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I Love it When a Plan Comes Together

September 25, 2013

hisui_icon_4040 To any history professional or hardcore aficionado of antiquity this post is going to seem like me stating that water is wet and that the sky is blue. But bear with me. Not everyone can be awesome like you. This is for the rest of us.

Who knows? Maybe this post will get some discussion with you scholars from people you would not normally talk to.

To everyone else who watches Legend of the Galactic Heroes it might be obvious that the formations the ships are organized in during battles are less using the three-dimensional tactics that one would probably use in a space battle and are more acting out classic two-dimensional battles of history using spacecraft. In the end it makes combat simpler to write, easier to comprehend, and allows some clever historical allusions, to subtly but powerfully, be massaged into the story.

In the show Yang Wen-li is a historian who uses his knowledge of battles of the past to help win seemingly unwinnable battles. Yoshiki Tanaka also is clearly a student of history and uses that to help inform his stories with real world strategies that we know work because they worked in real life (albeit in a very different form).

I knew that going into Legend of the Galactic Heroes. Big fans of the show usually bring that up as one of the selling points of the series. But to be perfectly honest unlike someone like people like Walter Amos and Rob Fenelon I can’t tell you which strategy in which episode corresponds to a particularly famous battle, with a brilliant strategy or classic blunder, by a particular officer. I know that an informed viewer can do that with almost any episode but that expert is not me.

But I was recently watched a video series on the Second Punic War on the Extra Credits video series and I quickly realized one thing. Yang Wen-li and Reinhard von Lohengramm both crib off of Hannibal like it was going out of style. Both of them take ideas from strategists from throughout history but it was immediately clear after watching that video how much of both of their styles owes to that one general.

If your going to outright steal the ideas of anyone you might as well take from one of the greatest military minds of all time.

In the Battle of Ager Falernus Hannibal was trapped in a valley with seemingly no way out as all the roads he could use to escape are either blocked by rivers or had Roman armies guarding them. But by using decoy oxen he was able to create a break in the forces that were pinning him in and escape under the cover of darkness. That is extremely similar to the Fourth Battle of Tiamat when Yang Wen-li uses a small group of decoy ships in order to help the remains of the crippled Alliance fleet escape after a terrible defeat.

But even more telling is the similarities of Battle of Cannae and the Battle of Vermilion. Both battles seem to be a guaranteed victory for the larger force but with good maneuvering and some well-played mind games there is a massive upset. Although truth be told several people in Legend of the Galactic Heroes use similar methods of letting a hot-headed enemy wander into a trap. I just felt that the Battle of Vermilion is one of the most intense battles in the series so I might as well bring that particular instance up.

I might not have used the best examples from the show. It have been over a year since I last watched the Legend of the Galactic Heroes. If nothing else I just hope this gets people looking back on the series and doing a little research on their own. Even if it is just to go and rub my nose in a better example than one I made. I consider that a victory as well.

- Alain

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2 comments

  1. Having written a report on Hannibal in high school, I was aware of the validity and effectiveness of the tactics the LoGH commanders employed and enjoyed the allusions to Hannibal, Alexander, and other classical era military minds. Yet that alone wouldn’t have made the series so compelling. Sometimes you just want bloody axe fights and giant battle stations firing super-lasers at each other.


  2. After watching the Extra Credit series of the Punic Wars up to date, it’s clear everyone is reading from the same script, which lionizes Hannibal as the lone heroic figure standing against the bumbling Roman juggernaut but highly glosses over his faults.

    Hannibal was driven by vengeance to near madness, and his soldiers payed the price for it. The reason he has able to command such a multicultural hodgepodge army for so long is because he brutally executed dissenters and crucified the families of deserters.

    He was also obsessed with towing along his war elephants, which he thought would be his secret weapon. They did scare raw recruits in their first encounter, but are unreliable beasts and easily handled by experienced soldiers as Scipio’s Roman army would demonstrate later. However the cost of towing the elephants was enormous on his supply train and his insistence to bring them nearly destroyed his entire army in the Alps before they even got to mainland Italy.

    Certainly Hannibal was vastly superior in conventional tactics, knew how to exploit individual Roman commanders to fall into his ploys, and had the superb Numidian Cavalry as his ace and were his real secret weapon. However when in war against a well organized Roman state that can seemingly produce endless numbers legions every new year, Hannibal’s little mistakes lead to attrition he could not afford in the long term if he had even wanted a prayer of a chance to win the war. Also, eventually Rome would field commanders who were not completely incompetent or foolhardy.



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