Author Topic: The camel paradox again  (Read 504 times)

Mark G

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Re: The camel paradox again
« Reply #30 on: November 08, 2019, 06:14:41 PM »
If it is the smell of camels that is significant, then any rule applying to mounted camels must also apply to knelt and hobbled camels, such as were used by occasional Arabian associated armies,

While I would be pleased to include such a rule to benefit my midianites ( who really suck without it) I have yet to convince any opponent of the validity of my claim, especially for a retrospective claim when the dice fail to roll well up, again.

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Andreas Johansson

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Re: The camel paradox again
« Reply #31 on: November 08, 2019, 06:16:24 PM »
camels need to be able to defeat superior cavalry.

Every time, or just with greater likelihood?

Most of the time, if the battle is supposed to be the sort of average outcome we should reflect as the most likely in our rules. If Croesus (and Solomon, and the Vandal commander) simply threw a bunch of ones the whole problem goes away, and we can let camelry be the inferior troop-type the general preference for cavalry even among camel-using cultures suggests them to be.

(A third option, of course, would be that camels should generally beat cavalry unused to them, but generally lose to others.)

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Or other possibility - cultural, economic, geographical etc factors mean adopting camels wasn't as easy as picking them from an army list. Lots of apparently brilliant weapons systems in antiquity weren't widely adopted by their enemies, or only ineffectively. If legions are so brilliant against phalanx, why didn't Hellenistic kingdoms all immediately re-equip their armies as legions (there were only a few half hearted efforts)? Camels are I imagine (knowing little abut it, but having seen them on TV) considerably less amenable and convenient creatures than horses, even if they are available, which they usually aren't.
This won't fly. Plenty of armies used camels on a massive scale - they just overwhelmingly deployed them as pack-animals rather than battle-steeds.
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Andreas Johansson

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Re: The camel paradox again
« Reply #32 on: November 08, 2019, 06:20:30 PM »
If it is the smell of camels that is significant, then any rule applying to mounted camels must also apply to knelt and hobbled camels, such as were used by occasional Arabian associated armies,

While I would be pleased to include such a rule to benefit my midianites ( who really suck without it) I have yet to convince any opponent of the validity of my claim, especially for a retrospective claim when the dice fail to roll well up, again.
DBMM does have a rule along those lines, although the Midianites can't benefit from it.

It would perhaps be timely to remember that of our three examples, only one involves ridden camels. The two others involve standing on foot behind a line of camels.
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Patrick Waterson

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Re: The camel paradox again
« Reply #33 on: November 09, 2019, 08:46:34 AM »
It would perhaps be timely to remember that of our three examples, only one involves ridden camels. The two others involve standing on foot behind a line of camels.

Good observation.  And at Mammes the stand-behind-a-line-of-camels trick did not really work against Solomon (the Byzantine general); or rather it did, but he annulled it by dismounting his cavalry and having them hack their way in, which they did without trouble.  In game terms, on Turn 1 the Byzantines approach and dismount, presumably just outside camel effect range; on Turn 2 they close and engage on foot.  The camel stratagem 'works' but a simple countermeasure turns it into wasted points.
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Erpingham

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Re: The camel paradox again
« Reply #34 on: November 09, 2019, 10:06:04 AM »
Historical examples of the tactic being used are small compared with the number of camels in military use - as already noted, the camel is a very good transport animal, and armies in the areas with access to them seem to have used them freely.  If the tactic was simply applied and universally successful, wouldn't we expect to see more?  Also, what evidence do we have of camel cavalry in action?  I recall the Sassanids had camel cataphracts in one battle but used these to attack Roman infantry, rather than cavalry.  They clearly weren't thought of as primarily an anti-horse weapon.

Turning back to depicted the smelly camel phenomenon in rules.  The problem I see in terms of points cost is that smelliness isn't a bought or trained characteristic.  Wherever there are camels, there is camel smell.  So you can't expect to ask a player to pay to turn it on, or turn it off if points aren't paid.  You can pay for immunity, and some armies, as discussed,  might have a compulsory immunity, just because of their historical prototype.  Whether that compulsory immunity is free or a compulsory cost (as Richard, following a logic of paying for advantage, suggests) is up to the rule or list writers.  I have some more difficulties with it being a paid-for strategem.  Yes, it was used as a stratagem but the stratagem was in the deployment, not the turning on of the anti-horse property.

If we do model the effect, we then have to be careful how certain the effect will be.   Should there be a negative in each combat when non-immune cavalry face camels?  Should it always decisive - the historical record suggests it was only worth mentioning three times in hundreds of years.  Or perhaps a special test when a non-immune cavalry unit first encounters camels (throw a 1 and cavalry are disordered, or similar as appropriate to the rules)? 
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Andreas Johansson

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Re: The camel paradox again
« Reply #35 on: November 09, 2019, 10:26:10 AM »
I recall the Sassanids had camel cataphracts in one battle but used these to attack Roman infantry, rather than cavalry.

I believe you're thinking of the Battle of Nisibis, AD 217, where the Parthians used camelry against the Romans.

We had a big thread about that battle about three years ago. It's not entirely clear the camels were "cataphract" in the sense the beasts themselves, and not only their riders, were armoured.
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RichT

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Re: The camel paradox again
« Reply #36 on: November 09, 2019, 11:00:35 AM »
This won't fly. Plenty of armies used camels on a massive scale - they just overwhelmingly deployed them as pack-animals rather than battle-steeds.

What won't fly - camels? I agree :)

But doesn't this just demonstrate what I was trying to say? Camels are better as pack animals than as steeds for whatever reason (which may be to do with camel nature, or that sitting on a camel is undignified, or any number of other reasons, not necessarily strictly military) and this outweighed any effect their smell may have had on horses, the vast majority of times.

In terms of paying for camel smell, I'm working from the assumption that in a game, advantages either need to be balanced by disadvantages, or paid for by points or equivalent - that's a basic game design principle. The smell should come with the camel, by default, but you still have to 'pay' for it (either explicitly, in points, or by a corresponding disadvantage like slower speed or lower manoeuvrability than horse cavalry).
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Andreas Johansson

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Re: The camel paradox again
« Reply #37 on: November 09, 2019, 11:56:15 AM »
But doesn't this just demonstrate what I was trying to say?

It doesn't demonstrate what I thought you were trying to say, but I apparently misunderstood you.

(I'm skeptical, though, of explanations of the "it's undignified" type when we're dealing with a preference for cavalry over cavalry that appears consistent across thousands of years from Morocco to Manchuria.)
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In terms of paying for camel smell, I'm working from the assumption that in a game, advantages either need to be balanced by disadvantages, or paid for by points or equivalent - that's a basic game design principle. The smell should come with the camel, by default, but you still have to 'pay' for it (either explicitly, in points, or by a corresponding disadvantage like slower speed or lower manoeuvrability than horse cavalry).

Agreed in principle, although it gets hard to do right if we decided on the only-affects-unaccustomed-horses route; since few armies use fighting (as opposed to baggage) camels, the value of the immunity is presumably low - but it may make a huge difference the day you do face Tuareg. In a competition context I guess it should eventually balance out in the sense that proportions of camel armies, camel-proof armies, camel-vulnernable armies, and foot armies find an equilibrium (which may involve no armies of one or more of the types), but it doesn't seem very satisfying.

(Obviously, similar problems beset any other rock-paper-scissors type interaction.)
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Patrick Waterson

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Re: The camel paradox again
« Reply #38 on: November 10, 2019, 09:18:39 AM »
The smell of camels is pretty much a constant (unless someone works out a way of giving them a bath and surviving the process) but employing it effectively in battle requires forethought and preparation.  This is why I like Andreas' idea of making it a stratagem, because while camels spat, ruminated and stank much the same the whole world over*, mobilising them for effective action on the field required directed and purposeful activity.

*Except those parts uninhabited by camels.

Adding to this a more general thought ...

Going out of period (simply because the information is there): during the First World War, Colonel T E Lawrence was involved in a few mounted camelry actions, including one which involved a melee against Turkish cavalry.  The latter seemed unworried by the smell of the camels (how far does a smell actually precede a charging camel?) but when the rangy Arab camels bumped into the diminutive Turkish cavalry steeds, the latter went down under the impact.  (The Turks lost the action.)

Can we meaningfully read anything from this back into our own period?  Should ridden camels have a melee advantage against lighter cavalry types, or at least those on smaller horses?
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Andreas Johansson

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Re: The camel paradox again
« Reply #39 on: November 10, 2019, 11:43:53 AM »
This is why I like Andreas' idea of making it a stratagem

That was Duncan's idea actually - credit where credit's due :)
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Going out of period (simply because the information is there): during the First World War, Colonel T E Lawrence was involved in a few mounted camelry actions, including one which involved a melee against Turkish cavalry.  The latter seemed unworried by the smell of the camels (how far does a smell actually precede a charging camel?) but when the rangy Arab camels bumped into the diminutive Turkish cavalry steeds, the latter went down under the impact.  (The Turks lost the action.)

Can we meaningfully read anything from this back into our own period?  Should ridden camels have a melee advantage against lighter cavalry types, or at least those on smaller horses?

It would seem to demonstrate that camelry can beat cavalry "legitimately", as in without benefitting from any disordering or panicking before contact.
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Erpingham

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Re: The camel paradox again
« Reply #40 on: November 10, 2019, 12:51:17 PM »
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It would seem to demonstrate that camelry can beat cavalry "legitimately", as in without benefitting from any disordering or panicking before contact.

Except we have no details of the circumstances, other than some camels knocked over some smaller horses.  The Turks should have been camel proof anyway, but we don't know if otherwise it was a balanced fight.
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Andreas Johansson

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Re: The camel paradox again
« Reply #41 on: November 10, 2019, 04:17:17 PM »
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It would seem to demonstrate that camelry can beat cavalry "legitimately", as in without benefitting from any disordering or panicking before contact.

Except we have no details of the circumstances, other than some camels knocked over some smaller horses.  The Turks should have been camel proof anyway, but we don't know if otherwise it was a balanced fight.

We don't, so I wouldn't suggest using it as the baseline for what the typical outcome of a fair contest between camelry and cavalry should be. Actually, I'm pretty confident it can't be typical of that - if it were, bedouin wouldn't generally have preferred horses for fighting. But as an actual account of combat between camelry and (presumedly) camel-proof cavalry - something which to the best of my knowledge is entirely lacking in period sources - it has to count for something.

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Patrick Waterson

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Re: The camel paradox again
« Reply #42 on: November 10, 2019, 07:27:51 PM »
We don't, so I wouldn't suggest using it as the baseline for what the typical outcome of a fair contest between camelry and cavalry should be. Actually, I'm pretty confident it can't be typical of that - if it were, bedouin wouldn't generally have preferred horses for fighting. But as an actual account of combat between camelry and (presumedly) camel-proof cavalry - something which to the best of my knowledge is entirely lacking in period sources - it has to count for something.

Agreed.  It was not an entirely 'fair' contest, as the Arabs poured out from behind a dune and so had 'impetus', but the action quickly became a not-very-ordered swirling melee which then became a short pursuit when the Turks felt they had had enough (men on camels trying to catch men on horses soon get left behind).  The main point of interest is that when camels bumped into small-to-medium-size horses, the horses went down (complete with rider).  The secondary point of interest is that these collisions took place, as opposed to the animals getting out of each other's way.  There is presumably something transferrable to earlier eras therein.

The Arabs under Lawrence's influence (they had their own tortuous and touchy chains of command) did not use horses because horses could not withstand the rigours of desert travel, and desert travel was necessary to get from point A to point B without being intercepted by the Turks, who mainly clung to the coastal areas and railways.  Anyone operating outside desert areas tended to ride horses, which are easier and quicker to mount, better at manoeuvring, more tractable and more responsive.

Whether camelry would have been effective against cavalry in a wider context can perhaps be answered by Constantine's countermeasures against Maxentius' cataphracts: Constantine's cavalry induced their heavier opponents to charge, and then retired before them until disorder and exhaustion reduced the cataphracts to ineffectiveness, then attacked and defeated them.  I suspect much the same process would have taken place when camel-mounted tribes tried to take on, for example, Assyrian cavalry, or for that matter any cavalry which knew what it was doing.  There would have been an initial success through unfamiliarity followed by effective countermeasures and an end to the camel-riders' temporary supremacy.

And apologies to Duncan for failing to credit him properly with the stratagem idea.
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Erpingham

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Re: The camel paradox again
« Reply #43 on: November 11, 2019, 10:02:54 AM »
Digging around, I came across this MPhil thesis about Roman operations in the east.  It contains quite a bit on camelry (pp53-60).  I noted this remark

With regard to camelry in combat, we do have some information from literary sources. Appian's Syrian Wars 6.32 and Livy 37.40 both describe an Arabian contingent of camelry fighting with Antiochus against the Romans.  We are told that they were  archers who fought while mounted,and that they also had a long sword (gladius or μάχαιρα) for close quarters fighting.  Livy also says that they were positioned in front of the cavalry.

Once more, the classicists may be able to tell us more about the battle described and any wider relevance it may have.
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Duncan Head

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Re: The camel paradox again
« Reply #44 on: November 11, 2019, 10:10:51 AM »
It's not very helpful. The long swords attributed to the Seleucid camel-men suggest that they expected to fight from camel-back rather than dismount, but in the end they didn't fight, they were broken through by fleeing scythed chariots:

Quote from: Livy 37.40-41
In front of this mass of cavalry were scythe chariots and the camels which they call dromedaries. Seated on these were Arabian archers provided with narrow swords four cubits long so that they could reach the enemy from the height on which they were perched.  ...

The chariots thus armed were stationed, as I have already said, in front of the line for had they been in the rear or the centre they must have been driven through their own men. When he saw this, Eumenes, who was quite familiar with their mode of fighting, and knew how much their assistance would be worth when once the horses were terrified, ordered the Cretan archers, the slingers and javelin men, in conjunction with some troops of cavalry, to run forward, not in close order but as loosely as possible, and discharge their missiles simultaneously from every side. What with the wounds inflicted by the missiles and the wild shouts of the assailants, this tempestuous onslaught so scared the horses that they started to gallop wildly about the field as though without bit or bridle. The light infantry and slingers and the active Cretans easily avoided them when they dashed towards them, and the cavalry increased the confusion and panic by affrighting the horses and even the camels, and to this was added the shouts of those who had not gone into action. The chariots were driven off the field, and now that this silly show was got rid of the signal was given, and both sides closed in a regular battle.

It is another instance of horses allegedly frightening camels rather than vice versa, though...
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