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how to play cataphracts

Posted: Fri Dec 08, 2017 4:41 pm
by FightingPoultry
Hi all - just wondered what is the best way to employ cataphracts? i have used them in a few battles both against AI and mp and so far i am pretty underwhelmed. I have been using them as armored equine bulldozers going headlong into the front ranks of enemy close order foot or against heavy/medium cavalry formations. My experience so far is that they become disrupted or fragment very easily against close order foot ( Romans mainly ), while against cavalry, they are so cumbersome that their horsey opponents seem to evade with ease. leaving the cataphracts to chase shadows around the map.

I am currently playing as Seleucid in an MP battle of Magnesia , and i sent my cataphracts smashing into the roman left flank cavalry ( who evaded) only for them to be counter charged by roman infantry which and pretty much turned them into glue and sausage meat in short order

Perhaps they are they best employed supporting a melee that's already going on or are they just good for flank attacks, or even as a reserve to finish off analready battered opponent. I know they are big and cumbersome so not intended for prolonged chasing their very look tells me they are a sledgehammer , so i would be grateful for any thoughts or tips. thanks.

Re: how to play cataphracts

Posted: Fri Dec 08, 2017 4:45 pm
by Lancier
lol today i had the same ssue with the cataphracts in fact FightingPoultry. I also wonder what experienced players think about them and how they are used in a best way?

Re: how to play cataphracts

Posted: Fri Dec 08, 2017 4:58 pm
by the_iron_duke
They're best against cavalry and armoured units. You could use other cavalry or light cavalry to engage enemy cavalry units first so they can't evade when charged by the cataphracts.

Re: how to play cataphracts

Posted: Fri Dec 08, 2017 5:00 pm
by stockwellpete
It depends if I have got other cavalry with them on the battlefield or not. If I do, then I will often use them in flanking attacks with my other cavalry acting as "escorts". If I just have cataphracts on their own, then I tend to hold them back for the second half of the battle when the armies start to break up a bit. Then I can often cause real damage to weakened or disrupted enemy units. Whatever you do, you cannot let cataphracts get isolated when there are enemy cavalry units about.

Re: how to play cataphracts

Posted: Fri Dec 08, 2017 10:12 pm
by jomni
stockwellpete wrote:If I just have cataphracts on their own, then I tend to hold them back for the second half of the battle when the armies start to break up a bit.
I think this is a good suggestion. Let the front line troops fight it out or pin the enemy. Then use the catapracts for flank attacks on pinned troops or weakened wings.

Re: how to play cataphracts

Posted: Fri Dec 08, 2017 10:27 pm
by FightingPoultry
jomni wrote:
stockwellpete wrote:If I just have cataphracts on their own, then I tend to hold them back for the second half of the battle when the armies start to break up a bit.
I think this is a good suggestion. Let the front line troops fight it out or pin the enemy. Then use the catapracts for flank attacks on pinned troops or weakened wings.

thanks - that seems t make sense

Re: how to play cataphracts

Posted: Sat Dec 09, 2017 12:06 pm
by Bombax
After a few negative experiences/surprises as per the OP's comments, I've started using them primarily to ZOC/block enemy units. So my use of them now tends to be defensive rather than offensive, which is probably less than historical! I'd be interested to hear RBS's comments? :wink:

Re: how to play cataphracts

Posted: Sat Dec 09, 2017 6:22 pm
by rbodleyscott
Bombax wrote:After a few negative experiences/surprises as per the OP's comments, I've started using them primarily to ZOC/block enemy units. So my use of them now tends to be defensive rather than offensive, which is probably less than historical! I'd be interested to hear RBS's comments? :wink:
Well I am currently going through the torment of playing an MP (hand moderated) campaign as the Armenians. The cataphracts are fine, but the support troops aren't, and a few cataphracts without proper support cannot do much.

Re: how to play cataphracts

Posted: Mon Dec 11, 2017 1:46 pm
by Bombax
rbodleyscott wrote:
Bombax wrote:After a few negative experiences/surprises as per the OP's comments, I've started using them primarily to ZOC/block enemy units. So my use of them now tends to be defensive rather than offensive, which is probably less than historical! I'd be interested to hear RBS's comments? :wink:
Well I am currently going through the torment of playing an MP (hand moderated) campaign as the Armenians. The cataphracts are fine, but the support troops aren't, and a few cataphracts without proper support cannot do much.
Good to know it's not just me!!! :)
In the handful of battles in which I've used them against a real (as opposed to AI) opponent, they have acted as a fairly effective deterrent on my flank.
Wondering though if their offensive capability could be beefed up in a future patch?

Cheers,
Bombax.

Re: how to play cataphracts

Posted: Mon Dec 11, 2017 2:47 pm
by rbodleyscott
Bombax wrote:Wondering though if their offensive capability could be beefed up in a future patch?
For what historical reason?

Re: how to play cataphracts

Posted: Mon Dec 11, 2017 3:13 pm
by edb1815
I thought cats were used against foot more than against other cavalry on flank because of the lack of mobility. The armored knights in the ancient era so to speak. Of course charging the front of fresh heavy foot, spearmen or pikes in particular is a problem for all cavalry. Historically if you look at Carrhae the Parthian's used combined arms tactics with the horse archers and cats to soften up and disorder the Romans to break their formations.

Re: how to play cataphracts

Posted: Mon Dec 11, 2017 4:09 pm
by rbodleyscott
edb1815 wrote:I thought cats were used against foot more than against other cavalry on flank because of the lack of mobility.
Well the late Romans deployed them on the flanks of the infantry, as a link between the infantry and the other cavalry. Most nations who had them, primarily had them because they were operating in the east, where horse archery was a major issue.

i.e. The cataphracts were not super-shock-troops they were just the heavy cavalry counter to horse archers.
The armored knights in the ancient era so to speak.
They absolutely were not that. They trotted into combat and poked at the enemy with their two-handed kontos.
Of course charging the front of fresh heavy foot, spearmen or pikes in particular is a problem for all cavalry.
Yep
Historically if you look at Carrhae the Parthian's used combined arms tactics with the horse archers and cats to soften up and disorder the Romans to break their formations.
Except that the Roman infantry were not in fact broken at Carrhae, despite the charges of the cataphracts, whose main effect was to stop them being able to adopt an optimal formation for protecting against arrows. Their cavalry were broken by the cataphracts, and then the legions had no option but to stand there being shot at until nightfall, and then retreat.

So the cataphracts were an important part of the Parthian combined arms tactics, but were not able to actually rout the legionaries despite that.

Re: how to play cataphracts

Posted: Mon Dec 11, 2017 4:51 pm
by nikgaukroger
rbodleyscott wrote:
The armored knights in the ancient era so to speak.
They absolutely were not that. They trotted into combat and poked at the enemy with their two-handed kontos.
Agree on the comparison with knights, but less sure about the trotting. For example we have:

"When the time of battle comes, he gives his horse the reins and spurs him with his heels and rides upon his enemies at full speed like a man made of iron or a statue fashioned with hammers. "

from Heliodorus. Not to mention depictions like the Dura graffiti where the catafract looks very much like it is galloping.

The whole trotting idea seem to come from Nikeforos Fokas' Praecepta describing the katafraktoi - a highly specialised unit with a specialised task.

All that aside, however, IMO the game gets catafracts about right :D

Re: how to play cataphracts

Posted: Mon Dec 11, 2017 4:55 pm
by rbodleyscott
nikgaukroger wrote:Not to mention depictions like the Dura graffiti where the catafract looks very much like it is galloping.
Very true. I am guilty of the heinous crime of repeating a wargaming trope. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

Re: how to play cataphracts

Posted: Mon Dec 11, 2017 5:46 pm
by redrum68
My only issue with cataphracts is that they seem overpriced. The evasion system also seems to make it so they end up running around not fighting a lot in my experience. You can try to use other units to pin down targets but given that cataphracts have limited mobility, its often difficult to get them into position to flank even pinned down targets. If given the option, I tend to prefer choosing other more mobile cavalry or elephants instead of cataphracts.

Re: how to play cataphracts

Posted: Tue Dec 12, 2017 11:29 am
by Bombax
rbodleyscott wrote:
Bombax wrote:Wondering though if their offensive capability could be beefed up in a future patch?
For what historical reason?
From the little I've read about them I'd always assumed they were used as shock troops.
But I'm not a historian, so if my rather sketchy impression of how they operated is wrong then fair enough...