of poor CTs and some lucky rolls for damage. It does happen and it could happen that the Theban super phalanx loses even with 4 stands (so perhaps 5 or 6 is a better representation Very Happy. I do think the law of diminishing returns enters into representing the 50 ranks for hoplites so am happy with 4 stands.) Less likely though. Actually I prefer Tarty's original suggestion of having 3 stands with the last stand having extra VBU so that the depth distortion doesn't get out of control.

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Re: Theban Phalanx at Mantinea

Post by Cyrus The Adequate on Wed Nov 18, 2015 8:30 am

I'm pained to point out that the "one bad dice roll" IS A DIRECT QUOTE (edit - I'm clearly getting my GCs and GGs confused)

Additionally, comparing a pike block with a VBU 5 front rank to a large unit with a VBU 6 front rank doesnt really work due to the mechanics of the cohesion test - multiple casualties to a VBU5 unit are exponentially more likely than a VBU 6 (well almost)

(edit) - making the calculations on a VBU 5 front rank does change the results of course - my assumptions - always a dangerous thing - are that the sacred band lead one LU and the General lead the second as per the lists - apologies for any confusion this has caused

Maybe try playing the game rather than all this theorising?
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Re: Theban Phalanx at Mantinea

Post by AncientWarrior on Thu Nov 19, 2015 12:11 pm

Maybe try playing the game rather than all this theorising?

Cyrus -
Working on it! I am not recreating the entire battle of Second Mantinea, however. I am concentrating on the Theban left-center and Mantinean right, opposite. I've played a version of the same with Armati and Hail Caesar. IMPETVS will be third and final exercise.

My intention is to submit a finished product to the editor of SLINGSHOT. Or, if he does not find the report merits inclusion in the pages of the august journal, I shall post online in the battle report section of various forums.

Thanks to all for contributing to this thread. Interesting reading!

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Re: Theban Phalanx at Mantinea

Post by GamesPoet on Mon Nov 23, 2015 3:40 pm

There was a lot of back and forth on this, and so maybe just playing it out, and playing it the way one prefers will work good. However, even though I am kind of repeating myself, I'd try it as it's been provided first, and maybe more than once before switching it up.

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Re: Theban Phalanx at Mantinea

Post by Jim Webster on Wed Nov 25, 2015 8:52 am

Apparently a lot of back and forth is to be expected in hoplite melees Wink

(I'll get my coat)

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Re: Theban Phalanx at Mantinea

Post by GamesPoet on Wed Nov 25, 2015 11:00 pm

Caching!

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Re: Theban Phalanx at Mantinea

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