As many of you know I am a long-time WAB player.  In addition, I am a long time Macedonian player (not that I am from Macedonia, but instead playing armies of that time period).  After playing a couple of games against a few friends (who play Romans) I was asked, ‘what in the hell do we do to defeat your pikes?’  I really hate to give out this information, but here it is:

1.  Do not engage it from the front alone.

2.  Draw it into terrain whenever possible.

3.  Use skirmishers to prevent the phalanx from marching or otherwise moving…such as wheeling.  Skirmishers should generally harass all phalanx/pike armed units.

4.  Use cavalry to control the flanks and infantry to advance more cautiously.  The key to remember is that you want to charge the front and side of a phalanx simultaneously whenever possible.  Pike armed units ONLY gain initiative (first strike) if they are solely fighting an enemy to the front, NOT the front and side simultaneously…so the bonus for striking first is lost (although they will still fight in 2 ranks forward).  Remember that negating rank bonuses for flank charges occurs at the time you charge, so as long as 5 formed models make it into the flank, the phalanx bonus is negated.  small units of 5-7 light cavalry in open order are great for this…

5.  Know the rules for Phalanx and pikes well.  Too many players forget all of the conditions that can negate the strength of the phalanx and pike and thus make it hard to use the best tactics in order to win.  Pages 60-61, 94, & 110-111 should be your best friends.

I know that pikes are intimidating to look across the table at.  Don’t worry, it just takes a more mobile army to out maneuver them.  If you plan is to rush in head on…you will probably lose.  But such was the strength of the phalanx in history. 

4 thoughts on “How to Defeat the Pike

  1. I frequently dual against the Alexander list in my WAB games. The hard nut to crack is the combination of the Phalanx and the Companion cavalry. Getting to the flank of the Phalanx is the key to winning, but the plan is often thwarted by the hyper mobile Companions.

    1. Exactly Mike…
      Too few people realize that cavalry is one of the most susceptible units to missile fire on the table top. Normally few in number and not overly armored (4+), they go down to normal missiles. Bolt-throwers of any size or variety just put the nail in the coffin or destroy the unit outright. Remember that to maximize the effect, shoot the bolt-throwers first, then rain death down with arrows.

      1. I seem to remember that the Companion are the exception to the ‘not overly armoured’ part of that, though 😀

        And as CTF says – the problem is often the two in combination: it would be really nice to flank and skirmish a phalanx to death, but the presence of that *deleted* ridiculously mobile surgical strike force tends to make that really quite difficult.

        I had success on Monday night, more by luck, by having a unit of auxillae just outside charge range and partway hidden by terrain, which prevented the *other* annoyance that happens with that wedge – it coming haring round your flank, sweeping all before it, and before you know it you collect a sharp, pointy thing up the rear of your legionaries!

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