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Formations. How, Why, and Where?
#1
I've been taking a gander at a lot of Coth's events lately, and I've taken to notice something lately. Now a lot of us tend to role play war veterans, or people who have at least undergone some sort of basic training (Myself Included!). Whether through their nations formal military, or through a mercenary party of some form or another. Though the symptom I'm talking about isn't restricted simply to CoTH itself, though it does seem to be prevalent more so in WoW's setting than other avenues of rp.

The flaw I've found in this is a frankly rather basic one, and that's the utility or knowledge of fighting in Formation. Formation fighting is when a squad, platoon, brigade or company of units stands in organized positions to maximize effectiveness of their arms, the terrain, or disadvantages the enemy may hold. There are a great many number of positions, possibly as many as there were weapons in war, or nations or countries. But one thing always rang true, the army that practiced their usage was more successful than those that hadn't.

But the question is: Why? Well, there are a number of reasons and I probably couldn't give you a solid single reason myself. But if I was to give an estimated guess, I'd say that it's because there is strength in numbers. Well obviously there's strength in numbers Snuggley, but what's that got to do with how my character fights? Well, how often in a server event does your character and an enemy pair off to do battle- even when they're both part of separate war parties? It's fairly often for me. I believe this to be because of how WoW's mechanics work, which is most comfortable against single target foes. In real life however, you'd never split off from the group to fight mono-e-mono.

I'm aware that this probably makes GM-ing an event leagues easier than the way a real infantry battle would play out, but hear me out here. In a line battle, if you're injured or need some time to recuperate, you've got allies both to your left and right to not only cover for you, but also to keep the enemy from getting around to your sides. If you've got ranks behind you as well, you've got protection from above, and a replacement should you fall or become too wounded to fight- and need to retreat. In short: Soldiers working together can be presumed to be more effective than if they were to all work independently.

My next point is about weapons in Formations! And we're going to start off with likely the least used weapon in WoW, which is the Spear. Spears are incredibly useful weapons, used rarely and always much longer than the models or animations that WoW uses them with. Spears are at heart, the ultimate counter to any formation of Mounted units. The Cavalry charge is trumped by a formation of Spear-men, and spear-men have found usefulness against enemy armies using cavalry up until the advent of the Machine Gun in World War One; the last war in which Cavalry was used. And while their spears were likely long barreled rifles with bayonets at that point, they could still be used for the ancient purpose. (See the Thin Red Line: Bavaclava painting)

The next weapon, or should I say; group of weapons, is going to described as a group- because of functional likeness. That's missiles. No, not ballistic missiles, but rather ranged weaponry- or in WoW's case, spells. These types, whether mages, riflemen, healers or archers should almost always be kept at the rear of the line. Their job is less direct than the spearman, or the weapons to follow- but nonetheless important. The job of the ranged weapon in a large scale military battle, is to get the enemy to charge. In an infantry battle, you DO NOT Want to charging. When you charge, you'll arrive at the enemy lines exhausted, and likely with your own formations messed up. However, if you've got some mages shooting frostbolts, warlocks casting spells or archers raining arrows, the enemy will come to you. Why is this a good thing? Because you can predictably plan for it. You can set up a defence, and a plan to flank them after they've charged. If an enemy army does not charge, then their options are either to stay back and take cover- likely losing men until they retreat, or to retreat and try to find another angle of attack.

This next group is going to be about weapon pairing. No weapon is good for everything, but one weapon every soldier can find a use for is the Shield. Shields are fantastic weapons that allow you and your company to hold against an enemy charge, as well as keep yourself and your allies in protection against most all conventional weapons the enemy may bring. If you remember my talk about cavalry and spears earlier, you may have asked: "What if cavalry have spears, huh? How's a spear gonna stop a longer spear from a guy on a horse?" The answer is: It's not! The guy in front of you; the big guy? With the barn door on his arm? He's going to stop the cavalry's shield, and you're going to stab him when that happens. If an infantry formation all has the same weapon or weapon type, then they're all going to have the same shortcomings and dispositions. If you have a good composition of shieldmen, spearmen, swordsmen and the like, then you gain a better chance of surviving against your foes. Men on the first front lines will likely have a shield and a one handed weapon, such as a sword or an axe. Now, these are all weapons I want to go over in depth at a later date, so I'll keep this brief for now. Axes and maces are better for fighting foes in armor. Swords are good for parrying away strikes, and levering armored men to the ground. If you've got a two handed sword, you should be in a better position to block attacks from a knight with a hammer or axe and lever him to the ground, whereupon your friend in the line behind you comes in for the kill- using his own hammer or axe.

Alright, so you're in a Formation. You've got your gear and your armor, so now what do you do? Well, that all depends on where you are. The center of a formation is often where the veteran fighters are, and where the heaviest fighting is. Your job is to hold the line, and kill anyone who tries to oppose it.

What if you find yourself on one of the flanks, left or right? The duties of the left and right flank are twofold. When attacking, your job is to get around the enemy to attack them from the rear. When defending, your job is to keep your enemies from flanking behind you. Surrounding your enemy's line is a surefire way to get yourself a victory on the battlefield. Often when lines start to break up, the rear lines will make a retreat.

If you are behind the center lines, then you are likely a reserve troop- there to supplement the center line should they take casualties.

Those with ranged weapons will often find themselves on left or right flank, behind the frontline formation. Ranged units tend to do best when positioned to shoot down into the enemy lines, such as on a hill. If you've they've got the sun behind them, then it means the enemy will have a harder time ranging their shots- what with a blinding sun shining into their eyes.

There were no healers in medieval battles, but I presume that they would be found at the rearmost line of a company's formation. Again with the most experienced healers found at the rears of the center lines, and with the lower ranked healers on flanks. Shamans and Druids may be closer to front-lines than priests, seeing as they carry armor and have means to better defend themselves.

And lastly, if you think everything I've said is completely ridiculous, didn't make sense or just plain doesn't add up; here are some pictures of six commonly used formations used by the Roman Empire. Rumors speculate that their army was pretty good, so take from it what you will. The rectangles represent formations of troop companies, likely 3 or 4 lines deep.

[Image: 4681043630346227.png]

[-] The following 2 users Like Snuggley's post:
  • SachikoMaeda, flammos200
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#2
(11-29-2014, 03:46 PM)Snuggley Wrote: The guy in front of you; the big guy? With the barn door on his arm? He's going to stop the cavalry's shield, and you're going to stab him when that happens.

Cavalry's charge, maybe? Also, you should mention archers or infantry laying down stakes. That's a great way to stop cavalry charges.

But yeah. Nice work! This reminds me of the sacrilege of fatal arms sort of stuff we've got going in the Articles & Guides. As a lover of Ancient and Medieval warfare, arms and armor, posts like this make me -very- happy. Thank you!

Oh yeah. A couple'a people on the 'tubes specialize in arms and armor(with a dash of warfare to boot). They're Lindybeige, Scholagladiatoria and Skallagrim. Anyone who might wanna learn a bit more about arms and armor and the ways they were used, or alternatively just spend a fun afternoon getting to know the various ways a sling was worn is encouraged to check'em out.
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Recommended reads: Divine and Arcane. Also, elves.
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#3
Lindybeige is probably my favorite youtuber on this topic, and many more on the art of medieval war. I highly reccomend anyone interested to check them out.
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