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Subject: stronger units historically? Archers or Caverly? rss

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tim Tim TIm TIM TIMMY!!
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Basically just what it says in the title. I am working on a game and was wondering who was/is considered more powerful in battles?

The archers have range and can take people down from afar so I am thinking a strong Archer unit is worth more or is more powerful, but wanted to ask others who have more insight into History and how it really worked and not just hwo I would think it would work.

Thanks

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Chris J Davis
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I'm no historian or military tactician but I'm gonna take a wild guess and say that it would depend on the situation and what you were facing. If one type of unit were outright stronger than the other then military leaders would either take all of their cavalrymen off horses and give them bows and arrows, or put all of their archers on steeds...
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Jane Doe
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I am by no means an expert on historic battles, but my impression is generally that archers (or, by extension, other ranged attackers), infantry and cavalry all fill an individual niche. I think a common example is longbowmen, pikemen and cavalry - longbowmen will have a range advantage over the pikemen, pikemen have weapons specialized to take down cavalry, and cavalry will be able to charge the longbowmen. It's unlikely that, in a battle with mixed forces, any one of them could be considered vastly stronger than the others.

Others with more actual historical knowledge will no doubt have much more to say about this.
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Laurence Parsons
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Absolutely. Whilst the cavalry are charging towards the archers, the archers will kill (a lot of) them easily. As soon as the cavalry reach the archers, the archers are doomed.
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Mattwran
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It depends on what period of history you are talking about and where. In Western Europe heavy cavalry dominated the battlefield from around 700 or so into the 14th century. Archers/pikemen began to acquire the upper hand during the Hundred Years War (1337-1453).
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Michael
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Especially the English longbowmen during the Hundred Years' War would be a good example for the superiority of archers over knights. But even before, the mounted archers from Asia (for example the Mongols) could devastate the Western European mounted knights.

Additionally, the battlefield itself has an impact but this is, I suppose, common sense.
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Andreas Quiter
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That's no easy question to answer.
Would there be some easy answer, enitre books, especially Clausewitz, would be useless.
Clausewitz stressed the necessity of a "healthy" mix of troops, considering terrain, mission, opponent ....
So depending on the circumstances archer or cavalry could be the stronger unit.
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Simon Nevill
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The answer to this question isn't Archers or Cavalry - as both were invaluable units and you were unlikely to find an army that didn't contain both.
The battlefield itself will have a massive impact, as will the competence of the general, the weather, the individual units, morale, etc. etc. The Battles of Agincourt and Crecy are perfect examples of how to fight and win a medieval battle against impossible odds. Does it prove that bowmen are superior? Not at all. It proves that it isn't the units involved, it's how you use them.
Also worth looking at the wars fought between Rome and Carthage and Greece and Persia. I know the period is different, but the unit types and strategies are similar. And in many of those battles the smaller armies won out of the larger through superior tactics.
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Anwar Dalati
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I agree that there is no single answer to this. One point that hasn't been brought up is recruitment. Archers, especially longbowmen, needed more training and a good dose of starting talent. Not every conscript could be turned into a capable archer.

Mounted troops on the other hand were easier to recruit, but more costly and difficult to maintain (horse are huge creatures with no small appetites and relatively prone to diseases).

Depending on how detailed your game is, this might be a consideration (e.g. limit the number of recruitable archer units per turn, but make cavalry more expensive in recruitment and/or upkeep).
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Mark Christopher
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Hendal wrote:
Basically just what it says in the title. I am working on a game and was wondering who was/is considered more powerful in battles?

The archers have range and can take people down from afar so I am thinking a strong Archer unit is worth more or is more powerful, but wanted to ask others who have more insight into History and how it really worked and not just hwo I would think it would work.

Thanks

Game On


Don't forget the dreaded Mongol horse archers. The best of both worlds! They also needed a lot of training, and indeed, pretty much grew up on a horse and holding a bow.
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Len Vandenberg
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Like the other posters have alluded to...both units had strengths and weaknesses.
Archers were much 'cheaper' to equip, and of course had the advantage of range over cavalry. Later bows/crossbows were very effective at penetrating the armour of the day; making them extremely 'cost effective'. Archers en masse did not need to be pinpoint accurate either.
Cavalry were expensive to equip, but had their strengths. Good armour, and of course speed. This made the 'arm' extremely flexible. Cavalry was invaluable for it's shock effect when charging...especially against lightly armoured or poorly trained troops. Less effective against prepared troops...ie: archers within a defensive position (use of sharpened stakes, etc.) Cavalry's other big advantage, was it's ability to chase down retreating/broken enemy. Many of the battles in the time period involving archers and cavalry resulted in the majority of losses being suffered AFTER one side broke and started to retreat. That is when the slaughter began in earnest, so to speak. And cavalry was the best unit for this particular role.
So, I would have to say that neither is 'stronger' than the other IF used properly. When employed correctly either of the two arms could be victorious over the other.
Hope my $0.02 helped.
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Simon Nevill
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Anwar wrote:
I agree that there is no single answer to this. One point that hasn't been brought up is recruitment. Archers, especially longbowmen, needed more training and a good dose of starting talent. Not every conscript could be turned into a capable archer.

Mounted troops on the other hand were easier to recruit, but more costly and difficult to maintain (horse are huge creatures with no small appetites and relatively prone to diseases).

Depending on how detailed your game is, this might be a consideration (e.g. limit the number of recruitable archer units per turn, but make cavalry more expensive in recruitment and/or upkeep).


In medieval armies knights and nobles had to provide their own horses - generally an army was a collection of barons and nobles, fighting for a common cause. Each baron would turn up with their own small fighting force from their castle and between them would provide their king with an army. Obviously the king had some of his own men, but we are talking about a time before standing armies existed. The majority of soldiers were peasants and commoners and self-trained in the use of their weapons, who had to answer the call to arms when their local baron demanded it. So mounted troops in medieval armies were considered somewhat elite, as most were wealthy and spent a lot more time training their fighting skills.
Believe it or not it was considered poor sport to kill a knight or noble on the battlefield. Normally they were captured and ransomed back to their families. The English at Agincourt caused a massive stir when they put most of their captives to death. Especially as they permitted the commoners to kill them - peasants killing knights and nobles was... simply not done. shake
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Mitch Willis
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Short answer: archers stronger defensively, cavalry stronger offensively...
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Simon Nevill
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Unless you're sieging a castle.
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John Richert
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It really depends on the time period, but in general:

Heavy Cavalry can attack light infantry
Light Cavalry can attack heavy infantry
Light Infantry can defend against light cavalry
Heavy Infantry can defend against heavy cavalry
Light Cavalry can attack heavy cavalry
Light Infantry can attack heavy infantry
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Dan Keith
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otha62 wrote:
Short answer: Archers stronger defensively, Cavalry stronger offensively...
For general game purposes this is what ya have.
Cavalry were effective well into the age of gunpowder because of mobility. Which means they were effective before and long after the Archer. You also have a lot of variation as to the type. Longbowmen weren't overly easy to move where as the shortbowmen were far more mobile a unit. Heavy knights are really effective with a massed charge but mounted skirmishers were more like light infantry on horseback purely for mobility. Its a dep and twisty can of worms though
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Joe S
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Don't forget the conditions. Properly fortified archers win versus horse cavalry. Pretty much anyone wins versus archers (who are typically very light infantry when the fighting is up close.

Paper, rock, scissors.

footnote: kinda neat that the anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt is in 3 days... 25 October..
http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O48-AgincourtBattleof.html
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Simon Nevill
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Hey Joe... you're a month ahead of the rest of us... it's still September. He he he.
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Phillip Heaton
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It depends. When talking about archers, most everybody starts talking about the English longbow men. They are possibly the best foot archers ever. On the other hand, you have the Pictish archers who didn't even fletch their arrows, and who could rely on no more than about 80 yards of range before their arrows would tumble, losing all effectiveness.

When talking about cavalry, the Mongols are frequently mentioned; possibly the best light cavalry the world has ever see. Compare them to the cavalry of the Greek city-states, which played no part in battle and were mostly used for scouting and messages. They had no stirrups, were poorly trained and didn't have decent horses. A far cry from those Mongols, eh?

You can't divorce debates like this from history. Were the English longbow men better that the Mongol light cavalry? We'll never know, because they never fought against one another. The questions have to be, were the longbow men better than the cavalry they faced? Were the Mongols better than the archers they faced?
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Niko
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Quote:
It really depends on the time period, but in general:

Heavy Cavalry can attack light infantry
Light Cavalry can attack heavy infantry
Light Infantry can defend against light cavalry
Heavy Infantry can defend against heavy cavalry
Light Cavalry can attack heavy cavalry
Light Infantry can attack heavy infantry



I remember seeing this in a table in "Warfare in the Ancient World" by Brian Carey.

http://www.amazon.com/Warfare-Ancient-World-Brian-Carey/dp/1...

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Jason Beck
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mattwran wrote:
It depends on what period of history you are talking about and where. In Western Europe heavy cavalry dominated the battlefield from around 700 or so into the 14th century. Archers/pikemen began to acquire the upper hand during the Hundred Years War (1337-1453).


So sorry, at the risk of sounding nit-picky, this isn't true, but it is a common myth.

Medieval sources often emphasize the role that cavalry played because the chronicles that recorded battles and whatnot were written by clerics who were essentially writing for a noble audience. Since the cavalry was largely noble, this meant discussing the cavalry for their benefit.

The broad trends that above posters have drawn are essentially correct in many respects: it depends on what the situation is. It also depends on where you are, though; Islamic light cavalry and horse archers in the Middle East were effective, but a properly-done cavalry charge by Frankish armies could be devastating, too.

Plus, are you asking about medieval period archers and cavalry? Or ancient age? Or...? The time period plays a lot into it, too; archers got a lot more effective with the developments of the crossbow and longbow, making possible a battle like Agincourt.

(If you're interested in military history for the medieval period, I would highly recommend John France's Western Warfare in the Age of the Crusades.)
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Archers also didn't need to kill or wound to be effective. Simply by showering their enemies with arrows could disrupt an oncoming formation enough that the opponent would not be able to properly wield their weapons, making them easy pickings for properly organized friendly units.

Poitiers is an example of this, where it is debatable as to whether or not the English arrows penetrated the French armor, but the resulting disruption was an important factor in the English victory.
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j b
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If you are looking for a simple/crude/iconic representation of relative strengths, I'd say that people would generally perceive mounted troops in armor 'stronger' than a guy with a bow.
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Simon Nevill
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Yes. From a purely practical stand point... you could protect yourself from an arrow using a shield (or the guy in front of you ), but a guy bearing down on you on horseback wearing armour is a little more intimidating.
Having played a lot of wargames I have to admit I am always looking to where the enemy cavalry is rather than the position of his archers. That said, I always rely upon my archers to inflict casualties before melee begins.
And when the running begins... it's going to be the guys on horses who will win that race!
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Mattwran
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Colonial One wrote:
mattwran wrote:
It depends on what period of history you are talking about and where. In Western Europe heavy cavalry dominated the battlefield from around 700 or so into the 14th century. Archers/pikemen began to acquire the upper hand during the Hundred Years War (1337-1453).


So sorry, at the risk of sounding nit-picky, this isn't true, but it is a common myth.

Medieval sources often emphasize the role that cavalry played because the chronicles that recorded battles and whatnot were written by clerics who were essentially writing for a noble audience. Since the cavalry was largely noble, this meant discussing the cavalry for their benefit.


And sources in the 14th century were suddenly being written by and for commoners? Chroniclers in the HYW were horrified that knights were suddenly being beaten by infantry and archers; had that been happening earlier then the sources would have reflected that. Now if you mean that much of medieval warfare was siege-oriented then you are right as mounted knights can't take a castle. But if you mean that a force of infantry and archers prior to the 14th century could have with any consistency defeated a force of heavy cavalry then you are wrong. Heavy cavalry, for example, was the Carolingians main military advantage and played a role in the 1066 conquest of England.
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