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"Charging Uphill vs Charging Downhill" Topic

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Rusty Balls03 Apr 2022 8:37 a.m. PST

Presuming that a melee modifier in favor of the defense or against the Charging Unit should exist if the Defender is uphill when charged….

Should there conversely be a modifier for a unit charging a defender which is downhill from its position?

First of all – do you agree that a defender uphill is owed some sort of recognition of that position?

If so, should it work both ways?


donlowry03 Apr 2022 8:41 a.m. PST

There should be a penalty for charging uphill and/or a bonus for defending such a position.

As for charging downhill, it depends on how steep it is. Gentle slope good, steep slope not good.

Rusty Balls03 Apr 2022 8:43 a.m. PST

You make a good point – that grade of the slope certainly plays a part. For the sake of this conversation on the simply theory of it – let's assume that the grade is such that it is traversable either way.

donlowry03 Apr 2022 8:48 a.m. PST

I was assuming it was traversable. But have you ever tried to run down a hill only to discover that you couldn't stop? That's the kind of steep incline that might not be a good thing to charge down -- especially if it also contains lots of things to trip over.

WarpSpeed03 Apr 2022 8:58 a.m. PST

Gravity plus weight of numbers has a definite effect downhill-think phalanx(though they liked flat ground).Uphill in tight ranks is tough,someone behind me tripped in undergrowth and nearly skewered me at a reenactment. .

Rusty Balls03 Apr 2022 9:26 a.m. PST

One school of thought could certainly be that the advantage of the defendable position is that the troops are not only uphill but that they are actually STATIONARY there.

It's not really the fact that they are uphill which conveys some better position to thrust a bayonet but that the advantage is the fact that the enemy has to traverse the hill, whether up or down is actually the disadvantage part of it.

This would lead one to say that charging uphill or downhill would be a negative modifier.

Korvessa03 Apr 2022 9:41 a.m. PST

The 20th Maine's downhill charge at Gettysburg was certainly successful.
But as Rusty says, that was likely as the enemy was already tired from climbing the hill.

Dexter Ward03 Apr 2022 9:57 a.m. PST

Charging downhill is a disadvantage for mounted troops, and defending uphill is really only an advantage for infantry

Personal logo The Virtual Armchair General Sponsoring Member of TMP03 Apr 2022 9:58 a.m. PST

Someone once determined that a slope of as little as 7 degrees makes a cavalry charge downhill turn into a mass horse-and-rider CARTWHEEL.

It's a steeper slope for the attacker going uphill to suffer a disadvantage. There is no real benefit to the defender up top, just reduced speed while harder for the attacker to maintain formation while moving up--particularly while under fire!


advocate03 Apr 2022 10:11 a.m. PST

There is a real morale advantage being uphill: you want to be looking down on your opponents, not up at them. Provided the slope is not too steep, I'd give infantry uphill an advantage all the time.

martin goddard Sponsoring Member of TMP03 Apr 2022 10:20 a.m. PST

Being uphill in the ACW was worse when carrying out a firefight . A bit off topic, sorry.


Thresher0103 Apr 2022 6:11 p.m. PST

Yea, I suspect in anything more than just slight slopes, being uphill is an advantage since the defenders get to fire at the attackers for about twice as long, because the attackers will be moving so much slower.

"Charging" downhill on anything other than the most gentle slopes is fraught with danger, since it is very easy to slip, trip, and fall while doing so. Even walking downhill on anything more than a very moderate slope can be difficult, even when on a dirt trail or road.

Cavcmdr03 Apr 2022 7:19 p.m. PST

In King of the Battlefield eighteenth century wargames rules it is easy.
In melee you inflict simple morale tests on your opponent.
Are you Uphill in melee? Have a +1 DRM.

DRM = Die Roll Modifier.

Have fun.

Tortorella Supporting Member of TMP03 Apr 2022 7:48 p.m. PST

I think I would make this a negative modifier to the uphill charging unit, which will be slowed even on a moderate sloop.

I would not confer an advantage on a downhill charge, quite the opposite, and for the same reasons Thresher mentioned. The potential for uncontrolled chaotic forward motion is too strong. IMO. In the field I would be tempted to have the defending force lie down at the last minute in the face of such a charge, avoid the body contact, turning to fire at will as they passed my line, depending on the pace of the charge. Probably as dumb as it sounds, but these downhill runners would not be easy to control as a unit once they got going.

Allan F Mountford04 Apr 2022 1:09 a.m. PST

I recall reading in a set of WRG rules that cavalry charged better uphill than downhill and a source was quoted. Must have been in their 1750-1850 or 1685-1845 rules.

4th Cuirassier04 Apr 2022 2:30 a.m. PST


Same observation was in Quarrie.

I give infantry uphill from their attackers a fire-effect penalty. Defenders always fired too high in the first place. If the target was lower than usual, the effect would be worse.

Stalkey and Co04 Apr 2022 5:28 a.m. PST

It depends on the period, and perhaps even the type of troops.

Generally, one prefers to be uphill, and to defend an uphill position.

Specialized troops such as light infantry could make a lot of an uphill position in periods where light infantry are truly different, e.g. American Revolution.

In later periods, most units could do a lot with an uphill position, e.g. the 20th Maine at Little Round Top, and Pathans in innumerable scraps between the British and, well, just about everybody.

But if you are just going to stand in around in a nicely dressed line, in the open, at the top of a slope, with Soldiers who are barely trained in leveling a musket much less aiming with it… it probably only matters if the hill is steep enough to make you winded.

Witness the performance of the Spanish Army against the French compared to the British performance against the French in the Nap wars. Spain is full of hills but there's a big difference between Spanish v. British troops occupying them.

If you walk [WALK…not drive] the terrain from the Battle of Whitemarsh, 1777, you can see why Gen Howe declined attacking Washington and attempted to outflank him instead. When it didn't work, he went back to a quiet winter in Philadelphia. That being said, his specialty light infantry did just fine pushing Morgan and the Marylanders off the steep Edgehill slope – they didn't do it quickly, but it's unlikely they felt a sense of urgency when doing it.

So… the bottom line is "sometimes".

More importantly, the bottom line is in how your game defines terrain, and what historical battle or situation you are trying to re-enact on the table.

- a gentle slope should be nothing but a line of sight obstacle. In the Franco-Prussian War, with powerful artillery, that alone is significant enough to be put on the table.

- a steep slope should be the same, but have a movement penalty attached that is enough to add one extra turn for an attacker to close on the enemy, and therefore one extra turn of shooting. There should also – most likely – be a small bonus in the morale of the defender in the close combat contest.

- if it is physically steep enough that attackers will struggle just to get there and then attempt to poke someone with a bayonet, you are probably talking about a hill that is more like a fortification and the rules should reflect that.

Hope that helps.

Murvihill04 Apr 2022 5:52 a.m. PST

Units on the military crest of the hill have an advantage because the hill itself will block some of the incoming rounds. Those going uphill do not have that advantage. It's the equivalent of a hull down position for a tank.

Rusty Balls04 Apr 2022 7:04 a.m. PST

@4th Cuirassier

Yes – in fact at Camden, Morgan actually deliberately placed his continental line on the reverse downhill slope because the British had a tendency to fire high and even higher when firing downhill.

SHaT198404 Apr 2022 5:07 p.m. PST

>>- if it is physically steep enough that attackers will struggle just to get there and then attempt to poke someone with a bayonet, you are probably talking about a hill that is more like a fortification and the rules should reflect that.

How would you classify Breeds Hill then?

4th Cuirassier05 Apr 2022 3:09 a.m. PST

@ Rusty

Thanks, that's a hard cite for this. I was sure this was a factor but there are not too many examples.

Rusty Balls05 Apr 2022 7:52 a.m. PST

Sorry I should correct my post. I meant to type Cowpens not Camden. I just finished refighting Cowpens with the rules I am developing while reading about Camden I'm a De Kalb fan! The statement is still true – just that Morgan made it a Cowpens.

Poor De Kalb. He deserved better.

Stoppage05 Apr 2022 8:06 a.m. PST


Re: Usual definition of Military Crest (modern).

This is on the forward face of a hill and is determined by the highest position that can see all the way to the base (of the hill).

Andy ONeill05 Apr 2022 10:50 a.m. PST

Scroll down to the table in appendix d.
Strategos was based on input from a large panel of experienced officers.

I think the success of the heavy brigade was at least partly because they were fighting uphill vs the cossacks downhill.

Stalkey and Co06 Apr 2022 7:56 a.m. PST

Ultimately, the requirement is of the game/rules situation. If you need a steep hill, let it be steep. If you don't, then let it be gentle [and just block LoS].

If it is an historical game, lots of interpretation is usually available for flexibility in game terms.

Bunker hill could have a gentle slope with a fortification atop it. Or it could have a steep slope with [in game terms] a wall at the top, if you don't think much of the fortification. Or perhaps the only thing that matters in your game is that the rebels ran out of ammo, and neither the hill nor the fort were big factors in the British difficulty in carrying the position.

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP06 Apr 2022 4:37 p.m. PST

From my ACW reenactment experience, I'd say that the uphill position would be an advantage for both attacking and defending. Going uphill you have no momentum at all. Attacking downhill you probably have more momentum than you really want :)

donlowry07 Apr 2022 9:26 a.m. PST

Scott: My point exactly!

Volleyfire10 Apr 2022 2:15 a.m. PST

Surely the greater the momentum and impetus, then the greater the loss of force cohesion

Desperate Dan19 Apr 2022 7:14 a.m. PST

Judging by the variety of opinions on this one, why don't we let the dice decide? Whilst charging up/down/across a hill:
1,2: the unit becomes incohesive/disordered (but can still fight at a penalty)
3,4: no effect
5,6: the unit fights at an advantage.
These terms don't apply to artillery.
That said, I'd personally rather be uphill of anything trying to do me a mischief!

donlowry19 Apr 2022 4:14 p.m. PST

Yep. The view is better.

1968billsfan01 Aug 2022 1:33 p.m. PST

Shooting downhill is usually goes too high.

Attacking downhill, makes troops worry about retreating, if the have to , uphill.

Personal logo Old Contemptible Supporting Member of TMP03 Aug 2022 8:44 a.m. PST

Scenario specific.

Erzherzog Johann03 Aug 2022 5:32 p.m. PST

Depends on whether or not you're Kate Bush.

I'll get my hat

Tortorella Supporting Member of TMP03 Aug 2022 5:50 p.m. PST

Can anyone cite some battles where downhill charges occurred and how they turned out?

Personal logo KimRYoung Supporting Member of TMP03 Aug 2022 7:11 p.m. PST

Saxons charged downhill against the Normans.

Final result was not in their favor.


Major Bloodnok04 Aug 2022 3:35 a.m. PST

Once, at a reenactment, I was commanding some troops at the top of a hill. I could see the "enemy" form up, but as they advanced I discovered I couldn't see them any more. Just before they got to the crest of the hill I could see the opposing officer's plume rising up. My first thought was if I was to fire and then charge them as they crested the hill I could send them tumbling back to the foot of the hill. Alas I wasn't allowed to, however I think there were a couple of fights in Spain where the British did just that.

Last Hussar06 Aug 2022 1:29 p.m. PST

I used to do dark age re-enactment (Yes, I know different period, but hang in there). It can depend on the hill for a spear charge.

At Cadbury hillfort there is a central raised area, that is very steep. Though its a begger to get up, once in striking range the attacker is basically stabbing at legs, where as teh defender is waiving points above the heads – obviously this is with shields and H&S concerns!

Heedless Horseman Supporting Member of TMP14 Aug 2022 8:39 p.m. PST

Rather random late night thoughts! Apologies!

Crimea. Russian cav probably not 'charging' 'Heavy Brigade' down hill… but British uphill charge rather unsettling.

I thought Cadbury hillfort had pallisade in 'Arthurian' period? I have not read up on it since early 80s!

'Firing troops occupying STEEP upslope position, behind wall, etc. would have to stand up, losing cover to shoot? Maybe not much of a factor, unless 'skirmish'. Those lower could kneel?

'Dead Ground'. Not a 'charge' but an advance. Confederates in the 'Sunken Lane'… seemingly good cover, could not see Union advancing upslope to shoot at them… until close range… then annihilated by numbers.

Don't even bother considering Lord Of Rings movie cav charge down a steep slope! LOL! Would have been in a pile after a few yards! Yes, you 'can' go downhill on a horse, quite fast… I could! But 'that' sequence was just plain silly!

Erzherzog Johann14 Aug 2022 9:55 p.m. PST

Fantasy settings can assume all sorts of factors that don't exist in the real world – the horses are 'better' than normal, some 'noble breed', the riders have some kind of 'special affinity' with their horse etc, that excuse superhuman exploits.

I think, generally speaking, being uphill confers an advantage to defenders because the attacker is reaching up to strike, and getting up the slope is harder work.

It could give a momentum advantage of sorts, psychological as much as anything, to troops charging down a gentle slope, because there's a greater sense that 'they ain't gonna stop!'

I've always been told by people who know better (most people as I'm not a very experienced rider) to get off a horse before going down any kind of significant slope because their front legs are not as strong.

ScottyOZ15 Aug 2022 1:51 a.m. PST

There's a reason why a basic fundamental of warfare is "take the high ground"

42flanker15 Aug 2022 3:09 a.m. PST

A 'hillfort' would have had a palisade atop its banks in any period of occupation, I believe.

Heedless Horseman Supporting Member of TMP16 Aug 2022 7:02 p.m. PST

Off topic for Charge… but…
On Spanish Riding Holiday… owners were impressed by 'Our Bunch' as we had no worries about steep slopes and rather dubious 'soil'. NO! NOT CHARGING! Just adjusting to horse and letting it 'do it's thing' on a 'risky' slope.
Many Holiday riders wold not attempt steep slopes… but 'Our Lot' were used to galloping around U.K Northumbrian Moors!
We were not 'expert riders'… just knew how to 'Stay On'! Lol.

Back in U.K on Riding Holidays…
Was impressed by a pair of German Girls! Not Allowed to ride 'Out Of School' there… but Out on Moors! Now and then, you would hear a 'thump' and look back on a dust cloud… BUT They Loved It!

Not there at time, but a different German Bunch totally ignored trail leader… THEY WANTED to 'Gallop over there'… and came to grief on 'buried pipeline'. Breakages.. but Human!

Basically, You can do what Horse is 'capable / happy' with doing… just don't be an idiot! make it 'unhappy' and it may F Up.

Heedless Horseman Supporting Member of TMP16 Aug 2022 8:00 p.m. PST

Not so sure about 'any' hillfort having multiple palisades in ANY PERIOD. If multiple 'bank and ditch'… pretty certain that there WOULD BE one in defences… but outer ring may not.
A 'HIGH' palisade would seriously impede use of 'missiles' to 'wear down' attacker as they struggled with slope or forced into 'shot traps. Possibly some sort of 'cover'to duck into?
But… I am thinking about large 'Tribal' forts in 'early ages'… with relatively large defending forces.
An 'Arthurian' Warband probably Much smaller? So palisade almost certain.

42flanker17 Aug 2022 1:29 a.m. PST

@Heedless.I don't think any one suggested _multiple_ palisades, but certainly, as described by Sir Mortimer Wheeler, the highest, inmost circuit of the massive 7-ditched defences of 'Maiden Castle' in Dorset were crowned with a wooden palisade and complex gateways revetted with stone. He also refers to 'fighting platforms' from which attackers could be pelted with sling shots, although how the local Britons manned such massive defences is an interesting question.

Loving the description of your rough riding adventures. We used to go riding at one such stable in the Wylye valley, run by a redoubtable old Wiltshire yeomanry man. At certain familiar points on the routes, the girl in front would turn and say, "We're going to do a gallop now. Hold on. If any of you…."- Her advice to the cautious would usually be lost in a flurry of snorts and pounding hooves as the file of horses, large and small, already straining at the bit, would launch off as one, charging full pelt down a rutted grassy lane you would have thought twice about running down on foot, with mad cries of "Coming through" as certain horses determined to arrive first would surge up the line.
Oddly, we would only lose the odd rider from time to time. Man, woman, and horse would arrive at the rallying point, eyes bright and nostrils flaring, the novices thrilled at having survived the rite of passage.

42flanker17 Aug 2022 2:04 a.m. PST

It occurs to me study how often downhill charges have ended, contrary to conventional wisdom, to crossing of bayonets in prolonged hand to hand combat as often as not ending in the repulse of the attackers deciding the action, or at leas tthat phase. The same might go for earlier periods.

Force of comparable morale would have to be a factor. Bussaco (1810) might be a case in point.

Heedless Horseman Supporting Member of TMP17 Aug 2022 10:54 a.m. PST

Ha! Love the depiction of 'Riding'!
Pretty much the same as 'Northumbria Horse Holidays' used to be! I went for a week or couple of weekends every year for 14 years… and so did some 'regulars'! Sadly, it closed a long time ago and have not been on a horse since.

My second visit, (After a 'Learn' week on a 19.3HH Shire which did little but munch!), I was on a smallish but sturdy black hairy thing. Dales cross…Lazy but would never put a foot wrong. Loved that little B!
Trail week was initially 'grab some hair and stay on'!
5th day, and we were offered chance to jump a fallen tree… about 3'. I was not going to… but Horse had other ideas… so… and we cleared! Trail leader girl looked rather surprised!
Ah… Fun years.

Gamers… even 'untrained' cav 'May' be able to do the unexpected!
Especially, 'Border horse'.

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