Re: military matters

From: Michael Hitchens <>
Date: Mon, 11 Dec 2000 12:02:36 +1100 (EST)

> From: darvall <>
> Subject: Frivolous Plumbers &.c.
> Me
> ><snip>You seem to want to make a military virtue out of a lack of sub-unit
> >organisation, leadership sub-unit drill. <snip>
> >
> >Don't confuse an amorphous blob with something that has flexibility and
> >adaptability. Being equally bad in all situations is not the same as
> >being equally good.
> Not at all. Don't confuse, as you seem to, 19/20C western notions of combat
> & warfare with what other folk do. Our armies appoint leaders to men other
> methods exist & are equally effective within the limits of their
> technologies. No group which has lived in close & intimate contact for at
> least 14 years, which all O/i cattle raiding bands must do by virtue of
> their lifestyle, is going to be an amorphous blob. We're not talking urban
> rioters here these people know to the last drop the abilities & limitations
> of each member.

I'm not convinvced of that. I think you'd have a hard time convincing any military historian that what you say is true of the Celts, germanic tribes or vikings. That don't live all that close - the clans warriors are scattered amongst the staeds. The certianly don't see each other every day. And they certainly don't live as intimately close as Lunar trrops do.

> Me
> >>The appropriate tactic would then be to fight where the drilled force
> >>>>cannot use its strengths.
> Michael
> >And the drilled force may not agree to fight there.
> Then you have to make it seem worth their while either by mis-direction or
> by presenting such a level of threat that they can't ignore it. At both
> these the Lunars far excel the O/i, as demonstrated by the enormous number
> of O/i cock-ups.

Which doesn't prove anything about the tactical ability or level or discipline of the troops of either side, it proves something about the strategic ability of the leaders. Which isn't in question. I thought.

> >You're confusing the competing strategies of the leaders with the tactical
> >>capabilities of the troops.
> The strategy is intimately depenent apon the tactical ability of the
> troops. Mis-employment of your fighting body heightens the chance of defeat.

True. But which is more limited in strategic options? The pre-Argrath Sartaries or the Lunars? And what does that say about the two armies?

> I am not saying that the O/i train
> by brawling. They train their fighting (& rock moving & hunting & ploughing
> & stiklepick making etc etc ad nauseum) skills like this. ie. by using
> those skills with & on one another in the course of their lives. None of
> what they do is 'oh today I'll go off & do my whatsit training'. In the
> course of this natural leaders appear within their group, organic to it not
> imposed by a higher authority. These are the *chosen leaders* a priciple
> which will permeate the whole society & just as the Ernalda Gwyda leads
> crop blessing rituals or the Bartari ploughing rites so the best cattle
> raider *among that group* will lead the cattle raid. The society has a
> specific rule encouraging dicipline once the leader has been chosen as part
> of the core religion.

Perhaps. I agree that some ordering like this would appear within the thanes. The fyrd? Not so sure about that. And even if it did grow up in small groups in the fyrd, those sub unit commanders (if they exist) would have no experience working with other sub-unit commanders or a high er authority. In fact, their experience would be of being independent and top dog - they might resent it when somebody tries to give *them* orders, they're not used to that.

> Far from frivolous (ever had your plumbing blocked?) both are groups of
> tradesmen as comparible in their trades as Phalanx & Fyrd are in their
> style of combat. My point being that to line the two groups up head to head
> on ground that specificly favours one is a nonsense in trying to determine
> the better unit. To consider fighting divorced from season, weather ,
> terrain, culture, strategy & technology is futile. This is why armies have
> always had specialist units.

A unit is good if it can fulfil its objectives. The basic objective of an army is the destruciton of the other sides capacity to fight. This can be achieved either by defeat in the field or capture/destructio of the other sides means of support. The Lunras can do this without going into broken terrain. The Orlanthi can't stop them without tempting the Lunras into such terrain. So I think the question of who's better is now settled. Holding the ground is another matter though. But that's guerilla warfare.

But actually that wasn't the question. The question is one of discipline. Discipline is not the same as training. It may arise out of training, and is also affected by morale (which also realtes to training, thse aren't simple boxes). Discipline is the ability to carry out orders and maintain whatever formation those orders put you in. A unit that spontaneously (ie without orders) charges or retreats has lost discipline. Discipline will normally only be tested by negative factors. A unit whose side is winning and is suffering no or few casualties is unlikely to loose discipline. Discipline gets its test when something new is encountered (eg., troops that have neve seen war elephants before - will they run or stand?), when victory appears to be won (does the unit dissolve into a mob chasing the enemy?) or when it takes heavy casualties or other units around it break. The bottom line is how far do you have to push a unit before it breaks ranks? (be those ranks loose or close order or whatever). I am still strongly of the opinion that the Lunars are a better disciplined force than the heortlings and that and that this gives them a battlefield advantage.

I *believe* that the fyrd (not the thanes) are more likely to break than the Lunars if things seem to be going against them and are more likely to headlong charge into an unfavourable situation.

Note that it is my opinion. Issaries may tell us that the heortling fyrds are well disciplined.  

> Me
> >> The O/i advantage lies in the fact that the centers of this power are
> >> dispersed into the very areas that make formed unit tactics so >>difficult.
> Michael
> >The Germans didn't need it,
> Non sequiter
> The point being that the Romans could find & neutralise German power
> centers far more easily than than the Lunars can the O/i power centers.
> Thus the Legions could force the Germans to battle on ground of Roman
> choosing with greater ease than the Lunars *should* be able to force the
> O/i. The fact that they manage to bring the O/i to battle so often reflects
> poorly on the O/i generals (or whatever their equivalent is) but not on the
> training & tactics of the O/i in general.

No, I think it's the other way around. The Lunras can easily force the Sartarites to battle by threatening their towns and the chief settlements of their tribes and clans. One reason the germans conquered Gaul but not Germania was that the Germans were not as urbanised as the Celts. It's an interesting hypothetical. Did Sartar's town building make Sartar an easier conquest for the Lunars? I think so.  

> >Discipline and training to deal with a situation are two different things.
> Once again you miss the point. Dicipline is relative to technology, tactics
> & culture. 19C Infantry were diciplined to hold a tight formation
> regardless, 20C infantry were diciplined to spread their formations as far
> as practical given the terrain.

No, you don't know you're definitions. You should have the word 'trained' not 'disciplined' in the above. They were trained to it. Their discipline affects how well they will hold that formation. Even in the face of other technology. How well did the British and French hold their unit cohesion against German infilitration tactics in 1918? How well did US discipline hold up against guerilla warfar in vietnam? Both of these are informative to Sartar, if you think about it.

A well disciplined unit will hold its formation. You could even try getting a well discipliend unit to do things it wasn't trained for, although your chances aren't good, as they probably wont understand the orders or know how to carry them out - but a well disciplined unit will give it a try. Discipline is a measure of how well a unit will follow its orders and keep following them in face of adversity. Training defines what orders the unit should be able to follow well. They are not the same.

> The Lunar Phalanx stands to the end, providing the
> dicipline holds. The O/i break off & flee.

Which automatically says to me that the Lunars are better disciplined.

> The O/i have other
> productive roles in the society & so their loss hurts more. Far better to
> dicipline your troops to break off losing engagements into small kinship
> groups that will stay together as a result of their organic dicipline thus
> providing harder targets to pursuing forces.

I don't think the Orlanthi are 'trained' to do this at all. Now you're trying to make a military virtue of routing. It's well known that an army that breaks and runs is much more likely to get cut up than one that withdraws in good order. The Orlanthi aren't trained to do this. Their discipline breaks and they flee to save their skins. And likely fail.

> This dicipline is not accomplished on the drill square. Its a result of the
> lifestyle of the troops involved. It has evolved over generations of doing
> precisely this. **This does not mean it is not dicipline**. Indeed modern
> armies are increasingly trying to reproduce this flexible dicipline by
> giving the soldier more information & initiative & by greater application
> of Small Group Theory.

Yes and no. It's a natural development. The infilitration tactics developed in the early 20th century required the abandonment of massed formations. This meant a single order could no longer cover thousands of men. Each small group has to be given more initiative, because each small group can't be micromanaged by the higher officers. Once upon a time a general's order would be directly carried out by each private (charge! stop! wheel!). Simple orders. Now they can't. Each sub-unit is much more independent of higher command, so it needs more initiative and to be more self-reliant. Modern combat requires much more flexble and self-reliant chains of command than most of the warfare of the preceeding millenia. But I don't think you are going to convince anyone that the vikings, celts or germans were as well disciplined as a modern army.


End of The Glorantha Digest V8 #164

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