Are horse archers too effective?

Sengoku Jidai: Shadow of the Shogun is a turn-based tactical and strategic game set during this turbulent time; primarily focusing on the Japanese Warring States period and Japanese Invasion of Korea. Other armies from East Asia are also made available to simulate different conflicts across the region.
Post Reply
kvnrthr
Senior Corporal - Destroyer
Senior Corporal - Destroyer
Posts: 105
Joined: Sun Sep 20, 2015 8:37 pm

Are horse archers too effective?

Post by kvnrthr » Fri Dec 18, 2020 4:47 pm

I feel that horse archers are too strong in this game. They can often exchange equal casualties with arquebusiers (due to -100 POA shooting against cavalry, not to mention lack of infantry armor), which granted isn't a good use of points, but a squadron of mounted horse archers being even in firefight against a battalion of arquebuses strike me as incredibly odd.

Not to mention, the balance between shock cavalry and horse archers feels off. What little shock cavalry there is in the game tends to suffer a lot IMO, due to all that evading. You pay extra for that lancer capability, but get outshot (50% Bow for the Tibetans); trying to charge in, the unit finds itself lost and unsupported behind enemy lines. Being more expensive, the enemy cavalry will be more numerous: then random movement exposes the shock cavalry to a flank charge, which it can't even evade.

Even if the stars align and you can catch the enemy horse archers, you could just whiff the impact roll. Even doing just even on the impact is a disaster, as you've probably been shot to bits before closing in and will get eaten alive by the combat strength modifier. You don't even have the opportunity to benefit from melee pistol like cavalry in P&S do: and to top it all off, if you do end up winning in the melee, your lancers aren't even Determined Horse, so they could just fall back and you start this whole sad process all over again, or die trying.

If reality reflected the behaviors in game, and horse archery was more effective than shock alone in cavalry vs cavalry engagements, then I think archery would have been kept all through the 18th and even 19th century, as even if you couldn't outshoot infantry anymore fights between cavalry alone were not uncommon at the tactical or grand tactical level. But I feel the fact that the Turks and the Russians slowly abandoned it speaks volumes about its usefulness.

Nor, do I suspect, was it so easy to just evade a charge as a whole unit and still maintain enough cohesion to turn around and deliver a massed volley of archery or be ready to receive another charge.

SnuggleBunnies
Sr. Colonel - Battleship
Sr. Colonel - Battleship
Posts: 1616
Joined: Tue Apr 07, 2015 2:09 am

Re: Are horse archers too effective?

Post by SnuggleBunnies » Sat Dec 19, 2020 4:58 pm

kvnrthr wrote:
Fri Dec 18, 2020 4:47 pm
If reality reflected the behaviors in game, and horse archery was more effective than shock alone in cavalry vs cavalry engagements, then I think archery would have been kept all through the 18th and even 19th century, as even if you couldn't outshoot infantry anymore fights between cavalry alone were not uncommon at the tactical or grand tactical level. But I feel the fact that the Turks and the Russians slowly abandoned it speaks volumes about its usefulness.
The short answer is that mounted archers *were* retained as the primary form of cavalry well into the 19th century in China and Central Asia, and in isolated cases into the early 20th century.

I'll return with a loong answer concerning why I think horse archer armies are some of the easiest enemies to beat in this game when I have time.
SnuggleBunny's Field of Glory II / Medieval / Pike and Shot / Sengoku Jidai MP Channel:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjUQy6dEqR53NwoGgjxixLg

kvnrthr
Senior Corporal - Destroyer
Senior Corporal - Destroyer
Posts: 105
Joined: Sun Sep 20, 2015 8:37 pm

Re: Are horse archers too effective?

Post by kvnrthr » Sun Dec 20, 2020 3:10 pm

19th century China and Central Asia were hardly paragons of military effectiveness though. The French and British cavalry of the Opium Wars probably did not differ too much in equipment from their counterparts of the early 18th century (game wise, I guess they'd be unarmored impact mounted melee pistols) yet seemed to have no issues facing their Chinese opposites. (https://archive.org/stream/incidentsinc ... 2/mode/2up)

"Our gallant little force of cavalry with about half-a-dozen troopers which General de Montauban had with him/ the whole led by- Colonel Foley, the Commissioner with the French, now charged the Tartars, and,*though a handful compared with them, used their sharp swords with such effect that the enemy was compelled to retreat."

"Sir John Michel encountered such heavy masses on his left that he had some difficulty in holding his position, and was attacked by a large body of Tartar cavalry. Probyn, who had only 100 of his regiment with him at the time, was ordered to charge to the front, which he did in most gal- lant style, riding in amongst them with such vigour and determination that they could not withstand his attack for a moment, and fled in utter consternation."

In neither case is there any mention of heavy casualties from horse archery, despite the fact that these cavalry were probably outnumbered and unarmored. I can't even find any mention of archery in that whole document (arrows attached to rockets are mentioned), come to think of it, so it was either not used or so ineffective as to escape mention at all.

Gameplay wise you may know a good way to deal with horse archers though! Look forward to seeing your analysis. IMO the pure horse archer armies are just ok, but the best armies like the Qing have a lot of horse archers plus a lot of decent infantry.

SnuggleBunnies
Sr. Colonel - Battleship
Sr. Colonel - Battleship
Posts: 1616
Joined: Tue Apr 07, 2015 2:09 am

Re: Are horse archers too effective?

Post by SnuggleBunnies » Mon Dec 21, 2020 1:50 am

kvnrthr wrote:
Sun Dec 20, 2020 3:10 pm
19th century China and Central Asia were hardly paragons of military effectiveness though. The French and British cavalry of the Opium Wars probably did not differ too much in equipment from their counterparts of the early 18th century (game wise, I guess they'd be unarmored impact mounted melee pistols) yet seemed to have no issues facing their Chinese opposites.
This really isn't a relevant example. These were highly trained and disciplined 19th century European cavalry, not at all like 16th century Tibetans or Japanese. Furthermore, the Qing Bannermen by the 19th century were a pale shadow of the hardened men who had conquered China, or won Ghengis Khan's empire. Armament was not at all the key factor; it was the fact that the Europeans were professional soldiers, and the Qing cavalry were part time warriors at best, a cobbled together militia with an incredibly incompetent officer corps. And in fact a decent number of the Chinese/Mongol cavalry did carry lances, not that it did them any good. Such Qing cavalry, if it existed in game, should be graded something like - 400 man Raw, Unarmored Cavalry - 50% Bow 50% Swordsmen.

Moving onto gameplay - horse archers will almost never win a firefight against Matchlocks. Even Superior horse archers against Raw Unarmored Matchlockmen won't have a great time of it, and that's an enormous points mismatch - 72 to 24. Do that sort of thing and you’ll lose the battle elsewhere.

In terms of using shock cavalry against mounted archers, shock cavalry aren't more expensive - it all depends on quality, unit size, and armor. You have to maneuver to start your charge with full AP from one tile away. That way, if they evade you're very likely to catch and insta break them, and if they stand you get that delicious +100POA on Impact. If you start the charge from two tiles away you have a chance to catch them, but it’s not ideal. Obviously, just trundling forward might get you Disrupted. However, if you can either approach from out of the enemy's direct fire arc, or absorb their arrows with infantry or skirmishers, or Disrupt them with your own firepower before contact, you should see some success. Yeah, you could whiff the Impact roll, but that's just bad luck. And of course you could get lucky and hit the enemy in the rear after they evade. Or you could force them to evade with one unit and then follow up for a break, and hopefully a chain rout. Furthermore, Lancers have an extra 100 Impact POA against infantry, so they can hammer through lines of anything other than Spearmen in a way that Horse Archers just can't even contemplate.

The two armies that field Lancers are the Japanese and the Tibetans. The Japanese need to minimize their open flanks and rush into melee contact after blasting holes with their matchlocks. They really shouldn't bother bringing much cavalry, because they get such effective cheap infantry. For example, in this match https://youtu.be/jP-Fi7rPOQQ - I spend a grand total of 40pts on one unit of crappy Average cavalry. But whatever, it occupies a more expensive unit and in general delays the advance of the Chinese cavalry while I attack elsewhere. Getting *no* cavalry is a bit too dangerous though - https://youtu.be/gTuN3Gao_uc - in that match, I get minimal cavalry too, but having just one extra unit allows a roll up. Brutal. Keep in mind that Japanese infantry is often Warriors, which can charge cavalry for extra options forcing evades etc. Notably, the Japanese fielded very little cavalry by the late Sengoku, and made little use of it during the Imjin War, in which they faced plentiful Korean and Chinese cavalry.

The Tibetans are one of the best lists in the game, but you don’t want to use them as a just cavalry army - https://youtu.be/C4989MJPjSc - here my opponent hurls Lancers into a prepared position of Chinese infantry and artillery with cavalry in reserve. Note that I didn’t want to put my cavalry in front, because if they got hit they’d melt, and if they evaded it could give the Tibetan cavalry a way through my lines. Here my opponent uses a combined arms approach - https://youtu.be/bdgnd4Ve7uc - and nearly overruns my Chinese army. Note the heavy use of lights. The Tibetans field good light cavalry and excellent cheap light infantry in the form of slingers. Those should support the heavy cavalry, whether in forcing Disruptions when combined with the 50% Bow, or absorbing missiles so the heavies can get into place. I make use of that sort of thing here - https://youtu.be/e6Q6Ja1gajc - though given the rice paddies everywhere, this is mostly a fight for the infantry. The Tibetan melee infantry are also Warriors, and can thus charge non-light cavalry; very useful when supported by the heavy cavalry, not so much on their own due to having no melee capability (they are Light Spear only).

Chinese armies are solid, but I wouldn’t say they’re in any way superior to the Tibetans or Japanese. I’d call Tibetans the strongest list in the game, due to their excellent light options, powerful cavalry, and plentiful cheap infantry support. The Chinese cavalry is good (at least the lists that field 250 man units, not the grossly overpriced 400 man units; see how small an army that relies on large cavalry units is - https://youtu.be/Kd-4Iequ8a8 ) but their infantry is just so much cheaper. Generally it’s better to just bring more infantry, and enough cavalry not to lose the wings. Chinese superiority in artillery tends to force the enemy onto the offensive.

Sure, in isolation 5 units of non light horse archers will probably beat 3 units of Lancers; but if you’re fighting outnumbered it means you’ve done something wrong. If you’re charging head on and the enemy is evading away; you’ve done something wrong. If all your cavalry is Disrupted before contact; you’ve done something wrong.

If there is a balance issue in the game, I’d say it’s that non-light cavalry in general is too expensive – Superior Armored Horse Archers are 72pts in Sengoku, 66pts in FoGII – but FoGII has seen far more balance patches than Sengoku saw. Finally, I'd always be up for some friendly paired matches to test our theories ;)

For some sources on the subject -
War, Politics and Society in Early Modern China 900-1795 by Peter Lang
Modern Chinese Warfare, 1795-1989 by Bruce A. Elleman
Armies of the 19th Century - Asia Volume 2: China by Ian Heath
Weapons and Fighting Techniques of the Samurai Warrior by Thomas Conlan

And for fun, since you referenced the European imperial ventures in China:
Flashman and the Dragon by George MacDonald Fraser
SnuggleBunny's Field of Glory II / Medieval / Pike and Shot / Sengoku Jidai MP Channel:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjUQy6dEqR53NwoGgjxixLg

Veles
Senior Corporal - Ju 87G
Senior Corporal - Ju 87G
Posts: 88
Joined: Tue Oct 20, 2020 11:15 pm

Re: Are horse archers too effective?

Post by Veles » Mon Dec 21, 2020 2:26 am

kvnrthr wrote:
Fri Dec 18, 2020 4:47 pm
If reality reflected the behaviors in game, and horse archery was more effective than shock alone in cavalry vs cavalry engagements, then I think archery would have been kept all through the 18th and even 19th century
It was kept in Europe up to the XVIII century at least by Poles, Tatars, Russians, Cossacks, and Ottomans. Longer in Asia and Anatolia.

The main reasons why bows fell out of use were social and economic. Firearms were cheaper and easier to mass-produce just like ammunition since bullet casting can be done by virtually anyone while producing arrows requires a qualified workforce. Bullets are also easier to store than arrows. On top of all that, archery requires far longer training due to the high draw weight of war bows. All of this was crucial in forming state founded armies, especially ones based on mass conscription.

Suffice to say that Uhlans, the progenitors of the lancers we all know from the Napoleonic Era which were introduced to almost all armies around the globe including Japan, were still carrying bows in the XVIII century.


I mean, how is a bow more obsolete than a sword or a lance? Both were used in armies around the globe up to the XX century. Bows simply had more cost-effective alternatives.

kvnrthr
Senior Corporal - Destroyer
Senior Corporal - Destroyer
Posts: 105
Joined: Sun Sep 20, 2015 8:37 pm

Re: Are horse archers too effective?

Post by kvnrthr » Mon Dec 28, 2020 12:20 pm

SnuggleBunnies wrote:
Mon Dec 21, 2020 1:50 am
This really isn't a relevant example. These were highly trained and disciplined 19th century European cavalry, not at all like 16th century Tibetans or Japanese. Furthermore, the Qing Bannermen by the 19th century were a pale shadow of the hardened men who had conquered China, or won Ghengis Khan's empire. Armament was not at all the key factor; it was the fact that the Europeans were professional soldiers, and the Qing cavalry were part time warriors at best, a cobbled together militia with an incredibly incompetent officer corps. And in fact a decent number of the Chinese/Mongol cavalry did carry lances, not that it did them any good. Such Qing cavalry, if it existed in game, should be graded something like - 400 man Raw, Unarmored Cavalry - 50% Bow 50% Swordsmen.
...
If there is a balance issue in the game, I’d say it’s that non-light cavalry in general is too expensive – Superior Armored Horse Archers are 72pts in Sengoku, 66pts in FoGII – but FoGII has seen far more balance patches than Sengoku saw. Finally, I'd always be up for some friendly paired matches to test our theories ;)
I actually read Flashman and the Dragon some time ago, when I was thinking of any instances of unarmored shock cavalry facing off against horse archers. Nevertheless, while the British and French had a lot more advantages than armament alone, I can't really think of any significant battles where horse archers fought against unarmored shock cavalry to use as an example, outside of a short incident in the Napoleonic wars with Russian auxiliaries.

Then again, I suspect you may be right gameplay wise, but a paired match might be interesting, to see either horse archers interaction with shock cavalry or shooting infantry. Maybe Tibetans vs Qing (latest lists)? Japanese lists don't really have a lot of lancers to test with.
Veles wrote:
Mon Dec 21, 2020 2:26 am
Suffice to say that Uhlans, the progenitors of the lancers we all know from the Napoleonic Era which were introduced to almost all armies around the globe including Japan, were still carrying bows in the XVIII century.
...
I mean, how is a bow more obsolete than a sword or a lance? Both were used in armies around the globe up to the XX century. Bows simply had more cost-effective alternatives.
In theory I see no reason why the bow could not have continued to be a useful weapon like lances and swords, especially against the mostly unarmored cavalry of the Napoleonic days. But the fact that it wasn't used should say something.

Regardless of how difficult it may be to learn how to use bow, was the lance any easier? (and I wonder if the bow was any more difficult to make then the pistols and carbines much of the cavalry carried around, which if I recall correctly were more complex than the flintlocks of the infantry) The lance was abandoned for a short while, and was a hard weapon to master, yet returned in the Napoleonic era as it was found to be useful again. Despite the difficulties, armies found the lance worthwhile. No such return to prominence for the bow.

SnuggleBunnies
Sr. Colonel - Battleship
Sr. Colonel - Battleship
Posts: 1616
Joined: Tue Apr 07, 2015 2:09 am

Re: Are horse archers too effective?

Post by SnuggleBunnies » Wed Dec 30, 2020 3:23 am

kvnrthr wrote:
Mon Dec 28, 2020 12:20 pm
I actually read Flashman and the Dragon some time ago, when I was thinking of any instances of unarmored shock cavalry facing off against horse archers. Nevertheless, while the British and French had a lot more advantages than armament alone, I can't really think of any significant battles where horse archers fought against unarmored shock cavalry to use as an example, outside of a short incident in the Napoleonic wars with Russian auxiliaries.

Then again, I suspect you may be right gameplay wise, but a paired match might be interesting, to see either horse archers interaction with shock cavalry or shooting infantry. Maybe Tibetans vs Qing (latest lists)? Japanese lists don't really have a lot of lancers to test with.

...

In theory I see no reason why the bow could not have continued to be a useful weapon like lances and swords, especially against the mostly unarmored cavalry of the Napoleonic days. But the fact that it wasn't used should say something.

Regardless of how difficult it may be to learn how to use bow, was the lance any easier? (and I wonder if the bow was any more difficult to make then the pistols and carbines much of the cavalry carried around, which if I recall correctly were more complex than the flintlocks of the infantry) The lance was abandoned for a short while, and was a hard weapon to master, yet returned in the Napoleonic era as it was found to be useful again. Despite the difficulties, armies found the lance worthwhile. No such return to prominence for the bow.
I am drowning in matches right now but will hit you up when I've cleared some room. Mounted archery seems to require either a nomadic society, or massive financial and time investment by 'civilized' societies. Clearly such an investment was not considered worthwile by the Early Modern Period, whereas earlier, the Chinese and Byzantine empires had worked very hard into maintaining mounted archers off of a population base that was not generally accustomed to the art (when they couldn't simply hire nomads to do it for them).
SnuggleBunny's Field of Glory II / Medieval / Pike and Shot / Sengoku Jidai MP Channel:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjUQy6dEqR53NwoGgjxixLg

Post Reply

Return to “Sengoku Jidai: Shadow of the Shogun”