History in Motion – Ancient Warfare, Vol. VII, Issue 4

History in Motion – Ancient Warfare, Vol. VII, Issue 4

Archaeology magazines aren’t the only thing I like to pick up on a regular basis. If you enjoy gaming in historical or alternate history settings during ancient or medieval times, there are two magazines to look at: Ancient Warfare and Medieval Warfare. Both of these magazines are published bi-monthly by Karwansaray B.V. out of the Netherlands and available at Barnes & Noble.

While it may seem as though these two magazines solely focus on war, they actually focus on everything involved in warfare, not just the fighting itself. This includes a look at what it takes to run an army and what the soldiers of that army believed in. Each issue is themed with multiple articles that support that theme. Ancient Warfare, Volume 7, Issue 4’s theme is “Movement and supply.” The main focus is on the logistics of maintaining an army in ancient times.

While this may not apply to everyone gaming in a historical setting, such as Shadowed Earth, it does apply to those recreating a large battle or using the movement of troops as a background to their games. But what does that entail? Well, for starters, there’s food and water. There has to be an agricultural source to feed these soldiers; especially when you consider the size of some of the ancient armies. While it’s possible to assume the soldiers go hunting and foraging every day, it’s probably not that feasible or realistic. According to the introductory article:

Other food used for rations differed from one culture to the next, but for the Romans of the Early Empire, for example, included some meat (primarily pork), dried fruit, nuts, fish, milk, and cheese.

What these soldiers bring is probably not as important, from an in-game standpoint, as how they transport it from day to day. The baggage train that followed an army would definitely be proportional to the army. The larger the army, the more non-military goods needed to support them (i.e. food and water). Thus requiring a longer train to transport it. A large army with a large train is essentially walking with a giant target trailing behind. Want to hurt the army? Attack the baggage train with all the support items; maybe even attempt to steal the food! Large armies can be quickly crippled if their food and water supply runs out.

That leads to another idea: the themata-based army of the Byzantine Empire. Think about how much easier it would be to field smaller armies in many different locations that could respond quickly when necessary. This eliminates the need to field a large army with a large baggage train behind it, just waiting to be robbed of its goods.

These very simple, logistical ideas can be used by the characters to better plot their battles. If they’re on the receiving end of a large army’s attack, they can think about these types of articles and how breaking the army’s supply could possibly win the battle of attrition (think of a mobile siege).

Along with good tactics and optimal terrain, battles can be won by outsmarting your opponent; just hit them where it could hurt the most – their stomachs!