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M Helsdon

Phalanx Warfare

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The following is derived from reading Aelianus and Asclepiodotus: even in translation the meanings aren't always apparent, despite the drawings they helpfully provided. As such, even though modified for Glorantha, some of my interpretations are probably wrong.

This assumes a Pelorian phalanx, with some of the counter-march orders arbitrarily associated with various gods or emperors.

A phalanx requires drill and discipline to function, and is capable of performing numerous maneuvers upon command. Commands are given by voice, by trumpet or by the movement of the standard, or a combination of these.

The movement of a phalanx on the battlefield performing precise exercises can intimidate and cower the enemy: a thousand or more glinting spearheads moving in unison to a common purpose will overawe a foe, lowering their morale before a blow has been struck. With the sound of a thousand or more men marching together the effect may daunt even the bravest barbarian.

A number of Pelorian phalanx drill commands are given below.

Attention!

Await order about to be issued.

To arms!

Gather weapons and shield, shield resting against knees, spear vertical.

Stand to your arms!

Face front, shield in front of body, spear vertical.

Raise spears!

Spear held upright, base off the ground.

Front ranks! Lower spears!

Front ranks lower spears to the horizontal attack position.

Fall in!

Gather in formation.

Fall out!

Drop out of formation.

Mark distances!

Form the correct distance from soldiers in front and to the sides.

Form files!

Files form a straight line.

Form ranks!

Files maintain a straight line from flank to flank.

Dress files!

Straighten the files.

Dress ranks!

Straighten the ranks.

Eyes front!

Look to the front.

Leaders, order your files!

File-leaders ensure their file is in proper order and spacing.

Take the first distance!

File-leaders stop, defining the first distance.

March!

March forward.

Advance!

Advance to contact enemy.

Halt!

Halt.

The depth, double!

Close order to open order: file merges into the file beside it.

The width, double!

Open order to close order: rear file moves forward to the left to fill the gap between two forward files.

Shields lock!

Adopt close order.

About-face!

Fully turn to face in the opposite direction.

To the pike, face!

Turn right.

To the pike, wheel!

All soldiers in the formation turn to the right.

To the shield, face!

Turn left.

To the shield, wheel!

All soldiers in the formation turn to the left.

As you were!

Disregard the previous order and return to the most recent order.

Daxdarius File Counter-march!

Counter-march by file: formation halts, file-leader about-faces to face in the opposite direction and steps into the space between the files; the file advances past them with each member wheeling about, stepping into position. Once complete the formation is facing in the opposite direction to its initial orientation and positioned ahead of its original position.

Polaris File Counter-march!

Counter-march by file: formation halts, the men in each file about face. The file-leaders are now at the rear of the formation. The formation occupies the same location it did prior to the order.

Khordavus File Counter-march!

Counter-march by file: formation halts, the file leader about-faces, steps into the space between files and moves down between his file and the next; as each soldier in the file is passed they wheel about and follow the file-leader. Once complete the formation is facing in the opposite direction to its initial orientation and positioned behind its original position.

Daxdarius Rank Counter-march!

Counter-march by rank: formation halts, and counter-march commences at the wing closest to the enemy. The soldier at the end of each rank steps into the space between the ranks; their original rank advances past them with each member wheeling about, stepping into position beside the previous soldier. Once complete the formation is positioned beside its original position, and closer to the enemy.

Polaris Rank Counter-march!

Counter-march by rank: formation halts, and the counter-march commences with the soldier at the end of each rank stepping into the space between the ranks and moving along between the files, followed by the rest of the rank until the last soldier has stepped back. The phalanx files are now in the reverse order.

Khordavus Rank Counter-march!

Counter-march by rank: formation halts and countermarch commences on the wing furthest from the enemy. The soldier at the end of the rank steps into the space between the ranks and moves down between the files; as each soldier in the rank is passed they follow the rank-leader. Once complete the formation is positioned beside its original position, and further from the enemy.

 

Edited by M Helsdon
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18 minutes ago, Jon Hunter said:

They sound quite english :)

They do, in translation. But all are derived from ancient sources.

Aelianus explains why the orders are expressed in 'reverse' order (chapter 51 of his Tactics) as in 'to the pike, face' instead of 'face to the pike'. In the latter, soldiers will start to obey the order as soon as they hear it, but some will start to face in one direction, others the opposite direction. It doesn't matter if the soldiers are using spears, pikes, or muskets, an entirely different language - the logic remains the same. And, of course, Aelianus became necessary reading in the age of pike and musket, so his methods have a direct carry forward to the present.

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According to GROY, there is also the SunStand formation - form a circle, plus a group in the middle, forming a fire rune shape. Not a formation that useful to fight other phalanxes or similar heavy infantry, but useful to fight very mobile enemies, including some flying enemies, or that can be used to defend a group of magicians in the centre. 

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3 hours ago, davecake said:

According to GROY, there is also the SunStand formation - form a circle, plus a group in the middle, forming a fire rune shape. Not a formation that useful to fight other phalanxes or similar heavy infantry, but useful to fight very mobile enemies, including some flying enemies, or that can be used to defend a group of magicians in the centre. 

I know, but I decided not to include it in the limited set of commands.

In my Warfare in Glorantha, I've included it:

Schiltron
A variant on the rectangular phalanx formation is a schiltron, with spearmen drawn up in an extremely close formation, intended to present a cavalry charge with a perimeter horses and most other mounts will refuse to breach.
This is a purely defensive formation, with spear points bristling out in all directions. This allows for a reasonably effective defense even if parts of an army have been divided in battle but requires a high level discipline. Such a formation is capable of holding off cataphract heavy cavalry, but is defenseless against a stand-off attack by archers. The array of spears provides limited protection, but when the formation is adopted to defend against horse archers, its lack of mobility can prove disastrous.
In Dara Happa a circular schiltron is known as a Sunstand.

-------------------------------------------------------------------

There's also another formation of Gloranthan interest, though the name is that given for the real world formation:

Half-Moon
The Half-Moon or Crescent is a phalanx formation taken in the face of an approaching attack by an infantry or cavalry wedge or rhombus.
The wings are extended forward and the center hollowed. This permits the phalanx to surround the attackers, meaning that combat is not restricted to the point of contact between its line and the wedge. If the enemy succeed in breaking through the center, the wings can converge on their flanks, trapping them.

 

Edited by M Helsdon

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This is great stuff.  I could also see a lot of merit in an Earth Rune formation that protected archers within, and a Sea Rune formation that increases frontage by forming a zig-zag.  The main weakness of a phalanx being its flanks, a square formation somewhat solves the problem.

The concept of frontage is all-important to making a phalanx work.  Depending on the length of the pikes/sarissas/spears, a single infantryman facing a file of phalangites might face as many as 5 spears attacking him.  In RQ terms this is not fun, and even Rune Lords have a hard time dealing with that much punishment.  ]

This is merely added in case someone didn't already know.  I think I can safely assume M Heldson is an expert and pretty much everyone replying to the thread is an expert.

 

Edited by Darius West

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2 hours ago, Darius West said:

This is great stuff.  I could also see a lot of merit in an Earth Rune formation that protected archers within, and a Sea Rune formation that increases frontage by forming a zig-zag.  The main weakness of a phalanx being its flanks, a square formation somewhat solves the problem.

Hollow square phalanxes are historical. For water the historical peplegmene or 'saw tooth' formation might fit (it doesn't increase the width). Whilst formations and commands existed to increase width to outflank the enemy, those pose the risk of reducing depth. In any push of spears or pike, a significantly reduced depth could prove disastrous.

However, I suspect that whilst Dara Happan Stone Wall regiments might perform both of these, they might not equate them with the Runes.

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5 hours ago, Darius West said:

The concept of frontage is all-important to making a phalanx work.  Depending on the length of the pikes/sarissas/spears, a single infantryman facing a file of phalangites might face as many as 5 spears attacking him.  In RQ terms this is not fun, and even Rune Lords have a hard time dealing with that much punishment. 

In historical phalanx battles it wasn't unusual for one phalanx to rout before contact. The reputation of the Spartans was such that their mere appearance could cause the opposition to falter and run away. The casualty levels were usually around 5% for the victors and 40+% for the losers.

Over time there was an arms race between the Successor States, resulting in longer pikes and heavier armor, and on the open battlefield the phalanxes became increasingly unwieldy and affected by unsuitable terrain. Even so, when the Romans attempted to break Macedonian phalanxes initially, in fairly static conditions, they failed, unable to get close enough to use their swords, but where terrain and mobility were a factor, the Roman formations defeated them. The later phalanxes weren't of the same quality as those Alexander led into Persia: they had heavier weapons and armor, and their training doesn't seem to have been as good. Alexander's phalanxes could ford a river in good order, the later ones lacked that sort of ability, perhaps because the soldiers were overburdened.

In Glorantha, no group employs the Roman tactics (except perhaps the Steel Sword Legion), there's been no significant phalanx arms race (perhaps because all militaries are fairly conservative because to retain their power they must match traditional rituals and the regimental patron spirit in the standard and the regimental god) so phalanxes and shield-walls, and their variations, are the peak of heavy infantry formations.

The Lunar innovations consist of mounted infantry and unified magical regiments.

Edited by M Helsdon

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Regarding the "Saw Tooth" formation, you are right about it not increasing the frontage, but I have read in a number of places that introducing a wave in his line is what gave Hannibal his edge at Cannae and broke the Romans.  I could see how such a tactic might be adapted to phalanxes, but I don't know how well it would work.  

By Roman tactics, I assume you are referring to the way the Romans defeated the phalanxes at Cynoscephalae ?  By using pilae with their flexible soft iron upper shafts to pierce the shields and render them unbalanced, followed by pelting with the heavy fighting spears, while the vanguard slipped under the sarissas with gladii?

I am interested to hear what you consider Argarath/Kallyr's innovations to have been?  Obviously the Sartarite Magical Unions, which no doubt incorporated different cults and styles of magic into advantageous "buffing" positions.  From memory the Sartarite cavalry is quite good.  This has always seemed odd to me, given that there is no specific Rider god of particular note in the Orlanth pantheon.  I thought that perhaps this was achieved by combining Praxian tactics with those of the Western knights of the Heortlands?

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1 hour ago, Darius West said:

By Roman tactics, I assume you are referring to the way the Romans defeated the phalanxes at Cynoscephalae ?  By using pilae with their flexible soft iron upper shafts to pierce the shields and render them unbalanced, followed by pelting with the heavy fighting spears, while the vanguard slipped under the sarissas with gladii?

The difference in weaponry: throwing spear and shortsword. The only regiment which uses that mix of weaponry is the Carmanian Steel Sword Legion. Whether they use a maniple formation - I suspect not.

1 hour ago, Darius West said:

I am interested to hear what you consider Argarath/Kallyr's innovations to have been?  Obviously the Sartarite Magical Unions, which no doubt incorporated different cults and styles of magic into advantageous "buffing" positions.  From memory the Sartarite cavalry is quite good.  This has always seemed odd to me, given that there is no specific Rider god of particular note in the Orlanth pantheon.  I thought that perhaps this was achieved by combining Praxian tactics with those of the Western knights of the Heortlands?

Primarily creating their own versions of Magical Regiments.

The Sartarite Free Army includes Heavy Cavalry (mostly Praxian, either Animal Nomads or the Praxian Humakti, plus the Pavis Royal Guard, plus units from the Kheldon, Colymar, Culbrea and Malani tribes) and Light Cavalry from the Bush Range (though this might all change when the 1627 sourcebook becomes available). For a Rider God, the Sartarites have Elmal, though the cult is reduced because of the schism, and a long tradition of Orlanthi weaponthanes and other thanes having riding mounts.

I suspect that a great deal of Sartarite arms and armor are Lunar in origin, taken from the garrisons in the liberated cities, with the Lunar emblems hacked off.

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Fwiw, I've tended to think of the Lunar phalanxes as mostly following a conservative Greek model, and the Sun Dome Templars as more like Macedonian phalangites, using a longer spear. Innovation hasn't simply dragged all units to the same standard because of the natural conservatism of Gloranthan religiously enhanced units (don't vary your tactics if it might hurt your magic). 

The Sartarites I'm not sure have great heavy cavalry. Their horses are more like ponies, and I do think they train for proper lance charges etc - mostly they use similar weapons mounted as they do unmounted. What cavalry they have will mostly be from Elmal worshipping clans (Redaylda is the actual most important deity here, but Elmal likes to take the glory). Some Praxians do have powerful heavy cavalry, of course, and some of them are in the Sartar Free army.

Super heavy cavalry like cataphracts are not known to the Sartarites and they simply don't have horses capable. The Loskalmi and the Carmanians do, so you might see some in Lunar forces. 

I don't think anyone in Glorantha fights quite like Roman legions. 

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Looking at the Dragon Pass counter list, the only good heavy cavalry in the Sartar Free Army there are probably Praxians - the Twin Spears and Bullocks we know are Praxian, the Sword Brothers I think are almost all Praxian. The Sartar City Militia cavalry units are OK, the equal of the Tarsh cavalry, but not as good as the Praxian or best Pelorian units. such as the Antelope Lancers and Char-Un or elite Imperial Bodyguard units. 

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10 hours ago, davecake said:

Looking at the Dragon Pass counter list, the only good heavy cavalry in the Sartar Free Army there are probably Praxians - the Twin Spears and Bullocks we know are Praxian, the Sword Brothers I think are almost all Praxian. The Sartar City Militia cavalry units are OK, the equal of the Tarsh cavalry, but not as good as the Praxian or best Pelorian units. such as the Antelope Lancers and Char-Un or elite Imperial Bodyguard units. 

Some of the Magical Regiments are better than the Sartarite tribal Heavy Cavalry, and the Brotherhood of Death, the Sartarite Humakti are very good. The Western mercenaries of Mularik's Men are as well.

I've been unable to uncover any canonical descriptions of Sartarite standards...

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Historical Dara Happan Standards

Ancient Standards:

A: Star Captain standard

B: Star Captain standard

C: Spearmen standard

D: Archers standard

Polaris Era:

E: Spearmen standard

F: Archers standard

G: Alkoth regimental standard

Jerarong Era:

H: Raibanth regimental standard

I: Early Tripolis standard

Khordavu Era:

J: Tripolis standard

K: Regimental standard

Historical Dara Happan Standardsws.JPG

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A: Standard of the Lunar Emperor
B: Standard of Tarsh
C: Standard of the Silver Shields regiment
D: Standard of the Antelope Lancers regiment
E: Standard of a Yuthuppa regiment
F: Standard of an Alkoth regiment
G: Battle Banner of the Empire of the Wyrms Friends
H: Humakt’s Raven Banner

 

This concludes the banners I have canonical information for. A number of others are named but aren't described.

More standards.JPG

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I'd always picture the EWF Battle banner as a windsock style one like the small ones on the cover of Pavis GTA or a massive versions of the windsock dragon banners on the Bayeaux tapestry

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1 hour ago, David Scott said:

I'd always picture the EWF Battle banner as a windsock style one like the small ones on the cover of Pavis GTA or a massive versions of the windsock dragon banners on the Bayeaux tapestry

I did too, but King of Sartar describes it thus: The Battle Banner of the EWF is widely known throughout Genertela. It is a standing dragon about to bite its own tail, which arches over its back. Its arms are so slender that most who saw it mistook it for the legless form of dragon called wyrm or orm.

After reading that, it became obvious that the cover illustration of the KoS 1992 edition shows the Battle Banner.

I'd like to think that other Sartar Free Army standards and banners are similar to Roman/Sarmatian draco standards but no text supports this.

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On 06/09/2016 at 11:23 PM, M Helsdon said:

a long tradition of Orlanthi weaponthanes and other thanes having riding mounts.

I m really not sure they fight riding. For me, its more mounted infantry.

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Just now, Haimji said:

I m really not sure they fight riding. For me, its more mounted infantry.

Riding can cover using a mount as transport or for fighting. In some clans there are horsethanes, equivalent to weaponthanes, except they fight from horseback (or one of the Praxian riding animals). Weaponthanes also ride but fight on foot or mounted.

Several tribes (Kheldon, Colymar, Culbrea) sponsor regiments of heavy cavalry in the Sartar Free Army, armed with swords, javelins, and bearing shields and bronze armor. They aren't as good as Grazer cavalry or Lunar, but are still cavalry.

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