I decided to start this thread and separate it from lkmjbc's playtest thread on DBA 3.0. I think Joe wants us to playtest his rules ideas and, as is our want, we can get side-tracked. Hopefully this way Joe can get more focused comments on his request whilst ramblers such as myself can use this thread for discussion.
So this is as good as any to discuss Auxilia. Just Auxilia.
So I've been musing on this topic and I though I'd go back to the purple and re-read Phil's ideas. When you read the description then it seems to discuss 3Ax initially and then 4Ax. I am going to break it down...
AUXILIA (Ax), representing javelin-armed foot able to fight hand-to-hand but emphasising agility and flexibility rather than cohesion. Good description of 3Ax. Increased movement as they are fast, not slowed by rough or difficult going, able to deploy on flanks and no side-support or rear-support Irregulars (often mountain peoples) such as Thracians, Armenians and Irish kerns are usually 3Ax classed as "fast". These should be considered the historical prototype They were over-matched in open country by other close fighting foot No question 3Ax are overmatched by supported Pk, Bd, Sp, supported Wb with current rules and are more vulnerable to cavalry than Spears Again this is true of the current rules but are useful to chase off or support psiloi, to take or hold difficult terrain Certainly too good for Ps in good going. The lack of a group move in terrain against Ps makes this more challenging. Thought: Should 3Ax group move through difficult terrain? as a link between heavier foot and mounted troops or occasionally as a mobile reserve Difficult to assess. Depends a lot on the player.
At this point, it seems that the current rules regarding 3Ax reflect Phil's thoughts quite well and seem historically plausible. Thought: Should 3Ax could flee from heavy foot rather than retire in good order?
Those that acquired better weapons or regular discipline such as Hellenistic thureophoroi, Iberian scutarii and Imperial Roman auxilia become (4Ax) classed as "solid" and can counter Warband.
It seems that this is the problem area. The historical prototypes are clearly stated. However, 4Ax fight Warband at +3 just like 3Ax so the only benefit they get is "solid" for which they lose so much manoeuvrability. Is that the only difference? PB doesn't mention heavier types but there are examples of the historical prototypes doing well enough against heavier types. There are a number of "fixes". A +1 against heavy foot. Side-support against heavy foot. The ability to "bounce" out of combat. I'm sure there are others out there. I have no particular preference but very interested in others thoughts. Ideally, in my opinion, we would have a Peltast type to replace 3Ax and an Auxilia type specifically for 4Ax. But that's not going to happen any time soon.
Well, the genie's out of the bag. Look forward to the replies.
You need to specify if just tweaks are being considered, or new troop types can be discussed as well.
It would help people in general.
I'm not considering anything at the moment. Just want a discussion at this stage. It can be as general or as specific as people like. Maybe as things progress, we could run a poll or two. As all of this is conjecture and in the House Rules section there are no limits.
This thread is a good idea Jim...somewhere where we can share our collective thoughts and observations about Ax troops... ...and, needless to say, I have some very strong views on this subject!
My primary goal is that of behaviour: we want our little metal soldiers to act as the ancient historians said they did. After all, I’m sure people would complain if Elephants and Scythed Chariots acted exactly the same as Cavalry! No, they had different characteristics and attributes, different advantages and disadvantages, from each other. DBA 3.0 has done a remarkable job of simulating all the different troop classes advantages and disadvantages. Unfortunately, 4Ax seem to be all disadvantages and no advantages, and they don’t behave as the ancient writers said they did. (See fanaticus.boards.net/post/19018/ ) If getting their historical behaviour right also helps their play-balance in tournaments, then everyone will benefit.
So let’s start with the basics:- Infantry in all periods have three types of formation...open order, loose order, and close order. I see foot troops following this progression:- Ps are in open order, that allows them to move quickly, and being armed with missile weapons they don’t like fighting hand-to-hand. 3Ax are in loose order, just as quick, also using missiles (javelins), but can fight hand-to-hand, and evade a heavier enemy’s charge. 4Ax are in loose order, but are trained or stubborn enough to close ranks to close order when facing heavier troops. Bd/Sp/Pk are always in close order, and can only fight hand-to-hand, not at a distance (exception: 3Bd and 3Pk, who are still tough).
So there is a linear progression, each one being a bit more tougher than the previous one:- Specialised missile skirmishing Ps become ---> nimble 3Ax become ---> tougher 4Ax become ---> specialised heavy foot (Bd/Sp/Pk). combat factor 2 combat factor 3 combat factor 4? combat factor 5 (or 6 if Pk)
As for battlefield behaviour, Polybius tells us that 4Ax could stand up to Roman Bd, giving ground slowly, and survive for a while. The battle accounts of Alexander’s Successors showed that 4Ax could be used to extend the battleline, and survive for a while. But in DBA 4Ax don’t survive for a while...they die. Why is this? It’s because of the combat factors...CF 3 v CF 5 means overlaps-kill-auxiliaries. And because heavy foot are in no danger whatsoever from 4Ax, they don’t need reserves, because 4Ax have-no-punch. Thus the Romans are free to just form one long single line, as if they were a line of Hoplites.
Giving 4Ax a +1 when they fight heavy foot (except in bad going), because their training or natural native stubbornness means they temporarily form-up in close order when facing tough Bd/Sp/Pk opponents, allows 4Ax to survive overlaps, at least for a while, and gives them a bit more punch so the enemy has to take reserves into consideration in case of any doubling die rolls. (See fanaticus-dba.wikia.com/wiki/File:COMBAT_EFFECTS_CHART_for_DBA_%26_HOTT.pdf )
Their behaviour will more closely resemble that mentioned in the ancient battle accounts, and their play-balance will be improved. What’s not to like?
Post by davidjconstable on Feb 10, 2019 16:23:37 GMT
If you take Mons Graupius then the six Roman auxilia in the centre fought differently than those on the flank. Centre - Close order (4Ax) but using sword specifically, it was what they trained to do. Flanks - Could be 4Ax, but javelin types in effect. The centre would be better as blade but moving as 4Ax, the flanks can stay as 4Ax
We know from sources and Trajan column that some German Ax fought with just longspear, so 4Ax fighting as spear but able to move as 4Ax.
Then we come to the Greek/Hellenistic peltasts, to an extent these are more like light hoplites, but can be 4Ax or possibly 3Ax, so why not offer the option at deployment.
Sorry but all my books are packed up, and all my ancients has been deleted from the computer, otherwise I could explain better.
I hear what you are saying David... ...but I’m not sure we should be too bothered by what weapons these 4Ax carried.
DBA has a maxim, as stated in the first sentence on page 3 (and what a good maxim it is too):- “Troops are defined by battlefield behaviour instead of the usual formation, armour, weapons and morale classes.”
So who cares if some 4Ax carried long spears, some carried javelins, or some carried both spears and javelins... And who cares if some 4Ax had bronze or iron helmets, whiles others fought bare headed... And who cares if some 4Ax were trained uniformed regulars, while others were naturally stubborn undisciplined barbarians... And who cares which 4Ax had the longest weapon (!)...
DBA is an ‘Army Level’ set of rules, looking at the situation from the top-down, from the C-in-C’s point of view, and not a set of small scale skirmish rules looking at things from the bottom-up, where equipment is important.
Just as a Ps is a Ps, no matter if armed with javelins, a sling, or a bow, all that concerns the C-in-C is that they are foot skirmishers. Likewise, a 4Ax is a 4Ax as far as the C-in-C is concerned.
Light Psiloi fight at a distance...heavy foot fight in close combat...and then there are the ‘medium’ infantry, that can do both. And some of these ‘medium’ infantry use their speed to stay alive (3Ax), while others can change their formation to survive (4Ax). It is their different behaviour that the C-in-C needs to worry about, not how each individual was armed or what they looked like.
First, I want do want to challenge to a degree some of the statements made concerning Ax. I would argue that they haven't gotten worse in DBA 3. In DBA 2.x they were +3 vs foot and +2 vs mounted (though if memory serves you could have the weird Ps rear support). This caused them to be extremely vulnerable to mounted attack. They could not easily fill their role as guards against mounted attack.
DBA fixed this by raising Ax to +3 vs mounted, and by having 4Ax recoil mounted on ties. This is a huge change for both 3Ax and 4Ax. I experienced this first hand in my play-testing of Bagradas featured both in WS&S and in my own book. The Roman Allied troops represented as 4Ax were able to hold off and in some cases defeat the Carthaginian Cavalry.
This is a major change from 2.x. The new problem with 3 was almost solely with the newly impetuous rating for Pike and Blade. Without this, Ax could be successfully argued to be much superior to their 2.x counterparts. (I said almost because of Ps not counting corner to corner overlaps.. this is also a negative to Ax.)
The real problem here I think is finding the correct role for Ax.
Phil believes, and I have this first hand, that Ax are to be used for fighting in difficult terrain and countering warband. This is his vision of the element type. Duncan Head states clearly his opinion that Ax could not stand in open battle against Pike, Blade, or Spear. He also directly states that "good" commanders didn't use them to cover the flanks of the Phalanx... Cavalry was used instead. Presumably, Phil is following Duncan's lead buttressed no doubt by his own research and reading. During the development period, Phil agreed that Ax needed to be able to perform their role in holding against mounted. Thus we have the change to +3.
So, what is the historical record of Ax on the battlefield? This if course is open to great debate, but where they faced heavy infantry they were often quickly defeated. Two cases of this are found with Cunaxa and Sellasia.
At Cunaxa, the Greek Hoplite charge broke the newly minted Persian infantry at first charge. At Sellasia, the Greek Pike again made short work of both Hoplites and the mercenary Thureophoroi and only faced a real challenge against the Spartans that were newly armed with Pikes.
Countering this we have the Carthaginian experience at Cannae (Lake Trasimene being too weird, and Trebbia seeing the Gauls as Warband).
We also of course are faced with the difficult rating of Alexander's Hypaspists as 4Ax...
The other classic Ax battle, Clontarf is too obscure to offer detailed analysis, though we do know its outcome- and that is helpful.
Good response Joe! (I love discussions about ancient history...and I think this is just the sort of thing that Jim wanted).
Of course I have counter arguments of my own...
You say that Ax in DBA 3.0 are better than in earlier versions because Ax now have a combat factor of 3 against mounted. That is true, and is fine, good, marvellous...but it’s no help whatsoever when fighting heavy foot is it.
You also say that Phil Barker believes that the role of Ax was to counter enemy warbands. That is also true, and is fine, good, marvellous...but it’s no good if your main enemy doesn’t have any warbands is it.
The Samnites had 3 hard fought wars against Rome before being finally subdued. And they did so using these so called ‘anti-warband’ only 4Ax troops. You’d have thought that these Samnites would at least be equal if up a gentle hill...nope, they are inferior to the legionaries. All right then, how about if the Samnites defend a river bank...nope, they are still inferior to the legionaries. Oh, they are superior when uphill on a difficult hill...but then the legionaries will refuse to go in and attack them. Why did it take 3 wars? According to DBA it should have been a walkover, and be settled in just a single war.
And the same applies with the Spanish Iberians, using ‘anti-warband’ 4Ax, which took Rome a hundred years to finally subdue. Defending a riverbank, up a gentle hill, in rough going, always inferior to the legionaries, only equal in bad going. Now I’m not saying that 4Ax should beat Blades in good going...far from it...but there is a difference between being stubbornly driven back before collapsing and them being massacred like helpless sheep.
Now lets look at the Macedonian Successor armies. Their main enemy were other Successor armies. No warbands there. So why did they drag all those useless 4Ax troops along with them? What were they supposed to do with them? Send them all off to hide in bad going?...but there was no bad going when Eumenes fought Antigonus at Paraitacene in 317 BC and Gabiene in 316 BC, nor was there any bad going at Raphia in 217 BC, or at Magnesia in 190 BC, or at Pynda in 168 BC, and many other battles. You say that Duncan Head states that “good commanders didn’t use Ax to cover the flanks of their phalanx, cavalry was used instead”. So where exactly were all the Ax in the above battles? In reserve just watching? Or were they left in the camp?
As for Cunaxia in 401 BC, according to the DBA army list I/60c Early Achaemenid Persians, there was only one element of 3Ax facing the Greek mercenary Hoplites, and no 4Ax troops present at all, so that tells us nothing about the 4Ax capabilities. And at Sellasia in 222 BC, it was the ‘light’ infantry on the allied right attacking the the Euas hill, with the aid of Philopoemen’s cavalry, that drove the Spartan perioikoi Hoplites from the heights (with Illyrian 4Ax actually fighting uphill no less!). (See “Armies of the Macedonian and Punic Wars”, page 75 of the 1982 edition, battle of Sellasia)
The Crux of the Matter All you say about Ax not being able to face up to heavy infantry is true...for 3Ax. But what about 4Ax...the same 4Ax that Polybius says grudgingly gave ground at Cannae without being broken or destroyed? The same 4Ax that made up the Spanish Iberian and Samnite armies, that made them so hard for the Roman legionaries to beat. The same 4Ax that was used to extend a Successor battleline, and that made up half the foot in Imperial Roman civil wars. Inferior to Bd/Sp/Pk it is true...but certainly not slaughtered like helpless sheep the way DBA portrays them.
And Speaking of Duncan Head:- Hmmm...there appears to be a bit of cherry picking here. Doesn’t he also say that “The initial Spanish charge was often powerful enough to break through even a Roman line, but if it was held, then Roman discipline and armour would usually beat them.” (page 56, 1982 edition).
And about the Illyrians: “The Dardanni in 200 BC are described as much steadier warriors - troops that do not leave their ranks impulsively but keep close order both in combat and withdrawal.” He also goes on to say “The contrast between 5th-century Illyrians fighting individually in no order (3Ax?) and and their 3rd-century counterparts in formed speirai (4Ax?) suggests a marked improvement in battlefield organisation.” (page 52, 1982 edition).
As for the Samnites: “The Samnites had a very high military reputation, and seem to be the only Italian nation whose warlike qualities the Romans feared: Livy calls them warlike, brave and stubborn, fighting with more courage than hope, even in dire adversity". He goes on to say “The Romans believed the first Samnite attack was the most dangerous, and after a while they would run out of missiles and their spirits would flag...Their infantry would usually charge fiercely and fight at close quarters rather than skirmish with their javelins; the Romans seem to have a sleight edge in such a contest, but Samnite troops worsted them more than once.” (page 62, 1982 edition).
Hardly the capability of 3Ax with a combat factor of 3... ...but more like 4Ax with a combat factor of 4 wouldn't you say?
From a gaming point of view I find 4Ax in small amounts useful, but from a historical point of view they seem to do a poor job of representing the Samnites and the medieval Almughavars, to name two that I'd love to make armies of, but can't be bothered. I'm told that in DBMm Ax(S) is very effective, and there's a tendency to follow the designation of DBMM lists; however, in these two armies in particular you end up with cruddy uninspiring armies (by contrast, an army of 8 4Bd is still able to be effective). I'm not sure what the solution is; the Catalan Company (IV/60) and the Samnites (II/13) are two armies that were historically well-regarded, but in DBA on account of their most important troops they are ineffective.
Post by davidjconstable on Feb 11, 2019 8:33:58 GMT
You said "but I am not sure we should be too bothered by what the weapons these 4Ax carried" - well I believe we should - because the Romans clearly did. The revised version (1970?) is the best version, but of circa ten 4Ax units that advanced in a line towards the uphill warband, very specifically the Romans advanced ONLY the centre six initially to combat, which are TRAINED to fight as swordsmen.
This sort of "battlefield behaviour" is different and should result in different troop types.
Over history the hoplite got lighter, and to keep in work changed, they became more flexible, able to fight cavalry in close order, or skirmish.
So a 4Ax with blade 4Ax(Bd) could use blade combat but 4Ax movement results, this makes them better against warband. Hellenistic 4Ax with spear 4Ax(Sp) could use spear combat but 4Ax movement, this makes them better against cavalry.
Good response Joe! (I love discussions about ancient history...and I think this is just the sort of thing that Jim wanted).
Yes stevie. Well done. This is what I'd hoped for. Historical discussion then reflection on our little toys.
So far, and it is early days, it seems that there aren't complaints about 3Ax. This is good as it allows a more focused conversation on 4Ax.
Interestingly, I just did a little experiment with my Thracians with 6x3Ax against 6x4Ax and the 3Ax trounced them. I know statistically the "recoil on evens" will sway the fight in the long run but at least 3Ax have a chance, particularly if they initiate contact and get an early win.
Lots of interesting thoughts. Reading davidjconstable's description of Mons Graupius made me zero in on one word, "trained". Is this the problem with all of this? Veteran Roman auxiliaries would have excellent resources to train to fight as required, probably as would veteran Roman legionaries. The Hypaspists, I think would be quite comfortable with pike or spear and when Alexander asked them to drive off Afghan tribes in the foothills, were able to meet those demands. Maybe we are forgetting that some of these prototype 4Ax were trained professional soldiers with years of experience?
I just can't see professional soldiers not acting in their own best interests in regards to adjusting equipment/formation/style against a known enemy.
In fact Goragrad, I’m not sure that Spears are the best antidote to cavalry in DBA. Consider this:- With an overlap, Sp has 9 chances out of 36 of getting a double against Cv...but that won’t kill them, it just makes them flee. With an overlap, Ax has 6 chances out of 36 of getting a double against Cv..and that does kill them (Bd are the same v Cv). So what is best? Making the Cv temporarily run away for a bit, or destroying them once and for all?
Anyway, the II/12 Alexander army should give players the choice, and say 1 x Hypaspists (3Bd or 4Ax or Sp), and let people decide.
And David, if some 4Ax are a sort of ‘lighter hoplite’ (a reasonable presumption), then such lighter multi-tasking general purpose troops are unlikely to be quite as good against mounted than dedicated specialised spearmen. So Sp having a CF of 4 against mounted but 4Ax having a CF of 3 against them seems about right. Likewise, Imperial Roman Auxilia, being lighter multi-tasking general purpose troops, are unlikely to be quite as good as dedicated specialised legionaries trained for one sole function...to fight well in good going conditions.
Therefore, 4Ax with a proposed CF of 4 v heavy foot (unless in bad going) and a CF of 3 v mounted seems appropriate... ...no matter how they are actually armed.
Duncan Head states clearly his opinion that Ax could not stand in open battle against Pike, Blade, or Spear. He also directly states that "good" commanders didn't use them to cover the flanks of the Phalanx... Cavalry was used instead.
What he actually said was:- “Thureophoroi and similar troops, such as Thracians and Illyrians, might also be deployed in battle to protect the vulnerable flanks of a phalanx (through not infrequently even good commanders like Pyrrhus and Philopoimen seem to have covered their phalanx flanks only with cavalry).”(page 47, 1982 edition).
So 4Ax troops were the preferred choice for protecting a phalanx, while mounted were only used if not enough 4Ax available.
He also goes on to say “Although often found fighting hand to hand with their own kind, they could not stand up to a pike-phalanx”. With a proposed +1 when facing heavy foot, 4Ax with a CF of 4 still won’t be able to stand up to the Pk CF of 6... ...but at least they’ll do a bit better than if they only have a CF of 3...
1. Well, I actually stated, " I would argue that they haven't gotten worse in DBA 3." This is a far cry from stating that they are "better".
2. Cunaxa is an interesting battle. It takes place clearly during the transition period when the Persian army was moving from their traditional bow based army to one of "heavier" infantry in direct response to their difficulties with the Greeks. In essence this would be a mixture of the Early (ending in 420BC) Persian and Later Persian armies. I am of the firm belief that bow based elements certainly still existed along with the new Kardakes troops which we represent as 4Ax. One could also argue the prescense of 3Ax as well. What is certain is that the Greek charge broke the Persian line at contact... and the the Greeks suffered little from bow fire. Putting this together with evidence of the changing nature of the Persian infantry, one can certainly interpret this as a charge of Sp hitting a line of 4Ax... and crushing them.
3. With regards to Duncan's comments... I read this as an inference that the better commanders used Cavalry... not 4Ax to cover their flanks. This was because the Ax were not well suited for it. Though it was the norm for less good commanders. To answer your query on "where were the Thureophoroi?". You answered it- in camp or in garrison. They seem to have been much more of support troops rather than main line of battle troops.
4 Sellasia is also fascinating. Yes, the Illyrians and Achaians attacked the Spartan left flank- along with the cavalry. The Macedonian army however was over half phalangites (well Pike armed at least- and perhaps more than half depending on how you interpret some other Greek allied troops). The Pike frontage most probably covered the entire battlefield. I see the thureophoria attack as a flanking move. One of course argue that the Macedonian Pike hit the Spartan Hoplites. One could also argue that the Spartans weren't Hoplites but also Thureophoroi. Phil Sabin rates them this way... but I prefer them as Hoplites. What is clear is that attack after an initial hiccup cleared the Spartan center and left flank.
5. Samnites, Spanish, Hillbillies and such... Here I do think you have a better argument. Though rated as aggression 1 vs the Roman's 3, and fighting less Blade (Camilians only get 2... the others being rated as Sp), the Samnites will have great difficulty as attackers. The Spanish of course suffer similarly and perhaps worse as the Iberians are given Arable terrain. Here
Phil's addition of "Celt-Iberians" as 3Bd is helpful and helps explain why the some areas held out for such a long time against Roman domination.