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Military Matters

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  • Military Matters

    For some time I have been battling with the problems associated with a military model for a game like this. For now I won't go into the question of whether to have 'tactical' contol over the filed on a more zoomed up map but it may come up in that it's all linked together. For the moment I'll just say that my ideas are based on an assumption that I would have some degree of tactical comand in the field during an appropriately sizeable engagement.

    The main issue I'm wrestling with is unit types and unit creation. I like the idea of categorising units into very broad 'types' and then modifying the artwork and units stats to create more realistic diversity (the sort of thing being discussed in the 'Big Picture' thread. This was the kind of thing I had in mind:

    Undisciplined group with mixed weapons

    Armed with shaft weapons like spears, pikes etc

    Armed with close fighting weapons (sword, axe, mace)

    Armed with missiles - javelins, bows, slings etc)

    As far as infantry go those are the staples of ancient and medieval warfare. But then gunpowder comes about and shatters those nice divisions. At first gun wielding troops served a 'ranged' role - sort of cheap short ranged archers... then a new unit type came about which would lead to future developments. It was a mixture of pikemen (defence) and musketmen (attack) all rolled into one well trained unit called a 'tercio'.

    The tercio was a massively dominant formation from the beginning of the 16th century until the late 17th century when bayonettes came about and made it obsolete. So my question is - do we put in a mixed unit - a tercio?

    Armed with pikes and muskets

    As it is we're going to see more mixing as warfare changes ever more - next thing you get to WW2 era and you have a single unit made up of a number of different troops (machine gunners, riflemen, mortar guys, anti tank, engineers etc etc etc). So does one take it that 'mixed units' are in anyway and not be shy to have something like a TERCIO in the earlier game?

    What are people's thoughts on mixed units? They certainly seem to feature largely in military history. As it is we have armies in Clash of several units combined, but what of the units themselves being mixed and not homogenous? You might say you assume it anyway and feel I'm getting into too much detail here but I'm thinking about this because I 'm trying to work out what I'll see on the battlefield if I'm given tactical command.

    I don't need to see a Total War style 'each and every man in 3D' type of battle but at least reasonable groups of men that will clash with and attempt to rout eachother. (the game 'Great Battles of Alexander' comes to mind)

    That game was turn based though and I think real time might be more dramatic and iron over a lot of problems but it's debatable. I'd also put in at least 3D terrain...sort of like this...

    ...Doesn't have to be that fancy though, just a 3D board with some hills etc for the field and little groups of sprite soldiers (smaller groups than in the MTW example) much like the little groups from the Alexander game above so that we know we're dealing with many thousands of men but that they're represented as little units - perhaps putting the mouse over your units will tell you how many hundreds or thousands of soldiers are in the unit. This way we can have earth shatteringly gigantic battles involving hundreds of thousands with relatively little effort from the player or the computer. It'll be great for story telling and game literature etc and the player will be able to experience a bit of tactical command and feel like the great miltary conquerers of history - if they choose to take that route in their game.

    Anyway, there is lots to discuss about the miltiary side of this game and how it'll link into the other aspects like trade and diplomacy etc. This thread is for topics of a military nature.

    Even if we leave off tactical command for now I think there is much to discuss with unit divisions in particular - I'll come back with a full list of unit types as I think (at least for now!) they should be.

  • #2
    Mixed units actually exist in Clash. A unit is made of elements, and you can have various elements in a unit. For instance, a tercio unit could be made of 500 pikeman-element and 500 musketmen-element.
    The unit is depicted as a single image in order to fit on the screen, but a detailed battle view could of course show the elements, so each element would need its own sprite.
    In terms of tactis, I'd rather have orders given prior to the battle (a la Dominions if you know that) and a battle view would only be a way to see what actually happened.
    Clash of Civilization team member
    (a civ-like game whose goal is low micromanagement and good AI)
    web site and forum here on apolyton)


    • #3
      Okay very interesting. Thats great to hear because The more I think about it the more prevalent mixing appears to have been historically.

      I'm for simpler battle orders etc than you'd get in, say, Rome Total War and pre planning before watching the results could work fine. It would be nice however to get a few limited orders that can be made after the battle commences, a better commander being given more - somewhat like the 'initiative' points given to the commanders in 'Great Battles of Alexander'. In that game you would select each commander per turn and use his 'initiative' points to issue commands, the better the commander the more points. Bad commanders could only give 1 or 2 commands each turn while thevery good commanders could give up to 6 (Alexander however had 7).

      This could work nicely with the pre-battle planning system mentioned above:

      1) Draw up battle plans as well as a bit of "if; then" instruction

      2) Computer generates battle in real time as you watch.

      3) Your commander has a number of "initiative points" each worth a broad instruction and you can pause the battle at any point to issue one when absolutely neccessary, whereupon the computer continues generating the battle in real time as you watch taking the changes in orders into account.


      • #4
        Broad Unit Breakdown

        I've been thinking about unit types a bit more and came up with this list:

        This unit type does not tend to be used on the field in conventional battles, but is more a 'special forces' type unit, employed on the global map to carry out various missions against the enemy, such as 'raid village' or 'cause attrition' (follow and army and pick off stragglers etc reducing numbers and morale). 'Kidnap character', 'pillage farmland', 'ambush military patrols' etc. Raiders and mobs are the first units available to you. Raiders represent some of your finest warriors and you'll never have many of them available. Later on in the game all unconventional forces fit into this category, such as navy seals, viet cong, or delta force etc. Used correctly, raiders can present a fierce thorn in the side of an enemy, who will often have trouble engaging them because of their hit and run tactics. If used on the field raiders will fall into the mob or company category, depending on tech level, but are best used in unconventional warfare, where they can slip away without taking too many casualties.

        Any group of undisciplined fighters with mixed weapons. Barbarian hordes, peasants, rioting townsfolk etc all fall into this category. All mobs are relatively undisciplined but and so much of a mob's quality comes from the individual ability of it's fighters and the weapons they're using. A mob formed in the capital city of a great empire will tend to be much softer and easy to disperse for example than a mob formed among warlike tribesmen who have spent their lives fighting. This is one factor that would give 'uncivilized' nations an advantage, being able to field large numbers of decent fighting units at little or no cost.

        SPEAR WALL
        A unit consisting primarily of fighters carrying long pole arm weapons like spears, pikes, larissas, halberds etc and forming a phalanx type spear wall formation. These units are strong against frontal attack especially from cavalry, but very weak if flanked. They require at least a low level of basic training to operate effectively and hold their line but the more they are trained the better they fight. These will tend to be the first 'civilized' units employed by kings etc as a backbone for their battle lines. The greek hoplite soldier would fit into this category as would medieval pikemen.

        Shock units consist of soldiers carrying primarily short hand to hand weapons (swords, axes, maces), designed to smash bloody holes in the opposing battle line and cause instability and disorder. They will tend to be most effective against other infantry, and like spear wall troops require a basic level of training to operate effectively. They are not as vulnerable as spear wall troops when flanked as they tend to be more flexible in close combat. Roman legionaries, medieval men at arms, and even zulu impi soldiers would all fall into the shock category.

        The men of ranged units are armed primarily with missiles and missile weapons, such as bows, javelins, slings, early gunpowder weapons etc and very flexible in movement. Initially used to give the poorer men something to do (pepper the enemy a bit to try to drive down morale), they eventually grew into a force to be reckoned with by the middle ages, where english longbows mowed down the flower of french knighthood. New 'tech' levels will slowly turn this unit type into a force to be reckoned with, but early on ranged troops will be a cheap way to squeeze in a few initial casualties on the field before the actual clash of arms. Of course with excellent training and equipment you could build some pretty lethal ranged units early on.

        A tercio is a mixed unit of pikemen and musketmen that requires among other things the technology to produce matchlock muskets and the tactical theory/idea of 'tercio' or 'infantry squares'. The basic idea is that the pikemen ward off attacks while the musketmen reload and fire their weapons. The tercio can be bulkly and difficult to maneuvre, and the men take a long time to train, but the unit is lethal against cavalry and very tough to break up on thei field. In reality the tercio began to heavily dominate the battlefield during the 16th and 17th centuries.

        Once the bayonette is invented, the firing line tactic becomes a reality. A combination of pike and musket, these men are much more flexible and require much less training than men in a tercio, thereby making the tercio obsolete. The men stand in 3 or so lines - while some fire, others reload etc etc, and when forces clash, the men use their bayonettes to try to dislodge the enemy. In reality, the ideas and inventions which led up to this unit type paved the way for the gigantic size that armies began to reach by the beginning of the 19th century. Cheap weapons, minimal training and nation states meant that armies could start approaching the 1 million men mark.

        I've been battling with the name for this unit type but it basically represents infantry from about 1895 - the present day. A platoon is a group of men with mixed weapons (but mainly armed with a rifle) that fight in very loose formation, and use cover where available to stay out of harms way. The general tactic is for one group to lay down 'suppression fire' in order to keep the enemy's heads down, while another group moves forward to get closer to the enemy. This usually ends with on side breaking and giving up their ground, or surrendering before the two sides meet face to face, but can result in hand to hand fighting if the defending force is still present when/if the attackers manage to reach their positions. This type of fighting evolved because of gun developements. Lying down and crawling etc was not practical with a musket which was complex to reload. Breach loading rifles changed that (you put the bullet into the back, nice and easy) and it soon became purely suicidal to move against rifles while standing in a packed formation, so looser formation came about. The machine gun made open approach even more suicidal and the radio gave men the ability to speak to their commanders remotely, to by the end of the first world war infantry had become small scattered groups of men usually defending key positions, or supplimenting armour attacks etc.

        I've run out of time. Will post the other units types another time (tanks, chariots, mounted men etc)

        Thanks for reading and please let me know what you think...


        • #5
          Above I listed infantry. Here are other unit types:


          Horses are a pre-requisite. Chariots can be fine tuned into light or heavy shock units. Knowledge of chariots can also aid various infantry units with speed bonuses if the units are supplied with chariots as part of their equipment. Chariots are useless on rough terrain whether you're trying to use them for transport, or battle. They are best used to travel along roads and over flat terrain, and best deployed for battle over flat ground.

          Horses, Camels or Elephants are a pre-requisite. Like chariots, cavalry units can be tweaked for shock or harrassment roles depending on one's needs. Once the horse is available, horses can be attached to infantry units to facilitate rapid movement, but the units will fight on foot. With the advent of new saddle technologies fighting cavalry will become a possibility and purely cavalry units will be available for deployment. After the invention of the stirrup cavalry will gain a massive shock bonus, and the way will be open for mounted riders to become more and more heavily armoured. With access to elephants or camels, cavalry units made up of men riding these animals becomes a possibility. After the invention of the matchlock, heavy cavalry will steadily become less dominant on the field.

          Armour will require technologies like 'automobile', 'bessimer process' (modern steel), 'machine tools' etc Armoured vehicles can be tailored to transport (and attached to infantry units for speed) or they can be tailored to firepower - so you can produce tanks to punch your way through enemy formations. Armoured vehicles came about as an answer to the need for protection against machine gun and rifle fire - the new cavalry, to charge into the enemy's weak points and shatter his line.


          All mechanisms created for hurling boulders, darts, rotting cattle and prisoners at the enemy using forces such as tension and counterweights etc fall into this category. You can generally choose how large or small you want to build them (the larger, the more expensive, and unstable)

          All huge heavy artillery guns come under this category, from the gigantic 'bombards' created in the 14th century to the howitzers etc of the present day. Modern artillery has a wide range radius, and is capable of being called upon to rain death on enemy units while sitting outside of your imediate battle map.

          FIELD GUN
          Field guns include all lighter "on the spot" guns, from the types fielded by Gustavus Adolphus in the 16th century through refinement in the 18th century to make them more reliable and accurate, and finally the adoption of explosive shells, rifled barrels, armour plate shield for the operators, and rubber tyres etc. These guns will tend to be used on the battle map (rather than heavy artillery which can often sit outside the battle map and bombard the field from afar). They will have very good range on the battle map itself.

          NAVAL UNITS

          These vessels can be used to carry units etc and improvements allow them to be tailored for specific roles, such as creating aircraft carrier units etc.

          All ships that use oars as their main source of propulsion fall into this category. You would be able to build big ones, small ones, 2 banks of oars, 5 banks or oars, and experiment with the results, but you'd have to watch the cost! Galleys will only be useful in coastal or hemmed in (like the mediteranean) waters. If massive emphasis is plowed into seafaring improvements then you could end up with something close to a viking longship that could tackle open sea more effectively, but no oar powered ship will ever be able to stray far from land.

          SAILING SHIP
          All vessels utilizing wind as their primary source of propulsion would fit into this category. Improvements will lead to better and faster ships capable eventually of mounting cannons along their sides.

          This category covers all vessels using internal engines for propulsion, such as ironclads, dreadnoughts, cruisers, destroyers etc.

          Underwater naval units.

          Will fill this list out a bit another time, and get to aircraft...


          • #6
            One point about cavalry: I wouldn't really consider elephants to be cavalry. They were more of shock troops than anything else, whereas cavalry are mostly flankers, until stirrups are invented, and even then the knights are most effective when they can flank their opponents.
            About sieges engines: As cannons, ballistas have been used in the field. However, an engineer unit would certainly need to be included (the legion unit at some points in the demos has some engineers inside) because many siege weapons were built by the castle rather than moved to it. Furthermore, mining and sapping walls were effective siege tactics that don't require any kind of siege engine.
            Clash of Civilization team member
            (a civ-like game whose goal is low micromanagement and good AI)
            web site and forum here on apolyton)