Armati 2d Edition as a rules set drives table top tactics as do all other rules sets. The most significant attraction of the Armati system is the comparative clarity of the language. The rules are in such elegant English that disputes over interpretations are rare and are more often driven by player assumptions than by a reading of the crystal clear rule. The prose of the rules is so simple that rules lawyer is a non-sequitur in Armati.
The first reaction is that simple language must mean simple rules. To the contrary, Armati is a tactically rich set of rules. One does not appreciate the elegant tactics possible until one has played a fair number of games. When one has done so, the rules become a complex set of tactical interactions of move and counter-move requiring thought being devoted to two to three moves, at least, in advance.
Each turn, the move sequence is determined by comparing die rolls on a six-sided die plus initiative number with the high number choosing to move first or second. This can result in a very deadly combination of moves through moving second in one turn and first in the next - a double move in effect.
In Armati, the flank attack is very powerful. A unit flanked by any heavy unit fights with a much lower factor and is routed if outscored by any heavy unit whether to the flank or not. Units are organized into divisions of contiguous and touching units. Breaking a division into its component units is difficult and causes severe initiative problems. Initiative is critical to determining who moves first in the turn sequence so one does not want to damage one's initiative for fear of the deadly double move.
Infantry divisions consisting of multiple units are ponderous creatures. Infantry movement is six game inches. Most infantry wheeling is two game inches and prohibits further movement that turn. A complex movement permits a six inch wheel but results in combat negatives.
Cavalry move fifteen game inches and may wheel two inches and move thirteen game inches. Light cavalry can organize on a smaller frontage and so wheel much faster.
The above combination of slow infantry responses in any direction other than straight ahead with the lethality of the flank attack leads to most players organizing their armies into divisions of discrete units of all cavalry or all infantry. It also leads to placing the infantry in the center of the line with the heavy cavalry next to the infantry and the light cavalry to the outside. In the alternative, the cavalry take up a position to the rear of the heavy infantry but near to the outside flank infantry. The latter arrangement allows the cavalry to act defensively through the support charge mechanism to secure the flank of the infantry. The former arrangement is more aggressive with the cavalry used on the attack to control the space through which any flanking effort must move as well as to flank the foe.
The idea is to pin the hostile battle-line with the infantry and take it in flank with your mounted while avoiding the same.
There is a dynamic tension in the organization of the main infantry battle line. If one organizes one's infantry units in depth, there is a reasonable chance that one of the hostile units must fight two of the friendly units leading to a possibility of a quick kill and a breakthrough of the center - much like Trebbia. Except in this case, the intent is not escape but a wheel on the interior flanks and rears of the hostile battle line. The downside is that the hostile line may extend beyond the deep line allowing units to wheel into the flank and crush the entire line- much like Cannae.
As you can see, the rules force play to conform to our understanding of ancient tactics. As with every set of rules, there are tricks of the trade.
Heavy cavalry have impetus against all troops in the first turn of impact except camels, elephants, and other heavy cavalry. A unit that does not have impetus is routed if outscored in melee by a unit with impetus.
Units that are attacked in the flank or rear lose impetus. The job of those light cavalry on the flanks is to manoeuver to take the heavy cavalry in flank or rear with a simultaneous attack to the front by the heavy cavalry hoping to destroy the hostile heavies in one turn rather than the possible five turn melee. This would free the heavy cavalry to concentrate on the hostile infantry line. Think the left Roman flank at Cannae.
As in real life, successive shock by cavalry has advantages. A simple tactic, which should be more commonly used than it is, is to yoke heavy cavalry units side by side but to charge them into contact on successive turns. On the first turn, the hostile heavy cavalry will have impetus and can not be routed from the front. If outscored, the defeated unit takes one of three possible breakpoints (casualties) at worst. However, on the next turn, the hostile heavy cavalry will not have impetus as it is in melee. The follow-on unit will rout it immediately if it scores higher. Again, the effect is to take a potential five turn melee and reduce it to two turns, freeing the heavy cavalry to maneuver for the flank of the infantry line.
One can use the fact that heavy cavalry do not have impetus against camels or elephants to the same effect by yoking a heavy cavalry unit with a camel or elephant. If the heavy cavalry unit and the camel or elephant unit contact the same heavy cavalry unit, the hostile unit has no impetus against heavy cavalry and routs if outscored by the heavy cavalry on the first turn. Add in supporting skirmish infantry and a general and te attack has at least a 67% chance of achieving the one turn kill. Once more, this frees the mounted to maneuver on the flanks of the less mobile infantry.
If a yoked attack does not work, one hopes that the friendly mounted line over-laps the hostile line permitting a wheel onto the flank in later turns.
In the early eras, light troops add combat potential of +1 to mounted troops. In all periods, attaching a general adds a +1 to melee roles. As the average mounted factor is 4-5 and the random factor is decided by the differential between two six-sided dice, these are significant additions to combat potential. In order to increase the possibility of the first round rout under any of the above tactics, it is wise to provide light support. I hesitate to attach my general unless the attack is absolutely critical due to the risk of losing the general. I am, perhaps, a trifle conservative in this respect as adding a +2 to the melee (1 for light troops and 1 for the general) increases the odds of a first round kill to two in three.
The idea on the flanks is to break your heavy cavalry free while tying up the hostile cavalry. In the main battle line, the question is whether to organize in depth, in breadth, or in a combination of the two.
The advantage to using a deep formation is that it has the potential to punch through the hostile center in two turns versus the normal four to seven turns of infantry melee. This is a preferred technique if one has superior infantry in one's army - legionaries or good phalangites. Once through the center, the units can wheel outward to take the roll up the interior flanks of the hostile line.
The disadvantage to a deep formation is that it may be overlapped by a hostile line that wheels inward to take it in flank. It takes 2-3 turns for a wider line to maneuver on the flanks of a deep line. Once it does so, the deep line is toast. Just a little analysis shows that the decision is just one turn between winner and loser. The commander who breaks through the line or flanks the other line first generally wins.
I tend to compromise by organizing my interior infantry units in a deep formation with flanking units in a wide formation giving me a chance for the punch through and for the flank wheel. Infantry divisions are maximally effective at three to four units with three being optimal.
Cohortal infantry is different due to its unique ability for infantry to wheel two inches and move four inches. I try to keep cohortal infantry is as small a division as possible - one to two units. Again, the idea is to use superior mobility to maneuver for advantage.
Because of the maneuverability and comparative speed of heavy cavalry, I attempt to organize the heavy cavalry divisions into multiple divisions of one or two units.
I prefer organizing my light cavalry in deep formations of single units to take advantage of the greater arc of wheel for a 40 mm. frontage versus an 80 mm. frontage. This is a matter of some tactical controversy as organizing light cavalry in depth reduces their melee ability. My preference is to use the light cavalry to pin hostile troops for destruction by heavier units rather than counting on them to win melees. Tactical philosophies differ.
One of the strong points of Armati is that the system is simple to learn with a learning curve to reasonable competence of about ten games. Another strong point is that the rules are comparatively well written to a survivor of WRG 4th & 5th. A final strong point is that all of my regular opponents are trial lawyers, as am I, and we generally finish a game in 90 minutes from taking the troops out of the box to last melee. By contrast, WRG rules took us about five hours.
Armati Second Edition copyright 2003 'The Strength Trainer'
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