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"Going 'Alexandrian' in Armati" Topic


Armati

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Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian22 May 2012 5:39 p.m. PST

Writing in Slingshot 271, Mark Fry laments…

…it's all too common for an Armati ancient tabletop commander to go for the "Alexandrian option" of engaging his opponent frontally in the center with infantry, whilst attempting to break off a single cavalry unit to sweep in on the flank or rear of his opponent's own infantry center and destroy it with a devastating flank charge.

Do you agree, and if so, is it a problem?

Personal logo Inari7 Supporting Member of TMP22 May 2012 6:03 p.m. PST

I would not think this is a problem, it's a tactic.

If the other commander is prepared for it then it's a moot tactic.

Problem, there is not problem. Just tactics.

Yesthatphil22 May 2012 6:46 p.m. PST

It can be a problem if it too easy, too effective, and becomes a standard ploy for armies which didn't historically fight that way.

So I agree with Mark – it is too common in Armati.

wrgmr122 May 2012 8:28 p.m. PST

We play Armati 2 often. It is a tactic which is used a lot, however it is usually countered by any opponent who is familiar with it.

The usual games are cavalry on the flanks and infantry in the middle. If some cavalry manages to destroy their opponents and get free, they can do a flank charge. This can be devastating to any heavy infantry thus caught.

In many games the cavalry is so badly out of position after the fight that it can't get at the infantry. Or the opponent uses a single or double infantry unit on the flank to protect his centre. I have done this often, in particular Greeks vs. Persians. The Persians have more cavalry and the Greeks need to use infantry to protect their flanks. Thus I use a cavalry, heavy infantry combination.

Also by the time the cavalry has decided who has won, the infantry is heavily engaged, which will decide who wins by die rolling in the centre. This is not always the case, in particular if one side decides to wait on the opponent, making him move all the way across the table. What we call "The Turtle".

Most of our games are only one or two units difference in who wins. Break point being decided by a certain number of units broken. It is not all that often that the devastating flank charge has actually taken place.

Just my two cents.
Thomas

Tarty2Ts23 May 2012 2:17 a.m. PST

Yes I think it's too common in Armati, and games coming down to an emphasis on the flank attack. Armati is a game of attrition and as such flank attacks are one of the few ways of getting a decisive result without things becoming a grind. Games coming down to the last few break points is also a common occurrence because of this attritional combat, this also means games are often decided by combat direction.

elsyrsyn23 May 2012 5:00 a.m. PST

The usual games are cavalry on the flanks and infantry in the middle. If some cavalry manages to destroy their opponents and get free, they can do a flank charge. This can be devastating to any heavy infantry thus caught.

You could make the argument that that's historically accurate, and I think that's probably where Conliffe was aiming when he wrote the rules. It's a matter of opinion of course, but a slogging match in the center with the possibility of getting rolled up from the flanks (commonly by cavalry) is certainly one accepted model of how many ancient battles progressed.

Doug

advocate23 May 2012 5:27 a.m. PST

The problem of being able to manage a flank attack is exagerated by the fact that in Armati each army has relatively few divisions to manouevre. A division of many units is very restricted in oits options to deal with a threat to the flank; while a division of a single unit is exceedingly manouevrable. A poor deployment (even one which was perfectly 'historical') could lead to inevitable defeat – this was my experience of playing Armati I, and seeing it played in the club.
However, a combination of experience, using the exhaustion rules and Armati II army lists (where there tend to be more divisions permitted) seems to have ameliorated the issue.
It's true that a victorious wing will not pursue their defeated enemy off table, but Armati is not that kind of a game.

Keraunos23 May 2012 6:30 a.m. PST

I understand the decisive nature of the flank attack was one of the specific things that was intended in Armati at the design stage.

there is a problem with the way the rule to define this is written – making it possible through geometric shennanigans to produce a flank attack from somewhere that it really shouldn't come from whilst denying it to another position which common sense would class as a flank (that something which a third edition would sort out soon enough, but Arty ain't interested).

but the real issue is that players exploit this in combination with the divisional structure to have one single unit which does the whole battle plan while the rest of the army acts as a pin to the front – and this is only a real problem because every army tries it, rather than just the ones (or rather, the one) which did.

the tactics to oppose it are pretty simple enough, but because the tactic is so effective, it gets used by far more armies than it should.

so rather than having Hannibal attempt a double envelopment on both flanks, or Caesar attempt to break through the centre, the player attempts to block with most of his wing and slip a single unit through a gap and exploit with that, just as Alexander did.

Who asked this joker23 May 2012 6:33 a.m. PST

Sounds familiar! I think Alexander the Great might have used this or attempted to use it in, I dunno, ALL of his battles. Protect the flanks and this sort of tactic can't work.

It's true that a victorious wing will not pursue their defeated enemy off table, but Armati is not that kind of a game.

The absence of some sort of uncontrolled pursuit rule would certainly make the flank attack much easier.

elsyrsyn23 May 2012 9:16 a.m. PST

but the real issue is that players exploit this in combination with the divisional structure to have one single unit which does the whole battle plan while the rest of the army acts as a pin to the front and this is only a real problem because every army tries it, rather than just the ones (or rather, the one) which did

so rather than having Hannibal attempt a double envelopment on both flanks, or Caesar attempt to break through the centre, the player attempts to block with most of his wing and slip a single unit through a gap and exploit with that, just as Alexander did

So basically what I'm seeing is that the game functions well when people play their armies historically, but badly when they play the rules instead. Knowing (or at least inferring from his writing) Arty's feelings on historicity in games, I have to wonder if he would really care that the rules can be manipulated in that way.

Doug

wrgmr123 May 2012 10:12 a.m. PST

In many instances the army lists almost ensure the player uses the army they have chosen, plays in a historical way. This tends to mitigate the gamers who play the rules. The army lists are also set up so that it is usually a pretty fair sided game, with both sides having a chance to win. However because the army lists are historical the outcomes usually favor the army which won historically. Tactical brilliance and good dice luck notwithstanding.

The one feature I see in most of our games is the lack of reserve. If your centre is penetrated, then sweeping out to a flank from there causes destruction. A central reserve would prevent this from happening. The problem being if you don't have all your troops in the front line there is a chance you will get outflanked. The initial set up of your forces will dictate how the battle will flow, if you get it wrong it can be disastrous.

The loaded flank (lots of cavalry and infantry on one flank) can be very effective, IF your opponent has not done the same.

Thomas

Big Red Supporting Member of TMP23 May 2012 10:32 a.m. PST

Works in Napoleonics too! Heck I've even used it in WWII – "Grab them by the nose and kick them in the butt" or some such thing.

Yesthatphil23 May 2012 4:05 p.m. PST

So basically what I'm seeing is that the game functions well when people play their armies historically, but badly when they play the rules instead.

Correct, Doug, and that is exactly Mark's point, I think (tournament style games playing to the effects in the mechanism, not refighting historical battles with appropriate tactics).

The accelerant with Armati is the fixed nature of divisional control. If a good player has an additional controlled division it can be hard for the opponent to manage where it goes.

One of the reasons why Armati is dead desite the fact that the problem is easy enough to fix.

Tarty2Ts23 May 2012 4:19 p.m. PST

The whole game for me has become very predictable. You know that a unit/division of engaged heavy foot (say) will stay around for 4 turns at least before busting, pinning your opponent. This sort of attritional grind makes it far to easy to slip in that game winning flank attack, and you have both players trying to do the same thing. We've had games that from the first turn you could pick the spot where the battle would be won or lost……I don't think commanders ever had that kind of control or forsight.

Keraunos24 May 2012 3:04 a.m. PST

Actually tartyy, i think most anceient battles were like that

- once they had made their deployments, most generals just got stuck in because there was sod all else for them to do.

notice where the 'great' generals always place themselves – its always at the point where their battle plan will be won or lost. they don't tend to be watching and seeing before committing themsleves until much much later.

The true greats (like Hannibal) could pick this before the armies had even finished deploying (e.g. his position at Cannae).

I understand this was also one of the design deciions in Armati – to make a good deployment vital, since it was in the battles themselves.

a huge amount of criticism the rules get is from folk who prefer to be able to salvage themselves from a woeful deployment – and find Armati won't let you unless your opponent is equally obliging.

Yesthatphil24 May 2012 6:05 a.m. PST

Most ancient battle have the armies forming up opposite each other, though, Keraunos …

That can't be said for what Armati allows/encourages.

I intend to try some standard Armati games with FoG-style deployment by quartiles later in the year (that might improve things: screens are an iconic part of Armati, but the don't actually work)

Phil

Tarty2Ts24 May 2012 4:54 p.m. PST

I agree, I think the only real control generals ever had over their troops after deployment was "when" they would commit. The rest was left in the laps of the gods.

- "a huge amount of criticism the rules get is from folk who prefer to be able to salvage themselves from a woeful deployment" -

Yes I couldn't agree more, deployment is everything in ancient warfare and like the way Armati reinforces this, and dislike rules that don't.

But getting back to the original question the "Alexandrian option"……this does seem to be the way that many Armati games seem to go, I don't know the answer. After playing Armati exclusively for 15yrs now in our group, there has been a move away and this has been one of the reasons.

wrgmr124 May 2012 5:45 p.m. PST

Keraunos, YesthayPhil, Tartyy,

What rule changes do you think would improve the game?

Tarty2Ts24 May 2012 8:07 p.m. PST

That's a hard question, and has been talked over a lot in our group in the past. The thing with Armati is that it's very much a game of compromise, and leaves little room to fiddle around with. If you change one thing it will effect something else, this more than most rules is very much the case with Armati. I think the easiest way to effect the game without pushing the game mechanics out of whack is to look at the army lists.

Yesthatphil25 May 2012 3:35 a.m. PST

What rule changes do you think would improve the game?

Big topic (we've been chewing that for years so there's a long list of improvements people have considered) …

Boiling it down:

Make all the units the same width. This is basically 'play Intro scale' but I'd say all units should be 2 sections. Add an extra row of figures for Pikes if you think Pikes should come in blocks …

Make obligatory charges controllable by a random test (so they become likely rather than certain) …

Allow generals to pick up/manoeuvre 'out of command' units temporarily.

Subject the game end to a die roll: I take the very first BP over the army BP as '1'. Roll a die and exceed this 'Army Morale' roll. Add 1 to the number for each additional BP lost and 1 for each new turn started. Roll every time a new BP is lost and to start a new turn if at/beyond the army BP. I play a '6' is always a pass.

Most of these changes (which have been playtested extensively) leave the game the same but take out the certainties. Without the certainties players focus more on playing the battle, less on playing the rules.

Phil
ecwbattles.wordpress.com

Keraunos25 May 2012 4:35 a.m. PST

what Phil said

Plus some smaller ones.

- All foot subject to the current restriction on contacting mounted with impetus

greater restriction on what counts as non-key in the existing lists

recount the core break points instead of the blanket 2

tweak the points system – PH is not worth a point, extra cost for higher commands and for wheel and move, higher initiative to cost more, probably make javelins on cavalry one point less also.

a better definition of a flank (the current is too simple, thats its problem)

phils change to the movement distances should be enough to solve the deployment screen thing too, think – but I also favour taking at least a foot off the table width.

oh, and giving biblical chariots impetus, even lights, and making all chariots in biblical +2 prot.

making stakes non moveable, and allowing CB to shoot and move, and maybe something else around the 0 prot rule in medieval.

all pretty minor

Keraunos25 May 2012 4:39 a.m. PST

Phil,

by quartiles, so you mean making players divide their army into 4, then placing one quarter each in turn?

it wont work by division, because of the huge advantage it gives to the high command armies.

i'd be interested to see where you end up on this. 5 has a feel of more correctness about it to me, since the table fits neatly into 5 blocks.

Yesthatphil25 May 2012 6:52 a.m. PST

Thanks Keraunos (I pretty much agree with your sub list, too grin*)

On deployment, the answer is I don't know yet. I said 'later in the year' because I want to take the time to sit down at the table with a couple of typical Armati armies and work out the mechanics (then formulate a rule, then play it through a number of games) … I had thought of 'sector by sector' and 'division by division' but it would be interesting to see how the FoG system transfers across (where you list a fixed order of march, then players alternate placing a quarter at a time, from the top of the list).

Unfortunately, it might be one of those devices which works well until players get the hang of it (then becomes something that can be manipulated to advantage) we shall see.

Phil
*but it also illustrates the problem. I agree with you about Crossbows. I can't think of anyone, off hand, who doesn't agree with you about Crossbows. But in formal games, even at Bournemouth, we still play can't shoot and move! How does that work?

Keraunos25 May 2012 7:26 a.m. PST

indeed.

I mused on dividing the centre zone into the three equal parts, making 5 in total (including flanks) and stipulating that players must deploy with massed units in 4 of the 5, but optherwise retaining the screens.

withthe smaller intro scale distances (and presumably narrower table too), that might be enough.

a set order of march sort of works (isnt that a WRG 7th idea), and may have the atraction of players setting our skirmishers first then infantry, then cavalry.

they problems I can see are the divisions vs the deployment quarters – does a light command of skirmshers count? an uncommanded SI unit on its own?

I can see guys leaving 90 % of the army in the last placement unit, and putting the other placements units all on top of each other.

whatever way you go, it opens up an issue somewhere else.

perhaps insisting units are placed in the order of movement speed? i place all my light cav first, then you yours, then my then knights, etc, finally HI march out onto the table.

i kind of like making players hand each other their deplyment maps, and both agreeing to fight each other, or insisting on each redrawing the map – since the gererals basically agreed to fight after seeing what the other was up to. takes far too long though, in the end.

so may things to play around with…

JJartist25 May 2012 8:12 a.m. PST

Hidden deployment with no deployment structure is the problem.. not hidden deployment itself. Often armies deployed in sight of each other for days, and nothing happened, occaisionally this allowed one side to take advantage by changing things up. It's difficult to know how a commander knew how the enemy was going to deploy the next day- but they often seem to have some prior knowledge-- maybe based on camp layouts and pickets in more scientific armies.
Often gamers experiment with deployments(based on being hidden to pull silly tricks)which are able to physically be enacted by toy soldiers, but may have caused much consternation to the real troops with real fears and mood swings. So stacking all your troops on one wing with the elephants behind may be a good plan for toy soldiers, but in reality the troops are grumbling "Who is in charge of this FUBAR army??"…. my opinion is that Magnesia is a perfect example of bad deployment by a commander who tried to shake up too many things at once and his army did not respond well to the stirring of the pot.

wrgmr128 May 2012 8:37 a.m. PST

Yesthatphil:

Here's some comments on what you have suggested.

Make all the units the same width. This is basically 'play Intro scale' but I'd say all units should be 2 sections. Add an extra row of figures for Pikes if you think Pikes should come in blocks …

All our units have the same size bases and are two stands, except for skirmish, light and light heavy infantry. Chariots are a little longer as are elephants, but still the same width.

Make obligatory charges controllable by a random test (so they become likely rather than certain) …

I like this idea.

Allow generals to pick up/manoeuvre 'out of command' units temporarily.

In Armati 2 there are no out of command units.

Subject the game end to a die roll: I take the very first BP over the army BP as '1'. Roll a die and exceed this 'Army Morale' roll. Add 1 to the number for each additional BP lost and 1 for each new turn started. Roll every time a new BP is lost and to start a new turn if at/beyond the army BP. I play a '6' is always a pass.

This is an interesting idea, however some in our group would not like the unpredictability of it.

Keraunos:

Seems like you may be playing the original Armati?

I agree with the flank problems in that with our same size bases it is all to often a unit of heavy infantry is lost in the centre of a line and the opponent squeezes a unit through the gap. Once that unit is past the front flank it then can contact the rear edge of his opponent and is past his front flank creating a flank charge. This causes the domino effect.
This is a gamey maneuver, which is all to often done in our games.

CB are only shoot every second turn in our games, which is I feel correct.

Our group puts up a screen for deployment or draws a map for one side in another room, the other placing their figures on the table. This works well, but does lend itself to the heavy flank coming up in games.

We play 30 or so games a year and have done so for the last 12 years I've been with the group.

Yesthatphil29 May 2012 10:16 a.m. PST

In Armati 2 there are no out of command units.

AKA units in uncontrolled divisions. There can be as many of those in Armati 2 as you like.

wrgmr129 May 2012 7:13 p.m. PST

Ah yes, you are correct. They are released by proximity of an opponent.

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