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What ever happened to?

 
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Frank Gilson
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 02, 2017 8:00 am    Post subject: What ever happened to?

I wanted to discuss something generally known as the 'meta game'...in our case that's what armies we choose to play in events.

This shifts over time, even among players who consistently play certain armies, at least in how they configure them.

Sometimes, we see a general 'drought' in a troop type or army type for a period of time.

We appear to be seeing fewer 'pike' centric armies than we did in the past. Rob Turnbull has shifted away from Seleucid...Scott McDonald did pick them up for last year's NCT, though.

Pike don't shoot, nor do they catch anything, but they do beat much of what they fight and are hard to attack.

Our deployment rules would seem to permit a pike player to deploy them quite forward.

Thoughts?
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Todd Kaeser
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 20, 2017 1:27 pm    Post subject:

Ok Frank - I'll bite.

Very Happy

I feel the dearth of pike armies is because we have shrunk over the years in number of players. I think Macedonian armies are a solid/safe choice to do at least fairly well. As you have said - Pike (especially with 3 cpf halt rules and ability to charge impetuous foot) have made them all but unstoppable frontally. Macedonian armies take up a fair amount of space on the board and if an opponent can push the pike they can be very dangerous.

However, the new deployment rules AND the trend towards cavalry armies with lots of scouting make it tough to come to a decision with pike nowadays. With 3x scouting a pike army sets up at 360 paces from rear and with games lasting 5-8 turns is not enough time to push an opponent far enough back to get a resolution. IF you go with lots of lights to off set the scouting your lights are invariably poorer than your opponent and actually provide some rich targets to kill..... and lose you battle.

I am sure we'll see a comeback of Macedonians - we do run in cycles.

Todd

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Mark Stone
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 20, 2017 7:01 pm    Post subject:

I think we've also seen some shift within pike tactics. Up until maybe 8 years ago it was common to see pike armies with a lot of 32 figure pike blocks as line troops, and then a sprinkling of smaller pike / peltast /hypaspist units designed to work in tandem with elephants as the attack force.

The problem with that approach is that most of us have now figured out how to use combined arms tactics to take down large pike blocks (SCH + Varangians on Byzantine lists, mounted K + impetuous foot on Feudal / Medieval lists, Elephants + multi-armed foot on Oriental lists, etc.).

So we saw a shift away from large pike blocks to strictly 16 figure pike units normally operating in column with HI in the front. You cannot use combined arms when only a single element is presented as the target area. This required the pike armies to adopt more of a skirmisher style in order to hold frontage, with the disadvantages to which Todd alludes. With some care it is workable, however. You get shielded light infantry on Alexandrian lists, and several of the lists have at least some light cav that can fight rank and a half, along with a good amount of regular light cavalry, whose reach and maneuverability is always an asset.

But we now have at least two approaches that can deal with the 16 figure pike unit. Markowitz has run Ming Chinese to good effect a couple of times, and it turns out that firelance-armed EHC will beat pike straight up on even die rolls (and as A/Bs with a general the EHC pretty much never roll down). Dave Stier has used dismounted knights available on many lists (SHI 2HCW in the front, something with JLS in the back) to good effect against pike as well. Indeed, play a list with Irr A SHK (there are a few) and on an up roll your dismounted knights rout the pike at contact.

So my take is that pike players have retrenched a bit as they look for another angle on how to configure a pike army. When someone comes forth with a new wrinkle on pike army configuration, they'll start to be more popular again.

A couple of other factors weigh against pike armies. First, pike armies almost always rely on elephants, and given the popularity of shooting heavy armies these days (100 YWE, Early Burgundian, 10 Independent States, Koryo Korean, any Meso-American army...) elephants are having a tough time of it. Second, echoing what Todd said, it is tough to drive your pikes all the way across the table within the time limits we play. I have always seen this as a weak point of pike armies, even when we played 4 hour games, but at 3 1/2 hours I think the group consensus now is that pike armies are a bit handicapped.

There are some other trends -- or lack of trends -- that I continue to ponder. I think ever since we went to 1 1/2 ranks for lance way back with WRG7, it has been almost impossible to devise a viable barbarian foot army or a viable Roman army. Roman armies are also penalized by the way our point system works; Romans are just very expensive to buy, and thus never hold frontage well.

So I wonder what it would take to make barbarian foot and/or Roman armies truly tournament viable. Is it a question of tactics and army configuration that we just haven't deciphered yet? Or is it really going to take some further rules adjustment (which may never happen, and maybe never should happen)?
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Frank Gilson
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 21, 2017 7:57 am    Post subject:

Mark makes a series of valid points...

I have rarely run pike...and when facing it in any configuration either just avoid it or have something that can locally kill a pike unit and then do so.

I can't think offhand of a way for pike to 'come back' in the open tournament sense.

There is a configuration of Romans that can work, but you have to 'sit back' and enjoy your opponent's attack. You literally can't fill enough frontage to attack yourself...and you're using 2E units that have their own vulnerabilities and need 'friends' nearby...thus further frontage constraints.

I've used Barbarian foot that also have Shieldwall recently...and while there is 'something' there...it isn't enough. While shieldwall solves many problems, it's nothing you can attack with...as it only moves 40 paces a turn.

Frank
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