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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The military geniuses at File 770

I never stop finding it amusing how the File 770 idiots will defend literally ANY position rather than accept the fact that I am correct about anything, no matter how obvious. Aaron is reliably the least intelligent commenter there, as he demonstrates with this comment in defense of the tactical incompetence demonstrated by military commanders Jon Snow and Ramsay Bolton on A Game of Thrones:
I wonder if Beale actually watched the show, or if he just had it badly recounted to him. Bolton sent his cavalry first after goading Snow into the open, clearly hoping to kill Snow before help could arrive. It was only because the Stark cavalry counter charged that there was a cavalry battle. There was never an option for Bolton to receive the Stark cavalry with pikemen, because the Stark cavalry weren’t going to charge them but for Snow being exposed. For their part, the Starks had no pikemen to deploy against the Bolton cavalry.

All of Beale’s complaints about the battle that follow assume that Bolton could have simply waited for the Stark forces to launch their cavalry at the Bolton line and stop them with pikes, which would have required abject stupidity on the part of Snow. The complaint about not being prepared for the Knights of the Vale to arrive assume that Bolton could see the future and predict the arrival of reinforcements that even Snow didn’t know were coming. To be fair, Bolton should have had scouts out to look for additional forces, but he thought he knew the entire disposition of the Stark forces already.

In short, it seems that Beale didn’t pay attention to what was shown on screen, and didn’t understand what was happening.
That conclusion seems entirely credible, as anyone who has ever read A Throne of Bones, read any of the books by Lind or van Creveld published by Castalia, or played ASL will no doubt agree.
  1. Aaron is defending how Ramsay sent out his ENTIRE cavalry to ride down a single man on foot instead simply killing Snow with a single arrow himself, or having his entire archery contingent turn him into a pincushion with dozens of arrows. Bolton had absolutely no need to put his cavalry at risk, or even to issue an order to anyone at all, to kill the enemy general.
  2. What competent general would fail to understand that the enemy cavalry might ride out if he was dumb enough to give up his tactical and numerical advantages advancing it while leaving his infantry behind? At least the British tank commander who drove past his American infantry screen into the sights of the German tank destroyer in Band of Brothers was obeying what he knew to be suicidally stupid orders.
  3. There was an option for Bolton to receive the Stark cavalry with pikemen; all he had to do was order his cavalry to disengage and circle back as soon as the Stark cavalry charged while advancing his pikemen. Ancient and medieval armies did this sort of thing all the time, particularly experienced, well-equipped, well-trained armies of the sort Bolton was commanding. That would have actually been a barely credible ruse that would depend upon the Stark cavalry being dumb enough to a) believe Bolton was launching a cavalry-first attack and b) respond to it with their own charge.
  4. First, Bolton could have simply waited for Stark to launch their cavalry, or their infantry, for that matter, at them. Stark was attacking, after all, and Bolton had the leisure to choose to engage or not, as he saw fit. Second, the statement that it was implausible because it would have required "abject stupidity on the part of Snow" is laughable, considering that Snow is observably dumb enough to single-handedly charge the entire enemy army by himself.
  5. Bolton didn't need to see the future to know the Knights of the Vale were on their way to the battlefield. As a West Pointer noted yesterday, this marks the fourth time on the show that reinforcements have unexpectedly arrived and saved the day, because apparently no one in Westeros has ever heard of pickets, patrols, or even establishing a command post on a hillside that provides good visibility of the surroundings in all four directions. And it's not as if Bolton was unaware of the relationship between Littlefinger and his wife or should have failed to at least anticipate the possibility of the Vale's intervention. Remember, Ramsay Bolton was the commander who beat the man lauded as the best general in Westeros.
  6. And there it is. The Gamma tell: "it seems...."
It's clear that neither the producers of the episode, nor Aaron, has any idea how cavalry was, and is, used on the battlefield. It is a secondary arm; it is the infantry that is "the queen of the battlefield". Hollywood likes horses because they are exciting and dramatic, but one should never allow oneself to be misguided into thinking that the tactics one is seeing on the screen are even remotely reasonable, let alone realistic or historically plausible.

It's too bad, because during the planning session, it sounded as if they were setting up for a recreation of the Battle of Cannae and its famous double-envelopment. I wasn't surprised when they didn't, though, as soon as I saw the cavalry being prominently featured. Contra Hollywood, cavalry is primarily used to launch flanking and rear attacks, to strike the killing blow, and to exploit the victory that the infantry has already won, not to play the primary role in the outcome of the battle.

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108 Comments:

Anonymous trk June 22, 2016 8:14 AM  

Producer 1: hey lets charge Snow w horses. Bc cool.
Writer 2: and what about that cool thing the Romans did. Bc Romans are evil. The shield and long stick thing. Like in 300?
Director: we need moar horses
Producer 2: yeah and we like shoot them up w arrows
Historical consulant: I'm going to get some coffee...brb. *shake head, reminds himself it's a good check for the mortgage

Blogger Desillusionerad June 22, 2016 8:15 AM  

whats absolutely worse is of course the fact that they came from moat Cailin - which means, that somehow, Ramsay was unaware that his primary guard against the south was taken.
Its like if Roosevelt were unaware pearl harbor happened or something...

Anonymous Longtime Lurker June 22, 2016 8:28 AM  

"Aaron is defending how Ramsay sent out his ENTIRE cavalry to ride down a single man on foot instead simply killing Snow with a single arrow himself, or having his entire archery contingent turn him into a pincushion with dozens of arrows. Bolton had absolutely no need to send out the cavalry, or even to issue an order to anyone at all, to kill the enemy general."

Amen. Arrows cost less than horses to expend and are faster to the target when within range. Using arrows under the circumstances described would be a "no brainer," except when General Hollywood is commanding.

Blogger Sagramore June 22, 2016 8:32 AM  

Aside from being a brother in Christ, Another reason I keep coming back here is the metric buttloads of asshurt you dispense on these Pharisees by just existing. Kind of like Trump.

Blogger Phillip George June 22, 2016 8:34 AM  

trivia or OT. The charge of the light brigade at Beersheba was a decisive turning point to the middle east.

The cavalry turned the war. Admittedly the Turks lacked experienced pikeman. They were reduced to using machine guns, SLR's and cannons. More fools them.

Blogger Alexander Thompson June 22, 2016 8:36 AM  

It looked cool. Isn't that all that really matters?

Blogger Nick S June 22, 2016 8:39 AM  

I never stop finding it amusing how the File 770 idiots will defend literally ANY position rather than accept the fact that I am correct about anything, no matter how obvious.

It's gonna suck to be them.

Blogger Ben Cohen June 22, 2016 8:45 AM  

Vox, wasn't archer cavalry the main force of the Parthians when they defeated the Romans?

Anonymous Napoleon 12pdr June 22, 2016 8:46 AM  

Note to aspiring writers - Study history. Not only will it prevent you from making stupid mistakes, it'll provide a wealth of plot ideas.

If anyone gets interested, I highly recommend Brent Nosworthy's books, "With Musket, Cannon, and Sword", and "Bloody Crucible of Courage". He's done some really impressive work on tactics from the age of Louis XIV to the American Civil War. In particular, he grasps the idea that victory is half mental...and that cold steel attacks the mind, not the body.

Blogger Ben Cohen June 22, 2016 8:51 AM  

I thought the battle was fun, but thinking back on it Vox is dead right. It was some of the dumbest battle scenes ever. But what do you expect? It's turning into a girl power feminist show with the scene between Yara and Danaerys, as well as Brienne defeating the Hound and executing Stannis.

Anonymous DT June 22, 2016 8:54 AM  

None of you military geniuses are asking the truly important questions.

* Were there enough strong, empowered womyn in the battle scene?

* Were there enough post battle rape scenes involving said strong, empowered womyn?

Blogger bob k. mando June 22, 2016 8:54 AM  

8. Ben Cohen June 22, 2016 8:45 AM
Vox, wasn't archer cavalry the main force of the Parthians when they defeated the Romans



and how many archer cav units were portrayed in this GoT battle?

Blogger VD June 22, 2016 8:55 AM  

Vox, wasn't archer cavalry the main force of the Parthians when they defeated the Romans?

At Carrhae, yes. But they also had heavily armored cavalry, called cataphracti. Their tactics were effective due to the open terrain and the amount of space they had in which to operate.

Good for killing on the move, not so good for holding territory. They only beat the Romans because the Romans were invading. They'd never have won if they'd been attacking or if the Romans had a sufficient cavalry force.

Anonymous Faceless June 22, 2016 9:00 AM  

@8

And don't forget the machine guns of the medieval age - the English longbow and the Mongolian recurve - the Mongolians fired from horseback.

Well, if GRRM was being true to the English medieval tradition, the asymmetrical freaks with the longbows would be the heroes of the day, and they would have dropped every armored man on the other side like so many dummy targets. I do hope they get the V for victory tomorrow, too, with their Brexit and show - still, no, these fingers won't be sold in Rouen!

Blogger S1AL June 22, 2016 9:00 AM  

The same nonsense with the cavalry happened in the Jackson version of The Two Towers. In the books it was a downhill infantry charge.

Anonymous Hengist Montgomery Greaves June 22, 2016 9:08 AM  

It's clear that neither the producers of the episode, nor Aaron, has any idea how cavalry was, and is, used on the battlefield. It is a secondary arm; it is the infantry that is "the queen of the battlefield"

Were the Mongols an exception to this general rule or did they possess an infantry which is left out of accounts of their initial conquests under Genghis?

Anonymous Tom June 22, 2016 9:23 AM  

I wish I'd studied more military history when I had so much free time as a youth. I also wish I'd gotten in a few more fights or been punched a couple times. I played football, but with all the padding and equipment, it ain't the same. Sigh... wasted opportunities.

Anybody taken up contact martial arts when they were late 30's or older? Is it possible? Or do the young people just beat the snot out of you?

Maybe I should stick to trying to figure out war games with my kids...

Blogger VD June 22, 2016 9:24 AM  

The Mongols were an exception. But they were an extreme case in almost every sense. Their speed and mobility made it very hard to engage them directly; when they were beaten, it was because they were trapped and could not retreat.

Blogger Caladan June 22, 2016 9:29 AM  

@9

Thanks. Can I please get any more recommendations from the kind folks here? I'm new to this blog

P.S Saw Vox on Stefan Molyneux's show

Blogger Adam Lawson June 22, 2016 9:30 AM  

I've always felt that men fighting on horseback seemed like something that would be reserved for a variety of reasons. Horses, even trained, are still dumb animals prone to odd behavior - sure, a good horsemen can and will understand and control his horse better than most, but it's still an added risk.

Neither side made a wise tactical decision. Also, winterfell is supposed to be some mighty castle (as the seat of the North), yet so far a few dudes with Theon took it and the main gate was painfully easy to knock down. With some time, an axe, and rope, I could make a battering ram capable of doing that. Waiting and laying siege might not have been so awful given the easy ways in.

This season, despite having some of my favorite moments, really has suffered from logic issues. Like having every important and smart decision made by a woman in order to virtue signal.

Blogger Craig Pepe June 22, 2016 9:34 AM  

The Battle of Cannae (/ˈkæni/ or /ˈkæneɪ/) was a major battle of the Second Punic War that took place on 2 August 216 BC in Apulia, in southeast Italy. The army of Carthage, under Hannibal, decisively defeated a larger army of the Roman Republic under the consuls Lucius Aemilius Paullus and Gaius Terentius Varro. It is regarded both as one of the greatest tactical feats in military history and as one of the worst defeats in Roman history.

Having recovered from their losses at Trebia (218 BC) and Lake Trasimene (217 BC), the Romans decided to engage Hannibal at Cannae, with roughly 86,000 Roman and allied troops. The Romans massed their heavy infantry in a deeper formation than usual, while Hannibal utilized the double-envelopment tactic. This was so successful that the Roman army was effectively destroyed as a fighting force. Following the defeat, Capua and several other Italian city-states defected from the Roman Republic to Carthage

Blogger Noah B June 22, 2016 9:37 AM  

Supposedly the recurve bows that the Mongols carried were the best in the world at that time, superior to the English longbow, and that the process of making them took about 30 years from start to finish and was a closely guarded secret.

Technological advantages are always helpful.

Blogger GreenEyedJinn June 22, 2016 9:39 AM  

OK...Snow had a GIANT! No wonder giants are almost extinct in Westeros: too stupid to kick or even pick up a tree trunk. Or throw a big rock. Imagine the difference if they'd given him a shield and a big ax! And why doesn't anybody of note in GoT regularly use a shield...or wear a helmet? I enjoy the show for the story lines...I cringe every time there is an actual battle.

Blogger Achilles June 22, 2016 9:40 AM  

Vox is correct. You don't send your entire cavalry charging in to take out one man. Even the enemy commander. But I think you guys are missing the point. Snow and Bolton are supposed to make dumb command decisions during the battle. That way Sansa can seem like the brilliant one. Because down with the patriarchy and all that. I think that was the point of the episode and the legion of bad decisions were intentional on the part of the producers. Which makes Aaron from File770 look even more foolish.

I can't entirely fault the battle though. It gave us this video: https://youtu.be/Q0dA9eUP85s

Anonymous Broken Arrow June 22, 2016 9:52 AM  

He had to send the cavalry because he knew Snow would be protected by plot armor.

Blogger VD June 22, 2016 10:01 AM  

He had to send the cavalry because he knew Snow would be protected by plot armor.

The most effective armor of all.

Blogger CM June 22, 2016 10:12 AM  

They let sentimentality and visuals dictate their battle choices.

Blogger Phillip George June 22, 2016 10:12 AM  

touche, get on side with the Author.

Blogger Dexter June 22, 2016 10:17 AM  

Mongols recruited auxiliary infantry and engineers, as they obviously had to do in order to take as many cities as they did.

Blogger Titus Quinctius Cincinnatus June 22, 2016 10:30 AM  

Aaron is defending how Ramsay sent out his ENTIRE cavalry to ride down a single man on foot

Well, there's no kill like overkill, I reckon.

Anonymous FP June 22, 2016 10:33 AM  

@24

Heh, that was linked in guild chat last night during our raid. At least Jon Snow has chicken.

Anonymous BGKB June 22, 2016 10:35 AM  

The Mongols were an exception. But they were an extreme case in almost every sense. Their

The mongols were a result of climate change. 25 years of wet weather giving lots of fuel for horses.
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2577570/Forget-fearsome-reputation-Genghis-Khan-rose-power-thanks-period-wet-warm-WEATHER.html

OK...Snow had a GIANT! No wonder giants are almost extinct in Westeros: too stupid to kick or even pick up a tree trunk.

Snow should have given the giant Irish Step dancing classes.

That way Sansa can seem like the brilliant one.

If only she was invited to the war council she would have mentioned the reinforcements coming. She is willing to let thousands of men die so she can have an "i told you so"

Blogger allyn71 June 22, 2016 10:38 AM  

@24 I can't entirely fault the battle though. It gave us this video: https://youtu.be/Q0dA9eUP85s

That was awesome. Way better than the source material.

God dammit Leroy.

Blogger Cataline Sergius June 22, 2016 10:40 AM  

The Mongols were an exception. But they were an extreme case in almost every sense. Their speed and mobility made it very hard to engage them directly; when they were beaten, it was because they were trapped and could not retreat.

Beat me to it.

Possibly the most effective mounted archers were the Byzantines in Belisarius' day.

At least measured against territory conquered vs the size of the force doing the the conquering.

To say nothing of doing it with a divided command structure and a political leadership with all the semantics of a paranoid weasel.



I've heard some arm chair generals whir in confusion as to why Iraq didn't press the attack, when they had Iran on ropes in the early 1980s.
The answer is simple, so far as Saddam was concerned Iran would always be the enemy in exile, a successful general would be an enemy in residence.

Blogger Anchorman June 22, 2016 10:45 AM  



This.

It's odd that a writer who prides himself on revealing the unexpected during interpersonal conflicts shows such simple and poor thought when writing about large unit maneuvers. Large unit maneuvers are far more predictable and observable.

For all the talk about Ramsey "playing with John" or looking to torture him, I really expected more. He was an interested (twisted, evil, deserved his fate) character and his end - the battle, not the dogs - was really...blah.

Use cavalry to run down a fleeing army, to flank and take out archers (remember Braveheart's scene?), or to harass supply lines (an army travels on its stomach).

Lead off with a cavalry charge? Bad tactics, waste of horses, and leaves you nothing in reserve to press immediate advantages.

Blogger Gaiseric June 22, 2016 10:50 AM  

VD wrote:The Mongols were an exception. But they were an extreme case in almost every sense. Their speed and mobility made it very hard to engage them directly; when they were beaten, it was because they were trapped and could not retreat.
The Comanche had a lot of the same advantages, and were also superlative light harrying cavalry, with the only mobile repeating weapon on display until Samuel Colt's 6-shooter started to get exposure (thanks, in large part, to the Texas Rangers' use of it against he Comanche.) Comanche horsemen are recorded as leaning down to use the horse's neck as a shield and firing up to 6 arrows underneath the neck of the horse before the first one hit its target.

Then again, the Comanche took did not engage in any kind of siege warfare, and buckled fairly quickly when faced with the implacable might of concerted military intervention. They were also susceptible to guerilla tactics as Jack Hayes proved repeatedly. They were not an army capable of mounting actual military expeditions, they were tribal raiders, and raiding and harrying were their method of battle. They avoided pitched battles, as the Mongols often did (and the Scythians before them) and strung out their opponents.

Anyway, the strengths of light cavalry never really had anything to do with charging into infantry. They had everything to do with harassing a less mobile force.

OpenID basementhomebrewer June 22, 2016 11:03 AM  

The show comes back to the 21ster theme Vox first pointed out. The point of the whole episode is that women aren't just men with tits. It was that they are better than men at their own games.

The battle was laughably bad. At every turn I was horrified at the lack of logic in all of the decisions being made. Even down to basic tactics like weaving when someone is shooting at you. Or going into the battle accepting that your brother is dead already due to your decisions.

The giant shouldn't have had to break the pike formation because there were a large number of bad decisions that led to that point but the fact that he didn't try was just the icing on the cake. Well, that and the fact that Sansa let her half-brother get half his army slaughtered instead of telling him reinforcements were on the way.

Blogger Cataline Sergius June 22, 2016 11:04 AM  

So long as we are complaining about Game of Thrones:

WHAT THE FUCK WAS THE POINT OF RICKON STARK AT ALL???

Really what plot device did the kid ever get close to servicing in the first place?

It's just like the damn Dire Wolves. They got a huge introduction, they were clearly supposed to mean something right until the point that it became obvious they served no function at all.

Attention George R. R. Martin: Look up the definition of Checkov's (damn) Gun.

Martin comes up with these major build ups for something he had in mind at one time, then he just wanders the hell off for a while and then realizes he left a major plot point waving in the wind.

So then he just kills it and hopes his readers don't question his competence.

OpenID basementhomebrewer June 22, 2016 11:20 AM  

Cataline Sergius wrote:So long as we are complaining about Game of Thrones:

WHAT THE FUCK WAS THE POINT OF RICKON STARK AT ALL???

Really what plot device did the kid ever get close to servicing in the first place?

It's just like the damn Dire Wolves. They got a huge introduction, they were clearly supposed to mean something right until the point that it became obvious they served no function at all.

Attention George R. R. Martin: Look up the definition of Checkov's (damn) Gun.

Martin comes up with these major build ups for something he had in mind at one time, then he just wanders the hell off for a while and then realizes he left a major plot point waving in the wind.

So then he just kills it and hopes his readers don't question his competence.



I thought the same thing. Speaking of Direwolves I was wondering where the hell Ghost was during the battle. Unless he got killed in another episode, and it was so inconsequential I already forgot it, I would expect him to be part of the battle.

OpenID basementhomebrewer June 22, 2016 11:23 AM  

Also I thought the red woman was throwing around fire balls or had a bird that could shoot fire or something when Stannis first showed up at the wall. Why the hell wasn't she helping out either?

Anonymous RS June 22, 2016 11:34 AM  

Snow is not a commander and has no experience in leading armies, leading an army of dimwit wielding brawlers and half starved leftovers from the Northern houses. He was fighting someone whose biggest strength (and biggest weakness) was his penchant for cruelty, who also never led armies into battle but won all of his fights by being a cunning, ruthless cunt. Pretending that either would employ real battle tactics is retarded. You guys are overthinking this one.

Anonymous patrick kelly June 22, 2016 11:40 AM  

@17 Tom:
"Anybody taken up contact martial arts when they were late 30's or older? Is it possible? Or do the young people just beat the snot out of you?"

Yeah, at 50+. It's possible, but you gotta manage your expectations, take things slow, and don't slouch on your diet, personal fitness and conditioning away from the gym.

Humility and patience help.

I had to bail out due to injuries and personal family financial crap. I'm keeping myself in shape hoping to go back asap to slaughter my fears and demons.

Anonymous Napoleon 12pdr June 22, 2016 11:47 AM  

@19 Caladan:

You opened Pandora's Box...

For top-level strategy, it's hard to beat Clausewitz's "On War". It's THE book on the interrelationship between war and politics. Get the translation by Michael Howard and Peter Paret. Read Books 1, 2, and 8, plus the commentaries. Ignore the rest, it's a Napoleonic staff officer's manual.

For naval strategy, I recommend Sir Julian Corbett's "Some Principles of Maritime Strategy". This is probably the best top-level work on the subject...and available for free online.

Naval tactics? Wayne Hughes' "Fleet Tactics" is a treasure-trove of not just tactics, but operational art. Essential reading for both sea and space warfare.

Nosworthy's books are excellent for understanding the art of land warfare between 1780 and 1870. He really lays out the "rock-paper-scissors" nature of warfare of that era, as well as the differences between shock action and fire action. Modern readers tend to overvalue killing the opponent, and undervalue destroying morale and cohesion.

If you really want to get into the Napoleonic era, David Chandler's "The Campaigns of Napoleon" is an outstanding start. He covers everything from Bonaparte's initial successes to the disaster of Waterloo. Pay particular attention to the Italian campaigns, and the maneuvering prior to Austerlitz. Bonaparte was a master of both deception and fast marching.

A general comment - the biggest challenge of studying military history is sifting through the details for the nuggets of real insight. Probably the second biggest is forcing yourself to try to understand how people thought back then...especially motivations. Matters we would never consider played important roles in history.

Have fun!

Anonymous Morgan June 22, 2016 11:49 AM  

The Byzantines used infantry to provide a safe place for cavalry to retire. Units of cavalry would go out and attack the enemy. Then again, I am trying to think of an overwhelming Byzantine victory.

Blogger jdwalker June 22, 2016 11:54 AM  

There was a behind the scenes making of the battle (https://youtu.be/B93k4uhpf7g) that confirms the scene was intended to focus on Ramsay's character as an emotional manipulator and to have dramatic horse footage. Even without this commentary, it seems pointless to defend the military strategy of the scene, but the commentary essentially requires ceding that military strategy was ignored while they focused on other aspects of the story they thought would have a greater impact on the audience.

Blogger MATT June 22, 2016 11:56 AM  

@Cataline

GRRM is a depressed nihilist. The rntire story is evidence. Things happen and everyone dies for nothing. The End.

Blogger Nick S June 22, 2016 11:59 AM  

You guys are overthinking this one.

Maybe Martin is just trying to score hoagies and laughing all the way to the bank at people gobbling this crap up and swooning at his presence.

OpenID basementhomebrewer June 22, 2016 12:14 PM  

RS wrote:Snow is not a commander and has no experience in leading armies, leading an army of dimwit wielding brawlers and half starved leftovers from the Northern houses. He was fighting someone whose biggest strength (and biggest weakness) was his penchant for cruelty, who also never led armies into battle but won all of his fights by being a cunning, ruthless cunt. Pretending that either would employ real battle tactics is retarded. You guys are overthinking this one.

Assuming that Westeros is supposed to represent Feudal Europe (lots of things indicates it is very similar). All young lords would be taught at least basic military tactics and strategy. Their mistakes were all on the basic level not the grand strategy level.

Blogger Ben Cohen June 22, 2016 12:26 PM  

What do you think of the opening battle scene in gladiator? That seemed to be more realistic with the cavalry flanking the Germans.

Anonymous Napoleon 12pdr June 22, 2016 12:27 PM  

@17 Tom:

I'm an advocate of martial arts, but would recommend against a steady diet of full-contact sparring for someone pushing 40. The painful (as my ankle is reminding me now) truth is that once you hit your 40s, the body just doesn't heal as quickly as it used to. There's a reason for the old saying about not getting into a fight with an old man because he won't "fight", just kill you out of hand.

On the other hand, low-contact sparring and drills will do you a world of good.

Blogger Ben Cohen June 22, 2016 12:28 PM  

Basil II battles against the Bulgarians has some overwhelming victories where he blinded 15,000 of them.

Blogger Caladan June 22, 2016 12:30 PM  

@43

Much appreciated. Added to the book list.

Blogger szopen June 22, 2016 12:36 PM  

"cavalry is primarily used to launch flanking and rear attacks, to strike the killing blow, and to exploit the victory that the infantry has already won, not to play the primary role in the outcome of the battle."

Unless, of course, the battle is fought in medieval times (as e.g. Grunwald or, even better, Koronowo 1410) or in plains of Eastern Europe (where western forces often find out that infantry was useless against cavalry).

Blogger VD June 22, 2016 12:39 PM  


Unless, of course, the battle is fought in medieval times (as e.g. Grunwald or, even better, Koronowo 1410) or in plains of Eastern Europe (where western forces often find out that infantry was useless against cavalry).


No, not "unless". I suggest you look up the word "primarily".

Blogger Dave June 22, 2016 12:40 PM  

be protected by plot armor

Pure gold, Broken Arrow.

Anonymous Brick Hardslab June 22, 2016 12:45 PM  

So there was not a gigantic war fought just fifteen or so years ago and there were no veterans from that war still around to advise Bolton and Snow. Snow didn't grow up under the tutelage of veterans from that war. Didn't spend much of his childhood in the training yard under the eyes and ears of these same veterans?

Nobody remembered any of the lessons of the last war except to have copious rape scenes afterward?

The only heavies I can think of that charged fixed positions were the Polish Hussars but they had ridiculously long lances and used the saddle as their lance holder meaning the entire weight of the horse slammed into the recipient. Plus they'd peal off and go back to get another.

Anonymous VFM 8859 June 22, 2016 12:50 PM  

Helmets hide pretty faces. Shields hide sexy bodies.

Blogger James Dixon June 22, 2016 12:55 PM  

> I never stop finding it amusing how the File 770 idiots will defend literally ANY position rather than accept the fact that I am correct about anything, ...

I've never understood that aspect of your opponents. I can't say I never do that, as I'm as fallible as the next person. But just to give one counterexample: I'm perfectly willing to accept that Scalzi is correct about his daughter being able to outlift him.

Blogger Dexter June 22, 2016 12:58 PM  

"What do you think of the opening battle scene in gladiator?"

I found myself wondering why the barbarians were stupid enough to attack the heavily entrenched Romans.

Blogger The Kurgan June 22, 2016 1:11 PM  

Tom,
Don't stink of regret. Mid thirties is the prime of life. Get in there and work hard.

Blogger Cail Corishev June 22, 2016 1:12 PM  

So then he just kills it and hopes his readers don't question his competence.

No, then he kills it and laughs at the reader for caring about a story and characters enough to be upset by it.

Blogger szopen June 22, 2016 1:30 PM  

@VoxDay,54
In Grunwald and Koronowo calvary decided the outcome of the battle. I could enumerate numerous other such battles.

In Eastern Europe infantry had secondary role. Polish armies often had not employed infantry at all; at Klushino, for example, Polish hetman left all infantry behind as too slow and then his all-cavalry force attacked and destroyed Russian forces (western infantry mercenaries finally gave up when Polish infantry caught up with the rest of the army, mainly because cavalry was too exhausted after many hours of constant charges.).

Blogger VD June 22, 2016 1:58 PM  

In Grunwald and Koronowo calvary decided the outcome of the battle. I could enumerate numerous other such battles.

So what? You're still wrong.

Blogger Polynices June 22, 2016 2:02 PM  

Has pre-gunpowder warfare EVER been depicted realistically on anything approaching a large scale on screen, either TV or movies? I can't think of anything I've ever seen that looked at all realistic. Every one of the errors mentioned in comments above and more.

Even a documentary that did decent large recreations would be nice. I'm not talking about "zoomed in" scenes where they only show a small number of troops (HBO's Rome had a good small scene of this sort, but it never panned out to show the big picture properly).

FWIW, I recall the combat scenes in Gladiator seeming pretty silly.

Blogger BCD June 22, 2016 2:22 PM  

Contra Hollywood, cavalry is primarily used to launch flanking and rear attacks, to strike the killing blow, and to exploit the victory that the infantry has already won, not to play the primary role in the outcome of the battle.

Agree with everything else, but this is dead wrong. The introduction of the stirrup, breeding of larger warhorses, and development of heavier armor made the cavalry charge THE most significant tool at a commander's disposal, from the Carolingians right up to the gunpowder era.

Typical medieval battle would go:
-Archers let loose to soften/open up enemy lines
-Cavalry charge, sometimes met by counter-charge, followed by either:
-General melee OR repulse, repeat, until:
-One side breaks, cavalry pursues, infantry mops up

Hastings, in which only one side fought with mounted knights, is a great example of how most medieval armies in Western Europe fought: the Normans kept charging the English shield walls until they figured out a ruse to make them break.

Anonymous Millenium June 22, 2016 2:31 PM  

@5: You are confusing two different things which most Aussies do.

The charge of the light brigade was a suicidal calvary charge during the Crimean war in 1854. They were ordered to charge an artillery position front on and suffered heavy casualties. Tennyson wrote a poem about it.

The charge of the light horsemen was in 1917 at Beersheba was the last successful calvary charge in history. The Australian and New Zealand light horse travelled three days across the desert to take Beersheba from behind and rode into defensive artillery. Unlike the prior British calvary attacks on Beersheba the ANZACs did not all dismount to use their rifles and attack on foot but kept going straight over the wall with nothing but bayonets.

Blogger szopen June 22, 2016 2:32 PM  

@65 (BCD)

not just medieval. I am definetely not an expert in warfare or strategy, but I DO know my own country's history and the tactics used; and i know that in Poland cavalry played THE decisive role up to 1630s (actually even longer, but after 1630 it was just stubborn commanders refusing to acknowledge new reality - even though they still were able to achieve sometimes victories using something similar to the tactics you have described)

Blogger B.J. June 22, 2016 2:43 PM  

Wasn't Agincourt an example of cavalry foolishly charging entrenched infantry and being defeated?

Regardless, any idiot who has ever played a Total War game would know to put your spearmen out to receive a cavalry charge.

Blogger BCD June 22, 2016 2:48 PM  

@67: Interesting. Makes sense that cavalry would be the principal arm so much longer in Eastern Europe, with wide open terrain giving mobility such an advantage. Just as it's no coincidence that Greece and Switzerland were renowned for their heavy infantry.

Anonymous Alexander, #10 June 22, 2016 2:52 PM  

@68

Or literally, any other game.

Even the more mass-appeal games like Age of Empires or Civilization, the Pikeman come with big honking notices: USE AGAINST HORSES

Blogger BCD June 22, 2016 2:54 PM  

@68 Yes, with the added fact that the rain had made French crossbows useless, the terrain funneled the knights into a kill zone, and subordinate commanders disobeyed orders to hold back until the English had been weakened.

Truth is, even pikemen could reliably be beaten by cavalry supported by archers, so long as they had patience and discipline.

Blogger JohnofAustria June 22, 2016 2:55 PM  

Perhaps it would be better to break it out by types of warfare? The heavy armored charge certainly was effective in the mid to late medieval period, but it was largely so because they lacked professional infantry like that of the Romans, Greeks, or Macedonians.

Where cavalry was decisive as the main effort seems to be open terrain, and mostly used as a way to harass the enemy with missiles until exhausted or dead.

Blogger BCD June 22, 2016 3:07 PM  

@72 I'd disagree somewhat. The late Middle Ages saw two types of infantry that could be successfully used against heavy cavalry: English longbowmen and Swiss/Flemish pikemen. These were a good bit more professional than Greek hoplites, although less so than Roman soldiers. When employed correctly, they could negate a heavy cavalry charge, but would be cut down by knights in a general melee. This complicated the decisions of opposing commanders, but by no means eliminated the charge as their tool of choice. It was gunpowder, not the Swiss, that ended the supremacy of knights on the battlefield.

The relative advantage of Western cavalry actually suffered in open terrain, where their enemies weren't bottled up in a position to absorb their charge.

Blogger teh y June 22, 2016 3:14 PM  

Can anybody help a brother out? Why do some of the file 770 comments contain literal gibberish?

yes yes cue the circlejerk backslap jokes but seriously, does anyone know what that's about? is it their extra-cute way of edit-censorship? some kind of code? it looks like some pieces of gibberish repeat at different spots, and they're long enough to make randomness unlikely. What gives?

Blogger szopen June 22, 2016 3:33 PM  

@72, @73
Actually, here are the usual tactics against infantry (from the battles the descriptions I read): loose the formation via infantry fire or artillery fire and then charge; provoke enemy to move and then charge; or just simply, make few simple probe charges and if enemy infantry seems to be not well-trained, charge. The best of all, charge enemy cavalry and force escaping enemy cavalry into her own infantry positions.

A variant is to use other units as a decoy and then attack from flank or rear.

Worked like a charm for quite a long time, until development in gunfire made frontal charges almost useless. Lubieszów, Byczyna, Kokenhausen, Kircholm, Biały Kamień, Kieś...

Blogger Akulkis June 22, 2016 3:34 PM  

Apparently all of these people are completely unaware of the utterly disastrous results achieved in The Charge of the Light Brigade. That was a real-life cavalry charge pressed as if cavalry swordsmen were stronger than enemy Infantry and Artillery formations in good order.

Blogger Michael Thompson June 22, 2016 3:34 PM  

Edward decimated Wallace's forces at Falkirk through the threat of cavalry. Wallace set up his pikemen in defensive formations to counter the presumed cavalry charges that were coming and instead Edward rained down arrows on them that Wallace could not counter because he effectively immobilized his own forces due to fear of the enemy's superior cavalry forces. That makes me believe that maybe Vox is underestimating the power of the cavalry charge in a medieval battle.

Blogger justaguy June 22, 2016 3:43 PM  

Heavy infantry, light infantry, cavalry archers, heavy cavalry, pikeman, archers, all in different mixes with different terrain and different objectives. In some battles each ended up ruling the field, in others they failed. Each had advantages over some of the others depending on use. Mix and match as needed, whether late greek, roman or middle ages, there was no one dominant arm over the others. To lack one was to invite attack from the displayed weakness. Western literature for a while was preoccupied with the knight, but without the heavy infantry, the knights were easily dispatched.

Anonymous Richard the Third June 22, 2016 3:45 PM  

Damn tossers. Too busy playing smell-pot to read history. Cut them all down.

Anonymous WaterBoy June 22, 2016 3:47 PM  

teh y @74: "Can anybody help a brother out? Why do some of the file 770 comments contain literal gibberish?"

It's a cipher called ROT13. It's often used in commentaries where the author doesn't want to spoil the story for other commenters who haven't seen/read it yet.

Blogger szopen June 22, 2016 3:48 PM  

@76
But this was quite a different era.
OTOH, hundred years earlier in SOmo-Sierra a charge took four batteries of artillery (though that was really exceptional charge) and contributed heavily to the rout of the whole Spanish army.

Blogger BCD June 22, 2016 3:50 PM  

@76 You realize that was in 1854, right? Or do you not understand the difference between arrows and bullets?

@75 I take it you're talking about Polish tactics. What kind of armor/armament did their cavalry use?

@76 Definitely don't see many pike/spearmen winning the battlefield from ~700 on.

Blogger szopen June 22, 2016 3:56 PM  

@82
Surprisingly, not that heavy. In XVI-XVII century armour weighted just 15 kilos.

(ignore the wings in the picture below; those were used only on parades, contra modern filmmakers. Also, if youwould google other hussars, ignore karacena armour, as that type was used by commanders who wanted to look awesome)

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/00/46/2d/00462dfce76662f6246cbdb71ddf52da.jpg

Anonymous krymneth June 22, 2016 4:03 PM  

Honest question... why is anyone here watching this show anymore? I haven't seen it, cards on the table I have no intention to, but it sounds like the story is shit, the characters are shit, the writing is mostly disappointment and shit, and it's violent and rapey. It sounds an awful lot like a lot of other series where it starts off with some great premise that is too big for the writer and they can't handle it.

See also "Lost" and most of JJ Abrams' TV career, and the endless array of animes in which the first one or two episodes show some fantastic premise only for the rest of the series to turn into a generic comedy that does little-to-nothing with it.

What's the good bits keeping you in now?

Blogger BCD June 22, 2016 4:07 PM  

@84 Amazing, so it sounds like Polish hussars were tactically employed a lot like Western knights, even though operational-level considerations limited their weight.

Blogger Geoff martin June 22, 2016 4:22 PM  

A simple 20 minutes crash course on Rome Total War 2 would have completely changed the entire perspective of anyone watching that battle

Anonymous WaterBoy June 22, 2016 4:28 PM  

Addendum @80: For example, this criticism of Vox' response, deciphered:

"First, Bolton couldn’t simply sit back and leisurely let the Stark forces attack. Beale seems to have forgotten that military actions are political events, and are driven by political needs. Bolton was the bastard son of a ruler, and that ruler was seen by many as a usurper who had taken the place rightfully held by the Starks. He had to not only win, but win convincingly and completely in order to show that defying his rule would lead to the deaths of those who opposed him. He had to force an engagement, goading a smaller force into attacking his larger one so he could annihilate it. Sitting back and waiting for the Stark’s to make their move cedes all initiative on the battlefield. It lets the Starks dictate the flow of the battle, and they might have a strategy that could defeat him, or at least cause him trouble. It also makes Bolton politically vulnerable – he’s not only not a brave commander, he’s a passive one. If he had engaged and won but let Snow or Sansa get away, he may as well have lost the battle to begin with. Sitting back and waiting for the Starks to come to him makes it very likely they would escape should the battle go against the Starks.

Second, by sending his cavalry after Snow, Bolton was making a statement – we will kill you with overwhelming force. Contrary to Beale’s claim, leading with the cavalry was quite common in medieval war: the French at Agincourt led with their cavalry, as they also did at the Battles of Poitiers and Lunalonge. after an ineffective attack by crossbowmen (whose crossbows were damaged by rain) at the Battle of Crecy, the French threw their cavalry in before their infantry. At least for the French, attacking with one’s cavalry first was relatively common throughout the Hundred Years War (which is partially the inspiration for the Song of Ice and Fire series).

Sending the cavalry to attack also does multiple things for Bolton that simply using archers does not. If you send a couple of volleys of arrows you will probably kill Snow, but then you just have the Stark army intact and facing you across the battlefield. Sending the cavalry results in three possibilities: (1) Snow is killed, his army stays put, and you immediately have a force of cavalry bearing down on the now leaderless army before it has time to get organized, (2) Snow isn’t killed, but rather retreats and you have the commander of the army arriving just ahead of a wave of cavalry without time to issue any real orders of what to do, (3) the Starks counter charge and you end up with a melee that you can pepper with archers and bleed the enemy force white. Sending your archers to kill Snow accomplishes nothing except killing Snow. With Sansa still around, that leaves Bolton vulnerable.


(continued)

Anonymous WaterBoy June 22, 2016 4:29 PM  

(continued)

In an ideal world, Bolton would have had pickets, but pretending that there have never been situations in which a reinforcing force has arrived unexpectedly is simply ignoring history – it happened quite famously, for example, during the First Crusade. Or consider Custer’s lack of intelligence concerning the movements of the Sioux coalition arrayed against him. Or Jackson’s flanking attack at Chancellorsville. And so on.

I’m now convinced that Beale hasn’t seen the episode, and doesn’t understand the tactics used or the story at all. I’m also convinced that Beale doesn’t really know his history very well, since everything he said is directly contradicted by actual events from actual battles of the Hundred Years War era.

Also, feigned retreats are great in wargames. In reality, they often went quite badly. Feigned retreats are quite difficult to execute, even for disciplined troops, as any number of things can go wrong – the attacking force might be able to reach the withdrawing troops before they can complete their action, and thus they would be disorganized and vulnerable. The retreating forces might panic and turn the feigned retreat into an actual one. Other troops might see a unit retreating and think that there was an actual retreat going on and abandon their position. And on and on and on. The list of false retreats that turned into routs is large and impressive. The list of false retreats that worked is somewhat smaller. A charge followed by wheel and withdrawal would have required excellent communications (which Bolton doesn’t seem to have had), cavalry more disciplined than most (which Bolton may or may not have had), and that everything go right. Why would Bolton choose a risky strategy involving a false retreat when he could get what he wanted in a much more straightforward manner?
"

Anonymous Mrs. Xerxes June 22, 2016 4:59 PM  

Ahh...thanks. We aren't caught up, but my whole FB feed was filled with people gushing about how accurate it was to the Punic wars and then over on Twitter you're saying it was atrocious. I always love knowing my friends are idiots. Sob sob

Blogger VD June 22, 2016 4:59 PM  

I’m now convinced that Beale hasn’t seen the episode, and doesn’t understand the tactics used or the story at all. I’m also convinced that Beale doesn’t really know his history very well, since everything he said is directly contradicted by actual events from actual battles of the Hundred Years War era.

That's nice. I'm now convinced that his IQ doesn't come within 50 points of mine.

Blogger B.J. June 22, 2016 5:00 PM  

For me though the worst part of the episode was that Rickon didn't understand zig-zagging.

Blogger B.J. June 22, 2016 5:08 PM  

Mrs. Xerxes wrote:Ahh...thanks. We aren't caught up, but my whole FB feed was filled with people gushing about how accurate it was to the Punic wars and then over on Twitter you're saying it was atrocious. I always love knowing my friends are idiots. Sob sob

Well if they were trying to do Cannae then Jon should have been in the Hannibal position (outnumbered) but fighting valiantly alongside his men and inspiring them to hold formation and not break even while being pushed back, and then had the surprise cavalry push the Bolton's inward to an encirclement, then have Ramsey and Jon face off in the middle of the melee. Would have been perfectly climactic and dramatic.

But instead they have Ramsey encircle Jon thanks to a magic pile of bodies no one made and then die since women are smarter than men because they know how to write letters to other men and ask for help. "Just ask for directions to the Iron Throne Jon! Stop being so stubborn Jon! Men! UGh!"

Anonymous Shut up rabbit June 22, 2016 5:10 PM  

Also, feigned retreats are great in wargames. In reality, they often went quite badly.

Whereas marching your pikemen in perfect formation across the battlefield to surround the enemy unopposed worked every time. The stoopid is carcinogenic in this one...

Selectiveness is a primary symptom of the leftard (along with finding the most rare, obscure, unrepeatable example of something or other and claiming it to be the norm because someone somewhere did it exactly once and, muh since we're all the same, anyone could do it anytime.)

Blogger tublecane June 22, 2016 5:19 PM  

@20-Theon was able to take Winterfell because the middle son, who was acting lord while the real Lord was away fighting with the Starks' main force, sent most of their remaining troops to deal with the distraction Theon had orchestrated. Theon said something like a hundred men could defend Winrerfell against ten thousand; I don't remember the precise proportion. But that's without a giant. Presumably Bolton forces could've held out for a long time against a giantless Snow Army.

Jon dismissed laying siege because "winter is coming," his troops are comprised largely of undisciplined wildlings, and he didn't have the means to supply them for long. He did have a giant, but I'm guessing full-strength Ramsey could kill him before the gate fell. He almost did so, anyway.

Blogger tublecane June 22, 2016 5:24 PM  

@23-They don't wear helmets, or hats for that matter, so we can see their pretty faces and hair. (One wonders how John Wayne ever became a star.) They don't use shields because two-handed sword fights are way more cooler, or something.

Blogger tublecane June 22, 2016 6:04 PM  

@41-Well, Jon was Lord Commander and he did lead the fight in two largescale battles (or one and a half battles). But you're right, both were with undisciplined troops against undisciplined troops. One was against a magical monster army, which seems like it might be more of a challenge than Ramsey Bolton, but it turns out the tactics of an Army of the Dead consist of: run at the enemy until you're hacked to pieces. The only good strategic thinking he demonstrated was his suggestion that the tunnel through the Wall be flooded and his plan to assassinate Mance. Not that it would've worked, necessarily. It was also a good idea to recruit wildlings instead of allowing them to be drafted into a zombie army.

None of this prepared him for set-piece battle against the armored and mounted armies of the southern lords. But Ramsey has won such battles before--he conquered Winterfell and beat Stannis--and he was only slightly less retarded.

Blogger tublecane June 22, 2016 6:19 PM  

@92-"a magic pile of bodies no one made"

I was wondering where that came from, as well. They needed a way for Jon to be trapped, but couldn't they have the battle take place near a river, or something?

Anonymous R. J. Moore II June 22, 2016 6:26 PM  

Though the steppe people did use infantry at times I think it's arguable that their light + heavy cavalry constituted the main striking force that actually won battles.

Anonymous Steve June 22, 2016 6:31 PM  

I wonder if Beale [...]

Calling Vox Day "Beale" is a gamma tell. Or at least a shitlib tell, and shitlibbery correlates strongly enough with gammatude that it makes no odds.

You can practically hear the low-testosterone vocal fry flounce off the screen.

See also: people who refer to the next President of the United States as "Drumpf".

Blogger Kona Commuter June 22, 2016 7:27 PM  

@ 50. Napoleon 12pdr

What about us (just) over 40's wanting to do some sort of martial art? I'm thinking Judo. But injuries are starting to mount from just living life (knee & shoulder).

Blogger Tom Kratman June 22, 2016 7:49 PM  

There are at least two indicators that the writing/directing team were deliberately trying to recreate Cannae - and in one particular succeeded rather well, indeed better than anything else I've seen* - but absolutely didn't understand how Cannae was done, which depended more on a peculiar strength of the manipular legion that could, if one was clever enough, be turned in to a disastrous weakness.

*The part they did well was portraying what it was like inside a force being so compressed that you can barely breathe, let alone fight. How they got there, though, is silly.

Blogger Tom Kratman June 22, 2016 7:59 PM  

"That's nice. I'm now convinced that his IQ doesn't come within 50 points of mine."

Pound? One needn't be all that bright to be a run of the mill lawyer. One needn't be all that bright a run of the mill lawyer to be a government lawyer. The median LSAT for George Mason is 161, which isn't bad, really, indicating an IQ in the range of 120 to 130, which is really nothing special. (Note: though not impressed with standardized testing, in general, I am even more skeptical of LSAT to IQ conversion than of most things.) However, that's only a rough guess; he _acts_ like an idiot so is probably more likely than not to _be_ an idiot.

Anonymous Shitlib June 22, 2016 9:13 PM  

Steve: how about Hellary? Obummer? Is referring to Obama as "Hussein" a gamma tell?

Anonymous Kell June 22, 2016 9:30 PM  

@17 Tom,

For what it's worth, I started HEMA when I was 33. It might not be what you're looking for...there is a fair amount of protective gear used when sparring, you're fighting with blunted steel after all...but I've found that solid technique means that I can hold my own against opponents 10 or 15 years younger than I am, assuming a roughly equal level of training or aptitude.

Blogger JohnofAustria June 23, 2016 10:39 AM  

@82 Agreed, but that's also when professional soldiers and formations disappeared in Europe. Although Martel might have won with a shieldwall against the Moslem cavalry, it's hard to say since we don't have good accounts of the battle.

Anonymous Clay June 23, 2016 1:17 PM  

Good Lord. You guys and your silly fantasy movies/ shows.

Look up Brice's Crossroads, and the further exploits of Gen. Nathan Bedford Forest.

Blogger Thucydides June 23, 2016 11:20 PM  

My favourite Hollywoodism is that cavalry charges ALWAYS begin at the gallop. Seeing cavalry advancing at the walk to remain dressed, then gradually speeding up as the distance closes is something that never seems to occur to any Hollywood film maker, even though anyone idiotic enough to begin with a gallop will find the force scattered and the horses blown by the time you make contact.

Perhaps the finest depictions of period warfare are not Western at all, but for my money the mass battle scenes by Akira Kurosawa are among the best ever filmed. Ran and Kagemusha are outstanding examples of the filmmaker's art, and if you have not seen them yet, so so right away.

Blogger Derrick Bonsell June 24, 2016 8:29 PM  

So Ramsay beats the best general in Westeros but barely knows anything about recon?

If the books are as bad as this series of events in the show is I'm not reading Winds of Winter.

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