THE WAVE SYSTEM

I had an interesting idea for a battle tactic in medieval warfare. Imagine sending your armies against your enemies in waves. The first few waves would consist of light infantry and cavalry, which have inferior armor and weapons than heavy infantry and cavalry. These first waves would be used to test your enemy’s defenses as well as wear them down with each wave. Meanwhile, you keep your heavy infantry and cavalry in reserve until your enemy is too weak and tired to fight back. When your light infantry and cavalry are spent and your foe’s defenses are exhausted, then you send in the rest of your forces to wipe out the survivors. I am thinking of including a tactic such as this in my new fantasy book in a number of battles.

2 thoughts on “THE WAVE SYSTEM”

  1. Okay, so this assumes communications function at a level far better than they in pre radio times. If you look at historical cavalry, you see it used poorly if at all in the bronze age, and then the poor usage continues in the iron age. The problem with cavalry stems from the enormous expense of maintaining such a thing, which means that any cavalry you have is going to be upper class or subsidized by the upper class. Exceptions are any nomadic culture that is centered around horses or in most historical examples, ponies. Then you have a few examples of heavy cavalry, i.e. cataphracts, but for the most part heavy cavalry wasn’t really a thing, and certainly in Roman times no one seemed to understand that cavalry could be used to encircle and hit from behind.

    As things advance with technology, horse usage continues to be at best problematical for enemy armies and at worst a nuisance. The American Civil War provides countless examples of poor cavalry use, where the rich guys would hop on their horses and ride around burning and shooting the occasional enemy. So the role is interdiction, really. In terms of actual use in major battles, the horse was negligible and I cannot think of time that they turned the tide.

    Because the concept of individual infantrymen fighting as singular units doesn’t really happen until WWII, other armies of the world also provide poor examples of horse usage. The hussar or lancer became an effective unit in the wars up to and including the War of 1812, but for that very reason, a counter was developed in the Square. Prior to that, during the 30 years wars and other wars of religion in the 1600s, we see the grounded pike used to prevent horses rushing lines of infantry. But each innovation required some changes in weapons and tactics in order for that to become a viable mode for armies to employ.

    This being fantasy, you, of course, can do as you wish. Maybe trace the history of horse usage and the defenses against it in your worlds’ history, a la “It was well-known that the first successful encircling of an enemy was by the brilliant elf Grogg during the battle of Uniden in the year 438 of King Hourglass.” Recall that some of our most famous battles and the tactics employed in them are taught by name and familiar to any modern officer, such as Little Big Top, Cannae, Antietam, Waterloo, Stalingrad, Hastings, Yorktown, Agincourt, Tuetoberg Forest, Boadica’s rebellion, and so on. This would likewise be true in your fantasy world. The names of the battles are shorthand for the main tactics employed.

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