Elephants vs Pikes

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jcmedhurst
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Elephants vs Pikes

Post by jcmedhurst » Thu Apr 09, 2009 9:20 am

Hi there,

This is a suggestion for a list change, to get round one serious historical anomaly in the rules, which is the vulnerability of elephants to pikes. (down in impact, down in melee, die if they lose a base)

This is fine for most purposes and prevents unhistorical fielding of elephants in the centre of the battlefield during the Hellenistic period. It also makes elephants not fall into the 'too good' category.

It doesn't really deal with the situation at the Hydaspes, where Alexanders pikes do win against the elephants but only at considerable cost - one of the factors driving Alexanders army to mutiny was the prospect of battles further into India against hundreds more elephants.

I therefore wonder whether a few armies that fielded truly large numbers of elephants (in the hundreds) and used them as the centre of the battleline should be allowed to deploy units of four, or maybe (my less preferred option) rate their elephants as Superior?

I know that the units of four was discarded at a late stage of playtesting, but restricting it to a few heavy users of elephants (such as the Indians plus a few others such as the Burmese) would let them use elephants historically whilst not unbalancing the game too much since these are currently not the strongest of armies and fielding of the elephants in fours would reduce their unit count a bit, making them more vulnerable when the elephants did go.

Thoughts?

John

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Post by nikgaukroger » Thu Apr 09, 2009 9:54 am

Moved here as this is really a rules change suggestion and not a list one as the 2 base nellie BG is esentially a rule - the Player Designed Lists section is just for lists.



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Post by rogerg » Thu Apr 09, 2009 10:18 am

Units of four would widen the fighting frontage making casualties more likely. Further, the possibility of a one base loss giving an immediate rout of the other base, creates the potential problem of uncontrolled elephants suddenly stamping through an army without having special rules.

If we believe elephants should lose to pikes, a single PoA difference would seem about right. If the elephants do win the combat, not too unlikely on the rolls of four dice v four dice, the pikes are likely to be testing on -2. If they lose a base then they lose a PoA as well.

As the owner of a Burmese army it would be nice to have better elephants, but I believe the rules handle elelphants extremely well as they stand.

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Post by grahambriggs » Thu Apr 09, 2009 3:11 pm

Small numbers of elephant BGs are a bit easier to pop than, say 6 BGs of 2. The last thing an elephant BG wants next to it is nothing because the BGs are hard hitting but fragile. So troops who will break off or die quickly will be a bit of a liability. Other elephants though won't break off and will be failry tough. Since the elephants get a +1 for death rolls it's overlaps they really hate.

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Post by azrael86 » Thu Apr 09, 2009 3:17 pm

More to the point, Carthaginian Elephants have now been promoted to be the equal of Indian Elephants. Which is one thing against the Romans, but quite another if facing Asian elephants.

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Post by Scrumpy » Thu Apr 09, 2009 4:14 pm

As an aside, why do armies that loaded Elephants with archers not get a shooting ability ?

jcmedhurst
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The Odds

Post by jcmedhurst » Thu Apr 09, 2009 4:16 pm

As best I can calculate it, using a spreadsheet with a probability tree approach, and taking account of minuses on cohesion tests due to elephants and front rank elephants counting as 2 bases

Assuming 2 wide 4 deep pike vs 2 wide 1 deep elephants in open terrain, with no prior disruption

For Impact Phase

Elephants Pikes
Win 20% 56%
Steady 65% 87%
Disrupt 31% 12%
Fragment 5% 1%

Base Loss 3% 1%

So, 3% chance the combat ends at the end of the Impact Phase with elephants going poof.

For Melee Phase - assuming no bases lost in impact phase

Elephants Pikes
Win 19% 57%
Steady 43% 77%
Disrupt 34% 18%
Fragment 17% 4%
Broken 6% 1%

Base Loss 9% 3%

So the elephants have a 12% chance of going on base loss alone, plus up to 6% more of breaking due to cohesion losses (these aren't entirely independent however, but probably close enough since base loss is pretty random and strongly dependent on hits received, whereas cohesion loss is also random but not so dependent on hits received), so probably around 1 in 6 combats will end with the elephants going poof in one turn.

Add to this another 1 in 6 of being fragmented and we clearly do not have happy elephants. Compare this with a 1 in 20 of bad outcomes for the pikes.

John

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Post by speedy » Thu Apr 09, 2009 4:57 pm

Hiya John,

So .... The Pikes get the best of it three times from four, so presumably the El are in with a shout once from four .... Intuitively (well, my intuition anyway, which might be flawed), that doesn't sound so unreasonable, even in the Hydaspes example, the Elephants did still lose?

FWIW, I think that if there were a change to support your thinkings, I think it's Superior Elephants. A list change, so not contrary to the (correct) principle of "no rule changes for years", and it still retains the subtle "don't trust your Elephant BGs, a death role of 1 (or, as I once saw, 3 in a winning melee!) will bring chaos to all around!" principle.

I do think Burmese Elephants with a Bow capability would have been cute .... but that's another (pseudo-selfish) story ...

Cheers, Speedy.

jcmedhurst
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Post by jcmedhurst » Thu Apr 09, 2009 5:55 pm

Hi there,

The problem isn't that they lose, that is right, the problem is the speed and severity of the loss.

About one in three combats, by the end of the first impact and melee phase, the elephants will be fragmented or broken, vs 1 in 20 for the pikes. This is pretty savage and is mostly due to elephants going bang when they lose a base.

Even without this effect there would be a 3-1 exchange ratio of cohesion levels for the two, so even against 4 elephants the pikes should win, assuming they have an equal frontage, what would go is the high chance of instant death.

John

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Post by HannibalBarca » Thu Apr 09, 2009 7:58 pm

Out of interest, what are the numbers if the pike start off disrupted and/or disordered? (And indeed if they are only three deep?)

For the specific situation tested, elephants charging a formed phalanx of fresh, unengaged pikemen on flat, open ground, the result doesn't seem too unreasonable to me.

jcmedhurst
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Post by jcmedhurst » Thu Apr 09, 2009 8:20 pm

I agree with you that we don't want Hellenistic armies putting the Heffalumps in the middle of the line, not realistic and not historical, my problem is with the performance of Indian elephants at the Hydaspes where the phalanx had a pretty hard time of it.

Disruputed pikes obviously don't do so well, but even then the cohesion losses are only just in favour of the elephants, and they still have the base loss problem.

FWIW the figures vs Disrupted pike are 20% fragged, 19% broken for the pike, 10% frag, 3% broken for the elephants, and an additional 5% chance of breaking due to base loss for the elephants, so round about double the chance of breaking or fragmenting for the pike.

2 units of 2 elephants vs 1 x 8 pikes will win, and 1 unit led by a general will lose but the result is a lot closer.

As I say, I am not arguing this for all elephants, just those who fielded elephants in the hundreds.

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Post by willb » Fri Apr 10, 2009 1:22 am

jcmedhurst wrote:I agree with you that we don't want Hellenistic armies putting the Heffalumps in the middle of the line, not realistic and not historical...
Magnesia 190 B.C. :wink:

jcmedhurst
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Post by jcmedhurst » Fri Apr 10, 2009 7:23 am

That was against Romans so not the same issue, there they would be even at impact, up in melee so more likely to win and less likely to take base losses.

I am thinking about Raphia, Paraitacene and all the others, where when they were opposed by a phalanx the elephants tended to be deployed on the flank.

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