Training and troops who can already fight

Something that's likely to come up in my game is the PCs taking on training the city hoplites/city cavalry to a decent standard. They are aristocratic men who train individually, to various standards (so are varying degrees of skilled as individual combatants) but basically never drill together. Looking good on the sands of the palaestra or winning laurels in competitions is the motivation to train, not actual fighting in war.

Thus if the PCs took them on, their job would be around teaching them to fight as a cohesive unit, not teaching them to fight at all. I could see it taking longer than a month to learn formation drill, but a trainer only being able to handle 50 men, when they can already do the fighting part, seems rather small.

My fundamental issue is that I only have one PC with Manual of Arms II, and only being able to train 150 hoplites working them hard all winter seems a rather small number.

Essentially, I'm wondering if there should be multipliers available, in terms of the numbers who can be trained. Perhaps you can train twice as many men who already know how to fight?

Maybe you can train another 25% more men, for each supporting trainer with Manual of Arms?

Perhaps having Manual of Arms II should allow you to train more of the previous types (lights) than someone with just Manual of Arms once?


Perhaps the idea is that a single person can only handle so many students with the attention required to impart these skills properly. Otherwise you face problems like in massive 300-student lecture halls; since you can’t interact as much, or individualize your technique (to help each person with his/her own strengths and difficulties) the same way as with a smaller group, learning suffers. Using less-skilled people as teaching assistants doesn’t help this, because they usually aren’t qualified to deliver instruction anyway (otherwise, you’d just hand them their own group of 50). All they can really do is echo you, which might free up your weekends, but doesn’t do much for the actual learning bits.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the numbers given assume the trainer is already optimizing the number of students he can effectively teach in that timeframe, before it starts detracting from the soldiers’ quality at the end.

So you want to train glory-seeking, competitive aristocratic young men of various skill-types and abilities to work together as a cohesive unit. Each has their own style that they are most comfortable with and habits that will be hard to change. This might take a while…

Phalanx-fighting can be quite different than the type of combat that these men are used to. The trainer will have to be someone they respect (a feat fairly easy when a trained soldier teaches peasants, but less easy if the teacher has fewer contest wins then some students), and even then the rush to out-do each other can be detrimental to discipline, especially with the egos involved. These guys are used to one-on-one tutoring, not lectures. I would not necessarily give much advantage for pre-training.

Problem is the limit of 50 men per trainer is going to rapidly approach the point of absurdity when dealing with the kinds of numbers involved in Hellenistic warfare. The smallest unit of a phalanx was the syntagma, around 250 men. So that's five trainers with Manual of Arms II each. It would take them a month to turn that mob of Pellan farm-boys into phalangites.

However, it's vanishingly rare for so small a unit to be used for anything on the battlefield. You need a taxeis, which is usually six syntagma. It would take thirty trainers to knock them into shape. Those are combined six times over again to form a proper phalanx. So to train a not-unusual number of phalangites, you need one hundred and eighty trainers, or perhaps sixty trainers working for three months in the winter, to produce a standard unit.

Where are you going to find that many trainers, given the level-based demography? Bear in mind this was something the kingdom of Macedon was able to do for centuries, even with it's relatively limited manpower. Never mind if we look at the huge manpower and massive armies of the Roman republic.

“Where are you going to find that many trainers, given the level-based demography?”

What’s stopping level 1 characters from taking manual of arms II? Heck, even if you wanted them to be fairly seasoned combatants (3rd level), every Barony will have a half-dozen, most of whom will be fighters.

Also, keep in mind that nobody trains their entire army in one go. Most Hellenistic civilizations, if I remember correctly, would train people when they came of age and then expect them to be ready when war broke out, which could easily be a decade or more. A few dozen level 1 trainers, over the course of a few years, could easily train a massive army.

Did they train units right before war, or did they have constant, cumulative training? You can build up soldiers over time and there are mercenaries. How much training does teaching a teacher take? Maybe a large portion of soldiers could be taught how to train the new recruits (unlikely, but possible).

Is your phalanx heavy infantry or light? I did a quick check of wikipedia, and I’m not sure if the majority of phalanx soldiers had what we would term in acks “heavy” armor, but rather medium or light armor (linen for some, bronze for others). Their shields were quite large and there were, of course, some heavy infantry units in bronze breastplates, but armor is expensive and not every soldier is cut out for marching with a plate of solid bronze strapped to his chest. Something called “linothrorax” seemed to be popular, apparently made of linen, possibly with bronze scales, but details are scarce. Some types were probably leather-equivalent. Might be more comfortable to wear in the Mediterranean in the middle of summer.

Did the trainers have assistants?

Maybe have a rule where a manual of arms II+ character can “oversee” a number of manual of arms I characters (or even non-manual of arms characters who just know the skills already, allowing the group to train more heavy infantry (much like how the craft/engineering proficiencies work). This is, again, the teaching assistant situation: The master trainer lectures and demonstrates the skills to each group in shifts, focusing on harder problems, while the less experienced trainers work the troops through basic drills and practice sessions to hammer in the lessons and improve fitness. I could see a fighter (or other class with the relevant armor/weapon skills) with only one level of manual of arms easily being able to run heavy infantry through drills once the master-trainer has gone over the fundamentals.

How about each “master” can take a number of assistants equal to 2+number of levels of manual of arms possessed (number subject to tweaking). To qualify as an assistant for purposes of such training, a character must be trained in all the weapons and skills of the troop type he is to train (including armor, weapons, horse-riding, etc.) and possess some level of manual of arms (might change my mind here about manual of arms). An assistant can be treated as having one additional proficiency possessed by the master for purposes of training (i.e. a manual of arms I heavy-infantry-trained character working under a manual of arms II character could train heavy infantry, etc.) The master must be fully able to train the soldiers on his own and will be unable to train any men directly during the time he is overseeing his assistants. Essentially, this lets characters with all but one of the proficiencies necessary to train a troop type act as if they had that last proficiency at the cost of tying up one better trainer. A good trainer with manual of arms II could quadruple his efficiency with 4 manual of arms I men. I haven’t checked balance and some of the specifics could be messed around with, plus you might want to have some rules for increasing scale more. Maybe give even more benefits for a manual of arms III, who has a doctorate in teaching people how to kill things.

Philip of Macedon, who had a standing army of around 16,000 had to create his army created from scratch, because prior to his reforms and unification, Macedonia had never fielded that many heavy infantry. They had only previously put out a few hundred hoplites in the traditional style. He had shed-loads of gold to buy equipment and trainers, but again you're going to need a lot of trainers.

A level 1 character of average intelligence has 1 general and 1 class proficiency, so if they go all in on the teaching route, they will be significantly behind the guy who decides to use his class proficiency to fight better and die less. A level one character is about 1-in-20 and not all of them want to focus entirely on teaching, but yeah, you can still get quite a few trainers if arms-trainers are in high enough demand to encourage people to develop said skills.

Traditionally, they trained in the summer between planting and harvest. After Philip, though, soldiers were professional, training and staying under arms unless expressly discharged.

The phalanx are heavy infantry; their equipment isn't all that relevant because it's the role they are performing. That being the centre of the battle line, holding the enemy's main, frontline fighters and enduring the "storm of bronze". Whether they are wearing a bronze cuirass, greaves, doru spear, big helm and with a huge aspis, or a quilted linen thorax, greaves, sarissa pike, open-faced helm and a smaller shield, they still fulfil the same role. In this age troops generally had less armour, but the shield was more important than in the medieval (partly because we had much larger, but less well equipped armies). The first type were often relegated to flank-covering troops or assault specialists, rather than the main line-holders by the time after Alexander.

I like your teacher+assistants (based on some of the other Proficiencies) model a lot. It makes sense. People who understand the basics of training can work under someone who understands the whole better. In this instance they might be standing in with the phalanx, while the trainer acts as the "commander". It was, after all, a system designed to quickly turn a mob into an army. I think you're right that the leading trainer needs all the requisite skills, but subordinate trainers might not.

I think I might go further with the requirements; to be a trainer of heavy infantry you don't just need Manual of Arms II, but perhaps also need a Weapon Focus in the appropriate main weapon, too. So spears and polearms, for a phalanx-trainer.

Allowing someone with Manual of Arms II to treat subordinates with Manual of Arms I as though they were equivalent is a neat solution. Perhaps the general rule is the assistant can have one less of the requirements. So if heavy cavalry requires Manual of Arms II, Riding and Weapon Focus (a cavalry weapon), a trooper with Manual of Arms I, Riding and Weapon Focus could act as a "drill sergeant". Or maybe just having trained troopers with Riding and Weapon focus expands the numbers that trainer can manage (since he has exemplars), and if they are actually trainers that's multiplied still further?

I also like the idea of a third tier allowing even more supervisory scale. This idea has merit.

"he phalanx are heavy infantry; their equipment isn’t all that relevant because it’s the role they are performing. "

I’m just wondering if learning to fight in the armor of that era’s heavy infantry requires the same training as the heavy armor of the default setting or not. Bronze breastplate definitely, but linen armor, maybe not. Then again, I was looking more at the training for the equipment when the disciplined fighting formation movement and combat is likely just as important, if not more-so (in that case, heavy infantry is heavy infantry, whether they are dressed in iron or hide).

"Perhaps the general rule is the assistant can have one less of the requirements. So if heavy cavalry requires Manual of Arms II, Riding and “Weapon Focus (a cavalry weapon), a trooper with Manual of Arms I, Riding and Weapon Focus could act as a “drill sergeant”. Or maybe just having trained troopers with Riding and Weapon focus expands the numbers that trainer can manage (since he has exemplars), and if they are actually trainers that’s multiplied still further?”

This is basically what I intended. Someone with riding and manual of arms I could teach as if he had manual of arms II and riding for purposes of training heavy infantry, but only if he already possessed all the skills of a heavy calvalrymen and the lead trainer had all these proficiencies. Similarly, someone who could fire a bow and had manual of arms one (but not weapon focus bows) could work as an assistant training archers. Right now I think there should still be the minimum requirement of manual of arms I, but besides that, as long as the lead trainer has all the relevant proficiencies, you lack no more than one, and you can perform int the role that you’re training, you can assist.

I’m not sure what the 3rd tier will do, however, I can’t see adding two proficiency, but maybe allowing a marginal increase in the number of assistants one can train, quickly running into diminishing returns might work. Maybe allow a third tier (or other method of expanding the number of assistants that can help the lead trainer), but at the cost of speed as the lead trainer gets stretched thin. Still make it a semi-efficient option, but instead of taking 2 months, a batch might take 3 months, fitting the training regiment to fill the entire summer and train as many as possible in parallel.

Well, for a given definition of “Significantly Behind.” Personally, if I were an NPC, I’d jump at the chance to earn a respectable, risk-free living doing patriotic work (and working summers only!)

And remember that very, very few wars required an entirely untrained peasantry to be transformed into heavy infantry overnight. If a community’s trainer churns out 150 soldiers a year, then that community will have 1500 trained young men hanging around (assuming that men stay young for a decade after being trained, and none of them die in a war).

Again, we're talking about the Hellenistic era, in which wars required large numbers of properly drilled heavy infantry, not peasant levies with spears. They've got to be able to march in groups of thousands and perform all the various maneuvers without dissolving into chaos.

They also drew extremely heavily on trained manpower. In any of the Wars of the Diadochi, there were hundreds of thousands of men under arms, and not just mercenaries.

I think each level of MoA should allow you to train more yourself, and have more assistants. As well as removing one requirement for your trainers at each level. So someone with MoA II could have assistants who have no levels of MoA, but all the relevant ones to the fighting style, say.

Adding to the training time makes sense, you're going to have something more systematically broken down into a programme than you would if the trainer was able to personally oversee everyone.

Thinking on this training pyramid thing some more. The rule is always that the head trainer always needs all the relevant skills to train the troops in question, including armour use.

With MoA I, you can train 50 troops personally, and also have up to two assistants, who don't have MoA, but must have the relevant skills to perform that role. Each assistant, under your supervision, can train a further 25 men. However, if you teach a larger cohort with assistants, it takes longer to achieve the same results, adding a month (or should it be 25% or 50%?) to training times.

With MoA II you can train 100 troops personally, and have up to two (three?) subordinate trainers with MoA I, who can be treated as though they had one level higher of MoA (for the purposes of qualifying to train that troop type). They in turn can each have up to two (three?) assistants. However, teaching the largest cohort with assistants adds a month (two months?) to the training.

With MoA III you can train 200 troops personally, and have up to two (four?) subordinate trainers with MoA II, who can be treated as though they had MoA one level higher (for the purposes of qualifying to train that troop type). They in turn can have up to two (four?) subordinate trainers with MoA I (treated as though they were one level higher), who can have up to two (four?) assistants. However, teaching the largest cohort with assistants adds a month (two months?) to the training.


MoA I lets  you train light infantry. Having Weapon Focus lets you step up to archers or medium infantry. Having Riding lets you train light cavalry, and with a relevant Weapon Focus, medium cavalry.

MoA II lets you train medium infantry and cavalry (with Riding), and with a relevant Weapon Focus, heavy infantry or cavalry (with Riding).

MoA III lets you train heavy infantry or cavalry (with Riding), and with a relevant Weapon Focus and Riding, cataphract cavalry.


Note the more stringent standards to train heavies.

As a point of order, Manual of Arms was errata’d to be 60 men, for consistency with Domains at War.

AWESOME! The inconsistency was bugging me to no end.

Alright, so 60/120/240 (and 30 for untrained assistants under supervision).

I don’t think you understand the sheer demographics and level of centralization that would be necessary for a state to put 9,000 trained combatants into the field within a single month. Any state capable of that wouldn’t likely have difficulty finding a mere 180 men to train them.

Assuming we are using “conscripts” by the ACKS rules (1/10 peasant families) and we were going to field 9,000 heavy infantry, then we would need to be able to raise 18,000 conscripts or have at least 180,000 peasant families. Now, it’s worth pointing out that this would be only within the personal domain. If we raise this through vassals, then we’d need to be at least a principality, but perhaps a kingdom. As a prince, we could only raise 1/2 our troops in the first month, meaning we’d need 360,000 peasant families, making us a king… so it’s not a principality that can do this.

As a kingdom, we can only raise 1/6 of our troops in the first month (1/2 in the first season / 3) and so we’d instead need 1,080,000 peasant families in order to pull off raising 9,000 troops in a single month (let alone training them). Suddenly 180 trainers doesn’t seem so bad, does it?

Now, consider that a modern American football team has <50 players and at least half a dozen coaches. There is a very real limit to the number of people that an individual can train, as the training necessary to operate in a phalanx is actually pretty substantial. If you’re interested in the particulars, it’s worth finding a translation of Vegetius’ De Re Militari. Admittedly, that manual is from the late classical period (4th century AD), but much of it remained relevant to military training through the end of the medieval period and some of it is still relevant to training today. It is probably the best guide we have for what earlier military training looked like.

Again, I'm not talking about hypotheticals here, but what the kingdom of Macedon actually did. They and the various military settlers used by the later Diadochi could mobilise massive amounts of manpower. That's without getting into the real historical champions of mobilisation, the Roman republic, who could lose a consular army of 15-30,000 men in a battle, then raise another one in a few months.

These men weren't untrained conscripts, but already versed in the basics of their craft by fathers, older brothers, uncles and so on, and arrived with their equipment. Philip of Macedon used his newfound goldmines to fund the latter part, but he still had to rely on the farmsteads across Macedon for the raw material in terms of men. Men would arrive already fit and hardened, then it was the king's job to weld them together into an army.

The medieval period is a poor comparator because it has both lower population and weaker infrastructure/state apparatus with which to mobilise that population. Just compare numbers participating in the various signature battles of the Hellenistic/Roman period with that of the medieval. Quite often the former features total numbers ten or more times that of the latter. And they had the logistical expertise to keep that many men in the field, unlike the later period.

I think in ACKS terms what you are describing is a militia:

From the D@W - Campaigns manuscript:

“If militia are trained and then sent home, they will take their equipment with them. When the militia are called up again, they will respond to the call with their equipment and be able to fight as the appropriate troop type. Trained militia will have the same characteristics as mercenaries of their type.”

“Once equipped, the members of a peasant militia are assumed to pass their arms and skills on to their heirs when they become no longer capable of serving. This assumption frees the Judge from tracking the age of each militia member and accounting for their deaths due to disease and so on.”