Advice about hoplite (and warband)
These notes are derived from advice originally written for someone intending
to use warband, but it is based on my experience using an army of impetuous
Irr Sp(O) (Kyrenean Greeks) and should be applicable to most armies whose
main combat troop type is impetuous foot. I have also added a few comments
regarding non-impetuous hoplite-based armies.
Hoplite Greeks covers a multitude of sins, early, late, different states and
colonies with different types of hoplite, generals and support troops.
I've used Kyrenean Greeks quite a lot with reasonable results.These have a
minimum of 36 Irr Sp(O) but can also have a lot of support troops. In the
earlierst period these are 10 cavalry chariots plus a lot of Ps, later on
adding some knights and Ax(S).
I came to the conclusion that the way to go is to have two large commands
(36ME or more [more like 27 ME if using half ME warband]) which deploy up
front (left and right) and one command with the CinC that deploys back
behind the other two.
The front commands need enough support troops to cover their own flanks and
also to take advantage when columns push past each other in a big melee. You
might also find a block of infantry able to advance forward with little
opposition (as the enemy gets out of the way) which opens up an enemy flank,
so you need some (non-clumsy) follow-on troops to exploit this.
The main infantry blocks in these commands need to be 7 or 8 wide, no more
(therefore 3 or 4 deep), and deployed with a bit of a gap between them so
you can wheel them to aim at their target ASAP without the rear ranks
kicking out and interfering with the adjacent block. This means you are
attacking on a 16 element frontage. This should be enough to break half the
enemy army - you can afford to ignore the rest and must ruthlessly avoid the
temptation to spend PIPs to get easy kills on them. Once the blocks are
aiming at the enemy, you can consider letting them go to get the extra 80p
THese two commands may take a lot of casualties as they are likely to be
outflanked. You just need sufficient sacrificial flank/rear guards to stop
the enemy getting behind the Sp en-masse. At 36 ME+ these commands can soak
up a lot of losses on the way to frontal victory.
That leaves the reserve command probably around the 21 ME mark. I include 8
mounted spear as they are fairly fast moving. You could try a column of 8
impetuous foot. Point it where you want it to go and then let it go sponno
at 240p per bound, then join the CinC onto it just before you want to deploy
into line. This command also should have a line of Ps (or other cheap
troops) that moves up behind the rest of the army to interfere with anything
that gets behind the two front commands. I also put a few cavalry in this
command (there is more cavalry in the front commands) and, if available, a
larger number of Cv(O), Lh or KnF could be used instead of the heavy foot.
This command ends up interfering with enemy outflanking moves as much as it
does supporting the main attack and often does not do much fighting.
You try something like this or, if you can have an ally for a 4th command,
maybe 2 commands up, ally behind, CinC with tiny reserve behind that.
You also want fairly open terrain as ideally the enemy will fritter away his
best troops going round your flank instead of ploughing through the spears
from the front, or (if he does choose a frontal attack) will have to
sacrifice depth or use weaker troops to cover all your frontage. However,
one 2FE difficult is handy to constrain a flank (either on your side of the
table or, better, on his) and to force the opponent to deploy in front of
where you will deploy. If using warband instead of spears then some rough
going can be useful.
The key to success is sending the reserves early enough to the right
place(s) to follow up anticipated success and/or mitigate failure, of which
the first is probably most important. The decision needs an element of
"fingerspitzengefuhl"and I still don't get it right all the time, but I
think it would be worthpersisting to see if you can develop it.
If you are using regulars, your army will be smaller. Probably the hoplites
will still be your arm of decision so a similar concept would be worth
trying, though with smaller commands. If you also have good support troops
then a high-PIP attack round one flank with these might be a good
alternative tactic. Regular hoplites can also use more sophisticated tactics
than the "aim for the enemy and advance" of irregulars, and can protect
their own flanks so there may be less need for support troops.
If you are using Spartans, Steve Mills' army design seems pretty efficient
(at least it is scary to face). He uses lots of regular Ps(S) and places
lots of difficult going, which the Ps swarm through and do as much damage as
possible before the hoplites engage. If doing this, the main psiloi attack
should be from one command and the front line hoplites should be from
In combat, Sp(O) should be about equal to Bd(O) due to the rear support
factor, as long as you don't get bad dice in the quick kill bound. However,
it is important to have depth (3 or more ranks) so you still have a
supporting rank after the front rank(s) have been killed. However, they will
struggle against Kn(S) or (X) and double based Bw(X). They stand little
chance against pikes or warband. An important part of your plan is
preventing impetuous troops from attacking anything that will beat them.