Validity of Rear support?

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Validity of Rear support?

Post by lanceflint » Fri Jan 05, 2007 10:39 am

The validity of rear support?

This is a concept that I have struggled with from the start.

I will have to argue the case generally so please consider the broader picture!

Certain assumptions have to be made, but principally ancient warfare was Linear, so I would contend that having a secure flank and preferably flanks, was more important to nearly all troop types than having friendly troops to their rear?

Troops deployed to the rear were there as a rallying point, a safe place from which to deploy a reserve, to provide refuge for Skirmishers or to restrict opportunities for enemy encirclements. Would any of these roles make the troops in the front line braver or more confident to continue when one or both of their flanks was open to enemy attack?

Whereas being part of an interlocking Shieldwall, or being a Phalangite with Hypaspists on your right and Macedonian veterans to your left would be far more reassuring?

The game currently dictates that a Phalanx supported by a motley crew of say Ligurians to their rear but with both flanks open is happier than one that is sandwiched between several thousand of their compatriots! I would suggest the opposite would apply.

Such potential deployments that have rear units in unrealistic formations to provide the +1 to the game system seem unhistorical and unnecessarily cheesey?

Historically the position of Honour is on the extreme flank and it was flanks that were frequently more vulnerable to troops that fought in lines.

I don??™t have a problem with rear support having an effect, but I do believe that flanks have more importance.

And what do you think?


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Post by vincent » Fri Jan 05, 2007 11:57 am

I agree. Flank protection could/should be at least as important as rear support.

I played a lot of WRG Renaissance G. Gush (2nd edition).
In that rule, secure flanks are active, not passive, notions. This means that a unit has a secure flank if a friendly unit, not engaged in melee nor disordered, can reach the flank of the unit and is nearer than any enemy. All other situations are unsecure flanks.

This is quite simple to rule and has some profond impacts:
  • * Troops on end of battle lines have unsecure flanks
    * Isolated troops have unsecure flanks
    * Troops engaged in melee against a wider BL have unsecure flank (the enemy is nearer to the flank than any friend)
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Post by list_lurker » Fri Jan 05, 2007 1:50 pm

May be its a question of whether people think being flanked 'isn't that bad' in whch case flanks are left open.

I would assume that protecting flanks is mandatory (because of consequences) and rear support is a nice bonus.

If you had 2 units of pike would you prefer to stack them 1 behind the other to get the rear support - or have them in line to limit flanking possibilities.

To quote (or more likely paraphase :wink: )another rules writer 'I'm against rules forbidding opponents to be foolish...'


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Post by rbodleyscott » Fri Jan 05, 2007 3:08 pm

Simon's reply pretty much hits the nail on the head.

As a design principle we try not to deal with the same phenomenon twice in AoW. The "no double whammies" principle.

Leaving unprotected flanks will (in due course) be penalised by the opposing player.

Rear-support OTOH did have a historical morale effect in addition to the practical effect of having reserves. The Strategikon states that in addition to the benefits you list, the presence of rear support (paraphrased) (a) encourages the front line to fight more bravely because they know they have a safety net, (b) makes the front line less likely to break because it discourages the early rot as deserters will be seen by the rear line. (Take that man's name!).

We have assumed that the writer of the Strategikon knew what he was talking about, and the rear support rules are largely based on the Strategikon.

If anything we have been less than generous. We allow cavalry to support from 12" away - the Strategikon specifies 4 bow-shots (ie at least 16") as the proper interval between front line and supports.

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Post by nikgaukroger » Fri Jan 05, 2007 3:28 pm

IIRC the supporting lines bits of the Strategikon are in the parts relating to the cavalry whilst the infantry sections do not cover this - with the exception of the double phalanx to face off rear attacks.

This is carried through to the Praecepta where the cavalry have multiple lines but not the infantry (apart from their square formation which is different).

Perhaps rear support is more important to mounted troops?

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Post by terrys » Fri Jan 05, 2007 3:51 pm

Perhaps rear support is more important to mounted troops?
The infantry formed up in greater depth rather than in 2 lines. (4ranks deep effectively). I suspect it's more that they'd come to the conclusion that the foot would never outdistance pursuit, so why bother having a 2nd line. (Given that most of their opponents were mounted)

It may also be that since the foot were of poorer quality, they couldn't be expected to be reliable enough not to be swept away by the rout.

(There's an argument for a greater range of effect for troops in the path of the rout)

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Post by shall » Sat Jan 06, 2007 12:04 am

Just to add my two-penneth....

Some of the mechanisms are a bit of a balancing act between history and our typical fixed point game on a fixed table. We are always having to cope with these.
  • At present in the rules rear support gives you a +1 on cohesion test
    A threatened flank gives you a -1
So they are the same effect in game terms.

My experience, FWIW, is that few armies can in practice afford to pay for the former + without opening up the -1 underneath, and that this provides a nice game balance. This is due to our wonderfully historical piece of representation = the standard 6ft battlefield. In reality all armies had flanks unless anchored on a strong frontage. In our games if you spread yourself out at 800pts you broadly cover the table but if you have lots of rear support that isn't too easy. It is also very hard to corner sit in AOW, so going small frontage with lots of rear support is pretty hazardous.

In terms of real history I always think it is interesting that all armies would have had flanks yet most fighting went on frontally. If flanks were so vulnerable why were they not exploited more?

I suspect this is because flank attacks were not a lot of use unless you were already frontally engaged. Unless the flank attack is from and ambush there is plenty of time to manvouver enough of a BG (2 or 3 units) or more for fight it off frontally. After all it is not hard to spot several thousand apporaching enemy, however surpising a DBM flank march may appear on the "surreality" of the tabletop.

So it seems to me that the the only time it is a real problem is if you are charged in the flank while kept busy at close range from the front - (Cannae?), or if ambushed with poor visibility (Tresimen?). This in part is why we have some chance for troop attacked in t e flank - unless hit frontally as well....

So while not an expert my instincts actually go the other way - strong troops in the rear to keep everyone fighting may have been more important than flanks. Taking Lawrence point we also need to remember that a BG is not a unit - it already represents 4-5 phalanx units with a middle 3 all very nice and secure thank you very much.

The rear support idea is certainly borne out in later warfare where elite companies would go at the rear of columns to shove everyone forward....or in the case of the ww2 russians to shoot anyone who retreated...seemed to work remarkebly well.

In summary, I would sugggest that the real answer is "we don't know" but the balance at present feels good to me on a 6 x 4 board with about 800pts. The only army so far where I have really been able to afford rear support in numbers is my ancient britons. I wonder how many beta tsters have amanged to set things up to claim rear support in their games?



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Post by hammy » Mon Jan 08, 2007 12:42 pm

shall wrote:In summary, I would sugggest that the real answer is "we don't know" but the balance at present feels good to me on a 6 x 4 board with about 800pts. The only army so far where I have really been able to afford rear support in numbers is my ancient britons. I wonder how many beta tsters have amanged to set things up to claim rear support in their games?
Alan Montgomery uses rear support a lot with armies like Crusaders but he is also nowhere near able to cover the table. In situations like this it is a case of trying to get round the relatively open flanks and tak advantage of the narrowness.

I have used rear support a few times. Once I even managed it with French knights but that was before the recent points changes. I doubt I would be able to field 24 bases of superior heavily armoured knights at 800 points again.


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Post by jre » Tue Jan 09, 2007 11:30 am

I like rear support because it helps more the "average" guys. Only in the approach with a Lombard army (to weather the Byzantine arrows) did I leave a BG back to give rear support. In all the other games Superior troops are so useful you cannot afford to keep one BG back. However it was great for my average Medieval German, and it gave something to do to those crossbowmen. It gives some advantage to numbers as well.

My trial full-mounted Nikephorian Byzantine plans to use the cataphracts during the first phase of the battle for rear support, and as evade stop points, but it has not been tested in battle yet.


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