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Old 06-29-2017, 11:53 AM   #1
Rasna
 
Join Date: Jun 2016
Location: Pisa, Tuscany, Italy
Default Low Tech How to play a frontal clash between two phalanxes (Hoplites, Shield Wall)

We have two opposing heavy infantry formations. Soldiers are equipped with a Long Spear with butt spike (Reach 2, 3*) as main weapon, a Shortsword or a Long Knife as backup weapon and a Shield depending on setting, it could be an Argive Shield (DB 2, DB 3 in a shield wall), a Heavy Large Shield (DB 3) or a Kite Shield (DB3). Some curved shortswords could qualify as Small Falchions or Kukri, while Small Axes were common backup weapons among Germanic peoples and more generally in later periods.

Armour also depends on setting. Assuming we're talking about Peloponnesian War (Greece, 431-404 BC), wealthy hoplites were protected by Corinthian Helm (Full Helm, DR 3+1* on skull, DR 3 on face), bronze cuirass (DR 4 on chest), pteruges (DR 2* on abdomen, shoulders and upper arms arms 5-6 on 1d), bronze greaves (DR 3 on knees and shins legs 1-4 on 1d) and maybe even bronze wrist guards (DR 3 on wrists arms 1 on 1d). Poorer hoplites were likely to be protected by a more open helmet (Pot Helm + Broad Cheek Guards, DR 3+1* on skull, DR 3 on cheeks and ears face 3-5 on 1d), layered linen or leather cuirass (DR 3 on chest), pteruges (DR 2* on abdomen, shoulders and upper arms arms 5-6 on 1d) and bronze greaves (DR 3 on knees and shins legs 1-4 on 1d). In each cases feet were protected by sandals (DR 1* on feet [bottom]); shoes were known but they were likely to be less usuals. Bronze neck guards were plausible there is one from a surviving Sannite panoply but, like bronze upper arm guards, forearm guards and thigh guards, they were very rare. Corselets made of bronze or iron scales were rare too they appear to be more common in Etruria, Cyprus and Anatolia.

If I'm not wrong, only the first two lines fought. The rear ranks assisted their comrades pushing forwards. Spears were used mainly in over-arm grip (Reach 1, 2*; although overarm grip isn't considered viable by GURPS Martial Arts, an exception could be made for long spears and other strictly thrusting polearms with Reach 3), because in tight formations it seems to give some significant advantages over the underarm grip (as argued in https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ZVs97QKH-8 and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KtIPp-m69BY).

The question is: how to play it with GURPS rules?

If only the two first ranks fight, each hoplite of the first rank is exposed to the attacks of the enemy two first ranks. Holding his Long Spear in over-arm grip (Reach 1, 2*) and fighting in shield wall, I think the hoplites of the first ranks are likely to use extensively a combination of Evaluation, Beat and Defensive Attack against unprotected targets (neck, most of arms, thighs, feet) to assure good defense after the attack, and Deceptive Attack to lower the high Block bonus of the enemies; but also a combination of Evaluate and Attack, maybe intermixed with Beat or Feint, in order to inflict a decisive blow and advance. The second ranks, being protected by their front rank comrades, I think they would mostly use Evaluate followed by Committed Attack or All-Out Attack against the enemy first ranks.

Shield Bash and Shield Rush would be both suicidal and would break the formation, while Committed Attack and All-Out Attack would expose the first ranks to the attacks of two to five enemies one from the front, one to two from the sides, one to two from the rear ranks.

These are only hypothesis. I'm not sure they're correct and I don't know how to play the push from rear ranks and the effects which it has on the opposing phalanxes, so I ask you folks in search of suggestions.
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Old 06-29-2017, 08:29 PM   #2
acrosome
 
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Default Re: Low Tech How to play a frontal clash between two phalanxes (Hoplites, Shield Wa

With Mass Combat. :)
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Old 06-30-2017, 12:01 AM   #3
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Default Re: Low Tech How to play a frontal clash between two phalanxes (Hoplites, Shield Wa

There is a pike battle in alatriste that might be worth a look, I ended up using the same approach the movie did, put the PCs in irregular support rolls.

The novel "Lion of Macedon" stresses the importance of depth of soldiers, if you go with that style of combat then it would be closer to a rugby scrum full of armed men. So close combat modifiers would be important.
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Old 06-30-2017, 12:17 AM   #4
jason taylor
 
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Default Re: Low Tech How to play a frontal clash between two phalanxes (Hoplites, Shield Wa

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Originally Posted by (E) View Post
There is a pike battle in alatriste that might be worth a look, I ended up using the same approach the movie did, put the PCs in irregular support rolls.

The novel "Lion of Macedon" stresses the importance of depth of soldiers, if you go with that style of combat then it would be closer to a rugby scrum full of armed men. So close combat modifiers would be important.
I always thought the description sounded a lot like that. The main skepticism I had, was how much would normal people be willing to impale themselves on an undodgeble hedge of spears? People do crazy stunts for national existence and the country that doesn't find people for that won't survive. But for adjusting the turf a few miles a year?

There must have been some way to give the men in the front enough confidence in their probable survival and all those spears in front and all those friendlies trampling from behind makes one skeptical even of the protection of being in a bronze mummy.

The "scrum" model sounds kinda cool and VDH favors it tremendously which is not conclusive. But you gotta wonder.
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Old 06-30-2017, 12:18 AM   #5
LowManaMovieMagic
 
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Default Re: Low Tech How to play a frontal clash between two phalanxes (Hoplites, Shield Wa

Based on the description given here, it sounds like after a few seconds of opportunistic stabbing it turns into a contest of strength, with each shield bearing soldier being assisted by at least one back ranked soldier and opposed by the soldiers on the other side of the shield wall.

If your PC is the one holding the shield, maybe focus on fatigue loss from the extended push/resist push actions. I think there's a side column somewhere called "lending a hand" that talks about multiple characters doing combined feats of strength.
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Old 06-30-2017, 05:17 AM   #6
Tomsdad
 
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Default Re: Low Tech How to play a frontal clash between two phalanxes (Hoplites, Shield Wa

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rasna View Post
...
The question is: how to play it with GURPS rules?

If only the two first ranks fight, each hoplite of the first rank is exposed to the attacks of the enemy two first ranks. Holding his Long Spear in over-arm grip (Reach 1, 2*) and fighting in shield wall, I think the hoplites of the first ranks are likely to use extensively a combination of Evaluation, Beat and Defensive Attack against unprotected targets (neck, most of arms, thighs, feet) to assure good defense after the attack, and Deceptive Attack to lower the high Block bonus of the enemies; but also a combination of Evaluate and Attack, maybe intermixed with Beat or Feint, in order to inflict a decisive blow and advance. The second ranks, being protected by their front rank comrades, I think they would mostly use Evaluate followed by Committed Attack or All-Out Attack against the enemy first ranks.

Shield Bash and Shield Rush would be both suicidal and would break the formation, while Committed Attack and All-Out Attack would expose the first ranks to the attacks of two to five enemies – one from the front, one to two from the sides, one to two from the rear ranks.

These are only hypothesis. I'm not sure they're correct and I don't know how to play the push from rear ranks and the effects which it has on the opposing phalanxes, so I ask you folks in search of suggestions.
As you say the front rank will be susceptible from attacks from the opposing two ranks (possibly three ranks)..

OK so my assumption is any disciplined formations of Hoplites will have both the team tactics and shield wall perks*

So your front rank will fight defensively with defensive attacks or even AoA Defence, utilising the shield wall perk to cover each other if needed.

Your 2nd rank can be more aggressive, being covered by both the front rank's ability to protect them via the team work perk, and the penalty for attacks going though enemy occupied hexes. If they need more the 2nd ranks will also benefit from the their own shield wall perks.


Now the team work perks also adds more benefit

1), your getting benefits in your front rank for bracing and shield shoves

2). your 2nd rank can feint and your front rank can take advantage of it.

3). because team work means you can freely adjust your teams order in your teams turn you can mix up your different team members tactics by adjusting the order they go in.



On the 3rd+ ranks and helping with bracing/shoving etc if you want to you could allow them each add a their teamwork bonus to bracing and shoving if every one in front of them also braces and shoves. (maybe up to set number of ranks, or a leveled perk that increases the number of ranks that can be added in*)


I'm not too sure about how the reverse grip rules and long Spear interact. Being in shield wall does kind of mean overarm grips, but I'm not convinced about all the knock on effects of that here.


So this kind of formation does potentially have a lot of attacks going on like you say, but it is also potentially a very defensive one as well.



*and ones that don't will do badly against the ones that do, but well that's the benefit of training in specialised combat tactics


**or maybe they can give some bonus to the shield shoves in another way

Last edited by Tomsdad; 06-30-2017 at 08:05 AM. Reason: Slightly misread something
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Old 06-30-2017, 10:20 AM   #7
Rasna
 
Join Date: Jun 2016
Location: Pisa, Tuscany, Italy
Default Re: Low Tech How to play a frontal clash between two phalanxes (Hoplites, Shield Wa

Quote:
Originally Posted by acrosome View Post
With Mass Combat. :)
Well, the idea is to use both individual and mass combat rules. Individual for the formation where the PCs are, Mass Combat for the others.

Quote:
Originally Posted by LowManaMovieMagic View Post
Based on the description given here, it sounds like after a few seconds of opportunistic stabbing it turns into a contest of strength, with each shield bearing soldier being assisted by at least one back ranked soldier and opposed by the soldiers on the other side of the shield wall.

If your PC is the one holding the shield, maybe focus on fatigue loss from the extended push/resist push actions. I think there's a side column somewhere called "lending a hand" that talks about multiple characters doing combined feats of strength.
My greatest doubt is how to play the push/resist push, and in fact how to combine the strength of PCs and NPCs and how to assign bonus and malus based on equipment. And the effects in case of being defeated in the ST-based push context, and the possibility of made an attack (perhaps with an appropriate malus) while pushing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tomsdad View Post
As you say the front rank will be susceptible from attacks from the opposing two ranks (possibly three ranks)..

OK so my assumption is any disciplined formations of Hoplites will have both the team tactics and shield wall perks*

So your front rank will fight defensively with defensive attacks or even AoA Defence, utilising the shield wall perk to cover each other if needed.

Your 2nd rank can be more aggressive, being covered by both the front rank's ability to protect them via the team work perk, and the penalty for attacks going though enemy occupied hexes. If they need more the 2nd ranks will also benefit from the their own shield wall perks.


Now the team work perks also adds more benefit

1), your getting benefits in your front rank for bracing and shield shoves

2). your 2nd rank can feint and your front rank can take advantage of it.

3). because team work means you can freely adjust your teams order in your teams turn you can mix up your different team members tactics by adjusting the order they go in.



On the 3rd+ ranks and helping with bracing/shoving etc if you want to you could allow them each add a their teamwork bonus to bracing and shoving if every one in front of them also braces and shoves. (maybe up to set number of ranks, or a leveled perk that increases the number of ranks that can be added in*)


I'm not too sure about how the reverse grip rules and long Spear interact. Being in shield wall does kind of mean overarm grips, but I'm not convinced about all the knock on effects of that here.


So this kind of formation does potentially have a lot of attacks going on like you say, but it is also potentially a very defensive one as well.



*and ones that don't will do badly against the ones that do, but well that's the benefit of training in specialised combat tactics


**or maybe they can give some bonus to the shield shoves in another way
1) I agree. Both the perks seem an obligate choice for trained soldiers.

2) Could Defensive Attack be combined with pushing?

3) Regarding Long Spear and Reversed Grip, is clear that a Long Spear can be used in this way (even the two-handed kontos was often used overarm), even if Martial Arts rules say that a Reach 3 weapon couldn't be used overarm because it would be awkward.

4) The last question is: the role of shortswords and axes, and if they're a good choice for the first rank even if they haven't broken their spears. Axes can be used to hook enemy shields, so basically the front ranks hook and the rear rank stab, while long knifes (historical shortswords) can be used in close combat, but I don't know how much those tactics make sense, both in game and in a real context.
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Old 06-30-2017, 11:13 AM   #8
Tomsdad
 
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Default Re: Low Tech How to play a frontal clash between two phalanxes (Hoplites, Shield Wa

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rasna View Post


1) I agree. Both the perks seem an obligate choice for trained soldiers.
yep

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rasna View Post
2) Could Defensive Attack be combined with pushing?
I don't see why not, I do it under shoves with weapons (MApg112), and as I said I'd consider a levelled perk that allowed more than one rank to add their teamwork bonus to shoves (if everyone in line was shoving)

In fact given there's a push kick technique that's basically a shove, I'd also probably consider a shield based shove technique as well, that would probably be well suited to Hoplites.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Rasna View Post
3) Regarding Long Spear and Reversed Grip, is clear that a Long Spear can be used in this way (even the two-handed kontos was often used overarm), even if Martial Arts rules say that a Reach 3 weapon couldn't be used overarm because it would be awkward.
I pretty much agree, I think l'd just say you use it overarm but not give the benefit or negatives of doing so i.e no extra Thr damage, no reduction in reach

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rasna View Post
4) The last question is: the role of shortswords and axes, and if they're a good choice for the first rank even if they haven't broken their spears. Axes can be used to hook enemy shields, so basically the front ranks hook and the rear rank stab, while long knifes (historical shortswords) can be used in close combat, but I don't know how much those tactics make sense, both in game and in a real context.
I think axes will end up at slight disadvantages as Swung reach 1 weapons (I think you'll risk ending up in C reach alot) So nice thrusting C or C,1 weapons will be better.


Problem with hooking hoplite shields here is not only is Hook hard (default skill-5 and then another -2 for a DB2 shield) they're likely to be strapped which means you are a disadvantage in the QC for the effect even if you hit.

And of course they can defend against the initial hook (and so can their mates with shield wall perk on either side). However the attacking weapons rules are bit odd here as you can parry an attempt to attack you weapon but you can't block and attempt to attack you shield. I'd probably allow shields to try and block a hook attempt on it. But then Hook is hard enough as it is not sure it needs any more disincentive

(EDIT I should say hook and disarm doesn't come a lot in my games so I may be getting some of this wrong)



a quick point if both front ranks end up in Close Combat their shields are going to stat causing issues for them, I might consider a perk that allows you buy off a bit of the shield in CC penalty.
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