Questions tagged [tactics]

The deployment, martialing and maneuver of low-level units to achieve military advantage.

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109
votes
16answers
29k views

Why bother attacking castles at all? Why not go around?

Castles were designed to hold people, weapons, and supplies to survive a siege. They were well-defended. Taking one could easily be a long, bloody struggle. Why attack at all? Most castles I've seen ...
51
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6answers
15k views

Why did the Roman military start to favour swords over the spear phalanx?

Up until the rise of the Roman Republic, the Greek phalanx was considered the dominant form of military tactics. Evolution had simply favoured longer and longer spears: by the time of Alexander, ...
39
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5answers
9k views

Why didn't line infantry tactics try to keep up a constant volley of fire?

Often in movies on the American revolution and back when muskets were common place the opposing armies would line up facing each other and take turns firing. One side, then the other. Kind of like a ...
36
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2answers
5k views

How were drawbridges and portcullises used tactically?

How were drawbridges and portcullises used tactically? I was recently asked why medieval castles would have both a drawbridge and a portcullis. After giving an explanation, I realized that it was just ...
29
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10answers
14k views

Are tanks the only reason for the abandonment of trench warfare?

The First World War in the West was for 4 years restricted to trench warfare. Gaining enemy territory cost many human lives for both sides. The main (or maybe most spectacular) battles were Verdun and ...
28
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4answers
5k views

Why were the losses in the Battle of Norfolk so lopsided?

During the 1991 Gulf War there were a lot of lopsided tank battles where such a large number of Iraqi vehicles got destroyed for very little Coalition losses. For example in the Battle of Norfolk ...
28
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4answers
6k views

How difficult was to escape from a naval battle after engaging into one during the Age of Sail?

So, I am designing a board game which includes pirates/imperial battles during the age of sail. While I have found a lot of information on the internet as well as books, papers and of course other ...
27
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10answers
17k views

What's the advantage of the infantry column formation in the Napoleonic Wars?

In movies/books set in the Napoleonic Wars, the British are normally deployed into lines and the French into columns. The columns are usually the advancing ones, charging into the line as the line ...
25
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8answers
6k views

What tactical situations made the use of traditional horse cavalry effective in World War II?

In another question When was the last cavalry charge?, answers discussed several occasions where horses were still used in combat, including in cavalry charges. I thought that the invention of the ...
25
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6answers
3k views

What was the first battle in history fought by vast-majority-% “distance-shooting” non-mechanized force?

Historically, armies usually had a balance between warriors with projectile weapons (bows/guns) and close combat edged weapons (sword/pike/axe etc...). This was necessary because ranged weapons of ...
23
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6answers
9k views

Why did Sun Tzu believe you shouldn't wait beside a river when eager to fight?

In Sun Tzu's Art of War, Chapter 9 (The Army on the March), Verse 5, Tzu says If you are anxious to fight, you should not go to meet the invader near a river which he has to cross. My thinking is ...
22
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3answers
6k views

When people use spears to fight cavalry do infantry stab the horse or the rider?

I am just curious. In most games spear infantry is a "counter" against cavalry. How does that really work anyway? Any clips on actual cavalry fighting infantry that's historically accurate would be ...
20
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3answers
4k views

What was the tactical benefit of using flamethrowers as weapons?

I often hear stories of flamethrower troops storming the beaches of Iwo Jima and burning bunkers full of troops. But isn't it more risky to carry a tank of flammable liquid with limited fuel and ...
19
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4answers
7k views

WW1 tunneling - bypassing the front line?

During the first world war both sides engaged in tunnel warfare, the primary purpose of which (as far as I can tell) was to place large amounts of explosives under enemy lines and then detonate them ...
16
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7answers
10k views

How tight were shield walls in Saxon England?

After watching the BBC show The Last Kingdom, depicting conflicts between Saxons and Danes in the 800s AD, I was surprised by the multi-layered shield walls depicted. For example: or even: I had ...
15
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2answers
3k views

Why didn't the Roman maniple make a comeback in the Renaissance?

In the late Medieval/Renaissance period, the concept of the Greek phalanx reappeared in the shape of the pike square. But, while the maniple system was by no means a straight counter of the phalanx, ...
15
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2answers
3k views

In Viking combat, how much damage was done using the shield?

A while back I was watching some show on cable that was centered on recreating ancient combat (sorry, don't recall which of the many clones it was). One thing they stressed was that Vikings did NOT ...
13
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5answers
2k views

Why did ramming reappear then disappear in 1800s shipborn warfare?

This question is twofold. First, why the resurgence of naval ramming and return of rams to naval designs in the second half of the 1800s? Second, why the end to ramming in the 1900s? Can one ...
13
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2answers
1k views

In which situation is the broadside more preferable than every gun firing on their own time?

Mathematically, a ship should be able to fire more shots if each of the cannons fire at their fastest speed, instead of waiting for everyone to be ready, but it seems that a broadside is sometimes ...
12
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2answers
7k views

Physics of a heavy cavalry charge?

Can someone explain a heavy cavalry charge? A bunch of 500kg animals smashes into a dense crowd of men at speed of 40km/h. This simply cannot end good for neither side. Let's say the charge fails. The ...
10
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2answers
2k views

When was the testudo / tortoise formation first used by the Romans?

When was the earliest known use of the testudo formation by the Romans? Wikipedia's article on the testudo formation includes a quote from Cassius Dio which mentions the use of a testudo formation at ...
9
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1answer
2k views

How do war elephants fight?

Do they just run into a phalanx, breaking it up? Do they lift their front foot and then crush enemies below? What do elephants do? Or do the fighters on top of it just shoot arrows?
8
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1answer
9k views

What equipment and formations did the Muslim armies employ against the Crusades?

One can easily find articles on Wikipedia about typical tactical formations of Romans, but I haven't found such information on the Muslim world, specifically during the crusades. Did the Muslim armies ...
8
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2answers
2k views

Changing troops in first line during battle?

I remember Caesar in De Bello Gallico mentioning Romans changing fighting/resting troops in some siege defense while Celtic attackers didn't do this and lost the battle because of it. This is just one ...
8
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3answers
2k views

How were mounted infantry (like dragoons) used in battle?

During the Napoleonic Wars, Some troops performed as "mounted infantry", i.e. they rode horses to move, but dismounted and fought like infantry. Dragoons are usually given as examples. How was this ...
7
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5answers
3k views

Why didn't Romans fight in a single line formation?

I read that historically, Romans fought in checker board formation, composed of 3 lines. But I play Rome Total War and in the game, that deployment means a nice recipe for high casualties. In the game,...
7
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3answers
1k views

What is the motivation of having heavy infantry to the right and light infantry to the left flank?

In Napoleonic wars era, a line contains mostly regular troops except for two kind of elite units, the heavy one, e.g. grenadiers, they normally are the bravest, strongest troops with the best stamina, ...
7
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3answers
1k views

Did ancient or medieval warriors “substitute” in and out of combat?

This question arose in the role-playing games SE Some claim that in archery, horse archery, or hand-to-hand combat, a warrior could function effectively for at most 2-3 minutes. Therefore, frontline ...
7
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1answer
4k views

How were war elephants used against cavalry?

In this question: How do war elephants fight? it was mentioned that horses tend to dislike elephants, so they are effective against cavalry. How does this work in practice? I don't imagine it would be ...
6
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2answers
440 views

Was the flexibility of German army a big contributor to their success?

While in a conversation, my friend claimed that German soldiers were given greater flexibility at defying the orders given by the superiors than other armies around the world in both World War, hence ...
6
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1answer
2k views

Why was the massive Human Wave attack used in WWI? [closed]

If the Human Wave Attack wave tactic is in all the lights, a invitation to a carnage, why was it so largely used in battles in WWI? Weren't other tactical options available at the time that could have ...
6
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2answers
10k views

Military tactics specifically aimed against cavalry horses

Were tactics specifically aimed against horses common in past cavalry warfare and what forms did they take? For instance, did opponents try to harm (poison or shoot-them-first), distract (loud ...
6
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3answers
1k views

How much armor did elephant units wear?

I often hear stories about enemies defeating elephant riders by axing the legs of the elephants. Does this mean that the commander of the elephant army did not put enough armor on the elephants' legs?...
6
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0answers
1k views

What weapons did Yue Fei use against the Jin Cavalry

One of my Chinese friends said that the Jin troops rode 5 horses at once and charged as a very heavy cataphract. Yue Fei used a special halberd and cut off the horses legs. The riders fell off their ...
5
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3answers
892 views

How can a skilled battle commander like Napoleon Bonaparte lose to Prussians at Waterloo (Belgium) as such?

According to this website Napoleon Bonaparte lost the battle at Waterloo to Prussians because(Chronologically): 1. The failure of Grouchy keeping the Prussians away from the Battlefield. 2. The ...
4
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3answers
383 views

Was it possible to “aim for the epaulette boys” during the Middle Ages?

During the American Revolution, American troops were often told to "aim for the epaulette boys,"* that is, to first shoot at officers wearing epaulettes, on the theory that killing an officer would ...
4
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3answers
2k views

In Battle of Zama, how did Hannibal's use of war elephants lead to a Roman Victory?

Why did Hannibal attack with elephants from the front? Why not from side? Also why did the elephants just keep walking through the small gap? Why not wreak havoc in the middle of Roman troops? (like ...
4
votes
1answer
332 views

How deep would a Roman Marian cohort's battle line be, in a melee?

Are there any estimates for how deep a Roman battle line was, under Marius, at the level of a cohort? Whether the line was 3, 6, or another number of ranks deep? I'd suppose 3 would be a minimum, and ...
4
votes
1answer
292 views

What would be a textbook example of Germans attacking a small defending force in the rubble of a village?

While reading this The Saving Private Ryan Online Encyclopedia I ran into: One of the most heavily criticized scenes in the film, the Battle of Ramelle is not a textbook example of how a German ...
4
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1answer
611 views

Underwater U-boat battles [duplicate]

In the movie U-571 (IMDB) there's a scene where two U-boats fire torpedoes at each other, at close range, while both submerged. I always imagined U-boats would fight one another while on the surface, ...
4
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0answers
51 views

When exactly did General von Kluck learn of the French Sixth Army?

The French Sixth Army had been forming in Paris for some time before they positioned themselves to attack the German First Army under von Kluck. According to von Kluck's wikipedia: On 31 August ...
3
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4answers
605 views

How did Farragut know he could get his fleet through the Confederate line of “torpedos” at Mobile Bay?

At the Battle of Mobile Bay, Adm. David G. Farragut commanded an 18-vessel fleet that included two monitors and his own wooden-hulled flagship, USS Hartford. The entrance to Mobile Bay was guarded by ...
3
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1answer
122 views

During the American Civil war did gunboats range far into enemy territory?

In other words during the American civil war did the “front line” or enemy held territory act as a barrier to the passage of gunboats up and down rivers? Or was it possible for any to move deep into ...
3
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1answer
274 views

Would Wright's attack on Cemetery Ridge have succeeded if Posey had covered Wright's Left Flank?

On the Second Day of the Battle of Gettysburg, the Third Confederate Brigade under Brig. Gen. Ambrose Wright (serving under Anderson's Division) charged from Seminary Ridge into Union forces holding ...
3
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2answers
657 views

Did any “tanks in front” tactic exist during WW2?

I am searching for a tactic that would be in service in the British and/or French army during WW2. It would consist in placing the tank on forward position of other elements, especially in front of ...
2
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2answers
351 views

Did Song troops spread black beans on the ground as a means to defeat the superior Jin cavalry? If so, in which battle?

According to this page on the website Changing Minds, When the superior Jin cavalry were attacking, the inferior Song troops scattered black beans on the ground which the cavalry horses stopped ...
2
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4answers
463 views

Battles where baits are overlooked by the enemy in expense of the baiter

In battles, often military deception is used to bait the enemy into thinking that a certain move will be made, forcing them to act accordingly and attack from an unexpected angle. Intuitively, I would ...
2
votes
2answers
356 views

How “old” is mechanized infantry in terms of usage in warfare and what should be called as such?

This topic often fascinated me as a kid. I often questioned myself if there was an equivalent of the use of machinery to protect ground soldiers during a siege or an attack at some city or whatever ...
2
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4answers
455 views

Has there ever been an encirclement without superior numbers or mobility

I can't find any examples. It seems like encirclement is always just a result of some other advantage, and doesn't affect the battle in itself. For example the classic case is Cannae. The ...
2
votes
1answer
413 views

How did a travelling Roman army decide where to temporarily camp for the night?

I seem to remember that Sun Tzu says to avoid mountains and valley entrances, and be close to a river with grass, but how did a Roman army decide where to camp off the beaten track, such as through a ...