View Full Version : Skirmishers

13 Oct 05, 02:02
What are the pros and cons of the skirmisher unit? I mean other than the obvious, I don't use skirmishers or very little. Should I change that and use them often?

13 Oct 05, 07:38
I generally use skirmishers when I can. Playing with the Allies most of the time and their units don't break down as the French do but whenever I can I use them. They provide a buffer to your main line that the opponent has to work through which generally gives your main line one more turn to fire on those French columns. You can also use them to fill gaps in your line and nothing beats them in woods where your line formation can't really operate very well. They can also inflict casualties and fatigue but that is really a side benefit unless you are a generating some of the bigger skirmisher units.

13 Oct 05, 18:04
I use them quite regularly as well, but be careful...if you deploy them out in the open and there's enemy cavalry around they can get gobbled up in a hurry!

14 Oct 05, 02:23
I use them quite regularly as well, but be careful...if you deploy them out in the open and there's enemy cavalry around they can get gobbled up in a hurry!

I have learned that lesson the hard way. It hurts even worse whenever the skirmishers route through your line troops and they in turn flee as well.

14 Oct 05, 12:43
You must have read my mind Danny.
I was going to ask that same question. I read this small article - THE NAPOLEONIC BATTLE: A PRIMER ON HOW THE GRANDE ARMEE CONQUERED EUROPE
http://cossacks2.wargamer.com/strategy.html - and I was impressed by how effective the use of skirmisher units was (can't resist to make a small quote, but I think you wouldn't be wasting your time if you checked the whole article; it's a very good primer indeed):

"The French never published a centralized methodology for such technique, but instead left it to each commander to implement the general theory as he saw fit. An 1811 instruction by Marshal Davout provides great insight as to how all this worked, with a distinct preference to employ entire companies in the role rather than draw sections from each. In general the skirmishers would move to a position some 200 yards in front of their parent formation, breaking out into pairs of soldiers some 15 to 20 yards apart, one man firing while the other reloaded. Then using cover afforded by the surrounding terrain the skirmishers would target both artillery gunners and infantry officers, sometime creating gaps so large they could maneuver to fire on the flanks of the enemy. In doing so they invariably drew fire onto themselves (relatively ineffective fire at that, given the much dispersed formation they were in), thus protecting the advancing formed infantry behind.

“The result could be devastating as the Prussians found out at Jena. Eyewitnesses such as Major von der Marwitz and other investigation noted that skirmish fire fell most heavily on the ends of Prussian infantry companies, precisely where the officers were located. When the officer fell, his place was normally taken by a sergeant who moved from his duties as a file closer. This was the NCO behind the battleline whose sword made sure the musketeers in front did their job. With the file closers gone, it was all too easy for a scared young infantryman to absent himself from the festivities. That his was deliberately done was further validated by Nadezhda Durova, a female (yes, female – long story) Russian cavalry officer who confirmed as much with one Captain Podjampolsky during a battle where she noticed the large number of wounded officers transported to the rear. Thus locked in place and with no one to control desertion, a unit peppered by skirmish fire was certain to break when charged."

This got me thinking that I have yet to see this happen in any "Tiller game" (nos so much the deliberate leadership sniping but more the general disorder of the formation). Of course, I don't think I've ever used my skirmishers in the proper way, but in some localized actions I've tried peppering the enemy line formation but never got satisfactory results - despite getting several"fatigue" results, they never seemed to disrupt the formation within a resonable time... So they reverted to the role I usually assign them: on the offensive, as flankers and gap-explorers; on the defensive, as one or two-hex human shields and gap-pluggers.”

I understand that gameplay balancing issues prevent (and rightly so) these extreme consequences of a good skirmishing line in action, but don't you guys think that these units are a bit toned down? I'n not asking this in a "patch it" kind of way, just curious about it really.


14 Oct 05, 12:56
Hey Paulo,

Actually they have been intentionally toned down over the years due to abuse by players. It's almost an unplayable game when you get up against someone that floods the field with skirmishers. Peoples playing style really prevents some things from being modeled. Everyone is always more aggressive than our historical counterparts.

14 Oct 05, 15:28
Everyone is always more aggressive than our historical counterparts.

No need to tell me about that! I'm on the receiving end of that right now. :laugh: Stoping the french advance at Quatre Bras, anyone?

Burt I had that suspicion, that skirmishers were toned down for gamplay porpuses and I can live with that, no problem. It's easy to conciliate that with the knowledge of how effective they were in real life.

And I think that this toning down happens in any other games I can think off, not just these ones. In Auterlitz: Napoleon's Greatest Victory the efectiveness is also a-historical, for instance. Maybe that's what the Prussian complained about in the aftermath of Jena: "It's not fair, we can't play like this!" :)