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Subject: Missile units in the ancient world rss

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Lawrence Nyveen
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I've been fiddling with a game I designed years ago for a university class.

It's your basic ancient war game with units representing roughly 200 men each.

I put a lot of research into this, but there's still a few aspects of missile combat (specifically bows) that I'm waffling about.

Archers can obviously attack any enemy they can see. They can also launch attacks literally over the heads of allied units. In that respect, they function similar to modern artillery.

However, the command and control of ancient archers are obviously no match for modern artillery with radios. I keep going back and forth about if, when, and how archers can shift fire.

In the original design, I took inspiration from Alexander and allowed archer units the ability to shift aim to a new target unit every offensive turn. Alexander says a missile unit can choose any target unit within range every new attack regardless of any past attacks or line of sight. That just feels too modern to me, more like a mortar than an ancient unit.

My other options are:

1) Archers must maintain fire on a target unit they are attacking.*

2) Archers that are attacking a target unit may only shift fire to a new unit if that unit is in their unobstructed line of sight.*

3) Archers attacking a unit may continue to fire at the target unit or may walk fire from the target hex to one (or two, or whatever) adjacent target hex per turn.

* or until the original target unit breaks or the archers are themselves attacked by ground troops.

Or any other options you folks can recommend. My military-history prof recommended option 1, but I find that too harsh.

What do you think?
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mike
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Archers really are not like modern artillery though

Modern artillery doesn't need to be in visual range of a target as long as you have coordinates you can fire mortars, artillery and rockets on any position, whether you can see the target or not. Plus not you even have a range of precision guide munitions for field artillery.

By ancient what time period are you looking at because bows and crossbows have evolved over the centuries.

Archers are going to fire until they run out of arrows or their position is overrun.

Are their foot soldiers and cavalry in the game?

Where are archers firing from? On the ground in the front ranks, behind the front ranks, in an elevated position, from a fortified position?

Bows are crossbows? Standard arrows or fire?
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Kent Reuber
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You might want to use some sort of target priority rule where each archer has to fire at its nearest target. There might be some exceptions where there is a more threatening target (e.g., heavy cavalry or elephants) further back. I can imagine a captain of a unit of two hundred possibly being able to shout a target, but I'm not sure that you could really coordinate multiple units

Also, remember that there are two types of ranged units: massed units and skirmishers. I think the majority of ancient ranged units were skirmishers, who fought in a very open formation in front of other friendly units, harassing the enemy, possibly trying to goad them into an involuntary charge, then running away.
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Man thinks, the river flows.
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    Archer units in ancient warfare performed their jobs in rank, generally not under duress, and with their commanding officer amongst them or facing them from the front. Their weaponry makes little noise to present breakdowns in communication. In fact, as ancient units go, archers were about the most manageable. There's no compelling reason to not allow them to change targets provided each turn's length is sufficient for their commander to receive and execute orders.

    Now, that's a fair assessment of the unit commander's capabilities to change target. What remains is the army commander's ability to transmit his orders from his location to his unit commanders some distance away. That's dependent on your length of turn and distance.

    Once engaged in combat all bets are off.

             S.


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kentreuber wrote:
You might want to use some sort of target priority rule where each archer has to fire at its nearest target . . . I can imagine a captain of a unit of two hundred possibly being able to shout a target, but I'm not sure that you could really coordinate multiple units.


    That's going to depend on the army. Alexander, Pyrrhus, or Hanibal ran a tight ship and could direct fire more carefully. The Romans . . . well, were the Romans. They fired at exactly what their CO told them to. You start looking at the Persians or Celts or Gauls and you get much less command and control.

Quote:
Also, remember that there are two types of ranged units: massed units and skirmishers. I think the majority of ancient ranged units were skirmishers, who fought in a very open formation in front of other friendly units, harassing the enemy, possibly trying to goad them into an involuntary charge, then running away.


    Slingers were assuredly skirmishers and frankly needed to fire at units being hit by archers at the same time in order to be effective. In phalanx you would have the archers in back tiers, interspersed with foot. If the OP is looking to have units of archers they likely aren't going to be in a skirmish position. If you're talking slingers, then yes you're going to have units in advance positions and they're going to be autonomous.

    "Ancient" warfare covers so damn much ground, everything from bronze age through maniples. It's the equivalent of looking for common ground between Hastings and Verdun.

             S.

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As Sagrilarus noted ancient units vary so much. If an army has good command and control it would apply to their archers, if they have limited command and control that would apply to their archers.

But realistically any archers that will continue firing at the same target and not switch will also choose their target from the start.

You basically cannot create realistic command and control for ancient units or even modern units. Choose what works best for you and go with it.
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John Davis
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Most figure-based ancient wargames rules (DBM, Armati, FoG, Warlord, Warrior, Tactica etc) restrict missile troops to firing at the nearest enemy unit to their front (sometimes with exceptions for light horse archers, chariots etc). I think you need a really good reason (and some strong evidence) to produce a game which allows missile troops to do anything much more sophisticated than this...
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Rob Harper
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...and to add to that, they generally don't give archers a great deal of range. Arcing clouds of arrows over the heads of your lines to wipe out troops the other side of the battlefield is more of a Hollywood thing. Nowt wrong with a game simulating that sort of battle, though.
 
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Padraic Kirby
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Try your questions in the Miniatures Page Ancients Fora? You can search on "archers". There will be a lot of knowledge and interpretations of theory there. These will discuss Rules which usually will not have hexes to regulate movement.

http://theminiaturespage.com/boards/boards.mv?period=anc

Pat
 
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Lawrence Nyveen
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Thanks for the discussion. You guys have as many ideas as I do!

It's Biblical era, by the way, with chariots and foot-archers

Right now, I'm leaning toward the ability to shift fire to the closest enemy unit or keep firing at the original target.
 
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David Cheng
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I think most archer units will automatically retreat to rear line before enemies advanced to certain range. They won't shoot to death.
 
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Man thinks, the river flows.
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Presumably Biblical means Old Testament -- Bronze Age. Firing from chariots kind of thing.
 
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Isaac Shalev
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Webs wrote:
Thanks for the discussion. You guys have as many ideas as I do!

It's Biblical era, by the way, with chariots and foot-archers

Right now, I'm leaning toward the ability to shift fire to the closest enemy unit or keep firing at the original target.


The Biblical era goes from ~2000 BCE to ~500 BCE, or middle bronze age through the middle iron age.

In the early period, you'd be talking about chariot archery, which was about mobility and direct fire. Mounted archery in general, whether chariot or horse, is very different from foot archery. Foot archers were used to support infantry and relied heavily on indirect fire, since they needed to be protected by pikemen from cavalry charges. Archers typically scattered in the face of a charge.
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Christopher Dearlove
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Webs wrote:
Archers can obviously attack any enemy they can see.


Not really. Archers will be in formation (loose or more compact) facing in a similar direction, in which they can fire (obviously some variation). But to fire in a significantly different direction requires a formation change, and that's hard for less skilled troops.

Most figure wargames constrain archers quite a lot. However to know how accurately needs expertise I don't have.
 
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Lawrence Nyveen
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ender7 wrote:
In the early period, you'd be talking about chariot archery, which was about mobility and direct fire. Mounted archery in general, whether chariot or horse, is very different from foot archery. Foot archers were used to support infantry and relied heavily on indirect fire, since they needed to be protected by pikemen from cavalry charges. Archers typically scattered in the face of a charge.


I have the rules for chariot archers pretty much nailed down.

It's the infantry/combined arms I'm trying to figure out. The big difference between Biblical archer units and, say, Alexandrian tactics is that the Biblical archers seemed to be more relied upon as a cohesive unit whereas one heavy infantry became standard, archers played more of a skirmisher role.
 
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James Hutchings
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Is historical accuracy most important to you, or something else such as balance, variety of possible strategies, or ease of play?
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Lawrence Nyveen
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apeloverage wrote:
Is historical accuracy most important to you, or something else such as balance, variety of possible strategies, or ease of play?


Historical accuracy is most important to me for this. All things considered, the rules decision I make won't impact balance at all and will only affect ease of play with regard to indicating which missile unit has attacked which target.

It will affect strategies, but I want it to, in order to develop the actual strategies in effect. If archers have free reign to attack whomever whenever, it leads to the possibility of massing them behind the lines and serving as 20th-century divisional infantry, shifting fire at will to soften up the enemy while the infantry attack.
 
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Gino Brancazio
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Hi, Medieval re-enactor and longbow coach here going to throw in my opinion for what it's worth. This is mostly mid-medieval history (1300-1600) before black-powder came on the scene. Also I'm sure people will disagree with some things I say, this is an interpretation of history as I see it from my research. No doubt your military history prof will shout "bollocks!" at a lot of this, but I've taken part in some large scale battle re-enactments (historical, not fantasy) and being an archer in a battle teaches you a lot about how they would have thought.

When you say "archer units" do you mean you can control individual archers? Or units of archers are controlled as one? (it makes a difference regarding command)

If you're looking for historical accuracy typically archers were trained to shoot (please note the use of the term "shoot" not "fire") at an area of the battlefield, not individual people. So for example they would be commanded to shoot at the approaching 600 foot-soldiers or the 150 strong cavalry unit running around the back. There would be a lot of misses but when you have 800 archers shooting between 12-16 arrows a minute you're going to get enough hits to do some serious damage.

Regarding the ability to command or instruct your archers it was common for archers to be broken down into squads of 20ish, each one with a squad leader (like a sergeant) who would keep an eye on the major commands coming from the nobility and pass them on. It's thought by some that they may even have used flags as a way to pass on messages down the ranks over the noise of the battle. Not sure about this myself but it seems that communication was never a major problem.

Archers were just regular folk drafted into battles they weren't that interested in, if an enemy unit charged at them (cavalry for example) they would likely have reacted as a group and targeted the threat. They were undisciplined and wanted to survive, they didn't need to follow codes of chivalry.

Also archers would have carried daggers and axes as a minimum for defensive purposes, if they were lucky their lord (their general) might have enough money to provide them with a sword called a Falchion which was essentially a large machete with a cross-guard. It didn't need a lot of skill to wield, mostly hacking and slashing.



I think regarding changing the their target I think option 1 is mostly right. If you're told to shoot at a unit you'll keep shooting until either you run out of arrows, you get attacked or you can visibly see that the unit you're attacking doesn't exist any more.

For the purpose of the game I would say that a unit would keep attacking the unit being targeted until:
1) They're commanded to switch to another target
2) They run out of arrows
3) They get attacked by another unit. By being attacked that could be as simple as an enemy unit runs at them, even if they don't do any damage yet, if they're seen as a threat the archers would probably target them instead of what they'd been ordered to attack.

Hope that helps a bit.
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Rocco Privetera
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I've had some archery experience, and I think shooting at the same target over time is a HUGE bonus. Shifting to a new one reduces accuracy in the first shot or so. But once you fire... shoot... well, "loose" the first arrow, even if you are immediately re-drawing a new one, you are also watching your arrow arc in the air, and you get a feel for if you have to adjust the next one.

It also depends on the arrow. Shortbows and crossbows are easy to lug around and redraw and fire, but longbows have really good stopping power. I can imagine a big target running around peppered with short arrows, but a big ole longshaft can not only completely penetrate a lightly armored unit, it can often knock them off their feet, off their horse, make em fly back a dozen feet, etc.
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patrick somers
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No slingers? That's the best part of ancient warfare. Rocks flying around breaking bones and heads. Very bad for morale...
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Christopher Dearlove
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ginobrancazio wrote:
800 archers shooting between 12-16 arrows a minute


You're not going to get that rate, and if you did the archers would be out of arrows too quickly. Nobody wanted that, including the archers.
 
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Rocconteur wrote:
I've had some archery experience, and I think shooting at the same target over time is a HUGE bonus. Shifting to a new one reduces accuracy in the first shot or so. But once you fire... shoot... well, "loose" the first arrow, even if you are immediately re-drawing a new one, you are also watching your arrow arc in the air, and you get a feel for if you have to adjust the next one.


You're talking aimed shots by an individual. Mass archery is not about that.
 
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Christopher Dearlove
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Rocconteur wrote:
make em fly back a dozen feet


You've got a small fraction of the momentum needed to do that in an arrow. Even if hitting something not in a formation. Not going to happen.
 
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zombie plumber wrote:
No slingers? That's the best part of ancient warfare. Rocks flying around breaking bones and heads. Very bad for morale...


If they were that good, more armies would have used them. As it was, not so many did.
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Gino Brancazio
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Dearlove wrote:
ginobrancazio wrote:
800 archers shooting between 12-16 arrows a minute


You're not going to get that rate, and if you did the archers would be out of arrows too quickly. Nobody wanted that, including the archers.


Actually you can (I have on a high poundage bow and I've seen people shoot warbows at an easy 12 arrows per minute) and armies took thousands of arrows into battle, the wreckage of the Mary Rose (a single ship) contained several thousand arrows, and that was only one ship.

Also it was well documented that enemy arrows were collected in lulls in the battle and shot back at them (Battle of Towton for example).

So not only is it possible, evidence suggests it was quite likely.
 
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