The Idiot General (or 'Why I am bad at RTS games')


Battle 1a - Flaw Exploitation (Rome: Total War)

Picture it. Two opposing armies staring down at each other from across a sparsely wooded hillside. Trees sway gently in the wind, horses mull peacefully about and a Greek general yells bombastic nonsense at his troops: a meagre assortment of Cretan archers, Greek cavalry and hoplites. The small vanguard of elite Spartan Hoplites stand aloof, deliberately ignoring their fool of a general (or bugging out, but I think my version is better). On the other side of no man's land an Egyptian army gathers, ranks swelled by the masses of horsemen and camelry (camel cavalry) flanking their fabled pikemen with a handful of chariots taking up the rear. The battle begins.

I have no idea why I chose to play as the Greeks. I have no particular attachment to them. I haven't played their campaign. In fact, this was probably only the third or fourth time I had ever played as them. Of course, the fact that I had just watched 300 obviously had absolutely nothing to do with it. My ever present opponent on the other hand, was an Egyptian expert. He had conquered the known world with his pikemen and laid waste to the glorious city of Rome with his camelry. So I was pretty much screwed from the get go.

Idiot that I am, I was smart enough to come up with some semblance of a valid deployment. I had the troops form up in a 'box' formation, pikemen taking up positions at the front and rear, archers in the centre with the cavalry taking the flanks. A cumbersome formation to be sure but strategically sound when facing an army comprised mostly of mounted troops, right? Right?

Well it certainly would be if my enemy was simply charging at me. Unfortunately, my rival saw my formation the second the match began and clearly spent some time devising an effective counter. His plan, I must admit, was pretty good. He had his foot soldiers casually stroll up to form a defensive line a few hundred metres away from my position. Far enough away to be out of any immediate danger but close enough that a well calculated charge could close the distance. Simultaneously, he split his camelry from his regular cavalry and split those horsemen into two groups which then took up positions on the left and right flank of his infantry wall, with the camels taking the centre.

R:TW veterans will probably see the issue here, but I was new to the game, only half way through my first campaign. I had assumed that camelry was essentially the same as regular horsemen, just with different stats. They're not. They're archers. Oh, Crap!.

I was now faced with a conundrum. Remaining inactive was no longer an option; his camel archers were decimating my frontline troops at maximum range while my own archers, thanks to the footmen in front of them, were just out of range to counter-attack. Sure my ranged troops far outnumbered the enemy's, but none of mine were in range. Also, remember the whole 'box' formation? Well now it was boxing in my archers. They were stuck between the hoplites in front of them and the ones behind them, unable to advance or manoeuvre. In other words: they were useless.

This essentially left me with three options.
  • 1: Charge with my pikemen
  • 2: Charge with my cavalry
  • 3: Charge with my pikemen and cavalry

Yep. I was screwed.

Continued in 'Battle 1b - It Worked?'


Or you could have advanced your archers through your infantry (units can filter through each other, but somewhat slowly) allowing you to return fire while standing just ahead of your infantry so you can retreat back inside if the enemy charges
Kzickas 23rd Feb 12