Early and Later Hoplite Armies - tips and hints

Bob Stradling
Posts: 184
Joined: Sat Dec 03, 2016 10:46 am

Early and Later Hoplite Armies - tips and hints

Postby Bob Stradling » Fri Jul 06, 2018 6:59 pm

Having played with a few Greek armies in Swordpoint I thought I would share some observations.

The first one is don't you use this list if you like lots of cavalry. The Greek cavalry is pretty pants, even when you can get the opportunity to upgrade as you can in some of the lists.

The real star of this army is the humble phalanx. As long as you remain in a phalanx you have the benefit of the shieldwall rule, which means that your opponents are on a -1 to hit you from both shooting and in combat. So even if you are facing superior fighters they are only hitting you on 4+ and then you have an armour save of a minimum of 5+ and in some cases this can go as low as 3+ :oops:

The downside of the phalanx is their relative lack of manouverability. If they go full speed then they have to drift 1" to the right unless they are a trained phalanx. To be honest this is not a big problem, but can cause some problems in a crowded battle line and I have had a couple of situations where because they couldn't drift due to other units being in the way they could only advance 3" and missed out on the ability to charge.

The Early Hoplite list has two time periods and the Later list only one.

The earliest list is pre Peloponnesian war and allows Hoplites to upgrade to Heavy armour - which gives the 3+ save. With a 3+ save you can risk taking only 5 bases in a unit as you are unlikely to lose a base. However with a strength base of only 20 it does make mean they can be discouraged quite easily and give up momentum tokens. Even with the standard hoplite this makes them a formidable proposition. Some of the lists for the different cities allow you to upgrade some hoplites to superior fighters, this makes them particuarly nasty opponents.

As an accountant in a previous career I am used to not having any friends and an army of 3+ troops some of which are superior fighters will not gain you any friends! However, before you go and purchase a whole of hoplites in brass armour there are some significant downsides to this list which a canny opponent will seek to exploit.

The first is that the more units you upgrade the fewer units that you will be able to have. This means that you are likely to be outnumbered and your flanks becomes liable to be turned. A 3+ save phalanx of superior fighters is still toast if flanked by a small unit of open order troops. I would not be worried if the list writer or a tournament organiser limited the number of units with heavy armour and would think this would be a good change to implement.

The second is that those units that don't have heavy armour cannot have light armour so they are only a 5+ save. Still not to be sniffed at if in phalanx.

The third issue is that they are not allowed any Peltasts in this period. This means that difficult terrain becomes a problem. Some lists for the individual lists allow you allies that can remedy this defecit. You do get a variety of skirmishing troops including everyones favourite; superior shooting Cretan archers. Whilst you can only have 4 bases they are more than worth the points in the games I have played. Othewise it is Javelins or slings or bows.

The later period of the Early list does not have the heavy armour upgrade but does allow light armour for your Hoplites. In this case I have found six bases in a unit works well. It takes a lot of shooting to lose a base (but it does happen) but you will rarely lose a base in combat.

The advantage of the laster lists is that you can take Peltasts. Peltasts are not the best open order troops in the world with a D6 and no throwing spear upgrades, but they can take and hold difficult terrain and they are relatively cheap and can act as mobile flank guards. Whilst I said the Greek cavalry is pants, which it is, they too can act as flank guards, just hope your opponent doesn't realise how bad they are!

So you are not going to out shoot your opponent or ride them down in a blaze of glory. You are going to move forward in a line of battle and steam roller your opponent! It may take several rounds of combat, but eventually you will start to push them back. Ironically it is at this point that your army is most vulnerable. As you start to push back or break an enemy unit as you advance you can leave your own flanks exposed. A good opponent may well have a unit of cavalry in a good position to hit you in the unmentionables just when you thought victory was in your grasp.

To avoid this try and get one mega combat going with multiple units overlapping each other. This is not always to achieve, but gives a real benefit if you can as initially you may well be at a deficit in momentum tokens, so if you have only one combat then this helps negate this.

You may not have a huge army so you may want to refuse a flank so that you can make sure that your forces are properly concentrated and that you don't leave a flank (or two) hanging waiting to be exploited.

There are numerous sublists for the different cities in each of the periods. Sparta, Athens, Thebes and some lesser known ones Teagea, Kyrenea, Magna Graecia and so on. Some of the lists only allow 4 commanders and that is something you can just about get a way with in armies of 1,000 points, but I think this is a real disadvantage in armies bigger than this. It is essential that your commanders are in place before combat is initiated as they can make a real difference.

The key lesson is be patient, hold the line, keep the phalanx intact and make sure you have made the appropriate sacrafices before the battle.

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Wayne Richards
Posts: 219
Joined: Fri Dec 02, 2016 4:44 pm

Re: Early and Later Hoplite Armies - tips and hints

Postby Wayne Richards » Sat Jul 07, 2018 7:24 am

Thanks Bob, a useful insight.

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