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First off thank you to everyone who inputed and helped out in my last post to give me more of a clear idea on how to finalize this concept i have. This is a follow up to that as I figured that it's easier to make a new question rather then edit the last one to get it open again.

So to start off with the nation in question is an arcane merchentile nation that prefers to expand and grow via Trade, Exploration and exhibitions and Research and development into various spells and arcane technology.

As such its military is closer to a defense force, better suited for small engagements and skirmishes then all out war, prefering hit and run tactics and using their environment to their advantage.

Because of this and due to the fact that it that the majority of the nations population are arcane spellcasters to some capacity. Melee combatants prefer to use a variety of one handed swords and axes as opposed to anything larger and unwieldy. And so their primary role is to deal with criminals, safeguard the borders and keep the peace.

That said, they understand there may come a day when a large invasion force will try to invade their lands and as such contingency plans have been put in place in such an event. Sticking to urban warfare, forcing them into isolated skirmishes, sabotage and starve them out and force them to leave. The Armadillo approach essentially, make it such a costly affair to invade that it ends up not being worth it and avoid an open field battle at all costs as they realize such a confrontation would not be ideal.

But even in this event they have a plan, if forced into an open field battle. All melee casters are to cast a barrier like shield and form a phalanx much like the romans, after that they are given only one order to follow. "Hold" Hold the line and do not yield ground while the backline bombards the enemy formation with all manner of explosive spells and vials to disrupt their line.

Basically it becomes a battle of attrition to see who breaks first. If and when the enemy line breaks and they scatter the melee combatants will take advantage of the chaos and fight in an environment that they are more comfortable with. I.E multiple small engagements.

Is this ideal? No. Like i said if they are forced to a point where they have to fight in open warfare they've already been outmanuvered, and with some luck it wont come to this. But if this nation doesn't want to completely uproot its military to be more wartime focused, i believe this strategy in such an event is the best they can do.

Am i missing anything?

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  • $\begingroup$ Just a note on terminology - the phalanx was not Roman, it was the Hellenistic formation that the Romans got really good at defeating. (See the ongoing history blog series on acoup.blog with the final part due to drop in the next day.) If you are thinking of the testudo, that was used in very limited circumstances such as closing with enemy fortifications, not open field battles. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 21 at 21:13
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah no it's closer to a phalanx then a testudo i just got the region who used it wrong $\endgroup$
    – Masakan
    Commented Mar 21 at 21:18
  • $\begingroup$ In that case I don't understand the context, since the phalanx relied on the use of really, really long spears, where it was the Romans who (very atypically) used swords as their primary weapon rather than one-handed spears (once they had thrown their pila as they closed). $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 21 at 21:22
  • $\begingroup$ Oh Is that how it worked? I thought it was just a shorter ranged version of the phalanx, maybe I am thinking of the testudo. I'm terrible with terminology. $\endgroup$
    – Masakan
    Commented Mar 21 at 21:28
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    $\begingroup$ As a suggestion - your Nation sounds like Sweden/Finland/Switzerland in conception and mindset - Whilst these are modern nations with modern weaponary - some of the issues around facing a numerically superior force, having an extensive militia/national service etc. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 21 at 21:53

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It Depends on Their Enemies

It would really depend on the equipment and tactics of the other militaries they may face. If other armies rely almost entirely on dismounted infantry and slug it out with magic at range, counting on magical shielding to protect their forces, then the tactics you've described would be viable, if potentially costly. It wouldn't really be much different from Napoleonic era tactics or WWI trench warfare (due to the protection the shields afford). The problem they'd run into is that getting a bunch of people to stand there and let an adversary shoot at them without breaking and running requires a lot of discipline. If you're going to give them the sort of training necessary for them to keep their nerve while an enemy force pounds on their shields with magic, you're probably most of the way to training a professional army. Why stop there? If the mercantile nation-state's adversaries have an advantage in numbers or training, those tactics could result in an utter bloodbath for them once their shield wall fails or resolve breaks and their troops begin to rout. Success would depend on having more, or better trained troops, so you might as well go all the way.

Moreover, if their adversaries have something like cavalry or artillery, or if an enemy's tactics involve using those magical shields to close with their enemies and fight them in melee (assuming they focus on having superior hand-to-hand combat prowess), those tactics might fail catastrophically.

Consider the Fabian Strategy

The thing is, unless your army is caught out in the field by another army, you can always deny battle. They can't really force you to engage them in open combat, especially if you never field a conventional army. If this mercantile nation-state really wants to use skirmishers as their primary military force, they might want to use the Fabian strategy, perhaps supplemented by constructing numerous forts and castles or exploiting naturally favorable terrain, as seen in Switzerland, or creating favorable terrain, like the French bocage (look up some pictures of the hedgerows seen in Normandy, they're practically a trench network). The core of this strategy is to avoid direct confrontation entirely, and instead target their logistics, ambush them when on the march, raid their camps at night, and wear down their resources and resolve. You could use small groups of light fast skirmishers, who shadow an enemy army, retreating immediately if that army tries to engage them, but harassing them whenever they try to rest or move, and attacking the army's supply train whenever the opportunity presents itself.

This does leave the enemy army free to raid and pillage the countryside, and your mercantile nation-state will likely experience significant material losses, as well as heavy civilian casualties if there aren't any safe places for civilians to retreat to. They can mitigate the costs somewhat by building walled cities, and keeping centralized reserves of non-perishable food within said walled cities. However, this might not actually be a concern if the magic in your setting is capable of getting results similar to an explosive. It wouldn't take many night raids to utterly decimate an opposing force if the skirmishers are basically chucking grenades into an enemy camp while almost everyone is asleep and unshielded. Simply using the element of surprise to slaughter some unprepared, unshielded soldiers before retreating regrouping and repeating the process might actually make short work of an enemy's standing army. The constant fear that an attack could come at any moment from any direction would play utter havoc on enemy morale.

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  • $\begingroup$ You sir, Might have just saved my motivation to write. This is perfect. $\endgroup$
    – Masakan
    Commented Mar 22 at 8:04
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    $\begingroup$ I'm glad you found it useful. If you search for the 'Fabian Strategy' you should be able to find more details from historical examples. Another thing that might be useful for your story, is that nobody likes using the Fabian strategy. In every historical example I've seen, everyone wants to just march out there and fight the invader. It could provide a source of political tension between the brash, frequently popular leaders who just want a straight-up fight, and the more level-headed leaders who realize that while it may not be glamorous, it works. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 22 at 8:48
  • $\begingroup$ Plus they could make the argument that they would be prioritizing the protection and safety of the population and knowing that they can't fight them head on without completely overhauling their entire military structure to be more warlike which is what the warhawks likely wanna do in the first place. This would likely result in a divide and split into 2 factions one that's more offensive in their philosophy and one that's more defensive resulting in a feud to determine which one is superior. Yeah. I like it. $\endgroup$
    – Masakan
    Commented Mar 22 at 9:54
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    $\begingroup$ In real life, in the second Punic war the warhawks won out, and it resulted in the battle of Cannae, which was Rome's greatest military defeat (if memory serves). They lost 8 legions, with only a handful of survivors managing to escape. I think it amounted to almost their entire standing army (In Italy at least). If you needed a 'darkest hour' that might be one way to bring it about. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 22 at 10:32
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    $\begingroup$ Yep. And if you want a hero from the defensive faction to swoop in and save the day, that's one historically accurate way to include it in your story. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 22 at 11:20
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This is essentially a 1st World War-style trench warfare reimagined with magic instead of trenches and artillery. And that type of warfare was historically very unacceptable.

It happened sort of by accident to begin with - none of the parties went into that war wanting, planning or even expecting the fight to devolve into trench warfare. And as soon as it became obvious that trench warfare dominated the conflict anyway, there were many attempts to try something, anything, to escape it. New fronts were opened on the flanks; new tactics were invented and put to use; two whole new weapon systems (the tank and the warplane) were rapidly developed as much as the technology of the day would allow. All of which in the event turned out to be insufficient; but not for the lack of trying. And of course more than half of the major fighting states did the ultimate rejection by stopping to exist as a result of the war. TL;DR would not recommend... ;)

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  • $\begingroup$ Which is why i made it clear that this would be a last resort option, with any luck it would never come to that in the event of a conflict. $\endgroup$
    – Masakan
    Commented Mar 22 at 12:14
  • $\begingroup$ Masakan, thank you. To which I will point that trench warfare was not planned even as a last resort option. People just don't take kindly to a plan that amounts to having their sons slaughtered in the hope that the other side runs out of sons first. $\endgroup$
    – ihaveideas
    Commented Mar 22 at 12:23
  • $\begingroup$ Understandable. I'll take that into account and have it done in a way that minimizes casualties. Go in, complete the objective, get out. Simple as that. $\endgroup$
    – Masakan
    Commented Mar 22 at 13:15
  • $\begingroup$ @Masakan, thank you. For this, you would need the magical equivalent of cavalry, which relies on speed and surprise. But your force is more like infantry, and relies on firepower and an ability to soak up damage. It doesn't have what it takes to be good at raiding, and also cannot put its main advantages to use in the context of raiding. $\endgroup$
    – ihaveideas
    Commented Mar 22 at 15:13
  • $\begingroup$ Hmm that shouldn't be a problem if we use pathfinder as an example the spell "Mount" is one a level one arcane spell that can be used by most arcane casters. So I don't think the ability to magically craft a spectral steed that can last a couple hours be something that the lions share of forces can do would be too far out of the question. $\endgroup$
    – Masakan
    Commented Mar 22 at 15:51

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