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SPQR (Deluxe Edition)» Forums » Strategy

Subject: Phalanx tactics rss

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José Herrera
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It seems to me that the only truly reliable tactic with phalanxes is to have them sit in a straight line with no gaps and take the Roman charge.

Keep a line of medium to low TQ LI or MI about 2 hexes behind the phalanx line to counter charge and plug the gap in case any PH unit should break.

However, there are several problems I encounter, and I would like to hear how other people deal with them:

-First, this is a passive stance which expects the Roman LG to play to your strengths. In my experience (solo play), as soon as an opportunity is seen to hit a flank, or even focus on one of the frontal PH that has received 2 or 3 TQ hits from velites or rampaging elephants, Roman flexibility, superior number of leaders and superior number of units allows to exploit a weakness and dig into the PH line,... once one unit is broken the whole PH line, and with it the battle, is often lost.

-There are never enough PH units to present a long enough front that prevents the Roman from flanking the line. If I try to use a few PH units in echelon to try to protect my flanks I'm actually exposing the flanks of my PH units, so that LG units can gain superiority against them. The other day I ended up with this situation (Magnesia, free setup):



The PH with 4 TQ hits is there to prevent a Roman unit from gaining attack superiority against the PH right in front of it. If it weren't there, my reading of the rules leads to LG units gaining attack superiority despite being in another enemy units' ZOC, if there is another Roman unit attacking that enemy at the same time.

The formation I developed in that picture, taken in the late game (Seleucids won ) was reached after sliding one line of PH units in column behind my first line of PH units, to adapt to the uneven Roman deployment to the left (since the Romans get to deploy after the Seleucids).

-Eventually, units will become engaged and the phalanx will defeat some LG and be forced to take ground. This will disrupt the line and open it up to Roman flank attacks! How can I manage this disruption without the advance backfiring against the phalanx? I find myself running my leaders away from the line so they don't trigger combat! (using the engaged rule those units engaged are forced to shock if within range of the activated leader).

In the previous image, to the right, the double depth phalanx was actually winning and starting an orderly turn against the mostly routed XIV legion hastati & principes lines. But I feel this is so hard to pull off! And so much harder than charging in with the Roman legions

It is very punishing that each routed PH is worth 2X rout points. That, coupled with the usually lower rout thresholds for phalanx armies compared to the Romans, the usual early loss of elephants and skirmishers and the fact that PH units rout automatically in the rout & reload phase seem to stack up against the "hellenistic" style player and make life a lot easier for the Roman.

I guess my big question is: is it really that much harder to use a phalanx army effectively? am I getting something wrong with the rules? Those Roman legions just seem so unstoppable,... surprise
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Loris Pagnotta
Italy
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For me this is a problem of design and development. The phalanxes are better represented by a long string of single units and one special rule, while the designer chose to depict them in a more figurative way and this on an hexagonal game map leads to the problem that you (and all other players) encountered.
Players don't give to the GMT the needed feedback, to change its perspective, and criticism aren't welcomed on the discussion forums.
I belive that your conclusions about the way to play with the phalanxes are correct.
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Wales
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Yeh, like the others said, I think this clash of combat and weapon systems is what the GBoH, SPQR in particular, is trying to simulate.

I remember (though haven't played) a C3i scenario where conditions weren't so suitable for the romans - not much space to flank, where they were funnelled into the phalanx - it's a very tough scenario for the romans (again, I've never played it). Cynoscephalae (spelling?) is the classic opposite, where rough terrain made it very difficult for the Macedonians to even keep a straight line (I think it's an encounter battle as well, so the lines aren't set at the start) - the romans can make mincemeat out of the phalanxes with their superior manouverability.

I suppose the best thing to do is to use them like Hannibal in Cannae - as a kind of double bluff in the initial set-up. They're on the flanks, so the roman player naturally goes for the MI in the centre instead, and steps right into Hannibal's trap. So the answer is - be as good as Hannibal, simple.

They're a bugger to move as well - I seem to remember they loose cohesion just by marching over bobbly ground!
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Wales
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Also, that's a great, classic GBoH photo. Absolute carnage and no sense to be made by anyone watching. Except for the players, who see something completely different, and a crystal clear picture of the battlefield. Such a great game...
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Tobrukker
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loris_pagnotta wrote:
The phalanxes are better represented by a long string of single units and one special rule,


Do you have a special rule you play with single hex units?

I agree the phalanxes are underpowered in GBOH. Their performance against regular MI is lacking, much less against LG. I'd point to mandatory AAC, halving of cohesion hits for a two hex unit, and the hex grain being attenuating factors. It is interesting to consider representing them as single hex units.
 
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Loris Pagnotta
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One simple way is to remove the double units (PH or HO) and replace them with HI; This change (increase) the TQ points and require some calculations because the rout points are increased (a good collateral effect). HI are more flexible and don't double the rout points for elimination (another good collateral effect).
It's also possible to give the Phalanx caracteristics to these units, when they are adjacent (flank to flank) to at least two friendly same type units, otherwise they are considered as simple HI units, but in that case they must be valued at double for elimination purpose.
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