Pike Phalanx

Field of Glory II is a turn-based tactical game set during the Rise of Rome from 280 BC to 25 BC.
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Re: Pike Phalanx

Post by Aryaman » Fri Dec 01, 2017 3:09 pm

MikeC_81 wrote:Especially when to my knowledge, Gallic/Germanic tribal warbands never actually had significant combat with the Macedonian Phalanx system for us to draw any conclusions from.
In fact, the Galatians invaded Macedonia in 279 BC, defeated the Macedonian army and killed the Macedonian king Ptolomaeus Keraunos

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Re: Pike Phalanx

Post by Paul59 » Fri Dec 01, 2017 3:43 pm

Aryaman wrote:
MikeC_81 wrote:Especially when to my knowledge, Gallic/Germanic tribal warbands never actually had significant combat with the Macedonian Phalanx system for us to draw any conclusions from.
In fact, the Galatians invaded Macedonia in 279 BC, defeated the Macedonian army and killed the Macedonian king Ptolomaeus Keraunos
In addition to that, two years later Antigonus Gonatas defeated the Celts in battle and drove them out Macedon.

The Galatians were also defeated in the Elephant Victory. So it seems that there was significant fighting between the Celts and Macedonian style armies. Unfortunately, as far as I know, there are no detailed surviving accounts of these battles. In my Elephant Victory scenario I included pike phalanxes in the Seleucid army, but that was pure supposition on my part, we actually have no account of the Seleucid order of battle, apart from the elephants!
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Re: Pike Phalanx

Post by rbodleyscott » Fri Dec 01, 2017 4:29 pm

Paul59 wrote:
Aryaman wrote:
MikeC_81 wrote:Especially when to my knowledge, Gallic/Germanic tribal warbands never actually had significant combat with the Macedonian Phalanx system for us to draw any conclusions from.
In fact, the Galatians invaded Macedonia in 279 BC, defeated the Macedonian army and killed the Macedonian king Ptolomaeus Keraunos
In addition to that, two years later Antigonus Gonatas defeated the Celts in battle and drove them out Macedon.
In an ambush, I believe, which probably doesn't make it much help in determining the likely outcome of a phalanx-warband frontal bash.
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Re: Pike Phalanx

Post by HudsonGame » Tue May 01, 2018 5:13 am

Saw this on YouTube and thought I might share it with all of you. This video squares with my understanding of the Macedonian Phalanx (which I tried to explain earlier in this thread).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FaHh-Lbp-6Q

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Re: Pike Phalanx

Post by rbodleyscott » Tue May 01, 2018 7:08 am

HudsonGame wrote:Saw this on YouTube and thought I might share it with all of you. This video squares with my understanding of the Macedonian Phalanx (which I tried to explain earlier in this thread).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FaHh-Lbp-6Q
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Re: Pike Phalanx

Post by MikeC_81 » Wed May 02, 2018 4:37 am

HudsonGame wrote:Saw this on YouTube and thought I might share it with all of you. This video squares with my understanding of the Macedonian Phalanx (which I tried to explain earlier in this thread).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FaHh-Lbp-6Q
I am not sure what this video shows that we didn't already know. You should separate the optimal theoretical operating outcomes with what actually was likely to happen under actual battlefield conditions.
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Re: Pike Phalanx

Post by HudsonGame » Wed May 02, 2018 7:29 am

MikeC_81 wrote:
HudsonGame wrote:Saw this on YouTube and thought I might share it with all of you. This video squares with my understanding of the Macedonian Phalanx (which I tried to explain earlier in this thread).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FaHh-Lbp-6Q
I am not sure what this video shows that we didn't already know. You should separate the optimal theoretical operating outcomes with what actually was likely to happen under actual battlefield conditions.
Well, as I stated, the reason I shared this video was because it's opinion of the Macedonian phalanx squared with my own, which is that the Phananx is all but impenetrable when attacked from the front. As I stated in this thread several times, I played a number of scenarios where repeatedly the Gaul Warbands hit a fresh formed Phalanx (from the front on open ground), caused heavy casualties and drove the Phalanx back (we are talking a quarter to a third of the phalanx units every time). I do not find this consistent with the Phalanx being impenetrable from the front. This video agrees with everything I have read on the Phalanx over the last few decades.

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Re: Pike Phalanx

Post by MikeC_81 » Wed May 02, 2018 10:44 pm

That video just rehashes the basic organization and doctrine of a pike phalanx and the equipment given to its soldiers. It says nothing about the efficacy of the phalanx in an actual battle against armies of the Celtic tradition. That such a formation is "invulnerable" from the front is pure conjecture.
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Re: Pike Phalanx

Post by HudsonGame » Wed May 02, 2018 11:27 pm

MikeC_81 wrote:That video just rehashes the basic organization and doctrine of a pike phalanx and the equipment given to its soldiers. It says nothing about the efficacy of the phalanx in an actual battle against armies of the Celtic tradition. That such a formation is "invulnerable" from the front is pure conjecture.
As I stated earlier, I am not a fan boy, and I will again depart with the observation (sorry, again repeating myself) that this "conjecture" is shared by every author that I have read on the subject over the last few decades. So, it seems to be a very common "conjecture". In testing the game I found that this "conjecture" is not reflected in game play. :wink:

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Re: Pike Phalanx

Post by Snake726 » Fri Jul 27, 2018 10:53 pm

I just had the same experience, during the Pontus campaign with pike phalanxes and now with the early Rome campaign with hoplites.

I had a line of mixed citizen/armoured/vet hoplites, and during two battles that whole line was charged - about 16 units, and over half of them were disrupted on impact from the front by warbands, and some were pushed back of broken a few turns later.

I thought...alright, maybe I should be the one to do the attacking. Only hoplites (like phalanxes) get a 0% impact win chance, and the result, on open ground from the front, was that I disrupted myself.

What is going on here?

Surely hoplites attacked from a jog, offensively (they did fight one another after all), and pike phalanxes could advance on the enemy.

However, I seem to be able to do nothing - playing defensively is poor, and playing offensively is poor. The only solution so far has been to attempt to focus more on cavalry and skirmish units flanking, turning one end of the enemy line as they break my entire line.

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Re: Pike Phalanx

Post by Snake726 » Fri Jul 27, 2018 10:58 pm

MikeC_81 wrote:
Wed May 02, 2018 10:44 pm
That video just rehashes the basic organization and doctrine of a pike phalanx and the equipment given to its soldiers. It says nothing about the efficacy of the phalanx in an actual battle against armies of the Celtic tradition. That such a formation is "invulnerable" from the front is pure conjecture.
Simply look at examples of Scottish pike, Spanish Tercios, or Landschneckt if you want more modern literature on pike troops. The Romans and later in the age of pike and shot, the Germans, developed the tactic of cutting off the spear heads of the pike wall using swordsmen. The English longbowmen routinely were used to annihilate Scottish pike formations from range.

It seems quite obvious that a wall of spears - especially Macedonian pikemen, extending at least 5 layers of 6 meter long spears in front of them, would not be an intelligent thing to charge. And if your pike squares were routinely defeated in detail by medium foot, why not cut some costs and simply copy them? Why did all of these empires continue to deploy pikes, even into the era of gunpowder, if they were so easy to charge from their optimal defensive posture?

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Re: Pike Phalanx

Post by jjaquemond » Sat Jul 28, 2018 12:03 am

Agree 100%. I've been playing a lot with pike recently and have also noticed that they appear strangely susceptible to frontal attack - which seems unusual non? I realize "historical sources are all conjecture" etc etc but All these games' stats are built on historical conjecture..Romans, Macedons, everyone.. since we don't "know for sure" how any of them actually fought. But the current consensus by many many seems to be that pike were pretty tough from the front…

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Re: Pike Phalanx

Post by kongxinga » Sat Jul 28, 2018 6:21 pm

Somewhat tangential, but
1. Are pike blocks in early renaissance functionally equivalent to phalanx at the prime (fast movement and changes in formation and direction)? I understand later phalanxes were likely not as good as Phillips or Alex's phalanxes.
2. If so, why did the phalanx get revived only then and not before? Was it because the social and economic conditions (lack of civilisation, poor areas) of Europe precluded raising pike blocks or phalanx until then? Or something to do with strategic needs (possibly siege warfare taking prominence, you only needed a peasant to cover the castle instead of expensive pikes).
3. Any conjecture why the concept of the pike block/ phalanx type unit in (Far east) Asia never arose? I know most Chinese and related armies were highly shooty. Were crossbows and other projectiles easier to give to conscripts, compared to the Hellenic flavoured citizen soldier or professional mercenary which allowed a phalanx? I know in the Book of Han the 'fish scale' formation was mentioned, which is possibly auxiliary phalanxes, so that type of shoulder to shoulder, interlocking shields formation was considered unusual enough to be noted.

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Re: Pike Phalanx

Post by Ludendorf » Sat Jul 28, 2018 10:13 pm

Was it really that easy to lop off the head of a pike? I mean, it's actually fairly difficult to lop off the head of a spear, especially if the owner is actively pushing and prodding with it as you're swinging. The shaft also gives, making it harder to cut into deeply. It's not the kind of thing you could decapitate with one swing normally.

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Re: Pike Phalanx

Post by stefankollers » Sun Jul 29, 2018 10:37 am

It semed easy enough at the Battle of Flodden when the English Bill men did exactly that.

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Re: Pike Phalanx

Post by MVP7 » Sun Jul 29, 2018 3:17 pm

I imagine hacking off spearheads would be easier with a 16th century blades with long shafts than short swords probably made with lower quality steel/iron.

In any case, destroying the pikes should have no effect on the charge phase and even during prolonged combat I find it hard to believe that it would be easy to cut down 5-6 layers of pikes. Even if significant amount of pikes were cut, you would still have additional layers of men with fresh pikes and the disarmed pikemen would still have their swords and shields. If it were that easy to castrate a pike phalanx by cutting the pikes then A) The pikes would never have achieved any success or popularity as a weapon system or B) The end of the shaft would have been reinforced with little bit of additional metal or C: There would have been an effective system for replacing the destroyed pikes with new ones in the formation during the combat.

There is no way that one of the most successful weapon systems of history (that requires relatively large amount of training and discipline to use) could have been easily countered by simply hacking at them really hard. If pikes were that vulnerable then why would Macedonians have started using them over well-established hoplite tactics or why would they not have picked swords as a primary weapon instead?


Speaking in terms of gameplay I think the biggest weakness of Pikes is their high price which results in a low number of individual units. The pike armies are almost always fighting against an enemy that can deploy a wider front and unlike similarly expensive Romans, they don't have the maneuverability to make up for it. I don't think the pikes are badly under-powered as it is but they aren't as good bang for the buck as Roman legionaries and veteran legionaries. Legionaries are both more maneuverable and have the advantage at charge (which is the most important roll of any melee). The biggest balance issue the pikes have is the too high chance to drop cohesion from receiving a frontal charge, which I think is also arguably unrealistic.

The Pikes could have some kind of additional cohesion check bonus when losing against a frontal charge so that they would work better as the anvil they historically were. They can handle the loss of men but the early loss of cohesion is a death sentence.

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Re: Pike Phalanx

Post by AlexDetrojan » Sun Jul 29, 2018 9:37 pm

'I imagine hacking off spearheads would be easier with a 16th century blades with long shafts than short swords probably made with lower quality steel/iron.' I've got to agree with this. I've personally seen many examples of the Zweihander swords wielded by Dopplesoldners in museums. They are truly fearsome weapons. Mind you, I think you'd need a physique like Arnold Schwarzenegger to be able to effectively lop off many pike heads. And I wonder if this type soldier was used not for his effectiveness at disabling the pikes, but more for his effect on moral and cohesion. No pre-16th century examples come to mind of this. Even the dreaded rhompaia doesn't seem to fit the bill. Also for those living in the U.K. there are a lot of ECW re-enactors. They might have interesting real world insights on what it's like to wield a pike in formation...

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Re: Pike Phalanx

Post by stockwellpete » Sun Jul 29, 2018 9:47 pm

stefankollers wrote:
Sun Jul 29, 2018 10:37 am
It semed easy enough at the Battle of Flodden when the English Bill men did exactly that.
But the Scottish pikemen were floundering in very difficult boggy terrain at Flodden.

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Re: Pike Phalanx

Post by TimDee58 » Sun Jul 29, 2018 10:45 pm

and yet no-one thinks to mention Spanish Sword & Buckler men.....

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Re: Pike Phalanx

Post by SnuggleBunnies » Mon Jul 30, 2018 1:15 am

... who were phased out relatively early in the 16th century, as they didn't prove very effective on the battlefield. They stuck around as colour guards and occasionally in sieges.

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