Lost Battles: Reconstructing the Great Clashes of the Ancient World (Anglais) Broché – 12 mars 2009
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From the author's introduction:
Ancient battles seize the modern imagination. Far from being forgotten, they have become a significant aspect of popular culture, prompting a continuing stream of books, feature films, television programs and board and computer games... there is a certain escapist satisfaction in looking back to an era when conflicts between entire states turned on clear-cut pitched battles between formed armies, lasting just a few hours and spanning just a few miles of ground. These battles were still unspeakably traumatic and grisly affairs for those involved - at Cannae, Hannibal's men butchered around two and a half times as many Romans (out of a much smaller overall population) as there were British soldiers killed on the notorious first day of the Somme.
However, as with the great clashes of the Napoleonic era, time has dulled our preoccupation with such awful human consequences, and we tend to focus instead on the inspired generalship of commanders like Alexander and Caesar and on the intriguing tactical interactions of units such as massed pikemen and war elephants within the very different military context of pre-gunpowder warfare.Lost Battles takes a new and innovative approach to the battles of antiquity. Using his experience with conflict simulation, Philip Sabin draws together ancient evidence and modern scholarship to construct a generic, grand tactical model of the battles as a whole. This model unites a mathematical framework, to capture the movement and combat of the opposing armies, with human decisions to shape the tactics of the antagonists. Sabin then develops detailed scenarios for 36 individual battles such as Marathon and Cannae, and uses the comparative structure offered by the generic model to help cast light on which particular interpretations of the ancient sources on issues such as army size fit in best with the general patterns observed elsewhere. Readers can use the model to experiment for themselves by re-fighting engagements of their choice, tweaking the scenarios to accord with their own judgment of the evidence, trying out different tactics from those used historically, and seeing how the battle then plays out. Lost Battles thus offers a unique dynamic insight into ancient warfare, combining academic rigor with the interest and accessibility of simulation gaming. This book includes access to a downloadable computer simulation where the reader can view the author's simulations as well create their own.
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Tout l'intérêt de l'ouvrage réside dans l'explication très détaillée de la conception d'un véritable modèle de « reconstruction » des batailles antiques. Ce choix, longuement argumenté, réside dans la volonté de créer un système suffisamment « générique » pour permettre des comparaisons sur un échantillon suffisamment représentatif de batailles. Sabin met par ailleurs en avant plusieurs points selon lui déterminants, comme l'importance du commandement ou le niveau de pertes extrêmement disproportionné entre vainqueurs et vaincus.Lire la suite ›
C'est aussi un habitué du monde du jeu d'histoire.
Dans Lost Battles, il propose l'élaboration d'un modèle de simulation des batailles antiques dans le but de disposer d'un instrument de réflexion sur la guerre des Grecs et des Romains. En particulier, son modèle vise à soumettre à l'expérience les diverses sources relatives aux effectifs des armées afin de vérifier ce qui est plausible et ce qui ne l'est pas.
Par exemple: à Marathon, on parle de 15 à 20 000 Perses contre 10 000 Grecs. Pourtant le résultat donne l'impression d'une nette supériorité de l'armée athénienne. Comment concilier cela ? En travaillant sur le type (armement, formation) et la classe (mental, expérience) des troupes jusqu'à parvenir à deux listes d'armées qui rendent plausible le résultat historique.
Le livre, après une centaine de pages d'exposé de la méthode, donne donc des scénarios pour 35 batailles, de Marathon à Pharsale. Le champ de bataille est modélisé en un grand rectangle divisé en 20 zones carrés. Des éléments de terrain sont présents (cours d'eau, colline, bois...) quand les sources les évoquent. Le lecteur peut ensuite reproduire ces batailles et mener ses propres réflexions, voir corriger le modèle s'il le juge nécessaire.
Car Philip Sabin ne prétend pas détenir l'alpha et l'oméga de la guerre antique.Lire la suite ›
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The author sheds new light on the Spartan army, the engagements of Alexander the Great, the evolution of the Republican Roman Army and the veracity of Caesar's numerical claims. The key to victory is the quality of the troops and their general. Numbers are not as important as one may think, larger armies were simply deployed in greater depth due to problems of command and control; nor is the topography of the battlefield that crucial as generals preferred open spaces to deploy their troops. High quality troops of great repute inspired fear in their opponents thru their superior drill and discipline which gave them a noticable tactical edge on the battlefield.
One criticism of the book is at times one suspects that Sabin deals with his battles as Procrustes dealt with his victims... The bibliography and documentation is superb.
This book is a must for any ancient gamer or student of warfare.
Ok. It's not that easy. Lost Battles can be played as a miniatures game, a board game or an online game via Cyberboard. The battles are fought on a grid 5 squares wide by 4 squares deep. These squares regulate movement. There are rules for movement and combat. As you can expect, there is a random factor in the game to simulate the unknown factors of a chaotic battlefield.
The book is divided into 3 sections.
The first section describes the various parts of the wargame model and how they relate to the historical evidence found by the writings of various ancient historians.
The second section describes the battles and how the author went about deciding how to rate the various troop types. he gives a brief overview of each battle, breaks down the various troop elements and scales how large the battlefield should be. He leaves the operation of the model up to the reader to decide for himself. The reader can experiment with different deployments and different unit types or simply play the game with a buddy as a regular wargame.
The last section is the wargame rules themselves. They describe how to actually run the game/simulation. There are rules for movement, combat, morale, leadership and so forth. There are special rules for fatigue and special unit types such as the Phalanx, legion, and elephants.
So what do I think of the game? I really like the rules a lot. At first glance, I thought the game was quite simple and probably would not be rewarding past a couple of plays. After playing a game online with a friend, I found them to be far more rewarding and they did require some thought as to how to attack.
I also really like the versatility of the game being able to play it via different media.
My only gripe with the book is the way the rules are laid out. You have to skip around sometimes to find out how certain things work. Commanders abilities are defined in part in several sections for instance. It would have been better to have distinct sections and define everything there is to know about different aspects.
Minor quibbles aside, this is a fantastic simulation. It is well thought out and it encourages the reader to delve deeper into the subject to form their own opinions.
Instead of despairing Phil Sabin has created a model of ancient combat based on the evidence of all the ancient battles that we have, and has turned it into a war game wherein the historian can test the various possibilities of the evidence in front of him. Did one side have 20,000 and the other 400,000? Well, now you can find out by trying it. Of course the author is not so unwise as to say that by adding together many battles about which we know little we arrive at one about which we know everything. Instead we arrive at a series of plots from which we can devise a line of best fit. This is not to say that outliers are wrong, simply that they are untypical. Phil uses as his touchstone the battle of Cannae in which a smaller army enveloped and destroyed a larger one (and led many a German general to his doom). He demonstrates how this seemingly unlikely result could have been achieved, and allows one to tinker with the solution. This is the strongest part of the model, its ability to be changed by the user to fit their views and then tested. If you belong to the camp of Xenophon, as I do, on how effective cavalry was then you can tweak the rules of the model and test away.
To the wargamer the model (a set of game rules in effect) is of medium complexity but with a limited number of units can be played quickly. Whether the general reader will be able to grasp the concept is another matter and it may be a bridge too far for many. However, the concept is one that is coming to the fore as part of modern history and this book is a valuable part of this trend.
His books on the subject are very interesting and full of ideas and new approaches not only for historians, but for wargaming hobbyists. What makes his works so interesting is his open acceptance of games, without apology, as a legitimate research tool for historians. His texts amply illustrate the uses of games as a serious historical tool. In fact, Lost Battles was later packaged with a board game of the same title for use by the general public.
Lost Battles covers 30 or so battle of the ancient world, and his other volume, Simulating War, is a more general statement of his studies, which extends into modern wars. I think they both belong in the libararies of historians willing to consider these tools, as well as the general public with a curiosity about simulation techniques.
The book is uniquely interesting. It delves into the academic decisions and applications used to derive a historical simulation ruleset/game. From reading elsewhere the game appears dry but is very intriguing / nail biting at times.
I personally have enjoyed the book thoroughly so far. I may even try out the game system contained therein (note there is also a pending board game coming out mid 2011, though not inexpensive).
I would value this book strictly for its historical analysis of the battles. 35 of them, deployment dispositions, battlefield maps, etc.