Some thoughts about Bow Levy

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David Kuijt
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Some thoughts about Bow Levy

Post by David Kuijt » Sun May 15, 2022 4:56 pm

This is a repost of an email conversation I had recently with a couple of players who are getting back into miniatures gaming, and asked me about Bow Levy. Pluses and minuses. I hope others will also find it useful.

Limitations are obvious -- slow, can't shoot, weak against foot.

Shattered by mounted seems like a limitation, but it really isn't, because you can use that to make the enemy get stupid. They are surprisingly good against mounted. And to quote the Russians, sometimes quantity has a quality of its own. Fighting mounted they usually have numbers (which means overlaps) and you can afford to lose 2-to-1 without really worrying about it. More than that -- on a flank where the enemy is attacking with mounted, a wall of Bow Levy serves as a combination of obstacle, glistening plum, and pip sink for the enemy.

You have to understand what a wall of Bow Levy can do, and cannot. They cannot fight in the open against close-order foot, although they will often survive that for quite a while. They cannot deal with Cataphracts, although they can often do well enough against Knights or Elephants. Javelin Cavalry are pretty dicey, but they do fine against Chariots, Bad Horse, and Battle Taxi. I had a hilarious game against Jack Sheriff once, my Neo Babylonians vs. his Later Sargonid Neo Assyrians. He charged his Chariots into my Bow Levy wall. On the face of it, it looks like a reasonable idea because the Chariots shatter any foot. I lost a bow levy, I think, but Jack took his survivors out of there weeping, swearing never to try that again. I called it the "Comfy Pillow" defense, where the Bow Levy seem like such a great place to attack -- until you do, and you realize how desperate it is when you have an overlapped Chariot fighting a Bow levy, at +1 to +3. Shatter don't mean much then, and I had the numbers for a double line of Bow Levy across the map, more or less.

The big thing is not to have a single line of Bow Levy. A double line is fine; you can get half again as much width with alternating single/double/single/double formation. Or at more risk, a 3-1 formation (3 front line guys with one guy in reserve behind the middle one).

With a big Bow Levy army (say Neo-Bab 15) Bow Levy, that gets you 7 frontages as a double line. 10 frontages as a 2-1, and like 12 as a 3-1.

The best part, if it works, is that the Bow Levy army absorbs the enemy's pips. They have to commit forces and pips to attack a part of the battlefield where you do not have to commit pips. This gives you a powerful pip advantage on the other flank.

The hardest part is making it work -- forecasting where the enemy will be, or making him be there, so you will have your formation there in advance. In many ways this is like Artillery -- it only works if you can figure out, three turns or more in advance, where the battle will be fought. If you DO figure it out, it's very powerful -- but if you don't, quite weak.

Which makes the glistening plum aspect important. Bow Levy look so inviting, and so vulnerable to mounted, that the enemy almost can't avoid staring at them and imagining what will happen when his mounted hit that vulnerable line. Since you are nearly never going to be able to advance them anywhere useful, you've got to use that. (About advancing them somewhere useful -- march moves on the first turn, if you have the command points, can get the Bow Levy into some useful places. Just make sure to have strong flank protection with terrain if you are fighting, well, anything -- nothing sadder than a bow levy line that has been turned and is being eaten from the flank)

Plus, with some opponents, the social aspect. You can mock them for being scared of Bow Levy. They will never live it down. :lol:

Bow Levy are too numerous (and therefore use too many pips) to be much use offensively in difficult terrain. They are fine there on defense against anything but Raiders. But difficult terrain on the edges of their broad open-terrain line is wonderful, because you can go single-deep there.

Small groups of Bow Levy (in an army with 3-4 stands of them) are even more useful than big ones. They are wonderful for flank protection. Which mostly puts them up against mounted, which is what they want. Enemy mounted will often threaten a flank; a foot army will often be forced to respect that and station some dudes down there. But those are wasted troops if the enemy doesn't attack there. Best is to make those troops as cheap as possible, so you have more strength of the army to put other places.

Another thing: Bow Levy are open order. That means that you can have an Open Order reserve of a stand or two ready to move THROUGH them. A single JavCav to fill gaps against a Knight charge, or to move through and hit a stand in the flank. A single Knight or Chariot to fill gaps against enemy that are putting a wall of foot into your wall of Bow Levy in the open. The timing needs to be careful, of course -- you have to virtually guarantee a kill -- but still a good gig if you have to use a big wall of bow levy in the open against some other troop type.

In summary, Bow Levy en masse are not an offensive weapon -- but they can be a good counterpunch weapon. And Bow Levy in groups of 3-4 are wonderful for a foot army fighting a mounted army, or the mounted component of a combined-arms army. There are often a thousand places to put them to use.
DK
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Re: Some thoughts about Bow Levy

Post by paulgpotter » Tue Jun 21, 2022 11:23 pm

Thanks.
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zendor
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Re: Some thoughts about Bow Levy

Post by zendor » Tue Jul 05, 2022 9:26 pm

Thanks for the text!
Could you explain this statment, please : "...they cannot deal with Cataphracts, although they can often do well enough against Knights or Elephants" ?
I see that Knights have +3 CM vs +3 of Bow Levy, so they can resist somehow. But what is the differences between Cataphracts and Elephants in this situation? Both are mounted type and have +4 and +5 CM respectively against foot, so Elephants seens even more dangerous vs. Bow Levy. Or I missed something?
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David Kuijt
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Re: Some thoughts about Bow Levy

Post by David Kuijt » Wed Jul 06, 2022 5:32 pm

zendor wrote:
Tue Jul 05, 2022 9:26 pm
Thanks for the text!
Could you explain this statment, please : "...they cannot deal with Cataphracts, although they can often do well enough against Knights or Elephants" ?
I see that Knights have +3 CM vs +3 of Bow Levy, so they can resist somehow. But what is the differences between Cataphracts and Elephants in this situation? Both are mounted type and have +4 and +5 CM respectively against foot, so Elephants seens even more dangerous vs. Bow Levy. Or I missed something?
Elephants follow up after victory, and cost enormous pips to pull out of combat, so they are sorta fire and forget into any foot. Which means you can often get a pair of bow levy to hit them in the flank with overlap and no ability to fall back, or close the door on them with double overlap.

Cataphracts don't follow up after victory, so can't really be trapped by their own impetuous nature.
DK
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zendor
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Re: Some thoughts about Bow Levy

Post by zendor » Wed Jul 06, 2022 6:53 pm

David Kuijt wrote:
Wed Jul 06, 2022 5:32 pm
zendor wrote:
Tue Jul 05, 2022 9:26 pm
Thanks for the text!
Could you explain this statment, please : "...they cannot deal with Cataphracts, although they can often do well enough against Knights or Elephants" ?
I see that Knights have +3 CM vs +3 of Bow Levy, so they can resist somehow. But what is the differences between Cataphracts and Elephants in this situation? Both are mounted type and have +4 and +5 CM respectively against foot, so Elephants seens even more dangerous vs. Bow Levy. Or I missed something?
Elephants follow up after victory, and cost enormous pips to pull out of combat, so they are sorta fire and forget into any foot. Which means you can often get a pair of bow levy to hit them in the flank with overlap and no ability to fall back, or close the door on them with double overlap.

Cataphracts don't follow up after victory, so can't really be trapped by their own impetuous nature.
Thanks, got it.
It would be great to read something more on the tactics of the various elements in Triumph. :geek:
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David Kuijt
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Re: Some thoughts about Bow Levy

Post by David Kuijt » Thu Jul 07, 2022 3:04 am

zendor wrote:
Wed Jul 06, 2022 6:53 pm
Thanks, got it.
It would be great to read something more on the tactics of the various elements in Triumph. :geek:
I don't have the time to go systematically through all 26 or so right now. But if you give me one you wanna hear about, I'm happy to talk.
DK
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ferrency
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Re: Some thoughts about Bow Levy

Post by ferrency » Mon Jul 11, 2022 8:06 pm

Hi. I was involved in the original Bow Levy email conversation David referred to. I was able to play a few games with massed Bow Levy after that, and I made some observations.

My matchup was a bad idea: Wallachians with max Bow Levy/Rabble vs. a reasonably balanced Later Condotta list from a similar period (but not a historic enemy.) Wallachia's historic enemies all use a lot of mounted troops, and might not fare as well against a wall of Bow Levy (as long as they cooperatively walk in a straight line to my army's front). I did learn a few things about Bow Levy that weren't immediately obvious, though.

First, 2mu movement is extremely restrictive, so don't put yourself in a position where you need your Bow Levy to maneuver. With 2mu, you can move exactly one element sideways without moving forward or back, can turn 180 degrees only by leaving your front edge in the same position, and you don't have enough movement to make a tactical move that passes through another open order troop. You only have enough movement to close the door on an enemy's flank if you've already walked past the element's rear edge. Don't expect them to do anything other than walk forward and maybe wheel.

This lack of maneuver can make filling gaps in your line more challenging if you use a partial double line (8 in the first rank, 4 in the second rank, for example).

The other limiting factor is that Bow Levy was my only battle line troop, and it comprised half the points of my army. This meant that when I had Tactical Disadvantage, I had to deploy my entire block of Bow Levy in the center, allowing the enemy to react to it. (This was made worse by Later Condotta's high maneuver value.) With so many troops in one place with so little ability to redeploy later, it didn't feel like I had many reasonable deployment options.

On the other hand, I didn't take advantage of the Wallachians' Ambush battle card. It would have let me deploy my Bow Levy differently, but it wouldn't have helped as much when I lost tactical advantage: I'd still need to deploy them before the enemy's deployment and only within the center. I also didn't consider options such as deploying my Bow Levy with room in front of them to screen them with my other troops.

I haven't learned how to play huge blocks of Bow Levy well yet, but in small numbers as flank protection, they immediately show their worth. I am accumulating a list of mistakes not to repeat, like: in order for bait to work, you also need a trap.


Question: Reading the Ambush battle card, it only lists deployment restrictions for the Ambushing troops. Does that mean after Ambush troops are deployed, enemy troops that haven't deployed yet could choose to deploy within 2mu of the Ambushing troops (assuming it was possible given the Ambusher's deployment)?

Thanks!
Alan
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