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Much too fragile phalangites?

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Level 8 Human Conqueror
Alignment: Good
Location: France
Posted on July 6, 2010 at 9:06 am

Hi everybody,

I am a great fan of the game, which has been consuming my free time (and a little bit more) since I discovered it, and, being a long time student of the period, I am extremely pleased by the historicity and feel of the game. Still, I am somewhat annoyed by the high fragility of phalangite units, especially their extreme susceptibility to missiles. I presume that there may be a game balance choice here, but rating the melee and missile defenses of phalangites at the same level as that of regular peltasts is not adequate I think:
- first, I believe phalangites had slightly more armour and larger shield than peltasts, but fought in closer formations so had less latitude to evade incoming missiles, so I accept rough equivalence here (by the way, do you get better missile defense - at the price of decreased melee attacks? - when fighting in loose order?)
- however, many texts point out that the very closeness of the phalangites' order and the forest of sarissae of the rear ranks formed like a dense forest above the heads of the phalanx, providing a very effective protection against incoming missiles during battles.
This is why I believe phalangites should be made much less susceptible to missile attacks during pitched battles (not siege assaults).

Any thought?

Cheers,
Marc

Level 8 Human gamer
Alignment: Chaotic good
Posted on July 6, 2010 at 11:27 am

I'll agree with some of what you said but at that period the phalagaids did not have excessively more armour than the rest of them, they had leggings, gauntlets, a torso breastplate, helmet and shield but other than that they only wore a chlamida (a skirt like garment that was usually white with vertical stripes) and the higher ranks wore a cape that indicated their rank... so unless they raised their shield they were pretty exposed to missiles... that changed with the Romans and their testude and turtle formations that were used for those purposes exactly.

Level 8 Human Strategos
Alignment: Chaotic good
Location: Mt Olympos
Posted on July 7, 2010 at 1:05 am

I'd agree that from a realism point of view, missile fire is over rated, though I assume that it's done to make the gameplay closer to other rts games. The peltast units are still rather annoying though as they're effectiveness means you have to pay close attention to them, and immediately send a cavalry unit to swat them.

In the future, it might be better if they were a little less effective, but automatically moved away from attacking enemy heavy troops (sometimes ai does this, sometimes it doesn't). This would let them stay around longer grinding down the heaves. It'd still cover the cases where hoplites were defeated by peltasts, but they'd be less annoying.

Level 13 Extraplanar Programmer
Alignment: Chaotic good
Location: Toronto
Posted on July 7, 2010 at 3:58 am

It was done for both historical and gameplay purposes.

Although phalangites fought in a heavy-infantry style, like hoplites, they had much less armour, so logically you would expect their missile defense to be lower. There were some mentions of the sarissas deflecting missiles, but we never found anything which claimed that it actually worked well. After all, Philip and Alexander clearly weren't confident enough in the sarissa's missile-stopping ability to abandon combined arms; quite the contrary: Philip and Alexander were well known for their use of combined arms. In fact, the Macedonian empire fell after their defeat by the Romans at the Battle of Pydna, which was due to the Macedonians' over-reliance on phalangites.

Similarly, from a gameplay perspective, if the phalangites had high missile defense they'd be nigh unstoppable. The choice to lower their missile defense forces you to use combined arms, and to use different units for field battles than you do for sieges, which makes the game a lot more interesting than just building phalangites for everything.

Level 8 Human Vault Technician
Alignment: Chaotic good
Location: Budapest, Hungary
Posted on July 7, 2010 at 5:40 am

Yes, phalangites seem pretty buff at first, but they go back to just an average troop as the game progresses and it's not just their lack of missile defense, they fail even against the better melee. They're a good starting force for the early stages until you encounter the more powerful, unique brigades of adversaries like Thebes, Sparta, Thracians, Persians etc. After that, you're better off using mercenaries from the aforementioned nations as the bulk of your army.

Peltasts are always a pain indeed, but to me the easiest way of dealing with them was to bring my own missile troops along with my melee force. More specifically I found the *tribal archers* to be the best anti-peltast unit I could get. They have the longest range so they can safely stand behind the melee and still reach the opposing peltasts/javelineers with their arrows which pack quite a punch too - 2 volleys are enough to rout the average peltast company (or one combined volley if you're using at least two archer squads).
These archers can be recruited mostly from the northern regions. In my playthrough I took a quite unorthodox route to expand at first - I went straight to the northwest corner of the map, which turned out quite fortunate as I got a relatively early chance to recruit some of these archers from a city along the Danube. They rout very easily and the remoteness of their home city meant I had to take very good care of them, but they accompanied me for the rest of the game once I discovered how awesome they were.
As Rick said, combined arms does work very well. While I too felt a little upset when my phalangites first began getting toasted, by the end I didn't mind their weakness so much - the game would have been too easy and monotone if they were any stronger.

Level 8 Human gamer
Alignment: Chaotic good
Posted on July 7, 2010 at 6:28 am

Maybe irrelevant to this post, but I wander how different would the world be if Alexander hadn't died so young and had actually been at the head of that huge empire that expanded from Greece and Balkans to the Hindu river when the Greeks fought the Romans...

Level 13 Extraplanar Programmer
Alignment: Chaotic good
Location: Toronto
Posted on July 8, 2010 at 11:55 am

Actually, somebody at Origins was telling me about a novel called 'Conquistador', which was based on that very idea: a man finds himself in an alternate Earth where Alexander lived to old age, the Greek empire didn't fall to the Romans, and nobody ever discovered the Americas.

Level 8 Human gamer
Alignment: Chaotic good
Posted on July 8, 2010 at 8:04 pm

I will read it ASAP! Thanks, but why would the Americas never be discovered? Everything the Romans did the Greeks might of done until the Barbarian invasions begun and brought the Dark ages, that medieval ages would follow and Renascence and age of discoveries to follow that, only instead of every one wanting to match Caesar and the Romans every one would want to match some Greek emperor....

Level 13 Extraplanar Programmer
Alignment: Chaotic good
Location: Toronto
Posted on July 9, 2010 at 4:56 pm

I'm not sure, since I haven't read it :)

Level 8 Human Conqueror
Alignment: Good
Location: France
Posted on July 9, 2010 at 7:31 pm

Coming back to my original topic, I appreciate (as mentioned in my initial post) the drive for game balance, but this weakness of phalangites is really annoying in an otherwise very satisfactory game period-fell-wise. I fully agree that Philip and Alexander expounded combined arms tactics, but it has little to do with missile troops: combined arms for them was pinning the enemy phalanx with phalangites and using a gap to send the Companions and the Thessalians crashing in the side or the rear ranks of the enemy to break them. The effectiveness of the sarissae against missiles is well attested, and it has certainly no need of Testudo-like tactics (which were more siege assault than battlefield tactics anyway). For instance, Alexander experienced no strong difficulty with the myriads of Persian archers and other missile troops: the only serious threat (in the great pitched battles) were the Persian cavalry, which was both extremely numerous and very good.
I am even more concerned by the post saying that in the late game phalangites are overmatched by Theban, Spartan or Persian units: while I can accept that elite units such as the Theban Sacred Bank were more than a match to the average Macedonian Taxis, even veteran, there can be no doubt that the Macedonian Phalanxes were vastly superior to anything the Greeks (or the Persians) could field. It took the Roman Legions' superior tactical flexibility to overturn this state of fact (and even these could not stand against the front of a well-ordered Macedonian Phalanx on fair ground)...
Best regards,
Marc

Level 8 Human Vault Technician
Alignment: Chaotic good
Location: Budapest, Hungary
Posted on July 9, 2010 at 11:34 pm

Yes, just to be specific, I was refering to the following units which can beat phalangites 1v1 in the game:

- Thebes: Theban hoplite - 50-man, Melee Attack: 160, Defense: 100 (I assume they represent the Sacred Band as I haven't encountered any individual brigade with that name)

- Sparta: Spartan hoplite - 50-man, Melee Attack: 150, Defense: 110 (There's a movie around that makes them look like the Chuck Norrisses of ancient Greece for their feats at Thermopylae, perhaps a homage? ;) )

- Persians: Persian cavalry - 36-man, Melee Attack: 200, Defense: 150 (Thanks to their in-game stats, they mow down pretty much everything)

In the game the above three also have roughly twice the missile defense (70-80) of the phalangites (40).

- Thracians: They don't have anything that'd be a match for phalangites 1v1, but their 30-man Thracian peltast companies (provided there's some melee support) can melt phalangite faces very quickly with the poor missile defense they've got.

Can't recall anything else right now.