Wednesday, May 24, 2023

The Ancient Art of War: Pharsalus

The Battle of Pharsalus, a simulation of Caesar's decisive victory over Pompey in 48 BC, is the first true combat campaign of The Ancient Art of War, and would have made for a better introductory than the "race" contests that sandwich it. As the game only has eight AI opponent personalities, Genghis Khan acts as a stand-in for Pompey.

Right off the bat, though, I must dwell on an interface failing. To mount an effective strategy, you've got to know what you're up against and what you're bringing, and there's just not enough time to query each individual unit before they start clashing, let alone set their formations which are hardly ideal to begin with. I really wish that this game offered, if not a "pause and issue orders" option, the ability to query units and set formations and tactics before the action starts without the pressure of time. Lacking any efficient way to view the ranks of myself and Pompey, I'd do this the inefficient way, notating my strategic map even as skirmishes raged, and surrendered, assuring myself that this loss didn't really count.

Pompey slightly outnumbers you, but presses the offense almost immediately, giving you little chance or room to organize an efficient defense. You do not have nearly enough knights to counter all of his barbarian units, some of which are supported by archers and/or knights to make things more interesting. Turning the chaos of ensuing battle into a rout seems difficult, but there's an easier way.

Pompey does not even bother trying to defend his flags, nor does he try to reclaim any lost until he's taken yours. Your southern barbarian unit can easily slip past his forces, and then split up and take both flags at once.

To win, then, you just have to slow down his main battle group long enough for the barbarians to complete their mission. You could probably manage this just by haphazardly throwing everything you've got into his path, so long as you're using decent formations and good about not leaving gaps in your defense lines.

I managed a victory in a little over ten minutes, but it was a bloodbath.


Knights are rushed to the front to thin out the barbarians, while archers fall back and wait for Pompey's slow-moving knights, and also to be a second line for any barbarians that break through the first, and am careful to withdraw them from any engagement that gets too hot. My own barbarians are expendable meat shields, tasked with suicidal charges to cause whatever damage they may.

This doesn't always work to my benefit.

But I'd like to see you carry out sound military maneuvers in this mess.

Barbarians give knights the slip in the south.

Even victories are costly.

They split up and march to the flags. Just gotta slow Pompey down with what I have left.

What are you guys doing?

I count this as a win.

Hail Caesar!

1 comment:

  1. You are chewing through the black bread. One more gimmicky and one-two more mediocre scenarios, the rest is golden !


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