Big Battle Army Pathology

Overview and Preamble
Pikes Out The Wazoo
Jumbo, Jumbo, Jumbo
Veni, Vidi, Vici -- Imperial Roman
Get Biblical On Their A**
Blades and Bow Mixed
Early Medieval Combined Arms
Late Medieval Combined Arms
Classical Combined Arms
Dismounting Armies
Bad-Going Low Aggression
Freaks and Geeks


The following is a simple pathology (classification of types) of Big Battle DBA armies. This is merely intended as a useful tool for describing and understanding the behaviour of similar armies -- what tasks they are good at, what tasks they are poor at, what problems they share, and so on.

Some warnings:

  • These classifications are not all the ones that can be made; they are just the ones the Two Davids have differentiated so far.
  • Each classification is followed by a few examples of that army class from the army list. No attempt is made to list all armies that fall under that class; just a few representative examples.

  • Pikes Out The Wazoo

    Armies with a lot of pikes have one great advantage: almost nothing can face them frontally. They have one great disadvantage: flanks. What makes or breaks a pike army is usually the supporting elements. Does it have enough bad-going troops to be able to support one flank with a line of bad going? Does it have enough mobile troops to be able to support one flank with mobile elements? Does it have mobile troops to support a breakthrough in the center? Does it have any QK troops to speed up the battle of attrition if it hits enemy blades? Does it have a solution for enemy missile troops in case they are massed against it?

  • Later Swiss
  • Scots Common
  • Low Countries
  • Early Sumerian

  • Jumbo, Jumbo, Jumbo

    Elephants galore! Armies based upon a center of elephants are a lot of fun, and share the power (and difficulty) of using elephants. There are a number of different types of Jumbo armies, from the bow-strength of the Classical or Hindu Indians to the blades of the Tamils or the mixed auxilia/crossbow of the Burmese.

  • Classical Indian
  • Ghaznavid
  • Tamil Indian
  • Burmese
  • Khmer or Cham

  • Veni, Vidi, Vici -- Imperial Roman

    These armies are very popular. They combine blade and auxilia with some good supporting troops, and they were the dominant armies for many centuries.

  • Early Imperial Roman
  • Middle Imperial Roman (west and east)
  • Late Imperial Roman (west and east)
  • Patrician Roman (west and east)

  • Get Biblical On Their A**

    The biblical period armies share a number of characteristics. One of them is mostly visual -- chariots function in most respects as their mounted equivalents. Biblical armies also are often based on light foot (auxilia) used as main line-of-battle troops, and they have a very different feel to them than armies of the later eras.

  • Sea Peoples
  • Hittites
  • Assyrians
  • Mittani
  • Early Hebrew
  • Sumerians

  • Spearwall

    Psiloi-supported spear with a few mobile elements is one of the most universally useful troop types, and a number of armies are based upon this motif.

  • Rus
  • Later Hoplite Greek
  • Pre-Feudal Scots
  • North Welsh
  • Bohemians
  • Saitic Egyptian
  • Philistine

  • Bow

    Massed bow armies can be very effective. Their aggression isn't very important, as they are as good in bad going as in the open -- better, when fighting against mounted or heavy foot. Their weakness is heavy foot in the open, so the best ones will often have significant bits of heavy-foot killing elements like knights, heavy chariots, elephants, or warband.

  • HYW English
  • New Babylonian
  • South Welsh
  • Tarascan or Chichimec

  • Blades and Bow Mixed

    Blades and Bow together form a very tough combination. They can fight in the open and match anyone; they can fight in bad going and match anyone. They are slow, but powerful.

  • War of the Roses English
  • Sung Chinese
  • New Kingdom Egyptian
  • Medieval Scandinavian (c) Swedish

  • Early Medieval Combined Arms

    Knights, spear, and crossbow or bow in combination is a great mixture. It has the strength of a good combined-arms army, without most of the complication of the more extreme combined-arms mixes of the Successors or the later Middle Ages.

  • Feudal French
  • Later Visigothic
  • Italian Ostrogothic
  • Georgian
  • Early Polish (b)
  • Early Hungarian
  • Communal and Papal Italian
  • Later Crusader

  • Late Medieval Combined Arms

    These lists combine an interesting variety of troops around a basis of knights, bow, and blades or pike. Artillery and war-wagons often appear as well, as do auxilia or bad-going troops in some armies. These armies can be very powerful, but are nearly as complicated as the classical combined-arms armies.

  • Italian Condotta
  • Later Hungarian (c)
  • Medieval German (bcd)
  • Burgundian Ordonnance
  • French Ordonnance (b)

  • Classical Combined Arms

    Classical combined arms is the type of army put together by Philip of Macedonia and perfected by his son Alexander the Great, and used by generations of his successors. It is based upon a core of pike, with a small but useful contingent of bad-going troops, a couple of elements of mounted (usually one or two knights and a light horse, and often an elephant or two. The huge advantage of classical combined arms is that you have an answer for everything. The major disadvantage is that it can be very hard to knit all the disparate elements of these armies into a single whole -- they act at different speeds, they have different abilities, and so on. The classical combined arms armies can be among the most complicated armies to play.

  • Alexander Imperial
  • Alexander Macedonian
  • Pyrrhic
  • Seleucid
  • Ptolemaic
  • Asiatic Early Successor
  • and many others

  • Dismounting Armies

    The bulk of these armies are Medieval, although some exceptions exist. For the Medieval ones, they are usually Medieval Combined Arms armies with the extra complication and benefit of dismounting.

  • Free Company
  • Medieval French (bc)
  • Eastern Frankish
  • Anglo-Norman
  • Medieval German (a)
  • Medieval Portuguese
  • French Ordonnance (a)
  • Elamite
  • Kyrenean Greek

  • Bad-Going Low Aggression

    Terrain Rules! These armies have a bunch of auxilia, queen of bad-going, combined with very low aggression and a good array of supporting troops.

  • Ancient Spanish (ac)
  • Bosporan
  • Early Armenian
  • Early Slav (ac)
  • Jewish Revolt
  • Mixtec or Zapotec

  • Freaks and Geeks

    There are some armies that basically defy description -- strange mixes of troops that are unique.

  • Early Libyan with Sea People ally
  • Aztec with Tlaxcalan ally
  • Characene with Parthian and Arab Nomad allies

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