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Macedonia: Total War

June 9th, 2006 by Troy Goodfellow · No Comments · Uncategorized

You can read my hands-on preview of the new Alexander expansion to Rome: Total War at Games Radar. This is my first, but hopefully not final, piece for Future Publishing’s new web venture.

The download only Alexander expansion has none of the innovation of Babarian Invasion but it does put the phalanx in its proper place as a major military innovation. Rome left open the possibility for a powerful line of spearmen, but there were so many swordsmen and cavalry available that these brave front line troops were often easily outflanked and destroyed.

This is actually pretty common in wargames. GMT’s Great Battles series – both in tabletop and computer form – were often criticized for underestimating the strength and longevity of a phalanx on the battlefield. Strong up front but weak in the rear and flanks, phalanxes were easy rout points if you could make a gap somewhere in the line. Though intended to be the anvil to a heavy cavalry hammer, phalanxes are often stuck in place and then routed in a gaming exchange.

A big part of this is the inevitable result of hindsight. Though contemporary Romans described the Macedonian phalanx as one of the most terrible sights they’d ever seen, modern historical wargamers know that the low mobility and poor performance on rough terrain means that the phalanx is dead meat to a group of disciplined swordsmen or light cavalry.

Hindsight is a big problem in most historical strategy and wargaming. Unless design forces it, who would repeat Pickett’s Charge? Or Dieppe? Who would waste Me-262s as fighter-bombers instead of bomb group destroyers? Or underestimate the value of gunpowder weapons?

So we are never really “there” no matter how much game designers promise it. I would tell Pompey to charge at Pharsalus. I would tell Ney to move faster at Waterloo. And I would tell Darius to draw Alexander into the hills.


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